Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) is funding Australian startup SunDrive with $3 million to advance the commercial production of their low-cost , high-efficiency solar manufacturing process.
The $9 million project will also see their technology scaled from an industrial-sized cell to a commercial-sized module that could be used on household rooftops. A small scale automated production line prototype will also be built, with the eventual goal of manufacturing the technology in Australia.
The use of silver is a key barrier to the broader adoption of next generation solar cell technologies. Globally, solar production is now expected to account for 20 percent of the world ‘s overall annual industrial silver consumption.
This poses a continuing supply risk as solar demand rises and is further compounded if the industry transitions to higher next generation solar cell structures requiring two to three times more silver per cell.
SunDrive technology substitutes the use of silver with copper, which is considerably cheaper and more plentiful. In addition to reducing production costs, SunDrive aims to further increase efficiency through a simplified manufacturing process and a thinner solar cell that will need less silicon to be made.
The technology was originally created by SunDrive’s CEO, Vince Allen, during his PhD at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, before he formed SunDrive in 2015 with his flatmate David Hu.
SunDrive initially aims to use its technology to concentrate on the rooftop solar market, where space is at a premium and higher-efficiency cells can generate more energy for a given footprint. Over time, technology is projected to become more cost-effective than existing solar cell technologies and to be used for large-scale solar technology.
“As we continue to transition our energy system, the solar industry needs to continually evolve and adopt new cell structures that increase efficiencies, reduce costs and employ more abundant materials.
“It’s fantastic to see an Australian solar startup at the forefront of producing the next generation of high efficiency solar cells. Through technological innovations from startups like SunDrive, Australia will remain at the forefront of solar innovation and research and development for years to come.”Darren Miller, CEO ARENA.
“With ARENA’s support we feel incredibly proud to be in a position to contribute to Australia’s rich heritage of advancing solar cell technology. With this project we have an opportunity in Australia to lead the world in creating the best version of next generation solar cells. Our goal is to use the learnings from this project to bring to life a superior solar technology, creating new local industries which can compete on the global stage.
“With only 3 per cent of world electricity coming from solar today, there is still so much innovation that must occur. Gaining the support from the Australian Government puts us in a stronger position to capitalise on the opportunity that lies ahead.”Vince Allen, CEO SunDrive.