Monday, 26 September 2011

Bye solar factory, hail world-class R&D powerhouse

Summaries - Australian Financial ReviewI
20 Sep 2011, Page: 4

Although the decision by solar cells producer Silex Systems to shut down its Sydney plant is bad news for the local solar industry the ability of the University of New South Wales (UNSW) to develop engineering skills that assist solar cell manufacturing offers compensation. Richard Corkish, head of the school of photovoltaic and renewable energy engineering at UNSW, says that Australia's expertise in the field has led to acclaim particularly in Asia.

The opening of the Australian Solar Institute in 2009 is another positive for the sector and signals that the federal government is supportive of research efforts. Like UNSW the Australian National University is also active in east Asia while the two universities have seen former students become globally recognised in the solar industry. Founder of the world's biggest solar panel maker Suntech Power, Zhengrong Shi, is one such student who graduated from UNSW.

An example of the ongoing relationship between UNSW and its former student can be found in expertise from the university which Suntech Power incorporates in its Pluto LNG project cells which are used at the Sydney Theatre Company and Sydney Town Hall. Mr Corkish also feels that Australia should be making efforts to encourage Suntech Power and Trina Solar to use the country as a base for their research and development needs. Mr Corkish also believes that a similar approach adopted for the proposed takeover of the Australian Securities Exchange could be used to make Australia a hub for solar research in the region.