In September 2021, SunDrive said it had achieved a record-breaking power conversion efficiency of 25.54% for a silver-free heterojunction (HJT) solar cell. The breakthrough attracted financial support from some of Australia’s most prominent renewable investors.
Last week, ARENA announced a further AUD 11 million ($7.06 million) for SunDrive to expand its novel solar cell metallisation technology from prototype scale (that is, less than 1.5 MW of annual production) to commercial-scale capacity of more than 100 MW of metallised PV cell production annually. That is enough for around 15,000 household solar systems each year.
Little information on timelines is provided, but SunDrive did say it is aiming to employ around 100 people by the end of the year at their manufacturing facility in Sydney. However, the eventual aim is to grow this to more than 500 staff as production increases in Australia.
Overall, SunDrive’s scale up is expected to cost a total of AUD 33.6 million.
SunDrive’s CEO Vince Allen started the company with David Hu in 2015, based on a solution developed while completing his PhD at the University of New South Wales (UNSW).
SunDrive’s breakthrough rests on cell metallization technology that uses copper instead of silver in solar cells. Copper is approximately 100 times cheaper and 1000 time more abundant than the silver currently being used in solar manufacturing, meaning the technology holds massive promise for pushing down solar prices, improving the environmental impacts of solar manufacturing, and helping to rapidly scale up manufacturing globally.
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