A vision for the future by: JK | Wed 17 Aug

I want to try to get the idea out there that we can do better than merely providing renewable energy for our own needs. Australia has renewable energy resources that are the envy of nearly every other country on earth and, at present, we are using only a small fraction of what is possible.

Desertec has done calculations that shows that an area of land 300km x 300km (90,000 km2 – a fairly sizeable block of land) was capable in 2005 of providing the electricity needs of THE WORLD! This area is shown in orange on the map below for illustration purposes. BTW, this is using technology that is available TODAY, not some pie-in-the-sky unproven technology – concentrated solar thermal with molten salt storage of the kind promoted by beyondZeroEmissions.

Desertec in Australia

300km x 300km area relative to Australia

I don’t think very many people are aware that this is possible but I would like to change that. We can provide 100% of our electricity needs from renewables and sell the excess into South-East Asia via high voltage DC transmission lines (much like the HV DC BassLink line between Tasmania and the mainland). These transmission lines have a loss of only 5% per 1,000km as opposed to the 7½% loss we see from the LaTrobe Valley to Melbourne.

Now the area of land I show is if this land were covered in concentrated solar thermal stations but we don’t just have land that gets great solar resource, we can also access wind (at any time in Australia, the wind is blowing strongly somewhere), wave/tidal (if we used just 10% of the readily accessible wave/tidal resource we could retire 25% of our coal-fired power stations) and, of course, geo-thermal (which the scientists are now saying can be accessed in concentrated form from below coal reserves as coal effectively forms a blanket, insulating the earth – this could also provide jobs in the present power generation locations). As I say, our renewable energy resources make us the envy of nearly every other country on the planet!

Now I’m not saying this will be cheap but it can be a new industry for Australia and the costs will come down as our experience grows. The resource input once built is next to zero and the ability to provide a much needed clean energy source into SE Asia makes it even more desirable – SE Asia is land and energy poor. It will also support our steel manufacturing industry during construction and make for a possible export industry as well, as we hone our technology skillset.

We can do this – with the correct mindset and government and industry support. ….and, unlike inaction on climate change, if the science turns out wrong (which I hope but somehow doubt) all we will have done is create a wonderful clean energy source for the future of ALL Australians – and an energy supply we can sell into SE Asia until the sun goes out.

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