Australia is home to an infamous outback and thousands of miles of coastline. These areas make Australia a hotbed for renewable energy generation. Australia is able to attain massive amounts of energy from solar, wind, geothermal and wave energies. However, Australia currently only attains six percent of their energy needs through renewable energy.
One of the greatest issues regarding why Australia has so little contribution from renewable energy is the very sources of the energy. The vast outback and massive shoreline, which is 37,000 miles, are difficult to connect to a grid in order to use power generated in all areas. However, Australians are now hoping to work around these obstacles.
Another roadblock towards Australia focusing on renewable energy is their enormous source of coal. Australia is the top exporter of coal in the world and is used in Australia to generate 80 percent of energy needs. Many are calling for the government to put a price on carbon emissions, thereby forcing changes in the energy sector.
Australia recently announced that they plan to build a 140-wind turbine wind farm by the year 2013. If built, the wind farm would be the largest in the southern hemisphere. Currently the amount of wind energy in the country is minimal. Only 16 percent of Australia’s total renewable energy sector comes from wind. To put their total in perspective, the United States installed more wind energy capacity in the year 2008 than Australia currently has altogether.
The wind farm is expected to generate power equal to the needs of 220,000 homes. The one wind farm is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1.7 million tons.
Australia has the goal of attaining twenty percent renewable energy by the year 2020. However, it would be possible, with considerable investments, for Australia to attain all their energy through renewable sources. On top of that, the country could be switched in just ten years, according to the Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan. The majority of the renewable energy for such a project would come from solar energy.
Currently the largest solar plant in Australia generates only 1.5 megawatts of power. However, 60 percent of the country’s energy needs could be met by solar thermal plants, largely in the vast outback of the country. Additional energy would be attained through wind energy–approximately 6,500 wind turbines along the coast of the country. In total, these energies would generate 323 terawatts each hour each year. Whether such a situation will arise within the next few decades is unknown due to the country’s love of coal (which is a common story worldwide).