Solar researcher wins global energy prize

June 11, 2018 // By Nick Flaherty
Solar energy pioneer Prof Martin Green of the University of New South Wales has won the Global Energy Prize for his work on photovoltaics.

The annual Global Energy Prize is presented each year by the President of the Russian Federation.

Professor Green, who is Director of the Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics at UNSW, shared the prize and $820,000 prize money this year with Russian scientist Sergey Alekseenko, an expert in thermal power engineering. They were selected from 44 contenders from 14 countries by a committee of leading scientists. The ten finalists this year included businessman and engineer Elon Musk.

Prof Green is the inventor of the PERC solar cell, used in over 24% of the world’s silicon cell manufacturing capacity at the end of 2017.  Systems containing this solar cell saw sales over US$10bn in 2017 and are predicted to top US$1 trillion by 2040. In 1989, his team supplied the solar cells for the first photovoltaic system with an energy conversion efficiency of 20%. By 2014, he headed the development team that first demonstrated the conversion of sunlight into electricity with an energy conversion efficiency of 40%.

“The efficiency of solar modules is an area whose progress has been faster than many experts expected, and this is good news," said Prof Green. "“We need to maintain the pace of research in Australia, not only to keep our international lead, but also to benefit society by providing a cheap, low carbon source of electricity. Given the quality of the candidates on the shortlist, receiving this prize is a great honour, and will spur on our efforts. I look forward to the presentation in Russia in October."

Prof Green is also co-inventor of the laser-doped, selective emitter solar cell, used in solar panels sold by the company Suntech. He is also a pioneer in the area of perovskite photocells, which he believes could be used as a supplement to silicon solar panels, with a combination of the two materials potentially able to further reduce the cost of electricity.


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