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Analysis

State of Mexican Research on Solar Technology

Wed, 02/19/2014 - 15:04

Thanks to resources from SENER, an investment of MX$452.9 million (US$33.7 million) will be made to create a new virtual organism called the Mexican Center for Innovation in Solar Energy, which will gather 67 research institutes and 21 foreign and Mexican companies. The Renewable Energies Institute (IER), part of UNAM and established in Morelos, will be the coordinating entity of this new organism. This initiative was strongly supported by the National Solar Energy Association (ANES), in order to foster the transition to renewable energies. “We have to stop focusing all our attention on finding oil and start looking up. Mexico has major wind and solar potential and these resources could contribute to building a more equal and sustainable country,” says Álvaro Lentz Herrera, President of ANES. This new research center will be directed by Jesús Antonio del Río Portilla, Director of the IER at UNAM and President of the Science Academy of Morelos. Del Río Portilla stated that SENER and CONACYT promoted the coordination of the project by bringing the right research institutions to the table. The Mexican Center for Innovation in Solar Energy will begin coordinating around 50 projects with leading scientists from different institutions, while initiatives from companies that wish to commercialize products in the short-term will also be considered. Initial projects will include the optimization of the use of thermal solar energy and PV systems, the development of new materials, methodologies to optimize the use of UV radiation to clean water, solar towers for concentrated thermal power and solar power generation engines. Besides spurring national technological development, the Center will also seek to build up Mexico’s human capital to ensure a constant flow of trained professionals for the solar energy industry. R&D activities for solar technology often take place in the countries of origin of large multinational companies. As such, another aim for the development of the Mexican Center for Innovation in Solar Energy is for it to become an important hub of knowledge, incentivizing companies to establish more R&D facilities in Mexico and creating the foundations for the development of a local supply chain. The potential combination of Mexico’s natural logistical and manufacturing advantages combined with R&D activities would increase the attractiveness of the country for the solar industry. The creation of the Mexican Center for Innovation in Solar Energy, among other initiatives, demonstrates the government’s desire to start developing Mexican solar technology and support the creation of a green manufacturing industry. However, the development of such technology will require skilled labor, creating a high-tech, manufacturing industry. The combined efforts of different participants in the solar industry will be needed to make this a reality.