In a post not so long ago, the blog pondered whether there was re-awakening of the Australian solar power industry. Back in the 1970s, Australia was one of the countries leading solar development, but solar energy failed to “pan out” as a cheap enough source of energy for wide scale adoption.
With the threat of significant consequences from climate changes and the recognition of the role that fossil fuels play, Australia would seem to have heard the wake-up call. Those conditions were the same in September when it was questionable whether there would be renewed growth in the Australian solar power industry. What has changed, attests the Big Gav, is the political climate.
Not that long ago, because of the same dithering at the most recent meeting of APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation) as during previous occasions, I could joke sadly about writing off a continent. While at the same time the Vienna group was calling for emission reductions by industrialized countries in the range of 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020 to avoid the most catastrophic IPCC forecasts, APEC still projected emissions to be 17% higher (at 24.4 Gt CO2-eq) than 2004 levels in 2050.
It was a dismal picture as Australia and the United States continued to refuse to ratify the Kyoto accord. In the U.S., there is a glimmer of hope as state governments begin to stand up against Big Coal and the federal government. (Australia reportedly has the dirtiest coal-powered electric power generation; the U.S. is second dirtiest, but far and away produces more emissions. The U.S. and China produce the greatest amount of emissions from coal-powered electric power generation.) But, in the U.S. nuclear still is held out as an alternative, whereas Australia may be able to turn to development of its renewable energy sources.
Red shows the regions that receive the most sun, such as the middle of the Pacific Ocean and the Sahara Desert in Niger, followed by orange, yellow, green, blue, purple and pink. Australia gleams a bright red on the NASA map based upon data collected by US and European satellites.
In an interview with Alister Doyle and Chee Chee Leung for the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH), Dr Mark Diesendorf, a renewable energy expert at University of NSW (New South Wales) said, “Australia has got lots of solar energy potential, and it’s not doing enough to tap into that.”
He also noted that maps of regions that receive the most sunlight are helpful because they illustrate possibilities. Not all of the possibilities are in Australia. This blog relayed information about possible development of solar thermal electric power plants throughout MENA (Middle East/ North Africa). The SMH article told about:
One sun-baked desert landmark in south-east Niger got a searing average of 6.78 kilowatt hours of solar energy per square metre per day from 1983-2005, roughly the amount of electricity used by a typical US home in a day to heat water.
The maps have already been used to help businesses site solar panels in Morocco, or send text messages to tell sunbathers in Italy to put on more sunscreen. The maps could also help guide billions of dollars in solar investments for a world worried by climate change.
Arid, semi-desert areas of the world, where there has been the most development of utility grade thermal solar electric power, include Spain, Israel and the Southwestern United States. The Trans-Mediterranean Renewable Energy Cooperation proposes that concentrating solar thermal power stations in the Middle East and North Africa could export electricity to Europe
When this blog previously reflected upon the Masdar Initiative, Australia was seen as a promising area. With the exception of one very impressive project, Australia so far has lagged behind in development of electric power from either solar thermal or geothermal.
Australian geothermal resources, such as those beneath the Great Artesian Basin, have scarcely been tapped, but there is a growing awareness of their potential value. There are some scientists that see geothermal surpassing most other renewable energy options.
In Australia, the main types of geothermal energy are to be found in hot dry rocks (HDR) and hydrothermal reservoirs (hot groundwater that has been heated by hot rocks). Currently, these are being used for heating applications and tested for electricity generation in various States.
The blog relayed some of the interest in hot rocks expressed by at least one Australian, the Big Gav, noting that Hot Dry Rock (HDR) / Hot Fractured Rock (HFR) power is still at the experimental stage. BG reported that the Geodynamics project was the most advanced in terms of commercial development.