Australia construirá la mayor central solar del mundo

El primer ministro australiano, Kevin Rudd, ha anunciado planes para la construcción de la mayor central de energía solar del mundo. Suminsitrará tres veces más energía que la central de California, en Estados Unidos, hasta ahora la mayor del mundo.

Rudd considera los rayos del sol como la mayor fuente natural de Australia. El anuncio coincide, aproximadamente, con una gran protesta contra la política medioambiental de Australia, manifestada en la playa de Santa Kilda, en Melburne.

Australia, con sus numerosas centrales de carbón, es uno de los países más contaminantes. En relación con la crisis económica, el primer ministro decidió, recientemente, posponer varias medidas medioambientales.

Australia también ha iniciado la electrificación del transporte por carretera, y quiere que toda la electricidad para los vehículos eléctricos proceda de energías renovables.

Los detalles específicos del proyecto serán anunciados a finales de este año y los nombres de los ganadores de las licitaciones serán dados a conocer en la primera mitad de 2010.

Rudd indicó que el proyecto buscaba aprovechar el soleado clima australiano, al que calificó como el "mayor recurso natural" del país.

También intentará ayudar a la nación en convertirse en líder de energías renovables y limpias, aseveró.

"El Gobierno planea invertir con una industria en la mayor planta de generación de energía solar del mundo, tres veces el tamaño de la más grande en la actualidad, que se encuentra en California", dijo el primer ministro.

"¿Por qué estamos haciendo esto? Para apoyar un futuro de energía limpia para Australia, lo hacemos para impulsar nuestra economía y porque es una oportunidad para generar empleos", señaló.

El proyecto debería llevar eventualmente a una red de estaciones de energía solar en todo el país, afirmó Rudd, agregando que las ubicaciones serán elegidas para adecuarse a la existente red de suministro eléctrico y asegurar un buen acceso a climas despejados, con abundante luz solar.


Australia to build solar-power station

In an effort to ensure a sustainable energy future for Australia, the country aims to build the world’s largest solar-power station.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced plans to build the world’s largest solar-power station with three times the generating capacity of the current biggest solar-powered electricity plant in California.

"Why are we doing this? We are doing it in order to support a clean energy future for Australia, we’re doing it to boost economic activity now and we’re doing it also to provide jobs and much needed opportunities for business as well," Rudd said.

By fitting in with the existing electricity grid, the project will eventually lead to a network of solar-powered stations across the country.

It is estimated that the power station will have an output of 1000 megawatts.

As part of the Australian government’s clean energy initiative, 1.05 billion dollars has been allocated to the project. 

New dawn for solar sector

IT’S been a big week for the solar energy industry, both in Australia and overseas.

While the federal Government stunned the local solar industry with the $1.5 billion solar flagships program and the construction of four utility-scaled solar installations totalling 1000MW by 2015, the world’s largest solar energy order was being unveiled in the US.

The flagship program is, in effect, a tenfold increase in the Government’s funding commitment to solar.

It will allow more solar technologies to be tested, offer the opportunity to create scale and therefore reduce costs, and bring in investor interest in an otherwise bleak financing environment.

Solar industry players were surprised, but pleased, by the announcement. "It’s a great initiative," says Jack Curtis, the Australian who is head of strategic market operations for US-based thin film solar specialist First Solar. "The best way to build the industry is to build out a technology on a large scale."

Michelle McCann, the CEO of Canberra-based Spark Energy, which is raising $60 million to establish a solar cell manufacturing facility in Australia, says this and other programs will encourage overseas institutional and wealthy individuals to fill the venture capital gap that has constrained solar start-ups in the past.

"Australia has a window of only a few years in which we can build a PV (photovoltaic) manufacturing industry, delivering jobs, export income and clean energy," she says.

Just how the solar flagships program in Australia plays out will be interesting. Both First Solar and expatriate Australian company Ausra have filed numerous applications under the smaller-scale Renewal Energy Demonstration Project (REDP) scheme with generators and developers and investors. They, along with others, will have to revise those applications to conform to the larger-scale flagships program, which envisages four installations of around 250MW — two under the category of solar thermal, and two of solar PV — plus energy storage.

The Government is also looking for a single project manager to operate the four power stations as an integrated enterprise. It is likely that AGL, Origin and TRUEnergy, among others, will put their hands up for that crucial role.

While Australia was unveiling this initiative, BP CEO Andy Hayward was causing a ruckus at an energy conference in California when he claimed it would take a fundamental breakthrough in technology to help solar achieve grid parity with fossil fuels.

This is a hotly debated topic in the solar industry, with many saying parity could be achieved in 5-7 years in the US and Australia. Ausra insists solar thermal is already on a par with US gas-fired generation.

Hayward concedes the second half of the 21st century will belong to solar. His problem now is an oversupply of solar products that has hit his solar manufacturing operations, causing the closure of facilities in Australia and Spain and a retreat to low-cost facilities in China.

Other solar companies offering cheaper and more efficient technology are doing just fine. The start-up solar company BrightSource Energy, in which BP has a stake, has secured the world’s largest solar energy order, a 1310MW commission from Californian energy giant PG&E. That just beats a 1300MW order BrightSource secured from Southern California Edison in February and means it has more than 2600MW of orders — 40 per cent of the US market — worth some $10 billion.

Funds freed up

THE geothermal and ocean energy industries might crave flagship programs of their own, but at least the special-purpose solar fund frees up more money for geothermal and ocean under the REDP. About $135 million will be transferred to Solar Flagships, leaving $300 million for other technologies ready to move to the commercial stage. The Government has this week begun weeding out ineligible applications for the REDP, with Geodynamics and Petratherm, alongside at least a dozen or so others, making it through to the next stage, while early-stage technologies such as Origin Energy’s Sliver solar development will have to await another funding round.

However, the news elsewhere for Geodynamics was not so good, with its stock slumping by up to 15 per cent after it said the rollout of its hot fractured rock technology could be delayed by six to nine months by the dramatic incident at its Habanero 3 well last month. Truth is, however, that until the company has regained control of the well — which is still spurting steam and hot water — it will not know the cause or be certain about the potential delay. The company had hoped to begin production this month at its 1MW geothermal pilot plant at Innamincka in the north of South Australia. CEO Gerry Grove-White says the delay will have a ricochet effect on this and future plans.

Riding the wave

CARNEGIE Corp concluded a major transaction last week, buying back the global intellectual property (IP) and development rights of its CETO wave energy technology, allowing it to be a full participant in projects planned for the key European markets.

The sale and buyback of the CETO IP in many ways acts as a proxy for the development of renewable energy policy in this country.

CETO was conceived by oil and gas man Alan Burns in the 1970s after a wave washed him under a ledge while he was diving off Rottnest Island near Perth. But a lack of government support, and therefore investor interest, forced Burns in 2006 to list a new entity called Renewable Energy Holdings on the London-based AIM market, which held the IP rights. AIM’s lack of liquidity makes it a difficult platform on which to raise funds, so Carnegie has seized this opportunity to buy back the rights in exchange for a 35 per cent stake.

Carnegie hopes it will get government funding support to build a 50MW demonstration plant in Australia in the next few years, but the main game will be the European market. Scotland, which is fast running out of available wind farm locations, has no access to geothermal and little opportunity for solar, is offering huge subsidies for ocean power, which can gain feed-in tariffs worth five times that of wind, or around $650 per megawatt hour.

Ireland, England, Spain and Portugal also offer solid subsidies. "It’s an incredibly attractive market, and where the action is," says Carnegie CEO Michael Ottaviano. Carnegie’s joint venture partner in developing European projects is energy giant Electricite de France.

Carbon dating

WHILE the emerging national carbon market was temporarily extinguished by uncertainty over the Government’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, there is still life in the world’s oldest carbon market, the NSW Greenhouse Gas Abatement Scheme.

Prices for NGACs have jumped by around one-third from a low of $3.20 per tonne of CO2 equivalent a fortnight ago to close at $4.35 on Friday. The price rise is good news for landfill operators generating credits from burning methane and some electricity retailers.

Solar power in Australia

In Australia, up to 2% of energy is sourced from solar power, despite the hot, dry, and sunny climate that would make it ideal for utilisation. This unreached grid parity is mainly due to the higher cost per kW than other power sources because of the cost of solar panels. Feed-in tariffs and mandatory renewable energy targets are designed to assist renewable energy commercialisation in Australia.

A 154 MW photovoltaic (PV) solar power station in Victoria is planned and is expected to cost $420 million. It is expected to be the biggest and most efficient solar photovoltaic power station in the world. The power station is expected to concentrate the sun by 500 times onto the solar cells for ultra high power output. The Victorian power station will generate electricity directly from the sun to meet the annual needs of over 45,000 homes with on-going zero greenhouse gas emissions.

85% of electricity in Australia is generated by coal fired power power stations. They produce 42% of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions. The IPCC has recommended that developed nations such as Australia cut greenhouse gas emissions by 25 to 40% by 2020 and 80 to 95% by 2050. The Garnaut Climate Change Review found that Australia is highly vulnerable to global warming caused by climate change because of the effects of global warming on Australia. The Great Barrier Reef, Kakadu and Murray Darling Basin are all threatened by climate change. Sea level rise threatens much of the highly populated Australian coast line, including the Gold Coast. The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme and Mandatory Renewable Energy Target are intended to reduce Australia’s emissions and the further development of techniques to harness solar thermal energy are critical to that effort.

Of all the continents, Australia has the highest average amount of solar radiation per square metre per annum. The amount is from 1500 to 1900 kWh/m2/yr, mainly depending on location. Australia’s total current primary energy consumption of approximately 5500 PJ/a could be met by an area of 4000 km2 of solar collectors with an average of 20% conversion efficiency. If this were built as a power station with land coverage of 20% it would be 138 × 138 km. The collector area needed is approximately the same as the area of domestic house roofs available nationally.

Liddell Power Station, New South Wales has a concentrating solar thermal adjunct to the coal fired power station. It was designed by Solar Heat & Power Pty Ltd, now part of AUSRA.

Cloncurry, Queensland is to be the site of a 10 MW power station using 8,000 mirrors to reflect sunlight onto graphite blocks. Water pumped through the blocks will be turned into steam to power a conventional steam turbine connected to a generator. The estimated cost is AUD30M of which the Queensland government has committed AUD7M.

Australia Charged Up 

The peak body representing manufacturers and importers of new vehicles, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), has taken steps to prepare for the introduction of plug-in electric and electric-hybrid vehicles into the Australian market.

The FCAI has established an Electric Vehicle Working Group, to address a range of issues.

“Many manufacturers have announced plans to release electric vehicles in the next few years and we must ensure that Australia is ready for this technology, the Electric Vehicle Working Group will identify the types of vehicles expected to be introduced, anticipated infrastructure needs as well as issues involving technical and registration requirements” FCAI Chief Executive Andrew McKellar said.

Electric vehicles represent real progress and the automotive industry is working to ensure that Australia is positioned at the forefront of this emerging technology,” Mr McKellar said.