With the Australian government cutting back on its financial support to the solar power industry, sector leaders are calling on the administration to assume a more active role in promoting solar research.
Tindo Solar manager Richard Inwood is among those who want the government to shift its support to renewable energy from subsidies to investment in research. Tindo Solar is the only factory that manufactures solar panels in Australia. Most of the panels used in the country are from China.
Inwood acknowledges that Australia cannot compete yet with China’s cheap labour but it can lead in terms of research. He said the firm is partnering with Flinders University on building battery storage systems that can be transformed into solar panels. He hopes the state and federal governments will support this kind of research in order to further promote renewable energy in the country.
Flinders is also involved in another research with two other educational institutions—University of Adelaide and University of South Australia. The purpose of the study is to develop a plastic lamination that will enable solar cells to be produced in rolls. This should make it easier to install in roofs, walls and windows.
Recent news indicates that the government is heeding Inwoods’ calls.
The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) government has recently announced the building of an innovation precinct that will boost the solar energy research and development in the nation’s capital. According to ACT Minister for the Environment and Sustainable Development Simon Corbell, the government will use the precinct to draw external funding sources for solar research and development as well as to enhance strong partnerships with local research organisations and businesses.
Months earlier, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency launched a research and development program aimed at advancing renewable energy expertise in the country. According to ARENA chief executive officer Ivor Frischknecht, the first round of the program would give up to $20 million to promote solar research excellence.
Mr. Frischknecht likewise added that the program will build on the country’s reputation as a leading innovator on photovoltaic and solar thermal technologies. It is also hoped that the $20 million investment will boost the research and development capability of Australia and increase the knowledge base needed to make renewable energy, particularly solar energy, more competitive and at par with conventional energy sources.