Australia recently announced funding worth up to AUD$40 million (£21m) to support research and development in order to drive ultra-low-cost solar energy. The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) will support projects that align with its Solar 30-30-30 target of 30% module efficiency and 30 cents per installed watt at utility-scale by 2030. The country is inviting applications that can materially reduce the overall cost of solar by 2030 across two streams – cells and modules and balance of system, operations, and maintenance. According to ARENA, ultra-low cost solar will be key in scaling up production of low-cost green hydrogen in support of the government’s Low Emissions Technology Statement (LETS). Its hydrogen goal of ‘H2 under $2’, as well as the key to unlocking other decarbonisation pathways for heavy industries, including low emission materials like green steel and aluminum, is what the investment is aiding. ARENA CEO Darren Miller said: “Australia’s solar researchers have been leading the world for decades. Thirty years ago, UNSW [University of New South Wales] researchers invented the PERC silicon solar cell, technology which today is the foundation of more than 80% of the world’s solar panels.
“That great work continues through ACAP [Australian College of Applied Professions], our universities and CSIRO [Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation] as well as clean energy start-ups. Just a few months ago, SunDrive – a start-up founded by former UNSW students and now based in Sydney – created the world’s most efficient solar cell. This $40 million R&D funding round will support Australia’s solar researchers and industry to get behind the target of Solar 30 30 30 and drive the innovation that will deliver ultra-low cost solar. Ultra-low-cost solar will be a vital component in helping Australia move towards a lower cost, largely renewable electricity system and achieve the goal of net zero emissions by 2050.” The funding round will open in February 2022, with applications due by 11th April 2022.