US Australia Solar Energy Collaboration (USASEC)

The USASEC agreement was announced on 7 November 2010 by Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard and U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. The USASEC initiative objective is to accelerate the reduction in costs of capturing solar energy through research collaboration.

Since the announcement progress has been made in developing the program.

  • A high-level steering committee, co-chaired by officials from the Australian Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism (DRET) and the US Department of Energy (DOE), has been established to set overall priorities and research directions for USASEC.  In addition to representatives from DRET and the DOE, steering committee membership includes representatives from the US National Labs and the ASI.
  • The first area of activity under the USASEC will be the development of foundation projects, researcher exchange programs and to develop an information sharing framework.
  • The foundation themes for the USASEC are :

1.              Hot-carrier solar cells;
2.              Multi-junction Si PV devices;
3.              High temperature receivers;  and
4.              Measurements and characterisation.

  • Expression of Interest (EOI) guidelines and application forms for the USASEC foundation themes will be released by the ASI around the end of March / early April 2011.  The deadline for EOIs will be around mid May 2011.  Following review by the ASI Research Advisory Committee (RAC) and the USASEC steering committee, the ASI Board will select a shortlist to submit detailed proposals in June for evaluation during July and August with funding decisions to be made thereafter.
  • The ASI also plans to open the USASEC Researcher exchange program.  Guidelines and applications for this new program will be released around the end of March / early April 2011.

Q&A on USASEC budgets and future activity plans.

Q1      How were the foundation project topics selected?

    • The US and Australian  governments selected a limited number of foundation collaboration topics that build on existing areas of collaboration between the US National Labs and Australian institutions based on their strategic importance and potential to accelerate the delivery of commercial outcomes.  It is recognised there are many more areas that could have been selected.
    • The foundation topics were announced in the initial information paper on the USASEC released in November 2010.

Q2      Over what time period is the Australian funding to be delivered?

    • The USASEC $50m funding is to be delivered to the ASI over a 4 year funding agreement with DRET from 2010/11 through to 2014/15.
    • The allocation of funding will be at the discretion of the ASI Board.

Q3      How will the budget be allocated in Australia?

    • The budget for all ASI foundation projects support has been set at $10m over the USASEC program period.  The actual allocation will be based on the nature of the final proposals and is at the full discretion of the ASI Board.
    • Researcher exchange programs will be funded on basis of excellence with a notional budget of $5m.  As with the foundation projects, the ASI Board will have discretion to allocate more or less to research exchange programs as the program develops.

Q4      Can collaborative research activity be considered for funding outside of the foundation topic areas?

    • The ASI does not plan to look at projects outside the scope of the four foundation topics. However, future funding rounds will consider a broader range of topics.

Q5      How will US Contributions to the foundation projects be made?

    • The US collaboration contribution to the foundation projects will be managed through their existing program funding allocations under the approval of the appropriate authority.

ASI CSP Stakeholder Workshop

The ASI plans to host a CSP stakeholder workshop in Sydney, provisionally planned for April 20th 2011 (further details to be circulated).  The aim of the workshop will be to:

    • Identify the research capability and infrastructure needs of the Australian CSP industry;
    • Discuss the ASI’s proposed action plan to strengthen CSP research in Australia  with the goal of dispatchable low cost solar power for Australia; and
    • Share the ASI’s plans for Round 3 R&D CSP funding.

ASI Round 3 – Plan to call for EOIs by late June early July 2011.

During 2009 and 2010 the ASI completed two R&D funding rounds. Detailed fact sheets are available for Round 1 and Round 2 on the ASI website.

The amount of ASI funding to be committed in Round 3 will be at the discretion of the ASI Board.  The ASI Board has approximately $15m of uncommitted funding for R&D activity outside of the USASEC initiative.

The ASI has identified the following areas of interest for discussion at the planned workshop:

    • Storage and hybrid technologies with the potential to increase commercial deployment of CSP;
    • Reducing CSP Field Costs – investigate the opportunity for a national collaborative approach to low cost heliostats; and
    • Pilot demonstration of prospective CSP technologies to de-risk future MW scale demonstration.

Between April and June 2011, the ASI will work closely with State Governments and potential industry investees in ASI Round 3 activity to maximise opportunities to leverage State and industry support.

ASI Plans to Commission Enabling Research

During 2009 and 2010, the ASI received a number of proposals in the general area of Enabling Research.  During 2011, the ASI Board plans to commission specific work directly in a number of key areas.  These areas may include:

    • Solar Resource Forecasting;
    • Increasing Finance Sector Confidence to Invest in Solar Technologies and Projects;
    • Reducing barriers to development of solar projects – eg permitting requirements;
    • Market value of distributed generation; and
    • Market value of dispatchable solar thermal capacity.