Australia will bankroll research into ultra low-cost solar panels to slash the price of uptake and cut carbon emissions.
The Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics will train more graduates and hire more researchers using the $45 million Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) grant announced on Friday.
Announcing the extension of the solar research program to 2030, Energy Minister Chris Bowen said while Australia needs to cut emissions by using more renewable energy, it could also help the rest of the world.
“In no small measure that will be because of the innovation and the science and cutting-edge technology that happens right here,” he told reporters.
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Some 90 per cent of the world’s solar panels were made using technology developed by a team led by University of NSW’s solar pioneer Martin Green, who Mr Bowen said was a “national treasure”.
Professor Green said the next decade promised to be the most important in solar cell development, with increased uptake and technological change.
“With ARENA’s support, we will continue our world-class technology development including more efficient and powerful cell technologies, and growing a sustainable solar sector at scale,” he said.
The University of NSW-based research program supports the agency’s goal to improve solar photovoltaic (PV) cell efficiency to 30 per cent and reduce the cost of installation of solar modules to 30 cents per watt by 2030.
Over the past decade, the centre has brought together scientists from the CSIRO and several universities to improve solar technology and drive costs down.
Solar expert Renate Egan said the energy crisis provides another incentive to install more solar and batteries.
Professor Egan said close to 15 per cent of Australia’s electricity consumption is already met by solar energy, underpinned by more rooftop solar per capita than anywhere else in the world.
“I’m optimistic that we will see it continue to grow,” she said.
ARENA chief executive Darren Miller said the funding boost would also help to lower the input costs for green hydrogen, low-emissions metals and other large-scale clean energy technology.
“Ultra low-cost solar will be key to enabling Australia’s energy transition and emissions reduction efforts,” he said.