The Australian Federal Government has announced that the CSIRO will receive $47.3 million for the development of solar and geothermal energy technologies to power a radio-astronomy observatory and its supporting computer centre.

The funding will support renewable energy infrastructure projects for the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory and the Pawsey High-Performance Computing Centre for Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Science in Perth.

The Pawsey Centre in Perth, which is located at the CSIRO’s Australian Resources Research Centre, will become one of Australia’s largest direct heat geothermal demonstration sites.  Researchers plan to address the heating and cooling requirements, not only of the SKA data centre, but the entire geosciences facility. They will also conduct research on the performance and longevity of geothermal wells.

Both the Murchison Observatory and the SKA computing facility are part of the Australasian bid to host the $2.5 billion Square Kilometre Array, which involves 20 countries and will investigate galaxy evolution, dark matter, and the existence of life. Australia and New Zealand are in competition with a Southern African SKA bid, involving several Afrcan coutries. A decision is expected to be made in 2012.

According to CSIRO chief executive, Megan Clark, the newly announced projects will also accelerate the Australian development of renewable energy technology for uses beyond the SKA. She said that “This project will also allow the practical application of research by scientists and students from all over Australia in renewable energy, as well as in astronomy, computer science, engineering, geology and environmental management.”

Artisi’s impression of the Murchison radio telescope (via CSIRO)
Artisi’s impression of the Murchison radio telescope (via CSIRO)