Beyond Zero Emissions has issued a summary of a report which shows how Australia could use solar and wind power technologies, which are available now, to produce 100 percent of its electricity within 10 years. The full report will be released in coming months.
Australia now gets nearly 80 percent of its electricity from coal with only 1 percent coming from wind power and less than half of 1 percent from solar energy.
The report says that 40 percent of Australia’s electricity could come from wind turbines. Concentrating solar power plants, with molten salt energy storage, could provide 60 percent of total electricity.
Worldwide, some thirty utility-scale concentrating solar power plants are under construction. None of the concentrating solar power plants are in Australia, although Australia has some of the world’s best potential sites. Solar researchers from Melbourne University and Australian National University have already identified 12 sites with a capacity of 3,500 megawatts each.
The report claims that suffiecient concentrating solar power plants could be installed in just four years, from 2011 to 2015, to provide 20 percent of the Australia’s electricity.
The report says that biomass co-firing would be needed to back up solar plants in winter and that new transmission lines between the solar- and wind-intensive areas and population centres would be needed. However, all coal and gas fired power plants could be eliminated and nuclear power would no be needed.
The cost of quitting carbon entirely is estimated at around $36 billion per year – about 3.5 percent of Australia’s annual GDP.