Renewable energy – latest advances in research

Solar energy studies were my strong interest as a student architect in the late 1960s.  Later, after my architectural degree a combination of engineering and science studies between the years 1977 – 1993 convinced me that the use of solar energy would be a major challenge for my generation.

Need to overcome the status quo

In order to hand over a functioning sustainable world for the next generations it has been obvious to me  that we need to overcome the ultra conservative forces and vested interests who see change as the enemy and will do just about anything to maintain the status quo.

Over the last 100 hundred years, energy generation in Australia has mainly been tied to the multi-national companies using coal, oil and gas.  The recent campaign by nuclear is now expanding the multi-national corporation involvement potentially to uranium, albeit to a lesser extent.

Australian Sustainable Energy Society  – Canberra National Conference December 2010

At the AuSES 2010 conference, I was delighted to hear about the latest advances in research and development of renewable energy sources and the dramatic progress being made.

Photovoltaic technology growth

It is very gratifying to see that mature solar technologies are being implemented in Australia and a healthy industry is evolving around them.   The current rate of 50% growth per year, as in the case of Photovoltaic (PV) systems shows that the public is really beginning to accept that photovoltaic technology is reliable.

Solar thermal and wind power compatible with coal-fired power stations

The conference and exhibition of technology also showed that the solar thermal and wind power industries are shaping up to be popular and potentially well used resources in the coming decade.

The great thing about solar thermal plant at large scale is that it is completely synergistic and scientifically compatible with coal-fired power stations, but they do not realise it!

If only governments insisted on its application as a mandatory requirement.  For instance, a stipulated proportion of their total power output (say 50%) could be mandated during daylight hours.

Realistic carbon price $40-$60/tonne

I believe that a realistic price on carbon of $40 to $60/tonne could give economic impetus for this to happen.  Then at last we would start to protect our natural world in a free market type of way. If adopted and applied to all industries then just maybe by 2050, we would have a world worth inheriting by our children and grandchildren.

The after dinner speech at Parliament House for the conference dinner by guest speaker David Mills, demonstrated that solar thermal and PV coordinated with wind power mainly at night, could provide base load power for the entire USA.  All we need now is the political and economic will power for change.

Surely by now, we all should all know that carbon in the atmosphere is the big issue and time is not on our side!  Here is a refresher. The carbon content is now 390 ppm.

Carbon Dioxide Variations graph

Growth in Greenhouse Gas

This clearly shows we have a major CO2 problem which is taking the world into unknown territory.  Surely this graph alone destroys the case of most Climate Change sceptics? Remember than 400,000 years ago we humanoids were swinging around in the trees most of the time!

The wholesale application of solar and renewable energy in all its forms must be the way forward.  As a young professional architect in the late 1970s I recognized this and took steps to learn more about it.

I was lucky enough to have a number of Solar Energy Society elders who helped my career and focused my attention not only the technological aspects but also, how to integrate renewable energy systems into the built environment.

The above article is a commentary by Garry Baverstock A.M.,

CEO of President of AuSES, WA

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