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Radio Astronomy: a driver for innovation in renewable energy

11 October 2012 African-European Radio Astronomy Platform (AERAP)

A workshop organized in Brussels on the 9th of October brought together radio astronomers, engineers and policy makers from the European Parliament and the European Commission to discuss how radio telescopes in remote areas can be supplied with green energy. This is a crucial question for the development of major radio astronomy projects like the SKA in Africa. The workshop facilitated networking between potential partners, and laid the ground for African-European consortiums of researchers and industry working in this area. Further, the workshop outlined potential problems that have to be solved to meet the energy challenge for radio telescopes.

Renewable energy in remote areas is not only beneficial to radio astronomy projects but also for the local communities. This could truly propel the development of Africa, bringing new employment opportunities, energy, internet access and better water treatment. Radio astronomy could help improve life standard in these communities, this is in part also their responsibility, so says Lourdes Verdes Montenegro, Instituto de Astrofisica de Andalucia: “Research infrastructures have both responsibility and the need for reduced, sustainable energy consumption”.

Further, the workshop outlined potential problems that have to be solved to meet the energy challenge for radio telescopes. Domingos Barbosa (Radio Astronomy Group, Inst. de Telecomunicações, Aveiro, Portugal) underlined: “The main challenges for renewable energy projects in the field of radio astronomy are 24/7 reliable power supply, the mitigation of radio frequency interference from the power plants, and control of development and maintenance costs.” However, these challenges can be overcome as Wikus Kruger, EU Energy Initiative Partnership Dialogue Facility explained: “Renewable energies present clear opportunities for radio astronomy but there are also challenges that need to be overcome, nonetheless this is possible with the right partners. “

Also, politicians recognize the importance of renewable energy in radio astronomy. Britta Thomsen, Member of European Parliament said: “We need to focus on outcomes and deliverables so with respect to your workshop today on renewable energy solutions for radio astronomy and looking at the opportunities for African- European cooperation; I'm very keen that the outcomes will inform me and my colleague’s decisions in future.”

The workshop is one in a series of planned AERAP events, responding to the call of the European Union to strengthen African-European Research Partnerships in the field of Radio Astronomy, following the adoption of Written Declaration 45/2011 on “Science Capacity Building in Africa: promoting European-African Radio Astronomy Partnerships” on 15th of March 2012. AERAP is an initiative in close consultation with the sponsors of the Written Declaration 45/2011, MEPs Miguel Angel Martinez, Filip Kaczmarek, Fiona Hall, Judith Sargentini and Teresa Riera Madurell.

The agenda and the presentations given during the workshop are available on the new AERAP website.

For pictures visit here:

http://aerap.org/event.php?id=13

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