A University of NSW team led by Professor Martin Green and Dr Mark Keevers has reported a new world efficiency record for solar cells using unfocused sunlight – the sort that falls on the rooftop solar modules on homes and businesses.
The new record is more than 10 per cent ahead of previous achievements – 34.5 per cent instead of 24 per cent – and is edging closer to the theoretical limits of sunlight to electricity conversion, more than three decades before predicted.
The achievement also sets the scene for another step change in the cost of solar, which is already falling below US3c/kWh in recent contracts (in the Middle East), and is set to become unbeatable in terms of levellised cost of energy across all energy sources.
Future modules will be smaller, more powerful, and will provide cheaper power.
However, the UNSW scientists have marked the occasion by voicing concern about the future of solar R&D in Australia, given that much of it is made possible by funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, which the Coalition wants to effectively close in all but name, end grant payments and strip $1.3 billion in legislated funding.
“We must maintain the pace of photovoltaic research in Australia to ensure that we not only build on such tremendous results, but continue to bring benefits back to Australia,” Green said in the statement.
The Coalition government is justifying its decision on the basis that it wants to ensure that taxpayers “get their money back”. ARENA spent $1.4 million on the UNSW research.
But Green released a new study that showed research in solar PV had already generated flow-on benefits of more than $8 billion to Australia, and gains in efficiency alone, made possible by UNSW’s PERC cells, are forecast to save $750 million in domestic electricity generation in the next decade.
Top image: Dr Mark Keevers with solar cell, via UNSW.
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