Unbeknown to most lay people and many energy insiders, Iran has more going on in the energy industry than nuclear controversy. Given the global location of Iran provides it with some of the world’s highest solar insolation, there is actually solar research occurring. Much of the research involved concentrating solar-power technologies and the Iranian scientists were working to ensure that Iran had the domestic expertise to design and install solar CSP systems.
To support much of this solar research, Iran has a government-sponsored Renewable Energy Organization of Iran (SUNA) that is part of the Ministry of Energy. The objective of this organization is to develop applications for renewable energy. The staff includes 300 persons with 150 of those engineers and scientists. The budget is approximately $60 m. Iran even has a feed-in tariff for wind and biomass energy of approximately 13 cents/kWh. Additionally, Iran has a renewable-portfolio standard to meet 10% of its electricity from non-hydro renewable-electricity technologies.
I had the privilege of learning of some of these details while joining a workshop this November between Iranian and US energy and solar-energy scientists and engineers. Joining the Iranians was the head of their National Academy. This workshop was arranged by the US State Department with assistance of the US National Academies. As the US and Iranian governments are officially not on speaking terms, it is nice to know that some parts of the governments are finding ways to keep some communication channels open. Sharing ideas on solar- and renewable-energy technologies may help us find a way to share ideas and shed light on renewing cordial relations. Kudos to the US State Department for finding ways to have international relations using science.