New €7 million solar energy research center launched in Wales

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A new, €7 million ($10.5 million) solar energy research center has been launched at the Baglan Energy Park in Swansea by local higher education establishment, Swansea University.

The research center – called The Ser Solar initiative – has received the financial backing of the Welsh government and was officially launched this week by Welsh Government economy minister Edwina Hart. It will be chaired by Professor James Durrant of Imperial College London – one of the U.K.‘s most respected solar energy research scientists.

"I am very pleased to welcome Professor Durrant to Wales and Swansea University, where his experience and knowledge will help to create a world-class research team in the field of solar energy," said Hart.

"The Ser Cymru programme is helping us deliver our commitment to developing science and innovation in Wales, which is an important driver in economic growth.

"This research in the field of low carbon energy will also help us meet our commitments to reducing carbon emissions and tackling climate change."

Prof. Durrant spoke candidly about how it would be foolish to try to compete with China in fields such as PV production and solar cell manufacturing, stressing instead that countries such as the U.K. should focus their energy on research and development.

"We have to realize that the current solar market is dominated by cells made in China," he said. "These cells are efficient, stable and not that expensive. Therefore, if the U.K. is going to be part of the manufacturing of new solar technology there is no point trying to compete with China at what they are good at.

"We have to build on what we are good at, which is innovation, and develop technologies that are not just cheaper and more stable but things that are fundamentally different to the current technologies."

Durrant praised the commitment of the Welsh government and its determination to accelerate the de-carbonization process of Wales and the U.K.

Professor Richard B. Davies, Swansea University’s vice chancellor, added: "The Ser Solar initiative is brave and bold, but I really believe it is going to develop big time for Wales.

"It is very much based on building strengths. We know we cannot create world-leading excellence over night."

The research center will benefit from the joint efforts of researchers from Imperial College London and local scientists, with Bangor University working in close collaboration with Swansea University to oversee the solar progress.