Close search

Sewage pumping station cleans up with sodium batteries

Sydney Water’s Bondi sewage pumping station will soon store renewable energy in sodium-ion battery packs, trialling the cheaper alternative to the traditional lithium-ion batteries.

The project will repower the picturesque Bondi plan with a renewable energy generation system, which includes 6 kW of solar panels, a temporary lithium-ion battery and an energy management system.

The recently commissioned Smart Sodium Storage Project has received $2.7 million from ARENA towards a $10.6 million total cost, which will fund the development of the new battery technology and demonstrate how it can be used to store renewable energy.

The project is being led by energy storage researchers from the University of Wollongong, in collaboration with Sydney Water and battery storage manufacturers in China.

Professor Shi Xue Dou, director of the University of Wollongong’s Institute for Superconducting and Electronic Materials, said the Smart Sodium Storage Project was translating their research into real-world benefits.

“Sodium-ion batteries are a potential game-changer because the materials are much more abundant than those for traditional lithium-ion batteries,” Professor Shi Xue Dou said.

He said this will help reduce the cost of the raw sodium-ion materials “as well as reducing reliance on scarce, expensive lithium.”

The scarcity of lithium makes it expensive, with predictions that its price will rise higher as global demand for battery storage continues to rise.

“Critically, this project will deliver commercial-scale and ready-for-manufacture sodium-ion battery technology.”

Professor Dou says sodium-ion batteries will allow “lower-cost distributed renewable energy supply to become a reality.”

Sydney Water will test the system with lithium-ion batteries before switching to sodium-ion within a year, when the first batches arrive from the manufacturer in China.

SODIUM COULD REDUCE THE PRICE OF STORAGE

As one of the two elements present in ordinary salt, supplies of sodium are plentiful and easily accessible. That makes the raw ingredients for sodium-ion batteries a lot cheaper than lithium alternatives.

With potential to perform similarly to other batteries on the market today, the new sodium batteries can be stacked together to meet storage requirements.

Project leader Professor Shi Xue Dou in the laboratory. IMAGE: University of Wollongong

The trade off is size. Smaller and lighter lithium-ion batteries will remain well-suited to mobile phones and EVs where size and weight are critical, but the new technology could emerge as a good fit for household and industrial applications.

To make their sodium-powered vision a reality, the researchers from the University of Wollongong have partnered with leading Chinese battery manufacturers to develop the individual 5 kWh sodium-ion battery packs.

BONDI TRIAL COULD BE JUST THE BEGINNING

With large volumes of wastewater and sewerage moved daily and highly intermittent and impulse heavy loads, the Bondi pumping station is the perfect place to test the new batteries.

Generating approximately 8,000 kWh of energy each year, the new system will exceed the needs of the Bondi pumping station and has the potential to send surplus power back to the grid. Given Sydney Water’s network includes more than 780 pumping stations, there is potential to scale the trial up in future.

Inside the Bondi water treatment plant. Image: University of Wollongong

ARENA CEO Darren Miller said the agency is working hard to deliver secure and reliable renewable energy, which battery technology helps to make possible.

“Thanks to the contribution of world-leading researchers from the University of Wollongong, these relatively inexpensive and reliable sodium-ion batteries aren’t too far off.” Darren Miller said.

Mr Miller said sodium-ion storage allows variable renewable energy to be dispatchable, as well as potentially reducing our reliance on lithium.

“This is just one example of an Australian innovation that could accelerate the transition to renewables. At ARENA we are always excited to support this type of R&D,” he said.

US trailblazing Mayor inspires Australian councils

Lancaster in Southern California has an impressive claim to fame.

Located just one hour’s drive north of Los Angeles, the city has become the first in the world to reach net zero emissions, now producing more energy than it consumes.

The ambitious target was set back in 2014 by the local council, who saw an opportunity to take advantage of their 280 sunny days each year.

Installing panels on seemingly any flat surface which didn’t move, almost every municipal building now has solar, as well as all 25 schools and even the local minor-league baseball diamond. Any electricity bought by the town comes from solar farms that have been built locally.

Solar panels at Miller Elementary School in Lancaster

Transitioning a town home to 170,000 people onto renewables was no mean feat.

Bringing his experience to Australia, the three-time Lancaster Mayor Rex Parris recently attended the City Power Partnership summit in Kiama, on the New South Wales south coast.

Established by the Climate Council, the City Power Partnership helps Australian towns and cities make the change to clean energy.

The gathering of representatives from councils around the country was designed to inspire the type of renewable energy ambition like that seen in the City of Lancaster.

Kiama Mayor Mark Honey said his council decided to support the Cities Power Partnership “in the spirit of taking coordinated and positive actions to leave the planet in a better place for our children and grandchildren.”

PARKES MAYOR KEN KEITH TAKES OUT CPP AMBASSADOR AWARD

Drawing delegates from inner-city, suburban, regional and rural councils, Parkes Mayor Ken Keith received the City Power Partnership Ambassador award at the summit.

Famous for its annual Elvis festival, Parkes is fast building a reputation as a solar champion.

One of 12 projects funded through ARENA’s large-scale solar funding round, construction of the the 55 MW Parkes Solar Farm was completed in early 2018. Home to 206,000 solar panels, the farm produces enough electricity to power 21,000 homes.

Known as a passionate advocate of renewables – and part-time Elvis impersonator – Cr Keith said he was overwhelmed to receive the award.

“Parkes was one of the founding member councils of the CPP, and I am delighted to see that it is going from strength to strength,” Mayor Keith said.

“It has been incredible to see the kind of work that is being done by other councils around the country. To be recognised amongst such a competitive field certainly is humbling,” he said.

Since 2011, Parkes Shire Council has installed 610 kW of solar power on Council assets, with more work underway to promote renewable energy and reduce their carbon footprint, while also cutting energy bills.

RENEWABLE TRANSITION LEAVES VALUABLE LEGACY

As well as becoming the world’s first net zero emission city, Lancaster’s renewable revolution has left a sustainable and lasting solar industry.

Estimated to employ more than 1000 people, the solar boom has helped the city to recover from the global financial crisis, which hit particularly hard locally. Employment rose as high as 17 per cent locally during 2009, but has now dropped below 6 per cent.

Chinese electric vehicle and battery manufacturer BYD have opened two local plants, one of which recently tripled in size to occupy a footprint of 450,000 square feet.

For communities around Australia grappling the the transition to renewable energy, Mayor Rex Parris and the City of Lancaster provide a strong lead to follow.

Other award winners at the City Power Partnership Summit included:

Renewable Energy Achievement Award
Solar my School – Three Council Program from Randwick, Waverley & Woollahra Councils (New South Wales)

Energy Efficiency Achievement
Newcastle Museum Energy upgrade – The City of Newcastle (New South Wales)

Sustainable Transport Achievement Award
Transition to Zero Emissions Vehicles Action Plan 2018-21 – ACT Government

Community Engagement Achievement Award
Floating solar farm – Lismore City Council (New South Wales)

Knowledge Sharing Award
South East NSW Councils buddy group (New South Wales)

Top marks for new off-grid solar classroom

The school bells have rung and class has started in Australia’s first 100 per cent solar and battery powered relocatable classroom.

Building on the success of Hivve’s first two solar portables installed at Dapto High and Sydney’s St Christopher’s Primary, a third renewable energy powered classroom has opened at Bracken Ridge High School in suburban Brisbane.

Unlike the first two solar Hivves, the newest classroom will be entirely powered by solar and batteries and won’t be connected to the electricity grid.

Hivve co-founder Richard Doyle said taking the solar classrooms off-grid was “an absolute no-brainer.”

“Demountables are often put in as a temporary solution and remain permanently. The Hivve has been designed to replace that model in a sustainable and smart way,” Richard Doyle said.

Faced with a bill of more than $35,000 for a grid connection, the decision was made to install a Tesla powerwall and only connect the classroom to the school to share excess solar power produced on-site. Based on data gathered from the two Hivves, it’s expected that Bracken Ridge High’s new high-tech portable will produce enough energy to power two additional classrooms.

With an energy profile perfectly matched to the demands of a school day, Doyle said the solar setup is pushed hard to “maintain a temperature of between 20-24 degrees during the school day.”

He sees an opportunity for their technology to be rolled out widely following a pledge from the New South Wales Government to spend $500 million installing air conditioning in 1,000 schools.

“We’re collecting performance data for these buildings to show how Hivve can deliver that with no impact on the grid,” he said.

Doyle says the model is also well-suited for use in remote communities.

ARENA has provided nearly $370,000 to the three classroom pilot program which Hivve developed in collaboration with Tesla. ARENA CEO Darren Miller says the program opens the door for more Australian schools to switch to renewables.

“Demand for energy at schools occurs during the school day, when the sun is shining. There is a great opportunity to power classrooms via solar, backed up by battery storage,” Darren Miller said.

Rapidly growing populations and the rising popularity of solar is pushing transmission infrastructure to the limit, giving the new off-grid setup extra appeal.

“Many schools on the Eastern seaboard are currently at capacity on grid connection. This Australian-developed solution could help schools reduce costs and emissions, while also reducing reliance and demand on the grid,” he said.

“This solar-and-battery powered Hivve classroom at Bracken Ridge is both sustainable and self-sufficient as it powers itself while being completely off grid. The school avoids the significant upfront cost of grid connection while also saving on ongoing energy costs,” Mr Miller said.

Benefits being shared with existing buildings

According to Hivve, the oldest relocatable classroom in New South Wales was built in the 1960s.

The new modular portables have lessons from their old, poorly insulated and ugly forebears, designed for the long-term with the realisation that demountables are often put in as a temporary solution that remains permanently.

With each Hivve able to generate around 7600KWh of solar power every year in addition to its own requirements, the state of the art classrooms will reduce their host school’s reliance on grid power and bring down electricity bills.

Dapto High School’s Hivve

They can also help to create a healthy environment for learning by measuring CO2 levels and alerting teachers when air quality deteriorates. Fresh air can be introduced through the heating/cooling system, or by opening a window.

While the new Bracken Ridge Hivve won’t be connected to the grid, all of the excess solar energy it produces will be captured on-site with a behind the meter connection to other school buildings.

The ARENA funded pilot will run for 12 months and data collected will be used to demonstrate how renewable energy could power schools.

Solar and batteries powering Brisbane classroom

Brisbane high school students are being taught in Australia’s first solar and battery powered portable classroom, as a trial of renewable classrooms expands to Queensland.

On behalf of the Australian Government, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) provided approximately $370,000 to Hivve Technologies Pty Ltd to build three state-of-the-art pilot portable classrooms, including a prototype at Bracken Ridge State High School in Brisbane.

The Bracken Ridge portable classroom, developed in collaboration with Tesla, includes rooftop solar PV and a Tesla Powerwall 2 battery system that allows the classroom to operate 100 per cent off the electricity grid.

Hivve classrooms generate enough electricity to power themselves and a minimum of two other classrooms in a school, with excess power now able to be stored in the connected battery.

As part of the ARENA pilot, Hivve previously installed solar-powered classrooms in two NSW schools, St Christopher’s Catholic Primary School in Sydney’s south western suburb of Holsworthy and at Dapto High School in the Illawarra region.

Hivve classrooms feature energy efficient lighting, heating and air conditioning, and allow real-time monitoring of temperature, air quality, energy metering as well as solar generation, battery capacity to manage energy demand. An in-classroom dashboard provides real-time data that gives teachers control of the classroom environment.

A Tesla battery was also installed for six weeks at Dapto High School to test the potential for batteries to be incorporated into the classroom.
ARENA CEO Darren Miller said the successful Hiive trials in NSW and now Queensland open the door for more Australian schools to switch to renewable energy.

“This solar-and-battery powered Hivve classroom at Bracken Ridge is both sustainable and self-sufficient as it powers itself while being completely off grid. The school avoids the significant upfront cost of grid connection while also saving on ongoing energy costs.

“Demand for energy at schools occurs during the school day, when the sun is shining. As such, there is a great opportunity to power classrooms via solar, backed up by battery storage,” Mr Miller said.

“Many schools on the Eastern seaboard are currently at capacity on grid connection. This Australian-developed solution could help schools reduce costs and emissions, while also reducing reliance and demand on the grid,” he said.

Hivve CEO David Wrench said: “We are greatly encouraged by the robust trial results from the three schools operating with Hivve classrooms which confirms this Australian-developed technology has now made the transition from an idea to a commercial reality.

“The Hivve classroom concept has the potential to be a game changer in how our children are educated, providing a completely sustainable solution by powering all its own infrastructure – including air conditioning – while also feeding energy back into the school to run other classrooms.

“ARENA has been the perfect partner for this initiative demonstrating the innovative thinking around traditional energy challenges this Government has been bringing,” he said.

The ARENA-funded pilot will run for 12 months, with the accumulated performance data used to demonstrate how renewable energy could power schools and reduce schools’ energy costs, as part of ARENA’s focus on delivering secure, reliable and affordable electricity.

Following the success of the trial, Hivve are now expecting to roll out their classrooms in NSW and are in discussion with other states.

ARENA media contact:

0410 724 227 | media@arena.gov.au

Download this media release (PDF 119KB)

The AFL solar scoreboard

After battling through a long, cold winter, footballers aren’t alone in benefiting from the recent sunny September days.

Clubs around the country are installing solar panels to reduce their energy bills and flex their environmental muscle. Given offices, gyms, recovery centres and pools chew through most of their electricity during daylight hours, solar is a perfect fit.

Grand Final week is the perfect opportunity to recognise the real AFL heroes – the football clubs taking a punt on solar.

Punt Road Oval. Image: Metrosolar

Collingwood and West Coast might be fighting to be Premiers, but other AFL clubs are the champions when it comes to embracing renewable energy.

This week as the Eagles and Magpies line up for the Grand Final bird fight, let’s celebrate something we can all get behind.

The votes are in, the sun is shining. Here’s to the AFL’s best on ground solar performances.

Gold Coast Suns ‘solar halo’

The appropriately named Gold Coast Suns were early adopters, integrating a ‘solar halo’ during construction of their Carrara training base in 2011. The ring of custom made panels circle the top of the stadium, making the most of the sunshine state’s natural advantages with a 200kW punch.

Metricon Stadium’s ‘solar halo’. Image: Watpac

 

Essendon – True Value Solar Centre

In one measure to enhance performance, the Essendon Football Club moved their training base from Windy Hill to the True Value Solar Centre in 2014. As well as sponsoring the football team at the time of the move, the solar installers also installed panels to offset the energy demand from Essendon’s state of the art home base.

Richmond – Punt Road PVs

Ousted reigning premiers 2018 Richmond installed a 100kW solar setup on the historic Punt Road Oval grandstand in 2014. The club’s former ‘sustainability partner’ Metro Solar fitted the system, which supplies power to their gym, treatment and recovery clinic, education spaces and offices.

North Melbourne – Arden Street shines

In 2016 the Kangaroos grabbed the ball and ran with it, fitting a massive 200kW array to the Arden Street Oval’s two major rooftops. Receiving funding from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and local council, the 800 panel system was the biggest in the City of Melbourne when installed, reducing the club’s reliance on grid-supplied power by 22 per cent.

Fremantle Dockers – Cockburn solar boom

Fremantle have also seen the light, working with their sponsor Solargain to install a 100kW system on their Cockburn training base. The Docker’s rooftop panels are part of the largest rooftop system in Western Australia – 1MW of photovoltaics have been deployed at the Cockburn Aquatic and Recreation Centre where Fremantle are an ‘anchor’ tenant.

NSW Schools Energy Productivity Program (SEPP) Pilot

Solar Thermochemical Hydrogen Research and Development

CONSORT Bruny Island Battery Trial recognised at Clean Energy Summit

Bruny Island might be best known for its rugged coastline, wildlife and its cheese and oysters beloved by daytripping foodies, but this tiny Tasmania island is on the cutting edge in Australia’s energy transition.

Last week, state-owned energy network TasNetworks received the Clean Energy Council’s Business Community Engagement Award for their involvement in an innovative project using solar and batteries to meet energy needs during holiday periods, when the island’s population soars.

More success has followed as the project advanced to the finals of Engineers Australia’s Engineering Excellence Awards after taking out the Tasmanian prize at a ceremony in Hobart last night.

The Bruny Island Battery Trial aims to to reduce reliance on diesel generators by harnessing energy from solar panels and batteries installed at 34 houses across the island.

Launched in early-2016, ARENA is providing $2.89 million to Australian National University (ANU), who are leading the $7.99 million project.

The project team are exploring how effectively solar and batteries can manage household energy demand and also support the broader network.

The fully automated Network-Aware Coordination (NAC) system being used is the first of its kind. In the trial, it coordinates batteries equipped with Reposit controllers, to support the network when and where it is needed. In the future, it will also have the capacity to integrate EVs, smart appliances and other distributed resources as they come online.

One unique aspect to the trial is its focus on consumers and their experiences of the technology being used. Researchers are working hard to understand broader aspects of the energy sharing model, including how participants feel about contributing to the electricity network to support their neighbours.

Two and a half years on from the start of the project, TasNetworks’ Senior Innovation Engineer Laura Jones says things are progressing well with batteries installed and doing their job.

“We are about to start our next round of social science interviews to capture customers thoughts, feelings, and actions now they have had their systems for a while,” Laura Jones said.

Diesel consumption on the island is reducing, and while yet to be quantified Jones is confident, declaring that “diesel savings increase every event as we learn and improve things.”

The project is already building an evidence base to improve the way distributed energy resources like rooftop solar and batteries can be integrated into the wider network.

“There are some learnings we can implement immediately and some that will take a few years to develop. What is exciting is that all are directly relevant to the way distribution system operation is developing,” she said.

“We are already implementing a distribution system operator on Bruny Island, so we know how it works. We have experienced the problems and solved them already on Bruny Island. And that is an extremely valuable ‘light on the hill’ to guide us through the energy transition.”

Jones says the Clean Energy Council’s Business Community Engagement Award is validation for the unique way the team have rolled out the Bruny Island program.

“It is an exciting recognition of the entire project team’s hard work to get the project to where it is. It also demonstrates the benefits of actively including social science into the project as a deeply integrated team,” she said.

Image credit: Australian National University

The Australian National University leads the project, which Professor Sylvie Thiebaux from the College of Engineering and Computer Science says is advancing the coordination of distributed resources owned by third parties.

“One of the most interesting things about this project is the very sophisticated and powerful way we coordinate distributed energy resources. That has the potential to be how the future grid is operated,” Sylvie Thiebaux said.

The 34 household ‘mini generators’ represent about seven per cent of the island’s fluctuating population, delivering up to 110kw of renewable energy to meet the spikes in demand during popular holiday periods.

“Bruny Island is connected to Tasmania’s network with a cable. That cable is over-constrained over the weekends and when a lot of holiday makers go to the island,” she said.

Historically diesel generators filled the gaps, but Thiebaux says they trying to offset their use with battery power.

Participants self-selected to be part of the program and were put in contact with installers to decide on the most suitable solar and battery systems.

“We’ve run the trials trying to project ourselves into the future – we’ve let consumers send us an expression of interest to be part of the trial. If accepted, we’ve put them in touch with installers from an approved list,” she said.

Research into the motivations of participants is being undertaken by the University of Tasmania, who are investigating how consumers – many of who are older and not technically minded – react to the technology, what they think about using consumer owned batteries to support the network, and whether they they think the incentives are suitable.

Rachel Watson (CEC Chair), Archie Chapman (Uni of Sydney), Laura Jones (Tasnetworks), Kane Thornton (CEC). Image: Tasnetworks

Thiebaux says performance is improving as forecasting of load and solar generation on the island improves, predicting a bright future for the technology.

“What we would like to do in the future is scale this to thousands of batteries in a range of settings,” she said.

Previous winners of the Business Community Engagement Award include the Climate Council for their work dispelling misconceptions about the cause of the 2016 blackouts in South Australia, NT Power and Water for reducing bills by improving energy efficiency in remote communities, and Infigen for their community fun run which attracted 750 people to build support for the Woodlawn wind farm.

Solar unlocking the secrets of space

Solar panels are helping to unlock the secrets of the final frontier, as spacecraft tackle the most extreme environments powered by renewable energy.

NASA’s Mars rover Opportunity has hit the headlines in recent weeks after being knocked out of action by a giant dust storm.

The batteries onboard the ageing rover are charged by solar panels, but thick dust covering one-quarter of the red planet blotted out the sun and sent Opportunity into hibernation.

Opportunity rover. Photo: NASA

Since launching in 2003 and landing on Mars in 2004, Opportunity has relayed information about Martian rocks and soil back to Earth.

The rover’s Mars mission was initially planned to be just 90 days, but 15 years later the solar-powered survivor is still going strong and scientists hope it will bounce back into action when the dust settles in the coming weeks or months.

Although Opportunity has been sent to sleep by dust storms in the past, its battery levels are thought to be much lower this time. Scientists remain hopeful that it will awaken when the dust settles, and Mars’ warmer summer temperatures should protect the rover from freezing.

Solar celebrates 60th anniversary in space

2018 marks the 60th anniversary of solar power first entering orbit aboard Vanguard 1, a tiny US satellite launched in 1958.

The grapefruit sized Vanguard 1 was the fourth satellite sent into space and now holds the record for the oldest man-made item in orbit. Its battery powered predecessors Sputnik 1 and Sputnik 2 reentered within a year of their launch, while its older American sibling Explorer 1 came back to Earth in 1970.

Vanguard 1. Photo: NASA

Vanguard 1’s six small solar cells powered a radio transmitter with around one watt of energy, lasting more than six years before the satellite’s signal was received for the final time by an Ecuadorian base in 1964.

Vanguard 1 proved the potential of solar in space, but also back on Earth.

The first solar cells became available commercially in the mid-1950s for around $300 for a single watt cell. The price was well beyond most people, but the technology found a market in the emerging space industry.

The game-changing little satellite’s legacy continues today, with the International Space Station’s four solar arrays generating as much as 120 killowatts of electricity.

Solar and space a perfect match

Taking around 90 minutes to circumnavigate Earth, satellites in low orbit are left in the dark for far shorter periods than our nights. This provides plenty of opportunity for solar cells to power the day-to-day operations on board, or recharge batteries for the times when they aren’t in sunlight.

The endless reserves of solar energy in space provide a reliable and durable supply of power, without the cost and complexity of transporting fuel from Earth. Getting payloads into space remains a significant challenge, NASA citing costs of around US$10,000 for every pound of weight launched into orbit.

Juno spacecraft and Jupiter.

Solar photovoltaics work well amongst the inner planets where there is plenty of solar radiation to make power, but become less efficient the further craft travel from the sun. NASA’s Juno mission to Jupiter needed to be fitted with three bus-sized solar arrays to generate the required power.

Space power stations ‘technically feasible’

Free from cloudy weather, atmosphere or nights, space is so well suited to solar energy that extra-terrestrial power stations could one day beam renewable energy back to Earth.

It sounds like science-fiction, but scientists say the physics stack up – the main barrier is the prohibitive cost of launching the required components into space.

Wirelessly relaying the energy to receivers on Earth is already technically feasible through a network of orbiting laser or microwave transmitters.

With demand for renewable energy higher than ever before – and NASA working hard to lower the cost of launching of payloads into space – the far-fetched idea could become a reality within a decade if companies like California-based space solar aspirants Solaren can make the costs competitive with terrestrial generation.

Given the rate of progress since the early solar powered space missions, the sky clearly isn’t the limit.

Alongside skyrocketing efficiency, the costs of solar photovoltaics have plummeted.

From costing around $300 per watt for the first commercially available photovoltaic panel in the mid-1950s, to as low as 30 cents per watt today, the plummeting price of solar is transforming the terrestrial energy market.

In the past decade nearly 1.8 million Australian households have installed rooftop solar, while our domestic large-scale solar industry is taking flight with 30GW worth of projects seeking connection to the grid in Queensland alone.

‘Solar superman’ scoops Global Energy Prize

UNSW Scientia Professor Martin Green has become the first Australian to win the Global Energy Prize, beating Elon Musk to the prestigious $820,000 award.

Professor Green was honoured for having revolutionised the efficiency and costs of solar photovoltaics, making this the lowest cost option for bulk electricity supply.

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht with Professor Martin Green


Australia’s ‘father of photovoltaics’ – or ‘solar superman’ – requires little introduction. He is director of the Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics at UNSW, and with his students has driven sharp reductions in costs of photovoltaic solar systems by establishing manufacturing centres in Asia.

The annual Global Energy Prize – which he will share with Russian scientist Sergey Alekseenko – honours outstanding achievements in research and technology that are addressing the world’s pressing energy challenges.

ARENA has been proud to fund some of Professor Martin Greens’ groundbreaking work, most recently awarding his University of New South Wales research unit $16.4 million when they took out 11 of the 20 successful projects in last year’s solar research funding round.

One of these projects is attempting to find a new form of adamantine compound that can be overlaid on top of silicon solar cells to create a more efficient cell. Professor Green is optimistic that the resulting “tandem cells” can break through the barrier of 25 per cent efficiency that limits most current cells.

Going back to 1989, Professor Greens’ team supplied the solar cells for the first photovoltaic system with an energy conversion efficiency of 20%. And in 2014, he headed the development team that first demonstrated the conversion of sunlight into electricity with an energy conversion efficiency of 40%.

Speaking at last year’s ARENA’s Innovating Energy Summit, Green told the audience that constructing one terrawatt of solar PV offers the best chance to keep global temperature rises below the 2 degrees pledged in the Paris climate accord.

Responding to the news that he had come out on top of the ten finalists – including Tesla founder Elon Musk – in the Global Energy Award, Professor Green said he was proud to receive the prize given the quality of candidates in the field.

“The efficiency of solar modules is an area whose progress has been faster than many experts expected, and this is good news.”

“We need to maintain the pace of research in Australia, not only to keep our international lead, but also to benefit society by providing a cheap, low carbon source of electricity,” he said.

Over his career Professor Green has received many scientific and industry awards. In 2003 he was awarded the Karl Boer Solar Energy Medal of Merit, and in 2004 he received the World Technology Award in the field of energy. He holds many patents and has authored eight books, as well as more than 750 publications.

Professor Green will be presented with the award in Russia in October.

LIKE THIS STORY? SIGN UP TO OUR FORTNIGHTLY NEWSLETTER