Australia, Solar

Australia a hot spot for solar energy

November 29, 2007 (News.com.au) – A MAP of the earth’s sunniest locations reveal that Australia is a sunburnt country, with plenty of solar energy to spare.  The map, produced by researchers, the Ecole des Mines de Paris, using satellite data collected over the past 22 years, shows on average how much solar radiation reaches the earth’s surface.

The sunniest locations on earth include the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Sahara Desert in Niger, Tibet, and almost all of Australia.

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Data from maps such as these could be used to assist in the development of solar energy technologies such as photovoltaic panels and solar-hydrogen technology, seen as a viable alternative to fossil fuel energy.

Members from the 72-nation Group on Earth Observations (GEO) are currently meeting in Cape Town, South Africa, to discuss how scientific data from this map and other data like it could be applied to issues such as climate change, health, agriculture and energy.

“We are trying to link up observations of the earth to benefit society,” GEO head Jose Achache said.

The results also confirm the findings of a report published by CSIRO’s National Solar Energy Centre in 2001, saying Australia had the highest average solar radiation of any continent.

Dr Leigh Sheppard, of the University of New South Wales’ Centre for Materials Research, believes an area approximately 160km square, or one-third the size of Kangaroo Island, could provide all of Australia’s energy needs.

He also believes that using solar energy and titanium dioxide to produce hydrogen, by splitting water into oxygen and hydrogen gas, would be the cleanest, greenest energy option for a sustainable economy.

“When you burn (hydrogen), it gives water, so there is no pollution of the environment,” Dr Sheppard said.

“The process has the additional advantage that it works best in sea water. Australia is rich in titanium, has abundant sunshine, and we are surrounded by ocean.”

The world’s environment ministers will next week meet in Bali, Indonesia, to discuss a long-term pact to fight climate change, which result in a stronger push towards renewable energies such as solar power.

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