Renewable energy researchers receive Order of Australia honours

If the long weekend and fine weather itself wasn’t enough to cheer up solar energy enthusiasts this Australia Day, a quick look at the line-up of the 2014 Order of Australia awardees definitely would have!

Three eminent Australian scientists, Scientia Professor Deo Karan Prasad (University of New South Wales), Emeritus Professor Graham Morrison (University of New South Wales) and Dr David Mills, (University of Sydney) were honoured this Australia Day for their contributions to green technologies including solar energy.

Scientia Professor Deo Karan Prasad was awarded the prestigious Officer of the Order of Australia medal for his distinguished service in the field of sustainable urban design, and to the solar renewable energy sector.

Professor Prasad is an international authority on sustainable buildings and cities, and has served as a consultant to the United Nations in various capacities for over 10 years. He is among the leading advocates for sustainability in Australia and has worked on various milestone projects including Australia’s first solar village in Bonnyrigg, NSW.

He is currently the CEO of the Co-operative Research Centre (CRC) for Low Carbon Living at the University of New South Wales, which has been awarded $28 million of Australian Government funding to date to perform research on sustainable building design and urban planning, including the use of solar access mapping in cities.

The CRC program has previously produced world-leading research in a variety of critical areas including renewable energy and photonics. In fact, this is not the first time a CRC research director has been honoured by the Order of Australia – Emeritus Professor William Charters of the University of Melbourne was recognized as a Member of the Order of Australia in 2007 for his service to the research and development of renewable energy technology and to the CRC program itself.

Other renewable energy proponents to be recognised this year include Dr Graham Morrison, Emeritus Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of New South Wales, and Dr David Mills, formerly a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Sydney, who were both awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for their “services to science in the field of applied physics, particularly in the research and development of renewable energy and solar thermal technologies”.

Dr. Morrison and Dr. Mills are best known for co-developing the Compact Linear Fresnal Reflector technology, which is now being used in solar thermal energy plants across the world. The duo co-founded Solar Heat and Power Pty Ltd to commercialise their technology, which they successfully demonstrated in Australia’s first large-scale solar thermal plant in the Hunter Valley region of New South Wales. The company was renamed Ausra Inc. in 2007 after relocating to the US and was later acquired in 2010 by a French energy group to be re-invented as the present-day Areva Solar.

These eminent figures join the ranks of other Order of Australia recipients in previous years such as Dr. David Rand of CSIRO (Member of the Order of Australia 2013) and Emeritus Professor William Charters of the University of Melbourne (Member of the Order of Australia 2007), who have been recognised for their contributions to battery technology and solar energy technology respectively.

The recent attention given to renewable energy technologists by the Australian Government comes as experts worldwide increasingly recognise the importance of solar and other renewable energy technologies in meeting the world’s energy needs. According to Dr. Morrison, “There really is no choice. The energy supplies that we have currently got, coal and gas, we have only got for another 100 years – that is the timespan of our grandchildren”.

Dr. Mills agreed, underscoring the importance of solar and wind technologies by stating, “It is hard to find two other more apt energy sources than solar and wind at this moment…I think they will be the heavy-load bearers for the future”.

© 2014 Solar Choice Pty Ltd

Nitin Nampalli