Challenge worth $100m aims to lower solar energy cost

Solar innovators, engineers and developers are being invited to pitch their ideas to lower the cost of renewable energy to claim part of a $100 million fund.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency launched the global competition, called the Solar ScaleUp Challenge, on Wednesday in partnership with climate group Greenhouse Tech.

The project will focus on encouraging companies to team up on ways to create ultra low-cost solar projects that bring down the cost of large-scale solar from 110 cents to 30 cents per watt.

The challenge comes as Australian energy firms attempt to boost renewable energy in the national grid but also as the coalition launched its nuclear energy policy alternative to renewable energy, with seven sites identified for nuclear plants.

ARENA’s Solar ScaleUp Challenge is open to technology developers, engineers, solar project operators, equipment manufacturers, finance firms, and customers willing to test renewable energy innovations.

ARENA chief executive Darren Miller said the worldwide project was designed to attract as many firms and ideas as possible, with the goal of creating industry collaborations that could develop energy breakthroughs.

“Ultra low-cost solar is critical for reducing electricity costs and decarbonising hard-to-abate sectors such as industry and transport,” he said.

“It is also a key factor in Australia becoming a renewable energy superpower – a vision which would see Australia playing a major role in supplying our key trading partners with low-emissions products such as green iron and hydrogen.”

Mr Miller said the agency partnered with Greenhouse Tech as the firm had previously run a global competition focused on net-zero steel.

“We are keenly aware of the barriers preventing our (ultra low-cost solar) vision from becoming reality so we want to try something different to crack open the opportunity,” he said.

The $100 million challenge will seek ways to lower the cost of large-scale solar energy to 30 cents per watt, to increase solar energy deployment from five to 50 gigawatts per year, and to achieve one terawatt of solar capacity by 2050.

Greenhouse chief collaboration officer Mark Rowland said the targets stood a better chance of being met if firms worked together to achieve them.

“Bringing together all the different stakeholders involved in solar projects is key to solving these problems in an innovative way and quickly scaling the solutions, so we thought this topic was ideal for a challenge,” he said.

Submissions to the Solar ScaleUp Challenge open on Wednesday with final submissions due by August 14.

A shortlist of candidates will be invited to showcase their proposals in October, before decisions are issued in December.

Australia is a world leader in rooftop solar deployment, with panels installed on almost one in three households, making up 11.2 per cent of the nation’s electricity supply, according to consultancy SunWiz.


Jennifer Dudley-Nicholson
(Australian Associated Press)


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