Solar energy (sunlight) is a renewable form of energy that is widely distributed. It can be collected and used, on site, to heat water (solar hot water); generate electricity (solar power); heat buildings (passive heating); dry clothes (clothes lines).
The energy available from the wind, ocean waves, biomass (fuelwood, biofuels) and fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas), is derived from sunlight. But fossil fuels (which store energy collected by plants millions of years ago), unlike wind, waves, and biomass, are not renewable.
Solar Energy - Need
Adelaide Black Out Sends Solar Message. Archicentre
The continual failure of Governments to invest in solar energy will continue to leave Australian capital cities in the grip of major black outs.
A design and research brief by the Government to produce a range of low cost roof panels which heat water, provides insulation and generates energy should be one of the first projects governments should have been implementing.
Generally hot water makes up 50% of the average electricity bill and the
use of solar hot water can save between 50% to 95% of this, depending on the
location of the home in Australia.
Australia as a country should be moving towards making every home via its roof and design a net contributor to the electricity grid. The amount of sunlight energy falling on the average Australian roof using current inefficient technology could produce several times the amount of power required to run the home.
Millions of hectares of rooftops exist in Australian suburbs and industrial estates that should be productive fields of efficient and non polluting energy. Instead they lay untapped and dormant owing to the failure of progressive governments to focus on building a national Smart Solar industry which could create a major export market with leading technology.
One of the things that mass produced solar technology would bring is affordability that would place clean solar energy within the reach of everyone.
Residential solar energy [power] in 1995/96 represented less than one per cent of all energy used and in 2010 it was forecast to be only 1.1%. Source: Australian Bureau Statistics November 2001
Solar Industry - Australia
Sunrise or Sunset? Earthbeat. ABC. 2004.4.24
Only four countries are net exporters of solar energy systems and Australia is one of them. Internationally the industry is growing rapidly - 30% per year and Australia has some of the best solar researchers in the world. But Australia has lost its position as a global leader and were rapidly slipping behind. Earthbeat explores how Australia could reclaim its place in the sun and the implications for this country if we fail to rise to the challenge.
Solar Energy - Limits
Can solar sources meet Australia’s electricity and liquid fuel demand? Ted Trainer. University of NSW
It is commonly assumed that because of its relatively high solar energy incidence Australia will be able to meet its energy demand from solar sources. However an examination of evidence on existing and probable future efficiencies and costs indicates that it will not be possible to derive sufficient electricity or liquid fuels from solar sources at affordable prices. In view of the limitations and problems associated with fossil fuel and nuclear options it is concluded that a sustainable future for Australia cannot be achieved without significant reduction in material living standards and in economic activity.
Solar Hydrogen - Energy of the future. University of New South Wales. 2004.8.26
A team of Australian scientists predicts that a revolutionary new way to harness the power of the sun to extract clean and almost unlimited energy supplies from water will be a reality within seven years.
Using special titanium oxide ceramics that harvest sunlight and split water to produce hydrogen fuel, the researchers say it will then be a simple engineering exercise to make an energy-harvesting device with no moving parts and emitting no greenhouse gases or pollutants.
It would be the cheapest, cleanest and most abundant energy source ever developed: the main by-products would be oxygen and water.
1.6 million individual households equipped with 10m x 10m rooftop solar hydrogen panels would meet all of Australia's energy needs.
Titanium dioxide is plentiful and cheap. Titania ceramics also have many other applications, including water purification, anti-viral and bacteriacidal coatings on hospital clothing and surfaces, self-cleaning glasses, and anti-pollution surfaces on buildings and roads.
Passive Solar Design
Passive solar design is a simple design formula that takes advantage of the sun's warmth in winter and uses natural and artificial shading, and ventilation to keep the building cool in summer.