Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Ground right for solar power

Sunday Times
27 March 2011, Page: 26

MORE than half the wheat belt could be used to generate concentrated solar power, which can be stored to provide electricity after dark, scientists say. A UWA study has uncovered big swaths of the wheat belt that are flat and get enough sunshine to be able to house WA's first thermal solar power station. It is the first step towards generating green energy for thousands of WA homes and businesses, mine sites and eventually other parts of the nation.

Concentrated solar power, or thermal solar technology, requires direct sunlight and level terrain to focus sunlight with mirrors on to a heat retaining, molten salt solution. The stored heat is then converted to steam, which drives a turbine or engine to produce electricity without the intermittent power problems plaguing photovoltaic systems used on homes. But despite its flat, sunny landscapes, WA lags behind other states and the rest of the world when it comes to investing in thermal solar. WA is also the most polluting, energy guzzling, waste producer in the nation.