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Ultra-low-cost solar research gets a $41.5 million boost

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has announced that it will provide A$41.5 million funding to 13 research projects.

This is part of ARENA’s efforts to significantly reduce the cost of solar power and drive down the cost of solar even further and support the country’s transition to renewable electricity. 

The funding has been awarded to researchers from three Australian universities; The University of New South Wales (UNSW), The Australian National University (ANU) and The University of Sydney (USYD).  

The funding will support research and development activities, as well as commercialisation efforts, and is in line with ARENA’s “Solar 30 30 30” target of achieving 30 per cent module efficiency and 30 cents per installed watt at utility scale by 2030.

In addition to supporting R&D efforts, the funding will also be used to help bring new technologies to market after each project’s core R&D phase. 

ARENA initially opened for applications in February this year and increased the funding allocated by a further $1.5 million due to the strength of the applications that have the potential to reduce the levelised cost of solar PV and improve cell and module efficiency across two streams: 

  • Stream 1 – Cells and Modules: Building on Australia’s leading track record of R&D and innovation in solar cells and modules ($27.5 million in funding) 
  • Stream 2 – Balance of System, operations and maintenance: Seeking to broaden the approach to accelerate innovation that can drive down the upfront and ongoing costs of utility-scale solar PV in the field ($14 million in funding). 

This announcement marks a continuation of ARENA’s investment in solar PV as the organisation looks to promote the adoption of renewable energy sources in Australia.

Australia’s solar energy R&D

Australia has a long history of solar energy research and development, with the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) playing an important role in funding this work.

Ultra-low-cost solar will be a key input into ARENA’s strategic priorities for scaling up low-cost renewable hydrogen production and unlocking decarbonisation pathways for heavy industry, including low-emission materials such as green steel and aluminium. 

ARENA has funded several research projects and institutions, including universities, that are working to develop ultra-low-cost solar technologies. It has already committed AUD 118.5 million in grant funding to 145 solar PV projects with 17 institutions since 2012 and has also supported the Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics with AUD 128.99 million in funding until 2030.

Aside from ARENA, several other organisations and initiatives in Australia are working on ultra-low-cost solar research. The Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics (ACAP) is one of these. It is a national research centre that combines academia, industry, and government researchers to work on advanced photovoltaic technologies. 

In addition, several private companies and start-ups in Australia are actively involved in solar research and development. 

Overall, the landscape for ultra-low-cost solar research in Australia is vibrant and diverse, with various organisations and initiatives working together to reduce the cost of solar energy.

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Yajush Gupta

Yajush Gupta

Yajush is a journalist at Dynamic Business. He previously worked with Reuters as a business correspondent and holds a postgrad degree in print journalism.

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