Solar PV R&DProject Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics (ACAP)
This is the fourth annual ACAP report also incorporating that of the Australia–US Institute for Advanced Photovoltaics (AUSIAPV), supported by the Australian Government through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).
Solar photovoltaics involves the direct generation of electricity from sunlight, when it shines upon devices known as solar cells. Silicon is the most common material used to make these photovoltaic cells, similarly to its key role in microelectronics, although several other photovoltaic materials are being actively investigated.
During 2016, it became very clear that photovoltaics now provides the lowest cost option for electricity production yet developed. In August 2016, bids were submitted for the long-term supply of electricity in Chile using solar photovoltaics at US$29.10/MWh, appreciably lower than from any other bidding technology including coal, where the corresponding bid was nearly twice as high at US$57/ MWh (itself quite low by international standards, with Bloomberg estimating the cost of electricity from a new black coal plant in Australia in 2016 at an appreciably higher AUD$120/MWh).
The following month (September 2016) an even lower bid of US$24.20/MWh was made for the supply of photovoltaic-generated electricity in Abu Dhabi, lower than even the short-run marginal cost of generation from many existing Australian black coal plants. There are two exciting aspects to these developments. One is that photovoltaic costs will continue to decrease, with analysts expecting module prices to reduce by over 10% in 2017, with further reductions over the coming decade. The other is that Australia has played a major role in achieving past cost reductions and is expected to play a key role in future cost reductions through the activities of the Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics (ACAP), documented in this 2016 Annual Report.