Solar PV R&DProject Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics (ACAP)
This report covers the period from 1 January to 31 December 2017. Over the past five years, both ACAP and AUSIAPV have moved quickly to establish a high profile within the international research community.
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 2017, photovoltaics reinforced its position as 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 AU$120/MWh). In 2017, appreciably lower bids were received in multiple power auctions. In September, a consortium led by Abu Dhabi’s renewable energy company Masdar submitted the lowest bid to date for a project in Saudi Arabia, as OPEC’s top crude producer diversifies its economy away from hydrocarbons. Masdar and its French partner EDF submitted an offer of US$17.86/MWh, lower than even the short- run marginal cost of generation from most existing Australian black coal plants.
Australia has played a major role in achieving these 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 2017 Annual Report. According to EnergyTrend, the global manufacturing capacity for the Australian- invented and -developed PERC (Passivated Emitter and Rear Cell) technology grew by a massive 160.5% in 2017, reaching 42.38GW by the end of the year, about one third of all capacity. With such high growth rates, PERC should account for the majority of photovoltaic manufacturing before 2020.