The Australian Renewable Energy Agency has launched a $15 million funding round to support projects aimed at cutting the cost and amount of waste created by solar panels that have reached the end of their working lives.
ARENA announced the new funding round on Wednesday, its fifth in support of solar PV research and development in Australia.
The Agency says the key focus this time around is on end-of-life issues for solar panels, as well as increasing their efficiency and lowering their overall cost.
Solar panel recycling and waste management have become increasingly important areas of concern for the global renewable energy industry, as PV generation capacity continues to boom around the world.
In Australia, researchers from Brisbane’s Griffith University have estimated there could be 1.5 million tonnes of solar panel waste amassed from residential installations alone by 2050.
ARENA said the $15 million round would seek to fund projects geared at improving the economics of recycling, through better upfront design, increased value of recovered materials, or even innovations for re-using reused or recycled components in new panels.
ARENA CEO Darren Miller said the end-of-life focus would help the large and small-scale solar industries to responsibly manage their waste, without driving up the overall cost of PV generation.
“Currently, solar PV panel recycling adds a cost to the supply chain,” Miller said in comments on Wednesday. “R&D can help find innovative solutions to reduce this cost, enabling sustainable and cost effective management of solar panels at the end of their life.”
The funds will also be used to build on what Miller rightly describes as “Australia’s excellence” in solar R&D, with a particular view to increasing efficiencies and driving down costs of PV generation, even further.
This would include R&D to support the “next generation” of solar technology, using new materials with the potential to improve cost-efficiencies or broaden solar applications.
Expressions of interest for the funding round are now open. For more information, visit arena.gov.au/funding.