ST AUSTELL'S aspirations to become the country's green capital are a step closer now it has been announced the UK's National Solar Centre will open in the town this April.
Councillors have said the bold plans for the Eco-Communities Environmental Centre of Excellence (EcoE) would boost the number of skilled jobs in the area, councillors said.
It will be built at the West Carclaze Eco-Communities' site, next to the new link road for the A391 and the Sky Tip.
European funding has now been secured by BRE – formerly the Building Research Establishment – to set up a National Solar Centre at the site to collect data on, and promote, the use of photovoltaic (PV) panels.
BRE, owned by the BRE Trust, is the largest UK charity dedicated specifically to research and education in the built environment.
The solar centre's aims include optimising the long-term performance of PV technologies; creating best quality assurance, design advice, product knowledge and technical standards; developing training and educational programmes for designers and installers; and creating a hub of solar expertise that will enable the sector to perform to its highest potential.
Stephen Rushworth, Cornwall Council Portfolio Holder for Economy and Regeneration, said the centre will be a "great asset for St Austell" and the county.
"The location has the potential to become an extensive national hub for solar innovation as there is an opportunity to cluster solar companies at the site where the BRE National Solar Centre is based," he added.
"It serves to underline the growing momentum behind the UK's solar industry and highlights Cornwall's lead role."
Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Barker said: "The new Cornwall-based National Solar Centre will help drive down costs, improve efficiency, catalyse growth, spur innovation and develop expertise on the ground."
"We have seen dramatic reductions in costs of the technology over the past year and that's why we have made changes to our incentives under Feed-in-Tariffs and the Renewables Obligation, to help put this industry on a more sustainable footing and ensure solar continues to thrive in the future."
The St Austell location for the centre was chosen because the majority of the UK's solar PV installations are focussed in South West of England, with a total of 55,577 installations in the region.
Cornwall itself offers the most sunshine hours of any county in the UK combined with an infrastructure and business environment specifically designed to help push the industry forward.