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Government announces new solar research funding

17th Dec 2012

The government announced last week (December 13) that it will provide $83 million of new funding for solar research and development as part of the US-Australia Solar Energy Collaboration (USASEC).

This would have been well received by the folks working on the US-Australia Institute for Advanced Photovoltaics and the Australian Solar Thermal Research Initiative, as those projects will benefit to the tune of $33 million and $35 million respectively.

Additional projects to receive funding include work on innovative materials, an energy forecasting system and business models for implementing solar energy generation alongside non-renewable sources.

Minister for resources and energy Martin Ferguson was able to beat the drum for solar power when he made the announcement.

In a statement, he said the government's investment would help drive innovation, research and technical capacity as well as paving the way towards solar commercialisation.

However, for one renewable energy supporter, all the investment amounts to is a "diversion".

Matthew Wright of climate and energy think-tank Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) thinks that instead of limiting itself to research, Australia should be actually building large scale solar projects.

"China has just announced that, from almost nothing today, they will build three thousand megawatts of solar thermal capacity in the next three years," said Mr Wright.

He's referring to news released last month detailing China's goal of rapid expansion of domestic solar generation between now and 2015.

And the BZE has a plan. It supports a proposal to build six solar thermal plants in Port Augusta as part of a scheme to replace the two coal power stations soon to close there.

As far as Mr Wright is concerned, taking action and building these structures will teach us more than research done in a lab ever could. And it will show a real commitment from government.

"If Martin Ferguson really supported large scale solar energy, he would have us build it now."

Posted by Mike Peacock

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