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by Mike Zazaian October 26, 2006 - 1:09pm, 17 Comments

Artist rendering of a large-scale solar farm

Amid fears that increased energy usage could cause blackouts in coming years, the Australian government has set upon Solar energy as its savior.

According to Treasurer Peter Costello the Australian government will spend $420 million Australian ($320 million US) to construct the world’s largest solar power plant. The plant, which will be built in Victoria state, will have a capacity of 154 megawatts and will be built over the next several years, with a completion date set for 2013. Said Costello:

The project aims to build the biggest photovoltaic project in the world and this is by using mirrors which concentrate the sun’s rays on a power plant.

The effort comes amid fears that the demand for power within the country may exceed supply within the next five years, causing blackouts and shortages. Air conditioners are being pegged as the primary factor for the predicted shortages, with more and more units being installed in newer homes than ever before.

Australia, the world’s leading exporter of Coal, will also look to cleaner-coal technologies to boost the country’s energy supply. Along with the solar initiative the government announced funding of a A$360 million ($274 million US) project to produce cleaner energy through brown coal drying and carbon capture and storage.

But even with the cleaner-coal initiative environmentalists believe the government should move away from coal altogether. Said Danny Kennedy, a representative for Greenpeace:

We need a long-term energy policy that moves us away from our dependence on coal to real deep cuts in emissions and sustainable investment in genuine renewable energy technology. If we don’t move away from coal, we won’t deal with climate change.

Australia has yet to sign the Kyoto Protocol, a program which aims to lower greenhouse gas emissions and global warming. Currently relying on coal as its primary fuel source, Australia is one of the world’s largest producers of greenhouse gases per capita.

Via Wired