It is estimated that the Earth receives over 173,000 terawatts of energy every year; more than 10,000 times what humanity needs. The challenge, therefore, has always been collecting that energy. Solar power is generated when energy from the sun is converted into electricity or used for thermal energy. Australia has the highest solar radiation per square metre of any continent, and as a result, we also possess some of the best solar energy resources in the world. Despite this, solar energy accounts for only about 0.1 per cent of Australia’s total primary energy consumption.
Renewable energy policies and national targets, has resulted in substantial research and development programs related to solar energy across Australia. Furthermore, the Australian government has supported the future of Australian solar energy, by providing numerous financial incentives for choosing to switch to solar. With the highest rate of concentrated solar energy in the world and the increased development of solar thermal plants, it’s clear that solar power is the future of Australian energy.
Uses of Solar Energy in Australia
Solar energy systems in Australia are used to power homes, businesses, cars, appliances and cities. Australian homes with solar panels use the panels as either the primary or secondary source of electric power. Large scale concentrated solar power plants provide electricity to numerous businesses and homes, and also provided heated water for domestic use.
Many new Australian home designers have also embraced the use of solar energy systems when constructing new homes. These homes are constructed with specially designed roofing, windows and the overall architectural alignment to be facing the sun, providing favourable conditions for the collection of solar energy.
In the five years between 2008 and 2013, the cost of solar panels fell by over 50 percent. While solar power systems are costly to set up, these costs can often be offset by Government incentives. As you create your own energy, you use less from the power grid, drastically cutting down your power bill. In most States and Territories you can also sell excess electricity back to the power grid, providing you with added cash if your panels generate more electricity than required.
Solar panels make your household free from the price increases of electricity companies. As a provider of your own electricity from a renewable source, you can reduce your household’s dependence on fossil fuels and energy providers. This also provides an attractive feature to your house, potentially adding market value.
Environmental benefits: Installing a solar power system at home can reduce your carbon footprint. Unlike traditional sources of electricity from the grid, solar energy is green, clean and renewable. It also does not release greenhouse gases or other pollutions when in use. Solar energy is now deemed one of the most important solutions to the global warming crisis.
Employment benefits: Solar power has become a job-creating powerhouse in Australia. In fact, money invested in solar power creates two to three times more jobs than money invested in coal or natural gas.
Energy reliability: Australia constantly suffers shortages and restrictions in oil and other forms of energy. Solar power provides energy reliability, as the rising and setting of the sun is extremely consistent. Seasonal and daily projections for the amount of sunlight to be received, and the ability for panels to store sunlight, makes solar power an extremely reliable source of energy.
The development of cheaper, more efficient solar cells is key to the industry’s growth. An emerging type of technology, known as the “perovskite” solar cell, has been deemed by scientists as the face of the future. These cells are said to be cheaper and more efficient than their current silicon counterparts.
Solar power is now predicted as becoming dominant form of power, both on an industrial and individual scale. With research and development contributing to better and more efficient devices, new solar products providing the ability to store energy for longer periods are on the horizon. As a leading source of renewable energy, solar energy is set to change the future of energy in Australia forever.
Bio: Laura Costello is a recent graduate of a Bachelor of Law/International Relations at Latrobe University. She is passionate about the law, the power of social media, and the ability to translate her knowledge of both common and complex topics to readers across a variety of mediums, in a way that is easy to understand.