The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has today announced $11 million in funding to Australian solar technology company SunDrive Solar to expand its novel solar cell metallisation technology from prototype scale (1.5 MW/yr) to commercial capacity (>100 MW/yr).
SunDrive has developed a cell metallisation technology that uses copper, a metal that is approximately 100x cheaper and 1000x more abundant than commonly used silver.
Currently, silver accounts for approximately half the cost of converting a bare silicon wafer into a finished solar cell and solar manufacturing accounts for approximately 25 per cent of the world’s annual industrial silver consumption.
The use of copper instead could help the world to rapidly scale up solar manufacturing and support meeting net zero commitments.
ARENA CEO, Darren Miller, said it was vital to support homegrown innovation to further reduce the cost of solar.
“To make ultra low-cost solar a reality, it is crucial that our scientists and researchers keep innovating and improving solar cells and module design. SunDrive’s technology that replaces silver with copper is a potential game changer and highlights why now is the time to invest in technologies for our future economic success.”
In addition to being more cost-effective and material abundant, SunDrive has also pushed the performance of its technology beyond that achievable with silver by creating the world’s most efficient commercial-sized solar cell.
The technology also has environmental benefits as copper is easier to recycle and is less carbon intensive in the manufacturing process.
By combining these benefits, SunDrive is aiming to produce one of the world’s most advanced solar modules at an installed price that is 20-30 per cent cheaper than other high efficiency solar modules on the market.
SunDrive plans to accelerate the development of its copper-plated solar PV technology to commercial-scale production capacity of >100+ MW/yr of metallised cells.
SunDrive has previously received $3 million in ARENA funding to demonstrate its copper metallisation technology to the prototype scale of 1.5 MW per year.
SunDrive co-founder and CEO, Vince Allen, said, “With ARENA’s continued support, SunDrive, an Australian founded company, has been able to compete with the world’s largest solar PV companies to produce the world’s most efficient commercial size solar cell.”
“To achieve net zero by 2050, we are going to need more advanced solar technologies,” Allen continued.
“With ARENA’s backing, SunDrive is proud to be at the forefront of Australian solar innovation and demonstrating the immense potential of a domestic advanced solar manufacturing industry to make Australia into a renewable energy manufacturing superpower.”