An innovative project in Australia is generating electricity, reducing salinity and making salt to sell to consumers, thanks to a $550,000 grant from the federal government.PYRAMID HILL, Victoria, AU, 2001-08-30 [SolarAccess.com] “The Solar Ponds system is an innovative and cost-effective means of generating heat energy from a renewable source,” says Sharman Stone, Parliamentary secretary for the environment. “Solar Ponds can produce process heat for a wide variety of applications at around two thirds the cost of liquid petroleum gas or fuel oil in rural areas.” The project at Pyramid Hill uses a 3,000 square metre solar pond to generate and store heat at up to 80°C, and then uses that heat for commercial salt production. It is a joint initiative of RMIT University, GEO-Eng Australia and Pyramid Salt, with funding from the Australian Greenhouse Office through the Renewable Energy Commercialization Program. The solar pond technology has strong prospects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fuel costs in a range of rural and regional industries which require heat such as for dairy food production, drying fruit and grains, and aquaculture, explains Stone. The concept could allow farmers who are near salinity mitigation schemes to incorporate solar ponds, and thereby bring back into productive use land that is badly salt affected. “The federal government is committed to reducing the problems caused by salinity and declining water quality and to developing Australia’s capacity in renewable energy,” adds Stone. Renewable energy is a key component of the Australian government’s climate change policy, and has spent $380 million over five years to strengthen the capacity of the country’s renewable energy industry and to improve the uptake of renewable systems.