The Victoria-Suntech Advanced Solar Facility (VSASF) was officially launched today in Melbourne, with the Victorian Minister for Environment and Climate Change, and Innovation, Gavin Jennings MLC, on hand to commemorate the event.
The facility, a collaborative venture between Swinburne University of Technology and Suntech Power Holdings Co., Ltd (NYSE: STP), one of the world's leading producers of solar panels, has been partially funded by a AUD3 million grant under the Victorian Science Agenda Investment Fund. The collaboration will provide a platform for the partners to commercialise NANOPLAS, a revolutionary nanoplasmonic solar cell technology being developed at Swinburne.
Heading up the VSASF will be Professor Min Gu, Director of the Swinburne Centre for Micro-Photonics, and Dr. Zhengrong Shi, Suntech's Chairman and CEO as well as a fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering. According to Professor Gu the group's strong mix of research and business expertise will put them in a unique position to research, develop and commercialise the innovative solar cell technology.
"This new NANOPLAS technology will allow for the efficient collection of solar energy from a wider colour spectrum than cells currently being developed in other laboratories," he said. "This could make them twice as efficient as the current generation of cells, which would also make them significantly less costly to produce and therefore to use."
Professor Gu said that a major advantage of the VSASF is that it will allow Swinburne researchers to work closely with Suntech throughout the research and development stages. This will ensure that the NANOPLAS technology can be easily transferred to the production line and complement Suntech's industry-leading Pluto(TM) solar cell technology.
Cooperation between Suntech and Swinburne began in April 2009 when the two parties announced their partnership for the development of nanoplasmonic solar technology. As an extension of that agreement, the VSASF is expected to promote further cooperation among Australia's world-leading solar research community and could potentially be a precursor to a Suntech production facility in Australia.
"By combining Swinburne University's strong research capabilities and Suntech's R&D and manufacturing platform, we can accelerate the development of cutting-edge technologies to drive down the cost of solar," said Dr. Zhengrong Shi. "As solar reaches grid parity, in Australia and around the world, we are powering a revolution that will permanently redefine how the world uses energy."
In recognition of his contributions to energy and environmental research and development, Dr. Zhengrong Shi received an honorary doctorate from Swinburne University following the VSASF launch event.