The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has announced a $100 million Solar ScaleUp Challenge, which aims to stimulate greater innovation and collaboration in the sector. 

The challenge invites innovators, developers, engineers, financiers and solar customers around the world to accelerate innovation in large-scale solar and help drive down costs – particularly in installation, operations and maintenance – enabling ARENA to realise its ultra low-cost solar (ULCS) vision. 

ARENA CEO, Darren Miller, said that the large-scale deployment of solar is key to the clean energy transition and in achieving global decarbonisation. 

“Ultra low-cost solar is critical for reducing electricity costs and decarbonising hard-to-abate sectors such as industry and transport,” Mr Miller said.  

“It is also a key factor in Australia becoming a renewable energy superpower, a vision which would see Australia playing a major role in supplying our key trading partners with low emissions products such as green iron and hydrogen. 

“Collaboration in solar is key to reducing costs and maintaining Australia’s leading role in the development and innovation of solar technologies. We are aiming to bring together leaders across Australia and the world to tackle the challenges presented in our quest for even cheaper renewable energy through this critical technology.”  

The challenge is being delivered in collaboration with Greenhouse Tech, whose innovative online platform is designed to facilitate the formation of multi-disciplinary teams and support collaboration on a global scale. Greenhouse Tech has run similar global challenges in the past, including the NetZero Steel Challenge. 

“We are keenly aware of the barriers preventing our ULCS vision from becoming reality, so we want to try something different to crack open the opportunity. Teaming up with Greenhouse Tech, which has a track record in driving this kind of innovation in the emissions reduction space, allows us to bring in more expertise to achieve the objectives of the challenge.”  

ARENA brought together some of the most influential people in the solar space at its inaugural Solar Lab to define the long list of actions needed to unlock ULCS. This included innovation in installation, operations and maintenance of solar farms, as well as extensive collaboration across both supply and demand. 

Greenhouse Tech Chief Collaboration Officer, Mark Rowland, said, “Bringing together all the different stakeholders involved in solar projects is key to solving these problems in an innovative way and quickly scaling the solutions, so we thought this topic was ideal for a challenge.”  

ARENA is looking to reduce the installed cost of a solar project to just 30 cents per watt and reach a levelised cost of electricity below $20 per MWh by 2030. This could help unlock a total installed capacity of 1TW by 2050. 

ARENA is inviting innovators, customers, financiers and anyone involved in the construction and operation of solar farms to participate. 

ARENA is also administering the $1 billion Solar Sunshot Program, which is aimed at growing Australia’s domestic solar PV manufacturing capabilities in Australia and commercialising local solar PV innovation. Where Solar Sunshot is primarily focused on how components are made, the Solar ScaleUp Challenge is focused on how they’re deployed. 

The Solar ScaleUp Challenge is open for eight weeks and is expected to complement the Solar Sunshot program by building a pipeline of solar PV innovation that can be adopted by manufacturers along the supply chain and project developers. 

Image: – Yuri A/ 

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