Solar PV research and development in Australia
As a major source of renewable energy in Australia, even small improvements to the technology in solar photovoltaic (PV) cells can translate into large gains as more and more solar panels are installed on rooftops and in solar farms across the nation.
More than three million or around 30 percent of Australian households now have rooftop solar PV, with a combined capacity of 17 GW. As of June 2022, large-scale solar farms operating in Australia had the ability to generate over 5.8 GW, with an additional 3.5 GW either under construction or financially committed.
Australian scientists have been leading the way in solar research and development, with groundbreaking innovations such as the high efficiency PERC cell, and are continuing to make improvements towards making solar power an ultra low-cost renewable energy.
How are we supporting solar PV projects?
Our purpose is to support the global transition to net zero emissions by accelerating the pace of pre-commercial innovation, to the benefit of Australian consumers, businesses and workers. By connecting investment, knowledge and people to deliver energy innovation, we are helping to build the foundation of a renewable energy ecosystem in Australia.
While Australia’s capability in solar PV research and development is world-leading, this position needs support in order to be maintained, and we recognise significant opportunities remain in pursuing even cheaper and more efficient PV cells and panels.
We are therefore supporting innovation in solar PV to drive down the cost of electricity generation in line with our target for Solar 30/30/30. This is an ambitious target to improve solar efficiency to 30 per cent and reduce the cost of solar modules to 30 cents a watt by 2030. Achieving this cost reduction would not only make the technology more accessible to a wider range of global consumers, but also unlock other ways to use solar energy such as producing ‘green’ hydrogen.
We have provided almost $300 million to around 200 solar research and development projects since 2009 through funding programs inherited from the Australian Solar Institute, or run by us since 2012.
Explore solar PV resources
What type of projects has our funding covered?
These include projects that seek to break through the efficiency barriers of solar cells, increase the lifetime and reliability of solar panels, improve manufacturing techniques, reduce end of life costs and environmental impact, and those that will unlock other cost reductions such as making panels easier to transport and install, or increasing integration that can create value-add opportunities.
Our funding has helped Australian solar projects to break numerous world records for solar PV cell efficiency, most recently including large-scale silicon, perovskite and dual-sided silicon technologies.
We also support the Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics which provides a collaborative, strategic focus to innovation that can be incorporated into current manufacturing techniques, seeds new innovations, gives access to world-class facilities, and provides fellowships to nurture the next generation of solar PV researchers and engineers. Read more about our support for this technology.
What do we look for in solar PV projects?
- Projects that increase solar module efficiency by considering the four key elements of solar cell design: materials abundance, low toxicity, stability in the field and efficiency. Increased module efficiency would reduce balance of system (BoS) costs for the same output, which would further reduce total installed costs
- Projects that reduce solar PV Balance of System (BoS) costs, through improved module design, solar farm architecture, the use of automation to reduce labour costs in the field and other innovations.
We share knowledge, insights and data from our funded projects to help the renewable energy industry and other projects learn from each other’s experiences.
Australian solar energy research is already world-leading, but our ambition is to create Ultra Low Cost Solar to accelerate the transition to renewables.
Australia has an unfair global advantage in the field of solar energy and we should exploit it, says ARENA CEO Darren Miller.