SunDrive closes financing round to help commercialize solar cell technology using copper

The technology, which uses copper instead of silver, achieved a conversion efficiency of 26.41 percent last month. Image: Pixabay

Australian solar technology start-up SunDrive has secured A$21 million ($13.2 million) in a Series A fund that will help commercialize its solar technology.

The company has replaced silver with copper to improve the efficiency of solar panels while reducing costs due to lower copper prices.

Silver shortages could become an issue for the industry going forward as demand in 2030 could exceed 30% of total global silver production in 2020, up from 10% currently, according to the International Energy Agency.

“The solar cells needed to decarbonize the world need to be more efficient, cheaper and more scalable than they are today. The use of silver is a common denominator and hinders the rapid progress needed to transition to a solar-electric world,” SunDrive co-founder and CEO Vince Allen said.

Using SunDrive’s patented technology, copper is used as a conductive material to draw current from the battery.

Earlier this year, the startup achieved 26.07 percent cell efficiency on a commercial-sized heterojunction (HJT) cell through a partnership with device maker Maxwell Technologies.

Last month, SunDrive increased the efficiency of full-scale silicon heterojunction solar cells to 26.41%.

The Series A round was led by Australia’s state-run renewable energy finance agency Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC), which committed A$7 million through an innovation fund managed by Virescent Ventures, and Main Sequence Ventures. The funding also received private investment from Blackbird Ventures and Grok Ventures.

“This technology has the potential to revolutionise the onshore production of solar cells and the development of solar manufacturing in Australia,” CEFC chief executive Ian Learmonth said.

Learmonth added that securing Australia’s domestic manufacturing capacity would increase the country’s resilience to supply chain disruptions and accelerate the uptake of solar PV in the country.

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