The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today welcomed Greece’s donation of $471,000 to the agency’s relief operation helping hundreds of thousands of victims of a much-overlooked conflict in the West African State of Guinea-Bissau. “This donation gives a bright start to the new year for thousands of poor people in this country,” said Jose Pita-Gros, WFP Country Director in Guinea-Bissau. “A donation in cash means food can be purchased quickly and arrive sooner.” One of the 10 poorest countries in the world, Guinea-Bissau was devastated by a bitter civil war in the late 1990s in which thousands were killed, wounded or forced from their homes. Many people there continue to rely almost entirely on foreign aid to survive. The Greek donation is the first to WFP’s new $12.1 million relief operation in Guinea-Bissau, which aims to provide over 15,000 metric tons of food to some 382,000 people, including young children at risk of malnutrition, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers, as well as school children and poor families unable to meet their daily food requirements. Greece is becoming an increasingly important donor to WFP, significantly stepping up its contributions in the last year. In 2005 alone, Greek contributions to WFP operations around the world amounted to $3.6 million, the agency said. “We hope that this humanitarian gesture will pave the way for others to dig into their pockets in support of Guinea-Bissau,” said Mr. Pita-Gros.
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.