Sun, Power, Energy: Opportunities and Perspectives for a Solar Powered Australia


Speaker: Professor Paul Meredith (University of Queensland)
Date: 13th May 2011

The transition to a low carbon future is inevitable for all major global economies. The “smart-money” is already making this transition – often motivated by energy security considerations and/or the realisation that early adopters will reap substantial economic and sociological benefits. Australia’s position in the debate is dominated by our position as a resource-rich nation: a double edged sword providing short-medium term economic security but substantially retarding our drive towards a low carbon economy.

Australia has massive fossil fuel reserves, plus we are blessed with multiple and abundant renewable energy resources – notably geothermal, solar and to a lesser extent biomass, tidal and wind. Analysis of our solar resource in particular places us amongst the most favoured of all developed countries in this regard. So, why are we distinctly 2nd division in deploying solar energy technology? There are many reasons (not just political) associated with our poor track record – demographics, network and grid environment, regulatory framework, etc.

In my talk I will examine a number of these issues, namely: current technology options best suited for the Australian context; major barriers to solar energy deployment; and finally a pragmatic look at what the “2050 Australian Power System” might look like. I will also discuss some local initiatives such as the UQ MW Photovoltaic Array. Through these and programs like the Federal Government’s Solar Flagships we are taking the first tentative steps towards utilising one of our greatest resources – the Australian sun.