The Australian government is backing an innovative solar technology company in hopes of scaling up production for the future.
On November 1, The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) revealed that they were providing $11 million to SunDrive Solar, an innovative solar technology company, to develop its prototype for solar cell metallisation into a commercial product. If successful, this could signal a move towards large-scale solar production, setting Australia up as a global leader in renewable energy.
Renewable energy at a glance
According to the Clean Energy Council, small-scale solar accounted for 23.5 percent of Australia’s clean energy in 2020, and 6.5 percent of the country’s total electricity.
However, ARENA’s recent white paper suggests that the potential for ulta low-cost solar to unlock renewable energy requires the implementation of this technology on a much broader scale. They want to achieve a 30-30-30 vision, which represents 30 percent solar module efficiency installed at the cost of 30 cents per watt by 2030.
Currently, Australia sits at 22 percent solar efficiency at a cost of more than $1 per watt, suggesting there is a way to go before ARENA’s goal can be achieved.
Darren Miller, ARENA CEO, believes that “achieving this vision won’t be easy, but Australia has a comparative advantage due to our huge land mass, strong solar resources and abundance of minerals that can be used to make green products.”
Understanding SunDrive solar
Fortunately, SunDrive’s solar technology prototype suggests that it is possible to scale up solar energy production. They have developed a cell metallisation technology that revolutionises the solar industry by using copper instead of silver, a metal approximately 100x cheaper and 1000x more abundant.
Currently, half of the cost of producing solar panels comes from the use of silver. By using copper instead, global solar manufacturing companies could rapidly develop their output and contribute to lowering emissions.
According to ARENA CEO Darren Miller, introducing this technology to Australia could establish us as global leaders in the solar industry.
“To make ultra low-cost solar a reality, it is crucial that our scientists and researchers keep innovating and improving solar cells and module design. SunDrive’s technology that replaces silver with copper is a potential game changer and highlights why now is the time to invest in technologies for our future economic success.”
Copper is also easier to recycle than silver, indicating that this technology could lower costs throughout the whole lifespan of solar products.
A greener future
Aside from reducing costs, SunDrive has also proven that their technology is highly effective, as the world’s most efficient commercial-size solar cell. They believe that this product can be introduced to the market at a price 20-30 percent cheaper than current solar modules.
Vince Allen, SunDrive co-founder and CEO, says “With ARENA’s continued support, SunDrive, an Australian founded company, has been able to compete with the world’s largest solar PV companies to produce the world’s most efficient commercial size solar cell.”
While only 1 percent of the world’s energy currently comes from solar power, SunDrive is hoping that reducing costs and increasing efficiency could allow this number to skyrocket. They want to deliver high-performance, low-cost silicon solar cells to achieve ARENA’s solar 30-30-30 goal, and compete with global renewable energy initiatives.
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