ARENA supports new, cheaper solar technology to reduce cost of renewable energy in Australia

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Solar panel
Solaray Director Jonathan Fisk moves a solar panel at the solar power installation company's Sydney facility, November 24, 2015. Soaring electricity prices, high solar panel uptake and plenty of sunshine are pushing Australia to the forefront of a solar battery storage revolution driven by Silicon Valley firms like Tesla Motors Inc and Enphase. But Australia's political roller coaster, which has seen prime ministers dumped four times in the past three years, largely over climate policy, is hampering the battle against climate change and investment in clean energy. Reuters/Jason Reed

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) is aiming to reduce the cost of renewable energy in the country by providing a funding boost to an innovative solar cell technology. The new perovskite solar cells could significantly be cheaper than and as efficient as existing solar cells.

ARENA will be providing about $892,000 to CSIRO for the development and application of guidelines for assessing the performance of the perovskite solar photovoltaic (PV) cells. The materials of perovskite can be used in solar cells with a less cost and labour intensive process compared to silicon.

ARENA aims to accelerate the development of perovskite solar PV cells in the country. “If perovskite solar cell technology matures to commercialisation, it has the potential to provide cheaper power from the sun,” said ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht.

CSIRO is planning for new methods and guidelines applicable to perovskite solar cells, as international standards to measure solar PV cell performance are only applicable for silicon wafer cells.

The new guidelines would be applied at the ARENA-supported PV Performance Laboratory in Newcastle, Frischknecht said. The lab would help Australian researchers test perovskite samples in the country instead of conducting tests overseas, which will boost research and reduce the risk and costs of the project.

The $2.4-million project for perovskite solar cells is expected for completion in November 2018. ARENA has already received letters of support and offers of cell samples from members of the Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics and international research agencies.

The test results will be validated by internationally accredited laboratories, and CSIRO will work with overseas counterparts for the development of best practice methods suitable for different research laboratory environments, Frischknecht said.

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