SunDrive Solar innovation creates next generation panels
Switch to copper cuts costs, boosts efficiency
Australian company SunDrive is working to commercialise revolutionary solar technology that replaces silver with copper to reduce the cost and improve the efficiency of solar panels.
The solar cells needed to decarbonise the world will need to be more efficient, cheaper and scalable than they are today. Australia has arguably made the greatest scientific contribution to the development of solar technology, having invented the technology behind 90 per cent of all solar panels made worldwide. SunDrive is thrilled to now be working with Australia’s top deep tech and cleantech investors in developing next generational solar technologiesVince AllenCo-founder and CEO, Sundrive
SunDrive is a Sydney-based solar technology start-up that is working to reduce the cost of high-efficiency solar cells, while enhancing their performance and sustainability by using more abundant materials.
The CEFC, through the Clean Energy Innovation Fund and alongside Main Sequence Ventures, led a $21 million Series A capital raising, committing $7 million to SunDrive.
The capital raising also attracted support from private investors including Blackbird Ventures and the private investment vehicle of Mike Cannon-Brookes, Grok Ventures.
SunDrive has grown from a small PhD project in a garage to producing some of the most efficient solar cells ever made in the world. The company opened a production and commercialisation facility in Kurnell, NSW in November 2023 and is aiming to become a gigawatt scale manufacturer of panels.
In January 2023, SunDrive was named as a partner in two projects which received funding through the $41.5 million Australian Renewable Energy Agency Ultra Low Cost Solar PV Research and Development Round.
- A University of Sydney and SunDrive project to improve the commercial viabilities of silicon-perovskite tandem solar cell technologies ($2.78 million funding)
- A University of New South Wales-led project to develop strategies to mitigate the cost and environmental impact of terawatt scale PV ($2.42 million funding).
The International Energy Agency forecasts that solar PV generation capacity will more than double by the end of the decade, to 2,550 GW in 2030, with solar PV claiming a 23 per cent share of total electricity capacity.
The solar PV industry consumes approximately 10 per cent of the world’s silver, and 20 per cent of total industrial demand. This is expected to increase, highlighting the need to find alternative minerals to avoid a supply bottleneck and price challenges. Using more widely available resources like copper reduces the likelihood that silver will be mined from lower quality ores which have higher emissions.
The switch to copper
SunDrive patented technology uses copper to conduct electrical current from the solar cells instead of industry standard silver. Copper is nearly 100 times cheaper than silver and far more abundant. As such, copper has the potential to improve solar panel uptake by driving down costs.
Germany’s Institute for Solar Energy Research verified in September 2021 that SunDrive panels had achieved an efficiency of 25.54 per cent, setting the world record for a commercial sized solar cell.
Australia is a world leader in solar panel uptake with rooftop solar PV installed in about 30 per cent of Australian homes. The SunDrive technology has the potential to revolutionise onshore production of solar cells and the development of an Australian solar manufacturing industry, which will increase Australia’s resilience to supply chain disruptions and further enable the uptake of solar PV.
CEFC Innovation Fund investments are managed by Virescent Ventures.
The SunDrive team have developed an impressive technology with origins in co-founder Vince Allen’s PhD at the University of NSW, which has been at the forefront of commercial solar technology development for decades. SunDrive’s technology has the potential to be the leading method for silver replacement in solar PV production.Ben GustManaging Partner, Virescent Ventures