Solar research powers up

Wednesday, 01 April, 2009

Supplier for the solar power industry, Germany’s Roth & Rau AG will set up a silicon solar cell production line at the University of NSW.

The pilot line will be the backbone of the $20m Solar Industrial Research Facility (SIRF) at UNSW.

The SIRF will be the first solar research and development facility of its kind in Australia.

Head of the UNSW School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering Dr Richard Corkish said the establishment of the SIRF will represent a major advance in the nation’s capabilities in silicon solar photovoltaic technology.

“We are thrilled that the partnership with Roth and Rau for the SIRF, supported by the Australian Solar Institute, will boost the impact of Australia’s solar cell researchers in the Asia–Pacific and beyond,” Dr Corkish said.

“For the first time, Australia will have a world-class facility to industrialise and demonstrate its champion photovoltaics technologies and train engineers to provide better tools to battle global warming.”

Professor Martin Green, executive esearch director of the university’s ARC Photovoltaics Centre of Excellence, said: “This is a big step forward. Our students will get first-hand production experience while the pilot line will provide a much-needed test bed for researchers around the country.”

UNSW received $5 million in federal government funding through the Australian Solar Institute towards the establishment of the SIRF.

This will be an industrial-grade manufacturing facility that will enable the development of UNSW’s silicon solar cell technologies from laboratory processes to factory-ready industrial processes. As a world-class research facility it is also expected to attract top-level research students to UNSW.

The Australian Solar Institute will provide much-needed support for the Australian solar community, helping to retain Australian solar expertise and develop the next generation of Australian solar researchers.

The institute will foster greater collaboration between researchers in universities, research institutions and industry and help forge strong links with peak overseas research organisations.

The institute is expected to make Australia a more attractive and productive location for solar researchers.

The institute will support Australian researchers in solar photovoltaic and concentrating solar thermal technologies.

The majority of the institute’s research funding will be allocated through a competitive grants program. A smaller proportion of research funding will be provided to core institute projects and activities.

The grants program is designed to encourage any Australian researcher in solar photovoltaic and concentrating solar thermal technologies to apply for funding. This includes researchers from the public and private sectors.

Guidelines for the competitive grants program will be developed over the coming months, with the allocation of these grants occurring through an open, competitive and transparent process.

An establishment committee and an interim executive director have been appointed to begin work immediately. A governing board and permanent executive director will be appointed to allow the institute to start full operations by July 2009.

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