Plans to open a National Solar Centre have been given a helping hand thanks to £1.1 million in funding from the European Regional Development Fund, and the Building Research Establishment (BRE).

The centre is being created in order to help drive the UK's solar industry towards the 22GW capacity target put forward by the government.

The National Solar Centre (NSC) is to be built in St Austell, Cornwall – one of the UK's leading solar regions. The South West was recently named as one of the places in the UK with the highest concentration of solar panels.

The centre is due to be formally announced at an event in London on January 16th, with a speech from Energy Minister Greg Barker.

In order to help the government reach its solar target, work under taken at the centre will include researching and channelling evidence-based information on design and installation techniques, performance, durability and costs to the industry, government and all other stakeholders.

Commenting on the project, Nick Tune, the BRE Director who is leading it, said of the funding from the European Regional Development Fund: "We will create a fantastic project that will act as a catalyst for green growth producing long term economic and environmental benefits not only for Cornwall and the South West."

The centre will collect data and evidence from a range of MCS and FiTs related photovoltaic (PV) installations from across the country. This new body of knowledge will be used to:

Optimise the long term performance of PV technologies
Create best quality assurance, design advice, product knowledge and technical standards
Provide a code of practice for construction and solar industries
Support Building Integrated PV market development
Create a hub of solar expertise that will enable the sector to perform to its highest potential
Job listings for the centre are already available and around ten people are to be employed initially.

The centre is due to open in April 2013.