Thursday 20 July 2006

Winds of profit blow for Waubra landowners

The Age, Page: 5
Wednesday, 19 July 2006

LAWRENCE Gallagher was grinning yesterday despite a cold, strong wind that was doing its best to cut into his bones. For Mr Gallagher - and 29 other farmers and landowners in the Waubra region just north of Ballarat - that wind means money. Their properties will be the location for Spanish group Acciona's 128-turbine wind farm. Mr Gallagher will have six turbines on his 320 and 200-hectare properties.

At $7000 per tower a year, indexed for inflation, that's an extra $42,000 income. "We see them as drought-proofing our property," he said. Like many farmers in the region, Mr Gallagher runs sheep and lambs, and harvests potatoes. The past decade has been a killer, with the last year particularly dry.

Only last weekend's rain put a nice green tinge on the bare hills and paddocks. The dry weather has also made Mr Gallagher, 44, more conscious of global warming, with the threat of future drier seasons. He sees the wind farm as a way to help cut carbon dioxide emissions.

"It's a start. I know China and India and others will be creating emissions, but we are making a start to fix the problem," he said. Mr Gallagher is also happy that the wind farm will bring money to the community in Waubra, which will receive $500 per tower. The primary school, fire brigade, horticultural society and football club will be among the beneficiaries. Locals will also have the chance to obtain some of the jobs that will be available to maintain the turbines.

Mr Gallagher acknowledged that there had been opponents of the wind farm. "They thought land and house prices would be badly affected, but that hasn't happened," he said.

Compromise plan to push clean energy

The Australian Financial Review, Page: 10
Wednesday, 19 July 2006

Renewable energy generators are pushing the federal government to introduce a mandatory scheme to encourage development of low emission technology, after Prime Minister John Howard again ruled out carbon trading. The scheme is being pushed as a first step towards a carbon price signal and as a replacement for the 2001 Mandatory Renewable Energy Target , which has been achieved. The Renewable Energy Generators of Australia and the Australian Wind Energy Association are behind the push and expected to present detailed modelling to the government within weeks. One option is to only include energy retailers and generators in the first phase of the scheme, so as not to damage energy-intensive industries such as cement and aluminium.

It may also involve a tradeable certificate that will reward low emission technologies such as dean coal, natural gas, wind, solar and biomass. Mr Howard outlined his vision for Australia's energy future on Monday and said the country would take a pragmatic view to policy and not introduce renewables at the expense of the economy. He branded a state government plan to introduce emissions trading as irresponsible and said it could hinder Australia's ability to become an energy super power. But the state Labor premiers are not backing down and plan to push on with a trading scheme which could be introduced as early as 2010. The proposal by the renewable energy generators is thought to have some support from a section of the coal industry, which has acknowledged a price on carbon is required to develop clean-coal technology.

It is seen as a compromise to a broad-based emissions 'trading scheme, which will penalise all polluters equally and is strongly opposed by energy-intensive industries. Victoria introduced plans for a similar mandatory target on Monday, which will require the state's energy retailers to source 10 per cent of their power from renewable sources by 2016. The plan received an immediate boost yesterday when Acciona Energy announced the first stage of a $400 million wind farm investment near Ballarat. Roaring 40s Renewable Energy also said it was reviewing its farm in south-west Victoria.

But the state government's claim that it would have a minimal impact on power bills, costing the average family less than $1 a month, has come under fire from the Energy Users Association. An Access Economics study shows it will raise costs by up to 5 per cent and have a negative impact on energy-intensive industries.

Wind energy blows fresh

The Mercury, Page: 13
Wednesday, 19 July 2006

TASMANIA should follow the lead of Victoria and provide incentives for renewable energy generation, says a former Hydro Tasmania chairman. This week Victoria detailed a scheme to obtain 10 per cent of its energy from renewable sources - in contrast to a federal move away from renewable sources. Former Hydro chairman Peter Rae, now chair of Renewable Energy Generators of Australia, said Tasmania should look at its own incentives for clean energy. Mr Rae said with Tasmania's energy supply almost totally renewable, any impetus for development would have to take some other form.

"But Tasmania could join in projects to encourage further development, and there is an opportunity with the Musselroe wind farm which has stalled," Mr Rae said. The Victorian move is expected to stimulate local energy development up to its 2016 deadline, similar to the now complete Federal Mandatory Renewable Energy Target . The interstate move has been welcomed by Tasmanian wind energy company Roaring 40s which says it should encourage Canberra to sustain the momentum. Roaring 40s managing director Mark Kelleher said the Victorian Government should be congratulated for promoting sustained investment in renewable energy.

"However, while the news is good for those developers operating in Victoria, further work is now needed at the federal level to ensure that Australia builds a national renewable energy industry that can provide the necessary response to climate change and maintain the momentum started under the MRET scheme," Mr Kelleher said. "Australia has some of the world's best renewable resources, including wind which is the fastest growing energy source in the world. "REGA believes developing more renewable energy can simultaneously improve supply and reduce the impact of greenhouse gases. Mr Rae said the commitment to renewable energy was endorsed by the G8 meeting in St Petersburg this week.

Tasmanian Energy Minister David Llewellyn welcomed the Victorian legislation. "I hope it will provide investment opportunities for Roaring 40s in Victoria," Mr Llewellyn said.

Ire at project delays

The Standard (Warrnambool), Page: 6
Wednesday, 19 July 2006

THE developer of the Ryan's Corner and Hawkesdale wind farm projects has criticised the State Government for delaying planning decisions on wind farms. Gamesa Energy project manager Neil Weston said while he welcomed the Government's new Victorian Renewable Energy Target (VRET) scheme, he was concerned projects appeared to be held up in the decision-making stage. "It is one element of concern to developers it has been a year since he (Planning Minister Rob Hulls) last approved a wind farm project," Mr Weston said. "I can think of half a dozen that have been waiting for a decision for a year or more.

"Mr Weston said wind farms waiting for a decision from the minister included Naroghid, Macarthur and Mount Gellibrand, as well as Dollar in Gippsland and Mount Mercer near Ballarat. "All those are sitting in the planning system. They've all been through the panel and are awaiting the minister's decision. "Mr Weston said Gamesa planned to lodge applications for the 31-turbine Hawkesdale wind farm and 68-turbine Ryan's Corner project within the next month.

Australian Wind Energy Association manager of media and community relations Rob Clancy said he hoped VRET might help speed-up wind farm decisions. A spokeswoman for Mr Hulls said wind farms were major developments with broad environmental, economic and social implications. "These need to be thoroughly examined and assessed, including wide public consultation," she said. "The process is exhaustive, but it is necessary in the interests of making sound decisions.

"The backlog of wind farm applications also suggests there could be a long wait for a decision on the 183-turbine Macarthur project for which a panel hearing was held in March. The spokeswoman said the department was still assessing the panel's report.

Acciona will build Victoria's second biggest wind farm

Herald Sun
Tuesday, 18 July 2006

SPANISH renewable energy company Acciona will build Victoria's second biggest wind farm, at Waubra in Western Victoria.

The $400 million project, generating 192 megawatts from 128 turbines on land leased from farmers, was approved more than a year ago by the state government when the Melbourne-based firm Wind Power was the developer. The Spanish firm took over the project last year.

Brett Thomas, managing director of its Melbourne arm, Acciona Energy
Oceania , said the company had acquired the project "on the belief" the government would impose a Mandatory Renewable Energy Target on the state's energy sector.

Mr Thomas said yesterday's announcement of the 10 per cent target "has given us the confidence" to invest $50 million in the first stage of the project. Mr Thomas said there was no further development of renewable energy possible under the federal government's target, now capped at two per cent.

But the Victoria's new target meant energy retailers must tap at least 10 per cent of their power from renewable sources - such as wind, solar and hydro generators - by 2016. "That places a demand on the market for renewable technology (and) renewable generation," he said.

Wind farms produce only 104 megawatts of energy in Victoria currently, but there is approval for another 491 megawatts, including a 195 megawatt wind power generator at Portland on the southwest coast.

$1m for ocean power

The Standard (Warrnambool), Page: 3
Tuesday, 18 July 2006

WORK on Australia's first commercial wave-power electricity plant could start off Portland early next year after the State Government yesterday chipped in $1 million. The funding was part of a $13.3 allocation in addition to $500,000 previously provided to develop green energy technologies. Australian company Energetech is studying wave activity at Portland ahead of the first stage of the $40-million development.

Energetech chief financial officer John Bell said each unit would supply electricity for between 1500 and 2000 homes. "We expect it to develop into a commercial wind farm (size) where you have five, 10 or 15 units able to generate a small town's power," he said. The plant would be based on a prototype which has been built at Port Kembla. Mr Bell described the steel unit as like the original lunar landing module sitting in the water.

The waves' energy produces a vertical movement of air which drives a turbine, powering a generator. "Wave energy is quite an active area worldwide at the moment particularly in the United Kingdom and Portugal," Mr Bell said. "It is dependent on an appropriate level of wave activity. In the south-west it is quite good.

" Mr Bell said the plant would probably be near or linked to the Portland smelter. "Now this has been announced we will start getting more active about it and will start talking to local businesses," he said. "There is incentive and attraction there. We'd like to make it with as much local content as possible."

Wind power not intermittent

The Magazine of Engineers Australia, Page: 8
Monday, 17 July 2006

Graham Shepherd's letter (Engineers Australia June) exaggerates the problems of intermittency of wind power. For a start the term intermittency is misleading, because it implies incorrectly that wind power commonly switches on and off sharply. In general, the power output from a number of dispersed wind farms varies smoothly and very rarely drops to zero, as shown by the forthcoming paper in Energy Policy by Graham Sinden, based on over 30 years of data from multiple sites in the UK. Wind power is more appropriately described as variable and the particular kind of variability associated with forced outages of thermal power stations is better described as intermittent.

There is no such thing as totally firm or reliable power. Even in the absence of wind power, the electricity system is a balancing act between two stochastic variables - demand and supply. Integration of wind power merely adds a third stochastic variable, which can be predicted quite well on an hour-to-hour and day-to-day basis. In the modelling of the integration of wind power into grid, there are studies of diverse quality.

Some of the better studies find that the additional costs incurred by quite large penetrations of wind power (eg in balancing supply and demand) are small. And they still over estimate the total costs, because they do not take into account the economic benefits of optimising the mix of conventional base, intermediate and peak load plant in the presence of wind power. In doing this, my own studies, in co-operation with Martin, showed that wind power substitutes for the capacity and cost of baseload power stations with the same annual energy generation. To maintain reliability of the generating system at the pre-wind level, some additional peak-load plant (eg. gas turbine) has to be installed.

But, since this is rarely used (for wind energy penetrations below 20%), it is simply a form of reliability insurance with low premium. There is no sharp technical limit to the penetration of wind power into a grid. In at least three isolated small grids in Australia (Denham and Hopetoun in WA and the Australian Antarctic base at Mawson) wind power supplies more than 40% of annual electricity generation, while low-load diesels supply the rest. Technically, it is easier to integrate wind power into a large grid, which offers both dispersed sites for wind farms and a mix of conventional base, intermediate and peak load plant for balancing.

The real issue is economics: as the wind penetration increases beyond about 10%, the additional costs gradually increase. Nevertheless, Denmark already generates 20% of its electricity from wind and is planning to increase this to around 30% in the near future.

PM, Premier agree on problem, but differ on solution

The Age, Page: 4
Tuesday, 18 July 2006

THE debate about global warming is over in Australia. John Howard and Steve Bracks made major statements yesterday on how the country can better prepare for what our political and scientific elite now acknowledge is the inevitability of climate change. But while the Liberal Prime Minister and the Labor Premier agree on the problem, they have very different views on a solution. Howard is encouraging Australia down the nuclear path to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions; the Premier of this "nuclear-free" state is demanding increased reliance on wind, solar and other renewable energy sources.

The environment lobby says the Bracks blueprint is best. "We need less hot air and more action on climate change," Australian Conservation Foundation executive director Don Henry said after both leaders had spoken yesterday. "On the one hand, we have the Prime Minister talking about nuclear power and carbon sequestration. They are dangerous and slow technologies that won't do a thing for at least a decade.

"On the other hand, here we have a state government taking action, with a Mandatory Renewable Energy Target that will mean we start cutting greenhouse pollution today. "The Premier's "environmental sustainability action statement" is a classic compromise between the "green" and "brown" forces in the cabinet. Environment Minister John Thwaites, head of the cabinet greens, and Energy Minister Theo Theophanous, normally much more pro-industry, worked closely on its centrepiece, the requirement that electricity retailers buy at least 10 per cent renewable energy by 2016, up from about 4 per cent now. Thwaites and Theophanous expect the renewable energy target will come to be seen as one of the Bracks Government's most important and enduring legacies.

Bracks will be pleased that business yesterday signalled its acceptance of the need for such measures. But he will be particularly delighted by yesterday's enthusiastic applause from the mainstream conservation groups, because green issues and the Greens party will play prominent roles in the lead-up to November's state election.

Wind is the fastest growing energy industry

The Ararat Advertiser, Page: 16
Friday, 14 July 2006

Wind is the fastest growing energy industry in the world as can be seen with a visit to the Challicum Hills Wind Farm, near Ararat. The problem of climate change is not slowing down. The wind energy industry has never claimed to be the single answer to our future electricity needs, instead it aims to be a significant part of the mix of technologies that will supply our power for years to come. The difference between wind and many other emission-free energy sources is that wind is available and working now, both here and overseas, with proven, reliable technology.

Australia is blessed with some of the best and most reliable winds on earth. The Federal Government can ensure it is ready to take advantage of this inexhaustible natural resource by providing incentives for investment in wind. Despite misleading claims that there are now 600 wind farms in Australia, the real figures are:. Australia currently has 41 wind farms in operation, with two more now under construction.

In total there are 505 wind turbines now operating with another 93 yet to begin operating. Including those under construction, that amounts to one wind turbine per 12.739 square kilometres. South Australia, which has 51% of Australia's wind energy, has one turbine per 4, 553 square km.

Renewable wind energy contributes significant amounts of green electricity:. Australia's wind resources are already being harnessed to produce up to 738 megawatts of power. In an average year that creates 2, 262 Gigawatt-hours of electricity -enough to power 314,000 homes, or almost 80% of Adelaide's domestic consumption. This green electricity helps Australia cut its greenhouse gas emissions because:.

2, 262GWh of pollution-free wind energy means a saving of almost 3,000,000 tonnes of C02 every year. That is the equivalent of taking 680,000 cars off our roads or planting 4.39 million trees. The Australian wind energy industry does not exist because of taxpayer subsidies.

An individual wind farm project may cost anywhere from $100 million to $400 million and the renewable energy company must carry the entire financial liability without government funding. The only guarantee the wind energy sector receives is guaranteed access to a share of half a percent of the electricity market through the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (MEET) scheme. MRET was created in. part to level the disparity between high carbon emitting and low carbon emitting generation systems.

MRET is now fully subscribed. Wind energy exists in a competitive market along with various other sources of electricity. The price of electricity from fossil fuel does not include any charge for the cost of the pollution it produces. If a carbon penalty was added the cost of wind energy would be easily competitive with so-called clean coal, nuclear or any fuel source that relied on carbon geosequestration.

Wind's electricity contribution:Wind power currently provides about 0.5% of Australia's electricity requirements, but this could easily rise as high as 20% without any negative effects on the distribution network. With an appropriate number of wind farms over a wide area this would provide consistent, reliable power to the grid. Denmark gets 20% of its electricity from wind, Germany gets 5%, and Europe is aiming to produce 12% of its total electricity consumption from wind by 2020. China has legislated for renewable sources, including wind, to provide three times as much electricity as nuclear power by 2020. This year alone the USA plans to install 3.000MW of wind power, which is four times Australia's total installed capacity.

Wind's economic contribution: The wind energy industry in Australia currently has $1.7 billion in capital investment with the potential for billions more, if there were incentives to invest. Already, every year, $2.5 million goes directly to landholders who host wind turbines on their land, while another $19 million is spent on operational and maintenance costs, much of it in regional areas.

This investment has created hundreds of jobs and a guaranteed income for many farmers who are still able to carry out normal farming activities on 98% of their land. Hundreds more workers in Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania are directly employed in the manufacture and export of components for wind turbines. These jobs are not subsidised or government funded.

$1 billion investment

The South Eastern Times, Page: 1
Thursday, 13 July 2006

Lake Bonney Wind Farm proponents, Babcock and Brown Wind Partners (BBW) could spend approximately $1 billion in the region over the coming decade. The company has already outlaid over $300m. on stage one of their wind farm and work has begun on stage two, involving the construction of another 53 turbines worth $400m. When completed in March 2008, BBW will have 99 turbines operating along the Woakwine Range, overlooking Lake Bonney.

The two stages will create the largest wind farm in Australia and one of the largest in the world. At council's development assessment panel meeting on Tuesday (July 11), Mayor Don Ferguson said Babcock and Brown had intimated they were considering the construction of a 35 megawatt biomass plant near Millicent and 400MW of extra wind farms. "I, and the council CEO Frank Brennan, have been in constant contact with Babcock and Brown regarding renewable energy in South Australia, and I recently spent time with them in Canberra and Adelaide talking to government officials," Mayor Ferguson said. "The State Government are hoping to have 20 per cent renewable energy in SA by 2014 and 50% by 2050. I have written to the Premier, Mike Rann, pointing out BBW's interest in being part of the plans to meet the 20% target."

The Mayor said the next stage of the wind farms would stretch from Beachport to Cape Jaffa and the biomass plant would cost about $70m and would involve the employment of 150 people during construction. Legislation for the renewable energy targets are expected to go before State Parliament at the end of this year or early in 2007. Babcock and Brown spokesman, Miles George said the renewable energy Bill could be the trigger to allow them to go forward with further projects in the region.

"The draft Bill is a great step forward with incentives for retailers to purchase wind power. It will be up for consultation shortly before being put to parliament," he said BBW is a specialised investment fund focussed on the wind generator sector, and was listed on the Australian Stock Exchange in October 2005, with a market capitalisation of approximately $A800m.

Monday 17 July 2006

Energy stance comes at a price

The Australian, Page: 4
Monday, 17 July 2006

POWER bills will rise in Victoria and hundreds more wind turbines will be dotted across the state as the Bracks Government goes it alone on its renewable energy program. Under a compromise deal with the power industry, the Government will today announce plans to have a 10 per cent renewable energy target by 2016, six years later than its initial goal of 2010. The Victorian program is based on the Howard Government's mandated renewable energy target scheme, which forces power retailers to buy specified amounts of renewable energy and spread the extra cost across their customers. Victorian Energy Industries and Resources Minister Theo Theophanous said the state scheme would require retailers to buy a minimum of 10 per cent renewable energy by 2016, up from the current 4 per cent.

Mr Theophanous said an extra 3274 gigawatt hours would be created over the life of the scheme, allowing for the establishment of about 500 more wind turbines across the state. Household electricity bills would rise by about $1 a month from 2008, and the Government said the rise would be offset by recent cuts to power bills. Mr Theophanous said the scheme would lead to the creation of 2200 jobs and would save 27 million tonnes of greenhouse gas-the environmental equivalent of removing every car from Victoria's roads for two years. The wind energy sector welcomed the scheme yesterday, despite pushing for an earlier introductory date of between 2012 and 2014. It is believed the coal generators had lobbied for a start date of 2018. "We think it's a step in the right direction," said Dominique La Fontaine, the chief executive of the Australian Wind Energy Association.

"It's the first state government to introduce a market mechanism. It's going to give us some incentive to invest beyond the federal MRET scheme." Ms La Fontaine urged the Howard Government to further action on renewable energy. The renewable energy program is a key plank of the $100 million Environmental Sustainability Action Statement that will be released today by Premier Steve Bracks.

The statement will include plans to purchase 150 hybrid cars for the state Government's vehicle fleet. Drivers of government vehicles will be required to fill up with ethanol-blended petrol when it is available. Environment Minister John Thwaites said the Government wanted to lead by example, because hybrid vehicles used about half as much fuel per kilometre as a comparable-sized regular car. Today's statement will include a $4.5 million allowance to combat pollution of the Yarra River, smart energy meters for households, increased levies on waste going to landfill, new controls on trail bikes and training programs in energy and water efficiency for trades workers.

Farmers left out in cold as Federal Government claims credit on climate change

The Warialda Standard, Page: 5
Wednesday, 12 July 2006

Chair of the NSW Farmers' Association's Conservation and Resource Management Committee, Louise Surge says Australia can only claim to be meeting its greenhouse commitments because of restrictions imposed on agricultural land, primarily native vegetation restrictions. "Australian Greenhouse Office reports show that agriculture is effectively subsidising the greenhouse gas pollution of other industries, leaving family farming businesses to foot the bill for other industry sectors," Mrs Burge said. "There is no compulsion on these greenhouse emitters to pay agriculture for the burden imposed, In fact Government policies have created this inequity via agreements made in relation to the Kyoto Protocol, where potential future carbon credits schemes can only apply to vegetation planted or regrown since 1990 should Australia sign the convention," Mrs Burge said. Mrs Burge says the real sting in the tail comes from the Federal Government's recent change to the taxation arrangements in regard to renewable fuels.

"On the one hand Government policy is directing industries, including agriculture to become more greenhouse efficient - yet supports policies that don't fully recognise the environmental importance of renewable fuels such as biodiesel that can help reduce carbon dioxide emissions by up to 70%," Mrs Burge said. "Now, with many farmers wishing to reduce their fuel costs and reduce their impacts on the environment, Governments should be aware of the benefits of renewable fuel and support the use of biodiesel as a way of meeting international emissions," Mrs Burge said. Mrs Burge is also concerned that a report by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) due to be released in December will place yet more of the greenhouse burden on agriculture and still fail to address the major greenhouse pollution caused by the energy and transport sectors. "COAG's report may well find farmers facing new restrictions on the use of fertilisers or having to find solutions to prevent their cows passing too much wind," Mrs Burge said.

"In New Zealand a flatulence tax on cattle almost became a political reality. If Australia heads in this direction, the cynicism of government will be confirmed - why should they take on the powerful mining, energy and transport sectors when it is politically easier to impose the burden on farmers?" Mrs Surge concluded.

Drilling for oil in Antarctica could become profitable.

ABC Tasmania
Friday, 14 July 2006

An Iranian oil expert in Hobart for an international conference on Antarctica says the world needs to adapt as oil supplies diminish. Ali Samsam Bakhtiari says if oil prices reach $US200 per barrel, drilling in Antarctica could become profitable. He says he hopes it never happens, but doubts any international treaty could protect the frozen continent. "It will certainly not happen tomorrow, you need time, you need much higher prices," he said.

"Antarctica is the last frontier and, in my opinion, it is the home of 20 million penguins." Meantime, the Australian Antarctic Division says rising fuel costs are forcing it to re-examine its work on the frozen continent. The division's director, Tony Press, says Australia is already looking at a number of changes to respond to higher fuel costs. "We're looking at things like alternative energy, we've got industrial size wind generation in Antarctica, we're looking at hydrogen," he said.

"But there are other economies we need to look at, including how efficiently we operate, but that might mean how we collaborate with other countries."