Friday, 15 June 2007

Govt Move Brightens Wind Farm Outlook: 10% renewable power by 2020

Crows Nest Advertiser
Wednesday 13/6/2007 Page: 1

An announcement by Premier Peter Beattie has provided encouragement for the Crows Nest wind farm proposal. Council CEO David McEvoy said the Premier had announced the Climate Smart 2050 scheme which included a requirement for 10 per cent of electricity to be generated from renewable sources in the State by the year 2020. "That will be extremely helpful for the wind farm applicant in their attempts to obtain a power purchase agreement," Mr McEvoy said.

He said he had spoken to Allco Wind Energy representatives about this development. "They were very pleased by the announcement and they were going back to have further discussions with the power purchasers," Mr McEvoy said. "This move by the State Government makes all the difference and things are looking very bright:' Crows Nest Shire Council in August 2005 approved an application to establish 75 wind turbines, 64 in Crows Nest Shire and 11 in adjoining Rosalie Shire, and a sub-station. The turbines were to be located on 30 properties between Crows Nest and Haden.

Wind Power Farm: World's biggest plant

Adelaide Advertiser
Friday 15/6/2007 Page: 79

FORT WORTH: Dallas oilman and investor Boone Pickens wants to build the world's largest wind farm in the Texas Panhandle, a project that would locate up to 2000 turbines. His company, Mesa Power, said it would have the capacity to generate 2000-4000 megawatts and cost up to $A7.16 billion.

Powerhouse state: Can South Australia one day be the "Saudi Arabia" of renewable energy?

Adelaide Advertiser
Friday 15/6/2007 Page: 19

ABUNDANT sunshine, unique geology and a coastline battered by stiff breezes make South Australia a rare jewel. Not just for visitors and those who live here, though. The state's unique geography makes it a bonanza for renewable energy projects. South Australia has led the nation on wind energy - though it is now being overtaken by Victoria in that area - and has some of the nation's best sites for solar and "hot rocks" power generation. It is poised to become the renewable energy capital of Australia. And, with respect to geothermal energy, an example to the world.

Major plans announced by Santos for geosequestration - that is, burying CO2 produced by burning fossil fuels underground to prevent further climate change damage - will also help make SA the greenest state overall. Renewable energy companies generate about 8 per cent of the country's growing appetite for electricity and SA should be poised to eventually increase its share; it's currently about 10 per cent. There are some dozen wind farms dotted around the state, with world-first research into geothermal energy in the Cooper Basin and potential to grow substantial solar farms here. And, should Australia choose to take up nuclear power, as an alternative to coal and gas power stations, an abundance of uranium exists.

Susan Jeanes, chief executive of Renewable Energy Generators Australia, says SA has "serious potential" to lead the nation on renewables. Last year, former U.S. vice president Al Gore praised the state's "stand out" efforts on climate change and voiced the wish that other countries would follow suit. "You've probably seen, for now, most of the activity (in SA) in the wind industry but in terms of renewable energy the big areas are going to be geothermal and large-scale solar," Jeanes says. Next week, she will host Professor Jefferson Tester, from the Laboratory for Energy and the Environment at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the U.S. They will meet state and federal ministers to discuss the potential of Australian geothermal power generation.

SA is blessed with a geological formation called the Heat Flow Anomaly - a huge bed of super-hot granite perfect for this type of energy production. More than 10 companies are actively investigating "Enhanced Geothermal System" projects in SA, otherwise known as "hot rocks" technology. In basic terms, the process involves liquid being forced under pressure between cracks in heated rock kilometres below the earth's crust and subsequently harnessed to create steam and generate electricity.

According to the State Government, the exploration licences granted to these companies represented 90 per cent of all geothermal activity in Australia. Last year, one such company, Petratherm, signed a deal with the Beverely uranium mine to look at the viability of supplying the mine's future energy needs using hot rocks. This technology can potentially provide 7500 years of the nation's energy needs. According to Australian researchers, more than 80 per cent of prime sites are located in the expansive Eromanga Basin, which covers the northeast corner of South Australia and southwest corner of Queensland.

When it comes to geothermal, the eyes of the world are on projects in the Cooper Basin, in the state's far northeast. It is home to the hottest bore drilled in Australia (aptly named Habanero, after a scorching variety of chilli), with temperatures hitting more than 250C about 4km down. Unlike current wind and solar technology, geothermal is considered one of the only renewable energy sources that can provide reliable baseload power. According to Professor Tester, Australia will be "the world's laboratory" for geothermal energy, Ms Jeanes says.

Sunshine is another under-utilised resource. Large-scale solar is still in its infancy but a Melbourne-based company, Solar Systems, is leading the pack on commercialising this technology. After more than 15 years of research and development and establishing small-scale solar plants in the Outback (including one at Umuwa to produce power for Anangu Pitjantjatjara people), it was last year given the go-ahead for a $420 million large-scale solar plant in northern Victoria.

The zero-emission electricity it creates will be enough to power 45,000 homes a year. If this venture proves a commercial success, South Australians will eventually be able to expect the same. Company spokeswoman Julia Birch says that while no plans can be publicly announced, sunny SA has "great potential" as a location for major solar power plants. "South Australia is a key candidate for our technology because it has an attractive mix of good solar resources, remote towns and areas to connect to the national grid," she says. SA also has one of the best wind resources in the world - the problem is that most of it is not convenient to the distribution grid.

Ms Jeanes says that while SA topped the nation for wind energy generation, it is falling behind other states. Now that federal incentives for new projects have dried up here, investors are turning to Victoria to cash in on its renewable energy scheme. "It's still financially viable to build a wind farm (on the Eyre Peninsula) but now that the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target incentives are all fully subscribed, there will be no new windfarms built in South Australia because of a lack of financial incentives," she explains. "The industry is starting to shift to Victoria where there's now a Victorian Renewable Energy Target scheme." She doesn't see that kind of investment picking up again unless there is a new national or state scheme of incentives.

Australia's zero emission future blowing in the wind

Beyond Zero Emissions
Melbourne, Australia
Media Release 03 June 07

On February 28th 2007 Federal Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull said "You can't run a modern economy on wind farms and solar panels. It's a pity that you can't, but you can't." Yet the Danish government has announced it aims to generate 75 per cent of their electricity needs through wind energy by 2025 and Denmark have set the agenda to reduce fossil fuel imports to zero as part of their massive renewable energy plans.

"This is a monumental decision from Denmark," said Matthew Wright, lead campaigner of Beyond Zero Emissions. "They have made a mockery of the Australian government and their refusal to accept renewable energy. Malcolm Turnbull is either lying or incompetent."

Denmark has less than one fifth the land area of Victoria, yet has already installed 3200MW of wind energy capacity. If Victoria had the same density of wind energy facilities as Denmark, they would have over 16,000MW of wind energy potential: enough to generate the entire state's energy requirements. The Danish wind industry also employs over 20,000 people, which when adjusted for population is equivalent to more than the entire Australian coal industry employs both directly and via downstream jobs.

"This is what a dedicated and informed government can achieve," said Mr. Wright. "Denmark understands that a sustainable economy is entirely dependent on a sustainable environment. And this in a country so high in density they are building wind farms in the ocean. They have borne the cost of developing wind technology, allowing countries like Australia the opportunity to leverage their early adoption."

Beyond Zero Emissions has produced a scoping document outlining the transition of Victoria's stationary energy sector to a zero emissions economy within thirteen years. This plan is predominately structured around the installation of 12,000MW of wind energy capacity into the state's electricity grid. Germany installed the same amount of wind energy potential in only four years - between 2001 and 2005. By 2010 they will have 30,000MW of wind energy potential, enough to generate equivalent of 40 per cent Australia's electricity needs.

"Wind power has become an internationally recognised, mainstream energy source," said Mr. Wright. "With a responsible carbon trading scheme, wind energy will rapidly achieve cost parity with coal-fired power generation. It also uses less than 99 per cent water to produce the same amount of energy as either coal or nuclear energy.

New international turbine developments allow developers to generate significant energy from low wind speed sites such as those in China and India. Using biomimicry to model nature, a Canadian research team has designed a low speed turbine blade replicating the form of a humpback whale's tail.

"Even if we reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero today, we still have a one in two chance of exceeding 2 degrees C average global warming – the figure widely accepted as representing runaway climate change. As an international community we need to convert to a zero emission society, and wind energy represents the fastest and most efficient technology to achieve this."

The new rock stars

Business Review Weekly
Thursday 14/6/2007 Page: 24

Damon Frith believes that Australia's granite deposits are the key to the country's 'geothermal future' with granite providing an alternative and renewable source of energy. Australian explorers have developed a technology to generate electricity from the heat flow from granite deposits known as 'enhanced geothermal systems' and an Australian Geothermal Energy Group has been established, directed by Barry Goldstein. The group has a vision of providing, safe and competitively priced, renewable geothermal energy that is emissions-free. Geothermal energy costs significantly more than coal, about $12-20 a megawatt more, to be precise.

However, factor in carbon taxes and carbon credits and the alternative energy source begins to look more feasible. To date, 19 exploration companies have begun to delve into this new area of energy production, and geothermal projects are being investigated in three states- Western Australia, Queensland and South Australia. Petratherm, looks set to be the first commercial producer of geothermal energy in Australia, and Geodynamics has plans to produce geothermal energy currently looking into a demonstration plant and power station.

Drink red, save planet

Noosa News
Friday 15/6/2007 Page: 21

When relaxing with a bottle of wine the last thing you imagine you are doing is helping save the planet. But with Elgo Estate winery's newest initiative you certainly could be. The family owned and unique Elgo Estate is forging ahead with a vision to conduct business in a fully sustainable way.

The Taresch family has commissioned a 150kw wind turbine. The turbine is positioned to convert a maximum amount of wind into renewable, green energy and saves more than 400 tonnes of greenhouse gas annually. And they also have plenty of other environment initiatives taking place.

The estate's newest wines will be brought to the table via 100% renewable energy. New vintages just released include the 2006 Allira Cabernet Merlot and the 2006 Allira Shiraz.

Log on to for a list of stockists.

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Wind farm off the ground

Northern Guardian
Wednesday 13/6/2007 Page: 5

THREE 275kw wind turbines will supply 40 per cent of Coral Bay's energy needs by the end of the year. Energy Minister Francis Logan said the $9.6 million wind-diesel project involved new technologies developed in Western Australia.

"The power system will use Verve Energy's technologically advanced control systems and lowload diesel generators which maximise the use of wind energy," he said. "It will also involve the use of wind turbines that can be lowered in the event of a cyclone." Mr Logan said the Coral Bay wind farm was the first large-scale application of its kind in Australia, and had good potential to be used in other cyclone-affected areas.

Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell said the project was a leading example in introducing wind energy into an existing diesel system.

Running with wind

Yass Tribune
Friday 8/6/2007 Page: 3

Environment groups have been quick to jump on the Federal Environment Minister's statement that "You can't run a modem economy on wind farms and solar panels". One group cites Denmark's announcement that it will generate 75 per cent of its electricity needs through wind energy by 2025.

A comparison is made with Victoria shows that:
  • Denmark is one fifth the size but has now installed 3200 megawatts of wind energy capacity.
  • A similar density in Victoria would supply all its energy needs.
  • The Danish wind industry employs 20,000 people.
Comparatively, that's more than the entire Australian coal industry employs both directly and via downstream jobs. Beyond Zero Emissions also cites Germany, which installed 12,000 megawatts of wind energy potential in only four years. By 2010 they will have 30,000 megawatts of wind energy potential, enough to generate equivalent of 40 per cent Australia's electricity needs.

Reference group up for discussion

Hepburn Shire Advocate
Wednesday 13/6/2007 Page: 8

Wind Power Pty Ltd has hailed its recent information day at Smeaton a success. Managing director Andrew Newbold said the meeting was a great opportunity to discuss the project with local residents. "We walked away with a better understanding of some of the community concerns.

These included loss of property values, noise, impacts on wildlife and loss of the visual amenity of the area," he said. "I hope that we were able to address these concerns by providing the facts about wind farms." About 45 people went on a bus lour to visit to Challicum Hills Wind Farm at Ararat on the same day. "After the visit some of the people who had been concerned about the noise of the turbines told me they were surprised at just how quiet the turbines were," Mr Newbold said.

He said Wind Power wanted to form a community reference group to discuss the location of the wind farms to try to reduce the impact on the important landscape values. "At this stage we are still preparing to lodge an application," he said. The CRG will meet on a monthly basis and will also be instrumental in keeping the community informed of any project developments.

Corporates chase renewables

Business News
Thursday 14/6/2007 Page: 7

Pacific Energy has agreed to pay about $4 million in cash and scrip for its 50 per cent interest.

LISTED company Pacific Energy Ltd has become the newest entrant to Western Australia's renewable energy sector, which is underpinned by a state government policy of quadrupling the state's use of `green' energy. Pacific announced last week the acquisition of a 50 per cent shareholding in Spiritwest Bioenergy Pty Ltd.

SpiritWest is pursuing the development of a 46-megawatt power station at Neerabup, north of Wanneroo and is one of three groups in WA aiming to develop biomass projects, which use plantation residue as the fuel for power stations. The SpiritWest project was instigated by Beacon Consulting's Cliff Jones, who is continuing to pursue the development of a 50MW biomass project near Albany. The third player is Western Australia Biomass Pty Ltd, a joint venture between investment bank Babcock and Brown and US company National Power. The JV has encountered vocal community opposition to its plans for a 40MW power plant near Bridgetown.

The SpiritWest acquisition was Pacific Energy's first deal since a major restructuring last year, under which former Kvaerner Engineering president John Fletcher was appointed chairman and Perth dealmaker Ian Middlemas became deputy chairman. The restructuring also included the recruitment of managing director Adam Boyd, formerly with GRD Ltd subsidiary Global Renewables, and general manager Nenad Ninkov, who held senior roles at Western Power. Mr Boyd said the SpiritWest project, budgeted to cost about $110 million, was ideally placed to help meet the state government's new renewable energy targets.

In May, Premier Alan Carpenter announced that 20 per cent of energy on WA's main electricity grid should be from renewable sources by 2025, up from about 5 per cent currently. Mr Boyd said this meant the state would have to commit to a 46MW renewable energy project every 18- 20 months. Pacific Energy's initial goal was to win a Synergy tender for the supply of renewable energy.

Its main competitors in the tender are Western Australia Biomass, which is still trying to gain environmental approval, and two wind farm proposals. Mr Boyd said biomass could be used to supply baseload power, in contrast to the intermittent supply from wind farms. He said the SpiritWest project's location in Perth's northern corridor was another plus, as it could stabilise the electricity network and reduce the need for transmission upgrades.

Pacific Energy's partner in the Spirit West project is investment group Perpetual Ltd, which agreed in 2005 to acquire a 50 per cent interest. Pacific Energy has agreed to pay about $4 million in cash and scrip for its 50 per cent interest, subject to the project reaching defined milestones. The vendor was Perth bioenergy Holdings Pty Ltd, a company set up by Mr Jones to develop the project.

Mr Jones also established Great Southern bioenergy Holdings Pty Ltd, which is seeking to establish two biomass-fuelled 50MW units near Albany. Mr Jones believes the renewable energy sector would get a big boost if the state government backed up its policy with legislation, as this would lift the value of renewable energy credits payable to power project.

Yass turbines

Hunter Valley Town & Country
Monday 11/6/2007 Page: 3

THE NSW Government has approved a new $50 million wind farm at Conroy's Gap, 17 kilometres west of Yass. More than 100 conditions have been imposed on the proposed development which will provide enough energy for about 12,600 homes.

Taurus Energy plans to construct up to 15 wind turbines on the site, creating about 50 construction jobs. The wind farm is expected to produce up to 99,000 MWh of renewable electricity per year for 30 years and will save about 94,000 tonnes of greenhouse emissions each year - the equivalent of removing up to 18,800 cars from the roads for 30 years - the NSW Government said.

Farmers want climate action

Shepparton News
Wednesday 13/6/2007 Page: 6

If climate change gets much worse, the Katandra North region will be "pretty much desert", predicts Katandra North farmer Eric Anderson.

Mr Anderson and his mate Ed Mulgrew agree climate change is a reality and wonder why the Federal Government is not doing more to solve the problem. "We've got climate change, we're going to have reduced water reliability and at that stage this area becomes what it was 100 years ago," Mr Mulgrew said. "I think what we're going to have to look at is farming with less water and different methods of producing our milk, meat and vegies and it probably means spending a lot of money. " Mr Mulgrew, 67, and his wife Judy milk 150 cows in Katandra North, but can only foresee farming for two more years.

Mr Anderson, 58, left dairy farming in the 2002-03 drought and now farms beef and walnuts. They believe there needs to be major investment in solar and wind energy and support the use of nuclear power as a last resort. "We've got this wealth from the mining industry, but we're not using that money to invest in our future," Mr Anderson said.

Mr Mulgrew proposed reforestation as a solution to help remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Environmental Farmers Network chairman John Pettigrew said an increasing number of farmers had switched on to climate change. "Farmers have been considering it for quite a few years and they certainly have been taking it into account," Mr Pettigrew said. He said farmers and the community could bring about change at a government level. "If the community wants change, eventually it will happen," Mr Pettigrew said.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Germany shows the way while Australia lags behind

West Australian
Saturday 9/6/2007 Page: 6

A visit to Germany leaves Chris Johnson impressed by the country's commitment to renewable energy. But it also gets him questioning: why hasn't sun-blessed Australia gone down the same path?

Take a stroll through just about any city, village or farmyard in Germany and two questions spring to mind: why are there so many solar panels attached to buildings? And how come the same thing is not happening in Australia? With an abundance of continuous natural sunlight blessing the whole continent, it remains a sad but confronting fact: Australia has not embraced solar energy to the degree it could. This vast nation also boasts ample wind around its coastline, through its valleys and across its plains, yet wind energy is another alternative energy source that is barely tapped.

John Howard says sources of renewable energy simply cannot supply the baseload power needed to be a major player in Australia's response to climate change. Neither will wind, solar and other renewables see a significant boost to the national economy, according to the Prime Minister. But on the other side of the world Australia is being shamed by the renewable energy endeavours of Germany, which attracts far less sunlight and no more wind.

Germany is ranked number one in the world of countries that have installed wind-power stations. The planet's highest rate of additions to new renewable electricity production is also to be found in Germany. Indeed, the country leads the world in solar energy research, technology and number of power stations. Germany installed 100,000 solar systems in 2006 alone, representing 750 MW of solar-electric generation. In some parts of Germany whole cities have converted in extraordinary measures to solar power. Freiburg, on the edge of the beautiful Black Forest in the south of the country, is one such place.

A medieval city of some 200,000 inhabitants, Freiburg has the reputation of being one of the prettiest cities in Germany, and one of its sunniest, too. Marketing itself to the world as a solar city, Freiburg is living proof that renewable energy is not only efficient, but it also pays. Freiburg employs 10,000 people in renewable energy industries. These jobs include research (which is an industry of its own in Freiburg), production, installation, education, sales and compliance as well as a host of flow-on occupations supported by the renewable energy focus.

In fact, hardly a job in the whole city would be completely disconnected from the solar industry, proving Mr Howard wrong that renewable energy is not an economy booster. It was in the 1990s when the Freiburg city council adopted a resolution to only permit construction of what it called "low energy buildings" on municipal land. Since then, all new buildings constructed within the city's boundaries must comply with certain low-energy specifications.

Freiburg also introduced successful initiatives to reduce the number of cars on the road. Its cyclists rule. Dedicated bike paths, where even pedestrians must give way, traverse the whole city. But walkers are also well catered for when it comes to pathways and an attractive flat-rate fare for all public transport sees far fewer cars on the road than other cities of similar size around the world.

Director of the city's environmental protection agency, Dieter Worner, insists the success of Freiburg in reducing its carbon footprint was driven by the people, not politicians (even though the city's mayor is a member of Germany's Green party). "This policy has not been a philosophy of the administration or of political parties," Dr Worner says.

"It is very much an initiative of the citizens of Freiburg. This is accepted now across all parties. We didn't have to convince the citizens. They drove the policy." Solar photovoltaic panels adorn roofs and external walls of homes, sporting arenas, apartments and office blocks throughout the city, with some suburbs completely powered by the sun. Tourism ventures have been set up specifically to showcase the city's climate-friendly initiatives. The whole economy benefits substantially due to the people's conscious decision to employ renewable energy technologies.

The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems positions itself as a link between universities and industry in order to bring the very best of solar expertise together. And it sets an example with its purpose-built research centre designed to make the most of the natural elements. As does private solar technology manufacturer Solar-Fabrik, which in 1998 built Europe's first zero carbon-emitting factory, making solar modules.

In addition to PV panels, the Solar-Fabrik building uses heating pumped from underground, has no air-conditioning, stores its own water, recycles just about everything, and stands as the ultimate advertisement for the company. Many homes employ similar passive solutions where residents use only a fifth of the energy used in conventionally built homes through modern energy-saving technology and efficient insulation.

But while Freiburg is an outstanding example, it is not the only city in Germany switched on to renewable energy. The entire country has embraced these new technologies and made noticeable reductions in its greenhouse gas emissions, but Freiburg happens to be doing better than most.

Within the context of the Kyoto Protocol, Germany shouldered the lion's share of the European Union's bloc target of an overall eight per cent reduction in carbon emissions from 1990 levels. Having been a big polluter thanks to the Cold War era industrial estates inherited from East Germany, a reunified Germany agreed to do more than other EU nations to reduce emissions.

It undertook to cut its emissions by 21 per cent compared with 1990 levels by Kyoto's first commitment period of 2008 to 2012. According to government data, Germany is only about three percentage points away from meeting this target. Australia's Kyoto commitment is 108 per cent of 1990 emission levels, yet Mr Howard will not ratify the agreement his Government signed in 1997.

Germany has gone "above and beyond" the cause in its willingness to address climate change and has indicated its willingness to cut emissions by more than 30 per cent by 2020 if the EU undertakes to reduce its greenhouse gases by a total of 30 per cent over the same period.

The driving engine behind their success is the Renewable Energies Act which guarantees to give priority to electricity that is produced regeneratively. The Act prescribes minimum remuneration rates for electricity generated from modules on the roof, converted by a solar concentrator and fed into the public grid. The electricity is then fed into the grid and the energy supplier reimburses the system owner.

Using the feed-in law, Germans invested more than US$10 billion ($12 billion) in new sources of renewable energy last year. This included wind turbines, solar panels, and biogas power plants, all helping the German government's aim to increase the proportion of renewable energies to at least 12.5 per cent of total electricity supply by 2010 and at least 20 per cent by 2020.

The Australian Government's Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (MRET), which started in April 2001, requires the sourcing of only 9500 gigawatt hours of extra renewable electricity per year by 2010 through to 2020. The German government's sustainability strategy hopes to achieve a result of having at least half of the country's energy demand satisfied with renewable energies by mid century.

Many businesses now thrive on supplying the demand for renewable energy. Photovoltaics companies, like Ersol Solar Energy, operating on the outskirts of the tourist town of Erfurt, in central Germany, supply the world with wafers for solar panels. In Munich, even BMW has a team dedicated to further developing the hydrogen combustion engine for motor cars as its contribution to reducing harmful emissions. In fact, across Germany 250,000 people are employed in the renewable energies industry because the government decided to grasp the opportunity.

One leading global provider of large-scale solar power systems, PowerLight, with an impressive array of 50,000 panels tracking the sun at Mulhausen, in Bavaria, has links to WA. Solar Sales Pty Ltd in Welshpool is the Australian representative of SunPower, which owns 100 per cent of PowerLight.

Director John Davidson says investment in infrastructure on a scale like that seen in Germany is needed in Australia to increase the capacity and timely delivery of dispersed energy to the general public. "The method for achieving that is through the use of a feed-in tariff like Germany's to stimulate investment returns in order to bring forward the eventual market uptake as price per installed watt reduces," he says.

WA Greens MLC Paul Llewellyn, who recently inspected Germany's renewable energy endeavours, insists there is much to be learned from the European example. "While Australia is an internationally recognised technology innovator, we remain a technology taker whenever our companies seek to develop large-scale renewable energy projects," he said.

Ray Willis, chairman of the WA Sustainable Energy Association, agrees that the German experience is one to admire and adds that it is only political will that is hindering similar initiatives here. "The challenge of climate change should be the catalyst for changing the way we think about and plan infrastructure, changing the way we use energy and future proofing our economy by developing an array of sustainable solutions for Western Australia," Dr Willis said.

Governments should be putting in place measures that promote energy efficiency across government, business and the community by directing tax relief to buyers investing in energy efficient homes, buildings, appliances and vehicles. The key barrier today is the fact that generators are not rewarded for producing peak distributed, emission-free energy. They are required to pay upfront capital costs which provides a rental stream that does not reflect the cost of producing that electricity.

In June 2004 Mr Howard announced his government's $75.3 million Solar Cities program as outlined in the Securing Australia's Energy Future White Paper. It is a partnership approach that involves all levels of government, the private sector and local communities which all commit to demonstrate how solar power, smart meters, energy efficiency and new approaches to electricity pricing can combine to provide a sustainable energy future in urban locations.

But the initiative pales in comparison to what is happening in Freiburg, a medieval town showing Australia the way in renewable energy production.

Global leaders in innovative designs: Susan Jeanes

Weekend Australian
Saturday 9/6/2007 Page: 4

THE Australian renewable energy industry has a demonstrated track record in the delivery of competitively priced clean energy, and in innovative technology development. We lead the world in:
  • Large-scale solar technology development.
  • Heat exploration and cost-efficient geothermal energy techniques.
  • The sustainable management of water for hydro-electricity production.
  • The use of wind forecasting techniques and project design to increase output and reliability from wind energy.
The significance of this innovation and the opportunities they present to Australia cannot be overestimated in a world where energy demand is escalating and the emissions from our reliance on fossil fuels must be reduced by at least 50 per cent in the next 40 years. Australia now has the most cost-efficient solar power stations in the world operating in off-grid communities in central Australia.

The technology, developed by Melbourne company Solar Systems, will soon be deployed in a 154MW plant in northern Victoria. Solar Systems is also working with Boeing to bring satellite technology to on-ground applications, reducing costs and increasing efficiency. It is increasingly being acknowledged around the world as the most likely technology to produce the large scale cost reductions and increased power outputs required to mainstream solar technology.

Australia has recently been described in a report produced by a team of geologists from across the US and Europe as the world's laboratory for the development of geothermal energy. The report's lead author, Professor Jefferson Tester, is in Australia later this month to promote its findings to Australian policy makers.

Australia's ancient geology contains some of the world's hottest rocks. Our geothermal industry is pulling together our mining expertise to find the best heat-producing rocks. and the hydrological expertise to efficiently circulate water from the surface through hot rocks kilometres below and back up again - and the energy industry is providing the expertise to efficiently drive turbines and generate baseload power above ground.

According to a federal government report produced in 1994, there's enough heat underlying Australia's centre to meet our energy needs for 7500 years. Nearly 20 companies are at various stages of the exploration; drilling and water circulation process to ultimately produce power. In the lead are Geodynamics and Petratherm, both expecting to be generating within the next few years.

The only question is, why has it taken so long for this industry to get the recognition its potential deserves? Hydro-electricity has been supplying cost competitive power to the Australian market for a century, and we've learnt a lot about the sustainable use of water.

Millions of people still live without clean water or energy, and as the world struggles to meet their needs organisations such as the United Nations and the World Bank demand higher standards for the sustainable use of water in power generation and storage projects.

Australia's experience has proudly underwritten the global standards through Hydro Tasmania's production of the sustainability guidelines for hydropower developments. Over the coming years, while the race is on to fully develop the technologies that the world will need to provide clean energy from geothermal, solar and clean fossil fuels, emissions from Australia's and the world's production of electricity will continue to rise.

Technologies such as wind energy can provide clean energy throughout this period to meet increasing demand as our economies and thirst` for air-conditioners grows. Australia's wind industry has played a leading role in increasing reliability and output from wind energy including advanced wind forecasting techniques and optimised engineering solutions for localised geographical and high wind conditions.

Australian companies such as Roaring 40s are using this expertise to develop wind projects throughout our region, where significant targets for renewable energy have been established by national governments. The economic, environmental and security challenges that the world will face throughout this century will require innovative ways of delivering the living standards that more and more people will come to expect.

Australia's renewable energy industry has proven its capacity for innovation. With proactive policy frameworks, frameworks that are increasingly being put into place across the rest of the world, our industry will be able to continue its development, build at economies of scale and bring costs down to be a major supplier of clean, safe and secure renewable energy solutions to a world increasingly in need of them.

Susan Jeanes is chief executive of Renewable Energy Generators Australia (REGA), representing generators, suppliers and specialists in the zero emission electricity supply industry.

Demand for solar power on rise

Canberra Times
Saturday 9/6/2007 Page: 21

Rising electricity and water costs, as well as blackouts, are expected to accelerate the switch by Australian households to solar energy and water-saving devices. Some energy experts believe NSW will face power blackouts as the water-powered turbines of the Snowy Hydro, which are used in peak-demand periods, may sit idle because of the drought.

NSW Greens MP John Kaye said last month that dwindling dam levels were threatening power supplies. He said the eastern seaboard states faced blackouts, largely because many coal-fired power stations were also running out of water. Dr Kaye said renewable energy technologies and energy efficiency could operate through droughts and reduced the risks of blackouts.

Dux Hot Water general manager Les Patterson said that with consumers already concerned about the effects of climate change, there was a shift towards greater use of solar power. "With rising energy costs, the various rebates and incentives available for consumers and requirements for more energy efficient housing, solar hot water systems are becoming a more compelling option for both domestic homes and commercial premises," Mr Patterson said.

Electric hot water systems are huge consumers of energy and can eat tip to 30 per cent of an average household's energy usage. EnergyAustralia, one of the nation's largest energy suppliers, said switching to solar power was the single-most effective choice required to reduce greenhouse emissions by a household. EnergyAustralia spokesman Anthony O'Brien said the utility received hundreds of inquiries each week about solar-gas hot water systems.

Although EnergyAustralia does not install such systems, it is offering rebates to those who do. "If you choose to go from a electric system to solar hot water or heat pump or gas [system], you can get a rebate of $750 to $1000 off the price," Mr O'Brien said. "The average savings is about $240 off [an annual] electricity bill ... and you cut between two and three tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.

Todae, an online shop offering ecologically sustainable products and services, said there could be a waiting time to buy water tanks from six weeks to as long as five months.

Todae's owner Danin Kahan there had been a jump in interest from people wanting to buy water saving devices and solar-powered generators. "Inquiries have tripled since the Government's rebate was doubled last month." In a $150 million package for solar announced in the budget, the maximum rebate for solar panels on homes provided through the Government's Photovoltaic Rebate Program (PVRP) will increase from $4000 to $8000.

Environment and Water Resources Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the photovoltaic rebate was effective from May 9, and he expected the number of solar panels on Australian homes to more than double over the next five years.

Electricity from thin air

Weekend Australian
Saturday 9/6/2007 Page: 6

EVENTS are moving swiftly on the wind energy front. In mid-May the generating company Roaring 40s brought into operation the final stage of its Woolnorth wind farm in north-eastern Tasmania. Twenty-five new towers and turbines are working, each turbine having a generating capacity of 3 megawatts, adding to the 37 machines that were commissioned in 2003. The power project has cost $170 million and has a total capacity of 150MW.

At the same time Australia's largest retail energy supplier, AGL Energy, acquired the development rights to a 71MW wind farm in South Australia. The proposed Hallett Hill project will be located just 20km from the 95MW Hallett wind farm now being built by AGL at a cost of $236 million. By the end of the decade, AGL hopes to be operating 134 wind turbines in South Australia with a combined capacity of 255MW, And it has under consideration investment in a further 400MW of wind generation.

Over in the west, Perth-based Verve Energy is carrying out a feasibility study on expanding its wind farm at Albany which now supplies 70 per cent of the power consumed by the West Australian port city.

Pacific Hydro, which has already built two wind farms in Victoria, has on its planning board board a second stage at Portland, along with the 115MW and up to 140MW Crowlands projects in that state as well as two wind farms totalling 117MW in South Australia.

According to the Australian Wind Energy Association (Auswind), there are 817MW of installed wind capacity in this country and another 6785MW proposed.

The move to wind will be underpinned by the new Auswind accreditation scheme for wind farms. This will provide assurance to communities that certified wind farms under the scheme not only comply with regulatory requirements, but are safe and reliable, and economically, environmentally and socially sustainable, according to the agency. With money from the Department of Environment and Water and the Australian Greenhouse Office, the Auswind accreditation scheme is aimed at providing a mechanism through independent audit and certification for Australian wind farms under development, construction and operation to demonstrate their commitment to world's best practice.

Many of the existing wind installations are small and provide power for a restricted use or locality; others are - while nowhere near the capacity of a large coal-fired baseload station - making a serious contribution to the grid supply. And, unlike hydro and coal power, the wind farms are not affected by the drought and shortage of water. They also save on greenhouse gas emissions: a 1MW turbine, for example, provides enough electricity for 300 homes and, just as critically, saves more than 2000 tonnes a year of greenhouse gas that would be emitted if that power came from a coal-fired station. AGL's Hallett Hill in South Australia is expected to abate 250,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

The bigger stations include Pacific Hydro's 52.5MW Challicum Hills operation in Victoria, the 66MW Cathedral Rocks station operated by Roaring 40s near Port Lincoln in South Australia, the Babcock and Brown Wind Partners 89.1MW Alinta wind station near Geraldton in Western Australia and its 80.5MW operation at Lake Bonney near Mt Gambier (and where the stage two development will bring the total capacity to 159MW next year). Another important installation in the west is the 80MW Emu Downs wind farm, a joint development between Stanwell Corp and Griffin Energy.

NSW and Queensland have still to commit to large wind projects. EnergyAustralia has a 600-kilowatt wind turbine at Kooragang Island in Newcastle, while Eraring Energy operates the 4.8MW wind farm at Crookwell near Goulburn which was connected to the national grid in 1998, and a 15-turbine farm south of Orange at Blayney (9.9MW).

Monday, 11 June 2007

City aims to be model for other municipalities

Bendigo Advertiser
Friday 8/6/2007 Page: 12

CITY of Greater Bendigo council will attempt to set itself up as a model for other municipalities in combating climate change with a new benchmark green plan to guide its activities.

Bendigo council has adopted a new draft Natural Environment Strategy for 2007 to 2010 aiming to incorporate maximum climate changes response, natural conservation and improved resource management into its services and operations. The plan's objectives are making a 50 per cent reduction in corporate greenhouse emissions by 2020, utilising hybrid fleet cars and biodiesel truck trials.

It also includes alternative energy trials for landfill methane gas, solar cells on council buildings and extensive use of low energy council buildings and street lighting, to influence planning strategies to encourage alternative transport use to cars, ensure alignment with other major conservation bodies such as the North Central Catchment Management Authority and Department of Sustainability and Environment as well as investigate clearer potential impacts of climate change on Bendigo.

Cr Keith Reynard said while they had met 85 per cent of the 2001- 2006 plan's targets, the new plan had set standards and objectives even higher because the community awareness. "This is about reflecting a major change of focus in the community," Cr Reynard said. "We have shown leadership in this area and it is recognised by many councils around Australia." Cr Reynard argued that where federal leadership had failed on the climate change issue, the council could regain the initiative for change with a level of community consultation and interaction.

"15 years ago we led the world in solar energy, research and development and since then we have seen that innovation stifled." He said Bendigo's solar city bid, the Central Victorian Greenhouse Alliance and the renewable Energy conference to be held in Bendigo in September could set new benchmarks and ideas other regions could follow.

Cr Rod Fyffe said the new strategy followed the fact that Bendigo +25 Plan had nominated climate as the number one issue concerning the community.

"This EP blueprint will influence every part of the council's planning and assets management officers' thinking and indeed every member of our community." Cr Kevin Gibbons said the focus of the strategy was ensuring Bendigo was and continued to be a great place to live. "We want Bendigo to be a really lovely place to be, we want the best water to drink, the best air to breathe and to do that we need this plan," Cr Gibbins said.

Council's Green Plan, which has gained input from an umber of partners including Bendigo schools and community forums, will now be open for community comment before being releasing its final strategy.

Mark Diesendorf: Simple strategies can save our world

Adelaide Advertiser
Friday 8/6/2007 Page: 20

NEITHER coal, with the capture and burial of carbon dioxide, nor nuclear power could make significant contributions to reducing Australia's greenhouse gas emissions before 2025. Yet, urgent action is needed to combat global warming. Fortunately, a mix of efficient energy use, solar hot water, renewable sources of energy and natural gas could achieve large reductions in emissions before 2020.

Australia's biggest single source of greenhouse gas emissions is electricity generation and, in particular, coal-fired power stations. Any strong action to reduce emissions must include an immediate ban on new conventional coal-fired power stations and also on major renovations of old coal stations. So-called "clean coal", a term devised by the coal industry's spin doctors for the capture and underground burial of carbon dioxide, will not be commercially available until well after 2020.

But global warming is accelerating and we must act now to achieve a 30 per cent reduction in Australia's emissions by 2020 and 80 per cent by 2050. We already have the technologies to achieve the first target at a reasonable cost. Sadly, neither the Federal Government nor the Opposition has accepted a reduction target for 2020. Neither has made a commitment to implement policies that could even stop the present growth in emissions. Furthermore, no state government or opposition appears to be serious about ceasing to build dirty coal-fired power stations.

The cheapest and fastest to implement are the myriad technologies and measures for using energy efficiently. In the home, they include: insulation of roof, hot water tanks and (if possible) walls; draught sealing in winter and cross ventilation in summer; gas heating; fluorescent lighting; shading of northern and western windows in summer; fans and evaporative coolers for summer; energy-efficient appliances.

Both energy efficiency and solar hot water are best encouraged by government regulations and standards. To encourage efficient residential energy use, governments should set mandatory energy ratings and energyperformance standards for existing homes as well as new homes.

Wind power, the cheapest of the "new" renewable sources of electricity, could supply 10 per cent of Australia's electricity by 2020 and 20 per cent by 2040. Contrary to the claims of the coal and nuclear industries and their politician supporters, wind energy from several geographically separated sites is moderately reliable and can substitute for some coal power. It may need partial back-up from gas turbines. Since the back-up does not have to be operated frequently, it can be treated as reliability insurance with a low premium.

A slightly more expensive renewable energy source is bioenergy from the combustion of organic residues of existing crops, such as sugar, wheat and plantation forests. Both wind energy and bioenergy need carbon pricing to make them economically competitive with dirty coal power.

The combination of efficient energy use, solar hot water, gas, wind and bioenergy will be much cheaper, much lower in emissions and much faster to implement than the Federal Government's favoured scenario comprising rapid growth in demand, coal with carbon dioxide burial and nuclear power.

We must also be developing those renewable energy technologies that are still expensive, but have huge potential. These are solar electricity, bioenergy from dedicated crops and hot rock geothermal, which together could supply half of Australia's electricity by 2050.

Dr Mark Diesendorf teaches at the Institute of Environmental Studies, University of New South Wales. He was in Adelaide this week to launch his latest book, Greenhouse Solutions with Sustainable Energy.

An overdue farewell for old King Coal

Sydney Morning Herald
Friday 8/6/2007 Page: 13

In the early 1990s wind turbines were seen as small-scale, fringe technology. The industry was a backyard enterprise, carried on in garages and on farms by starry-eyed pioneers. In 2007 there are now 214,000 people employed in renewable energy in Germany, so it surprises me that Australia's Government still has such a black view of renewable energy.

The world has decided we need to stop using fossil fuels, but the International Energy Agency still has no idea how to switch from coal, oil and gas. It was to fill this need that Greenpeace commissioned an economic and technological model of how to clean up the energy sector globally, cutting emissions by half by 2050.

Surprisingly, we found that eliminating nuclear power and reducing dependence on fossil fuels increases energy security and often lowers consumer energy prices. This finding is so counter to traditional "economy versus environment" thinking that it is taking time to be accepted.

The warning from our study is urgent: if the world listens to "King Coal" and his renewables sceptics, we face a future not just of climate disaster but also of massively rising energy prices, energy insecurity and economic stresses due to electricity supply instability alone.

Greenpeace's "energy revolution" scenario was developed by the German Space Agency in conjunction with engineers and scientists from a number of institutes globally and the European Association for Renewable Energy. Stopping climate change requires a revolution in government policy, but it can be achieved by an evolution of proven technologies. Wind alone is providing 8 per cent of electricity in Germany and 20 per cent in Denmark. The biggest coal plant-scale solar factories in the world are in China.

When presenting the details of our study to members of the federal parliamentary inquiry into renewable energy, we were able to demonstrate how Australia is missing out on a jobs and economic boom as the country lags other countries in implementing the clean energy revolution. Few realised this country is being outperformed by unexpected places, such as the Philippines, Texas, China and Egypt.

The biggest intellectual misconception was the idea that renewables cannot provide baseload power generation, yet geothermal, bioenergy, hydro-electricity, concentrated solar power with thermal storage capacity all can. With sophisticated wind forecasting, wind energy's variable nature can be relied upon to keep the economy humming.

The biggest economic benefit is energy efficiency. This is the "low-hanging fruit" of the clean energy revolution and gives the fastest return on investment. Our figures show that by 2050 energy savings alone will account for 47 per cent of displaced demand against the business-as-usual scenario. These efficiencies range from better appliances to best-practice factories and new approaches to energy, such as decentralising energy production. These technologies are not spectacular like wind farms or futuristic systems like "hot rocks", but are the bedrock of humanity's response to climate change.

So what might global trends mean for Australians heading into a federal election? Investors will start to cool on coal companies that stake their futures on unproven and financially risky clean coal technology. Investors will compare the risks and likely delays in clean coal to the annual growth in solar and wind of more than 30 per cent over the next decade.

When consumers understand that renewable energy offers more security, coal will begin to face real political trouble. The Australia-based emissions trading scheme will likewise lose its sheen once it is understood. International evidence demonstrates that emissions trading will not create a booming renewables sector. A weak and uncertain scheme can even be a step backwards. No country has relied on emissions trading alone to switch from high-carbon to climate-safe energy because it does not work.

The benchmark for the Government's policy on climate is straightforward: will it ensure that we look beyond coal and will it result in a reduction in greenhouse emissions? History is gathering pace around a clean energy revolution. We now know that dropping global reliance on fossil fuels will be good for security, the economy and consumers.

You do not need to be a brave engineer to predict that Australia is about to make a big switch, and not a moment too soon.

Sven Teske is the renewables director at Greenpeace International.