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The Forum > Article Comments > Australia going solar: gonna cost ya mate. > Comments

Australia going solar: gonna cost ya mate. : Comments

By John Daly, published 8/12/2011

Even if solar power gives Canberra sticker shock, it seems preferable to make local arrangements for more environmentally friendly fuels such as natural gas.

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Some are living in fantasy land if they think wind and solar can knock off coal at an affordable price. Despite heavy subsidies they would be impractical without flexible gas fired generation to smooth the variations. However gas will be largely gone by mid century. All that wind and solar will be of little benefit to today's kids if there is no gas backup. Compounding the problem is the likely rise of gas as a transport fuel (CNG diesel substitute) on top of existing demand for fertiliser manufacture, domestic and industrial heat.

Within a decade or so we'll need to run semitrailers and farm tractors on natural gas as oil depletes. Gas will also be needed to make the urea fertiliser for farms because there will be more mouths to feed. That's why it is puzzling that we are in such a screaming hurry to burn gas in power stations and sell it to foreigners. The answer must be to progressively replace coal with nuclear while at the same time conserving a lot of gas for future generations.

On Timor I think Australia has pulled a swiftie but if China controlled the resource it would be gone in a blink
Posted by Taswegian, Thursday, 8 December 2011 8:19:12 AM
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It'll be a gradual switch. Solar is still in it's infancy & there are other inventions just around the corner.
I'd imagine the search for a crude oil alternative is in full swing. Going green in Australia will make many of us feel warm n'fuzzy but it is the global side of things which are the real issue.
Solar doesn't have to be that expensive. Like with everything produced here the Government charges will make any enterprise unattractive. Unless our Governments wake up Australians will not benefit much from anything better or smarter.
Posted by individual, Thursday, 8 December 2011 9:20:09 AM
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Iím not sure how the Australian Strategic Policy Institute did their calculations but the $100 billion figure sounds way too low.

We use about 30 kWh per day per person in Australia (both domestic and industry). One square metre of panel generates about 0.4 kWh per day average over the year. So each person needs about 75 m2 of panels (not 200 as stated).

At $2/W (low commercial price today), PV panels cost around $300/m2. With 22 million people that works out at $495 billion. Even if the panel price drops by half, this will still be around $250 billion.

And thatís before you add the cost of electricity storage to provide power at night!

I suspect the real cost to convert to all solar will be closer to $500 billion not $100 billion.
Posted by Martin N, Thursday, 8 December 2011 11:07:38 AM
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To cite costs of solar technology on the basis of present developments in that area is to ignore the way in which costs in any scientific technique go down with new technological developments. Coal and other fossil fuels cause more environmental and health consequences then more environmentally friendly energy sources such as solar. A significant investment in solar technology will pay off in lower costs.
Posted by david f, Thursday, 8 December 2011 11:24:55 AM
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Sorry david f and individual, but Martin N and Taswegian are far closer.. in fact, solar and wind energy has been the subject of decades of intensive research, and there is no real hope that they will replace the conventional generator network for many years to come, if ever. As matters stand they may account for 20 per cent of generation in 2020 (the legislated aim) if you assume that a negawatt generated from these projects amounts to a megawatt saved.

Even that will be expensive and difficult. The problem of intermittency still remains, and isn't made much better by spreading these projects over a wide area or relying on diffent types of generation. Overseas experience, incidentally, shows that photovolatic projects are particularly useless.

Perhaps there may be a breakthrough. Difficult to see where it will come from though..
Posted by Curmudgeon, Thursday, 8 December 2011 11:51:07 AM
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Curmudgeon: a name that really does reflect your posts!... Could almost be a member of the 'grumpy old men' club, or perhaps the 'realist pragmatist' club?... Once again you have accurately placed your digit onto the 'nub' of the matter. How many more years do we have to hear of the 'just around the corner' mantra associated with wind and solar power... Heard it for years now... $into a bottomless pit, need the miracle battery! All of the angst is based on the presumption that CO2 is a 'pollutant' and that this pollutant is driving climate disruption/change/warming/cooling.....
Posted by Prompete, Thursday, 8 December 2011 12:16:20 PM
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