Australia: funding released for PV research


Only days after bringing forward the conclusion of its residential photovoltaic subsidy program, the Australian government has released a round of funding for solar research. The AUD$3.3 million (US$3.43) grants will go to 11 researchers working on a range of solar projects.

The research grant recipients will join 31 researchers already working on photovoltaic and CSP projects, at the Australia Solar Institute. The projects include a prototype hybrid concentrating photovoltaic-thermal rooftop system.

In a statement announcing the funding, the government put the funding in the context of the AUD$17 billion to renewable energy, through the newly created Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. The Skill Development Program is set to be expanded in 2013.

While the funding program is a positive sign for photovoltaic research, institutions such as the world-renowned University of New South Wales’ School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering have reported that it is currently difficult to attract high-caliber students. School head Richard Corkish told pv magazine that he is "at a loss" as to how to attract students, without their being jobs being created in the industry.

"The key seems to be sales of PV and I think, perhaps, the industry associations are not really breaking through to the general public, the potential customers, with the message that PV is no longer a very expensive option that would only be considered by average people when there is a big subsidy on offer," said Corkish.

Corkish added that research into photovoltaics can address this communication issue "only very slowly," and that more needs to be done. “Graduates will look elsewhere, I assume,” said Corkish, "until the industry is back making money again."