World-class solar research

ARENA is providing $29 million to twenty R&D projects that will further accelerate the development of solar PV technology: improve its efficiency and reduce its costs. The successful candidates of Round Three of ARENA’s R&D program are research teams from four leading Australian institutions: the University of New South Wales, the Australian National University, Monash University and CSIRO.

“Australia is at the forefront of solar PV technology development – our researchers regularly break world records,” said Minister for the Environment and Energy Josh Frydenberg during the mid-week announcement staged at the UNSW Solar Industrial Research Facility.

“This funding will see that we continue to increase our skills, capacity and knowledge, as we seek to deliver more affordable and reliable power, while transitioning to a lower emissions future.

“The initiative is designed to not only enhance our world class research position, but also address conditions specific to our nation, where more than one in five households already have solar panels fitted,” the Minister said.

“It could lead several breakthroughs, ranging from the development of printable solar cells that can be easily rolled up and transported, to the integration of semi-transparent solar cells into windows.”

Other projects include: setting new efficiency records for solar PV cells; offering cheaper, greener and less toxic materials; using new materials to reduce manufacturing costs; and the development of solar cells that rely on more abundant elements.

In addition projects are focused on replacing high cost metals with low cost alternatives; improving the quality of silicon material and therefore its lifespan; and delivering new ways to rectify cell defects.

UNSW which has 11 projects underway will receive a boost of $16.43 million; ANU is focused on six projects and receives $7.89 million while CSIRO is granted $3.31 million for one project. Monash University in Victoria has two projects and receives $1.59 million. All up $29.22 million is being injected into 20 projects.

Together with contributions from a range of partners, such as Jinko Solar and Longi Solar, and leading research institutions from Asia, Europe and the United States, the total value of the R&D projects is $102 million.

“All projects focus on efficiency and cost effectiveness – whether they be developing promising materials, improving manufacturing methods or scaling up new technology,” said Minister Frydenberg.

“By ensuring that we are technology ready, the commercial deployment of renewable technology in Australia will remain in the fast lane.”

Yes Minster, but how long might it take before Australian policies are introduced that genuinely commit to the necessary transition to clean, abundant renewable energy and help turn the tide on greenhouse gas emissions and climate change?

We have an abundance of natural resources, expertise and technology – the only bit missing in the equation is a government with some foresight and greater determination.