ARENA announces 2 solar winners

The Australian solar industry has scored two new wins with the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) announcing plans boost Australian solar research and development, and a University NSW team taking out the top prize in engineering for their work on solar PV cells.

ARENA on Monday announced new funding round of  $20 million for research and development programs dedicated to advancing renewable energy knowledge and expertise in Australia.

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said the funding will build on Australia’s reputation for delivering world-leading photovoltaic and concentrating solar thermal technologies, and help solar technologies become more competitive with conventional energy sources.

Frischknecht said building stronger relationships between research institutions and industry would help capitalise on Australia’s competitive advantage in the renewable energy sector. Expressions of interest for the solar research round are open until mid-February.

In other solar news, University of NSW professor, Stuart Wenham, and his team have taken out the A. F. Harvey Engineering Research Prize from the Institution of Engineering and Technologym winning $560,000 (£300,000) in prize money that will be put towards future research.

The award recognises the discovery by Professor Wenham and his team of a mechanism to control the charge state of hydrogen atoms to correct deficiencies in silicon – the most costly part of a solar cell.

Its patented advanced hydrogenation technology will allow lower-quality silicon to outperform solar cells made from better quality materials, producing higher efficiencies at significantly lower cost.

“Our UNSW team is now working with the world’s biggest solar manufacturers … to commercialise this low-cost technology,” said Professor Wenham. ARENA also helped fund this research.

Wenham’s team discovered a method to improve the quality of low-grade silicon so it can produce efficiencies between 21-23 per cent – up from the standard commercial cells of around 19 per cent.

© 2014 Solar Choice Pty Ltd

Giles Parkinson