Renewable Energy Sources in Queensland, Australia
The people of Queensland rely on a continuous supply of energy to maintain their quality of life, comfort and well-being. Energy is also the life blood of commerce, manufacturing, and the entire economy. But traditional sources of energy are getting scare and have a negative impact on the environment. Will Queensland revert to the dark ages when the supply disappears? Or will Queensland remain forever dependent on power that exacts a high price against the environment? The Queensland Government doesn't think so. It has established the Office of Clean Energy to speed up the development and implementation of alternative renewable energy infrastructure. Adding more muscle to this initiative, the Queensland Renewable Energy Plan (QREP) was launched last June 2009 to implement renewable energy infrastructure all throughout Queensland. Furthermore, the ClimateSmart 2050 strategy was launched to pursue clean and green electricity sources, aiming to achieve a 60% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Queensland's energy future takes on a greener hue, as it adopts low-emission coal and gas technologies, and cleaner and renewable energy sources derived from solar, bio-fuel, wind, and geothermal energies. Wind farms already operate at Thursday Island and Windy Hill, and several sugar cane mills convert bagasse by-products to green electricity. Solar farms and geothermal plants also dot the region. Below are some facts about Queensland's alternative renewable energy sources. Solar Energy An array of photovoltaic cells can capture the sun's rays and transform it into green electricity. Queensland's climate is particularly suitable for solar energy generation, and can be used for household energy consumption. This green electricity can power homes and reduce the need to tap into the existing power grid. The excess of this solar-generated electricity can even be channeled back to supply the grid. The Queensland government also aims to popularize the use of solar-powered appliances, such as solar water heating systems, solar furnaces and cookers, refrigeration systems, to name a few. Solar energy is not only a free source of energy, it is clean energy. It has no waste products that pollute the environment during power generation. Despite the initial high costs of installation of solar power systems, it has low operating costs. Ergon Energy has a trial solar farm in Windorah that uses rotating concentrated solar dishes to generate power. It supplies the total daytime energy needs of the town and reduces diesel fuel consumption significantly. Biomass Energy The energy derived from wood and the organic wastes of plants and animals is known as biomass energy. In Australia, biomass energy is one of the most widely-used sources of renewable energy, accounting almost 72% of the total renewable energy usage, and still increasing. In Queensland, twenty-four sugar mills generate electricity from bagasse, and this number is expanding. Landfill biogas operators also produce more than 30 megawatts of combined capacity from decomposing landfill wastes that emit methane and carbon dioxide biogasses. Despite the fact that biomass energy collection and generation is a complicated process, the rapid adoption of green electricity from biomass energy is reducing the reliance on conventional energy sources. Wind Power Wind power is also a clean source of green electricity, with no waste produced during power generation. It is particularly suitable for remote areas of the country, but can easily generate power anywhere as long as the appropriate number of wind mills can propel power generation. A couple of wind power stations are operating in Queensland. Windy Hill Wind Farm in the Atherton Tablelands consists of 20 wind turbines generating 12MW of green electricity. The other is owned by Ergon and located at Thursday Island. Two wind turbines meet 10% of the remote community's electricity needs, reducing their total dependence on diesel power. Several more wind stations are in the feasibility and planning stages. Coopers Gap Wind Farm has already been approved with a $1.2billion budget. 252 wind turbines are expected to generate 500MW of green electricity and power 320,000 homes in the Bilboa and Cooranga North region. Geothermal Energy The heat within the earth can be tapped and converted into geothermal energy. The temperature at the center of the earth is about 6,000 degrees Celsius. To generate geothermal energy, water is usually pumped into an underground granite layer, with the high temperatures turning water into super-heated steam. The steam is collected to run the turbines that generate electrical power. The geothermal steam may also be used as a water pre-heater for nearby industries or another power plant. There are instances when natural ground water runs along paths where high temperature earth vents are located, producing superheated steam naturally. The temperature of the generated steam depends on the underground temperature. This naturally-generated steam has to be purified before being used to generate power. Australia has enough underground sandstone deposits possessing the right temperatures to produce steam for geothermal energy-sourced green electricity. At present, Queensland is host to Australia's only operational geothermal plant. It generates 80 kilowatts of green electricity for the town of Birdsville, supplying the town with a quarter of its power requirements. Queensland's geographical features make it suitable for alternative renewable energy generation. With the right support from all sectors of society it is possible for Queensland to achieve a cleaner and greener future.

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