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UNSW Receives Funding for Renewable Energy R&D

Researchers at UNSW Sydney received AU$41.5 million from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) Research and Development (R&D) Program towards research and development (R&D) as well as commercialisation activities aimed at significantly reducing solar costs.

The researchers from the School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering (SPREE) at UNSW Engineering will receive over AU$29 million for nine projects across the Cells and Modules stream, and the Balance of System, Operations and Maintenance stream. Both streams have the potential to reduce the levelised cost of solar PV and improve cell and module efficiency.

Professor Nicholas Ekins-Daukes, who is heading a project that builds on a decade of singlet fission research by Professor Tim Schmidt, School of Chemistry, who is the scientific director of the research. The project has received an AU$4.8 million grant from ARENA for research into singlet fission solar cells.

Silicon solar cell technologies of today attain efficiencies above 26 per cent in commercial processes while the absolute efficiency limit for silicon solar cells is 29 per cent. A new approach is required to surpass that level. The project will use an established photophysical process known as singlet fission that can exceed 30 per cent efficiency and maintains low manufacturing cost.

Professor Bram Hoex is the lead CI on the ‘Optimal O&M-strategy and LCOE-modelling for ground-mounted PV’ project which has received a $3.7 million grant from ARENA. The project aims to significantly improve solar power measurement and financial prediction for optimal performance. Focus will be placed on the specific operations and maintenance (O&M) requirements of the 5B MAVERICK solar system that offers ultra-low-cost deployment but presents unique O&M challenges due to its proximity to the ground and high-ground coverage. The project will be run in collaboration with industry partners Sun Cable, 5B and PV Lighthouse who have provided an additional AU$3.7 million in cash support.

Scientia Professor Martin Green is the lead CI on the ‘Rear-Junction p-type PERC/TOPCon Hybrid Solar Cells’ project which has received an AU$3.7 million grant from ARENA. The project seeks to enhance the performance and lower the costs of commercial solar cells by combining two technologies originally conceived at UNSW, the commercially dominant PERC technology and a ‘tunnel-oxide-polysilicon-contact’, now known as TOPCon. The hybrid is a standard gallium-doped PERC cell that responds to light on both front and rear surfaces, ‘flipped-over’, with the diffused phosphorus layer, normally on the top surface but now on the rear, replaced by a phosphorus-doped ‘tunnel-oxide-polysilicon-contact’.

Scientia Fellow Associate Professor Brett Hallam is leading the ‘Silver-lean screen printing for sustainable low-cost industrial PV manufacturing at the terawatt scale’ project. With an AU$3.3 million grant, the project will address the most pressing issue for terawatt-scale solar, silver consumption, which cannot be solved by end-of-life management in the short to mid-term as the industry continues to grow. The project builds on existing work and knowledge to develop a novel screen-printing approach to overcome limitations of conventional metallisation designs to reduce silver consumption and metal/silicon interface area independently of printing capabilities.

Professor Xiaojing Hao, ARC Future Fellow, is the lead CI on the ‘Efficient and Stable Chalcogenide-Si tandem cells: integrating commercialized PV technologies’ project which has received an AU$3.1 million grant from ARENA. The project aims to achieve help reduce the costs of utility-scale solar PV by developing innovative chalcogenide/silicon tandem cell technology. Collaborating with major chalcogenide and Si PV manufacturers, the project aims to develop next-generation, high-performance, durable and cost-effective tandem cells that can be rapidly scaled up.

Professor Thorsten Trupke is leading the ‘Daytime Inspection Solutions for Advanced Operation and Maintenance of Solar Farms’ project which has received an AU$2.8 million grant from ARENA. The project aims to develop commercial inspection solutions that will become part of routine operation and maintenance for solar farms. The inspection solutions will enable testing of crystalline silicon photovoltaic modules in utility-scale solar farms. The project will also focus on the further adaptation of photoluminescence imaging, a technology first developed at UNSW, for field inspection in full daylight, including the use of robotic solutions or aerial drones. The project includes Murdoch University as research partner organisation and several industry partners.

Associate Professor Ziv Hameiri will lead the ‘Industrial high-throughput inspection methods for high-efficiency multijunction solar cells’ project which has received an AU$2.7 million grant from ARENA and aims to develop advanced characterisation methods for the next generation of solar cells. Manufacturers and researchers will be provided with detailed information about the performance of their solar cells at extremely high throughput.

Associate Professor Ziv Hameiri is the lead CI on the ‘Balance of System, Machine learning applications for utility-scale PV’ project which has received a AU$2.5 million grant from ARENA. The team will develop an automated decision-making platform for the O&M of utility-scale PV power plants. The project aims to detect, classify, and predict degradations and faults and to provide an action list to optimise the performance of the plant. The project gathers UNSW and a wide range of leaders in the areas of O&M, asset management and ownership of PV plants.

Scientia Fellow Associate Professor Brett Hallam is also lead CI on a second grant, the ‘Low cost and sustainable PV systems for the terawatt scale’ project which received an AU$2.4 million from ARENA. A pressing issue for terawatt-scale deployment of PV systems is consumption of materials (silicon, copper, aluminium, steel and concrete), due to the sheer volume required and associated emissions. Life-cycle-analysis and yield analysis will be used and the levelised cost of electricity will be calculated to address material issues for terawatt-scale deployment of PV systems and the associated impact on cost and the environment.

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