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To help achieve the Federal Government’s ultra low cost solar stretch goal, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has announced up to $40 million for solar research and development (R&D).

The R&D funding round will build on ARENA’s new Investment Plan. In support of ultra low cost solar, ARENA has set an ambitious target of ‘Solar 30 30 30’, to improve solar cell efficiency to 30 per cent and reduce the total cost of construction of utility scale solar farms to 30 cents per watt by 2030.

ARENA is inviting applications that can materially reduce the levelised cost of solar PV by 2030 across two streams:

  • Stream 1 – Cells and Modules: Building on Australia’s leading track record of R&D and innovation in solar cells and modules
  • Stream 2 – Balance of system, operations and maintenance: Seeking to broaden the approach to accelerate innovation that can drive down the upfront and ongoing costs of utility scale solar PV in the field.

ARENA currently expects to allocate up to $20 million in total funding to each of the two streams.

Ultra low cost solar was recently added as a priority technology in the Australian Government’s latest Low Emissions Technology Statement (LETS), which set a stretch goal of $15 per megawatt hour, roughly a third of its current cost.

Ultra low cost solar will be a key input to scaling up production of low cost green hydrogen in support of the LETS hydrogen goal of “H2 under $2”, and will be key to unlocking other decarbonisation pathways for heavy industry, including low emission materials such as green steel and aluminium.

Since 2012, ARENA through its R&D programs has committed close to $105 million in grant funding to over 70 projects. 

ARENA CEO, Darren Miller, said the pioneering work of Australian solar researchers will be key to driving cost reductions and improving solar cell efficiency.

“Australia’s solar researchers have been leading the world for decades,” Mr Miller said.

“Thirty years ago, University of New South Wales (UNSW) researchers invented the PERC silicon solar cell, technology which today is the foundation of more than 80 per cent of the world’s solar panels.

“That great work continues through the Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics (ACAP), our universities and CSIRO, as well as clean energy startups. 

“Just a few months ago, SunDrive – a startup founded by former UNSW students and now based in Sydney – created the world’s most efficient solar cell.

“This $40 million R&D funding round will support Australia’s solar researchers and industry to get behind the target of Solar 30 30 30 and drive the innovation that will deliver ultra low cost solar.”

Expressions of Interest for the Ultra Low Cost Solar R&D Funding Round will open in February 2022 with applications due by 5pm AEST Monday 11 April 2022.

For further information on how to apply, visit ARENA’s funding page.

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