UNSW’s Martin Green wins Global Energy Prize

Sydney professor Martin Green from UNSW has beaten out Tesla Musk to win the $820,000 Global Energy Prize for his work in the field of photovoltaics. Green will share the prize with Russian scientist Sergey Alekseenko, who is an expert in the field of thermal power engineering.

Martin Green and the Global Energy Prize

Martin Green of UNSW
Martin Green of UNSW (source: Wikipedia)

Professor Green is Director of the Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics at UNSW. According to the ABC he’s a leading specialist in both mono and polycrystalline ilicone sole cells, having invented the PERC solar cell (PERC cells represent just under a quarter of the world’s silicon cell manufacturing capacity (as of end of 2017)).

We’ve written plenty of articles about UNSW solar – they’re involved in general solar power research, have launched the SunSPoT solar potential tool, and they have also recently signed a 15-year corporate PPA (Power Purchase Agreement) with Maoneng Australia and Origin Energy to become 100% solar powered, thanks to Maoneng‘s Sunraysia solar plant.

In 1989, Professor Green and his team were responsible for the solar cells in the first photovoltaic system. In 2014 he was able to double 1989’s energy conversion efficiency of 20% to 40%. 

UNSW President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Jacobs told the ABC that Professor Green had “delivered truly transformational outcomes in renewable energy for more than three decades”.

“Martin is a highly deserving recipient of this global prize and we warmly congratulate him,” he said.

“His fundamental and applied research has transformed the global energy sector and will continue to produce major economic and social benefits, both in Australia and worldwide.” Professor Jacobs continued. 

Professor Green said receiving the award was “a great honour”.

“The efficiency of solar modules is an area whose progress has been faster than many experts expected, and this is good news,” he said.

“We need to maintain the pace of research in Australia, not only to keep our international lead, but also to benefit society by providing a cheap, low carbon source of electricity.”

This is a fantastic reward for one of Australia’s solar stalwarts and we salute Professor Green for his ongoing work with solar power technology.

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UNSW launches SunSPoT – Solar Potential Tool

UNSW have, in conjunction with the Australian Photovoltaic Institute, Solar Analytics and Enosi, launched a solar potential tool, SunSPoT, which uses solar mapping to figure out how much electricity houses or businesses could generate if they installed solar panels on their roof.

SunSPoT – Solar Potential Tool

Solar Potential Tool Sunspot
Renate Egan, Paul Fletcher and Mark Hoffman at the launch of the SunSPoT solar Potential Tool (source: Robert Largent via newsroom.unsw.edu.au)

The SunSPoT tool was developed by the APVI and UNSW along with Solar Analytics and Enosi Pty Ltd. The software was developed as part of the Energy Data for Smart Decision Making project, which was in turn funded by the Federal Government’s Smart Cities and Suburbs program.

Federal Minister for Urban Infrastructure and Cities, Paul Fletcher launched the software on the 6th of April, according to the UNSW newsroom. Fletcher was quoted as discussing the benefits of SunSPoT:

“The Energy Data for Smart Decision Making project will combine mapping with data on solar exposure, energy generation and consumption from precincts across Australia into an open modelling platform.

“Being developed under the Australian Government’s Smart Cities and Suburbs Program, the platform will benefit end users by allowing them to calculate their solar power potential and make informed decisions on investment in solar power generation.”

“This project is an example of how the program encourages collaboration between local governments, research organisations and the private sector to deliver a solution that can be applied locally and shared around the country.” he said.

UNSW Associate Professor and Chair of the Australian Photovoltaics Institute, Renate Egan, discussed how the tool can be used as a pre-purchase/sale analysis, saying:

“SunSPoT uses geographical information systems data to estimate the technical potential of rooftop solar, accounting for the tilt of roof surfaces and shading at the site.  As solar PV continues to be deployed at record rates on Australian rooftops, such analysis can help councils and the electricity industry plan for the solar future.”

If you’re interested in giving the  APVI Solar Potential Tool (SunSPoT) a crack then please click here to launch it. Note that this is no substitute for a proper site visit from a solar professional but will give you a decent ballpark figure, in most cases (well, according to our testing, anyway!)

If you’d like more information on the data and methodology used to power SunSPoT then please click here

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Global investment in solar power in 2017

The United Nations are reporting that global investment in solar power in 2017 was substantially higher than any other energy source, with a massive 45% of the investment coming from China. Let’s investigate this a little deeper and see what some industry professionals have to say.  

Investment in Solar Power

In a record-breaking year, the 98GW of new solar capacity is higher than any other tech, including other renewables like wind or water turbines, nuclear or fossil fuels. There’s 6GW of this going to Australia – Iain MacGill from UNSW discussed the massive increase in Australian domestic solar via the ABC:

“We have the highest [per capita] rooftop residential solar market in the world, and by quite a big margin,” Dr MacGill said.

“A large proportion of Australia’s investment has gone into South Australia [and that means] we’re at the leading edge of working out how to integrate that renewable power into the electricity market.”

Professor Ulf Moslener from the Frankfurt School UNAP Centre discussed China’s huge $126 billion investment in solar power, where air pollution currently kills around a million people per year:

“The costs are still falling which makes the dominance in investment terms in China even more thrilling,” he said.

The director of ANU’s Energy Change Institute, Ken Baldwin, said there’s still plenty of room to grow and that the next ‘decade or two’ will see the closing of all Australian coal-fired plants: 

“What will be interesting to see is whether this can be maintained,” Professor Baldwin said.

“There was 6 gigawatts of solar, both residential and commercial installed in [Australia] in 2017.

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UNSW Solar – uni to go fully solar powered

UNSW Solar has taken another huge step forward – the University of New South Wales has signed a 15-year corporate PPA (Power Purchase Agreement) with Maoneng Australia and Origin Energy to become 100% solar powered, thanks to Maoneng‘s Sunraysia solar plant.

UNSW Solar 

The Sunraysia solar farm, which will be Australia’s biggest solar farm, is planned to commence construction in April or May of this year, at a cost of $275 million. It will generate at least 530,000 megawatt hours of electricity each year, of which UNSW will purchase 124,000 – almost a quarter. They signed an agreement on December 14, 2017, which will run for 15 years. A three year ‘retail firming’ contract was also signed with Origin, as the electricity retailer. This will help manage intermittency of solar production.

UNSW Solar - UNSW President Ian Jacobs (source: newsroom.unsw.edu.au)
UNSW Solar – UNSW President Ian Jacobs (source: newsroom.unsw.edu.au)

UNSW president and vice chancellor Ian Jacobs discussed the partnership with Fairfax, advising that it would comprise a key part of making UNSW’s entire operation energy carbon neutral by 2020.

“Over the past six months, UNSW has collaborated with our contract partners Maoneng and Origin, to develop a Solar PPA model that leads the way in renewable energy procurement and reflects our commitment to global impact outlined in our 2025 strategy,” he said.

Mr Jacobs wouldn’t provide specifics on pricing, but did note that it will be helpful to UNSW in a financial sense:

“It’s a highly competitive agreement financially,” he said.

“The Solar PPA arrangement will allow UNSW to secure carbon emission-free electricity supplies at a cost which is economically and environmentally attractive when compared to fossil fuel-sourced supplies.”

Energy Action, a company who assisted during the tender by with energy market analysis, noted that the PPA would help UNSW have greater clarity on their future electricity spends and not be as vulnerable to electricity price fluctuations:

“This agreement provides UNSW with a direct line of sight over the source of renewables supply, reduced emissions, and greater certainty around prices over the next 15 years,” Energy Action chief executive Ivan Slavich said.

Kelly Davies, Senior Consultant at Norton Rose Fulbright, was quoted on the university press release as saying: “UNSW is a true leader of innovation. The PPA market has been extremely dynamic in the last 12 months and deals like UNSW’s have been critical in driving real change in the way universities and other users procure energy.”

UNSW have also been the recipient of a few solar grants from ARENA over the past years so the idea of them using renewable energy to research and upgrade renewable energy is certainly a palatable one and it’s amazing to see so much energy from the Sunraysia Solar Plant already accounted for! 

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Australian solar cell research gets $29.2m grant.

Australian solar cell research has received a $29.2m grant from ARENA (Australian Renewable Energy Agency) – with 11 of the 22 projects currently sponsored associated with UNSW, who has been leading the way in Australia’s solar research for over 40 years. 

Australian Solar Cell Research

ARENA chief exec Ivor Frischknecht was quoted on the UNSW website talking about Australia’s solar research and how ARENA have been able to help with funding projects:

“In this funding round, the candidates and the calibre was so high, we actually increased the total funding we awarded to nearly $30 million,” he said. “This research will improve the technological and commercial readiness of new innovation in solar PV cells and modules, enhance Australia’s position as world-leaders in solar PV R&D and address Australian-specific conditions.”

ARENA’s latest funding round has seen UNSW granted $16.43m for 11 projects. UNSW’s research partner in ACAP (the Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics), ANU, received  $7.89m for six projects, the CSIRO received $3.31m and Monash University got $1.59m.

UNSW and SIRF

Australian Solar Cell Research - UNSW's Solar Industrial Research Facility
Australian Solar Cell Research – UNSW’s Solar Industrial Research Facility (source: unsw.edu.au)

UNSW’s Solar Industrial Research Facility (SIRF) was created in 2011 as a $16m ‘turnkey pilot line manufacturing facility’ which allows UNSW to create silicon solar cells from lab processes to factory ready industrial processes. According to the UNSW website, architects Woods-Bagot modelled the outside of the building to mimic the pattern of multi-crystalline silicon solar cells.

Today, it’s a $30m facility aimed at advancing solar power technology – bringing UNSW’s solar tech to industry partners across the world. SIRF has brought over $8 billion in benefits to Australia over the past ten years – with gains of energy efficiency forecast to save Australians $750m over the next decade. It’s been the recipient of myriad ARENA grants and is a great example of Australia’s commitment to solar power research. 

Dean of UNSW Science Emma Johnston, discussing the grants, said: “At UNSW we are proud to have a long history of world-leading solar innovations dating back to the 1970s. But research is only one part of the puzzle. Equally as important is translating these world-leading ideas into commercially viable products.

“The SIRF facility we stand in today is evidence of this commitment – a place where we work hand in hand with industry to deliver solar solutions for Australia and the world,” Dr. Johnston added. 

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