9 February 2007
Now that world leaders have (reluctantly in many cases) been forced to acknowledge the reality of the problem the first step towards finding a solution has been achieved, but the more difficult step on agreeing on what needs to be done has yet to be addressed.
A TV advertisement was launched on three continents this week (but not Australia) urging world leaders to ‘wake up ‘ to the impending disaster that threatens.
The advertisement can be viewed and an online petition signed at the AVAAZ website.
In the meantime the two major political parties in Australia sought to respond to public concerns on this issue. The Government announced a National Water Plan whereby it intended to take over the States’ powers in regard to water management in order to better co-ordinate the conservation of this precious resource, and the Opposition announced it would be convening a National Summit on Climate Change to forge a national consensus on how to respond to the crisis we face.
In other developments the Deputy Mayor of Sydney and Australian Greens’ candidate in the forthcoming local elections, Chris Harris, claimed that climate change could be significantly addressed by making Sydney a solar powered city by 2010. He pointed out that the technology is already in operation as 6.6 MW (soon to be 38 MW) of electricity at the Liddell Power station in NSW is currently generated using Solar Thermal power.
Nevertheless despite the obvious advantages of switching to solar power in Australia, the immediate prospects of that happening look bleak given the government’s preference for existing coal and nuclear options according to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald
You can find email addresses of your Parliamentary representatives to express your concerns on this issue at the website of the Parliament of Australia
I refer to 'concentrating solar power' (CSP), the technique of concentrating sunlight using mirrors to create heat, and then using the heat to raise steam and drive turbines and generators, just like a conventional power station. It is possible to store solar heat in melted salts so that electricity generation may continue through the night or on cloudy days. This technology has been generating electricity successfully in California since 1985 and half a million Californians currently get their electricity from this source. CSP plants are now being planned or built in many parts of the world.
CSP works best in hot deserts and, of course, these are not always nearby! But with transmission losses at only about 3% per 1000 km, it is entirely feasible and economic to transmit solar electricity throughout Australia from the Australian desert using highly-efficient 'HVDC' transmission lines. A small portion of the Australian desert would be sufficient to meet all of the country's needs for electricity.
Waste heat from electricity generation in a CSP plant can be used to create fresh water by desalination of sea water: a very useful by-product in arid regions.
In the 'TRANS-CSP' report commissioned by the German government, it is estimated that CSP electricity, imported from North Africa and the Middle East, could become one of the cheapest sources of electricity in Europe, including the cost of transmission. A large-scale HVDC transmission grid has also been proposed by Airtricity as a means of optimising the use of wind power throughout Europe.
Further information about CSP may be found at www.trec-uk.org.uk and www.trecers.net . Copies of the TRANS-CSP report may be downloaded from www.trec-uk.org.uk/reports.htm . The many problems associated with nuclear power are summarised at www.mng.org.uk/green_house/no_nukes.htm .