Thursday 13 April 2006

Licence to kill parrots: a wind farm anomaly

By Liz Minchin
The Age, Page: 3
Thursday, 13 April 2006

A TASMANIAN wind farm is operating with a licence to kill up to six endangered orange-bellied parrots every two years — the same birds that the Federal Government last week declared must be saved at all costs.

In 2001, then federal environment minister Robert Hill approved the Woolnorth wind farm in north-west Tasmania, along the main flight path for the parrot, with several conditions to protect migrating birds.

Among the conditions was that the wind farm developer had to notify the minister when orange-bellied parrot deaths from collisions with turbines exceeded six in two years.

Wednesday 12 April 2006

Xinjiang to build China's biggest wind farm

By People's Daily Online

China's largest wind power farm will be built in Xinjiang's Turpan, according to sources with China Huadian Corporation, one of China's five power companies.

Perhaps Turpan will not only be famous for its grapes, but also a windmill forest.
According to China Huadian, a contract for developing wind power has been signed by the power company and local administration in Turpan in late March.

China Huadian will invest a total of 15 billion yuan to set up a 2-million-kilowatt wind farm in Turpan. The project will proceed with the annual installation of 40,000 kilowatts. Some 1.5 billion yuan will be injected in the first five years to install 300,000 kilowatts.

Wind farm project revealed

By Liz Mckinnon
April 12, 2006

WIND tower turbines proposed for Hawkesdale and Ryans Corner will produce more than two-and-a-half times the energy capacity of the project's neighbouring Yambuk and Codrington farms, the developer said.

Gamesa Energy Australia held a community meeting at Hawkedale yesterday.
It unveiled proposed sites for 70 turbines at Ryans Corner, north west of Port Fairy, and 31 on the edge of Hawkesdale. The figure has been reduced from initial estimates.

Gamesa Energy Australia project manager Neil Weston said ongoing impact studies could change the figure again. The project would cover 12 properties at Ryans Corner and six at Hawkesdale. The proposed turbines will be 121.5 metres tall with a rotor diameter of 87 metres. The turbines will be almost a third bigger than those at Codrington
... Read more

Wind farm rejection creates industry concerns

A national wind farm industry body says South Australian projects are in jeopardy because of a Federal Government decision to block a wind farm in Victoria. The Government rejected the application for the farm because of a perceived threat to the endangered orange bellied parrot.

The chief executive officer of the Australian Wind Energy Association, Dominique La Fontaine, says the decision has already put the nail in the coffin for a farm in South Australia's south-east.

Ms La Fontaine says the renewable energy industry will not grow without more state and Federal Government support. "There is no further incentive and we are very concerned about the fact that at the moment there's no further development," she said. "The Federal Government could become involved by providing additional policy support and financial incentives and we'd like very much to talk about that as soon as possible."

Tuesday 11 April 2006

Haywards' Wind Farm Expansion

The Examiner, Page: 20
Tuesday, 11 April 2006

Tasmanian company Haywards has completed a $3.5 million extension to its Breadalbane workshops to enable the manufacture of wind towers for the North West Coast and service company expansion into mainland markets. Managing director Steve Edmunds said Haywards would build 25 towers for Vestas Australian Wind Technologies as part of a $10 million project for the Roaring 40s wind farm at Studland Bay. The wind towers, weighing nearly 200 tonnes each and standing 80m tall, will be the largest fabricated in Australia.

The company has already constructed towers for the Woolnorth wind farm, as well as towers and foundation sections for wind farms in South Australia, Western Australia and King Island. Mr Edmunds said theextensions provided the company with an additional 3500sq. m of workshop area, bringing the total factory area to 8000sq. m and enhanced its ability to assist its clients with major expansion.

"The extensions enhance our ability to service our clients' requirements, and together with our continuous improvement in skills, technology, safety standards and capacity, will benefit Tasmanian development," Mr Edmunds said. He said the company, which has grown by 15 employees in the past year would take on 10 to 12 new employees, mainly apprentices, in the next six months. Premier Paul Lennon opened the extensions and said the Government was pleased to provide $700, 000 assistance to a company doing"exciting, groundbreaking work and helping to put Tasmania on the map".

Corporate greenery

The Sun
Saturday, 8 April 2006

If green credentials ever came in university degrees, it would surprise few if David Morgan had one with first class honours. The Westpac chief executive doesn't just talk the talk. The London School of Economics doctor has embedded the environment among a host of other corporate social responsibilities deep into the psyche of his $44billion charge.

Morgan has, literally, been out there pushing the barrow for a long time. To the point where Westpac has been voted the world's most "sustainable" bank by global media giant Dow Jones for the past four years. He learned a different side of the importance of the environment in the 1970s when he spent time in Sierra Leone and Liberia with the International Monetary Fund. Why, he was so committed, he even married a greenie former Hawke Government environment minister Ros Kelly.

"Indeed, having a close relationship with the federal environment minister had an influence on me," Morgan says. "But I was certainly very environmentally aware before (wife Ros had the ministry), including my earliest days at university (in Melbourne at La Trobe University and the London School of Economics) and indeed working with the International Monetary Fund."

It was no surprise, therefore, to see David Morgan front and centre this week when a group of business titans laid down their case for immediate action on greenhouse gases (GHGs). Morgan wasn't leading the charge, the council is a definite meeting of equals. But given his public profile on all corporate social responsibility issues, it might have been asked "who forgot to invite Morgan?" had he not been there.

"I think there just comes a time when you say 'enough's enough'. There is, on any reasonable basis in an uncertain world, enough evidence that we firstly have a reality where the world climate is warming (and) that it is caused by an excess of greenhouse emissions. "And that it is going to have unpredictable and deleterious effects on our climate, on our tourism industry, the Great Barrier Reef, our agricultural industry, the impact on our water that is available for grazing stock and the general use of the land.

"Westpac is part of the fabric of this nation. It is Australia's first bank. It is Australia's first company. And we are only as healthy as the community and the economy in which we operate." That's why Westpac is there. It concerns the future of the stakeholders of customer, employee, shareholder and community. At first glance, the Australian Business Roundtable on Climate Change seems an unusual alliance.

Its members are the chief executives of an insurer (Michael Hawker at Insurance Australia Group), a reinsurer (Keith Scott at Swiss Re), a power retailer and explorer (Grant King at Origin Energy), a global oil giant (Gerry Heuston at BP Australia), a packaging company (Harry Debney at Visy Industries) and a bank (Morgan at Westpac).

BP, a global oil giant, is there because it has an international ambition to be involved at the forefront of alternative fuels, but whose main business of oil production and refining is a lead GHG producer. IAG and reinsurer Swiss Re are there because they will be covering the environmental risks of the future, the loss of life and property from catastrophic events and it works for both them and their customers to minimise the risks of those events. It would keep premiums more affordable and, hopefully for all, lower claims.

Visy Industries is arguably the most obvious of the members. It has built a $3 billion business on environmentally friendly recycled paper and cardboard products. Origin Energy, also from an industry that is a lead GHG producer from coalfired power stations, is also strongly committed to renewable energy sources, including wind.

There is no obvious connecting link between the businesses or their chiefs. This is no old school tie binding them together. Apart from all being multibillion dollar businesses, there is no immediately upfront environmental reason for them getting together.

But listening to each of the six chief executives at Thursday morning's breakfast launch of their report, "The Business Case for Early Action", each in turn nodded and gestured as if to say: "We can't afford not to be here". They were there because they believed there was "no choice". Not "no choice" in the sense the Environment Protection Authority had a figurative gun to their heads. "No choice" in the sense that they felt that somebody had to do this. Now. But do what now?

The report is the first attempt by the Australian business community to put together a series of business costings on climate change. The Roundtable's argument is based on the old proverb of "A stitch in time saves nine", or potentially more accurately. "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure".

THE Roundtable hired Allen Consulting Group to run the numbers based on going ahead with the current political will effectively having a carbon pricing system in place by 2022 and an "early action" model that had the carbon pricing mechanism in place by 2013 by agreeing to the broad framework by the end of 2007.

The premise of the report is that if early action is taken, a severe round of pain will be spared later, some time around 2030. By introducing a carbon pricing mechanism in 2013, instead of 2022, cuts of 60 per cent of GHG emissions could be achieved by 2050. The cuts could be achieved if they started later, but it would be incrementally harder the longer it is left. The costs from having started earlier would not have added too much, but would have laid a valuable foundation for change.

The Roundtable argues that the immediate action required is a carbon pricing mechanism, in some form. Those companies who produce carbon should have to pay for that carbon as a disincentive to producing more. That is, the fastest way to learn the cost of doing something in this case polluting is to have some form of cost associated with it. If it becomes too expensive to continue in that form of business, the business will learn quickly to stop producing so much carbon, or it will go broke.

BUT how is it charged? Does it come in the form of a tax? Or is it a credit/debit situation where businesses which, for example, plant trees can sell their credits to those who are in debit, like power companies?

BP and Origin Energy are, therefore very, very interested side parties to a carbon credit system. For those two in particular, arguing for a carbon tax or "pricing mechanism" would add disproportionately to their costs, in comparison to the banks or insurers. Origin's King argues that having some certainty for his business on costs is imperative. There are billions of dollars of investment money at stake. Right now he has to make early investment decisions for the years ahead.

And if a company is putting up those dollars for exploration assets that they hope will last a number of decades power stations are built to last lifetimes they don't want to get halfway through to find a government changing the rules. "If small early steps are taken, then it will be far less disruptive a few years later," King says.

"It would be much better to see a slow steady measure of change taking place ... than leaving it for future generations to have to deal with in a real hurry." The Roundtable accepts that it will come in for some for criticism from politicians and their business peers.

Bring it on, they say. If the report does nothing more than start a few arguments, well, at least it got people talking again and hopefully a little more focused on their belief that the problem, sooner rather than later, needs to be dealt with. When the inevitable criticism came from fellow business people this week, King was effortlessly able to turn those criticisms into yet another powerful argument for change.

Solar thermal energy research

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These days most people are aware of the environmental benefits of solar energy, but to date solar generation has tended to focus on small scale, domestic and remote service units.

The Energy Transformed Flagship, utilising the capabilities of CSIRO Energy Technology and other industry and research partners, is working on a major research project to develop solar thermal technologies....
Read More

Bird Ban Excuse Selective

The Weekend Australian, Page: 9
Saturday, 8 April 2006

THE endangered orange-bellied parrot - used by the Howard Government to block a proposed wind farm in a Victorian marginal seat-proved no barrier to federal approval of four other wind farms in the bird's habitat. And as John Howard cautiously backed federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell's decision to scuttle the $220 million wind farm, he said he would take a close interest in a $400 million housing estate project in danger of being halted to save a moth. ''The moth sounds a little, how shall we put it, more far fetched, '' the Prime Minister said. Victorian Premier Steve Bracks suggested yesterday the wind farm decision might have been influenced by political donations from energy companies.

Official returns reveal two $4000 donations to the West Australian branch of the Liberal Party from Chevron Texaco and Griffen Coal, as well as $2000 from Woodside. Senator Campbell, described by Mr Bracks yesterday as wacky, promised to stop the locally unpopular wind farm in the 2004 election, helping wrest the seat of McMillan from Labor. This week, he rejected the project, although no orangebellied parrot has been seen within 50km of the site. Labor environment spokesman Anthony Albanese yesterday highlighted four wind farms that the federal Government had allowed in the parrot's territory.

He said the approval of the farms - at Woolnorth and Jims Plains in Tasmania, Portland in Victoria and Port MacDonnell in South Australia - showed the Bald Hills decision was ''all about politics and not about parrots''. Renewable energy company Roaring 40s, which operates the Woolnorth wind farm, said the federal Government cleared its project despite it being in the flight path of the parrots. The rare birds, thought to number less than 200, breed and nest at two sites in Tasmania's remote southwest from late spring to autumn. Roaring 40s general manager Mark Kelleher said he was amazed by the decision to block the Bald Hills wind farm and it raised concerns for the future of another wind farm due to be built on Tasmania's west coast.

He said modelling for the proposed $290 million Heemskirk project showed it was likely to cause the death of one orangebellied parrot every 20 years, compared with one mortality every 143 years projected for the Bald Hills wind farm. The minister's decision to block the Bald Hills wind farm, forecast to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 435, 000 tonnes, has been attacked by green groups and industry groups keen to foster renewable energy. Now Senator Campbell must rule on a $400 million housing estate west of Melbourne that has been halted by the discovery of a rare moth that lives for just four days. Senator Campbell yesterday accused Mr Bracks of defaming him by saying he was influenced by fossil fuel companies and said the Victorian Premier had approved an expansion of the dirtiest fossil-fuel power station in the industrialised world'' in Gippsland.

He said the federal Government would honour its legal requirement to create 9000 KW hours of renewable energy by 2010.

State Gives Power The Green Light

Herald Sun, Page: 22
Saturday, 8 April 2006

VICTORIA is the nation's green power capital. As a cloud hangs over future wind energy investment, new figures show the popularity of environmentally friendly power is soaring and Victorian households are leading the way. The number of Victorian homes using wind, solar, hydro and biomass energy doubled last year to almost 79, 000.With 3100 Victorian businesses also switched on, the state had a total 81, 842 green power customers.

Mt Waverley was the greenest suburb with 1236 green power users, followed by Glen Iris with 1041 customers. The audit of green power showed use around the nation jumped 62 per cent in the year to December, when 212, 302 homes and businesses were plugged in. Wind was the largest source of green power in the December quarter, accounting for about 56 per cent. But the State Government and the wind energy industry have said the future of wind power is in doubt after the Federal Government blocked a wind farm at Bald Hills in South Gippsland to protect an endangered parrot.

The audit showed Queenslanders were the second-biggest users of green power, with 65, 548 customers. New South Wales followed with 36, 958, and Western Australia had the fewest, at 1232.Victorian Environment Minister John Thwaites applauded Victorians for going green. ''These households will collectively cut greenhouse pollution by 117, 000 tonnes each year, the equivalent of removing 27, 042 cars from Victoria's roads, which is a fantastic result for the environment, '' he said.

The green power scheme allows households and businesses to get a percentage of their power from renewable sources. It costs between about $1 and $5 per week more than traditional power, depending on the proportion chosen. Though Victoria had the most customers, they did not use as much green power as NSW users.