A 14-member United Nations science team arrives in Perth today to begin an intensive investigation to decide whether the city becomes a major international centre for solar energy research.
Over the next three days they will be meeting leaders from State Government, local industry and academia, to discuss a multi-million dollar proposal to build the new centre at Murdoch University.
Deputy Premier Ian Taylor said the Federal and State Governments had agreed to contribute jointly $1 million annually for five years - if the UN decides to go ahead.
"A positive decision will not only be a tremendous boost to Western Australia's scientific and technological standing, it will ensure that our manufacturing industry stays at the forefront of solar energy," he said.
Mr Taylor said the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) had short-listed Perth as the headquarters for what it was calling the International Centre for Applications of Solar Energy (CASE).
The proposal was for CASE to identify ways of adapting and promoting the use of solar energy in developing countries.
"In particular, its job would be to promote its use in the Asian region," Mr Taylor said.
He said the decision to look at Australia as the site for the centre was recognition that the country was now a world leader in solar energy research and that Perth in particular had become the nation's base for the solar energy industry.
Mr Taylor said under the proposal, Perth's CASE would act as the base for up to three other centres to be constructed, probably in other parts of Asia.
"What we believe helps our chances for selection is that Australia had already achieved considerable success in supplying power to remote communities through solar energy," he said.
"Solar cells are presently being used to meet the electricity needs of thousands of Australian telecommunication installations, hundreds of isolated homes and water pumping systems, and the general needs of dozens of small communities.
"In fact, researchers at Murdoch University have been responsible for developing transportable photo-voltaic power supplies for 50 remote and semi-nomadic Aboriginal communities."
Mr Taylor said this achievement alone had given WA the type of expertise that was essential in designing appropriate systems for developing countries.
Mr Taylor said UNIDO realised solar technology had the potential to solve the energy needs of many village communities in such countries but as yet little had been done to tackle the problem.
"It will not only be the centre's role to help solve such problems but to train overseas technicians, test products and develop international standards," he said.
"If Perth is selected there will be considerable opportunities for the local solar energy industry to contribute - and through such involvement, open up substantial new export markets," Mr Taylor said.