Australia, the world’s largest coal exporter, currently uses coal for over 80 per cent of its domestic electricity generation.

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Australian

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said yesterday that since he wanted Australia

to be a ‘solar leader’ rather than a ‘solar follower’, Australia would

tap into its ‘biggest natural resource’ to build the world’s largest

solar energy plant.

The photovoltaic plant costing A$1.4

billion ($1 billion), will have an output of 1,000MW, which is

equivalent to that of one coal-fired power station will be able to

supply power to nearly 800,000 homes.

Currently, Australia’s energy capacity is 45,000MW.

The money

will come from the A$4.7 billion that Australia has committed to spend

on clean energy initiatives over the next decade. The tender details

will be finalised by this year and successful bidders will be named in

the first half of 2010.

The global economic crisis had put a

brake on Australia’s investments in environmental measures and the

announcement coincided with a huge protest demonstration against

Australia’s climate policies on a beach near Melbourne.

Australia

is one of the world’s worst carbon dioxide polluters per capita because

of its heavy reliance on abundant coal reserves. As the driest

continent after Antarctica, it is also considered one of the most

vulnerable countries to climate change.

Australia’s native

vegetation is being cleared at a rate amounting to a $2.4 billion

annual loss of stored carbon and Australia was still logging native

vegetation at a rate amounting to 60 million tonnes of carbon a year.

With

emissions trading delayed, the government is looking at other ways to

meet the climate change challenge. For starters, the climate change

budget has been beefed up despite the tough times to $15 billion over

nine years.

Rudd

said that solar power station would be made up of four individual

plants, two based on solar thermal technology while the other two, on

photovoltaic cells, which would in the future be connected into a

network of solar power stations across the country.

In 2007

Portugal built an 11-megawatt solar power plant comprising 52,000

photovoltaic modules at a single site in Serpa in Portugal, 200

kilometers (124 miles) southeast of Lisbon in one of Europe’s sunniest

areas.

The US is currently the world leader in solar energy. In

2007, a $2 to $3 billion project to build the worlds largest solar

plant got underway in the Mojave Desert in California.The project will

produce three new solar-thermal electric plants of 500MW of clean green

power with options for additional plants (up to 900MW total), which

would be enough to power 375,000 Californian homes.

The first

plant is scheduled for opening in 2011 opening and should produce

2,46,000 megawatt hours of renewable electricity per year.

The

Vatican is also building a 100 megawatts solar power plant in Europe on

740 acres of land near the medieval village of Santa Maria di Galeria.

The

plant costing $660 million, would turn the the Vatican with its nearly

900 residents into a major power exporter. The solar station would go

online in 2014, and would provide electricity to 40,000 homes in Italy.

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