ARENA launches $100 million scaleup challenge to boost innovation in large-scale solar

The Solar ScaleUp Challenge is open for submissions for eight weeks and aims to complement the Solar Sunshot Program by fostering a pipeline of solar PV innovations for manufacturers and project developers.

Solar farm

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has launched a $100 million 'Solar ScaleUp Challenge' to boost innovation in large-scale solar energy. The Challenge aims to advance ultra low-cost solar (ULCS) technologies, which are crucial for reducing electricity prices and decarbonising sectors like transport and manufacturing.

Encouraging innovation and collaboration in the solar industry, the Challenge is focused on improving installation, operations, and maintenance. ARENA has teamed up with Greenhouse Tech, whose platform will help form and support global, multidisciplinary teams to tackle these challenges. Greenhouse Tech has experience in driving similar initiatives, such as the NetZero Steel Challenge.

ARENA CEO Darren Miller said that deploying large-scale solar is essential for the clean energy transition in Australia.

“Ultra low-cost solar is critical for reducing electricity costs and decarbonising hard-to-abate sectors such as industry and transport. It is also a key factor in Australia becoming a renewable energy superpower, a vision which would see Australia playing a major role in supplying our key trading partners with low emissions products such as green iron and hydrogen,” Mr Miller said.

The Challenge builds on the outcomes of ARENA's inaugural Solar Lab, where key stakeholders in the solar industry identified necessary actions to achieve ULCS. This includes innovations in the installation and maintenance of solar farms and extensive collaboration across supply and demand chains.

“Bringing together all the different stakeholders involved in solar projects is key to solving these problems in an innovative way and quickly scaling the solutions, so we thought this topic was ideal for a challenge,” Mark Rowland, Chief Collaboration Officer at Greenhouse, said of the initiative.

ARENA aims to reduce the installed cost of solar projects to 30 cents per watt and achieve a levelised cost of electricity below $20 per megawatt hour by 2030. Achieving these targets could enable the installation of 1 terawatt of solar capacity by 2050. The challenge invites participation from innovators, customers, financiers, and others involved in constructing and operating solar farms.

In addition to the Solar ScaleUp Challenge, ARENA is also managing the $1 billion Solar Sunshot Program, which focuses on enhancing Australia's domestic solar PV manufacturing capabilities and commercialising local innovations. While the Sunshot Program concentrates on manufacturing components, the Challenge focuses on their deployment.

For more information on how to enter and participate, visit the Solar ScaleUp Challenge website here.

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