Solar is a real option: CSIRO Report says sun will soon match coal
Just as Australia’s mainstream media acts on the Prime Minister’s declaration that we need a debate on nuclear power, reports on OTHER power sources are coming to light. Will they see get the same coverage I wonder?
1. A confidential coal research report obtained by The Canberra Times says solar thermal technology is capable of producing Australia’s entire electricity demand AND is the only renewable energy capable of making deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.
2. The Cooperative Research Centre (CCR)for Coal in Sustainable Development, says “Solar radiation is the largest renewable resource on earth and, if harnessed by existing technology, approximately 1.5 per cent of the world’s desert area could generate the world’s entire electricity demand…..a 35sqkm area with high levels of sunlight and low cloud cover “could produce Australia’s entire current power demand” using solar thermal technology.
Solar thermal was also “as cheap or cheaper than the cheapest wind-power technology”.
CSIRO renewable energy manager Wes Stein, who advised on aspects of this report, says Australia has the potential to be a world leader in solar thermal technology.
“The technology that has been developed over the last 10 years has a lot less risks for investors, both financial and technical. The potential is massive,” he says.
Solar thermal technology “is poised to play a significant role in baseload generation for Australia” and will be cost-competitive with coal within seven years.
About solar thermal technology
Solar thermal technology involves concentrating sunlight to produce heat to generate electricity, or to increase the chemical energy of natural gas.Technologies being developed and tested in Australia include:
CSIRO’s Energy Transformed national flagship has designed and built a world-first solar thermal tower at its headquarters in Newcastle which uses rows of 200 electronically positioned mirrors to track the sun as it moves across the sky. The tower captures and stores the sun’s energy as “bottled sunshine” or solar natural gas.
About the CCR report
The draft report, written by five CSIRO Energy Technology division scientists, was submitted to the CRC in August last year but has not been published. CSIRO is one of 19 research and funding partners within the CRC – other participants include BHP Billiton, Wesfarmers Coal, Xstrata Coal and Rio Tinto.
It says solar thermal-generated power is capable of meeting the requirements of two major electric power markets – “large-scale dispatchable markets comprised of grid-connected peaking and base-load power and rapidly expanding distributed markets including both on-grid and remote off-grid applications”.
Dr Keith Lovegrove, the deputy director of sustainable energy systems, at the Australian National University (ANU) says solar thermal technology has the potential to replace Australia’s ageing coal-fired power stations with solar-powered steam turbines.
“It would simply be a matter of changing over running the turbines off steam provided by coal to solar-produced steam, but the only problem is that most of Australia’s coal-fired power stations aren’t located in sunny areas,” Dr Lovegrove says.
The ANU has designed and built a 400sqm solar concentrator dish system – the world’s largest – for use in large arrays for multi-megawatt scale electric power generation.