The Australian Solar Institute (ASI) announced that it would support a number of innovative solar research and development (R&D) projects in order to accelerate the development of solar energy and to reinforce Australia’s solar research capabilities.

The projects include a 30% more efficient lower cost photovoltaic cell, thermionic devices that could generate electricity direct from heat and nanotechnology to capture light. Research on organic photovoltaic solar cells that can be incorporated into building materials and solar thermal units to power steam turbines is also being conducted.

Subject to satisfactory negotiation of the terms and conditions of funding, around $11 million will be made available to help fund five R&D projects valued at around $31 million which are already under development at the CSIRO and at universities around Australia.

Jenny Goddard, The Chair of the ASI, said, “The ASI is delighted to provide funding support to these 5 excellent projects. They offer significant potential to red cost of solar energy by accelerating the development of photovoltaic cells and concentrating solar thermal technologies.”

She said, “These projects will help ensure Australia’s world class solar researchers remain at the forefront of developments in this field.’

Further discussions have been authorised by the ASI Board in respect of several other promising projects arising from the first round of applications.

Further announcements will be made pending the outcome of commercial-in- confidence discussions with the relevant applicants and their collaborative partners.

Mark Twidell, ASI Executive Director, said “the ASI was very impressed by the high standard of the 87 funding applications received by the October 2009 deadline. It was a highly competitive fun solar R&D activity in Australia”.

“Our 3 foundation projects announced in January 2009 aimed to develop key infrastructure for research into solar concentrating and photovoltaic technologies.

The projects announced today build on these technologies and also include research in the area of organic solar, where the potential to generate electricity from simple low cost chemical processes has long term potential.”

Mr Twidell continued to explain that an additional R&D funding round is expected to be announced in the first half of 2010. The ASI is looking to work proactively with potential R&D project proponents in order to encourage excellence, collaboration and to maximise commercial investment and development.

Organisations interested in promoting increased use of solar energy are welcomed by the ASI to invest in its funding program.

The Australian Solar Institute is supported by the Australian Government through the $4.5 billion Clean Energy Initiative (CEI). The Clean Energy Initiative includes the $1.5 billion Solar Flagships Program, the $2.4 billion Carbon Capture and Storage Flagships Program, the $560 million Australian Centre for Renewable Energy and the $100 million Australian Solar Institute.

More information about the ASI and a factsheet detailing the Round 1 process can be obtained from the Australia Solar Institute.