Disruptive Solar technologies

Yesterday I wrote of a technology called concentrated photovoltaics, which if all goes well, may bring the retail cost of solar panels down from at present, $4.31 per watt, to 30c per watt.

Moore's Law for Solar - 30c watt in years to come

The technology I discussed was the concentration of the sun, using fresnel lens or mirrors like in a telescope, being able to reduce the area of active semi conductor material down to 1000th of that of Silicon to produce equivalent electricity.

Today I'd like to look at Silicon solar cells and what happens if we concentrate sunlight onto them.

Overcoming Apathy in Australia - Project Omelas

2006-07 Australian bushfire season
The 2006-07 Australian bushfire season was one of the most extensive bushfire seasons in Australia's history. Victoria experienced the longest continuously burning bushfire complex in Australia's history, with fires in the Victorian Alps and Gippsland burning over 1 million hectares of land over the course of 69 days.

January 2009
The early 2009 southeastern Australia heat wave was a heat wave that commenced in late January and led to record-breaking prolonged high temperatures in the region. The heat wave is considered one of, if not the most, extreme in the region's history. During the heat wave, 50 separate locations set various records for consecutive, highest daytime and overnight temperatures.

According to a Monash University study of funeral notices, more than 200 people died as a result of the heat wave. A 45% increase in the death rate was noted during the time. A subsequent report by Victoria's chief health officer, Dr John Carnie, put the final figure at 374.

February 2009
As many as 400 individual fires were recorded on 7 February. Following the events of the 7th of February 2009, that date has since been referred to as Black Saturday.

173 people died as a result of the fires and 414 were injured.

November 2009
Senior climatologist Blair Trewin said 68 long-term weather stations recorded their highest November maximum temperature and 39 stations recorded their highest overnight minimum temperature.

''That represents 10.2 per cent of Australia recording record highs, including 41 per cent of NSW and 29 per cent of South Australia,'' Dr Trewin said.

In Adelaide, the eight consecutive days above 35 degrees doubled the previous November record. It also had a record high of 43.

So records are broken, two years later they are broken again. Not the kind of record you want to break though. When temperatures are causing multiple heat related deaths and bushfires causing loss of life and property, you'd think we'd realize something is up with that. And just as Australia is about to head into Summer, we see the same conditions occurring at the start of Summer which we just saw at the end of Summer immediately prior to the worst bushfires in Australia's history earlier this year.

Scary stuff hey?

Yesterday I wrote of my visit to a solar thermal power station in the Nevada Desert, at Boulder City, near Las Vegas. The plant produces 65 MW of electricity which, during the day, would be close to supplying the needs of 65,000 homes.

The accumulation of CO2 emissions we have been told for over 20 years would create conditions like those described above. So from a risk management point of view, seeking alternatives to where the source of those emissions comes from makes sense. In other words reducing or replacing the source of those emissions is the optimum outcome without eliminating the benefit of the plant itself.

What I would like to talk about is what I think Australia can do to meet energy generated from some of these types of means.

An Aussie Visiting America - Boulder City Solar

During a trip in August, across the United States, one of the things I had planned was to visit a number of solar installations. Just out from Las Vegas, not far from the airport at Boulder City which flies people to/from The Grand Canyon, there is a substantial solar trough power station. Its output is 65 Megawatts, which using rule of thumb of 1,000 people per MW, can supply enough power for 65,000 homes whilst the sun is shining.

Oz Solar Technologies

For a few years now I have been following the development of a number of renewable energy technologies. This is a keen interest of mine as my background has been predominantly in the power industry, and I of course am very concerned about the release that millions of years of stored carbon is having on the climate.

Throughout 2009 I have visited a few Solar companies in Australia and in August I visited the United States and did likewise. My intent was to stop at a number of solar company installations, preferably unannounced, to see whether what they were telling people was going on with their business, did actually reflect the reality on the ground.

This is what I saw, and my interpretation of where solar technology could be headed.