Good news for the environment: Australia is going to spend some of that “nation building” money on solar.

Australia plans to build the world’s largest solar power station with an output of 1000 megawatts in a A$1.4 billion (US$1.05 billion) investment, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said on Sunday.

Finally! maybe this will be the boost that is needed to get solar over the tipping point from the niche “isn’t that a shiny expensive novelty” to something substantial. Or at least to the “isn’t that a shiny expensive widespread thing”.

Washboard or solar cell.. You decide!
Always good to compare things to the rest of the world:

“The government plans to invest with industry in the biggest solar generation plant in the world, three times the size of the world’s current biggest, which is in California,” Rudd said.

I think solar has enormous potential in Australia to cut down the amount of coal we’re burning for daytime things like air conditioners, factory equipment, aluminium smelters etc. Particularly when (as I’m still enjoying the novelty after the UK) we get so much bloody sunlight:

World solar energy map

It’s a bit of a pity we’re also blessed with oodles of coal, which means Australia can afford to be lazy and polluting and still have enough electricity for everything.

As an aside: here’s an interesting quote from the long dead Thomas Edison from way back in 1931:

We are like tenant farmers chopping down the fence around our house for fuel when we should be using Natures inexhaustible sources of energy — sun, wind and tide. … I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.

Incidentally, he was talking to Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone.

For practical solar hitting the mainstream: I’d like to see more use of dead space as solar collection areas. We’ve lots of roads/railway lines/rooftops that could surely be feeding back into the grid. Lots of space you can run strips of metre wide solar cells for long distances. All we really need is for the cost per unit and the ability to plug back into the grid without too many $$$$.

Anyhow, good to see a proven real technology like solar getting such a chunk of cash, rather than more bleating on about the hopes and dreams of a clean coal fantasy land. I’m hoping we get to a point where we just leave the coal in the ground and it becomes just another geological feature because we just don’t need it.

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