25 January 2007
A group of scientists from the nations major research institute (CSIRO) have stated that Solar Thermal Energy could provide all of Australia's future electricity needs. The claim was made in a report prepared for the Cooperative Research Centre for Coal in Sustainable Development.
Although the report has not been made public, a summary of its findings appeared in an article in the "Canberra Times"
"It would only require about 50 kilometres by 50 kilometres in the centre of Australia somewhere to provide all of Australia's electricity needs in 2020" according to CSIRO scientist Wes Stein.
According to the report, Solar Thermal Energy "is poised to play a significant role in baseload generation for Australia" and will be cost-competitive with coal within seven years.
A similar scheme using solar energy from the Sahara desert has already been proposed to supply the energy needs of Europe and the Middle East by the Trans-Mediterranean Renewable Energy Corporation (TREC) The technologies that are needed for the realisation of this concept are already fully developed and have been in use for decades. Several studies by the German Aerospace Center have confirmed the viability of the concept.
So why has the CRC report not been made public? Why is the government looking to nuclear energy given that uranium is a finite resource and given the risks associated with its utilization? Why are Solar energy alternatives not being promoted and encouraged more strongly?
The lack of urgency in promoting renewable energy alternatives prompts the question as to whether the government is more interested in appeasing the vested economic interests associated with the coal and mining industries than in seriously addressing issues such as climate change and global warming?
It is possible to store solar heat in melted salts so that electricity generation may continue through the night or on cloudy days.
Waste heat from CSP electricity generation may be used for the desalination of sea water, a very useful by-product in arid regions.
Further information may be found at http://www.trec-uk.org.uk/index.htm .
It's a CSP project to desalinate seawater in South Australia