Monday, November 08, 2010

United States, Australia Partner to Make Solar Energy Cheap

By Jesse Jenkins, originally at the Breakthrough Institute

The United States and Australia have inked a new partnership to pursue joint solar energy research designed to make solar energy cheap enough to compete with fossil fuels.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports:

Prime Minister Julia Gillard and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made the announcement in Melbourne on Sunday, with the Australian government set to commit up to $50 million towards the program.

Ms Gillard said the aim was to make solar power as cheap as conventional energy sources.

"One of the greatest barriers to a broader commercial take up of solar power is its cost and that is specifically what this joint research initiative will address," Ms Gillard told reporters.

"The joint project with the United States is part of an aggressive effort to bring the sales price of solar technology down by two to four times."

Ms Clinton said the program aimed to make solar power competitive with conventional energy sources by 2015.

The price had dropped by 50 per cent in the past three years but there was more work to be done, she said.

"Under this initiative our two governments will share both the costs and the benefits of research and development which will speed up innovation," she said.
Secretary Clinton also pledged a $500,000 grant from the U.S. State Department to support a global survey to identify opportunities to reuse carbon dioxide emitted by power plant and industrial processes, headed up by the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute, a recently established research center co-funded by the Australian government.

world_solar_irradiation.jpg
Solar Powerhouse? Solar irradiation in Australia is among the highest in the world, as this color-coded map from NASA illustrates (darker red areas have the most incoming solar energy). Source: The Age/Reuters

Australia, with perhaps the greatest solar energy potential in the world, has an obvious interest in pursuing affordable, scalable solar power solutions, and has also maintained several long-standing solar research efforts. Can the two new partners accelerate efforts to make solar energy cheap?

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