Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Farmers in mine fight - Call to scuttle coal plant bid

Courier Mail
Saturday 5/6/2010 Page: 46

Felton Valley residents want to block a coal mine and instead attract projects that would use the sun and wind to produce clean power. Brisbane-based miner Ambre Energy has a $3.5 billion plan for a coal mine and plant at Felton near Toowoomba so it can convert coal into petrol. But Felton's farmers, fearing damage to land and water stocks, want clean energy projects that could generate jobs and not harm agriculture.

Community group Friends of Felton commissioned an assessment of the valley's clean energy potential and it found a major solar and wind resource that could supply electricity to 160,000 southeast Queensland homes, or 320,000 with new energy efficiency measures. "Australia already is being affected by climate change and it's affecting agriculture more than other industries," Friends of Felton spokesman Rob McCreath said. "We know were getting more frequent and severe droughts so we feel this is something we can do to fight back.

"We now know our renewable energy resource is significant. Our next step is to identify areas for solar or wind projects, then take it to companies and look at getting something built" The study found Felton's biggest potential was harnessing the sun through collector panels to drive steam turbines and electric generators.

It said Felton had a bigger solar resource than southern Spain, which is home to Europe's biggest baseload or day-and-night solar plant, called Andasol. The clean, green energy push is also growing in Australia. Last month Daylesford and Hepburn Springs in Victoria signed up to build the nation's first community-owned wind farm by early 2011 for $12.9 million.

"Most Australians want to see a meaningful response to climate change, but many aren't sure what constructive role they can play," key proponent Simon Holmes a Court said. "(Daylesford and Hepburn Springs) developed a model for the low carbon future that is both low cost - at least four times cheaper than rooftop solar panels - and brings a significant new business to town."