Wednesday 18 October 2006

Vote tonight on wind farm

History will show the Wellington councillors last night failed the local community and the environment with their lack of vision and courage to support renewable energy. Instead they pandered to a noisy minority who are only concerned about themselves and who treat the general community with contempt.

Gippsland Times & Maffra Spectator
Tuesday 17/10/2006, Page: 5

An application for a wind farm at Devon North, near Yarram, has been recommended for approval by a Wellington Shire Council officer. The officer recommended nine turbines be approved on steel towers no greater than 80 metres in height with rotor blades no more than 46m in length.

The recommendation for approval by the council officer carried with it four pages of conditions for approval. The application took extra time to arrive at a council meeting after council requested more documentation from the applicants.

The application concedes there may be "some deaths to birds and bats" and some vegetation would be removed along the lines connecting the wind farm to the electricity grid.

Councillors will vote to approve or refuse the wind farm application at tonight's meeting in the council offices from 6pm.

China project first of three for Tasmanian

Launceston Examiner
Wednesday 18/10/2006, Page: 10

Renewable energy company Roaring 40s yesterday commissioned the first of three wind projects in China. A ceremony in Beijing was held to mark the start of the $80 million,
49.3MW Shuangliao wind farm, a joint venture between Roaring 40s and China Datang Corporation.

Roaring 40s expansion in Tasmania has been frustrated by the Australia Government's lukewarm attitude towards wind energy. The Hydro Tasmania-China Light and Power joint venture is making inroads overseas.

Earlier this year, Roaring 40s managing director Mark Kelleher complained that energy companies were being forced to invest offshore because Australia lagged behind international renewable energy targets.

Roaring 40s is busy constructing the second stage of its Woolnorth wind farm, but it has put other Tasmanian projects on hold. "The current project outlook in Australia is not strong," Mr Kelleher said from China yesterday.

"Roaring 40s hopes that, having seen what can be done in China, Environment Minister Ian Campbell will be encouraged to consider policies in Australia." The Shuangliao development, in North-East China, will generate enough power to supply the needs of more than 300,000 people.

It will also contribute towards a push to source 15 per cent of China's energy from renewable sources by 2020. The wind farm boasts 58,850KW turbine generators and was completed 12 months after the first sod was turned.

Mr Kelleher said the project underpinned Roaring 40s' entry into the Chinese market and showed that an Australian developer could be a major player in an emerging global wind energy market.

"The completion of the Shuangliao wind farm has allowed Roaring 40s to build a successful partnership with the China Datang Corporation and we are already investigating a number of other potential developments," he said.

How smart it that?

Burnie Advocate
Wednesday 18/10/2006, Page: 16

IT SHOULD be a source of pride that Australians are developing wind farms in China. It should also be a source of pride that Australia's groundbreaking technology is helping lead that charge.

But why are we developing these technologies off-shore? In China of all places. Nothing against China. It is a burgeoning industrial economy which will need sustainable energy to take it into the future.

But Australia's economy is heavily reliant on traditional fossil fuels. Won't we need a cheap, renewable source of power to secure our future. Shouldn't our government be working to establish our credentials as a smart, progressive nation with an eye on next century and all those to follow? Apparently not.

As we know the government's position on renewable energy targets has led to the closure of a strong local company at the forefront of the wind energy field. We still have not signed onto to the Kyoto Agreement, something which should be the source of national shame.

We should be world leaders in this field. Australia, and particularly Tasmania, should have the credentials to turn heads globally. Instead, we are asking people to travel to China to look at our handiwork.

I ask you, how smart it that?

Sun, wind better options while Australian uranium can fuel regional tensions

Wednesday 18/10/2006, Page: 14

The answer to our power needs is blowing in the wind, write James Norman and-Jim Green.

THE way some commentators have been talking one, could be mistaken for thinking Australia is on the verge of an economic boom based on uranium sales to Asia. These claims don't stand up to scrutiny.

Uranium accounts for less than one-third of 1 per cent of Australia's total export revenue.

Even with exports to China, an expansion of the Roxby Downs and new mines, the likelihood of uranium accounting for more than 1 per cent of export revenue is minuscule. And even if Australia was the sole supplier of uranium on the global market, revenue from exports such as wine and medicines would still exceed it.

The nuclear industry may be able to reverse the pattern of stagnation that has prevailed for the past decade but it will need to replace the current cohort of ageing reactors.

Earlier predictions of nuclear growth proved to be laughably wrong. In 1974, the International Atomic Energy Agency predicted there would be 4450 nuclear reactors in operation by the turn of the century - the actual figure turned out to be just 440.

The Federal Parliament's joint Standing Committee on Treaties is scrutinising proposed uranium exports to China. In its submission to the committee, the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office predicts that Chinese demand for Australian uranium could reach 2500 tonnes annually if China's ambitious nuclear expansion plans are realised.

At last year's value of Australia's uranium exports, sales of 2500 tonnes to China would yield just $136 million, though the safeguards office uses the current spot-price to estimate returns of $250 million. Total exports to China last year amounted to $18.4 billion, so uranium exports will struggle to increase that figure by 1 per cent.

But the bigger issue is to do with risk and global security.

IAEA director-general Mohamed ElBaradei has described his organisation's basic inspection rights as "fairly limited" and complained about "halfhearted" efforts to improve the system. He has also expressed concern that the safeguards system operates on a "shoestring budget ... comparable to a local police department". Yet we rely on the IAEA's safeguards to keep Australian uranium out of nuclear weapons.

China plans to increase the contribution of renewable energy to 15 per cent by 2020 while nuclear's contribution is expected to grow from 2 to 4 per cent. Australia ought to set a positive regional example and encourage China to abandon its nuclear expansion and to increase its renewable energy target to 17 per cent or more.

Earlier this year, an Australian consortium signed a $300 million deal to build wind farms in China. Surely we would be better off staying out of the dangerous nuclear game and promoting investment in the more lucrative clean energy sector instead.

Australia's role in nuclear proliferation in North- East Asia is all the more topical in the wake of the North Korean nuclear test. North Korea provides the latest of several examples demonstrating the link between nuclear power and weapons. Its weapons program has depended crucially on the pretence of a power program (and on support from China).

Plutonium produced in North Korea's "experimental power reactor" may have been used in the regime's nuclear bomb test. That test will encourage Japan and South Korea to pursue weapons programs.

Plutonium produced in reactors fuelled by Australian uranium is an obvious source of weapons material in both countries, as retired diplomat and Canberra University professor Richard Broinowski has been warning for years. By allowing Japan to separate and stockpile plutonium produced using Australian uranium, we are potentially fuelling further regional tensions.

Australia should be engaging with the clean-energy markets of the future, such as wind and solar, which several Asian countries are already investing heavily in. With global markets growing annually at 60 per cent and 28 per cent respectively for wind and solar, these clean, green technologies will fulfil our moral obligations while providing economic and energy security for the future.

James Norman is a Melbourne writer and author. Jim Green is national secretary of the Beyond Nuclear initiative.

Tuesday 17 October 2006

Wind, sun and farm-based energy sources in the US

Australian Cottongrower
Wednesday 25/10/2006, Page: 42

What do Minnesota. Texas, and Alaska have in common? They all contain remote areas and get lots of wind.

Texas and Minnesota are striving to become leaders in renewable energy use - relying on everything from wind power to hydrogen fuel. USDA Agricultural Research Services (ARS) researchers have been working closely with university scientists, industry, and landowners in those states to develop renewable energy.

In just 20 years, companies have installed so many new wind turbines that the United States' ability to "farm the wind" for electricity increased more than 900- fold - from 10 megawatt hours annually in 1981 to 9,149 megawatt hours as of January 2006. Texas and Minnesota are among the top five states producing wind energy.

Wind power today is generated by turbines that use only two or three very long, sleek blades, unlike the quaint, multibladed windmills that once symbolised the West.

A turbine's size depends on whether it is to be used for "wind farms" - clusters of 50 to 200 wind turbines producing power to sell to electric companies - or for individual farms and homes or entire remote communities far from a power grid.

Turbines in wind farms are set on towers 230 feet or more high, in areas with winds of 17 miles per hour or more. These are huge machines, about the size of a Boeing 747 airplane, says Nolan Clark, director of the ARS Conservation and Production Research Laboratory in Bushland, Texas.

Each can produce enough electricity to power more than 500 average homes. Wind farm companies pay farmers and landowners about $3,000 per tower per year, and towers are spaced about every 400 hectares.

Lighting A Cold Place, Far Away

The ARS Renewable Energy and Manure Management Research Unit headquartered in Bushland has designed a wind-diesel hybrid control system for two remote Alaskan fishing villages to reduce their dependence on diesel-fueled generators for electricity. The generators are linked to wind turbines by a computerised system that seamlessly switches between diesel and wind without interruption. ARS scientists worked with manufacturers of wind turbines and of diesel engine controls. The computerised control system is commercially available.

Says Clark, "We reduced energy costs from 48 cents to 28 cents a kilowatt hour for one village - saving both diesel fuel and storage costs. Last year, when diesel prices went up, some villages had to spend an extra $10,000 to buy a year's supply of fuel." The Bushland scientists worked with the Alaska Village Electric Cooperative and the Alaska Energy Authority to install these systems.

Several more villages are interested in adopting the system, and still another adopted the scientists' suggestion to mix fish oil with diesel. Generators can run on biodiesel made from a variety of plant or animal fats and oils. In remote areas, local sources - such as fish oil in Alaska or palm oil in Hawaii - are generally the most economical.

Meanwhile, In Sunny Texas

Twenty four metres above ARS's Bushland, Texas, research station, agricultural engineer Byron Neal (right), of ARS, and mechanical engineer Adam Holman, of the Alternative Energy Institute, West Texas A&M University, perform quarterly service on a wind turbine.In Alaska, there isn't enough sunlight for solar power to be a part of hybrid systems. But in Texas there is. So the Bushland team designed their hybrid system with solar power included. They design and test wind/solar/biodiesel hybrid systems running an experimental electric grid.

They also use solar energy to power electric pumps for irrigation and for filling water troughs for cattle in remote locations on open range. These regular pumps can be run on solar power thanks to a computerised control device the team built.

They have also designed and tested pumps specifically made to run on solar power. One such pump has been commercialised, and Bushland researchers are working with three pump companies to design more.

"We feel good when we drive down the road and see our pumps being used by farmers," says Clark. They also use wind turbines to operate water pumps and for wind-farm research with the US Department of Energy.

To compare the cost-effectiveness of wind power versus solar power - or both - to operate water pumps, Clark's team places a small wind turbine by each pump.

So far, its not been cost-effective to have both wind and solar systems. Solar power has worked best for pumping up water from less than 100 feet deep, while wind power works better at pumping up deeper water. For both solar and wind-driven systems, pumps that use impellers to lift water worked better than those with pistons.

Mixing Manure And Coal

Clark and colleagues are working with Texas A&M University on burning manure for energy. In one approach, they mix 10 per cent ground-up, dried manure with 90 per cent coal (by weight) and then inject it into a furnace. "This converts excess manure to energy while reducing use of nonrenewable coal," Clark says.

"We're helping a company build a boiler that uses a blend of 75 per cent manure and 25 per cent coal to heat water and steam for processing ethanol from corn," Clark adds. It appears to work well as long as the manure doesn't contain too much soil.

Bushland scientists are cooperating with graduate students at West Texas A&M University to examine potential uses of the mixture, such as for fertiliser or plant bedding material.

A Wind-Powered "Green" Campus

ARS scientists at the North Central Soil Conservation Laboratory in Morris, Minnesota, are working with the University of Minnesota at Morris on powering the campus with similarly diverse energy sources.

Says Abdullah A. Jaradat, an agronomist who leads the lab's research, "The University seeks to make itself truly a green' campus that uses only renewable fuels and products. It gets about 60 per cent of its electricity from a wind turbine.

"The campus currently heats with natural gas. In the near future, cornstalks will feed a gasifier system for heating and cooling.

There's a backup generator running on regular diesel, but scientists are planning to switch to either biodiesel or hydrogen fuel that produces electricity directly." ARS electrical engineer Steve Wagner thinks that biodiesel could one day be made from Cuphea, a crop that does particularly well in the Northern Plains. Its unique oil could be used as a fuel source without the chemical modification required of soybean oil.

Dave Archer, an ARS economist at Morris, is studying the economic impact of biofuels on farms and rural communities. "We want to see whether they bring new jobs by creating new industries, and we want to know the effects on agricultural production and rural landscapes," he says. "We also want to encourage community wind farms jointly owned by farmers."

Mapping Best Bets

Standing in front of a wind turbine that provides half the annual electricity for the University of Minnesota-Morris, electrical engineer Steve Wagner (right) and agricultural economist Dave Archer look at a map they developed for identifying potential best-bet locations for wind turbines.Wagner and colleagues have created maps that highlight areas of strong winds suitable for wind power generation. They used GIS (Geographic Information Systems) technology to overlay a topographical map with roads, power lines, and land ownership for a few counties in western Minnesota. They noted power lines because wind farms must have access to a heavy-duty power line within five to 10 miles of their connection to a power grid.

"The maps showed that we have more wind power than we knew," says Wagner. The Morris campus hopes to eventually transmit enough excess electricity to the main campus in the Twin Cities area to meet 20 per cent of the university's electricity needs.

That is," says Wagner, "until technology is developed to turn wind power into shippable hydrogen fuel that potentially could be used in fuel cells for transportation, to generate electricity, and to heat homes. "

More Benefits From Biobased Energy

The University of Minnesota plans to use biomass such as cornstalks, wood, or other plant materials for energy. ARS soil scientist Jane Johnson at Morris is analysing the resulting ash to check for heavy metals or other toxins that might render it unfit for use as fertiliser.

"Ag-based energy systems have the potential to help farm communities in many ways, providing renewable energy, an additional cash crop, and possibly new jobs," Johnson says. She is conducting experiments to determine how much residue must stay on the field to prevent soil erosion and loss of soil carbon. A certain percentage may be removed from a field - depending on crop, soil type, and other factors - without harming the soil.

In fact, it can help farmers in areas like Minnesota and northern Iowa, where soils can be too wet and cold in the spring to plant. Farmers tend to avoid no-till in those areas, despite its erosion-reducing potential, because the crop residue can hold in moisture and coolness, delaying planting.

Taking the right amount of residue off for energy generation could reduce this effect and help the spread of no-till, giving farmers yet one more benefit from using their farms to produce energy.

Wind farm should go-ahead: study

Denmark Bulletin
Thursday 12/10/2006, Page: 3

AN independent final feasibility study into a proposed windfarm at Denmark has found that the project is technically and financially viable, and recommends that it should proceed.

The study, conducted by Perthbased civil engineering company GHD Pty Ltd, confirmed that the limitations of Western Power's local infrastructure dictated a reduction in the size of the windfarm, from three turbines to two.

However, it could still succeed financially, due to the excellent wind resource at the chosen site, its proximity to existing infrastructure, and eligibility for regional assistance programs.

Denmark Community Windtarm, the community group managing the project, will now seek planning approvals, investors and grid-connection agreements for the $2.6m project, which will generate about 60 per cent of Denmark's annual power consumption and prevent more than 7000 tonnes of carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere each year.

DCW chairman Craig Chappelle said the study confirmed the group's long-held belief that a small-scale local windfarm could deliver a range of community benefits and be financially viable.

"The study vindicates the local community's vision to move Denmark towards a sustainable energy future, and do it profitably," Mr Chappelle said. "It shows that by careful planning and minimising the ecological footprint, decentralised, renewable-energy generation is achievable at a community scale.

"Our success will open the door for many other small rural communities to create similar projects." However, the current world demand for turbines meant that the windfarm may not begin operating until 2009.

DCW hoped that at least half the funds needed would come from the local community."

Campbell says Aust companies to fill Chinese energy needs

AAP Newswire
Monday 16/10/2006

Environment Minister Ian Campbell says Australian renewable energy companies are well placed to take advantage of China's huge demand for energy. Senator Campbell is in China this week to open a new 300 million dollar wind farm .. built by Australian company Roaring Forties.

He's told ABC Radio the challenge is to see massive increases in energy in China .. with massively reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Senator Campbell says the Australian renewable energy industry can play an incredibly transformational role in delivering that outcome.

Roaring Forties cancelled two wind farms in South Australia and Tasmania earlier this year because of an alleged lack of government bias.

Labor has long criticised the government for failing to take drastic action in Australia to encourage renewable energy.

Campbell happy to see renewable energy go to China: Brown

AAP Newswire
Monday 16/10/2006

It was farcical that Australia's environment minister was in China opening a wind farm when he was stifling the industry at home, Greens leader Bob Brown said today.

Environment Minister Ian Campbell is in China this week heading a renewable energy business mission and to open a $300 million wind farm built by Australian company Roaring Forties.

But he has been under pressure in Australia for blocking a $200 million wind farm in eastern Victoria and over the collapse of at least two other wind farm projects. Its a farce. Ian Campbell has presided over the closing down of the wind industry in Australia and he's going to see that investment transferred into China," Senator Brown told reporters.

Senator Brown said Senator Campbell had squeezed solar research to death in Australia. Some of the best (technology) in the world, including sliver cell technology at the Australian National University (ANU), is likely to be bought up by the Chinese very soon," he said.

He blamed government policy for the transfer of Australia's renewable technology innovations to China. "What an extraordinary failure as minister Ian Campbell is, but it goes right to the prime minister - a failure of policy," he said.

The Chinese have a renewable energy aim of 15 per cent while Australia's got two per cent.

"While the government's closed down on the industry's expansion in Australia, here's the minister trotting off to China which has got the good sense to be buying our technology and roaring ahead.

"Make no mistake about this, Ian Campbell's going to China to see Australian profits made in China lost to this country, and thousands of Australian jobs lost to this country being boosted in China by his inaction in this country."

Future for renewables, not reactors -

AAP Newswire
Monday 16/10/2006

Beazley Opposition Leader Kim Beazley has ruled out a nuclear-generated electricity future for Australia .. under a Labor government. The Labor leader told Amaroo primary school students .. the modern way is a renewable energy future.

The Canberra school has photovoltaic cells and a wind turbine helping with its electricity generation .. and warming of hot water and floors. Mr Beazley says this is the way to deal with global warming .. and the future is about renewables .. not reactors.

PM backs 'clean, green' nuclear

Sunshine Coast Daily
Tuesday 17/10/2006, Page: 14

AS Prime Minister John Howard was busy selling nuclear power as the new "clean, green" energy this week, Environment Minister Ian Campbell was preparing for a trip to China where he will open a $300 million wind farm built by an Australian company, Roaring Forties.

Mr Howard said yesterday that nuclear power had to be considered if Australia was serious about global warming. He made the comment when announcing aid packages for farmers affected by the drought.

A nuclear energy taskforce will report early next month on the potential for nuclear power in Australia. And while the Prime Minister says nuclear is just one of a range of options being considered, his environment minister has recently blocked a $200 million wind farm in Victoria.

Greens leader Bob Brown warned yesterday that Australia risked seeing the alternative energy technologies it has developed exported overseas. Brown points out Australia has only a 2% target for renewable energy while China is chasing 15%. He also accused the government of squeezing funding for solar research.

Opposition leader Kim Beazley, meanwhile, used a school visit to argue that renewables, not reactors were the answer to Australia's future.

It appears that suddenly power, water and the drought are on everyone's lips.

Monday 16 October 2006

Denmark embraces wind energy: HREA

Hepburn Shire Advocate
Wednesday 11/10/2006, Page: 4

Hepburn Renewable Energy Association secretary Brett Dutton in Denmark.COMMUNITY-owned wind farms are a normal part of life in Denmark, according to Hepburn Renewable Energy Association secretary Brett Dutton. On his trip to Denmark, Mr Dutton learnt about the wind farms of which Denmark has 5500.

"I've met lots of local people and they all say pretty much the same thing - that the wind farms are just a normal part of their lives," he said.

"One person has two turbines on their property and says they've never had a problem with noise or shadows." The idea for the small-scale wind farm in the Daylesford area, proposed by HREA, came from the Danish model where 20 per cent of electricity produced comes from wind.

It is estimated that some 150,000 Danes have already invested in wind power and own wind turbines or shares in wind turbine co-operatives. "I'm very inspired by what I've seen," Mr Dutton said.

People are so positive about renewable energy. The turbines are a part of the landscape and a step in the right direction towards a sustainable future."

Community owned wind farms in Denmark:
  • 75 per cent are privately owned by local co-operatives
  • 86 per cent of Danes support wind energy when compared with existing fuel sources.
  • Denmark's use of clean wind energy is saving the atmosphere from about 5.2 million tonnes of C02.
  • The Danish economy saves 2.3 million tonnes of coal worth more than 100 million Euro.

Inquiries: Per Bernard on 5348 1298 or visit the HREA website on

Newfield wind farm application delay

Cobden Times
Wednesday 11/10/2006, Page: 2

Two months have passed since the Newfield wind farm project open day in Port Campbell and a planning application is yet to be lodged with Corangamite Shire Council.

Acciona Energy, the company behind the $45 million proposal, was expected to hand in a planning application to council this month. However project manager Julien Gaschignard said he was unsure when an application would be lodged.

"It will probably be before the end of the year," he said. "The main reason is the State election." Mr Gaschignard said the company had lodged information from the public open day in August to planning minister Rob Hulls.

Mr Gaschignard said the minister was expected to make a decision on whether the project needed an 'environment effects statement' which would require the company to provide more detail on the proposed project.

"This creates a bit of a delay but it's part of the planning process we have to follow," he said. Mr Gaschignard confirmed another Community Reference Group meeting was held yesterday for members to add comments and address issues about the project.

London hopes to stage greenest Games ever

Ballarat Courier
Saturday 14/10/2006, Page: 32

A giant wind turbine will provide power to the 2012 Olympics as organisers bid to make London's Games the greenest ever. At nearly 120 metres tail, the turbine will tower over some of London's best known landmarks, including Big Ben, St Paul's Cathedral and Nelson's Column.

The Olympic Delivery Authority said the proposed turbine, with its 40 metre blades, would provide enough energy to supply the equivalent of 1200 homes over an average year.

Construction of the turbine at Eton Manors at the-north end of the Olympia site in east London, is expected to start in early 2008, subject to planning permission, and be finished by 2010.

Senator in wind-farm storm

Sunday Times
Sunday 15/10/2006, Page: 28

FEDERAL Environment Minister Ian Campbell, known more for blocking wind farms in Australia than approving them, is happy to open them in China. Taxpayers footed the bill for the WA senator to go to China this week, where he will cut the ribbon of an Australian company's $300 million wind-farm project.

A Denmark group that wants to establish a wind farm says it is a shame Senator Campbell could not be more enthusiastic about wind farms in WA. Denmark Community Wind Farm Inc was angry Senator Campbell had written to Regional Services Minister Warren Truss telling him to freeze funding for the project.

They had received $247,000 in funding but were seeking another $1.3 million to build two turbines to generate 1.6MW of power a year.

"Will Senator Campbell stand on his high horse and crush an innovative community enterprise like ours or will he see the light, given the comments he has made about the necessity to throw everything we have at climate change?" chairman Craig Chappelle said.

Anger as Chinese wind farm lauded

Sun Herald
Sunday 15/10/2006, Page: 26

ENVIRONMENT minister Ian Campbell will attend the opening of a $300 million Australian wind farm in China on Tuesday, built by the same company forced to halt lucrative Australian projects because of his policies.

Wind farm specialists Roaring 40s announced six months ago it was stopping work on projects at Heemskirk in Tasmania and Waterloo in South Australia because of poor government support.

The projects were worth $550 million. It was estimated they would create 200 full-time construction jobs. A Roaring 40s' press release highlighted the Federal Governments' decision not to increase the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target as the key reason for halting work on the projects.

At the same time, Senator Campbell blocked another wind farm project, the multimillion-dollar Bald Hills venture in Wangaratta, Victoria, because he believed the wind turbines could kill one orange-bellied parrot every few years.

Other companies have shifted their investment projects offshore, citing a lack of government support for the renewable energy industry.

But tomorrow Roaring 40s will announce that Senator Campbell will attend the opening of the Chinese wind farm project. His attendance offshore to laud projects he has helped block in Australia has the Opposition jumping mad.

"For Australia's renewable energy industry, Senator Campbell's trip to China adds insult to injury," Labor environment spokesman Anthony Albanese said. "It is rank hypocrisy for Senator Campbell to celebrate investment and jobs in China after his damaging actions in Australia against the renewable energy industry.

"Government policies have lost hundreds of jobs and stalled the development of the renewable energy industry in Australia.

"Renewable energy companies are investing in China because China has a renewable energy target of 15 per cent, compared to Australia's pathetic 2 per cent target." Leading renewable energy company Pacific Hydro recently announced it might scrap plans for wind farms in Portland, Ararat and Ballan in Victoria.

Mr Albanese said the Vestas nacelle wind turbine assembly plant in northern Tasmania had also announced it would be closing, resulting in the loss of 100 jobs.

He also pointed to comments by Australia's fourth-richest man, Zhengrong Shi, who made his wealth from developing solar energy technology in China. Mr Shi said recently that if Australia had a similar incentive program to China's, he would have set up a local manufacturing plant.

Beazley blueprint to tackle emissions

Monday 16/10/2006, Page: 6

KIM Beazley has pledged to cut the nation's greenhouse gas emissions by 60 per cent by 2050, establish a national greenhouse emissions-trading scheme and sign up to the Kyoto Protocol if Labor wins next year's federal election.

The Opposition Leader yesterday released his national Climate Change Blueprint, outlining steps that "middle Australia" could take to protect and restore the environment.

It will seize the economic benefits of the global trillion dollar industry in carbon-friendly technologies and emissions trading, at the same time encouraging industry to take up new and cleaner technologies," Mr Beazley told the South Australian Labor Party convention in Adelaide.

He said the national greenhouse emissions trading scheme would use a price signal as a long term incentive to cut emissions and provide a "mechanism for trading" to reward companies already adapting to a "carbon constrained world".

The blueprint includes installing solar panels in 10,000 public schools, making five-star energy efficiency provisions mandatory for new homes and providing a $2000 subsidy for hybrid cars.

Greg Bourne, chief executive of conservation organisation WWF Australia, yesterday applauded Mr Beazley's target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

But he said Mr Beazley needed to show leadership if elected by enshrining short- and long-term targets in legislation, following the example set by South Australian Premier Mike Rann.

"It's incredibly important that we get leadership in the nation both on the aspirational targets or 60 per cent cuts in emissions by 2050, but more importantly shorter-term targets of 2015 and 2030," Mr Bourne told The Australian.

"It's incredibly important that we do cost carbon into the economy and the introduction of a carbon-tax emissions-trading scheme appropriate to Australian conditions be brought in as quickly as possible." As part of the blueprint, Mr Beazley introduced a list of 10 steps families could take in tackling "dangerous" climate change, describing the simple initiatives as "nation-building around the kitchen table".

"It's a plan that doesn't just harness the power of the wind and the sun, it harnesses the enthusiasm and commitment of families in middle Australia," he said.

Mr Beazley also applauded the Rann Government's initiatives to slow climate change. South Australia currently provides 45 per cent of Australia's grid-connected solar power.

The state has erected inconspicuous wind turbines on Parliament House, the State Library, the South Australian Museum and its art gallery and supplies 51 per cent of the nation's wind power capacity.

"Across the state, wind farms ... will save 1.2 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions a year," Mr Beazley said. "That's the same as taking 300,000 cars off the road. "Compare my approach and your innovative, forward-looking Labor Premier with that out-of-touch, short-sighted Liberal Prime Minister."

Sunday 15 October 2006

Bird‑generated power

Australian Geographic.
Oct-Dec 2006, No 84

Where have all the orange‑bellied parrots gone?

Orange-Bellied ParrotsWHAT'S 22 cm long, weighs just 50g and has the power to block a proposed wind farm development? With just 150 or so of its kind left, it's Australia's Orange-Bellied Parrots (OBP).

This little bird is about as close to extinction as you can get without actually vanishing. And in April, its precarious state gave the Federal Government a reason to knock back a proposal for a wind farm in South Gippsland, Victoria. The project was destined for a site near the parrot's coastal migration route. It would have been just one more development ‑ on top of houses, industrial complexes and farms ‑ that has made much of the OBP's mainland winter habitat inhospitable.

But not everyone agrees that this particular wind farm was a problem. Chris Tzaros of Birds Australia says: "That wind farm wasn't a danger to OBPs, but there are other sites that are right on the migratory route. It's not just wind farms though; it's all sorts of industrial development going on all the time that is potentially threatening." Further, bird‑lovers are worried about a mysterious drop in the number of Orange-Bellied Parrots turning up at some of their traditional wintering grounds since the early 1990s.

It's a paradox, since the parrot's total population hasn't fallen in the same period; ornithologists know this because the number returning to their summer breeding areas has been about the same every year. So where are the birds hanging out in winter? Until about 1992, bird spotters were counting up to 90 birds in the OBP's winter habitat of southern Victoria and south‑east SA. "Since then they've really dropped off and we're just not finding the numbers we used to," says Chris.

Chris is coordinating a three‑year project, funded by the Federal Government's Natural Heritage Trust, that hopes to pinpoint the kind of habitat OBPs prefer. Once this is known, the habitat can be protected ‑ if it isn't already ‑ so that the species' toehold on the planet can be made a little less precarious. The information may also lead ornithologists to OBP habitat they're not checking at the moment.

"It's too early to say much about habitat preferences other than what we already know ‑ that they prefer salt marsh close to water on complex coastlines," Chris says. "It might turn out that they're using what we know is the right habitat but in a completely different area that no‑one's researching." OBPs spend the summer in Tasmania's south‑west, feeding on seeds and fruit in button grass plains and roosting in copses of paperbark and tea‑tree. They breed between November and February, each female laying 4‑5 eggs in eucalypt hollows. Once the chicks have fledged, adults set off across Bass Strait, via King Island, to their winter habitat on the mainland coast. Youngsters follow a month or two later. On reaching the mainland, the birds radiate out from South Gippsland to the south‑eastern corner of SA, although 70 per cent stick around the western rim of Port Phillip.

At the time of European colonisation, the OBP used to range as far west as SA's Yorke Peninsula and east to Sydney. In Tasmania, early colonists reported seeing them on the island's east, around Hobart. In 1836, 1886 and 1918, the parrots were recorded in their thousands, and as late as the 1920s they were still common and locally abundant.

But after that the species went into a steep decline. The main cause was coastal development, cat and fox predation, and exotic seed‑eating birds such as sparrows and finches competing with them for food. These days a patchwork of reserves helps protect their remaining breeding and wintering habitats.