Friday, 23 May 2008

28 turbines up, 100 more to go

Ballarat Courier
Friday 16/5/2008 Page: 1

CHANCES are you've seen many turbines going up on the hills north-west of Ballarat. This week, the 28th turbine was erected at Waubra Wind Farm, with 100 more to go. Already, the locals are planning a festival to mark the wind farm's opening next year. Works are going well according to Acciona Energy construction manager Bruce Payne, but have depended on the weather. "During March and April, it was unseasonably windy, which posed the biggest challenge to the works," Mr Payne said.

This hasn't stopped works developing rapidly, as the farm extends across a 160km radius, encompassing the outskirts of Learmonth and Evansford. Local businesses are also happy. The works have brought more trading to Waubra, with the local store even extending its trading hours. Currently, the electrical and cabling works are being installed at various sites. Five sub-stations are being built, with underground cabling works 40 per cent complete.

More than 120km of cabling is needed for the project, and has been engineered to maximise the electrical current. Mr Payne said cabling had been laid almost a metre underground, so it wouldn't interfere with local farming operations. Laid along with the cabling will be a system providing realtime data to the maintenance facility, detailing wind speed at the turbines, its direction and what electricity is being produced.

Meanwhile, works on the Harrisons Rd maintenance facility are expected to be completed in three months. The facility is being built using sustainable materials. It will be fully powered with wind energy, be solar heated and use water recycling. Mr Payne said the next task was to get all the substations completed and turbines erected, ready for connection to the grid early next year.

Making a change to our climate

Western Advocate
Thursday 15/5/2008 Page: 8

HELLO, and welcome to my first column as the publicity officer for Bathurst Community Climate Action Network. Some of you may remember my previous columns on the arts. As an arts lover I certainly haven't changed hats - I've just added another on top of my existing one! To me, both the arts and the environment are intimately connected to our sense of wellbeing. If the arts and the environment are diminished, then we are also diminished.

A recent paper by Dr Grant Blashki of the University of Melbourne argues that climate change is now beginning to affect people's mental health. Leaving aside all arguments about the science of global warming (is it really happening? if it is, have humans caused it?), the fact that we are now bombarded by information about the possibility of catastrophe is depressing even for those with the most cheerful dispositions.

For those with a tendency to gloom, global warming is becoming just another reason not get out of bed. For me, in moments of gloom, I feel very sad about what I've been reading about birds. According to a study by Swedish ornithologist Anders Hedenstrom from the Lund University, changes in global temperature could disrupt annual migration patterns because birds miss their environmental "cues."

An Australian study by PhD students at Macquarie University has confirmed that our own migratory birds are starting to arrive earlier and leave later. Some birds will cope, or even flourish, in changed circumstances, while others will certainly go under. The antidote to gloom? As members of Bathurst Community Climate Action Network have found, it helps to take action, no matter how small. So far this year BCCAN has held two very successful public meetings, one about Cadia gold mine's feelers to take Bathurst's effluent for its mining operations (the feelers went back in, quick smart) and the other about a proposal to create a local wind farm.

Like most BCCAN members, I have no scientific training, only a sincere desire to do what I can about this extraordinary global challenge. Ultimately it is community action and pressure, locally and globally, that will cause the changes we need. If you're interested in BCCAN's activities, go to or write to BCCAN, PO Box 1339, Bathurst, 2795.

*Tracy Sorensen is the publicity officer for Bathurst Community Climate Action Network

Tests for massive wind farm Groundwork is under way

Warrnambool Standard
Friday 16/5/2008 Page: 2

PREPARATION work has started in Macarthur on an $850 million wind farm - the largest in Australasia. The huge project covers 5500 hectares on three farming properties with 150 huge turbines generating enough electricity for up to 150,000 homes - equivalent to the size of Geelong. Construction is scheduled to start next year and will involve up to 200 workers on the site for up to three years.

When completed the wind farm will need 15 full-time staff to maintain it. The steel towers and hightech turbine generators will stretch 135 metres from the ground to the top of the wind blades. The finished Macarthur development will make south-west Victoria one of the largest wind power providers in Australia. Four wind farms are already standing with another nine in the planning stages. An industry source told The Standard yesterday up to 15 new wind farms were proposed for Moyne Shire alone.

There were 1300 submissions on the Macarthur project with about 90 per cent in favour. Objections cited environmental, visual and amenity concerns which went through appeals hearings. Moyne Shire Council issued a planning permit two years ago for the joint venture between AGL Energy and Meridian Energy, New Zealand. Yesterday an engineering contractor began sinking sample bores for geotechnical tests which will determine ground stability.

Other tests and studies are being done to meet government criteria on social impact, environment and traffic issues. Meridian's commercial development manager Graham Ebbett said it was hoped all permit requirement studies would be complete by November ready for government approval. He said he could not guarantee the Keppel Prince wind tower factory at Portland would be used, but locally sourced materials would "where appropriate."

Understanding the drivers of change

Ballarat Courier
Friday 16/5/2008 Page: 26

0NE of the best natural events that a climate change sceptic may draw on to highlight their cause is a heavy snowfall or good ski season. How can the planet be warning if the ski season at Mt Buller is the best in decades one may ask? To address this question we need to understand the difference between variability and change, and, in many parts of the world, including south-eastern Australia, to separate these two we need more than a few decades record of climatic conditions.

So what drives variability and what drives change? Since the 1960s we have accepted that the continents move on large plates and the suture lines between these plates are zones of earthquakes, volcanoes and the building of mountains. Over tine scales of hundreds of millions of years, continents have coalesced and split apart impacting upon sea and air currents and continentality-the effect of distance from the sea on climates.

Over this time period, geological change has brought about climate change. Certainly since the breaking up of Gondwana, Australia's climate has been affected by our northward, snail's pace, migration. The drying up of Australia 30 million years ago was due, at least in part, to the opening up of the Southern Ocean that incrementally reduced the passage of tropical air to the pole, leading to the refrigeration of Antarctica and the capturing of much surface water as ice.

But even back then the region we know as Ballarat would have experienced cold wet days, and warm dry ones-we just can't see it because the geological record rarely captures evidence at such fine time fractions. Of course the reverse is true for the present day. We have at our fingertips high resolution records of multiple climate variables from a vast network of meteorological stations. So we know, or at least have the capacity to know, much about our present weather, which, integrated across months, years and decades, describes our present climate.

So we can regularly experience the kind of variability that is invisible to the geologist. What the contemporary "cloud spotter" has trouble with, however, is time depth. Can you remember the big drought before this one? What about the one before that? The last big flood was in 1974-76, and before that, the "biggest of all", was 1956-58. Others occurred in 1917 and 1870 and there was a large drought in 1862-65. But what detail can we access of the climate extremes of the 19th century.

Were they unusual or representative? Can we compare the written experiences of that time with ours today when so much else has changed in the meantime? Essentially, what we are witnessing is variability, and, given the prevailing influence of El Nino- La Nina cycles on our climate over annual to decadal cycles, our personal experiences are too short to assess whether we have actually experienced change.

The conclusion of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change - that we are already experiencing climate change and that dangerous climate change is likely if we do not act radically - are based on the best available data and modelling. But how do they deal with the problems of the short-term bias in climate data and experience? Their understanding comes from the inter-relationship between past and future climates that are both underpinned by our knowledge of contemporary climate processes.

Hidden away, archived as if an historical text book, are records of past climate. Better known are the ice cores that contain evidence of past CO2 concentrations but, closer to hand in Tasmania, and near Terang and Camperdown, are sites where cores of different types have revealed much about recent change - and a little about the variability too.

These enable its to place the recently collected instrumental data into a longer-term context. The instrumental data also, for many years, have enabled us to understand climatic processes. These have been built into climatic models that enable us to predict climatic responses to changes in the drivers of climate. The complexity of climate systems is great so you can imagine the computer power needed to run the models.

Confidence in the models can be enhanced if they can be run on the conditions of the past, and indeed, if they then can recreate the climates experienced under those conditions. So the models that are generating scenarios of our climate future draw heavily, not only on the present, but also the deeper past. We can be confident then, that the models, which are clearly rich in resolution, are also time rich, being built up from many records of the biggest snowfalls, floods and droughts of the past, and even more of the conditions in between.

* Peter Gell is Professor of Environmental Science and director of the Centre for Environmental Management, School of Science and Engineering at the University of Ballarat.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Green energy harvested from landfill

Rouse Hill Times
Wednesday 14/5/2008 Page: 24

ROTTING rubbish in Marsden Park is providing electricity for 1000 NSW homes. WSN Environmental Solutions' Grange Avenue landfill at Marsden Park continues to contribute to renewable energy generation three years after the dump was closed. The plant exports enough green electricity to the NSW Energy Grid to supply more than 1000 homes with year-round clean power and is expected to achieve its 15,000th MW hour this month.

The site incorporates a 1.25MW gas engine power station, which is owned and operated by Energy Developments Limited. methane created during the decomposition of household waste in the landfill is used as a fuel to create electricity, which is then supplied to the energy grid. WSN Environmental Solutions chief executive officer Ken Kanofski said renewable energy is at the forefront of the fight against climate change.

"Capturing gas from landfill and generating green electricity is a crucial interim measure as the waste industry moves towards alternative waste technology," he said. "While the Grange Ave landfill site may be closed, it still makes a significant contribution to the production of renewable energy, which is made possible by EDL's technology." WSN sites' export enough green energy to the NSW energy grid to provide year-round power to 30,000 homes and there are plans for expansion. "By 2014, WSN sites will be exporting enough green power to the grid to power 40,000 homes with year-round electricity," he said.

Desalination by wind

Manly Daily
Wednesday 14/5/2008 Page: 5

THE NSW Government has agreed to a 20-year energy supply deal to ensure wind turbines will power Sydney's desalination plant. Premier Morris Iemma said the deal would link Sydney Water to the Babcock and Brown - backed Capital Wind Farm being built at Bungendore, near Queanbeyan in southern NSW. "I always said the Government would insist the desalination plant will be powered 100 per cent by clean green energy and today we're delivering that," Mr lemma said. "This will be Australia's biggest accredited renewable energy contract." The contract requires Sydney Water to buy a minimum 180,000 Renewable Energy Certificates every year for 20 years.

Wind monitor crash deliberate

Geelong News
Wednesday 14/5/2008 Page: 19

OPPONENTS of a Winchelsea wind farm are suspected of toppling a $100,000 wind monitoring tower. The 80-metre tower housing electronic equipment to record wind activity had been erected in preparation for a proposed wind farm on the property. Detectives said on Monday they believed the people responsible entered the private property some time on the weekend of May 3-4 and cut the cables supporting the tower, sending it crashing to the ground.

Detective Senior Constable Anthony Reyntjes, of Geelong CIU, said those responsible were extremely lucky the tower did not crash on top of them and kill them. The creation of the proposed wind farm has received opposition from local groups. Any person who has information about this incident is asked to phone Geelong police or Crime Stoppers anonymously on 1800 333 000.

Budget could delay renewable energy projects

AAP Newswire
Wednesday 14/5/2008

CANBERRA, May 14 AAP - A budget decision to defer spending on renewable energy could delay "hot rocks" projects, which use geothermal energy to produce low-emission electricity. John Connor, CEO of the Climate Institute Australia research think-tank, said several projects were looking for funding in 2008-09 but the Rudd government's first budget did not commit funds for renewable energy until later. The budget prioritises spending on clean coal in the next few years, pushing most renewable funding back to the post - 2012 period.

Some green groups are unhappy with the decision. "There are a couple of clouds over the budget in terms of question marks over funding for renewable energy initiatives in the coming financial year," Mr Connor said. "There (are) some concerns particularly amongst the geothermal, which is the hot rock, sector there, where they did have plans on the books for this coming financial year." The Climate Institute Australia is chasing the government to see how the hot rocks projects might be funded.

Mr Connor welcomed some aspects of the budget, describing it as a "mild but promising" start for clean energy reform. There were good initiatives for solar power, he said. The slow start to renewable energy funding should be kept in perspective - there were not many projects which were far enough advanced to seek funding in the near future.

And the establishment of an Emissions Trading Scheme in 2010 - which puts a tax on carbon emissions - would likely be a huge boost to renewable energy funding. Mr Connor said $10 billion might become available each year through the sale of ETS permits so clean energy funding would be a "whole new ball game." Some green groups have criticised the budget for taking away the $8,000 rebate for solar panels from households earning $100,000 or more, but Mr Connor said it was fair to introduce a means test.

Means test clouds solar sales

Thursday 15/5/2008 Page: 4

A DECISION to make it harder for households to receive an $8000 rebate for installing solar panels on their home was under attack last night, with one business claiming it had lost more than 30 clients in a day. Environment Minister Peter Garrett announced in the budget that from yesterday only households earning less than $100,000 would qualify for the rebate.

Energy Matters spokesman Markus Lambert said the means test would wipe out most of its solar panel sales in the nation's biggest cities, saying more than 30 contracts had been cancelled after people were told of the change, with about another 20 considering whether to continue.

Without the rebate, the out of pocket costs to put in an average solar panel system more than doubles from about $5000 to $13,000. The budget met election promises by dedicating $2.3 billion to tackling climate change, including "green loans" of up to $10,000 for 200,000 households to improve energy and water efficiency. But it delayed the start of a promised $500 million renewable energy fund until 2009-10 while comparatively accelerating spending from a similar fund dedicated to experimental "clean-coal" research.

Wayne Swan said climate change was "perhaps the greatest threat to our economy, our environment and our living standards in future generations." But Australian Conservation Foundation president Professor Ian Lowe said that while the Government had taken long-overdue steps to lift energy and water efficiency, it missed an opportunity to set a future climate change agenda by abolishing subsidies to the fossil fuel sector.

It has been estimated that the fringe benefits tax concession on company cars produces about as much greenhouse pollution as a medium-sized coal-fire power station," he said. Climate Institute Australia chief executive John Connor described the budget as a mild but promising start. "There's a few clouds... but you have to acknowledge there is daylight between this budget and the budgets of the last decade and a half," he said.

Wind tower cut down

Geelong Advertiser
Tuesday 13/5/2008 Page: 7

VANDALS have sent an 80-metre wind monitoring tower in Winchelsea crashing to the ground, causing about $100,000 damage. The destruction comes as the community continues to lobby against a proposal by Future Energy Pty Ltd to build 14 turbines in Gnarwarre, just outside Winchelsea. Geelong CIU Detective Sen-Constable Anthony Reyntjes said the incident happened on the weekend of May 3 and 4.

He said the tower, which contained electronic equipment for recording wind activity, was on the property where the proposed turbines would be erected. Sen-Constable Reyntjes said the offenders trespassed on the private rural property and cut cables supporting the tower, sending it toppling to the ground. "The people responsible for this are extremely lucky the tower did not crash on top of them and kill them," he said.

"The creation of the proposed wind farm has received a large amount of media attention and opposition." Surf Coast Mayor Dean Webster said he hoped the vandalism was not related to the wind farm debate. "Any community member with concern about the planned wind farm needs to address this through proper channels of council because illegal activity such as destruction of property won't help anyone's cause," he said.

Anyone with information should phone Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

Plans for 63-turbine wind farm

Adelaide Advertiser
Tuesday 13/5/2008 Page: 6

SOUTH Australia's largest windfarm could be built at Hallett in the state's Mid North. AGL announced yesterday that it was considering plans for the Hallett 4 windfarm, which would be operational by 2011. It would comprise up to 63 turbines with a capacity of 189 megawatts - enough power to supply about 67,000 average homes. SA's existing largest windfarm is Lake Bonney Stage Two, owned by Babcock and Brown Wind Partners, which is scheduled to generate 159MW at full production. AGL said yesterday it would make a final decision on whether to invest in Hallett 4 by late next year with the site to be operational by 2011.

Solar tariff is bizarre: group

Ballarat Courier
Saturday 10/5/2008 Page: 9

ELEMENTS of the Victorian Government's new solar power feed-in tariff were "bizarre", the Ballarat Renewable Energy and Zero Emissions group vice-president said this week. The figures just don't add up in the residents' favour," Lisa Kendal said. The government has proposed paying households with photovoltaic systems 60c for every "unused" kilowatt hour of power fed back into the state electricity grid.

The feed-in tariff - while almost four times the current retail electricity price - will not apply to household solar systems greater than two kilowatts in capacity. But Ms Kendal said it was unlikely most households would generate surplus electricity unless they had a system larger than two kilowatts.

However Energy and Resources Minister Peter Batchelor said the new scheme, to be introduced next year, would "encourage more households to install solar photovoltaic systems and encourage solar powered households to be energy efficient and maximise the amount of power fed into the state's electricity grid for other customers to use."

South Australia, Queensland and the ACT have also proposed paying a premium for energy generated by domestic photovoltaic installations. In South Australia the minimum solar feed-in tariff is 44c a kilowatt hour but this is payable on systems up to 10 kilowatts in size.

Chimneys sweep BP clean coal plan away

Weekend Australian
Saturday 10/5/2008 Page: 32

WHAT was touted as Australia's biggest contribution to developing clean coal technology for use around the world in reducing greenhouse gas emissions has been scrapped even before it got to first base. BP confirmed yesterday the $2 billion "hydrogen energy" coal-to-gas plant at kWinana, south of Perth, would not proceed. The plant was to have been constructed by Hydrogen Energy, a joint venture between BP and Rio Tinto, and was designed to burn coal, converting it into water, hydrogen and carbon dioxide.

The hydrogen was intended to be used as fuel for a 500MW power plant supplying electricity for 500,000 homes, while the CO2 was slated to be buried in geological strata between Fremantle and Rottnest Island, Perth's holiday playground. The proposed onshore site was close to BP Kwinana oil refinery and Rio's HISmelt direct iron ore smelting plant.

But after more than two years of investigations and several million dollars of research, BP has now admitted that the geological formations off Perth contain gas "chimneys" that mean it is next to impossible to establish a seal in the strata that could contain the CO2. "What we wanted with this first project in Australia was the lowest risk, biggest and simplest way of demonstrating the commercial success of the technology," a BP official said yesterday. "It was just not possible to do that with the Kwinana location."

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Private wind-power revolution

Hobart Mercury
Saturday 10/5/2008 Page: 7

A TASMANIAN poultry producer has reignited his family's links with wind power through an engineering project that involved dismantling a wind turbine in Denmark and shipping it to Sassafras. The Nichols family's windpower connection stretches back to wartime Britain. Robert Nichols' maternal grandfather, Fred Dickman, operated a grain windmill on his farm in Harby. UK. Because it was also in the flight path of RAF fighter planes, its blades were dismantled and replaced by a light to guide the aircraft.

Yesterday, after four years of planning and bureaucratic wrangling, the managing director of Nichols Poultry watched as Minister for the Environment Michelle O'Byrne used a remote control to start the blades tuning on the Vestas 225kW turbine - the only privately owned wind-power generator on mainland Tasmania. Its output will meet 60 per cent of the poultry processor's energy needs. That is enough energy to supply 68 households with all the electricity they would need in a year. It will also save 400 tonnes of carbon dioxide from going into the atmosphere each year.

"This has been an obsession and it has involved more red tape than I thought was possible," Mr Nichols said yesterday. "But others believed in my crazy idea and it has come together." Nichols Poultry started 20 years ago as a cottage industry supplying fresh turkeys, it now supplies 25 per cent of fresh poultry sales each year in Tasmania. The State Government contributed $65,000 to the project through a CleanBiz grant scheme. The capital investment in the project should be recouped in three to five years through energy savings.

Alice Solar City program launched

Engineers Australia
April, 2008 Page: 26

Federal environment minister Peter Garrett and Northern Territory's chief minister Paul Henderson launched the Alice Solar City program in Alice Springs last month.

As part of the program, various solar power installations will be built in the town. A solar farm in Illparpa is awaiting approval. The farm will consist of 26 solar concentrating dishes manufactured by Solar Systems. Solar Systems is also negotiating for solar dishes at the Alice Springs airport. A solar air-conditioning system at the Araluen cultural centre and a solar system at the new aquatic centre are under consideration.

The Solar City program also includes the installation of up to 225 residential and commercial photovoltaic systems, 1000 domestic solar hot water systems and 400 power meters. The Alice Springs Consortium will receive $12.3 million under the Solar Cities and the Renewable Remote Power Generation programs.

The consortium, consisting of the Alice Springs town council, Northern Territory government, Northern Territory Power and Water Corporation, the Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre, Arid Lands Environment Centre, Tangentyere Council and the Northern Territory Chamber of Commerce will contribute $7.3 million to the project. Other contributions will be sourced to bring the total project value to $37 million.

Turbine Upgrade

Newcastle Herald
Thursday 8/5/2008 Page: 3

STEP into the office of EnergyAustralia's maintenance staff. Their unique workplace is taller than the Stockton Bridge and provides spectacular 360-degree views from Newcastle to Port Stephens. EnergyAustralia is completing maintenance on the 11-year-old wind powered turbine at Kooragang Island.

Maintenance staff only get the chance to sample one of Newcastle's best and most exclusive views twice a year. But while staring out at Newcastle's landmarks from above can snake working a thrill, actually getting to work is far less enjoyable. The 50-metre vertical climb from the foot of the turbine to the generator housing on top takes an exhausting 15 minutes.

The turbine, which was installed in 1997, generates about 1 million kilowatt hours of renewable energy each year for EnergyAustralia customers. At full capacity, the 600 kilowatt turbine provides enough energy for about 230 homes, and at a wind speed of 50 kilometres an hour can light 10,000 light globes. The turbine helps to meet the demands of consumers who elect to have their power sourced from environmentally friendly generators, and prevents the release of about 900 tonnes of greenhouse gases a year.

Great time to tap into solar hot water

Northern Star
Friday 9/5/2008 Page: 19

Byron Shire has launched a solar hot water heating campaign to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The campaign aims to assist residents to convert from conventional electric systems to greenhouse friendly, hot water technologies. Both the State and Federal governments are offering rebates, but on top of these the campaign features a special Byron Shire resident discount' offered by a range of solar hot water heating companies.

The special discounts average between $200 and $800 and have been negotiated by the council to make it more affordable for local residents to switch from electric to solar hot water heating systems. Byron Shire mayor Jan Barham said the solar hot water campaign was an initiative of the council and supported actions contained in the Byron Shire Greenhouse Action Strategy.

Cr Barham urged residents to consider `going solar' and look at some of the discounts the council had arranged. She said switching to solar hot water heating could cut an average family's hot water bills by 90 per cent and generate savings of around $300 a year on energy bills. The council's sustainability officer, Graeme Williams, said the solar hot water heating campaign was only expected to run for a few months.

Residents who took up the offers available under the campaign could reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by as much as four tonnes of CO2 a year - the equivalent of taking a car off the road. Best of all residents could pay off their investment in solar in as few as four years. A free community information presentation on solar hot water heating systems is planned for May 28 from 5.30pm to 6.30pm at the council chambers in Mullumbimby. To register call 6626 7305.

Bright solar power plan has dark side

Friday 9/5/2008 Page: 10

THE State Government announced this week that Victoria would join Queensland and South Australia in offering an incentive for people to install solar power panels. Under the "feed-in" tariff for solar power, home owners will be paid more than three times the retail price for each kilowatt-hour of electricity fed into the grid from a rooftop solar power system.

Feed-in tariffs have become the incentive of choice for increasing the take-up of solar and other renewable energy technologies. They have been implemented in more than 45 countries, states or provinces around the world. South Korea, Switzerland, Germany, Japan and even Britain - not countries typically known for their sunlight - have more solar systems feeding more power into the electricity network than Australia.

Since introducing feed-in tariffs in 2000, Germany has doubled the proportion of electricity generated from renewable sources, reaching the 2010 target of 12.5% three years ahead of schedule. As a result, Germany has increased its renewable energy target to 27% of all electricity generation by 2020. About 400,000 homes in Germany have solar panels on their roofs, compared with fewer than 1500 in Victoria. Even per head, Germany leads Australia in electricity produced from solar power by more than a factor of

In addition to increased adoption of renewable energy, feed-in tariffs can help build a local renewable energy industry. Germany now employs nearly 250,000 people in renewable energy, with 23,500 people involved in making solar panels. But while all international feed-in tariffs are paid on the entire production from the chosen renewable energy source, Victoria, like the other states, is offering to pay home owners only for the electricity exported to the grid after what is consumed in the home.

This raises serious concerns about equity issues and the ability of these schemes to produce the desired levels of renewable energy take-up. By only paying for the excess power generated, the scheme will discriminate against owners of smaller grid-connected systems and those who are more likely to consume electricity during the day, such as senior citizens and stay-at-home parents.

Additionally, calculating payback times becomes unworkable. While generation over the year is easily calculated, it is virtually impossible to know what portion will be returned to the grid. Feed-in tariff schemes paid on total production from renewable energy systems suffer none of these problems. They provide certainty of return and it is this that creates the incentives for people to invest their own capital in solar power.

By not providing this certainty, the Australian schemes run the risk of not only being discriminatory, but being ineffective. Solar photovoltaic (PV) systems generate electricity at times of peak demand - hot, sunny afternoons - when wholesale prices frequently skyrocket. By closely matching peak demand, solar electricity generation results in a reduction in the wholesale cost of electricity.

Further, rooftop solar systems generate electricity at or near the point of demand, reducing the need for expensive poles and wires. With Australia earmarked to spend about $24 billion on network infrastructure over the next five years, any means to reduce this will bring savings for consumers. As a result of these and other savings, a recent German Government report concluded that the economic benefits of feed-in tariffs outweighed the costs.

Recent peaks in electricity demand have brought calls to build more coal-fired power stations. With more than half of Victoria's greenhouse gas emissions coming from burning coal for electricity generation, it is time we looked elsewhere for supplying summer peaks. Solar fits the bill perfectly.

It is not too late for the Victorian Government to go one better than South Australia and Queensland and introduce a world-class, progressive and effective feed-in tariff paid on the total generation from rooftop solar systems. Such a scheme would build a robust renewable energy industry in Victoria, fulfill the Government's election commitment, and help households play their part in tackling the challenges of climate change.

Brad Shone is energy policy manager with the Alternative Technology Association, a not-for-profit group promoting sustainable technology and practice (

Biodiesel hits a snag

Townsville Bulletin
Thursday 8/5/2008 Page: 28

Mission Biofuels Ltd says current high feedstock prices make it unviable to consistently produce biodiesel for the foreseeable future. Biofuel production has been criticised for creating ecological problems and diverting crops away from food supply, amid growing concern about global food shortages. biodiesel is made by combining alcohol with vegetable oil.

Mission Biofuels is currently using crude palm oil but its goal is to ultimately replace this with an alternative feedstock - a Central American shrub, Jatropha, which the company cultivates in India for its inedible seeds that contain 30 per cent oil. Crude palm oil remains the cheapest vegetable oil as the cost of rapeseed oil and soy oil have increased sharply, the company said. Mission Biofuels said in a statement yesterday that it would only produce biodiesel if it could do so profitably.

"This will only be possible if we can secure sufficient quantities of feedstock at reasonable prices or if we are able to achieve higher prices with our off-take partners in both the US and Europe," it said. "The company has been investigating opportunities to secure moderate quantities of feedstock at reasonable prices which will allow us to produce and sell biodiesel on a jobbing basis." It expects to produce and sell about 4000 tonnes of biodiesel this month and is ramping up its production of pharmaceutical grade purified glycerine to occupy its biodiesel plant in Malaysia in between biodiesel production.

Mission Biofuels' wind power and feedstock businesses are performing well, and it plans to add more windmills, totalling 15-18 megawatts of generating capacity, to its business in coming years. The windmills will assist the company to substantially reduce its effective tax rate for its feedstock operations this financial year while generating tax-free income by producing saleable electricity for the next 10 years.

It expects to post earnings before interest tax, depreciation and amortisation of about $9 million for the 2007/08 financial year. It said it is fully funded by equity and convertible notes but a capital raising may be required in future if it is to achieve its plantation target of 2.5 million acres by 2010.

Monday, 19 May 2008

TRUenergy invests in leading edge Solar Systems technology

Australian Power & Energy News
Tuesday 1/4/2008 Page: 32

CONSTRUCTION of the world's largest and most efficient solar photovoltaic power station in northern Victoria will commence in 2009 following the signing of a $290 million Development Agreement between Melbourne-based business, Solar Systems, and leading integrated energy company, TRUEnergy.

TRUEnergy has provided $40 million to Solar Systems in return for a 20 percent ownership interest. This investment will help ensure growth and continued success as the global leader in the development of concentrated photovoltaics. In addition, TRUEnergy will contribute seven million dollars to the development of a two megawatt (MW) heliostat concentrated photovoltaic pilot plant, subsequently investing up to $285 million to build the remaining stages of the project, and adding to $129.5 million of Federal and Victorian Government funds already earmarked for the project.

Using high performance solar cells originally developed to power satellites, the $420 million full-sized photovoltaic solar plant will produce 154MW of electricity, enough clean energy to power 45,000 homes. The project will also generate 950 new jobs during construction, a clear indication that the low emission technology sector is poised to flourish following the Federal Government's decision to ratify the Kyoto Protocol late last year.

Announcing the deal, TRUEnergy Managing Director, Richard Mclndoe said,"TRUEnergy has moved quickly to secure a role in Australia's lucrative solar technology industry following the launch of its aggressive climate change strategy in July 2007. "TRUEnergy's investment in the deployment of high performance solar photovoltaic technology is convincing evidence of our willingness to reduce greenhouse emissions and respond to the challenges of climate change.

"This partnership will also allow Solar Systems to start development of further solar energy projects across Australia and Asia at a crucial time when so many countries are looking to adopt renewable energy technologies in order to meet large scale emissions reduction targets.

"TRUEnergy's investment in Solar Systems will also provide for the development of one of the world's largest solar manufacturing facilities to supply concentrated solar photovoltaic modules for use in the Northern Victorian power plant and at others around the world,' he said.

TRUEnergy's parent company, CLP, which has operations in Hong Kong, China, India, Taiwan, Thailand and Australia, has also entered into a ten year joint Development Agreement with Solar Systems, to support the deployment of up to one gigawatt (GW) of concentrated photovoltaic technology across Asia Pacific Partnership countries.* Solar System's Managing Director, Dave Holland, welcomed the deal saying the Development Agreement with the CLP Group would now guarantee the development of a significant new export industry for Australia.

"Last year, grants of $129.5 million from both the Victorian and Federal Governments significantly advanced Solar System's technology commercialisation processes, bringing mainstream solar power closer to reality. Solar Systems currently has another nine small power station systems under development in central Australia.

"Now, through this substantial Development Agreement with TRUEnergy and CLP, Solar Systems will be able to realise full commercial production and deployment of its proprietary solar photovoltaic components, positioning Victoria at the centre for growth of a new international industry sector for which there is an extensive worldwide market. "Most importantly, construction of our new solar project will also make a significant contribution towards reducing Australia's environmental impact by reducing greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 400,000 tonnes per year," he said.

TRUEnergy's twenty percent ownership interest in Solar Systems further diversifies its already sizable energy generation portfolio, which includes the 400MW Tallawarra power station, Australia's most efficient gas-fired plant. When complete, TRUEnergy Tallawarra will produce 70 percent less emissions than some coalfired generation facilities.

By 2030, we anticipate that more than $10 billion of commercially viable solar concentrator power plants, with a total capacity of over 5GW, will be rolled out across Australia. It is estimated that these plants will generate more than 10,000 new jobs in manufacturing and construction, as well as 1,870 new full-time direct jobs in maintenance and operation. The northern Victorian solar power station project is planned to begin generation in 2010 and be fully completed by 2013.

*The Asia Pacific Partnership for Clean Development and Climate (APP) is an initiative that engages the key greenhouse emitting countries across the region in the development/deployment of cleaner energy technologies.

Ministers' quarrels led to watered-down solar plan

Thursday 8/5/2008 Page: 1

AN AMBITIOUS plan to give big subsidies to people who put solar power panels on their homes was watered down on the eve of the state budget after heated clashes between senior cabinet ministers. The Age has learned that Environment Minister Gavin Jennings' plan for a generous scheme to encourage more Victorians to power their homes with "green" energy was rejected after the forceful intervention of Energy Minister Peter Batchelor.

Sources said Mr Batchelor convinced cabinet colleagues the Jennings' plan would mean unacceptable increases in the electricity bills of the vast majority of Victorians who relied on traditional energy supplies. The upshot was an announcement in Tuesday's budget that the Government will pay a premium rate to households with solar panels for excess electricity they feed back into the power grid.

But environment groups - which lobbied cabinet ministers and Labor backbenchers hard for a more generous scheme - have condemned the decision as a "con." They are increasingly disillusioned with the Brumby Government's record on tackling climate emissions, saying it continues to rely too heavily on coal powered electricity and is too pro-car. Government officials calculate that under the scheme adopted by cabinet, the bills of non-solar households will rise by about $10 a year on average.

They say that under Environment Victoria's more generous scheme, the increase would have been about $100. Mr Batchelor last night said under the new scheme, households would be paid nearly four times the retail rate for their excess energy. From next year, households will be paid 60 cents a kilowatt-hour fed into the grid. This compares with a standard retail rate of 17 cents.

Mr Batchelor argued it could cut the time for an average household to pay off the cost of installing solar panels - about $21,000, minus a federal rebate of $8000 - through cuts in their energy bill to less than 10 years. Industry groups and unions have joined environment groups in criticising the decision, saying it offers little incentive to anyone except the rich. An alliance of more than 40 organisations - including BP, Environment Victoria and the Electrical Trades Union - had quietly campaigned for a model similar to that used in Germany, considered a world leader in solar power.

The German model pays a premium rate for all energy generated, whether it is used at home or fed as excess into the power grid. It has helped Germany generate about 120 times as much solar power as Australia. Lobbyists argued the Government's scheme would attract wealthy families with a holiday home by the beach but do little to win over people who spend more time at home.

Energetic brothers on quest

Newcastle Herald
Tuesday 6/5/2008 Page: 18

NEWCASTLE could become a centre of excellence for biomass energy generation if the right investor can be found. Chemical engineers and brothers David and Andrew Cork have spent the past five years developing a biomass micro power station using waste to energy gasification technology.

The plant, based at Cardiff, can generate 140 kilowatts, enough electricity to power 14 houses. David Cork said yesterday Corky's Sustainable Energy was seeking an investor that would allow a full-scale plant capable of generating 7,50 kilowatts to be built for about $3 million. Several US and Indian investors have expressed interest in the project.

"We want to stay local but the difficulty we have is that no one locally wants to invest in biomass and renewables, because they are new," David Cork said. "How can we move ahead without doing something new'? "The difficulty we are running into is not technical but a lack of understanding of where the market is going."

David Cork said a fully operational plant could provide the energy needs of a small town wanting to generate its own renewable energy. "CSE plants can be serviced locally, as well as having opportunity for local ownership of power generation plants, to support local communities and their economies," he said.

Library pulls plug

Central Telegraph
Friday 2/5/2008 Page: 1

THE "clean and green" image of Biloela continues to grow with the town's library now run by energy from the hot Australian sun. The ClimateSmart Living Communities project was launched last week, a joint initiative between Ergon Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Banana Shire Council. Through the project the library will be powered by the sun rather than electricity generated by coalfired power stations.

Ergon Energy donated and installed solar panels, in the form of a two kilowatt solar photovoltaic (PV) system, on the roof of the library, which will generate power from the sun for the library. Through a monitor in the library, people will be able to see the energy generated by the system and how many tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions have been saved.

The solar PV system will enable the library to generate its own power, saving money on electricity bills. It adds to the area's green image, along with the Oxyfuel project at the Callide Power Station. Banana Shire Mayor John Hooper told local school children who attended the launch that they had a job to do in reducing the use of powering by keeping an eye on older people's use of power and of course their own use. "Because the more power we use the more global warming we cause," he said.

Cr Hooper also congratulated the Biloela State High School students for their projects of an Energy Audit of the Biloela State High School energy usage and their proposal to install a rainwater tank to catch rainwater from their space frame building. The council has asked the CEO to investigate where it can reduce its energy usages. "I expect an energy audit will be carried out of council energy use," Cr Hooper said.

He said council may pinch the high school's idea and will investigate installing rain water tanks to catch rainwater from large buildings. The water could then be used to water lawns, the mayor said. Ergon Energy corporate communications manager Bob Pleash said it was good to see community representatives at the launch.

"School children are the future and can influence the actions of older generations and bring awareness to the climate-change issue," Mr Pleash said. He said Ergon Energy would lead by example and install solar panels at the Biloela depot. The community will also benefit from two gifted PowerMate meters.

New-wave deal for oceans of energy

Hobart Mercury
Wednesday 7/5/2008 Page: 13

A BIO-POWER company has secured a deal with Hydro Tasmania to harness the energy of the ocean to generate enough electricity to supply about 500 homes on King Island and Flinders Island. The islands rely on diesel burning generators and wind turbines for their power but by 2010 residents should be able to tap into electricity generated by the perpetual motion of ocean waves and tidal currents.

Hydro Tasmania has signed a memorandum of understanding with Sydney-based company BioPower Systems to do trials of its Biowave technology on King Island and its Biostream tidal-current system on Flinders Island. The aim is to generate 250kW of electricity for both islands by next year. "The coasts at King and Flinders islands are awash with clean power, but it is contained in the waves and tidal current," BioPower Systems chief executive officer Tin Finnigan said yesterday.

Dr Finnigan said the ocean power could be provided at the same cost as the islands' existing power supplies. King Island mayor Charles Arnold said lie hoped that eventually ocean power could be supplied at a cheaper rate than the 22.5c per kilowatt residents now paid. Diesel was selling for $2 a litre on King Island yesterday and the generators burn millions of litres each year.

Cr Arnold said the ocean power project was part of the island's push to reduce reliance on diesel generators from 50 per cent to just 10 per cent. Half the cost of the pilot programs is being met by a $5 million Renewable Energy Development Initiative grant from the Federal Government. The balance will be funded by the company.

Engineers at Tasmania's Australian Maritime College have worked with BioPower to test the technology. The wave power system and the tidal power system are designed to move and respond in a similar way to ocean plants and fish, while extracting power.

Hot development in geothermal energy

Cairns Post
Wednesday 7/5/2008 Page: 33

A TASMANIAN company is negotiating native title rights for geothermal exploration at two Far Northern sites. KUTh Energy expects to be given exploration permits once native title issues have been settled for sites at Jackin Creek near Weipa and at Eveleigh, north of Einasleigh. Both areas cover more than 600sq km with both areas involving hot springs.

KUTh chief operations officer Malcolm Ward told The Cairns Post the Weipa site had the potential to replace the costly diesel generators which provided the community and mine with its power. Mr Ward said that as any thermal power generated from hot rocks at Jackin Creek would not be fed into the power grid, the generation levels did not need to be as high a level. "Using diesel generators for power is costly," Mr Ward said.

Any power generated from the hot springs at Eveleigh would be fed into the Queensland grid. Last week, Queensland's first geothermal energy exploration permit was granted to New South Wales company Granite Power for a study area in southeast Queensland. Queensland Mines and Energy Minister Geoff Wilson said there were nine tenement areas across Queensland which had potential for geothermal energy projects.

"Queensland has the potential to be a world leader in geothermal energy and the Bligh Government is backing this clean, green energy industry to the hilt," Mr Wilson said. "The granting of this exploration permit is a significant milestone in the development of geothermal energy industry in Queensland." Preferred tenderers for the third round of geothermal permit tenders will be announced shortly. Mr Wilson said there had been an amount of uncertainty with some explorers in the application of the Commonwealth Native Title Act to geothermal exploration.

On target for solar

Bay Post
Wednesday 30/4/2008 Page: 21

AT a public meeting in Tathra last Thursday, Mike Kelly made a commitment to his pre-election promise of $100,000 to look into the feasibility of a solar farm for Eden-Monaro. This has led to the formation of a working group which includes representation from local government, Australian National University, the Mosman community, and regional talent. Mr Kelly talked about a further $1 million in Federal Government funding to put into a solar farm.

He talked about an aspirational target of 50/50 by 2020 for the electorate of Eden-Monaro, and the importance of looking at all renewable energy technologies in order to meet a 50/50 by 2020 target. This would involve wind, sun and biomass generation, as well as emerging technologies such as wave and tide generation. Steve Garrett talked about the sort of changes that will be required for meeting our 50/50 by 2020 target, and the place that solar could have in the mix of renewable energy solutions.

He made it clear that a solar farm is going to be a big undertaking. Last Sunday the Narooma Lifesaving Big Swim was held in cool conditions on the Wagonga Inlet. About 100 swimmers competed in seven and two-kilometre swims, and the event raised enough money to start getting renewable energy installed onto surf clubs. It may take a few weeks to work out how much money was made on the day but generous support from the National Australia Bank and Tathra Beach and Bike ensured the event was a success.

This was a collaborative effort between CEFE, the Narooma and Bermagui surf clubs, and the Narooma Swim Club. Thanks to all who contributed to the smooth running of the event. Well done to the Narooma Surf Club for wading through the mountain of paper work that is part and parcel of this type of event, and for providing water safety on the day. The next LifeSaving Energy event will be the official launch of renewable energy on the roof of the Jindabyne Surf Club on May 3. On May 10 the Moruya LifeSaving Energy Big Swim will be held in the Moruya River to raise money for renewable energy for the Moruya and Broulee surf clubs.

Burying coal fumes a 'smokescreen'

Sydney Morning Herald
Tuesday 6/5/2008 Page: 7

CARBON capture and storage technology, which is central to the Federal Government's climate change strategy, is a mirage that is damaging efforts to develop renewable energy, a global report funded by Greenpeace has found. The report was criticised yesterday by the resources industry and the mining union, which are relying on the technology to cut down emissions from coalburning power stations. The debate surrounding Carbon Capture and Storage is intensifying as the resources industry attempts to bargain for concessions while the Federal Government ponders the design of an Emissions Trading Scheme.

Greenpeace, and many other environment groups, argue that the process cannot deliver emissions cuts in time to slow down human-created global warming, and that public investment in the experimental technology diverts resources from other ways of reducing emissions, such as energy efficiency, solar, wind and wave power. "It's a smokescreen that allows the fossil fuel industry to continue business as usual, and there isn't time to wait for 20 years to find out if the technology works," said Steve Campbell, Greenpeace's Australian campaign director.

The report, False Hope, questions the feasibility, cost and safety of CCS, which will endeavour to stop emissions by capturing carbon dioxide at power plants, piping it to suitable areas and injecting it underground. It points out that the power needed to undertake CCS at one coal-fired power station can absorb up to a third of the energy generated by that plant, and accuses industry of using the possibility of the technology being widely adopted as a justification for building more fossil fuel driven power plants.

The findings are endorsed by the Australian Greens, but the Government is already investing heavily in the technology, in partnership with the coal industry and electricity generators. "It is simplistic to suggest clean coal and renewable energy technologies are competing alternatives," the Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson, said in a statement. "They are complementary, and the Government is investing heavily in both.

Eighty-three per cent of Australia's electricity is generated from coal. No serious response to climate change can ignore coal." Last month Mr Ferguson launched an experiment near Otway in Victoria, where carbon will be buried in a largely empty gas reservoir.

The national president of the mining and energy union, Tony Maher, said the Greenpeace report was unrealistic, because elements of the technology were already in use around the world, and many nations would be relying on coal and gas for their electricity needs for several decades. The environment group WWF Australia is supporting the trials on condition they show results within five years. fossil fuel combustion accounts for nearly half of Australia's total greenhouse emissions.

Projects' future based on study

Ballarat Courier
Tuesday 6/5/2008 Page: 6

Pre-feasibility studies are being done on proposed windfarms at Stockyard Hill and Tuki. The studies include assessing wind data and environmental studies, with some results expected in weeks. Wind farm company Wind Power has been working on its Stockyard proposal for more than a year, where more than 150 turbines are being slated for construction In August last year, the company said if successful, the $700 million project would become one of' Australia's largest windfarm developments.

The company is currently assessing the wind farm's impact on the brolga, a native bird. Wind Power is working with the Department of Sustainability amid Environment to accommodate the brolga, with study results expected soon. The company will also hold one-on-one meetings with people in Beaufort and Skipton next week. Wind Power community consultant and engineer Ross Richards said at previous meetings, there had been good slip port for the proposal.

The next step will see Wind Power lodging a referral with the planning minister, to see if the project requires an environmental effects statement, which will mean a greater depth of studies done. Engineers are also assessing wind data measured at the pro posed Tuki Wind Farm site, with these results expected in weeks, Mr Richards said the company was awaiting a decision on the data before it could proceed with the project.

Solar power payment scheme comes under attack

Tuesday 6/5/2008 Page: 6

A SCHEME that will pay households a premium for solar power generated on their roofs and fed into the grid is below global standards and will do little to promote clean energy, experts say. Energy Minister Peter Batchelor yesterday announced a scheme that will pay households about four times the retail rate for their excess energy - the best rate offered in Australia.

From next year, households will be paid 60 cents per kilowatt hour fed into the grid. This compares with 45-cent schemes in South Australia and Queensland. Mr Batchelor said it would cut the time it takes for households to pay off the cost of installing solar panels to less than 10 years. But the clean energy industry attacked the scheme, arguing it would have little impact.

Environment Victoria campaigns director Mark Wakeham said the Government had "shunned the experience of 40 countries internationally." Most countries with solar schemes pay a premium rate for all energy generated, whether it is used at home or fed into the grid. "They've clearly designed a scheme that they know does not lead to a rapid uptake of solar power," Mr Wakeham said.

Alternative Technology Association energy policy manager Brad Shone said the claim households would be able to pay off panels in less than 10 years was "so far from the truth it was not funny." That would need a payment rate of at least $2, he said.

A further $200 million of taxpayers' funds should be directed towards the dredging of Port Phillip Bay in today's state budget, according to Victoria's major business lobby group. A spokesman for the Victorian Employers Chamber of Commerce and Industry said business groups had not given up hope of more funding grants for the $1 billion project.