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Supporting Innovation in Australia’s Solar Tech

The Australian National University (ANU) will play a vital role in the research and development of cheaper, more efficient and more sustainable solar technologies as a result of a multi-million-dollar investment that will ignite a spark in Australian solar innovation.

The Albanese government recently announced the Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics (ACAP), led by The University of New South Wales (UNSW) in collaboration with ANU and other institutions, will receive $45 million over the next eight years to ensure the nation continues to be a world leader in the development and deployment of cutting-edge solar technology, including the next iteration of solar panels.

Professor Andrew Blakers, an ANU scholar who coordinates the University’s involvement with ACAP, noted that Australia has a history of delivering creative solutions to further the capabilities of solar photovoltaics (PV) – technology that converts sunlight into electricity – both at home and abroad. This means that the nation is well-positioned to rise to the challenge of developing more capable and more efficient solar cells.

The investment will ensure Australia remains at the forefront of solar innovation globally and will also bring it a step closer to becoming a renewable energy superpower, he said.

Australia generates roughly twice as much solar energy per capita in comparison to any other country. Australia’s main electricity grid currently procures approximately 30 per cent of its electricity from solar and wind, and South Australia procures 70 per cent.

If nations around the world, including Australia, are to meet and surpass current-day modest emissions reduction targets, cost-effective, more efficient and widely accessible solar panels must be developed.

Professor Blakers stated that solar electricity already costs less than electricity from fossil fuels. However, the cost reductions are nowhere near finished. He said that clean and cheap solar and wind electricity allows clean electrification of transport, heating and industry and hence the removal of 80 per cent of greenhouse emissions.

Continued investment and advances in clean energy infrastructure are now, more than ever, necessary amid constraints on the global energy market and higher prices fuelled by ongoing supply issues.

Solving current energy difficulties means greater investment in solar and wind, supplemented by extra transmission to bring the new solar and wind power to the cities.

ACAP is funded by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and is a collaboration between multiple Australian universities, solar cell production companies, and CSIRO as well as international partners.

The Incoming ACAP Director, Professor Renate Egan from UNSW stated, “We’re looking forward to working with ARENA to deliver low-cost solar technologies through ongoing research. Australia has been leading the world in solar technology development, and there’s still so much more to do. And we’re only just beginning.”

The global solar power market size was US$170.55 billion in 2020. The impact COVID-19 pandemic has been sudden and staggering resulting in the solar power market witnessing a negative demand shock across all regions amid the pandemic.

Recent research notes that this market is expected to grow from US$184.03 billion in 2021 to US$293.18 billion in 2028 at a CAGR of 6.9% during the forecast period. The rapid rise in CAGR is attributable to this market’s demand and growth returning to pre-pandemic levels once the pandemic is over.

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