Thursday 26 October 2006

Harness the power of wind

Farm Weekly
Thursday 26/10/2006, Page: 26

THE world has never been short of wind; for thousands of years it has turned windmills, flown kites, cooled houses and filled sails. Now, technological advances are breathing new life into the use of wind power as a clean, renewable, cost-effective means of generating electricity.

The first electricity-generating wind turbines were invented in the US and Europe in the late 1800s. In the early 1900s, as electricity became more widely available in towns and cities, many rural communities and homesteads turned to small-scale wind turbines for their electricity supply.

Many were built on-site, using old car generators and hand-carved rotor blades or old biplane propellers. Despite continued popularity in remote areas, wind power has not really had much puff as a means of generating electricity for the masses.

But the industry is growing; much of the growth is in European countries such as Holland, Denmark, the UK red Germany. Denmark, for example, currently obtains about 5pc of its electricity from wind turbines and aims to increase this to 40pc by 2030.

Interest in wind power is also growing in countries such as India and China, and Australia is paying increasing attention to the concept. There are probably two main reasons for the increasing interest in wind power. First, most electricity generated today uses non-renewable fuels such as coal, oil and gas. These contribute vast quantities of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, which many scientists think cause an enhanced greenhouse effect, leading to a warming of the earth's atmosphere.

The second reason is that advances in wind power science and technology are reducing the cost of wind power to a point at which it is becoming competitive with many other energy sources (at about 8-10c/kw). The world has long been searching for a non-polluting, renewable source of energy that is as cheap as coal and oil.

In a coal-fired power station, chemical energy stored in coal is converted first to heat energy by burning and then into kinetic energy (energy of motion) by heating water to produce steam. A high-pressure jet of steam is used to turn a turbine (mechanical energy), which is then used to turn a generator to produce electrical energy.

In generating electricity from wind, the chemical and heat energy steps are not needed: the kinetic energy of-the wind turns the turbine (or blades), which then turns a generator to produce electricity. The power available from a wind turbine increases rapidly with wind speed: a doubling of wind speed results in as much as an eight-fold increase in power.

Therefore it is important to site wind generators in a place where the wind speed is high, as well as reasonably constant. The length of the rotor blades is also important: doubling the diameter of the circle made by the blades produces a four-fold increase in power.

A drawback to wind power is that the wind can be erratic, changing direction by the hour. There may be no wind at all one day and a howling gale the next. It may blow hard at times when electricity demand is low, and be a mere gentle breeze when demand is high. But many of the problems of wind power are now being solved. It could supply a significant proportion of the nation's electricity needs - just as long as the wind keeps blowing.

Forward planning should keep future water problems at bay

Australian Financial Review
Thursday 26/10/2006, Page: 16

Western Australia has a right to feel smug about its groundbreaking water-supply efforts.

Damned for decades as one of the driest capital cities in Australia, Perth is today basking in its status of being near drought-proof thanks to a $1 billion "water safety net".

While other mainland cities scramble to bolster shrinking water supplies, there is a smugness in the west which will reach new heights early next month when one of the world's biggest desalination plants is switched on.

Built at a cost of $400 million, the 45 billion-litre-a-year seawater processing facility located at Kwinana, about 50 kilometres south of Perth, will account for an estimated 17 per cent of the city's annual water needs. It is part of a threepronged strategy aimed at ensuring that water restrictions, which are constraining residents in other parts of the country, are eliminated from life in Perth.

"It means that we'll get nothing worse than the current restrictions, which is two sprinkling days a week," The Water Corporation chief executive Jim Gill says.

"That's managed to keep Perth and the south of the state green and we'll get nothing worse than that." As well as investing in the biggest desalination plant in the southern hemisphere, Gill's department is planning a $617 million water boring and piping exercise to extract another 45 billion litres of water a year from one of the world's great underground aquifers. In addition, it will launch a water-trading operation with south-west irrigation operator Harvey Water.

Combined, the three new water sources will add an estimated 107 billion litres a year to Perth's water supply, which was once based on a series of dams in the hills to the east and south but which is increasingly reliant on alternative sources. That change is a direct result of drier winters, and the fact that the dam system is only 32 per cent full, close to a record low.

The underground-water tapping plan is based on a deep geological rock trap known as the Yarragadee Formation. It is being designed as a major expansion of an existing borewater supply, but is yet to be approved by the West Australian government's environmental agency.

If it is rejected, plans are already being drawn up for a second desalination plant. "The [second desalination] project is considered a contingency plan for our preferred south-west Yarragadee aquifer option," Gill said in last month's annual report of The Water Corporation.

There is no doubt Perth's first desalination plant will garner significant interest, largely because of the way it has chosen to address the thorny issue of using energy to extract salt from sea water.

Rather than simply book the Kwinana plant up to the state power grid, the giant reverse-osmosis plant (which involves pushing seawater through a series of fine filters) has a dedicated alternative power supply in the form of a new wind farm being built at Emu Downs, north of Perth.

The wind farm is a nifty retort to environmentalists who question the green qualities of desalination and its big energy requirement. But while the uniquely efficient combination of wind and water will have the West Australian Premier, Alan Carpenter, crowing loudly, his next job is to decide whether to double-up by building a second desalination plant or to approve the Yarragadee project.

For Perth residents worried mainly about a regular supply of drinking water, plus having enough left over to keep their gardens green, the choice of desalination or aquifer is not a political hot potato.

Carpenter is yet to reveal his hand, but close observers of the government believe the preference will be for the Yarragadee project, simply because it adds another layer of drought-proofing protection. A second desalination plant will only follow after the first has proved itself to be reliable and cost-efficient.

Moving early on a variety of water sources is a direct result of Perth's traditional water shortage, and a heated political debate which claimed the career of former opposition leader Colin Barnett at last year's state election.

It was Barnett who championed a 3000 kilometre canal from Western Australia's water-rich Kimberley region to the drier, and more heavily populated, south-west. A lack of detailed costing, and questions over the engineering and design requirements, turned the canal proposal into a liability. However, it did serve to make water a high priority on the political agenda - and there it remains.

Last month, Gill returned water to the political centre stage when he suggested that the Kwinana desalination plant could be sold as part of a process of drawing private operators into Perth's water supply system.

"We would take a very open attitude to admitting the private sector to ownership and operation of water sources in the future," Gill said.

Within hours that proposal had been stomped on by Gill's government masters who dismissed the privatisation proposal. Water Resources Minister John Kobelke said Gill's comments were wrong and The Water Corporation's assets were not for sale.

But Gill's failing is widely seen as one of timing. The West Australian government has just completed the dismemberment of its electricity agency, Western Power, and is not yet ready to address the question of private participation in the water industry. When it is, there will be a surprising number of possibilities in a part of the country once criticised for its poor system of water supply.

Early adoption of the desalination option means that a second seawater treatment plant will face fewer political hurdles. Tapping the Yarragadee, which contains a massive 1,200,000 gigalitres of water and recharges at a rate of 374 gigalitres a year (compared with the first stage plan to take just 45 million gigalitres a year), will make expanded extraction easier in the future.

If all that fails, there might even be a return to "Colin's Canal", as the Kimberley proposal was dubbed in the heat of an election campaign. It remains a potential future water supply in the long-term drought proofing of Perth.

Emissions fund `just hot air'

Thursday 26/10/2006, Page: 23

THERE were fresh calls yesterday for the federal Government to develop a national carbon trading system as the longawaited rollout of its $500 million low-emission fund drew criticism from the renewable energy industry for not doing enough to encourage the take-up of clean technologies.

At the launch of the first project awards under the fund in Melbourne, federal Resources Minister Ian Macfarlane warned that a carbon tax or carbon trading would "cripple" industry.

But Victorian Premier Steve Bracks sought to upstage his federal colleague, claiming that Victoria's Mandatory Renewable Energy Target had been key to a $420 million large-scale solar power plant project in Victoria.

"It has gone to Victoria because the market-based signals we have here allow for competitive prices to be taken through the VRET (Victorian Renewable Energy Target) system," Mr Bracks said.

The system requires power companies by 2010 to source 10 per cent of their power from renewable sources or face fines, and is contrary to the federal Government's decision not to extend a similar federal system it has had in place since 2001, but was deemed too costly to extend.

While Treasurer Peter Costello rejected suggestions that the solar power plant would have been unviable without VRET, the company behind the project said it had been an important factor.

"We would have had to have rethought it (without VRET)," said Dave Holland, managing director of Melbourne-based private company Solar Systems which is building the plant.

Solar Systems has won a $75 million grant under the federal Government's Low Emission Technology Demonstration Fund, which has been matched by the state Government.

Mr Holland said he believed a global carbon trading system was inevitable. but he backed the federal Government's strategy to foster new technology through the fund ahead of participating in any global system rather than adopting carbon trading unilaterally, as Europe has.

Mr Macfarlane said: "The aim of the exercise is to get the technology first otherwise all we will do is cripple industry." Once the technology was in place, he said there were various mechanisms for ensuring its uptake, including carbon trading, although he stressed Carbon trading wasn't on the Government's agenda.

But alternative energy advocates, the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, said proven low emission technologies were already in place, such as wind power, biomass and solar, but needed a carbon price signal to make them viable against cheap coal and encourage their further development.

It isn't sufficient to be putting funds into commercialising technology; you need a market mechanism to encourage their deployment," BCSE executive director Ric Brazzale told The Australian.

The way to develop renewable energy is to get people into production and then you learn from day to day and you build local industry and skills." He said power-intensive Australian industries that were vulnerable to overseas competition could be protected from the full cost of carbon trading by issuing them with extra emission permits or through tax breaks.

Welcome to the second green revolution.

Saturday 25/11/2006, Page: 8

Westpac's doing it. BP's doing it. Wal-Mart's doing it. News Ltd's doing it. Virgin's doing it. Origin Energy's doing it.

Increasing numbers of corporates around the world are doing it. Prime Minister John Howard and President George W Bush aren't doing it. It's called the Climate Change Boogie.

While the President is having trouble finding someone who can explain it for him in simple enough terms, and the Prime Minister seems to think that if he ignores it for long enough then it will go away, climate change is top of the agenda for corporates because they have to plan beyond the next election.

Rupert Murdoch, until recently a greenhouse sceptic, is on a drive to make News Corp carbonneutral in an attempt to help address climate change. Sir Richard Branson recently pledged $3.9 billion (I said billion) dollars to fight global warming. The world's largest retailer, Wal-Mart, is leading the way to reducing its carbon footprint by radically rethinking its entire operation.

These and many other corporates are not waiting for politicians to lead. Conservative political regimes and their media supporters are climate change doubters, believing it's a green/communist plot to bring down modern consumer capitalism. Alan Jones says the climate change threat is based on `pretend science: Despite this, the bastions of capitalism are joining the revolution.

Last year, Goldman Sachs chairman Henry Paulson, warned that the time needed to address climate change was running out.

James Murdoch's BSkyB is now carbonneutral, which means that as a company it adds no new carbon to the atmosphere. Father Rupert was impressed by the positive response from investors to this move. News Ltd has launched a range of initiatives such as subsidies on company cars when executives choose a hybrid and a program aimed at cutting electricity.

On top of the Wal-Mart in McKinney, Texas, is a wind turbine. It's the tallest structure in town. It generates five percent of the store's electricity. Energy needs are also supplied by solar power cells on the roof, heat-reflective paint on exterior walls and lights that automatically dim or brighten if it's sunny or overcast. Customers drive out of their way to shop at this experimental Wal-Mart.

With 5200 stores worldwide, Wal-Mart influences everything from the price of goods to the packaging. If it throws its weight behind environmental action, the impact would be felt around the world. "One little change in product packaging could save 1500 trees," says Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott. "If everybody saves 1500 trees or 50 barrels of oil, at the end of the day you have made a huge difference."

Wal-Mart aims to slash greenhouse gas emissions at existing stores by 20 percent and to construct new stores that are 25 to 30 percent more efficient. Wal-Mart's fleet of 7000 trucks is tasked to get twice as many miles per gallon by 2015, through better aerodynamics and lowerfriction tyres. Factories that cut air pollution, even in China, get preferential treatment. Wal- Mart will reward manufacturers who reduce their packaging with prime position on the shelves. Wal-Mart's lobbyists are pushing for pro-environmental policy changes in Washington.

Three other significant US companies, Whole Foods Market, FedEx Kinko's and Walgreens, have launched major `green energy' procurement programs. The biggest commitment was made by Whole Foods Market, which became the first large company to offset all of its electricity use in the US and Canada with renewable energy certificates (RECs). FedEx Kinko's has increased the number of RECs it purchases annually by 68 percent.

Chemist chain Walgreens installed solar panels at 112 of its 5000 stores and at two distribution centres to generate more than 13,800MWh of electricity per year, the largest solar power project in the US.

These companies aren't doing it to be goodygoodies or to save the world for the frogs and dolphins. They are doing it for today's and tomorrow's profits. Wal-Mart sees profit in going green. "We are not being altruistic. This is a business philosophy, not a social philosophy," says a spokesperson. Energy costs are the secret ingredient. The company's truck drivers switch off engines when they stop for a break, to make savings of US$25 million a year. Wal-Mart expects to save US$310 million a year by other fuel savings.

Besides direct action, the other corporate reaction to global warming is to call for a cap and trade system - a mandatory emissions scheme that forces companies to reduce their emissions or buy credits from someone who has sequestered (locked up) carbon.

Westpac, BP, IAG and Origin Energy formed a business roundtable to push for serious government action; i.e. a cap and trade system (John Howard calls it a 'carbon tax'). In the US, 40 companies, including Boeing, IBM, John Hancock and Whirlpool have publicly stated that climate change is real by joining a business council organised by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. Even power companies, the largest industrial emitters of carbon dioxide, are pleading for a cap and trade system. A uniform system would eliminate costly uncertainties dogging investment decisions on new multibillion-dollar power plants.

There will come a moment - soon - when carbon becomes real to the masses. They will want to know what you're doing to protect them from the wrath of a world wracked by fever. What will you tell them? What will you tell shareholders? What will you tell your children?

Hazy dawn on a greenhouse fix

Herald Sun
October 26, 2006 12:00am

RIC Brazzale writes: encouraging that the Federal Government is taking action on climate change.

The announcement yesterday of the first allocation of its Low Emissions Technology Demonstration Fund -- $75 million for a 154 megawatt solar station near Mildura and $50 million for the Hazelwood coal power plant to experiment with making coal cleaner -- is welcome recognition that climate change is a problem.

But it falls short of what is needed most. That's a robust, strategic government policy that will make deep cuts to dangerous greenhouse gas emissions now, and develop a vibrant renewable and clean energy industry. What that means in practice is putting a price on carbon pollution with a carbon tax or carbon emissions trading.

It also entails raising the national Mandatory Renewable Energy Target from its paltry 2 per cent of electricity to come from new clean renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power. China has a 15 per cent renewables target, yet it has fewer renewable energy choices and less expertise than Australia.

Californian Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is the Carbon Terminator and leads a thriving economy; he has demanded a cut in carbon emissions of 25 per cent by 2020.

These market-based incentives -- a carbon price "signal' and a useful renewable energy target -- are sensible, sustainable and affordable ways to usher in the genuinely clean, green power that we already have pouring from the sun, roaring in the wind and simmering in rocks under central Australia.

The clean energy industry wants these measures. Increasingly, many big businesses are clamoring for them too. Even if climate change weren't a concern, the security of our electricity is.

A huge $24 billion has already been committed to our electricity infrastructure, which is cracking under the pressure of our soaring peak energy demand. This is where solar panels in particular are good for providing zero-emission peak energy.

On hot summer afternoons, when the air-conditioner is on full blast, solar panels on the roof can pour clean power into your home. But the clean energy industry has never called for coal to be completely replaced by any single "green energy" source.

Rather, it advocates a gradual build-up of a new clean-energy mix of renewable and low-emission energies; solar, wind, geothermal (hot rocks), bioenergy and natural gas.

AGL, one of Australia's major energy companies, undertook a study with Frontier Economics that found Australia could reduce its greenhouse emissions from electricity by 30 per cent by 2030 at a high-end cost of $2 a person a week.

Would it wreck the economy? Hardly.

The energy choices we make now, especially electricity, are crucial to whether humans manage to slow global warming. Electricity is the largest and fastest growing generator of greenhouse emissions in Australia.

Yet, and this is the good news, it makes up less than 3 per cent of most industry sectors' material costs, and Australian households spend more on grog than they do on electricity.

It means switching to cleaner energy reaps big greenhouse benefits but costs comparatively little. It's easy to get lost in despair over global warming. But when you break it down and start putting the issue in context you realise that this is a problem for which we do have the answers.

Their names are solar power, bioenergy, wind power, cogeneration, energy efficiency, hydroelectricity and natural gas. They have been around for many years and are excellent at cutting greenhouse gas emissions today. But the longer we wait the less time we have, and the bigger the mess we will have to deal with.

RIC BRAZZALE is the Executive Director of the Australian Business Council for Sustainable Energy

For E.ON's British boss, there are big changes blowing in the wind

The Times
October 23, 2006

Paul Gollby, head of E.ON UK, talks to our correspondent about how to achieve the balance between meeting energy needs and safeguarding the planet

THEY say you shouldn’t take your work home with you, but Paul Golby, head of E.ON UK, the power company, is busy arranging to have a wind turbine strapped to his house near Statford-upon-Avon. It may smack of tokenism, and the generator will only supply about a third of his family’s energy needs, but Mr Golby says that it shows his commitment to taking seriously the planet-threatening issue of climate change.

His seems an anomalous position for the chief of an energy company, who readily admits that his industry is incentivised to sell more and more electricity and gas, at least at present. “I genuinely believe that climate change represents a grave threat,” he says. “We shouldn’t believe that we can afford to do nothing.”

In tabloid language, Mr Golby explains, the parameters of the energy debate are nuclear versus windmills and draught excluders. But as he is keen to tell people it should not be an “either or” debate.

“We have to do lots of these things in parallel if we are going to reduce the impact on the environment, preserve supplies and at least slow down the rate of increase in price,” he says. That means energy efficiency, distributed energy, gas, clean coal, nuclear and a whole range of emerging technologies, such as marine and solar power.


Councillors worry about climate - sort of

The Wellington Councillors professed concern about climate change is belied by their failure to vote in favour of the Devon North wind farm proposal....

Gippsland Times & Maffra Spectator
Friday 20/10/2006, Page: 3

WHILE all Wellington Shire Councillors who spoke at last week's meeting believe immediate action needs to be taken on climate change, some believe it's difficult for council to make a real difference.

None of the councillors who voted against the Devon North wind farm could think of a suitable place to locate one in Wellington, although Cr Jeff Amos suggested an area surrounded by plantation.

Councillor Peter Gault acknowledged there was "a lot of concern" in the community. "(But) it's really the levels of government above us (which can make a difference). "There are big issues which really need to be addressed... basically coal burning power stations," he said.

"Bass Coast have looked into tidal energy and are very keen, there's a huge resource running in twice a day." Cr Amos also doubted council could single-handedly attract alternative energy forms to the area.

"I don't know whether we could do anything along those lines, it's usually controlled by other levels of government," he said.

However Wellington Shire could be renowned for renewable energy if Cr Beth Ripper gets her way. "When people sit in a cafe in Melbourne they are warmed by gas from Gippsland, the water in their coffee is from Gippsland, their electricity is from Gippsland," Cr Ripper said.

"We are the energy centre of Victoria ... my vision is we should promote ourselves as the driving force in alternatives." Cr Ripper said Latrobe City Council was replacing streetlights with low energy streetlighting.

Energy efficient devices could be promoted on the council website, she added. "The problem is while we have 500 years of coal and a grid, we don't look elsewhere," she said. "Everything ... is being commercially driven against people thinking about it.

"With wind and tidal ... if we're not in there with technology today, even though it's inefficient, we'll never progress past that." Significantly less polluting coal technology was a long way off, Cr Ripper added.

Cr Darren McCubbin said people needed to make the link between the drought and climate change. "(Climate change) is the reasonblind Freddy could see that. "Perhaps the (fact) we're so tied to coal fired power is the reason we've been in drought for six years ...

compared to the rest of the world we are really slack in terms of what we churn out of coal fired power stations." Cr McCubbin warned if alternatives were not developed the likely option would be nuclear, which would be "scary for Gippsland".

"They've looked at sites in which (nuclear) power stations would be placed, Gippsland is certainly on that agenda." Council could be doing "much more" to encourage efficient use of energy and promote alternative energy sources, according to Cr McCubbin, who added he would be pay more for energy to produce a better environmental outcome.

New giants put power in perspective

Launceston Examiner
Sunday 22/10/2006, Page: 4

A middle section of the tower is lifted into place.$175m Woolnorth wind farm is taking shape on the far North-West Coast

THE GIANTS of Australia's wind energy industry make a person feel very small. Stretching up 135m from base to tip, the V90 turbine tower is the biggest in Australia, a massive structure that weighs in at 400 tonnes when complete.

Twenty-five towers are being erected at Studland Bay to complete the second stage of Roaring 40s' Woolnorth wind farm.

And early next year the turbines will begin to generate electricity - enough to provide power to 60,000 homes.

Five are now standing. The components may be massive, but the job of putting a tower together is a delicate one. Men working high in the air to connect the tower's three sections together look like ants on a lollipop stick as a crane with a 115m jib delicately lifts the pieces into position.

As you crane your neck to see the rotor blades at the top of a completed tower, it appears to be moving in the stiff breeze. "That is not an illusion," project manager Michael Gilmore said on Thursday as he watched a two-year construction job come to fruition.

"The tower is actually swaying, it is designed to. A rigid structure is not as strong as a pliable one." The V90 turbine towers are at the cutting edge of the world's evolving wind energy industry.

The nacelle at the top of a tower moves 360 degrees as it chases the wind and in optimum conditions the rotor revolves 16 times a minute. "It tries to suck wind out of a calm day and shed it on windy days," Mr Gilmore said.

This kind of technology does not come cheap. Roaring 40s has outlaid $175 million building its Woolnorth wind farm.

The 90m-high towers are made in Northern Tasmania by Haywards but the rest of the turbine components are shipped from Denmark, unloaded in Burnie and trucked to Woolnorth.

To the outsider, the turbine components lying prone ready for assembly look like pieces in a very expensive Lego set. It takes only a few minutes for the tower pieces to be hoisted into the air and bolted into position.

"The crew inside the towers instruct the crane driver on position by radio. The crane lifts the piece into position and the men match up the bolt holes," Mr Gilmore said.

Mr Gilmore said all 25 turbines should be up and adding power to the Tasmanian grid by early next year. "There has been a lot of talk about global warming but we are doing something about it. I find it personally rewarding to be involved." Mr Gilmore said.

The European solution

Tuesday 24/10/2006, Page: 15

By degrees, John Howard is warming to the idea of tackling climate change. He should look to Europe.

TONY Blair and his Dutch counterpart, Jan Peter Balkenende, are two European politicians John Howard likes. Blair is from the left and Balkenende from the right, but last week they joined to send European leaders a stark wake-up call on the issue Australians rate as more serious than terrorism: global warming.

"The science of climate change has never been clearer," the two PMs wrote. "Without further action, scientists now estimate we may be heading for temperature rises of at least three to four degrees above pre-industrial levels.

"We have a window of only 10 to 15 years to avoid crossing catastrophic tipping points. These would have serious consequences for our economic growth prospects, the safety of our people and the supply of resources, most notably energy. "Europe has the opportunity to lead the world in making the technology transition to a low-carbon economy ... The technologies are already available or within reach.

A historic political choice faces us.

The need to respond to climate change can be seen as a burden. Or it can be seen as a once-in-a-generation opportunity for Europe to mobilise the political will and resources to transform and modernise our energy system." This is Europe, mind you. It already has the world's most advanced emissions trading scheme. The European Union has 36 action plans to cut emissions from everything from buildings to power generators to cars.

John Howard, now rethinking his own policies on global warming, might marvel at his European mates saying they must do far more. While Europe has pledged to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 8 per cent between 1990 and 2010 - and insists it will meet the target, though others are sceptical
- Australia has pledged only to hold its growth in emissions to 8 per cent.

Even that will require some tricky accounting. The Australian Greenhouse Office estimates that by 2010, we will be pumping out 45 per cent more carbon emissions to produce energy, and 53 per cent more from industrial use. We get down to 8 per cent growth only because threequarters of the growth in energy and industrial emissions will be offset by a one-off decline in land-clearing and new plantations.

By 2020, the Greenhouse Office predicts Australia's emissions will have swollen 22 per cent from their 1990 levels. Transport would be emitting 78 per cent more gases than in 1990, power generation 70 per cent more, industry 75 per cent more. The gap between us and Europe would be stark.

Blair and Balkenende have both been here recently and, among other things, asking Howard to do more on global warming. Now that he is interested, he might look at what they propose. They argue for: Strengthening the EU's emissions trading system, which has had a bumpy start, by tightening the caps (i.e. reducing emission levels), extending it to cover more than the 11,500 firms so far included, and linking it to other countries.

Adopting a wide-ranging plan presented last week by EU energy commissioner Andris Piebalgs to cut Europe's energy consumption by 20 per cent by lifting energy efficiency in appliances, cars, buildings, power generators, the lot.

Among other things, it envisages higher taxes on fuel-inefficient cars, minimum efficiency standards for appliances (including in stand-by mode, which accounts for 7 per cent of European energy consumption) and ad campaigns to persuade households to turn down thermostats, insulate their homes and turn off lights when they leave the room.

Investing more in biofuels and wind farms at sea, accelerating development of clean coal technology and establishing policies for "an effective and durable post-2012 (i.e. post-Kyoto) framework".

How does this help Howard frame his own policy? Well, he must start by creating a financial disincentive to emitting greenhouse gases. Without that, there will be no carbon capture and storage, no clean coal technology, and no nuclear power stations. Without a carbon tax, or European-style emissions trading scheme, dirty coal will remain by far the cheapest source of baseload power, and the only one any firm wanting to stay competitive could use.

The arithmetic is simple. Dirty coal (A) plus the cost of cleaning it (B) must cost more than dirty coal (A). A+B must be more than A. The Government has to admit that and bite the bullet.

Around the world, emission targets are in, and Kim Beazley and the states have embraced them as Labor's solution. But if Howard wants to differentiate himself, in the long term, he would do better to go for a carbon tax.

Why? Because it is more likely to be adopted in any global agreement after Kyoto.

Howard won't want to be seen to back down by signing Kyoto or adopting an emissions trading scheme. That's not important. What really matters is the post-Kyoto agreement, and to have Australia lead the way towards it.

A global agreement on emissions trading would be a Swiss cheese. Every country would demand special deals to protect industries. It would be far 6 By 2020, the Greenhouse Office predicts our emissions will have swollen 22 per cent from 1990. A cleaner and simpler to have a common global tax on carbon emissions, whether in Mumbai, Mombasa or Melbourne.

This is not a time for Howard to play politics. We are going to need a lot of new investment in energy over coming years, and it ought to start now. But what investors need is policy certainty. We are asking them to commit to very expensive, very long-tens projects on time scales over which prices of rival fuels and resources could change dramatically.

They deserve to have a stable longterm policy environment. In this area, as much as possible, policies should be bipartisan. Play politics with it, and Australia will be the loser.

Wednesday 25 October 2006

Australia speaks: time for action on climate change

Friday 20 October 2006

For the second time in a month Australians have shown they want action on climate change, and they don't believe enough is being done to tackle the problem.

Following on from the Lowy Institute's recent report, the latest polling from A.C. Nielsen has found that only 8% believe the federal government is doing enough to address climate change, while three out of four want to see more done to support the use of wind energy.

More than two-thirds of respondents said they would be happy to pay an extra couple of dollars a month if it meant using energy from an environmentally friendly source, 77% want the government to look at setting up more windfarms, while 74% believe wind is a good alternative energy source.

The A.C. Nielsen poll of more than 1,500 Australians, undertaken in late September-early October, found that 84% believe Australia should take stronger action to reduce its greenhouse gas pollution levels and 78% think Australia should be a world leader in greenhouse reduction.

The survey showed nine out of ten Australians are concerned about environmental issues, but despite a push to establish nuclear energy, just 13% of Australians think nuclear power is a clean energy source.

Nearly 75% recognise coal-fired power stations are a major contributor to climate change and just 6% say any form of electricity is acceptable as long as the waste can be buried.

Auswind's CEO, Dominique La Fontaine, said: "These figures come at a time when nuclear energy is being promoted as an answer to climate change, despite widespread concerns over the safety and greenhouse intensity of the nuclear cycle, and the fact that it would take up to 20 years for Australia's first nuclear reactor to come online."

"At the same time, while new wind farm developments are being welcomed in China, Australia's own wind energy industry is faltering," she said.

Among the report's other findings, 71% think Australia should sign the Kyoto Protocol, less than one in ten say using energy sources such as wind power would NOT help save the environment, and just 6% believe any form of electricity is acceptable as long as the waste can be buried.

Gravity satellites see ice loss

Friday, 20 October 2006

Much of the ice is being lost from southeast GreenlandGreenland is currently losing about 100 billion tonnes of ice a year. US space agency (NASA) scientists have undertaken a new assessment of the rate of melting occurring on the great ice sheet that covers the region.

Their data comes from satellites that detect changes in mass by monitoring tiny fluctuations in the pull of gravity as they fly over the Earth.

Scott Luthcke, from the Goddard Space Flight Center, and colleagues report their study in the journal Science.

The rate of ice loss observed using the Grace (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment) spacecraft is much lower than other recent research using the same data has suggested.

The Luthcke team says it has used a different analysis technique - one that enabled the group to determine the behaviour of individual drainage systems instead of looking at the ice sheet as a whole.

The results indicate that Greenland lost about 100 billion metric tonnes (or gigatonnes, Gt) of ice per year from 2003 to 2005. Other estimates for the same period have been close to 240 Gt of ice.

Both figures, however, contrast with findings showing that the ice sheet's overall volume was roughly constant during the 1990s.

Reducing uncertainties

The Science authors also found, as others have, that the ice sheet is thinning at the margins while growing a little in the interior. This fits with climate models of a warmer world which expect increased melting at the edges of Greenland and increased snowfall on more central, higher locations.

According to this study, though, Greenland is now losing 20% more mass than it receives from new snowfall each year.

"This is a very large change in a very short time," said co-author Jay Zwally.

"In the 1990s, the ice sheet was growing inland and shrinking significantly at the edges, which is what climate models predicted as a result of global warming. Now the processes of mass loss are clearly beginning to dominate the inland growth, and we are only in the early stages of the climate warming predicted for this century."

The contribution to global sea-level rise of the ice loss observed in this study is about 0.3mm per year.

Commenting on the Grace research, Anny Cazenave, from the Observatoire Midi-Pyrenees, France, said scientists still had much work to do, to pull all their observations together and build a full picture of ice mass trends.

"Because of these contrasting behaviours - mass loss in coastal regions and mass gain in elevated central regions - ice-sheet mass loss exceeds mass gain only slightly," the Toulouse-based researcher said.

"Thus according to the recent mass-balance estimates, the ice sheets presently contribute little to sea-level rise. However, great uncertainty remains, mainly because of incomplete coverage by remote-sensing surveys, spatial and temporal undersampling, measurement errors, and perturbation from unrelated signals."

Poll shows demand for green energy

Adelaide Advertiser
Saturday 21/10/2006, Page: 51

MORE than threequarters of Australians believe the country should be a world leader in greenhouse gas reduction to address climate change, an AC Nielsen poll has found.

It was conducted for the wind energy association, Auswind.

It showed 71 per cent wanted the Kyoto Protocol signed, while only 13 per cent thought nuclear power was a clean form of energy.

Little confidence in Howard to tackle global warming

Friday 20/10/2006, Page: 6

ONLY 7 per cent of voters think the Howard Government is doing enough to address climate change and a significant majority think Australia should ratify the Kyoto Protocol.

A nationwide poll of 1500 voters commissioned by the wind industry has found that despite a government push to establish nuclear energy, only 13 per cent thought it was a clean energy source.

The poll, taken in September and October, found more than nine out of 10 voters were concerned about environmental issues and climate change and 83 per cent believed the Government should take stronger action to reduce greenhouse gas emission levels.

Three-quarters of voters did not believe the Government was doing enough to address climate change. Eighteen per cent were open-minded. Seventy per cent of voters believed the Government should sign up to Kyoto and 20 per cent were open-minded.

Solar and wind energy were energy sources most highly associated with being environmentally friendly, while only 11 per cent of voters believed the same about nuclear energy.

Dominique La Fontaine, chief executive of the Australian Wind Energy Association, said the poll showed voters wanted action on climate change.

But the poll findings suggest the wind industry has some work to do selling its case. While voters believed wind farms were clean and reduced greenhouse emissions, they were less convinced about their visual appeal, their impact on property values and level of noise.

Regulatory uncertainty creating carbon risk for business

Press Release
20th October 2006

Climate Institute Chief Executive, Corin Millais told business leaders attending last night’s Australian launch of the Carbon Disclosure Project that the Federal Government should listen to the concerns of Australian businesses about a lack of regulatory certainty in this country in relation to greenhouse gas emissions.

“Businesses are reporting that there is a growing investment risk associated with carbon, but in Australia the future is unclear with no direction from the Australia Government on carbon pricing or greenhouse gas emissions reductions,” Mr Millais said.

“The top 150 Australian and New Zealand companies were surveyed for the first time this year by the Carbon Disclosure Project and 94% of the companies responding recognise the potential for climate change to impact future earnings, liabilities or the company’s general risk profile.”

“There is a Federal Government policy vacuum when it comes to managing greenhouse gas emissions and addressing climate change, and the agriculture, energy, tourism and finance sectors are already feeling the effects of that policy failure.”

“Tougher greenhouse regulations will help, not hinder the Australian business community. It’s time for a policy change, and public opinion on the issue has reached a peak concern.”

“Recent economic analysis shows the longer the delay in taking action, the more expensive it becomes for business, consumers and the Australian economy,” said Mr Millais.

The Climate Institute is a Gold Sponsor of the Australian launch of the Carbon Disclosure Project in Sydney, and is pleased to support the initiative during the first year in which the top 150 Australian and New Zealand companies have been included in the international project representing investors with assets worth US$31 trillion ($195 billion from Australia and NZ).

The ANZ CDP survey respondent companies have a market capitalisation of 63% of the ASX 100 and 71% of the NZ50. The global CDP survey covers 30% of the world’s investment capital.

Contact – Sky Laris, The Climate Institute 0410 963 047

Sunday 22 October 2006

Eco companies to quit NSW

October 22, 2006

Pilot scheme ... Welder Daniel Sattler at Liddell Power Station.NSW risks losing $9 billion in energy investment if it fails to make a quarter of the state's electricity green by 2020, says a report to be released today.

High-tech companies have confirmed they will abandon projects combating climate change and go overseas if Premier Morris Iemma does not do more to help.

With a national scheme about to expire, the companies want new state laws to force electricity retailers to buy energy that is generated using solar power, wind or waste instead of fossil fuels, which are blamed for climate change.

NSW would be halfway towards meeting a 25 per cent renewable energy target if 19 proposed projects, worth $3.1 billion, were developed, the report, co-written by Greenpeace, the Total Environment Centre and the Nature Conservation Council, said.

One proposed project, a solar power development near Moree in the state's north-west, could generate enough power to light up a town the size of the state's largest inland city, Wagga Wagga. Managing director of Solar, Heat and Power, Peter Le Lievre, who is planning the Moree development, said government schemes in Europe and the US were far more profitable.

"If there's nothing coming from NSW we will go overseas," he said. "We are up and out of here. "It's a pity because we got our start in Australia but we have to pay our bills and make money."

The company has one pilot scheme running. It feeds electricity, generated by solar power, into the grid at the Liddell plant near Singleton in the Hunter Valley.

As the March state election approaches, the issue of alternative energy is shaping up to challenge the Labor Government's green credentials.

The results of polling by independent think tank the Lowy Institute show voters see climate change as a serious concern. Even China appears to be doing more to find alternatives to fossil fuels, by demanding that 15 per cent of its energy must come from renewable sources by 2015.

Australia was the first country to introduce targets for renewable energy, but the Federal Government has not maintained the targets, leaving no incentives for new companies to look for ways of creating electricity out of alternatives to fossil fuels. Victoria and South Australia have already decided to set their own targets.

"NSW has one of the worst regimes in place for ensuring renewable energy," said Greenpeace's green energy campaigner Mark Wakeham. "The proof is that since 2001 only two wind turbines have been introduced in NSW and there have been 215 in South Australia."

Meanwhile, a 1 per cent increase in temperatures in Australia would make the drought in NSW increase by 70 per cent, the report says.

LIPA to Pay Customers for Extra Wind Power

1010 WINS
Thursday, 19 October 2006

UNIONDALE, Long Island -- The Long Island Power Authority has agreed to pay customers who use wind power for extra electricity they generate. The LIPA Board of Trustees yesterday agreed to allow homeowners who use wind energy to tie into the utility's electric meter.

The metering agreement means if a homeowner's windmill produces to much electricity, the meter can spin backwards and in effect the homeowner is selling electricity back to the utility. LIPA already has interconnection agreements with people who use solar energy.

LIPA Chairman Richard Kessel says metering wind generated power is the next logical step to help customers take advantage of all renewable and clean energy. LIPA has more than 750 solar customers able to sell electricity back to the company.

NASA and NOAA announce ozone hole is a double record breaker

October 19, 2006

From September 21-30, 2006 the average area of the ozone hole was the largest ever observed, at 10.6 million square miles. This image, from Sept. 24, the Antarctic ozone hole was equal to the record single-day largest area of 11.4 million square miles, reached on Sept. 9, 2000. Satellite instruments monitor the ozone layer, and we use their data to create the images that depict the amount of ozone. The blue and purple colors are where there is the least ozone, and the greens, yellows, and reds are where there is more ozone.NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists report this year's ozone hole in the polar region of the Southern Hemisphere has broken records for area and depth.

The ozone layer acts to protect life on Earth by blocking harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun. The "ozone hole" is a severe depletion of the ozone layer high above Antarctica. It is primarily caused by human-produced compounds that release chlorine and bromine gases in the stratosphere.

"From September 21 to 30, the average area of the ozone hole was the largest ever observed, at 10.6 million square miles," said Paul Newman, atmospheric scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. If the stratospheric weather conditions had been normal, the ozone hole would be expected to reach a size of about 8.9 to 9.3 million square miles, about the surface area of North America.

The Ozone Monitoring Instrument on NASA's Aura satellite measures the total amount of ozone from the ground to the upper atmosphere over the entire Antarctic continent. This instrument observed a low value of 85 Dobson Units (DU) on Oct. 8, in a region over the East Antarctic ice sheet. Dobson Units are a measure of ozone amounts above a fixed point in the atmosphere. The Ozone Monitoring Instrument was developed by the Netherlands' Agency for Aerospace Programs, Delft, The Netherlands, and the Finnish Meteorological Institute, Helsinki, Finland.

Scientists from NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo., use balloon-borne instruments to measure ozone directly over the South Pole. By Oct. 9, the total column ozone had plunged to 93 DU from approximately 300 DU in mid-July. More importantly, nearly all of the ozone in the layer between eight and 13 miles above the Earth's surface had been destroyed. In this critical layer, the instrument measured a record low of only 1.2 DU., having rapidly plunged from an average non-hole reading of 125 DU in July and August.

"These numbers mean the ozone is virtually gone in this layer of the atmosphere," said David Hofmann, director of the Global Monitoring Division at the NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory. "The depleted layer has an unusual vertical extent this year, so it appears that the 2006 ozone hole will go down as a record-setter."

Observations by Aura's Microwave Limb Sounder show extremely high levels of ozone destroying chlorine chemicals in the lower stratosphere (approximately 12.4 miles high). These high chlorine values covered the entire Antarctic region in mid to late September. The high chlorine levels were accompanied by extremely low values of ozone.

The temperature of the Antarctic stratosphere causes the severity of the ozone hole to vary from year to year. Colder than average temperatures result in larger and deeper ozone holes, while warmer temperatures lead to smaller ones. The NOAA National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) provided analyses of satellite and balloon stratospheric temperature observations. The temperature readings from NOAA satellites and balloons during late-September 2006 showed the lower stratosphere at the rim of Antarctica was approximately nine degrees Fahrenheit colder than average, increasing the size of this year's ozone hole by 1.2 to 1.5 million square miles.

The Antarctic stratosphere warms by the return of sunlight at the end of the polar winter and by large-scale weather systems (planetary-scale waves) that form in the troposphere and move upward into the stratosphere. During the 2006 Antarctic winter and spring, these planetary-scale wave systems were relatively weak, causing the stratosphere to be colder than average.

As a result of the Montreal Protocol and its amendments, the concentrations of ozone-depleting substances in the lower atmosphere (troposphere) peaked around 1995 and are decreasing in both the troposphere and stratosphere. It is estimated these gases reached peak levels in the Antarctica stratosphere in 2001. However, these ozone-depleting substances typically have very long lifetimes in the atmosphere (more than 40 years).

As a result of this slow decline, the ozone hole is estimated to annually very slowly decrease in area by about 0.1 to 0.2 percent for the next five to 10 years. This slow decrease is masked by large year-to-year variations caused by Antarctic stratosphere weather fluctuations.

The recently completed 2006 World Meteorological Organization/United Nations Environment Programme Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion concluded the ozone hole recovery would be masked by annual variability for the near future and the ozone hole would fully recover in approximately 2065.

"We now have the largest ozone hole on record for this time of year," says Craig Long of NOAA's NCEP. As the sun rises higher in the sky during October and November, this unusually large and persistent area may allow much more ultraviolet light than usual to reach Earth's surface in the southern latitudes.

For more information and images, visit:

Minister visits Millicent

South Eastern Times
Monday 16/10/2006, Page: 2

Energy Minister Patrick Conlon will visit Millicent on November 8 for a major ceremony associated with the Lake Bonney windfarm.

Mr Conlon will be joined by senior Babcock and Brown Wind Partners executives and officials from the Wattle Range Council. Siteworks got underway in June for the 53 turbine towers.

The Lake Bonney second stage is being developed along the Woakwine Range by Babcock and Brown Wind Partners.

When completed, the first two stages of their windfarm will have 99 wind turbines.

The nearby Canunda windfarm with 23 wind turbines is operated by a separate company, International Power.

World's biggest wind turbine generates new bearing technology

Earthmover and Civil Contractor
October, 2006, Page: 67

DESIGNING A bearing system for a giant wind turbine with an unusual rotor shaft lead to the biggest ever CARB toroidal roller bearing, new bearing assembly techniques and a new method of axial fixation for large bearings.

All wind turbines are large but the Repower 5M wind turbine is huge. Manufactured by Repower Systems AG from Hamburg, the 5M stands 120m above the ground and produces 5MW of electrical power, enough for 7500 houses. With its three-bladed 126m diameter blade span, the 5M is the largest and one of the most efficient wind turbines in the world.

During early design stages and later, the 5M presented a significant technical challenge in several different fields. One of the most crucial was the design, manufacture and installation of a bearing system for the 1.5 metre diameter rotor shaft that supports the 130 tonnes three bladed rotor.

New bearing system

Even though it has to support the heavy rotor, the cast iron rotor shaft is hollow. This is to meet weight, cost and performance requirements and it was just one the factors that had to be considered by SKF when they were given the challenge of designing, manufacturing and installing a bearing system for the shaft.

To eliminate the influence of positional and deflection related errors, the SKF specialists in cooperation with the Repower designers developed a system with the shaft supported by two bearings. In the non-locating position is an SKF CARB toroidal roller bearing. The other bearing, in the locating position, is an SKF axially locating spherical roller bearing. This arrangement offers high load carrying capacity and the lowest possible bearing plus housing weight for a two bearing arrangement.

Simulation, calculation tool

To give Repower a bearing system that would meet all performance requirements, SKF made use an in-house simulation tool: "Beast". It is a dynamic simulation program that can be regarded as a virtual test rig in the computer.

Traditional methods of long and costly experiments on a test rig are replaced by faster, and more detailed computer simulations.

The program was first used in the development of the SKF range of CARB bearings, so naturally it was used again in smaller sized CARB bearings to evaluate how the inclined shaft in the 5M would influence bearing behaviour.

This bearing with its 1.5m inside diameter weighs 2.7t and is the largest of its type ever mande by SKF. So its behaviour on an inclined shaft was an unknown in the early stages of the design process. The finished product represents a milestone in bearing design.