On the markets at midmorning (ET):The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index was down 110.12 points to 15,154.52, after 90 minutes of trading.In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 90.52 points to 21,521.26. The S&P 500 index was down 7.07 points to 2,466.38 and the Nasdaq composite index was down 18.94 points to 6,371.07The Canadian dollar was trading at 79.84 cents US, up from Thursday’s average price of 79.46 cents US.The September crude contract was down 77 cents to US$46.15 per barrel and the August natural gas contract was down two cents to US$3.02 per mmBTU.The August gold contract was up $5.70 to US$1,251.20 an ounce and the September copper contract was up one cent to US$2.73 a pound.
At a time when electricity demand is falling across much of Australia, the opposite has been true for many mining centres in remote areas, where energy usage has been increasing. These regions enjoy some of the bluest skies in the world, making them ideal for the use of solar thermal technology. The problem is that at the moment the cost is too high. CSIRO is working on solar-thermal tower technology that uses many mirrors (heliostats) that track the sun, concentrating its energy by reflecting light towards a receiver fixed on top of a tower.However, until now, conventional heliostats have been expensive to install in remote areas due to the large number of components that need to be assembled on site, leading to higher electricity costs.By changing the way heliostats are manufactured and controlled, our solar scientists are aiming to avoid the high cost of installation and maintenance in remote areas, providing an affordable renewable energy solution for the Aussie outback.The picture shows CSIRO’s solar thermal research hub in Newcastle, New South Wales.CSIRO is also working to improve the other components of the overall parts of the solar thermal system such as receivers, turbines and, perhaps most importantly, storage. Thermal energy can be stored relatively cheaply compared to some other technologies, so there is great potential for large scale power generation regardless of when the sun is shining.Solar electricity can be transported through the grid from a country’s sunniest areas into cities and suburbs, and by making use of storage this can happen at the times when demand (and prices) are highest. This can have a positive impact on electricity prices by reducing peak demand caused by the use of air-conditioners on hot days.