New funding aims to reduce solar costs and improve efficiency.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency’s (ARENA) new funding aims to reduce the cost of solar energy.

The $40 Million Competitive Funding Round will fund research and development projects that can reduce the levelised costs of solar PV by 2030.

ARENA has divided its R&D funding into two streams. It is looking for projects that drive innovation in solar modules and cells or reduce system costs, including balance-of-system, operation, and maintenance.

The funding for the two streams is equal, up to a maximum of $20 million.

Solar 30 30 30

The Australian Government has made ultra-low-cost solar a priority. In the 2021 Statement on Low Emissions Technology (LETS), a stretch goal is set to lower the cost of solar electricity at the utility-scale to $15 per Megawatt Hour.

It would be a roughly two-thirds decrease in cost compared to today. This could allow other technologies, such as hydrogen, energy storage, and metals with low emissions, to become more competitive.

ARENA’s 2021 Investment Plan aligns with the stretch goal in the LETS. It sets an ambitious target for 30 percent module efficiency at a utility-scale and 30 cents per watt installed by 2030 – dubbed Solar 30 30 30.

ARENA CEO Darren Miller stated that achieving Solar 30 30 30 would help Australia achieve net zero emissions and accelerate the adoption of renewables.

Miller stated that the $40 million R&D round would help Australia’s solar researchers to achieve the Solar 30 30 30 target and will drive innovation for ultra-low-cost solar.

“Ultra-low cost solar will play a crucial role in helping Australia achieve a net-zero emissions goal by 2050 and a system that is largely renewable, at a lower price.”

Angus Taylor, Minister of Industry, Energy, and Emissions Reduction, has backed ARENA’s Solar 30 30 30 goal.

“ARENA’s Solar 30 30 30 goal is vital to achieving solar power at less than $15 per Megawatt Hour, and therefore is vital to reducing electricity sector emission and unlocking potential for other low-emission technologies like clean hydrogen,” said Minister Taylor.

Supporting Australian Innovation to Reduce Solar Cost and Improve Efficiency

Researchers at the University of New South Wales created the PERC Solar Cell in the 1980s, which is now used by over 80% of solar panels worldwide.

Darren Miller hopes that ARENA’s new funding round builds on Australia’s long history of innovation in solar PV to develop the next generation of breakthroughs that will reduce costs and increase efficiency.

“That great job continues through ACAP as well as our universities, CSIRO and clean energy startups. SunDrive, a startup created by former UNSW and now based out of Sydney, has just a few short months ago developed the world’s most effective solar cell.” said he.

ARENA has supported over 70 solar R&D and development projects with grants totaling almost $105,000,000.

Expressions of Interest for the Ultra Low-Cost Solar R&D funding round will be opened in February 2022. Applications close at 5 pm AEST Monday, 11 April 2022.

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