The SMH has an article on a recent NASA survey of the world's best solar energy locations - "Red-hot Australia just the spot for solar energy projects"
AUSTRALIA gleams a bright red in a map that paints a vibrant picture of how solar energy reaches different parts of the world. America's space agency, NASA, has pinpointed the world's sunniest spots by studying maps compiled by US and European satellites.
Red shows the regions that receive the most sun, such as the middle of the Pacific Ocean and the Sahara Desert in Niger, followed by orange, yellow, green, blue, purple and pink.
One sun-baked desert landmark in south-east Niger got a searing average of 6.78 kilowatt hours of solar energy per square metre per day from 1983-2005, roughly the amount of electricity used by a typical US home in a day to heat water.
The maps have already been used to help businesses site solar panels in Morocco, or send text messages to tell sunbathers in Italy to put on more sunscreen. The maps could also help guide billions of dollars in solar investments for a world worried by climate change.
University of NSW renewable energy expert Dr Mark Diesendorf said maps such as this not only helped companies interested in building solar power stations but illustrated the energy possibilities of the sun. "Australia has got lots of solar energy potential, and it's not doing enough to tap into that."
Dr Wes Stein, manager of the CSIRO's National Solar Energy Centre, said a 2001 study showed Australia had the highest average solar radiation of any continent. "We are a very good country to do solar energy projects."
The CSIRO hopes to start its own project, incorporating satellite data, to model in detail the spread of solar radiation across the country. "That would give us a very good idea of solar power available in Australia," Dr Stein said.
The Guardian also has a variation on the story - "World's sunniest spots hint at energy bonanza".
Southern California is sunny, the French Riviera is sunny, but NASA says the middle of the Pacific Ocean and the Sahara Desert in Niger are the sunniest -- and the information could be worth money.
America's space exploration agency has located the world's sunniest spots by studying maps compiled by U.S. and European satellites.
The maps can also gauge solar energy at every other spot on the planet, and have already been used to help businesses to site solar panels in Morocco, for instance, or send text messages to tell sunbathers in Italy to put on more cream.
"We are trying to link up observations of the earth to benefit society," said Jose Achache, head of the 72-nation Group on Earth Observations (GEO) which seeks practical spinoffs from scientific data, ranging from deep-ocean probes to satellites.
GEO member states will hold ministerial talks on Nov. 30 in Cape Town to review a 10-year project launched in 2005 which aims to join up the dots between research in areas such as climate change, health, agriculture and energy.
From satellite data collected over 22 years, NASA says the sun blazes down most fiercely on a patch of the Pacific Ocean on the equator south of Hawaii and east of Kiribati.
More practically for solar generation, on land the Sahara Desert region soaks up most energy with the very sunniest spot in southeast Niger, where one sun-baked landmark amid sand dunes is a ruined fort at Agadem.
"For some reason there are fewer clouds just there than elsewhere," in the Sahara, Paul Stackhouse, a senior scientist at NASA's Langley Research Center, told Reuters.
The area got a searing average of 6.78 kilowatt hours of solar energy per square metre per day from 1983-2005 -- roughly the amount of electricity used by a typical U.S. home in a day to heat water. The patch in the Pacific got 6.92 kilowatt hours.
The maps could help guide billions of dollars in solar investments for a world worried by climate change, widely blamed on burning fossil fuels that could mean more floods, droughts, heatwaves and rising seas.
Satellite pictures could also help site offshore wind farms -- wind speeds can be inferred from wave heights and direction. Farmers might also be able to pick new crops, or estimate fertiliser demand, by knowing more about how much solar energy is reaching their land. ...
"In some parts of Africa it could be economically interesting to use solar power rather than connect to a grid because of the lack of infrastructure," said Thierry Ranchin of the Ecole des Mines de Paris in France which leads the solar project with NASA (http://www.soda-is.com/eng/index.html).
"If you want to bring electricity to a small village in Africa it's often easier to do it with a standalone system than a grid with power lines," he said.
* The Oil Drum (ANZ) - Food Miles in Australia
* The Oil Drum (ANZ) - The Bullroarer - Thursday 29th November 2007