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Down Under in a Downpour06.02.2008

Tags: Australia       Comments: 0

Picture of the day

South Eastern Australia is inundated. Even kangaroos are fleeing the soaking rain and the Solar Taxi once again develops defects. Louis Palmer tries to keep the outlook clear with lemon juice.

It's raining. It pours for hours. They're the heaviest rains Canberra and Sydney have had in five years. It's a blessing for the countryside and for the Solar Taxi's energy supply no problem, in principle. Even in weather like this I can top up the batteries with a couple of kilowatts from mains power and keep on driving and my energy balance will still be fine. In Switzerland I feed 6,000 kilowatt hours of electricity annually into the power grid from my solar cells installed on the roof of my sponsors, Swisscom.

The windscreen wipers, only recently repaired, break down again on the highway and I can't see a thing. I have however bought a lemon and now rub the juice all over the windscreen. The citric acid on the glass is supposed to make water run off, but it's raining too hard. My trick doesn't work, and I crawl along on a flooded emergency lane through endless, sodden Australia.
The electronics break down next, bringing the car to a complete stop. The heaviest rains for years, which followed us from Lucerne almost all the way to Berlin in July, have followed us here. A borrowed hairdryer got the electronics going again back then, but where am I going to find a hairdryer out here in the middle of nowhere?
Grass for as far as I can see, and the last kangaroos sheltering under the trees. My support team is four hours away in Sydney. After a 15-minute break, the electronics suddenly start up again and the next exit takes me to a vineyard where I can wait until tomorrow. Hopefully the sun will dry everything out.

Mr. Gentleman and the New Solar Energy Law
Next morning it's still raining but the windscreen wipers and the electronics are working as if nothing had happened. I have however dropped my expensive camera and broken the monitor. I seem to be having quite a run of bad luck.
I find the Swiss Embassy in the Australian capital of Canberra five minutes before my press conference starts. My message is that Australia has some catching up to do in the area of environmental protection. There's so much sun here and it's not used. The journalists all clap. The Australians I meet seem to want to apologize for the past decade, for a Prime Minister who doubted that climate change was happening and regarded environmental protection as just weakening the economy.
Now a new Prime Minister has been elected and there's a pervading spirit of optimism. I meet Mick Gentleman, parliamentarian, who wants to go for a drive in the Solar Taxi. "Australia is introducing a new solar energy law", he announces. "Anyone installing solar cells now will get 50 cents for every kilowatt hour produced until the end of his life. We're making the best law in the world!" Everybody wants to know how they can earn money with solar cells and Australia seems to be on the brink of a huge solar energy boom.



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