Suntech Power Holdings Co., Ltd., the world's largest producer of solar panels, supplied 384kW of Pluto-powered solar panels for a rooftop solar array on The Wharf, home of the Sydney Theatre Company (STC). The solar installation's completion was commemorated at a switch-on event hosted by STC Artistic Directors Cate Blanchett and Andrew Upton.
The project was made possible by an A$2 million donation from Shi's Family Foundation, representing Dr. Zhengrong Shi and his wife Vivienne Shi. Installed and integrated by DCM Solar, the 1,906 advanced Suntech solar panels comprise one of the largest capacity rooftop solar arrays in Sydney and Australia.
Andrew Upton and Cate Blanchett said: "Theatre has always been a place to stimulate visionary conversations and practical action. That this immense solar array is operating here at Sydney Theatre Company, we hope it will inspire others, including the hundreds of thousands of people who pass through the Company each year, to take their own steps in tackling the challenges of climate change. We would like to thank Dr. Zhengrong Shi for his extraordinary commitment to the project which gives back so much to the country and city where he trained."
As a hallmark of STC's comprehensive Greening The Wharf initiative, the 384kW solar array, coupled with energy efficiency improvements, will provide for roughly 70% of the theatre company's electricity consumption. In addition, The Wharf will feature a streamlined waste recycling system and an innovative rainwater harvesting system to meet 100% of the facility's non-potable water requirements. Altogether, the initiative will significantly reduce the amount of energy and water that STC draws from the city's supply and decrease the amount of waste that is sent to landfill from The Wharf.
"Twenty years ago, while performing solar research at the University of New South Wales, few people believed that solar technology could ever power a building such as The Wharf," said Dr. Zhengrong Shi, Suntech's Founder, Chairman, and CEO. "Suntech's work in commercializing advanced solar technology is making solar economically-viable for millions of people in Australia and around the world. This project demonstrates that anyone can look up and harness nature's original source of energy and life."
The Pluto solar cell technology utilized for STC's solar installation was developed by Suntech through its long-term research partnership with UNSW. Inspired by the university's world-record holding PERL solar cells, Pluto technology increases conversion efficiencies by up to 12% in commercialized solar cells. Suntech's Pluto-powered monocrystalline cells have achieved over 19% conversion efficiency in commercial production, and the advanced cell technology was utilized to set two new world records for multicrystalline module conversion efficiency.
Suntech invests several million dollars each year in collaborations with leading Australian solar research institutions, including UNSW and Swinburne University of Technology, as well as through its Sydney subsidiary CSG Solar. The company's 380 R&D professionals work across China, Japan, Germany, the United States, and Australia, to drive down the lifetime price of solar electricity generation for consumers.
In 2009, despite the financial crisis, Suntech nearly doubled its global R&D investments from US$15 million to US$29 million. Continuing that focus, Suntech has launched several new solar R&D projects in 2010 with leading industry and academic partners around the world.