Arena aims to drive large-scale solar innovation

THE Australian Renewable Energy Agency (Arena) has launched a global $100 million 'Solar ScaleUp Challenge' to accelerate innovation in large-scale solar and drive down costs. The aim is to stimulate greater innovation and collaboration in areas like solar installation, operations, and maintenance.

This aligns with Arena's vision for 'Ultra Low-Cost Solar' (ULCS) to help reduce electricity costs and decarbonize industries.

Arena CEO Darren Miller emphasised that ultra low-cost solar is critical for Australia to become a renewable energy superpower, supplying trading partners with low-emissions products. Collaboration across the solar sector is key to reducing costs and maintaining Australia's leadership in solar technology innovation.

Arena is partnering with Greenhouse Tech, which has experience running similar global innovation challenges. This allows Arena to tap into more expertise to achieve the objectives of the Solar ScaleUp Challenge. The challenge was designed based on insights from Arena's Solar Lab, which brought together influential solar stakeholders to identify actions needed to unlock ULCS.

The challenge is open to a wide range of participants, including innovators, customers, financiers, and those involved in solar farm construction and operations. Arena is seeking ideas to reduce the installed cost of solar projects to just 30 cents per watt and reach a levelised cost of electricity below $20 per megawatt hour by 2030. This could help unlock 1 terawatt of total installed solar capacity by 2050.

The Solar ScaleUp Challenge complements Arena's $1 billion Solar Sunshot Program, which focuses on growing Australia's domestic solar PV manufacturing capabilities and commercialising local innovations. While Sunshot is about how solar components are made, the Challenge addresses how they are deployed in large-scale projects.

The 8-week Solar ScaleUp Challenge is expected to build a pipeline of solar PV innovations that can be adopted by manufacturers and project developers, further driving down the costs of large-scale solar deployment. This is a critical step in Arena's vision for Australia to become a renewable energy superpower, supplying low-emissions products globally.