Pioneering solar researcher hails funding ‘turnaround’
World-leading solar researcher UNSW Scientia Professor Martin Green says that PV research activities in Australia right across the value chain will be accelerated by the recent $41.5 million (USD 28.5 million) funding awards from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency. The funding will foster the development of ultra-low-cost solar by extending and expanding nine UNSW solar research programs.
The University of New South Wales (UNSW) has attracted around $12 million in funding across nine different research projects in the latest round of Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) funding. Martin Green says the funding represents a “turnaround” after many projects faced being scrapped under the uncertain government support of the previous Scott Morrison-led federal government.
“We have heard that the funding for our centre, of which I’m the director, along with a number of other centres and research groups, is going to be extended,” said Green, speaking to pv magazine at the WCPEC conference in September, 2022. “As of just a couple of years earlier, we thought that we were about to be terminated and now it looks like we’re going to live through to 2030. With this recent grant success, we will be able to really push things along.”
At the 2022 WCPEC conference, the world’s leading solar academic conference that is held every four years, Green was awarded the prestigious WCEPC Award – adding to his already bulging trophy cabinet.
Referring to the previous federal government attempts to scrap ARENA, Green noted the stark change in fortunes for solar research in Australia. “A couple of years ago our funding source was going to be closed down by the government that was in power then. With the change in government, things are looking a lot brighter.”
The UNSW PV research programs to receive funding include work on high efficiency tandem and multi-junction solar cells, along with approaches to reduce production costs by dramatically reducing silver consumption.
“There is a lot of silicon technology [among the successful grant programs], but also on thin film technology, where we are trying to develop thin film cells in their right but also for stacking onto silicon,” said Green. “There are grants on the system level, so it really is across the whole cross section of the industry. It will be really good for the group to have more of a diversification of the research fields that we are looking at.”
The successful UNSW solar system-level research projects are into areas including operations and maintenance, including inspection technologies, and applications of machine learning.
Green notes that UNSW will now be able to expand its research teams. “Instead of [just] being able to keep our present researchers employed, we will actually be able to take on some new initiative, new people and ideas – so it’s a real plus for solar research in Australia.”
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