Australia has a golden opportunity to expand solar power manufacturing | Solar energy

Australia has a golden opportunity to expand its solar power manufacturing capacity as the industry booms and nations scramble to reduce their overreliance on China, report says from the Australian Australian PV Institute Institute.

The country already installs 4 GW of solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity a year, but only supplies 3% of that to a local supplier, Tindo Solar of Adelaide. However, this annual number of installations is expected to triple by 2050, particularly if Australia becomes a major supplier of hydrogen produced by renewable energy for export.

“We have a pressing need, we have the natural resources and we have a very large market,” the report said. “Unless Australia takes control of the most strategic parts of the PV value chain, the development of any ‘green’ export market will depend entirely on foreign powers.”

Renate Egan, APVI secretary and head of the Australian Center for Advanced Photovoltaics, said China will remain a major panel supplier to Australia, but it was important to diversify supply, including by making appeal to local businesses.

“You can compare this to Europe’s reliance on Russian gas,” Egan said, referring to shortages and skyrocketing gas prices after Moscow imposed export restrictions in Russia. sanctions retaliation for the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“The world is betting more and more on the production of solar energy for the energy transition [from fossil fuels],” she said. “They realize the risks…as over 90% of the technology comes from China.”

The Covid pandemic helped spur demands for more local manufacturing capacity when Australia struggled to secure supplies of vaccines and medical equipment.

Continued supply chain disruptions, particularly as China maintains its Covid-zero policy, have given further impetus to calls for greater domestic production capacity.

A spokesman for Industry and Science Minister Ed Husic said solar was “clearly going to be a big part of Australia’s renewable energy future”.

“The Albanian government will provide dedicated support through Powering Australia – a $3 billion co-investment stream under the National Reconstruction Fund,” he said. “Much of its focus will be on renewable energy component manufacturing and low-emission technologies, including battery and solar panel production.

“By 2030, the government aims to have 82% renewable energy in the national electricity market. To achieve this, we will need to produce much more solar capacity onshore and have diversity in our international supply chains.

Ongoing trade tensions between Australia and China have exacerbated “the potential threat of supply restrictions or sudden price changes”, according to the APVI document.

“Added to this risk is the growing concern about the possible use of forced labor in parts of China, where much of the silicon, wafers and steel used in photovoltaic components are produced,” a- he declared.

Egan said Australian technology is used in 90% of photovoltaic panels made today, underscoring the country’s scientific pedigree in the field. The country would not need to manufacture all the components in modules but could specialize.

Local companies could manufacture glass, aluminum frames, polymers or electronic components such as inverters, while leaving the production of polysilicon – a key raw material – to others.

“I think it’s at the top of refining the silicon and then assembling the modules,” Egan said. “We need to make smart decisions and deploy at scale.”

The document cites existing suppliers, including Selectronic, one of the oldest inverter manufacturers in the world.

SunDrive is a company that is eyeing manufacturing of commercial-size silicon-based solar cells in Australia, while 5B is aiming for rapid, low-cost photovoltaic deployment to power some of the multi-gigawatt solar farms planned for northern Australia. .

“To succeed on a global scale, these emerging companies would benefit from market certainty and a coordinated effort to achieve scale,” the document states.

Customers could include Sun Cable, a company backed by billionaires Mike Cannon-Brookes and Andrew Forrest, which aims to build a 12,000 hectare solar area in the Northern Territory with a capacity of 17-20GW and 36-42GW hours of energy storage.

Forrest’s Fortescue Group said last week it forecast 2-3GW of renewable energy using solar and wind power plants between 2024 and 2028. It was also working to identify and address bottlenecks in global supply of decarbonization technologies and was building the world’s largest electrolyzer facility for hydrogen production at Gladstone as part of this effort.

Marjorie N. McClure