A northern Australian town is planning to run solely on solar power within two years.
Cloncurry, which also holds the record for the hottest day in Australian history, was chosen as the new site of a solar thermal power station. The sunny city will build the A$7 million, 10 megawatt station in an effort to rely only on solar power. The power station will also be able to produce electricity at night and on cloudy days by using heat stored in graphite blocks.
Solar thermal power is somewhat different from traditional solar photovoltaic cells, which produce power directly themselves. Solar thermal power utilizes heat and graphite. Around 8,000 mirrors will shine sunlight onto graphite blocks, which will then have water pumped through them. This will generate steam that powers turbines.
The Queensland government estimates the power station will produce around 30 million kilowatt hours of electricity per week. It is expected to be operational sometime in 2010.
Advancements in alternative energy are a new and surprising step for Australia, the country that joined the US in not signing the Kyoto Protocols. Australia has one of the highest greenhouse gas emissions per capita in the world.
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