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Top Australian universities team up for solar research projects

Two of Australia’s top universities will work together on crucial solar photovoltaic research projects that will substantially lay the country’s solar foundation infrastructure.

The University of New South Wales and the University of Queensland have secured major funding worth $40.7 million from the Education Investment Fund Research Infrastructure Program to hold two subsequent studies that will support upcoming power plants with a projected total output of 159 megawatts.

Under the national government’s Solar Flagships program, two solar power facilities will be installed in western New South Wales by utility companies AGL Energy Limited and First Solar by 2015.

“The research will build national capacity for solar power research at the utility scale and provide invaluable infrastructure for the broader Australian research community,” said University of Queensland Professor Paul Meredith.

A portion of the investment will be allotted to the development of a Power Systems Interface Research facility that will explore areas crucial to the successful adoption of solar PV technologies into Australia’s electricity grid.

“This grant is the most significant and historically largest single investment,” said Professor Vassilios Agelidis, director of the Australian Energy Research Institute at University of New South Wales. He is also confident that this will help deliver research skills and innovation that will advance the nation’s energy future.

Meanwhile, University of Queensland deputy vice chancellor Professor Max Lu said that its collaboration with the University of New South Wales is a “strategic partnership,” acknowledging the latter’s international leadership in PV research for about three decades.

Located at the University of New South Wales’s Tyree Energy Technologies Building, the new research facility will serve as a “national energy research hub” that will provide new and essential energy technologies and solutions, said vice president and deputy vice chancellor for research Professor Les Field.

With the increasing pressure on Australia to cut its environmental impact as the world’s largest carbon emitter per capita, the country is now intensifying its efforts to phase out fossil fuels in its energy mix. Renewable energy resources are among the options, with solar power posing a great advantage.

“We have seen the cost of solar PV come down dramatically and this has allowed the Australian Government to capture this benefit and spread taxpayers’ money further,” stressed Martin Ferguson, federal minister for resources and energy.

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