A startup making cheaper rooftop solar panels by replacing the silver in production with copper has raised $21 million in a Series B.
SunDrive started in 2015 in a garage in Wollongong, co-founded by the universities of Vince Allen and David Hu. Allen developed the idea of using copper as a cheaper alternative during two years of studying for a PhD, which he scrapped to launch SunDrive.
The new cells can be up to 30% cheaper than the current panels. The solar PV industry already uses about 10% of the world’s silver and 20% of total industrial demand. Copper is nearly 100 times cheaper than silver and much more abundant.
The raise was led by the CSIRO’s VC fund Main Sequence Ventures, with the federal government’s Clean Energy Finance Corporation contributing $7 million through its Innovation Fund, managed by Virescent Ventures.. Existing backers and Atlassian founder Mike Cannon-Brookes reinvested through his family VC, Grok, along with Blackbird Ventures, while Canva founder Cameron Adams, former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Tesla chairman Robyn Denholm bet on the technology for the first time.
Denholm joined SunDrive’s advisory board last year.
Blackbird originally backed SunDrive’s seed round in 2018, and founder Niki Scevak joined the startup’s board in 2020 after a $5 million Series A.
The government-owned Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) also put $3 million into the venture two years ago.
Last year, SunDrive set a new solar energy world record efficiency, the title of the Chinese.
CEO Vince Allen said that to decarbonize, solar cells need to be more efficient, cheaper and more scalable than they are today.
“The use of silver is the common denominator and inhibits the rapid progress needed to transition to a solar-powered electric world,” he said.
“Australia has arguably made the greatest scientific contribution to the development of solar technology, having invented the technology behind 90% of all solar panels made worldwide. SunDrive is delighted to now partner with Australia’s top deep tech and cleantech investors in developing the next generation of solar technologies.”
Ben Gust, managing partner of Virescent Ventures, said SunDrive’s technology has the potential to be the leading method of silver replacement in solar PV production.
“Increasing panel efficiency and switching to more abundant materials before restrictions on silver and other materials limit industry growth is critical to improving solar PV uptake in Australia and the rest of the world.” the world,” he said.