Solar cell manufacture goes offshore


Origin Energy has confirmed that commercial manufacture of the Australian National University’s solar sliver cell technology is poised to go offshore, possibly to Germany or the United States, to capitalise on government investment incentives for solar energy in those countries, reported The Canberra Times (3 October 2006, p.1).

"Clients of our own technology": The article says renewable energy experts say the move offshore will deprive Australia of a big slice of the world’s rapidly expanding solar technology market, estimated to be worth more than $100 billion by 2010. "We will become clients of our own technology, importing back the expertise we lost," Murdoch University’s Professor of Energy Studies Dr Philip Jennings said.

The technology: The wafer-thin solar sliver cells were invented by ANU researchers Professor Andrew Blakers and Dr Klaus Weber, with support from Dr Vernie Everett, of the ANU and the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence. The sliver cells will cut the cost of photovoltaic panels by around 75 per cent by using 90 per cent less silicon.

Its potential: Their potential to make photovoltaic panels more affordable and accelerate uptake of solar energy has been compared to the global information revolution created by the internet search engine Google.

"Show me the money": Origin Energy acquired the base patent for the sliver cells from ANU and has invested more than $30 million to commercialise the technology, including building a pilot plant in Adelaide. But Origin’s general manager Tony Wood told The Canberra Times that an investment of more than $100 million was needed to scale up to commercial manufacture of the technology.

The Canberra Times, 3/10/2006, p. 1

Source: Erisk Net  

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