'Father of photovoltaics' accepts Global Energy Prize

Monday, 08 October, 2018

'Father of photovoltaics' accepts Global Energy Prize

Solar energy pioneer Professor Martin Green has become the first Australian to receive the prestigious Global Energy Prize, in recognition of his research, development and educational activities in the field of photovoltaics.

Established in Russia in 2003, the annual Global Energy Prize honours outstanding achievements in research and technology that are addressing some of the world’s pressing energy challenges. The prize is rated as one of the world’s 99 major science awards by the IREG List of International Academic Awards.

A world-leading specialist in both monocrystalline and polycrystalline silicon solar cells, Prof Green is Director of the Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics at UNSW. As founder of the largest and best-known university-based photovoltaic research group in the world, he was honoured for having “revolutionised the efficiency and costs of solar photovoltaics, making this now the lowest cost option for bulk electricity supply” — a cost reduction that is largely thanks to the work of his students in establishing manufacturing centres in Asia.

His record-breaking achievements stretch across decades: in 1989 his team supplied the solar cells for the first photovoltaic system with an energy conversion efficiency of 20%, while in 2014 he headed the development team that first demonstrated the conversion of sunlight into electricity with an energy conversion efficiency of 40%. He also invented the PERC solar cell, which accounts for at least a quarter of the world solar cell manufacturing capacity and has a rapidly increasing market share due to its greater efficiency over other types of cells.

“The time of solar has arrived and this is good news for the world,” Prof Green said in his acceptance speech. “The PERC cells pioneered by UNSW now reflect 50% of world production. During that time, we’ve seen solar move from expensive energy to inexpensive energy. Our work on PERC has driven that.”

Prof Green used his speech to thank his wife for giving him the freedom to pursue his passion. He also paid tribute to the “thousands of solar researchers who have worked in the field for many years, including those at UNSW and elsewhere who have helped not just make PERC a reality, but also to bring it to market and to have driven such scale”.

The Global Energy Prize was presented to Prof Green by Russian Minister of Energy Alexander Novak at a ceremony in Moscow. He shares this year’s prize and RUB39 million ($820,000) in prize money with Russian scientist Sergey Alekseenko, an expert in thermal power engineering, having been selected from 44 contenders from 14 countries by a committee of leading scientists.

Image caption: Global Energy Prize winner Professor Martin Green, Director of the Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics.

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