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Liddell solar

That’s what Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said at the old Liddell Power Station in the Upper Hunter at the end of March to announce his Government’s SunShot initiative to support innovative manufacturing facilities across the solar supply chain.

It wasn’t the only announcement; a Memorandum of Understanding was also signed between AGL and Australian solar company SunDrive to manufacture solar panels at the former power station site.

The idea for the new solar panels sprung from Vincent Allen and David Hu’s PHD while they were at the University of NSW.

“What first started as a PHD project has now grown to an incredible team,” said Vincent.

“It is this team that has developed the world’s most efficient commercial size solar cell using our breakthrough copper plating technology.

“Last year around $50 billion worth of solar panels were made using technology invented in Australia however very little of this value has been captured on our shores.

“By establishing a local manufacturing industry, we can better capture this value while creating thousands of highly skilled jobs.

“Our plan is to produce hundreds of thousands of panels on this site in the first phase with the eventual goal of scaling that to millions of panels per year. We see that the Hunter has the talent and the skills needed to drive the energy transition and obviously solar is going to be a very core component of that.”

Vincent said the announcement was huge for many reasons including giving Australia the opportunity to not only be a renewable energy innovation powerhouse, but also a renewable energy manufacturing powerhouse.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said they are confident they will be able to manufacture the solar panels in Australia economically, despite the 99 per cent of solar panels right now being manufactured cost effectively in Asia.

ATCF 15 Liddell Solar 3

“These are the most efficient solar panels in the world, they are good products that will last for longer,” said the Prime Minister.

“We have the highest per capita use of solar panels on roofs of any country in the world but of all of those about 1 per cent are made in Australia.”

The Prime Minister also stressed the importance of the coal mining community in the transition and said it was their hope that more people would be working on the old Liddell site than the number that were employed there while it was in operation.

“Coal mines and other resource industries have been very important for this region and the national economy, and they continue to play a role, but we need to acknowledge that in today’s changing world as it transitions towards net zero the nature of our economies will change as well. 

“With programs like what we’ve announced here, we are making sure that communities don’t get left behind. We need to make sure the transition happens in the interest of regions.

“You can’t stop change, but what you can do is shape it.”

Vincent agreed, he said we are in a unique position for several reasons including Australia being in the top three global reserves of every major mineral needed to make a solar panel.

“Also, if you look at the world through a net zero lens, a lot of the heavy industry and the manufacturing of solar panels need to shift away from countries where fossil fuel electricity is cheap such as in Asia, to countries where clean electricity is cheap and, in that world, Australia wins hands down.

“Then there’s transportation. If you’re in Australia and you buy a solar panel about 15 per cent to the cost is just getting it to Australia.”

It is hoped the SunDrive team will be working from the Liddell site before the end of the year and be producing solar panels by 2026.

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