Solar Powered Pollies: Parliament House Gets PV Panels

Australia is set to get solar powered pollies as the Department of Parliamentary Services announced it would install photovoltaic panels atop Parliament House in Canberra. According to the Australian solar PV maker SilexSolar, work has already begun and the project is due to be completed mid-2011.

CEO of Todae Solar, the company that will operate the system, Danin Kahn says it is ‘is a great opportunity to showcase solar power as a technology that is going to be integral in moving towards a low carbon economy’. Not only does the project demonstrate the viability of solar for non-residential buildings and utilities, it reminds all Australians of the immeasurable potential of solar power.

Working with Australia’s only manufacturer of solar products SilexSolar, the project also serves as a relevant microcosm for the potential for job creation in the renewable energy sector. Projects like this help create jobs in manufacturing, construction, as well as ongoing operation and maintenance and contribute to sustaining Australia’s prosperity.

The worthy project is, however, not a new one. Four decades ago Jimmy Carter installed solar panels on the White House in response to the 1977 oil crisis. Unfortunately, the Reagan Administration removed the panels in the 1980s. President Obama recently agreed to reinstall new panels late last year. A similar venture was recently undertaken in the Maldives, where President Mohamed Nasheed and US solar company Sungevity teamed up to install photovoltaic panels on the Presidential residence (BZE’s friend Dan Cass was there, here’s his account.).

The move by the Australian government serves as a symbol of action on climate change. The Gillard Government can follow the move by adopting policies that encourage the rollout of solar thermal power towers capable of providing 24-hour baseload electricity. Concentrating solar thermal power forms a significant part of Beyond Zero Emissions’ Zero Cabon Australia Stationary Energy plan that outlines a roadmap to repower Australia with 100 per cent renewable electricity in 10 years.

Solar panels on the nation’s Parliament House represents a small step towards achieving that vision.