Australia is also a Solar goldmine

If Australia is currently one of the world’s biggest export of greenhouse gases due to its coal resources, it can also have the potential of being the opposite if it uses the abundance of sunshine and desert space to generate solar energy.

Solar Power: Harnessing Australia’s Untapped Energy Goldmine

Contributor:  Asdza Nadleehe
Posted:  12/19/2011
Despite year-round  sunshine and deserts covering 17 per cent or 1.4 million kilometres of the country’s land mass, Australia still derives a mere fraction of its power from solar generation.

In 2001, the Australian Government under John Howard ratified the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (MRET) of 9,500 of new generation until 2020. This was augmented in August 2009, when the Australian Labout Party government under Kevin Rudd, passed into law an Expanded Renewable Energy Target to ensure that renewable energy obtained a 20 per cent share of electricity generation – or 45,000 GW/h – by 2020.

20 per cent by 2020? A bridge too far?

Speaking with Energy iQ, Javier Huergo Cruzado, Head of Business Development at Spanish solar experts Fotowatio S.L, commented on this ambitious target.

“To be honest I think the market for renewable energy in Australia is not very developed or it is less developed compared to other western countries.

“My opinion is there is a lot to be done in Australia to be able to meet the renewable energy target which requires 20 per cent of electricity generation coming from renewable energy by 2020.

“In terms of solar right now there are a lot of small scale installations. I think that Australia needs to move from small scale installations to large scale installations and I think that’s something that is still under definition and needs to be implemented as soon as possible.”

Risky business? Financing foibles in the solar arena

Traditionally, banks and financial institutions have seen solar projects as a risky investment, with large amounts of capital ploughed into the development and construction phases that might not be recouped for years after the installation is operational.

 

Given the current financial climate this is even more in doubt, so how best can companies bring the banks to the table?

  • Prove that you are operating in a stable regulatory environment that will not throw any unexpected surprises your way.
  • Ensure that you only plan to use proven and reliable technology in your proposed projects. With liquidity at an all time low, developers will have to show financiers that they are implementing technology with a best of breed pedigree to keep the money coming in.
  • Make sure that your stakeholders are as robust as your technology, with credible track records and past success stories in the renewables sector .

Looking to the US as an Australian solar model?

In Australia, most solar assets are funded through commercial Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs). Theseare contracts between two parties – a seller, who generates electricity to sell into the market, and a buyer, who is looking to purchase electricity.

As the market in Australia is still in the embryonic stage, looking towards the US, which has several mature large-scale projects based around the same long-term PPA format, is the way to glean best practice.

The proposed solar tower to be built between the towns of Parker and Quartzsite in La Paz County, Arizona will be a template of how to embark on such projects in the Australian solar market.

The concept, which developers have seen proven in Spain, will comprise a tower more than 600 metres tall with a heat-trapping canopy at the base spanning more than 600 metres in diameter.  Hot air that is heated beneath the canopy rises into the tower,  turning 32 turbines to generate electricity.

The project is set to eliminate 1 million metric  tonnes of greenhouse gas production every year, as well as providing electricity for 150,000 homes in La Paz County.

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