Wollongong based technology start-up SunDrive will receive $3 million in funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to advance the commercial development of their low cost, high efficiency solar manufacturing process in Australia.
The use of silver in solar manufacturing, which is already estimated to represent 20% of the world’s total annual industrial silver consumption, is considered a key barrier to the broader adoption of next-gen solar cell technologies.
Originally developed by SunDrive’s CEO Vince Allen during his PhD at the University of New South Wales Sydney, the new technology replaces the use of silver with copper, which is significantly cheaper and more abundant.
Mr Allen said the company initially aims to use its technology to focus on the rooftop solar sector, where space is at a premium and higher efficiency cells can produce greater amounts of energy for a given footprint.
“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,” he continued.
“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.”
In addition to scaling SunDrive’s technology from an industrial sized cell to a commercial size module that could be used on household rooftops, the $9 million project also envisions the development of a small-scale automated production line prototype, with the eventual aim to produce the technology in Australia.
ARENA CEO Darren Miller said the technology is expected to gradually become more and more cost effective than current solar cell technologies and be adopted for large scale solar.
“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,” Mr Miller added.
“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.”