Image for Exporting renewable energy … An ethical commodity

*Pic: Wind turbines and photovoltaics are covering the earth at a rapid pace

There is no denial that the world’s energy production and investment in the future will be in renewables.

Many countries don’t have the available land space or the ideal weather conditions to produce massive infrastructures to supply their energy needs. This is why exporting energy could be the neo-commodity of the future.

Australia with its vast open land, abundant wind and radiant sun is ideally set to capitalise on such concepts, and already there is one proposal to produce and export power from the Great Sandy Desert to Asia.

Asian Renewable Energy Hub (AREH) – 6000 MW solar/wind – Australia

An international consortium of energy companies has recently presented its plans to export colossal amounts of solar and wind energy from Western Australia to Southeast Asia via Indonesia and Singapore.

The proposed hybrid power plant would be spread over 14,000 square km in flat desert land on the Northwest coast of Australia. It would comprise approximately 1200 wind turbines supplied by Vestas, and 10 million solar panels with an aggregated capacity of 6000 megawatts (MW).

4000 MW would be supplied by wind energy, and 2000 MW from solar. It is estimated that this amount of power will be enough to supply electricity to more than 7 million households.

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A proposed transmission line between Australia and Asia.

The wheels of renewable exports are already in motion

The TuNur project- 4000 MW solar – Tunisia

TuNur is a solar power project in Tunisia aiming to exploit the country’s competitive advantage in solar radiation and available space in order to power Europe. Located in a newly established solar complex in Southwest Tunisia, the project will use the Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) technology deploying parabolic mirrors connected to molten salt energy storage in a surface of more than 5000 hectares.

Submarine cable systems will then transfer clean electricity to Europe via 3 different routes, which represent the correspondent phases of the mega project.

The endeavour is attempting to revive Europe’s plans to import cheap clean energy from North Africa to further its Energy Union vision. It builds upon the Desertec initiative, the first ambitious initiative led by German investors to import immense amounts of solar electricity from Tunisia to Europe.

Desertec was abandoned mainly due to political instability in the Middle East and Northern Africa (MENA) region. Since then, however, the cost of renewable energy has also fallen dramatically making such investments look significantly more attractive than 7 years ago.

TuNur Ltd already filed a request to the Tunisian Ministry of Energy, Mines and Renewable Energy for authorisation to build the project last July. If everything goes well, the first phase could be running by 2020.

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Other international energy projects such as the Asian super grid derived from massive renewable production sources located in Mongolia are a future possibility.

Australian should be looking to the future of exporting a renewable commodity over the continuation of raw coal exports. It is inevitable that coal mining will decline as renewable energy production advances due to its economics.

*Ted Mead recalls seeing a horizon of wind turbines across China’s northern desert country about a decade ago, and imagines that has expanded dramatically since then. While Ted is in favour of PV over wind he can’t see why expanses of our western arid region can’t be used for industrial energy export to countries north of Australia, and Australia itself. Ted believes such a concept will eventuate, which is all the more reason why new coal mining proposals should be abandoned immediately.