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Current and Emerging Applications of PV (PP6.2)

PP6.2: Current and Emerging Applications of PV




Research in this program focusses on the delivery of ultra-low-cost solar PV, bringing together silicon solar cell and emerging materials expertise to develop tandem technologies needed for 30% efficiency cell and module technologies.

Ultra-low-cost PV technologies are needed to deliver the low-cost of energy that will enable competitive low-emissions metals, and open up energy exports and the hydrogen economy. Ultra-low-cost PV will be achieved through mass deployment at utility scale, or in large volume rooftop deployment and the primary focus of ACAP research will be on solar PV developments for large scale deployment for ultra-low cost.

While recognising these key drivers, the materials and solar technologies developed will have additional attributes of high power to weight ratio, flexibility, aesthetics and bifaciality that can deliver high value, niche applications.

6.2.1 Ground Mount PV


UNSW – Nathan Chang, Anna Bruce, Renate Egan

ANU – Andrew Blakers, Matthew Stocks



The historical support from ARENA for large scale solar installations transformed the Australian market for “solar farms” in Australia, bringing the generation cost in locations with sufficient sunshine and adequate grid capacity below that for fossil fuelled electricity. However, while grid congestion and insufficient interconnection are being addressed by AEMO there are significant technology opportunities in large-scale, ground mount PV.

Innovative companies are seeking to drive the cost of deployment of ground mount PV through prefabrication, commodification and automation, shifting costs away from the installation site and cutting overall costs.

In parallel, other developments such as the increasing reliability and, consequently lower cost, of one- and two-axis tracking, and bifaciality of PV modules offers additional opportunities for LCOE reduction.


ACAP aims to maintain a close and detailed watch on global developments on the technological changes mentioned above while also pursuing research including techno-economic analysis into the logistics of site delivery and in-field performance.

Further, ACAP will identify, assess and seek research partnerships in all relevant opportunities to cut LCOE further through improved performance at low cost and with high reliability and to adapt them to Australian circumstances.

6.2.2 Rooftop PV

Investigators: UNSW – Richard Corkish, Anna Bruce, Mike Roberts


This program will include the review and monitoring of technology trends to facilitate the ongoing uptake and integration of lower cost rooftop PV and to integrate this knowledge into the wider ACAP research program.


In Australia, incentives, efficiencies, and market acceptance have led to significant update of rooftop PV. With over 13GW installed (end 2020), Australia has more rooftop solar per capita than any other OECD country.


The volumes and experience curve has made rooftop solar competitive on a $/W basis with large-scale solar, and super-competitive with retail electricity as rooftop PV has the advantage of generating renewable electricity close to where it is needed. In many cases the electricity is substantially used “behind-the-meter" avoiding grid charges and reducing grid demand.

The potential for much more rooftop PV is enormous. However, there are technical barriers, including those related to mechanical loadings on lightweight commercial and industrial roofs, network connection, export limits and growing compliance requirements as well as non-technical barriers including split-incentives between landlord and tenant.


Overcoming these problems could increase opportunities for low-cost PV with low cost of delivery to the loads and, for many commercial and industrial roofs, good temporal match of generation and demand.


Some inroads have already been made on addressing the technical problems of dead weight and wind loading using lightweight silicon modules without cover glass and innovative mounting methods, such as by current ACAP partners Sunman and Bluescope.


This program will extend existing collaboration with industry partners, to resolve technical barriers for lightweight PV modules for commercial and industrial roofs. ACAP will also monitor market growth and global technology developments with potential applications to Australian problems.

The split incentives for landlords and tenants is a major problem for expansion of rooftop PV in many jurisdictions around the world, but there seems to have been little attention paid in Australia to some solutions that have been used elsewhere, such as roof leasing.


While this vehicle is not entirely absent from the Australian market, there are likely to be many more opportunities than have been already exploited and ACAP will identify impediments and seek Australian opportunities for adaption and application of solutions that have succeeded elsewhere.

6.2.2 Rooftop PV


ANU – Marco Ernst

UNSW - Jose Bilbao, Ziv Hameiri, Ivan Perez-Wurfel, Santosh Shrestha, Nathan Chang, Anna Bruce

Aims and objectives

This task aims to identify opportunities to increase large-scale deployment of solar energy by addressing the challenges of system design for photovoltaics in agriculture. It will do so by undertaking detailed modelling and design to achieve understand the role of mono and bifacial photovoltaic technologies in the context of complex environmental factors and the impact on agricultural activities.



Agrivoltaics (AgriPV) combines traditional agriculture with PV arrays, providing both crop/pasture yield and renewable energy production. The abundance of land and the increasing demand for electricity make solar electricity generation a potential cost-reduction and revenue source for Australian farmers to improve the resilience of Australian agriculture.


Several hundred GW of solar PV will be co-located with agriculture. Agriculture accounts for 55% of Australian land use (excluding timber). Australian farmers will face significant challenges as a result of climate variability in the coming decades. Solar electricity generation is a potential large-scale revenue source for Australian farmers.

Research Activities and Plans

  • Develop improved yield modelling for AgriPV systems: considering spectral albedo impact on bifacial systems, and with validation using data from a proposed experimental AgriPV system (~50 kW)

  • Design and optimization of PV systems considering agricultural land-use: access requirements, ground conditions with varying spectral albedo, impact of soiling, monitoring requirements.

  • Reciprocal impact of photovoltaic system and agricultural land use: impact on photosynthetically active radiation, impact on microclimate, potential shading by crops, Soiling impact study with experimental data.

6.2.4 Emerging Applications

Photovoltaic deployment at TW scales will require ultra-low-cost photovoltaics that operates at high efficiency for decades. Complementing the TW scale deployment, there are emerging sectors where photovoltaics may not have the same potential for scale of deployment but will have an increasing and important role and at a higher value point. These areas include the transport, agriculture, space and building sectors. Each of these sectors presents distinct photovoltaic requirements.

The development of photovoltaics built-for purpose across these sectors presents a growing opportunity for Australia to continue to increase the uptake of renewables, drive reductions in carbon emissions across diverse sectors, increase energy resilience, develop new photovoltaic technologies, capture valuable IP, and diversify the photovoltaic industry in terms of technologies, skills, and supply chains. Given that many of the challenges across these sectors are still emerging, this research theme will focus on developing photovoltaic solutions that are fit for purpose.

Building Integrated PV (BIPV)

Investigators: Prof.  Jacek Jasieniak (Monash), Prof. Anita Ho-Baillie (University of Sydney), Dr. Anthony Chesman (CSIRO), Dr. Doojin Vak (CSIRO), A/Prof Xiaojing Hao (UNSW)

Aims and objectives

The aim of this program is to advance building integrated photovoltaic window technology in order for it to be economically and aesthetically feasible for deployment across major developments in Australia by 2030.  


The building sector accounts for more than 35% of the global energy demand and almost 40% of the greenhouse gas emissions and a dramatic increase in electricity demand of buildings is expected. The vast majority of PV in buildings is rooftop PV, while BIPV, in the form of PV modules as wall and glazing surfaces have long been seen as a prospective application. A recent study forecast growth of the BIPV market from about US$1.3 billion in 2018 to almost US$7 billion by 2026, with the glazing sector driving the increase in the form of semi-transparent PV windows.

Technology options available commercially include coloured silicon PV (5-20% area efficiency at 75-0% transmission), semi-transparent silicon PV, with gaps left between cells (10% area efficiency at 50% transmission) and full coverage amorphous silicon (3% area efficiency with 30% transmission.

Challenges with meeting performance, architecture, design, integration and durability demands more research, with a variety of solar window material options under development, including metal chalcogenides, organic, dye synthesised, polymer- and perovskite-based solar cells that present higher efficiencies compared to amorphous silicon at improved average visible transparencies.

Research needed to develop these technologies includes target improved efficiencies and stabilities, to demonstrate scalability, BIPV window design and real-world validation.

Research Activities and Plans

  • Market and techno-economic analysis

  • Review and develop digital tools to predict building to city scale opportunities.

  • Assessment of the operation and stabilities of existing and emerging BIPV (in field)

  • Lab scale demonstration of BIPV windows with >40% average visible transmittance, active area efficiencies of >15% and lifetimes of >10,000 hours (Years 2-4)

Development of module architectures to support scaling BIPV windows to achieve high-efficiency and fulfill design aesthetics criteria (Years 3-8)


Investigators: A/Prof.  Nicholas Ekins-Daukes, Dr Ivan Perez, Dr Jessica Yajie Jiang, Prof. Renate Egan


23% of carbon emissions arise from transport and 74% of those from road vehicles, split approximately equally between heavy and light vehicles. As we transition to electric vehicles, adding solar permits partial power from the sunlight that falls upon the surface, increasing independence and reducing demand on charging infrastructure.

The useful photovoltaic capacity of a typical passenger EV is around 800Wp, on a light commercial vehicle 2kWp and 6kWp on heavy commercial vehicles. If VIPV becomes ubiquitous, the global VIPV market will saturate around 100GWp per annum but with a price premium at least ten times higher than roof-top or ground-mount PV. In Australia, the opportunity is assessed at 1.2GWp, split approximately equally between commercial and passenger vehicles, with the better average insolation providing an improved return on investment to other OECD countries.

Commercial vehicles and heavy goods vehicles provide a strong near-term industrial opportunity since they are constructed in Australia.   The irradiance falling on commercial vehicles is considerably higher than passenger vehicles with solar irradiance data measured from public buses vehicles in Sydney show an irradiance of 4.9kWh/m2/day with 50% delivered while the vehicle is stationary. In particular, heavy goods vehicles can save up to 5% in diesel consumption by offsetting electrical loads by PV. This surprising finding arises since drivers leave engines running while resting, to retain comforts such as AC, refreshments, and electronic systems.

Aims & Objectives

Vehicle Integrated photovoltaics (VIPV) provide light-weight, ancillary energy generation for private and mass transit applications. The VIPV stream will develop materials and technologies suited to vehicle integration. Objectives include;

  • Comprehensive assessment of solar irradiance on vehicles in urban areas. 

  • Fabrication of VIPV modules for integration into vehicles with attention to colour, shape and durability in a high vibration environment. 

  • Performance and safety standards for VIPV will be developed ensuring reliable operation and safety in the event of collisions.

Research Activities and Plans

New non-planar, conformal, coloured PV module technologies required together with associated power management, test, manufacturing, safety and performance standards. ACAP could address the following research challenges;

  • Solar irradiance resource assessment: (complete Y2) as a citizen science project, measuring solar irradiance from vehicles. Aim for a complete Australian dataset & stochastic model for Australian cities in (Y2).

  • VIPV module prototype fabrication: (complete Y8)

  • Fabrication of curved PV modules for vehicle integration proceeds in several stages (1) capability demonstration, (2) technological optimisation, (3) technological transfer to industry (4) standards and safety testing.


Investigators: Prof Anita Ho-Baillie (Uni of Sydney), Prof Gavin Conibeer (UNSW), Prof Bram Hoex (UNSW), A/Prof Nicholas Ekins-Daukes (UNSW), A/Prof Xiaojing Hao (UNSW), A/Prof Ziv Hameiri (UNSW), Dr Udo Roemer (UNSW), Dr Michael Nielsen (UNSW), Dr Anastasia Soeriyadi (UNSW)


Photovoltaics is the principal power source used for space missions. The space PV market is currently somewhere between 1 and 10MW but is set to grow rapidly, particularly with the deployment of constellation satellites each which will each rely on between 400Wp and 4kWp of PV. With current planned deployments, there will be at least 8,000 constellation satellites by 2024 rising from about 2,000 today (Curzi et al., 2020) with announced missions seeing at least 100MW of PV in space as the number of applications and space markets increase.

This market growth will see, even conservatively, close to 100X growth of PV in space in the next decade, totalling more than 0.5GW. The value of these space cells will be much higher than terrestrial cells, because of the stringent efficiency, radiation tolerance and space readiness requirements, but there will be strong pressure to reduce the cost of space cells as the PV array becomes an increasingly dominant feature in space mission economics.

The majority of spacecraft systems using triple junction III-V tandems, but with a significant number of systems using silicon cells (e.g. the International Space Station). The small, high efficiency III-V tandems are very expensive at minimum $250/W, rising to $800/W for integrated systems.  An increasing number of Space 2.0 missions however have much tighter budgets, so a resurgence of cheaper silicon cells for space is becoming attractive again and there is work on thin silicon cells for enhanced radiation resistance (Regher, UNSW).

The recently established Australian Space Agency is helping to fund space projects through their industry linked Demonstrator and Flagship programs plus there are many small companies and start-ups in space in Australia, with some Australian companies bidding for PV systems on satellites.

Aims and Objectives

This research theme aims to develop radiation hardened photovoltaic technologies that can be deployed at low cost for the emerging space sector in Australia.

 Research Activities and Plans

  • Thin silicon cells for enhanced radiation resistance in space

  • Perovskite space solar cells

  • Radiation testing of space solar cells

  • Lightweight and/or flexible space PV arrays

  • Laser power transfer to high efficiency PV cells

  • Collaboration on III-V multijunction space cells

  • Collaboration on the PV aspects of several planned missions

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