Crisis For Solar Power

Let’s Not Screw This Up Kruddie!

Here’s an article that should be read, about the state of solar power in Australia.

Australian support for the solar industry is faltering just as the technology promises to deliver baseload power.

Recent breakthroughs in concentrating solar power technology allow heat energy to be stored almost indefinitely – in molten salts – and dispatched as needed.

The Andasol parabolic trough solar thermal plant near Guadiz in Spain, developed and operated by German company Solar Millenium (which has an Australasian joint venture with Leighton Contractors), generates 50MW of clean electricity with enough storage to run for 7.5 hours without sun and around the clock in summer.

Spanish company Torresol, in joint venture with giant Middle-Eastern clean energy investor MASDAR – which is sniffing for opportunities in Australia – is developing other solar thermal projects near Seville and Cediz.

And there’s plenty more coming with Bloomberg reporting 14000MW of solar thermal power stations are in the pipeline in Spain alone. That’s enough clean power to run NSW, according to Matthew Wright, of Melbourne-based advocacy group Beyond Zero Emissions.

In the United States, SolarReserve and a division of giant defence contractor United Technologies plan a series of solar thermal “power towers” in the Californian desert – generating between 50MW and 300MW each – again using molten salts to store energy and able to run 15 hours without sun.

The US Department of Energy predicts that by 2020 concentrating solar thermal power stations with storage will generate clean electricity at a cost of US3c to US6c per kilowatt hour. That’s comparable with the cost of existing (and heavily-subsidised) coal-fired power and way cheaper than if the unknown additional cost of carbon capture and storage (CCS) was factored in.

Even better solar technology is being developed here, at the Australian National University, using super-heated ammonia to store energy. A company called Wizard Power is joint venturing with ANU to commercialise the process.

John Grimes, chief executive of the Australian New Zealand Solar Energy Society, fears a bitter replay of earlier brain drains.

“Australian scientists and research and development are at the leading edge of the world,” he says. “What we lack is government support to commercialise and capitalise on that research.

“We will be the dumb consumers of the technology that we invented.”

Of course the Federal Government turns around and sends mixed signals. While it will fund solar power stations, it has effectively pulled the rug out from under the domestic Photo-Voltaics. It means that most households have minimal incentiveto move to solar power, and that the very manufacturers have deserted Australian markets.

The Federal government really needs to look at the Solar Energy Industry more seriously rather than pretend it’s some kind of unviable Science Fiction. The carbon capture schemes they’re putting a lot of money in is a lot more fanciful than what the Solar Energy Industry is offering.

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  1. Pingback: Crisis For Solar Power « The Art Neuro Weblog | Test RSS Feeds

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