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Solar power gives good electricity

19 January, 2011

A study by researchers from The University of Western Australia has confirmed the potential for Concentrated Solar Power to generate electricity for communities and mining interests across the Wheatbelt.

Assistant Professors Julian Clifton and Bryan Boruff of UWA's School of Earth and Environment found that areas in the central and eastern Wheatbelt are ideal sites for Concentrated Solar Power (CSP).

CSP concentrates solar radiation which is then converted to steam to drive a turbine or engine for electricity generation.  Unlike photovoltaic cells the heat may be stored to generate electricity outside of sunlight hours.  

The research titled Assessing the potential for Concentrated Solar Power development in rural Australia was supported by the Wheatbelt Development Commission and has been published in the journal Energy Policy. 

Assistant Professor Boruff said the results show there is an opportunity to consider small-scale electricity generation from renewable sources for local consumption given that the ability to supply more electricity to the region is subject to capacity constraints and the high cost of upgrades to current infrastructure.

"A reliable electricity supply is fundamental to attracting people and industry to rural areas and small scale parabolic dish forms of CSP can provide a local, renewable alternative to nonrenewable energy sources transmitted from outside the area."

"By contrast the large-scale iron ore mining operations in the east would be more suited to medium scale CSP and the excess electricity generated from these could help supply the residential energy needs of Kalgoorlie and/or other industries such as gold mining," Assistant Professor Boruff said.

The paper outlines the factors affecting CSP development in Australia while highlighting the potential for CSP in the Wheatbelt, reinforcing the need  to conduct similar research in other areas where rural economic growth is being held back by (among other things) outdated electricity infrastructure.

The final report is available from the Wheatbelt Development Commission.

Source: The University of Western Australia

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