Can Australia Be A Green Superpower ?  

Posted by Big Gav in , , ,

News Ltd (somewhat surprisingly, given their customary love for all things coal and uranium related) have an article advocating Australia switch to clean energy sources - How we can be a green super power.

"I challenge our nation to commit to producing 100% of its electricity from clean energy within 10 years" - Al Gore

Al Gore says the United States should embark on a "man on the moon"-style effort to satisfy all of America's electricity needs by renewable energy within a decade. Just 10 years. That’s an incredibly bold vision - a real stretch goal. But it is also what’s needed to avert a climate crisis.

So why not do the same in Australia? Here, it could become a "nation-building" symbol of pride, akin to the 19th Century construction of the Overland Telegraph Line or the post-WW II Snowy Hydro Scheme.

Eighty per cent of Australians support carbon trading. A carbon price will open up huge new 21st Century markets, as price signals lead to a retooling of our energy economy away from dirty power sources like coal.

Australia has more than enough wind, geothermal and solar energy to make it happen. The question is not the availability of resources. It is national will, adequate leadership and sufficient commitment.

Al Gore says his plan is "achievable, affordable and transformative." It is, both in the US and in Australia.

Fossil fuels like coal and oil are rising in price due to scarcity and supply bottlenecks, coupled to spiralling demand. Meanwhile, the costs of renewables are falling due to innovation, research and development, and rapidly-increasing economies of scale. Just like computers and mobile phones, the more you invest in these technologies and the more widespread their use, the cheaper they become.

Also, unlike fossil fuels, there will never be scarcity in renewables - ever. "Peak sun" and "peak geothermal" remain billions of years away. "Peak oil" and "peak coal" are right around the corner. ...

Renewable energy economics is radically transformative. Civilisation has never experienced a long-term epoch of declining energy costs such as it will see in renewable energy. Scarcity could become irrelevant. Renewable energy is an infinite resource that's falling in price due to rapid technological research and development.

"Moore's Law” has been successful since the early 1970s in predicting that computer prices will halve, and processing power double, every 18 months. This literally transformed modern society.

Falling energy prices due to the uptake of huge amounts of "flat price" (free once built) renewable energy could be even more positive. We only need to choose to follow this obvious path.

The time is right. We have a huge windfall of export receipts to invest in decarbonising our economy. Carbon trading will provide tens of billions of dollars more per year to invest in upgrading to cleaner energy sources.

If coupled with proper economic reform that progressively eliminates $10 billion of annual domestic fossil fuel subsidies in Australia , we could lay the groundwork for a "long boom" akin to the early years of the 20th century when our nation got rich on agricultural commodities

If we want to become an energy superpower we'll need to keep companies like Ausra at home instead of forcing them to move offshore. The Australian reports the company has raised more funding - $76m lights up solar tech maker. Co-founder John O'Donnell has moved on now the company is established, hopefully to start another cleantech venture.
THE Australian-founded solar energy technology company Ausra has scored a $US60.6 million ($76 million) funding package from venture capitalists -- including the local fund Starfish Ventures -- to help it crank up the production of its Fresnel lens-based power generators.

The Ausra investment is the first renewable energy investment for Starfish Ventures.
Ausra develops solar power plants using relatively inexpensive Fresnel lens technology that can stand alone or be grafted on to dirty coal-fired plants to reduce their carbon footprint.

Fresnel lenses are less efficient, but much cheaper, than conventional lenses and have traditionally been used in lighthouses. The powerplants work by focusing sunlight on water and generating steam that drives an electricity-producing turbine.

The Ausra investment is the first renewable energy investment for Starfish Ventures.

Ausra investment director Aaron Fyke said Ausra's long-term goal was to build solar plants at near the costs of coal-fired plants. Ausra is close to completing a 5-megawatt solar thermal plant near Bakersfield, California, and proposes to build a 177MW plant for Pacific Gas & Electric in California.

Fortune's Green Wombat reports that Chinese solar company Suntech is moving into the US market as well - China’s solar giant makes U.S. move.
In another sign that the financial crisis is not slowing the solar industry, Suntech, the giant Chinese solar module maker, made a big move into the United States market on Thursday. The company announced a joint venure with green energy financier MMA Renewable Ventures to build solar power plants and said it would acquire California-based solar installer EI Solutions.

Founded in 2001, Suntech (STP) recently overtook its Japanese and German rivals to become the world’s largest solar cell producer. The company has focused on the lucrative European market and only opened a U.S. outpost, in San Francisco, last year. The joint venture with MMA Renewable Ventures (MMA) - called Gemini Solar - will build photovoltaic power plants bigger than 10 megawatts.

Most solar panels are produced for commercial and residential rooftops, but in recent months utilities have been signing deals for massive megawatt photovoltaic power plants. Silicon Valley’s SunPower (SPWRA) is building a 250-megawatt PV power station for PG&E (PCG) while Bay Area startup OptiSolar inked a contract with the San Francisco-based utility for a 550-megawatt thin-film solar power plant. First Solar (FSLR), a Tempe, Ariz.-based thin-film company, has contracts with Southern California Edision (EIX) and Sempre to build smaller-scale solar power plants.

Suntech’s purchase of EI Solutions gives it entree into the growing market for commercial rooftop solar systems. EI has installed large solar arrays for Google, Disney, Sony and other corporations.

“Suntech views the long-term prospects for the U.S. solar market as excellent and growing,” said Suntech CEO Zhengrong Shi in a statement.

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