- SunDrive Solar has announced achieving 25.54% efficiency level for a commercial sized silicon solar cell
- It uses copper instead of silver which makes it a potential candidate for cheaper solar modules of the future
- Company said it also reduces solar cell thickness during the production process which helps save on material costs
What started as a ‘small PhD project in a garage’, a tech start-up from Australia has today grabbed the attention of the world at a time when efforts are being accelerated across the globe for the world to transition to a clean energy system, increasingly with help from low-cost solar PV technology.
Founders Vince Allen and David Hu have announced SunDrive Solar having achieved 25.54% power conversion efficiency for a commercial size silicon solar cell, the highest in the world today. The company announced this on its social media, but various media outlets were quick to make it a big story – that it is.
For comparison, Chinese integrated solar PV manufacturer LONGi Solar in June 2021 reported a record 25.26% efficiency for its commercial size monocrystalline heterojunction (HJT) solar cell (see LONGi Claims 3 New Cell Conversion Efficiency Records).
According to a Bloomberg report, SunDrive has received official word from the German Institute for Solar Energy Research Hamelin (ISFH) for the record level efficiency. It has achieved the efficiency level using copper for the solar cell, replacing silver, which is found in abundance and at a much cheaper rate than silver.
Solar PV industry is said to be the world’s 20% total annual industrial silver consumer, and silver is an expensive metal.
SunDrive’s production process also reduces solar cell thickness to save on material costs while claiming to save on manufacturing costs and reduce environmental impact. What this high efficiency also means is that it would need less number of solar modules per installation, eventually lowering installation costs.
Finding the research work of SunDrive promising, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) in October 2020 announced AUD 3 million in funding for the company to advance the commercial development of the low cost, high efficiency solar manufacturing process. Back then ARENA said SunDrive would be moving to Kirrawee in South Sydney to scale its operations and develop a small scale automated production line prototype.
Software billionaire from Australia Mike Cannon-Brookes and his wife Annie led Grok Ventures is also one of the investors in SunDrive. However, it remains to be seen how SunDrive plans to capitalize this opportunity to really start producing such solar modules on a mass scale. Allen and Hu shared with Bloomberg that they might form a partnership with one or more large manufacturers, and purchase partially complete solar cells, finishing them with the copper process.
Recently, TaiyangNews concluded Reliable PV Module Design Conference wherein speakers stressed on ensuring reliability for solar modules while the race to produce most efficient and cheap modules continues (see TaiyangNews Reliable PV Module Design Conference).