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The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has announced $15 million of Australian Government funding to support research into end-of-life issues for solar PV panels and increased solar panel efficiency, as well as cost reduction. 

As the rate of solar PV deployment increases, innovations that can reduce the cost of sustainably managing panels at the end of their life will become more important. ARENA is seeking to fund projects that can improve the economics of recycling, such as with better upfront design, increasing the value of recovered materials, or even innovations for reusing recycling panel components. Cost savings will enable both large-scale solar PV projects and rooftop PV customers to responsibly manage their waste, without significantly impacting the overall cost of renewable electricity generation. 

In addition to end-of-life issues, the funding round will also aim to improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of solar PV for new or established applications. The funding round will strengthen Australia’s world-leading solar PV research and development (R&D) sector that ARENA has helped establish through its previous funding. However, this is the first time that ARENA has sought applications for addressing solutions to end-of-life solar PV issues. 

ARENA’s fifth round of R&D supports solar PV in the following areas: 

  • End-of-life: new solutions, including upfront solar PV panel designs and end of life processing, that increase the cost-effectiveness of sustainable end-of-life management of solar PV panels
  • Advanced silicon: improvements to the overall cost-effectiveness of silicon-based panels already in mass market production, and their production processes
  • Tandem silicon: increasing the cost-effectiveness of silicon-based solar PV through the use of tandem materials
  • New materials: development of new materials with the potential to either reach breakthrough cost-efficiencies, or the potential for new deployment applications

According to ARENA CEO Darren Miller, current solar PV panel recycling adds a cost to the supply chain. 

“R&D can help find innovative solutions to reduce this cost, enabling sustainable and cost-effective management of solar panels at the end of their life,” Mr Miller said.

“The funding round also aims to build on Australia’s excellence in solar PV R&D, to increase efficiencies and drive down costs even further and help bring about the next generation in solar technology. More efficient and lower-cost solar PV can underpin the growth of a renewable hydrogen industry, can drive the electrification of transport and industrial processes, and can reduce the costs of delivering secure and reliable renewable electricity.” 

ARENA has provided more than $290 million to around 300 solar research and development projects since 2009 through funding programs inherited from the Australian Solar Institute, or run by ARENA since 2012, including $84 million in funding to the Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics (ACAP) to continue its research operations until 2022.

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