Friday 19 January 2007

Architects of a cleaner planet

Business Review Weekly
Thursday 18/1/2007

Many Australian companies are choosing to combat greenhouse gas emissions irrespective of government.

This is not merely a case of environmental altruism, but one of business necessity, as they fear being locked out of lucrative international markets. This is particularly true in architecture as carbon-neutral and energy-efficient solutions to industrial and commercial designs become more prevalent.

Woodhead International was the first Australian architectural firm to take up the environmental challenge. "The goal is to offset what we do in carbon output by making an investment in environmentally beneficial projects," Woodhead's director of sustainability, Digby Hall, says. Hall also says the emergence of regional powerhouses China and India forces business partners to meet certain environmental benchmarks.

Almut rewarded for support

Hepburn Shire Advocate
Wednesday 17/1/2007 Page: 2

ALMUT Beringer became Hepburn Renewable Energy Association's 400th member last week. Ms Beringer, who is an environmentalist at the University of Prince Edward Island in Canada, said she joined the HREA because she was very supportive of wind energy.

HREA president Per Bernard said he didn't expect the association to grow so rapidly. He said the reason for starting the association was to seek support for a community-owned wind farm. "It just keeps on growing," he said.

Ms Beringer was presented with Al Gore's book An Inconvenient Truth.

State's power supply assured

Launceston Examiner
Friday 19/1/2007 Page: 22

Despite one of the driest years on record, low hydro storage levels and a steady increase in the demand for electricity, Tasmania's power supplies are under no immediate threat. It is a set of circumstances that would have seemed highly unlikely only a decade or so ago. Until less than 40 years ago, the State's electricity was generated wholly by its hydro schemes.

A desperate power shortage caused by drought in the late 1960s saw severe power cuts introduced and prompted construction of the then oil-fired Bell Bay power station as a backup. Oil prices later soared and Bell Bay was mothballed for emergency use only.

The current drought has clearly demonstrated how critical it was to develop more alternative power sources in recent years. It is hard to comprehend just how parlous a state Tasmania's industrial, commercial and domestic power users would now be in without the Basslink undersea power cable, the natural gas pipeline from Victoria and the Woolnorth wind farm. Between them these alternative sources are now providing more than a fifth of the State's total energy needs.

Basslink is by far the biggest contributor. The privately built and operated link with the mainland power grid took years to win political support from the major parties and faced a long and determined campaign by unions and sections of the environment movement to derail it.

Already it has allowed Hydro Tasmania to protect its dwindling water resources while at the same time selling expensive peak-period power into the mainland grid and help offset Victoria's power problems. Tasmania's water storages are down to less than 29 per cent of capacity.

But Basslink and a potential 340MW from gas generators at Bell Bay have ensured business as normal. That will be a key factor when our biggest power users, and biggest employers, come to planning where their future operations might be sited.

Desal plant to go ahead in weeks

Daily Telegraph
Friday 19/1/2007 Page: 1

THE NSW State Government has admitted it may have to start building the controversial $1.2 billion desalination plant within weeks, with Sydney dam levels dropping to a record low yesterday.

However, a State Government report has revealed that there may not be enough available "green power" in Australia to run the largescale option, without denying access to new residential and commercial consumers.

Dam levels in Sydney yesterday drew closer to the critical 30 per cent capacity trigger - dropping to a record low of 35.4 per cent.

Water Minister David Campbell's office conceded it looked likely that the plant would be given the "green light" within eight to 10 weeks - as Premier Morris Iemma prepares to go to the polls. However, it has not officially been given the go-ahead. The Government faces fresh controversy over the plant, with concerns about meeting its promise to power it using green energy sources.

Premier Morris Iemma's pledge in February 2006 that it would use "100 per cent renewable energy" to avert climate change concerns, is now in question with the discovery that a 500-megalitre plant would consume the entire capacity of "green power" in Australia.

A Sydney Water report into the plant from August 2006, now posted on the Planning Department website, stated that the preferred option would be to purchase electricity from the green power scheme - which supplies power to the national grid from renewable energy sources.

To run a 500-megalitre plant, the document reveals, would require almost a million megawatt hours (mW/h) - the equivalent of all remaining green power currently available nationally. The current installed capacity is 1.5 million mW/h. But 480,000 mW/h is already used by residential consumers.

Mr Campbell's office claimed it was only planning to build a 125-megalitre plant initially, which would still consume a quarter of all national green power reserved for new residential and commercial customers. But documents show Planning Minister Frank Sartor has given approval for 500 mW/h plant at Kurnell.

Nationals leader and Opposition Water spokesman Andrew Stoner said the Coalition would not build it, if it won office.

"We will use our $1 billion drought proofing fund to provide a $1500 rebate for rainwater tanks on the condition they are plumbed in, implement large-scale water recycling, repair leaky pipes and mains, and harvest billions of litres of stormwater," Mr Stoner said.

"The Government's own documents reveal it is impossible for Morris Iemma to deliver on his promise to operate the plant on 100 per cent renewable energy." A spokesman for Mr Campbell said there was 125ha of "DA-approved" wind farm capacity, which was three times what was needed for a 125-megalitre plant which could be accessed.

However, none of that has been built and there are currently no plans for construction. Mr Campbell's office also conceded that there was provision to "scale up" to the larger plant if needed.

Officially in water crisis:
  • Dam levels have fallen to 35.4 per cent
  • Trigger point for building $1.2 billion desalination plant is 30 percent
  • Authorities say trigger time will be in eight weeks
  • State Government's pledge to have a "100 per cent" renewable energy plant unlikely to be fulfilled.

Greening of corporate Australia

Courier Mail
Friday 19/1/2007 Page: 30

Santos latest to push for emissions trading Cameron England, George Lekakis

INDUSTRY support for a national greenhouse emissions trading scheme is gaining momentum, with oil producer Santos joining the groundswell. Pitting itself against federal government policy, the $5.8 billion company is pushing for a scheme that will assign a cost to greenhouse gas production and allow energy producers to trade emissions permits.

Chief executive John Ellice-Flint, a confidant of Prime Minister John Howard and Finance Minister Nick Minchin, warned in the last annual report that governments must show leadership on climate change because "there is no time to waste".

In its recent submission to the National Emissions Trading Taskforce, the nation's third-largest oil and gas producer says: "A well-designed scheme will be a key component of a portfolio of initiatives to reduce Australia's greenhouse gas emissions." Mr Howard, who has resisted a national emissions trading regime and refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, has recently softened his stance, last month setting up a business-heavy taskforce to examine an emissions trading system.

But his Government has many times expressed its opposition to any trading scheme, arguing it would make Australia less competitive. Santos says a federal government-administered trading scheme is necessary to provide long-term investment certainty to companies in the energy supply game. It believes gas is the ideal "transition fuel" as the world moves from coal to more environmentally friendly forms of energy production.

The NETT was set up by the state and territory governments in 2004 in a bid to develop an emissions trading scheme to be in place as soon as 2010. At the moment there are a number of inconsistent emissions trading schemes and renewable energy targets across the nation.

Shell and BP foundation members of the Australian Business Roundtable on Climate Change last April are also pushing for a trading scheme. However, many local companies are reluctant to embrace the concept without guarantees that it will operate on a global level. OneSteel, Australia's second-largest steel maker, warns in its submission that it would be placed at a significant disadvantage if steel producers overseas were not subject to greenhouse constraints.

Ford Australia, while asserting that it is committed to improving fuel economy and pollution effects of its vehicles, agrees with OneSteel. "The company believes it is important that any trading scheme be globally integrated in its initial design and application," the car maker said.

AGL Energy, the nation's largest retailer of gas and electricity, supports a national trading scheme. AGL said it was having to defer making investment decisions until decisions were made by governments on greenhouse compliance.

"It is important that governments limit uncertainty by not speculating on possible changes to the regulatory environment unless the changes are likely to occur," the company told the taskforce.

Green surf club

Canberra Times
Friday 19/1/2007 Page: 14

Tathra Surf Life Saving Club will officially become tomorrow the first surf life saving club in Australia to be powered totally by renewable resources - the wind and the sun, both plentiful beachside. The pilot project - which involves the installation of a wind turbine and solar modules - is a collaboration between the local community group Clean Energy for Eternity, the Bega Valley Shire Council and the Tathra Surf Life Saving Club.

Clean Energy for Eternity campaign chairman Matt Nott said in 2007, the Year of the Lifesaver, it was his group's aim to have all 305 surf clubs nationally powered by renewable energy. By using sun and wind power we are freeing tip money for the club to spend on life saving equipment, and at the same time using the turbine and solar modules to educate people about the potential of these clean energy sources," he said.

Surf life saving clubs at Pambula, Bermagui and Narooma had already expressed an interest in the project. "Surf clubs are an iconic part of Australian culture and are seen by thousands of people each day in summer. They have good access to wind and sun resources - so we see this as in important way to educate the public of the possibilities of renewable energy," Nott said.

Tathra SLSC president Tony Rettke estimated that by tapping into solar and wind energy, the club would save as about $1000 a year. "I am very proud the members have got behind this project and that we are the first surf club to get on to a project like this," he said.

Santos Tells Pm To Turn Green

Adelaide Advertiser
Friday 19/1/2007 Page: 1
Cameron England Chief Business Reporter

ADELAIDE-BASED energy giant Santos is pushing for a national greenhouse gas emissions trading scheme, warning that the significant impact of climate change is now "widely recognised". Pitting itself against Federal Government policy, the $5.8 billion company wants a cost to be assigned to greenhouse gas production and energy producers to be allowed to trade emissions permits.

Santos managing director John Ellice-Flint. a confidant of Prime Minister John Howard and Finance Minister Nick Minchin, has warned governments must show leadership on climate change because "there is no time to waste".

In its recent submission to the state and territory-led National Emissions Trading Taskforce, Santos says: "A well-designed scheme will be a key component of a portfolio of initiatives to reduce Australia's greenhouse gas emissions".

Santos says an emissions trading scheme, as proposed by the taskforce,"is a reflection of the inexorable global trend towards placing a price on greenhouse gas emissions".

"Increasing human-induced greenhouse gas emissions are now widely recognised as a significant contributor to climate change," the Santos submission says.

"In providing an explicit price signal on greenhouse gas emissions, the scheme will provide greater certainty in investment decision-making and will promote further deployment of low-emission technologies." Mr Howard, who has resisted a national emissions trading regimen and refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, has softened his stance, setting up a business-heavy taskforce to examine an emissions trading system.

His government, however, has expressed its opposition to a trading scheme, arguing it would make Australia less competitive.

Santos, Australia's largest natural gas supplier, says a Federal Government-administered trading scheme would give long-term investment certainty to energy companies. It believes gas is the ideal "transition fuel" as the world moves from highly polluting coal to more environmentally friendly energy production.

Santos' latest annual report links global warming to Hurricane Katrina, which ravaged the U.S. in 2005, and warns "there are severe business and social consequences that flow from these climatic events". In that report, Mr Ellice-Flint writes: "We have to stop the scattergun approach to conservation and emission research and, in the medium term, pool our scarce resources." Santos also advocates strong penalties to ensure compliance with any emissions trading scheme.

The taskforce was set up by state and territory governments in 2004 to develop an emissions trading scheme to be in place as soon as 2010. Presently, there are inconsistent emissions trading schemes and renewable energy targets nationwide. In South Australia, Premier Mike Rann has set a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 60 per cent of 1990 levels by 2050.

This compares with projections released by the Federal Government in December that emissions will reach 109 per cent of 1990 levels by 2008-2012. In its submission to the taskforce, Business SA agrees any scheme had to be nationally administered.

"It is inevitable that Australia will move to a carbon restrained economy in an attempt to keep greenhouse gas levels contained," Business SA says. "The absence of a national planning framework, until now, has inhibited companies taking greater responsibility to implement sustainable business practices."

How Does Emissions Trading Work?
  • Emissions trading systems work by making it expensive to produce greenhouse gases
  • Under the proposed scheme, which would initially cover stationary energy producers such as power plants, companies would be given a free allocation of "permits" to produce greenhouse gases
  • There would be financial penalties for each tonne of greenhouse gases produced above this level, at a cost of perhaps around $30 per tonne by 2030
  • Companies could avoid this however by buying unused permits from other producers, or offset their greenhouse gas production by measures such as planting trees or pumping greenhouse gases underground

Wind, biofuels lead energy charge

Business News
Thursday 18/1/2007 Page: 13

Innovation is a major driver of the WA's ongoing prosperity, particularly in the renewable energy and biotechnology sectors.

CONCERNS over the depletion of fossil fuels, climate change and air pollution have led to a heightened interest in renewable energy projects in Western Australia.

Figures released by the Sustainable Energy Development Office show that, at capacity, 274.9 megawatts can be generated by installed renewable energy projects in the state, with wind generating 201MW, hydro generating 30MW and landfill gas generating 23.9MW.

In terms of proposed projects, 346.5MW is expected to be generated, with a proposed biomass projects expected to generate 243MW, while wind is expected to generate 87MW.

Wind, one of the cheapest renewable energy options in the state, has had considerable interest, with energy minister Francis Logan saying more wind farms will be developed in the near future on the South West coast, with a focus on diesel and wind systems built by Verve Energy.

"You can switch between wind to diesel if the wind is reduced," he said. "These [wind farms] can only be used for small communities but they are looking at plenty of markets overseas that would be able to use this technology, and instead of using diesel you could put a biofuel in there." One of the biggest projects on the cards is the extension of the Albany wind farm, known as the Grasmere Wind Farm, which will see the addition of seven wind turbines to the existing 12 turbines at the site, making it the largest wind farm in the state.

The additional wind turbines would produce 14MW of electricity and raise the percentage of renewable energy used in the town to around 90 per cent.

Activity in the biofuels sector in Western Australia has been considerable, with companies including Sterling Biofuels Ltd , Natural Fuel Ltd and Mission Biofuels Ltd making their debuts on the Australian Stock Exchange.

However, the reduction in oil prices and the passing of fuel tax laws, which have reduced biodiesel's competitiveness in the market, has had a detrimental impact on the sector with most biofuel stocks experiencing falls in their share price and several companies forced to scrap planned capital raisings.

West Perth-based oil and gas explorer Jupiter Energy Ltd pulled the pin on a float of its biofuels subsidiary, citing a lack of market interest in the sector. Australian Ethanol, which is pursuing the development of a biodiesel project in North America and an ethanol project in Victoria, also scrapped plans for a $31 million share placement and an associated share purchase plan for existing shareholders.

But on a positive note, Natural Fuel managed to complete its $83 million float and is ranked as the largest biofuels stock on the ASX. Last year, the company built a $11 million transportable biodiesel refinery at the Australian Marine Complex for its $48 million biodiesel facility in Darwin - the first to have been built in the world.

Developments in biomass projects have witnessed a number of applications including a number of power stations in Perth metro area using landfill gas to produce around 24MW, while companies such as AnaeCo are benefiting from the interest in the sector, having recently received a federal government grant to develop a waste recycling system demonstration plant for the Western Metropolitan Regional Council, which handles waste management for Perth's western suburbs councils.

Biomass projects are also being trialled in the wheat-belt, with the integrated wood processing demonstration plant in Narrogin, developed by Verve Energy, successfully producing renewable energy, activated carbon and eucalyptus oil from local mallees.

"We are currently writing the documentation on its feasibility and taking it to commercialisation stage," Mr Logan said. "We want to try and get it to 5 MW, which is sufficient for a small community and if we have 10 around the Wheat-belt then it will provide a sizeable amount of power." There have also been recent advances in the development of wave power and geothermal energy.

A wave-power machine, called CETO, could produce 18MW of electricity and 45 billion litres of fresh water from 125 CETO units.

The technology, invented by Perth businessman Alan Bums, allows a unit to sit on the seabed and use the power and movement of the waves to force highly pressured seawater to shore through a small pipe, with the water used to drive a turbine generator to produce electricity.

"The technology is being developed by the UK-based Renewable Energy Holdings' Perth-based subsidiary Seapower Pacific Pty Ltd and they are aiming for full commercialisation by 2010," Mr Logan said.

Geothermal energy is also on the agenda with the state government calling for expressions of interest who wish to explore for and harness power from granite rock deposits.

According to the government, a 500MW geothermal facility could produce electricity equivalent to powering 700,000 homes.

Green light for Lexton wind farm

Ballarat Courier
Thursday 18/1/2007 Page: 2

THE Pyrenees Shire Council has given wind farm company Wind Power Pty Ltd the green light for a 19-turbine wind farm at Lexton. The approval was made at the council's meeting on Tuesday night.

The wind farm will provide enough power to supply about 16,000 homes, and will displace about 113,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide or greenhouse gas a year, the equivalent of taking 26,000 cars off the road. The project is believed to cost about $28 million.

The company submitted its application to the council in November, drawing three objections from residents. However, Mayor Gabriel Horvat said there were no technical issues with the application and felt the council had dealt with all issues fairly well. He said the council was very supportive of renewable energy projects.

At the moment, we're in a prime position for the establishment of wind farms as we have all the key factors; hills, wind and major power infrastructure," he said. We need to utilise the potential of wind development within the shire." The development is expected to bring a range of benefits to the shire, including employment, development and extra rate revenue.

Meanwhile, a newly formed group met with the council on Tuesday to discuss their concerns over Wind Power's Stockyard Hill wind farm proposal.

The company is looking into a project of around 70 wind turbines in the area.

Cr Horvat said the group was not against wind farm development, but rather had a lack of information and understanding about wind projects. Cr Horvat said while the council was in favour of wind developments, it did not mean they were "opening the gate without checks and balances".

If the community can't be brought on board then we have to change our views." Wind Power was unavailable for comment yesterday.

Green grocers

Thursday 18/1/2007 Page: 4

BRITAIN'S retail sector is going green. Marks & Spencer has launched an "eco-plan" to make it the greenest retailer in the country, changes that dill be the equivalent of taking 100,000 cars off the road.

Rival Tesco then declared it would halve its carbon output by 2010. But Australia's retailers are less enthusiastic about their environmental impact - the Coles board is more worried about its meat than its greens - but at least the financial services sector is having a go.

Global insurance group Aviva is aiming to be the first insurer to carbon-neutralise its operations, and the blueprint for change has come from the company's Australian outpost.

Aviva Australia chief executive Allan Griffiths says the global plan is an endorsement of his company's "ongoing program of sustainable business practices" including limiting its impact on the environment.

To compensate for using electricity and gas for its buildings and for business travel - including air, car and train - across its global operations, Aviva will invest in projects that generate carbon credits. These will come from tree planting and renewable energy projects such as solar and wind power.

`Aviva Australia already invests in environmental programs," Griffiths says. "These include a partnership with Conservation Volunteers Australia to plant native Australian flora, along with being a signatory to Green scenes. The United Nations Environmental Program Financial Initiatives. We monitor and report on our greenhouse gas emissions through the Greenhouse Challenge Plus audit program." Aviva Australia is also encouraging its staff to use public transport or to walk or cycle to work.

Coral Bay Happenings

Exmouth Expression
January, 2007 Page: 8

Construction work is about to begin on the Coral Bay Power Project, which will see Horizon Power take over responsibility for power supplies in the community and new underground distribution systems installed. Verve Energy will build a new power station and wind farm to supply power to the community.

The wind monitoring mast used in the assessment phase of the Project will be removed by the end of November. Site preparations including the road to the wind farm and clearance works are set to begin shortly thereafter.

Corporate Affairs Manager, John Kitis, said that Site works are expected to continue through to the new year, and the foundations for the wind farm and new power station should commence in January 2007.

"The wind turbines for the new wind farm are in the final stages of construction in France and are due to arrive via container ship in Fremantle during December. "They will be transported to the site from late January, and are planned to be installed during February and March 2007.

"Construction work on the new power station will take place between February and May. Building works to be completed during this time include installation of perimeter fencing, installation of the containerised diesel generators, installation of the fuel tanks and system, installation of the control room, workshop and power store buildings, as well as installation of the transformers and overhead structure above the generators," Mr Kitis said.

Commissioning of the new power station is expected to be carried out in April, with extensive testing of the new system, which must be completed before the new station is connected to the power distribution network.

"The new station is expected to be operational by June 2007. "The Main Roads Department will manage construction of a new sealed road to the power station between February and March," John Kitis said.

The intersection at Exmouth Road will be upgraded to allow fuel trucks to turn into the Coral Bay Road. The final design of the new power network is nearing completion and Horizon Power has begun negotiating with landowners to finalise connection details. Trenching and cable laying work on the new 22,000volt underground network will begin in March, with installation expected to take six weeks.

Timetable for the project is as follows: Dec 2006 Commence site works for power station and wind farm Jan 2007 Install foundations for wind turbines Feb-Mar 2007 Road works Feb-May 2007 Construct power station Mar-May 2007 Install new underground distribution network June 2007 Commence operating new power system.

Wednesday 17 January 2007

Music carbon trading to save the earth: Now, climate rock

Herald Sun
Wednesday 17/1/2007 Page: 21

Rock festivals, in the minds of many people, are more to do with noise pollution than reducing pollution. But promoters are now using science to calculate how much energy they are using and their level of greenhouse gas emissions.

Rock bands such as Cold Play and Pearl Jam say they are making their tours carbon neutral by offsetting jet travel and concert emissions. Melbourne group Cat Empire released a carbon neutral CD, Two Shoes.

The organisers of the Big Day Out, which opens in Auckland this week before coming to Australia, has pledged to be carbon neutral this year. Greenhouse gas emissions will be offset by planting trees. Last year, organisers asked an accredited greenhouse gas abatement certificate provider, CO2 Australia Ltd, to audit energy use at Big Day Out events.

Using this data, organisers say they are now able to accurately calculate the carbon emissions generated by things such as festival waste, power usage and transportation of stage and sound equipment.

Tree planting to offset the carbon emissions and energy use will create jobs and has sound conservation benefits, organisers say. It reduces salinity, improves farmland and converts gases to oxygen.

Growing international awareness of climate change has won carbon offset schemes some powerful supporters. Environmental authorities believe that climate change and the growth of C02 emissions are seen across the generational divide as one of the world's most important problems.

Virgin airlines boss Richard Branson has pledged about $6 billion to developing bio-fuel for his airline fleet and promises that his limousine company will become carbon neutral. The Lonely Planet and Intrepid Travel companies are to offset carbon emnissions for staff travel and are encouraging people to fly less and stay longer. Skybus, the company that takes passengers to and from Melbourne Airport, was the first Australian public transport operator to become carbon neutral. The company planted 5488 native trees to offset carbon emissions from its bus fleet.

The Australian Football League teamed up with the Australian Conservation Foundation and Origin Energy to neutralise an estimated 120,000 tonnes of greenhouse emissions. This was calculated on emissions during all AFL games as well as AFL energy use over the next three years. AFL chief Andrew Demnetriou says that by 2009, the AFL will be carbon neutral by offsetting its greenhouse emissions through investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency industries such as solar and wind power. He said the offsets would be equal to taking 25,000 cars off the road or planting 500,000 trees. The AFL hopes to reduce its carbon footprint to zero, playing its part in helping the environment, the AFL chief said. It would be the first major sports league in Australia to do so.

But the Federal Government continues to drag its feet on climate change; the drive to cut emissions and save energy is coming from the private sector. Some experts believe carbon-offset schemes are another way to keep polluting, by appearing to balance the damage being caused.

One expert commented wrily that offset schemes were like papal indulgences once offered by the Catholic Church: it was OK to keep sinning, as long as you paid compensation. Carbon offsets should not be a feel-good replacement for changing environmentally irresponsible practices and lifestyles. Some healthy scepticism needs to be directed at environmentally outspoken rock groups, such as U2, which circle the globe in fuel-guzzling private jets while extolling environmental consciousness.

Carbon offsets need to be more than just good PR. When Cold Play put out its breakthrough album, A Cold Rush of Blood to the Head, the band said it would offset energy use and carbon emissions by planting 10,000 mango trees in the dry Indian state of Karnataka

However, a media investigation revealed only a few hundred trees were still alive. The rest died because of lack of water and care. Nonetheless, the efforts of the Big Day Out and the AFL are to be applauded.

CARBON offsetting should not be seen as the solution to the world's environmental problems, but coupled with a commitment to reduce consumption and serious management and auditing of such projects, it is more than a step in the right direction.

The organisers of the Big Day Out are setting a positive example to the tens of thousands who will attend the annual youth fest. To a new generation, the old AC/DC chorus, rock 'n' roll ain't noise pollution, will take on a new meaning.

PM clean coal pact slammed

Bendigo Advertiser
Wednesday 17/1/2007 Page: 27

Greenpeace says Prime Minister John Howard's pact with China to use so-called clean coal technology is a typical diversion from the need to switch from coal to renewable energy. The environmental group says Mr Howard continues to ignore options which would deter industrialised economies from increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

Australia and China on Monday pledged to work together to develop cleaner energy alternatives following top level talks in the Philippines. The pact coincided with a wider declaration on energy security made by 16 countries at the East Asia Summit of regional leaders. The declaration pledges a move towards nuclear and other alternative energy solutions, acknowledging the need for renewable energy development.

However, Greenpeace spokesman Ben Pearson said China was already moving in that direction, having recently announced plans to invest 45.6 billion yuan ($A7.41 billion) to more than triple wind power generation capacity by 2010 and aiming to reach a 15 per cent renewable energy target by

"The deal seems to involve no new financing and doesn't address the central problem that without a price on carbon, technologies such as geosequestration will never be commercially deployed," said Mr Pearson. Mr Pearson said deep cuts were needed in greenhouse emissions of industrialised countries of at least 30 per cent by 2020 to avoid dangerous climate change.

Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd has said John Howard has no authority to encourage China and India to do more to tackle global warming because of his own refusal to do so. Mr Rudd said Mr Howard lacked the credentials to speak on global warming in discussions with ASEAN leaders during the East Asia Summit because of his refusal to ratify the Kyoto Protocol and meet United Nations mandatory targets for greenhouse gas reduction.

But he said climate change needed to be one of Mr Howard's top priorities during discussions as its effects would have "huge" repercussions for the region's economy.

Wind farm delays anger

Adelaide Advertiser
Wednesday 17/1/2007 Page: 34

THE operator of one of the biggest wind farms in the Southern Hemisphere has attacked the State and Federal Governments for frustrating its plans for a $200 million project in South Australia.

New Zealand-based Trust-Power, which last week gained approval to build a 42-turbine wind farm on the Barunga Range, 5km west of Snowtown, says it has been investigating the development of a wind farm in the state for four years.

The $2.4 billion renewable power generator and retailer, however, claims it has been "hampered" by changes to state licensing requirements.

Chief executive Keith Tempest is also critical of the Federal Government's failure to make a longterm commitment to renewable electricity generation. Australia's Mandatory Renewable Energy Target of 2 per cent by 2010 is fully subscribed and the Government has refused to lift it.

"It is very pleasing to be able to commence development," Mr Tempest said after the Essential Services Commission granted it a licence to produce 88MW of wind power when the Snowtown farm is commissioned late in 2008. The commission delayed approvals for new wind farms for almost a year between November, 2004, and September, 2005, while it sought advice from the Electricity Supply Industry Planning Council on the long-term impact of the expansion of wind power.

It since has approved another 340MW of wind powered electricity generation, taking the total licensed capacity to almost 800MW - more than 20 per cent of the state's total generating capacity.

Commission chairman Dr Patrick Walsh defended the delay, saying new policies for wind farms would allow the industry to fulfil its potential in SA, while ensuring the integrity and reliability of supply. About 10 wind projects pending at the time approvals were suspended have yet to be resubmitted.

Calamitous waste

Adelaide Advertiser
Wednesday 17/1/2007 Page: 21

China and India have been deemed polluting bad guys in the fight against global warming, but as Jim Krane and Clare Peddle report, Australians are worse.

WHEN it comes to squandering the earth's natural resources, residents of the oil-rich United Arab Emirates - a desert land of chilled swimming pools, indoor ski slopes, monster 4x4s and air-conditioned shopping malls - ranks as the world's worst. America's voracious consumer appetite makes it number two. Unfortunately, Australia rates right up there in the top six, wasting resources like there is no tomorrow.

The average person in these countries puts more demand on the global ecosystem, giving them a vastly larger "ecological footprint" per capita than those in fossil-fuel hungry, emerging economies like China and India.

On current projections, the human race will be using two planet's worth of natural resources every year by 2050. The World Wildlife Fund Living Planet Report ranks countries by measuring each individual's footprint in "global hectares" - the area of productive land and sea needed to provide the resources consumed by an average person.

Australia's ecological footprint measures 6.6 global hectares (gha) per person, compared to a global average of 2.2gha per person - 20 per cent more than what is available on the planet.

This is lower than the latest local figures. Data from the office of sustainability and climate change, in the Department of Premier and Cabinet, puts the Australian average at 7.7gha per person - but South Australians do slightly better. The footprint for each person in SA is 7gha, which means South Australians use 3.9 times what is available per person on the planet. Some 36 per cent of this footprint is made up of the resources needed to produce our food, followed by goods (23 percent), then housing, mobility and services.

All this makes sense: Australia is energy-hungry, our population is widely dispersed and our modern lifestyle is one of rampant consumerism. We have a relatively small population, but when resource consumption is calculated on a per-capita basis, it looks very bad.

Citizens of the UAE measured 11.9gha and Americans 9.6gha per person.

What do these figures mean? Are we heading towards a total ecosystem collapse, permanent loss of biodiversity and erosion of the planet's ability to support people? It looks like it, especially if people around the world continue to aspire to live the American Dream.

Energy consumption in the Emirates runs high for many of the same reasons found in the U.S.: a feeling that the good life requires huge air-conditioned houses and cars, and a disdain for public transportation. The same can be said of here. We're not quite as bad as the U.S. or even Canada, but we're much worse than most of Europe, all of Africa and the rest of Asia.

Developing countries like China and India, with their billion-plus populations, fare better on the "footprints" scale because individuals there consume less. More of them walk or cycle, fewer of them own whitegoods and mod-cons, and there are fewer single-person households and cars.

What we have to worry about is when these countries catch up as consumers. All signs show that they will. It is just a matter of time - unless we can help developing countries to leap-frog old technology and advance to a more energy and resource-efficient future.

Every two years the WWF, Zoological Society of London and the Global Footprint Network work together to produce a Living Planet Report, which offers a robust measure of sustainability.

The report explains: "The Ecological Footprint measures humanity's demand on the biosphere in terms of the area of biologically productive land and sea required to provide the resources we use and to absorb our waste." The footprint of a country includes all the crop land, grazing land, forest and fishing grounds required to produce the food, fibre, and timber it consumes; to absorb the wastes emitted in generating the energy it uses; and to provide space for its infrastructure.

As Australians consume resources and ecological services (such as the water cycle) from all over the world, our footprint is the sum of all of these.

Making matters worse for the UAE are Dubai's audacious developments, including artificial resort islands that have destroyed coral reefs and an indoor ski slope that still creates snow when it is 49C outside.

Jonathan Loh, a British biologist who co-authored the WWF report, says this is really shocking. "Of all the places to make artificial snow, this has to be the most absurd," he says. Its landscape offers little help, with its undulating sand dunes and jagged mountains of bare rock offering precious little greenery to soak up carbon emissions.

Another focal point for Dubai's emissions is the red-and-white smokestacks jutting from gas-fired power plants, and an aluminium smelter that line the beach on the city's outskirts. The plants do double duty distilling fresh water from Gulf seawater, a hugely energy-intensive process that accounts for 98 per cent of the fresh water in a country with no rivers and little usable groundwater.

In Dubai and Abu Dhabi, desalinated water is lavished, Las Vegas-style, on fountains, artificial lakes, swimming pools, resort greenery and even on golf courses sitting atop once drifting desert sands. Desalination also produces most fresh water in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait; Gulf countries that also showed high footprints.

The WWF has asked the Emirates government to cut energy use and move toward renewable energy, especially solar power viable in one of the world's sunniest climates. On the upside, the state oil company has eliminated 80 per cent of its wasteful flaring off of natural gas at its oil-well heads.

Still, its small size and population compared to the U.S. and other more populous polluters means that efforts to cut greenhouse gases need to concentrate on the U.S. and other large, developed, industrial countries.

The ecological footprint concept is being used by governments, communities and businesses in Australia and around the world to monitor their use of environmental resources and lay plans for the future.

Here, the State Government recently committed to an ecological footprint account for SA, a priority action of the State's Strategic Plan. The Office of Sustainability has also become a participating partner in The Global Footprint Network.

If you would like to calculate your personal Ecological Footprint, take the survey at (it takes 10 minutes). Then visit the Sustainable Living Choices website at for suggestions on how to live more sustainably.

Tuesday 16 January 2007

China sets the example on wind energy

Auswind Media Release,
Monday 15 January 2007

China has announced plans for a huge increase in its wind energy production, aiming to triple its existing wind power capacity by 2010.

As the Prime Minister, John Howard, prepares to hold trade talks with Chinese government officials, China is setting the example for other countries to follow, with a plan to have 8,000 megawatts (MW) of wind energy installed by 2010, up from its previous target of 5,000 MW.

In 2006 alone China increased its wind energy capacity by 80%, installing 1,000 MW, to take its current total to 2,300 MW.

President of the Australian Wind Energy Association (Auswind), Andrew Richards, welcomed the Chinese move, saying it showed the kind of forward thinking and determination that is required for fossil fuel reliant economies to clean up their energy production.

"Like Australia, China depends largely on coal for electricity production so it is very encouraging to see the Chinese government taking a leadership position by showing a solid commitment to clean energy production, putting its support behind the most effective large-scale technology available – wind energy," said Mr. Richards.

The Chinese plan will see 45.6 billion yuan ($7.46 billion) spent to more than triple wind power generation capacity by 2010.

According to the Chinese Renewable Energy Industries Association, China plans to spend 1.5 trillion yuan in the next 15 years to increase its use of renewable resources and reduce the world's fourth-largest economy's reliance on coal and oil.

"Australia should applaud this type of initiative and look to follow suit, as other options such as nuclear energy and so-called "clean coal" technology are at least 15 to 20 years from reality in this country," said Mr. Richards.

For a full list of existing and proposed Australian wind energy projects, visit:

Wind farm turbines set to be connected

South Eastern Times
Thursday 11/1/2007 Page: 3

THE first two of the 53 turbines which comprise the second stage of the multi-million dollar Lake Bonney wind farm have been erected and will be connected to the national grid after this month. They are expected to be "energised" (commissioned) in the first week of February.

The latest turbines will each generate three megawatts of power and this will be the equivalent of the needs of up to 3,000 households. The 46 turbines in Lake Bonney stage one only have a generating capacity of 1.75 megawatts.

Construction personnel engaged by Babcock and Brown Wind Partners have placed the latest two turbines in close proximity to the existing structures on Poonada Road and Thiele Road, west of Tantanoola.

The two newest turbines are distinctive as they are larger than their predecessors and are currently non-operational. Other turbines are currently in the process of being erected nearby as their towers, nacelles and blades are on site, along with cranes and associated construction apparatus.

There is no public access to the construction sites. The construction team erects an average of three turbines per fortnight.

In contrast to Lake Bonney stage one, the towers for stage two are not passing through Mount Burr, Millicent Agricultural Bureau Drive and Tantanoola en route to the wind farm. This is because the stage two towers have been manufactured in Portland.

An official ceremony to mark the commencement of Lake Bonney stage two was held on site last month and attended by Energy Minister Patrick Conlon and officials from Wattle Range Council and Babcock and Brown Wind Partners.

Preliminary siteworks got underway in June for the 53 turbine towers, being erected along the Woakwine Range to the south of Lake Bonney stage one. Stage two involves a local workforce of between 30 and 50.

When completed in late 2007 or early 2008, the first two stages of the windfarm will have 99 wind turbines, generate almost 240 megawatts and will be the largest operational windfarm in the Southern Hemisphere.

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

Phoning for good

Northern Rivers Echo
Thursday 11/1/2007 Page: 29

So, how do you have a conference about sustainability (or any conference for that matter) and not have all participants having to drive or fly to a destination thereby spewing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere? Telephone conferencing! Next Wednesday, January 17, from 7-8.30pm, the Rainforest Information Centre will host another Climate Study/Action Telephone Conference this time featuring Mark Diesendorf, director of Sustainability Centre Pty Ltd. He'll speak on A Sustainable Energy Future for Australia.

The telephone conference series brings perspectives on climate change to a wide audience across Australia without requiring people to travel in a carbon intensive way.

The human-induced greenhouse effect is the most dangerous environmental problem and the most difficult political issue to be faced by the world in the 21st century. Unfortunately, Australia has the largest per capita emission of greenhouse gases in the world.

The good news is that Australia could halve its greenhouse gas emissions by 2040 - at low cost. We already have many technologies for using energy more efficiently. Cleaner sources of energy supply are commercially viable and available right now - sources like wind power, bio-energy from the combustion of crop residues, and natural gas. And there's rapidly developing technologies like solar electricity and hot dry rock geothermal power.

Talks are free except for the cost of the call which will be less than $5 with an international calling card.

To register or for more info email

Jindabyne energy expo

Cooma Monaro Express
Thursday 11/1/2007 Page: 14

THE Snowy Mountains Renewable Energy and Climate Change Expo is planned to take place on February I 1 in Banjo Paterson Park, Jindabyne, as part of the Flowing Festival.

Organised by Rashida Nuridin, it aims to provide individuals, businesses and organisations with the opportunity to access information on climate change and renewable energy.

There will be a diverse range of stalls and displays covering various forms of renewable energy, solar hot water, sustainable building, green power, transport, climate change information and much more. A lecture on Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" will be given by one of his presenters.

'Bidgee's stark warning

Cooma Monaro Express
Thursday 11/1/2007 Page: 1

Friends of Renewable Energy Spokesperson, Rashida Nuridin at Murrumbidgee River.A CSIRO study into the impact of climate change on the Murrumbidgee Catchment Area has painted a grim picture ahead of more hot days, droughts, bushfires and intense storms.

The study also found that climatic change will further accelerate the demise of the Catchment's existing 125 threatened species and by 2050 there could be up to 96 per cent less snow cover in the Alpine region.

Friends of Renewable Energy spokesperson, Rashida Nuridin, said the time for contemplation is over and this study, which predicts 50 per cent less flow into the Murrumbidgee by 2070. gave legitimacy to the climate change issue.

"All the evidence gathered by scientists indicates climate change is happening and you can't dispute it," said Ms Nuridin.

"There could be a huge impact on the mountains, not only with reduced snow fall, but also the bio-diversity of the ecology." Ms Nuridin said there was a lot of talk about climate change but what was really needed was action.

"There's absolutely nothing at a federal level to encourage renewable energy and they need to offer an incentive to us. "The government are great at rhetoric when it's an election winner and climate change will be one of main voting platforms in the election this year," she said.

The CSIRO study was undertaken so the NSW government could have an increased awareness of those expected to be most affected by climate change and put the state on track to meeting its emission targets.

Member for Monaro, Steve Whan, agreed the Federal Government needed to do more and is calling on them to implement a national plan to address global warming.

"For the mountains it's frightening because of the potential ecological impact of an extinction of plants and animals and economically with the impact of the ski industry," said Mr Whan.

Mr Whan added there were several ways the Federal Government could tackle climate change in a national plan including having a national emission trading system scheme for greenhouse gasses, signing the Kyoto protocol and putting research money into solar, geothermal, and wind power opposed to nuclear.

"The Federal Government must also have an ambitious renewable energy target. It's two per cent now but needs to be at least 10-15 per cent within a decade." Independent Candidate for Eden-Monaro, Acacia Rose, said it's good that the NSW government is taking the lead on climate change and is encouraging NSW people to change to clean energy.

Windfarm plans go to Canberra by Troy Kippen

Colac Herald
Friday 12/1/2007 Page: 14

A windfarm company is confident of clearing the final hurdle to develop a 15-turbine windfarm at Newfield, near Port Campbell.

Acciona Energy Oceania lodged an application with the Department of Environment and Heritage for approval for the windfarm, eight kilometres north of Port Campbell. Acciona Energy Oceania project manager Julien Gaschignard said the company was confident of receiving approval from the Federal Government.

"The information contained in the summary is from independent environmental consultants who see no problems," Mr Gaschignard said. "We started a detailed environmental study of the area in early 2006," he said.

The consultants identified orangebellied parrot habitat in the area. The critically-endangered species came to fame last year when the Environment Minister Ian Campbell refused to approve a wind farm at Bald Hills, near the Gippsland coastline, to protect the species.

At the time Mr Campbell said the risk to the parrot was too great to risk the development. Mr Campbell approved the windfarm in December after criticism of his initial decision and design changes by the windfarm company, Wind Power. The company reported the eight month delay cost about $30 million.

The Newfield windfarm consultants said the parrot was not at risk because their development was eight kilometres from the coast. The orange-bellied parrot migrates along the coastline.

Mr Gaschignard said the company started planning the windfarm in 2003. The development received approval from state Planning Minister Justin Madden late last year. "We recorded wind speeds in the area and it was enough for a viable windfarm," he said.

Residents in the area were concerned that the development could be visible from the Great Ocean Road, and have a negative visual impact. Acciona Energy Oceania designed a three-dimensional model of what the wind farm would look like from the tourist road to alleviate the concerns of residents.

The company also had open days for people to get information about the proposed development. Mr Gaschignard said the company would apply for a permit from the Corangamite Shire after receiving federal approval.

Naroghid wind farm waits on NSW

Camperdown Chronicle
Friday 12/1/2007 Page: 1

Construction of a 21 turbine wind farm at Naroghid is likely to be delayed due to the development of an interstate renewable energy scheme. Wind Farm Developments Pty Ltd received State Government approval for the project last August and planned to have works under way by the second half of 2007.

However, company manager Jonathan Upson said the project had slowed because of New South Wales government plans to introduce a renewable energy target scheme.

"They're in the process of developing that scheme now, but there is an election coming up in that state which will slow things down," he said.

The Labor Government is developing the scheme so things will obviously be a lot quicker if the Labor Government is re-elected." Mr Upson said Victoria currently had a Renewable Energy Scheme which required retailers to buy at least 10 percent of their energy from renewable sources.

"New South Wales is doing the same thing and intend on allowing generators from outside the state to qualify and sell energy back to them, which is where we come in," he said.

"There is even talk that New South Wales' renewable energy target could be higher than Victoria's 10 percent level, which could be very good news for companies like ours." Mr Upson said discussions were continuing with several potential investment partners for the Naroghid project.

Several overseas companies are being considered along with a number of Australian companies. Local contractors have also indicated a willingness to be involved, with several lodging expressions of interest via Wind Farm Developments Pty Ltd's website.

"We want to maximise the number of local contractors we use," Mr Upson said,"Earthworks will be a major component with tracks to be built, foundations to be dug and trenches for cables," he said. "We'll also need a concreter and a transport operator because there will be a lot of cartage involved in the construction stage.

"Electricians will also be needed; they will have to be certified for high voltage works." Mr Upson said the project was still aiming for a 2007 start date, but was looking less likely. "However, we are very satisfied with the way things are progressing and are still working with both State Government and the local council to move things along." The proposed wind farm will located 2.5km from Lake Sullen and 4km from Cobden.

The $80 million 42-megawatt project will have the capacity to power nearly 25,000 homes each year.

$30m wind farm

Herald Sun
Tuesday 16/1/2007 Page: 27

Babcock and Brown Wind Partners says it will acquire a $30 million wind energy farm from German developer Plambeck Neue Energien.

The Kaarstwind farm has a total installed capacity of 10 megawatts and an expected net energy production of 19,342 megawatt hours a year. Another two megawatts of capacity is expected to be constructed during 2007.

The acquisition brings the total number of operational wind farms to 22.

Ziggy wrong on cost: scientist

Tuesday 16/1/2007 Page: 4
Matthew Warren Environment writer

A SCIENTIST who worked on Australia's last attempt at building a nuclear power reactor reckons the cost of the energy would be greater than that estimated by the Switkowski report.

Nuclear scientist John Blakemore, now president of the Manufacturing Society of Australia, said yesterday that nuclear power would be twice as expensive as conventional coal-fired electricity in Australia.

The final report by former Telstra chief Ziggy Switkowski to the federal Government on the feasibility of nuclear energy, released in December, estimated it would be 20 to 50 per cent more expensive than coal, but would require a significant price on carbon and some government assistance to be a competitive alternative.

Dr Blakemore said the price gap was much greater because of the abundant and low-cost reserves of fossil fuels in Australia.

Construction of a power reactor at Jervis Bay in NSW was halted in 1971 when the federal government realised the cost of the project, and therefore the electricity it produced, would be prohibitively expensive.

"Nothing has changed," Dr Blakemore told The Australian. "We were going to build that station but then the cost was so enormous we couldn't justify it on the basis of economics." Dr Blakemore, who worked as a junior technical expert on the Jervis Bay project, said renewable and clean-coal technologies were likely to be a far more cost-effective solution for Australia than nuclear power.

Last year, Australia's energy generators said current nuclear technology was between 50 and 100 per cent more expensive than conventional coal and would become viable only with a massive spike in coal and gas prices or a significant government-imposed impost on carbon emissions.

This month, the Energy Supply Association of Australia is expected to release its latest estimates of future energy supply costs, including evolving low emissions technologies such as carbon capture and storage, which are likely to challenge some of the findings of the report commissioned by the federal Government.

The final Switkowski report said nuclear energy would compete with low-emission technologies such as solar and wind power as well as clean coal and geothermal technologies, but argued that nuclear had an advantage because it was certain and proven technology.

The Gorton government started site preparation works on the Murray's Beach reactor in the late 1960s, believing nuclear power could be competitive with other energy sources by the 1980s. But by June 1971 work on the site, now the carpark for Murray's Beach, was halted and the project was eventually shelved after blowouts on the cost of construction.

Hot rocks energy can power us for centuries

Adelaide Advertiser
Tuesday 16/1/2007 Page: 34

IT has been fascinating to watch the emergence in what seems just a few short months of climate change and greenhouse emissions as high-priority issues, bringing with this elevated debate a new wave of political, social and economic implications. As scientific evidence continues to mount that we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to combat global warming, aggressive renewable-energy policies and targets are now being pursued by several nations.

It gives us considerable optimism about the real upside for companies like ours, Petratherm. We're an emerging specialist in exploring and developing "hot rocks" or geothermal resources in South Australia's Outback - and increasingly translating our expertise elsewhere in Australia and overseas, including to China.

Hot rocks simply use the circulation of water at depth through hot granite rocks to create heated water and steam which, when vented back to the surface, can be used for electricity generation - all with no emissions.

Our Paralana test well program, 130km east of Leigh Creek, is about to enter its third stage, developing the underground heat exchanger.

Pleasingly, more commercial success for Petratherm will coincide with a market environment in which Australian state and federal governments are now backing policies that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This includes South Australia's objective of having 20 per cent of its electricity obtained by 2014 from renewable-energy sources such as geothermal.

Crucially, such hot-rocks power is now becoming increasingly cost competitive against mainstream, often coal-based fuels for electricity generation. Independent analysis shows geothermal energy can provide large-scale, base load power - unlike the intermittent power sources of wind and solar - and we have large reserves that can potentially satisfy Australian electricity demand for several centuries.

Other advantages include high reliability, emission-free profile and very low environmental impact. As we increasingly prove up the technologies and processes associated with commercial geothermal energy production, SA should look to ensuring it is a market leader in this field, as the domestic and international markets beckon.

Terry Kallis is managing director of Adelaide-based and ASX-listed geothermal energy developer Petratherm, the only Australian company to be backed by the Australian, South Korean, Chinese, Indian, Japanese and U.S. governments to help develop hot-rock energy sites in China.

Monday 15 January 2007

A Bank for the Wind

New Scientist
Saturday 13/1/2007 Page: 39

SITTING at the western end of Bass Strait between the Australian mainland and Tasmania, King Island might not seem like a beacon to the future. Yet inside a large metal shed close to the island's west coast is an electricity storage system that promises to transform the role of wind energy.

King Island isn't connected to the mainland power grid, and apart from its own small wind farm it relied for a long time on diesel generators for its electricity. That changed in 2003 when the local utility company installed a mammoth rechargeable battery which ensures that as little wind energy as possible goes to waste. When the wind is strong, the wind farm's turbines generate more electricity than the islanders need. The battery is there to soak up the excess and pump it out again on days when the wind fades and the turbines' output falls. The battery installation has almost halved the quantity of fuel burnt by the diesel generators, saving not only money but also at least 2000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions each year.

So what's new? For years wind turbines and solar generators have been linked to back-up batteries that store energy in chemical form. In the lead-acid batteries most commonly used, the chemicals that store the energy remain inside the battery. The difference with the installation on King Island is that when wind power is plentiful the energy-rich chemicals are pumped out of the battery and into storage tanks, allowing fresh chemicals in to soak up more charge. To regenerate the electricity the flow is simply reversed.

Flow batteries like this have the advantage that their storage capacity can be expanded easily and cheaply by building larger tanks and adding more chemicals. The technology is already attracting interest from wind farmers, but flow batteries could also replace all sorts of conventional electricity storage systems - from the batteries in electric cars to large-scale hydroelectric pumped storage reservoirs.

Electricity is very different to commodities like coal or oil that can be stored up in summer ready to meet peak winter demand. With electricity, generating companies meet fluctuating demand by adjusting the supply, from day to day and minute to minute.

Typically, they spread the load over large distribution grids and use a mix of huge, economical,"base-load" power stations supplemented by smaller, costlier generators that can be switched on and off at short notice matching supply to demand is particularly problematical when it comes to renewable energy sources like the wind and the sun.

The wind doesn't always blow when needed, which means that electricity companies must keep conventional power stations standing by so that on calm days, or when electricity demand leaps, people will still be able to turn on the lights. These power sources can also be difficult to slot in and out of the generation mix. An effective way to store electricity on a large scale would give renewable power sources a welcome boost.

There is no shortage of ways to do this. Ideas range from storing energy underground using hot rocks or storing it as electrical charge in "super capacitors" to using off-peak capacity to pump water into reservoirs where it can drive generator turbines when demand peaks. Then there are various kinds of batteries. While each technology has its advantages, flow batteries seem to have the potential to satisfy the broadest variety of needs - from small power systems to large-scale grid storage - at a competitive price.

Flow batteries are more complex than conventional batteries. In a lead-acid battery, the electrical energy that charges it up is stored as chemical energy inside the battery. Flow batteries, in contrast, use two electrolyte solutions, each with a different "redox potential" - a measure of the electrolyte molecules' affinity for electrons. What's more, the electrolytes are stored in tanks outside the battery.

When electricity is needed the two electrolytes are pumped into separate halves of a reaction chamber, where they are kept apart by a thin membrane. The difference in the redox potential of the two electrolytes drives electric charges through the dividing membrane, generating a current that can be collected by electrodes. The flow of charge tends to even up the redox potentials of the two electrolytes, so a constant flow of electrolyte is needed to maintain the current. However, the electrolytes can be recharged.

A current driven by an outside source will reverse the electrochemical reaction and regenerate the electrolytes, which can be pumped back into the tanks.

No more leaks

The installation at King Island has its origins in the 1980s when Maria Skyllas-Kazacos, a young Australian chemical engineer, started a research programme on flow batteries at the University of New South Wales in Sydney.

This focused on one of the big weaknesses of these devices. The membranes separating the two electrolytes allowed molecules of electrolyte to leak across. As a result, each solution became increasingly contaminated with the other, reducing the battery's output.

Skyllas-Kazacos's solution to this problem was to use the same chemical element for both electrolytes. She could still provide the required difference in redox potential by ensuring that the element was in different "oxidation states" in the two solutions - in other words its atoms carried different electrical charges. The element she eventually decided on was the metal vanadium. which can exist in four different charge states - from V(II), in which each vanadium atom has two positive charges, to V(v), with five. Dissolving vanadium pentoxide in dilute sulphuric acid creates a sulphate solution containing almost equal numbers of V(iii) and V(rv) ions.

When Skyllas-Kazacos added the solution to the two chambers of her flow battery and connected an outside power supply to the electrodes, she found that the vanadium at the positive electrode changed into the VM form while at the negative electrode it all converted to the V(tl) form. With the external battery disconnected, electrons flowed spontaneously from the V(11) ions to the V(v) ions and the flow battery generated a current.

Best of all, it didn't matter too much if a few vanadium ions on one side of the membrane leaked across to the other: this slightly discharged the battery, but after a recharge the electrolyte on each side was as good as new.

After more than a decade of development, Skyllas-Kazacos's technology was licensed to a Melbourne-based company called Pinnacle VRB, which installed the vanadium flow battery on King Island. With 70,000 litres of vanadium sulphate solution stored in large metal tanks, the battery can deliver 400 kilowatts for 2 hours at a stretch. It has increased the average proportion of wind-derived electricity in the island's grid from about 12 per cent to more than 40 per cent.

It hasn't all been plain sailing, though. For example, engineers have had to solve a perennial problem with flow batteries - how to prevent leaks that allow energy to literally dribble away - as well as working out how to construct long-lasting membranes.

With the installation at King Island up and running, it shows the advantages of vanadium flow batteries over conventional electricity storage. Their working lifetime is limited only by that of the membrane and other hardware, and is expected to be several times the two to three-year lifespan of a lead-acid battery. Like lead-acid batteries, they deliver up to 8o per cent of the electricity used to charge them, but they also maintain this efficiency for years.

One of the key advantages of flow batteries is their scalability. To increase peak power output you add more battery cells, but the amount of energy they will store - and therefore the time they will operate on a full charge - can be expanded almost indefinitely by building bigger tanks and filling them with chemicals. The result is that the batteries can be used in a wide range of roles, from 1-kilowatt-hour units (like a large automotive battery, say), to power-station scales of hundreds of megawatt-hours.

Small vanadium flow batteries are already operating in Japan, where they are used for applications such as back-up power at industrial plants. In the US, a 2-megawatt hour battery installed in Castle Valley in south-east Utah has allowed the local power company PacifiCorp to meet increasing peak power demands without needing to increase the capacity of the ageing 300-kilometre distribution line that feeds the area.

The vanadium-based technology developed at the University of New South Wales is now being put to use by VRB Power Systems, based in Vancouver, Canada. Last year the company signed a $6.3 million contract to construct a 12-megawatt-hour vanadium battery at the Some Hill wind farm in Donegal, Ireland. The idea is to offer a guaranteed supply of wind-generated electricity, and improve the economics of the wind farm by selling stored electricity to the grid at peak times when prices are highest.

The company has commissioned a new production line with the capacity to turn out 2500 5-kilowatt batteries each year. The first dozen of these new batteries are currently under evaluation by customers including the National Research Council Canada and one of North America's biggest cellphone companies.

This is an important stage of development. At present, as with any new technology lacking economies of scale, flow battery systems are more expensive than competing products, but that could change once the new production line is running.

Basic research is continuing too. Vanadium sulphate solutions cannot be made very concentrated so the energy stored in a given volume of vanadium flow batteries is about half that of lead-acid batteries. This rules them out for applications where compactness and low weight are at premium - electric cars being a prime example. So Skyllas-Kazacos and her team want to replace vanadium sulphate with vanadium bromide, which is more than twice as soluble. She expects that research to be completed by 2008.

VRB Power Systems has already tested its units in electric golfcarts. Just as with existing electric vehicles, a car equipped with a flow battery could be charged by plugging it into an electric socket. Enticingly, though, flow batteries might one day allow drivers to refill the tank with energised electrolyte. The spent solution can be recycled.

Whether or not we will one day top up our cars with vanadium, King Island has proved that flow batteries already have a practical role to play, keeping wind-generated electricity humming through the wires even when the breeze drops. You might not even notice it's there - but that's probably the biggest compliment you could pay it.

170 jobs at wind farm site

Adelaide Advertiser
Saturday 13/1/2007 Page: 8

A $200 million wind farm in the Mid North will create 170 construction jobs. New Zealand power generator, TrustPower, has been granted a licence by the Essential Services Commission of South Australia.

Construction on the 42 wind turbines at Snowtown begins in April. The system is expected to supply enough power for 60,000 homes. TrustPower chief executive Keith Tempest said the site was one of the best in Australia.

SA electricity transmission company ElectraNet would construct the high voltage substation and short transmission line to connect the wind farm to the state grid, with construction scheduled to begin in April.

Wind farm now possible

Hunter Valley News
Wednesday 3/1/2007 Page: 5

UPPER Hunter Shire Council's Mayor, Barry Rose said the State Government approval of the Scone Local Environmental Plan - (LEP) would make way for a wind farm development.

Cr Rose said "the approval by the Minister for Planning will allow council to consider development applications for alternate forms of energy generating activities such as wind farms, which under the previous LEP provisions were prohibited in certain zones.

"There have been a number of wind monitoring towers in place around Scone for a number of years and the results suggest the conditions lend themselves to a wind farm style development, subject the appropriate assessments being undertaken." Cr Rose said council was aware of a potential application to be lodged in the near future and the amendment cleared the way for consideration.

He said the news the amendment to the Scone LEP had been finally gazetted was welcomed and council looked forward to working closely with any proponents of such developments and the local community regarding future applications.

Renewable energy prescribed

Western Suburbs Weekly
Tuesday 9/1/2007 Page: 9

Dr Bill Castleden is chairman of Doctors for the Environment Australia(DEA), a medical organisation that seeks to educate the public and politicians about the health-damaging effects of global warming.

GLOBAL climate change is now obvious, and yet the rate at which human-produced carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are entering the atmosphere is accelerating.

The Australian media awareness of the threat of climate change has increased markedly over the past few months and it is now likely that more than 70 per cent of us would like Australia to become a full part of the global effort to solve the problem and to sign the Kyoto Protocol.

The effects of our exclusiveness are being felt. On a per capita basis, Australians are very nearly the worst greenhouse polluters.

Member states of the European Union are required to submit targets for the proportion of power they propose to generate from renewable energy. Most are aiming for 20 per cent by 2020, 30 per cent by 2030 and on to 60 per cent by 2060. However, when the Australian Mandatory Renewable Energy Target of 3 per cent is achieved in 2010 Australia will have no renewable energy target.

Wind power installation globally is expanding at about 25 per cent a year. Meanwhile Vestas, the Danish wind turbine manufacturer, is closing its Tasmanian plant; hardly a ringing endorsement of Australia's commitment to wind power.

California has passed the Million Solar Roofs Bill that requires a million Californian homes to be equipped with solar panels over the next 10 years. This will have an enormous effect as a million Californian homes will have to be built to take advantage of passive-solar orientation.

Compare this to WA's new developments with their curving, car-dependent roads and cul-de-sacs in which about one house in five can be aligned to take advantage of the optimum solar orientation.

Australian renewable energy company Novera has de-listed from the Australian Stock Exchange and moved to London. Ceramic Fuels Ltd is now substantially European-based because it can more easily raise capital there. Solco Ltd, an Australian manufacturer of solar hot water systems, has been in financial difficulty. All this while the Federal Government assures us they are pursuing robust investment in renewable energy.

In July 2006, Tesla Motors Inc unveiled an all-electric car with sports-car acceleration and a range of 400km per two-hour charge. The Prime Minister promised Australian motorists $1.6 billion to help them install gas conversions to their cars.

Would a $1.6 billion fund to encourage the Australian car industry to improve on Tesla's emission-free car have been more long-sighted? Focus on renewable energy in the sunniest continent would not be the end of the prosperity Australians have come to depend on. Up to $US63 billion will be invested by northern hemisphere venture capitalists in 2007 on renewable energy initiatives.

Sadly, this investment opportunity continues to pass Australia by while we focus on further development of old-style, eventually exhaustible, extractive (coal, gas and uranium) energy development.

Individuals, businesses and politicians alike have fully to recognise the problems we face and work together, as if facing a wartime reality, to reduce the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse pollutants we all emit. With a change in focus it can be done.