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Research boost for solar panel efficiency and cost reduction

On behalf of the Australian Government, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) recently announced it has awarded $15.14 million in funding to 16 research projects to help address solar PV panel efficiency, overall cost reductions and end-of-life issues.

The funding has been awarded to research teams from six Australian universities including the Australian National University, Macquarie University, University of Melbourne, University of New South Wales, University of Sydney and Swinburne University.

ARENA initially opened the application in December last year with a $15 million commitment. The round received over 50 applications with a total project value of over $150 million.

The two-year R&D projects will support solar PV in the following areas:

  • advanced silicon: improvements to the overall cost-effectiveness of silicon-based panels already in mass-market production, and their production processes
  • tandem silicon: increasing the cost-effectiveness of silicon-based solar PV through the use of tandem materials
  • new materials: development of new materials with the potential to either reach breakthrough cost-efficiencies, or the potential for new deployment applications
  • end-of-life: new solutions, including upfront solar PV panel designs and end of life processing, that increase the cost-effectiveness of sustainable end-of-life management of solar PV panels.

The 16 projects selected will strengthen Australia’s world-leading solar PV R&D sector that ARENA has helped establish through its previous funding. This is the first time that ARENA has sought applications for addressing solutions to end-of-life solar PV issues. It is anticipated more than 50 full-time equivalent positions will be created across the 16 projects.

In addition to end-of-life issues, selected projects will also aim to improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of solar PV for new or established applications and develop new materials with the potential to either reach breakthrough cost-efficiencies or the potential for new deployment applications.

The CEO of ARENA CEO stated that it was fantastic to see so much interest in the latest solar R&D round which is reflected in the great variety of projects across the priority areas, particularly in the Advanced Silicon field where Australia leads the world.

A key part of the funding round was finding a solution to the end-of-life of solar panels and ARENA is excited to see some interesting new research into this area. It’s an important part of the nation’s transition to renewable energy as it must be ensured that materials used in solar panels can be recycled or repurposed for future use.

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