As part of a $17.3 million project to develop a new world-class prototype facility to scale up fabrication of high quality, large-area PV devices, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) will provide $6 million to Greatcell Solar to accelerate development of a new printable PV solar cell.

Ultra-thin PV is a new solar cell material with the potential to provide lower cost solar PV cells. PV solar cells have the potential to be manufactured very cheaply using common industrial processes. 

Queanbeyan-based Greatcell Solar aims to commercialise its PV solar cells as a potential alternative to conventional silicon solar cell technology. This technology can also be applied to building materials such as glass and metal sheeting. 

The latest ARENA grant follows the July signing of a non-exclusive Memorandum of Understanding with JinkoSolar, giving the China-based solar PV manufacturer access to Greatcell's PV technology, with the aim of forming a partnership to establish large-scale manufacturing and commercialise the technology.

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said the technology was an advance towards the potential for ubiquitous, low cost solar.

"We want to move PVs closer towards commercialisation, and this will help accelerate solar PV innovation in Australia, which is one of our key priorities," Frischknecht said.

In Australia, Greatcell has been a leader in the advancement of the technology, and in notching up conversion efficiency increases, alongside the National Renewable Energy Agency in the US. But the technology has also been plagued with stability and durability issues, with the material sensitive to moisture contact and high efficiency PV cells exhibiting high degradation rates. 

A previous ARENA grant of $450,000 in support of Greatcell's work went towards demonstrating that PV solar cells could be both efficient and stable.

According to Greatcell Solar managing director Richard Caldwell, ARENA's financial support would help demonstrate that PV technology was a strong candidate for commercialisation. 

"It has the compelling attributes of lower cost and greater versatility than existing PV technologies. In particular, it is suited to real world solar conditions," Caldwell said. 

"In the long term, this technology has the potential to provide a cost competitive and clean energy solution."