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Solar experts applaud new $83m funding initiative

19th Dec 2012

It's fair to say that last week was a good one for the future of Australian solar development.

The government announced on Thursday (December 13) that it will be providing $83 million for solar power research as part of the US-Australia Solar Energy Collaboration (USASEC).

Martin Ferguson, in his statement, described the collaboration's goals as to "drive innovation, build research and technical capacity, and provide pathways to solar commercialisation".

Cue the plaudits from an appreciative industry.

The Clean Energy Council (CEC) said the collaboration would help Australia take "home-grown innovation to the rest of the world".

CEC chief executive David Green described the organisations involved - which include CSIRO, the Australian Solar Institute and the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory - as an "all-star cast".

He said Australians saw the sense in capitalising on the "intense and abundant sunshine" this lucky country is so fortunate to have. And he means both in their homes and on a commercial scale.

"With the calibre of organisations involved with the funding today, I am sure we will see quantum leaps in both solar photovoltaic and solar thermal technology in the decades to come - with all the benefits this will bring to consumers," said Mr Green.

CSIRO's Dr Alex Wonhas wouldn't have been displeased with such praise.

His organisation was one of the recipients of the funding. They will partner with Australian and US institutions on several projects.

These include the development of solar thermal technology and a solar forecasting system.

Dr Wonhas said USASEC would keep Australia at the "leading edge of global research".

He also took a more pragmatic line.

"Demonstrating the technology is vital, it is what attracts investment and development in the industry," said Dr Wonhas.

Another funding winner was the US-Australia Institute for Advanced Photovoltaics (USAIAP), led by the University of New South Wales (UNSW), to receive $35 million.

UNSW vice-chancellor professor Fred Hilmer welcomed the "significant investment in renewable energy research" from the government.

He also looked toward the future, stating that the institute will "be fundamental to the training of the next generation of photovoltaic research scientists and engineers".

Perhaps the emerging talent in the solar research domain will go on to rival USAIAP leader Professor Martin Green.

He was recently inducted into the Australian Solar Hall of Fame for pioneering work in developing solar technology.

It's clear that he's not in two minds about the program's future prospects.

"The Institute (USAIAP) will establish Australia as the photovoltaic research and educational hub of the Asia-Pacific region," said Mr Green.

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