US, Australia partner on solar research

US, Australia Officials announcing USASEC investmentThe U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative and the Australia Solar Institute (ASI) have partnered to create the United States-Australia Solar Energy Collaboration (USASEC) in an effort to fund the next generation of solar technologies.

Given that much of Australia’s climate and geography is like the U.S. Southwest and gets great sun resources, the continent is ideal for solar installations. And some companies are already eyeing the continent for large concentrating solar power or photovoltaic projects.

Under the new partnership it may speed things up. Yesterday, Dec. 13, Australia’s Minister for Resources and Energy, the Hon. Martin Ferguson AM MP, announced more than $83 million for collaborative projects between Australian and United States researchers. The funding will support a number of projects that will support solar deployment there. Of the total, $33 million will go to the U.S.-Australia Institute for Advanced Photovoltaics, $35 million to the Australian Solar Thermal Research Initiative. Both of which are eight-year research projects. The remaining $15.5 million will support 11 collaborative research projects.

The projects that will be supported range from developing an Australian solar energy forecasting system, like the National Renewable Energy Laboratory has done in the U.S., to a plug-and-play solar device that eases integration of solar energy in hybrid applications combined with diesel or fossil fuel generation. The tools will help enable the better integration of solar into Australia’s grid.

“Our funding unites the complementary strengths of both nations to fast track the commercialization of new solar technologies by lowering costs,” said ASI Chief Executive Mark Twidell. The funds leverage strengths of both countries and aims to accelerate the pace of solar innovation.

The U.S.-Australia Institute for Advanced Photovoltaics, is at the University of New South Wales, and the $35 million Australian Solar Thermal Research Initiative, is led by Australia’s national science agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO). “We joined forces with the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to fund two, eight year collaborative national research programs to drive innovation, build human capacity and provide pathways to commercialization for new technologies,” Tidwell said. Also as part of the new funding ASI will be rolled into ARENA.

In all, more than $95 million has been invested through USASEC. That’s been used to an additional $160 million more from over 40 research institutions and industry players from Australia and the United States. The total USASEC now has more than $255 million.

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