Thursday 4 October 2007

Gale-force deal done

Geelong Advertiser
01/10/2007 Page: 38

Aussie company Babcock and Brown will spend about $1.82 billion on a new wind farm off the US. Australian investment firm Babcock and Brown bought offshore wind energy developer Bluewater, which is seeking to build a wind farm off the coast of Delaware, US, expected to cost about $1.82 billion. In a pair of releases last week, the companies said Bluewater would continue to negotiate a power purchase agreement with Pepco Holdings Inc's Delmarva Power subsidiary. Babcock and Brown and Bluewater did not disclose the terms of the acquisition, the Bluewater spokesman said. The proposed 150-turbine, 450-megawatt wind farm would provide enough energy for as many as 100,000 households in Delaware.

The turbines would be located 18km offshore so they will be difficult to see, Bluewater said on its web site. In July 2005, Delaware adopted a Renewable Portfolio Standard requiring that 10 per cent of the state's electricity come from renewable sources by the year 2018, according to the Bluewater website. Delmarva issued a request for proposals in November 2006 to buy power from a plant located in Delaware as per state legislation. This year, several state agencies authorised Delmarva to start negotiating a power purchase agreement with Bluewater. If the negotiations with Delmarva are successful, Bluewater has said the wind farm could start generating some power as soon as the third quarter of 2011, pending state and federal regulatory approvals.

Australia must end its coal addiction

Friday 28/9/2007 Page: 10

Political leaders need to bring in some big changes to combat climate change, writes James Norman.
TODAY climate change has become an issue that even the most conservative political parties in the world - including the American Republicans, the British Tories and the Australian Liberal Party - concede is a major priority for all serious politicians. This shift has come about because the public has demanded it. We have seen the rise of ethical consumerism as people have begun to refuse plastic bags in supermarkets, buy more sustainable and organic products and use public transport rather than drive. But now that we have broad political acknowledgement of the seriousness of the threat, we need to get more serious about real solutions.

Unfortunately, changing a few light bulbs and being more consistent about recycling won't bring about the emission cuts required to reverse the impacts of dangerous climate change, important though these things are. We need to go right back to the core issue of how we source our power, and how we use it. That is a much bigger issue than any ethical consumer push, as it gets right to the heart of the matter. That will mean really asking some hard questions internationally, and being willing to take tangible steps towards sustainability. Right now, although many governments around the world are setting emission reduction targets, there are simultaneous global trends that threaten to undermine these vital steps.

We know that in Victoria we are heavily reliant on coal as the primary source of our power, and this is the first problem we need to tackle. Given that coal produces about 25 per cent of current global carbon emissions, we know that the future cannot be simultaneously green and black. But no one is suggesting we close down our power stations tomorrow and turf people out of their jobs. This needs to be a transition that is done with courage and foresight, and that looks after those workers affected. Now even Australia's mining union, the CFMEU, agrees that climate change is a vital issue and that real action is required.

But more than just weaning ourselves off our coal addiction, Australia can play a part in influencing global trends by replacing our coal exports with renewable technology exports. In the 1980s, Australia was set to be a world leader in solar technology but, unfortunately, we allowed ourselves to fall behind the now lucrative Asian and European renewable energy market. We have to start to take this ground back - fast. The sobering truth right now is that there is something of a coal rush going on. In China, an average of two new coal stations are being built every week, and China has doubled its coal production in six years. India has plans to build more than 100 coal power stations in the next decade and the US is pushing ahead with plans for about 150 new coal power stations.

There is a lot of talk about clean coal technology, but it is difficult to tell how much of this is mere window-dressing. Most of the clean coal pilot schemes won't be able to offer real data for another 20 years, by which time we will be in a much worse situation than today. Then there is the cost of clean coal - one recent UN study reported that the cost of producing the clean coal electricity will add anything from 40 to 90 per cent to the cost of the energy. While it is tempting to see clean coal as the silver bullet, the reality is that clean coal is at best an untested possibility, at worst a mere distraction from the main game.

No one is suggesting that it will be easy to make the transition from coal, but all the current data points to the same conclusion. Australia has to start shifting away from coal now, and use our geopolitical influence to persuade others to move in the same direction. Imagine if John Howard, who has finally declared himself a climate change convert, decided to make Australia's clean energy future his final legacy. To do so, he would need to acknowledge that the shift to clean, sustainable energy sources, and away from coal, is clearly the only real path we have to seriously tackle climate change while simultaneously securing a long-term affordable, sustainable energy future for our kids.

James Norman is communications adviser with the Australian Conservation Foundation.

Targets upgrade will put the wind up electricity

01/10/2007 Page: 36

FOR more than a century, windmills have played an important part in Australian agriculture, pumping water from underground aquifers to supply homesteads and livestock in the drier parts of the country. Their simple durability has become part an enduring icon of surviving in a wide brown land. The imagery is about to get a big upgrade. Technologies harnessing the wind's kinetic energy have been around for centuries. It's hardly surprising, then, that wind energy is, to date, the most mature, and therefore the cheapest, of the emerging fleet of low emission energy technologies. Optimal sites can generate electricity at about $80 per megawatt hour, still about double the cost of conventional coal power in Australia.

Wind energy therefore currently needs subsidies or a significant price on greenhouse emissions to compete in the current market. It generates about 1 per cent of total supply courtesy of the existing Mandatory Renewable Energy Targets (MRET) in place since 2001. But all that is about to change following last week's pre-election upgrade of the scheme by John Howard. The Government's new clean energy target of about 15 per cent of low-emissions electricity by 2020 effectively underwrites the existing array of state renewable targets and foreshadows an even bigger national scheme from Labor in the coming days.

Wind is expected to be the big winner from these expansions. As with MRET, electricity retailers will be required to subsidise the gap between the wholesale electricity price and low-emissions technologies. The final bill will depend on changes in these prices as well as the impact of a price on greenhouse emissions set by emissions trading from about 2011, but by 2020 is likely to be somewhere north of $6 billion.

These developments pose a question over claims made last month by Danish wind-turbine supplier Vestas that the poor state of the Australian market was forcing them to close a turbine-blade factory in Portland, Victoria. There are no subsequent suggestions now that it is about to re-open. More likely is that its Australian factory was tooled to build an older type of blade and had been acquired by Vestas from NEG Micon in 2003 as part of a restructure of the Danish wind sector. The scale of the Portland plant has also become too small to be competitive by industry standards.

A more realistic gauge is the number of bidders lined up to buy five wind farms owned by Queensland government energy utilities Stanwell and Tarong. A Melbourne Cup field has gathered from Australia and overseas, with potential buyers likely to emerge from the major private wind players such as Pacific Hydro, Babcock and Brown Wind, or more conventional energy companies, such as TRUEnergy, looking to diversify.

Modern wind turbines are nearing the bottom of their technological development curve. The price of wind electricity has been driven down by economies of scale in turbine manufacture as well as increased efficiency from larger sizes. New turbines in Australia are about two megawatts but in Europe they have begun to install five megawatts of output per turbine. These turbines are almost 200 metres high, constrained mainly by the logistics of installing a steel tower on this scale. Offsetting these savings have been price increases driven by strong global demand and rising steel prices.

The purchase price of a two megawatt turbine has been pushed up from about $3 million to about $4.4 million as a result. The actual turbines represent from 20 to 50 per cent of the final installed cost of any new wind farm, the rest being spent on site investigation, assessment and testing, as well as the installation and infrastructure costs required to connect to the grid, often from remote locations. Conventional electricity grids can handle up to 20 per cent of supply from intermittent supplies such as wind before encountering problems with voltage stability.

Australia has some good wind resources, mostly along the southern edge of the continent, particularly the west coast of Tasmania and the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia. Global wind energy resources tend to increase towards the poles. Wind assets are further enhanced by suitable geography such as hills and gullies, which corral and further concentrate prevailing winds. Optimal sites require constant wind speeds of about eight to 10 metres per second. A wind capacity factor of about 35 per cent the amount of time the wind actually blows over a year is needed to make a site viable.

There is currently about 800 megawatts of wind energy installed in Australia, but more than 5000 megawatts on the drawing board. Most of this and more can he expected to he installed over the coming decade subject to approvals processes that can take five years or more in populated areas where, as with other types of power generation or major industrial facility, local politics has a strong and well-documented history of slowing or halting potential projects.

Squeeze the breeze

New Scientist
29/09/2007 Page: 44

JUST A SHORT drive west out of Des Moines, Iowa, amid fields of corn and soya, there's a dip in Route 44. Here, near the small community of Dallas Center, a short gravel road runs north to a cluster of houses and across the street there's a farm machinery dealer's yard. It seems to be an unremarkable corner of the Midwest, yet almost a kilometre beneath that dip in the road is something that could change the way we use wind energy. If all goes to plan, it could allow the world's most appealing renewable energy source to compete head-to-head with fossil fuels as a way of generating electricity.

My guide for the day is one of the architects of this project, the Iowa Stored Energy Park (ISEP), and he is happy to pull off the road for me to take a few snaps of the gently rolling terrain. Even his name seems to promote the project: Thomas A. Wind. No, really, that's his name. A consultant engineer whose family farm is close to Jefferson, some 50 kilometres away, Tom Wind now leases out his land so that he can devote his time to ISEP and other energy projects. He is a consultant for the Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities (IAMU), a consortium of more than 600 utility companies from across the state.

IAMU plans to transform a sandstone aquifer beneath Route 44 into a giant battery for storing energy from the wind. At night, when wind turbines produce power nobody needs, the electricity will be used to compress air and pump it into the aquifer, creating a huge pressurised bubble. During the day, when demand for power rises, the compressed air will be piped backed to the surface where its energy will be converted into electricity.

If the project comes to fruition it will be a world first, capable of delivering some 268 megawatts of electricity for 16 hours each day. That's enough energy to satisfy the needs of about 75,000 homes. The technology aims to tackle the big complaint that wind energy always faces: the wind doesn't necessarily blow when you want it to. With compressed air storage, it will be possible to store power from Iowa's growing wind generation capacity and then turn it on and off like water from a reservoir, available to customers when needed - and when they are prepared to pay the highest price for it. A power source that the energy industry has till now viewed as fickle will become firm and reliable.

The energy park project grew out of a study Tom Wind conducted for IAMU in 2002 to assess what sort of generating capacity the utilities would need to serve future demand. The study found they would need more power to fill in between daily peaks and valleys in usage - so-called "intermediate load". "There's a certain amount of power you need 24 hours a day, 365 days a year just to keep everything running," Kent Holst tells me. He is development director for the Iowa Stored Energy Park Agency, which has the task of managing the project and raising the funds needed to make it happen.

In Iowa, as in most places in the US, coal plants supply the 24-hour-a-day "baseload" power. To maximise the efficiency of these plants, utilities try to keep them running at a constant rate. When demand peaks - as it does on hot days when everybody flips on their air conditioning - many utilities have to fire up expensive diesel generators. That happens for about 200 hours a year. "In between," Hoist says, "something has to meet a variable load for about 1000 hours a year."

The usual strategy is to hold "spinning reserve" power for that intermediate load some form of generation such as gas turbines that can be cycled up or down quickly to meet spikes in demand. But what form of generation to use? IAMU and Tom Wind realised that what Iowa would have more and more of is wind turbines. Driven by a combination of federal tax breaks, concern over global warming and favourable wind conditions, wind farms are sprouting all over the state. But wind energy is notoriously unreliable, and as a result the industry operates on a rule of thumb that you shouldn't have more than about 20 per cent of generating capacity as wind. Something else generally coal and natural gas - has to fill the gaps when the wind isn't blowing. Install too much wind capacity and problems can arise. If the wind drops unexpectedly, for example, energy output can fall rapidly and the grid must be able to compensate for any variations in, say, voltage or frequency that this causes.

The way round this problem, Tom Wind's report argued, is a technique known as compressed air energy storage (CAES). "We figured we were going to end up with a lot of wind energy in Iowa, so we thought we would be needing something like this to use wind energy more effectively." In the jargon of the power industry, CAES makes wind "dispatchable". IAMU would use as much wind energy as possible at night to compress air, store it underground, and then tap it during the day to meet fluctuating demand. "What storage really does is let you use more wind than you could otherwise," Tom Wind says. What's more, CAES can be used to store cheap off-peak electricity from any source and sell it on the market for a higher price when demand rises.

In principle, it ought to be possible to use the compressed air to spin an electric generator directly, but in practice that is not the most efficient way of exploiting it. To make the most of the stored energy, the energy park will install two 134-megawatt gas turbines adapted from conventional units used in gas-fired power stations. In a conventional gas turbine, compressor fans squeeze air into the combustion chamber at high pressure, where fuel is burned to produce hot exhaust gases that spin a set of turbine blades at high speed. The turbine in turn drives the electric generator, and also the compressor that squeezes air into the combustion chamber.

Though the compressor typically consumes between a half and two-thirds of the power available from the turbine, the high-pressure environment makes the unit more efficient overall. In the CAES plant, the compressed air from the underground store creates high pressure in the combustion chamber without the need for a power sapping compressor. As a result, the turbine generates two to three times as much power from a given amount of fuel. Although CAES is not widely used, two large plants have between them built up decades of operating experience. The first came on stream in 1978 in Huntorf, Germany.

The 290-megawatt plant stores compressed air in two deep salt caverns. Eight hours of compressed-air "charge" is enough to run the generators at full power for 2 hours. The second plant, in McIntosh, Alabama, was commissioned in 1991 by the Alabama Electric Cooperative. It stores its compressed air in a mined-out salt dome 8o metres across and 300 metres tall, lying 450 metres below ground, and can use the air to supply a turbine generating no megawatts of electrical power continuously for some 26 hours.

Giant Bubble
At the Iowa plant, the compressed air will be stored in a porous sandstone aquifer rather than a cavern. This has the advantage that the pressure of the stored air is kept constant, regardless of whether the reservoir is full or almost empty. As air is pumped into the aquifer it displaces water around it, and because this doesn't change the hydrostatic pressure of the water the pressure of the air remains constant too. "You can optimise your equipment for better efficiency if you have a constant pressure," Tom Wind says. There is a downside to using an aquifer, though: the porous water-bearing rock needs to be deep enough underground to provide the pressure needed to run a turbine, and be contained by a dome-shaped cap rock that retains the bubble of compressed air.

Fortunately for the ISEP team, these conditions are identical to those needed for storing natural gas. Northern Natural Gas and other utility companies have made detailed maps of Iowa's geology that have allowed the search to be narrowed to three candidate formations. Even so, the ISEP agency has had to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars - provided by power companies and the US Department of Energy - to narrow down the potential sites. Two proved unsuitable because they lacked a containing cap over the water-bearing sandstone. Preliminary seismic back surveys of the third one - the aquifer below Dallas Center - look good, says Hoist. In early 2007, the team got confirmation that the site is large enough and deep enough to be useful. It is also capped by a suitable rock structure.

Computer models based on the porosity of the rock show that 13 boreholes into the aquifer should be enough to get the compressed air in and out fast enough. The next step will be to make sure the aquifer doesn't contain minerals such as pyrites that could combine with oxygen in the stored air, and so inhibit combustion in the gas turbines. As with so many renewable energy projects, funding remains the sticking point.

A huge 2700-megawatt CAES project proposed in Norton, Ohio - using an abandoned limestone mine as the air storage reservoir - has already stalled for lack of finance. ISEP has a $200,000 government grant to keep the project moving, but failed to get a grant from the 2007 federal budget to help cover the $1.5 million funding it needs to complete the study of the aquifer.

After that it will need $200 million to build the plant. The initial design studies are planned for early 2008. Current plans call for 268 megawatts of generating capacity drawing on power from new wind generators rated at -ILA j 75 megawatts. The wind turbines do not have to be on site. The electricity they generate can be imported over the grid from anywhere in Iowa or beyond, and ISEP will also buy cheap off-peak power from non-wind sources. The team suggest that for every megawatt-hour of wind energy used to compress air and store it underground, about 850 kilowatt-hours are recovered when the air is used to operate the turbines. They say ISEP could deliver electricity to consumers for about 4.5 cents per kilowatt-hour - about the price of electricity from conventional power stations.

Though there are several other CAES projects under consideration across the US, ISEP remains a one-off: no one else is contemplating storing wind energy in this way. Though Tom Wind remains enthusiastic about the project, even he admits that going it alone can sometimes lead to doubts. "We ask ourselves all the time: if this is such a good thing, how come nobody else is doing it?" he confesses. "You start to wonder when nobody is lining up behind you." Perhaps it is simply a case of nobody wanting to be first to take the plunge, as a number of recent analyses suggest that wind farms combined with CAES should compete favourably with conventional energy generation systems.

One report on the potential for wind energy with CAES in Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico calculates that the operational costs of a CAES plant in the region could be less than that of a conventional gas or coal-fired unit. The economics could be even more attractive in future if the government starts to tax carbon emissions. "That's where our project starts to shine," Tom Wind says.

An analysis published in Energy Policy (vol 35, P 1474), suggests that if emitting greenhouse gases is made costly enough, wind energy combined with CAES will become an economical way to supply baseload power to the grid. It estimates that this combination could provide over 8o percent of the energy on the grid, while cutting greenhouse gas emissions by three-quarters compared with typical gas-fired power stations.

Aquifer storage might not be a suitable solution everywhere. In densely populated areas, where the need for energy is greatest, the water stored in aquifers is a precious resource in its own right, especially in the American Midwest. Fortunately, this is not a factor for ISEP because it is using an aquifer that is not required for drinking or irrigation, at least for now. However, Hoist says there could be problems elsewhere if the CAES portion of an aquifer were placed close to existing wells. When air is stored or removed, it could affect flow in the wells. Faced with plans to use local aquifers for a CAES scheme, communities might end up having to weigh their demand for power against the need to safeguard water supplies.

Before I leave Dallas Center, Tom Wind drives me north to a line of seven wind turbines that have recently gone up near his hometown of Jefferson. Standing more than loo metres tall from the ground to the tip of the blades, they are visible across the fields from a full to kilometres away. He then points to a concrete cistern next to an old farmhouse.

Farmers, he tells me, used small windmills initially to pump up groundwater and, more recently, to power radios. They stored the water in cisterns for use in times when the wind didn't blow, and charged lead-acid batteries to keep their radios running. So ISEP, he says, is just a modern take on what farmers have been doing for more than a century. This time round, perhaps, the idea could provide the gateway to clean energy for all.

Off-peak electricity is cheap and plentiful, so it pays to store it for use when supplies are scarce and it can be sold at a good price. There are several tried and tested ways of doing this:
  • Pumped Hydro Storage: Off-peak electricity is used to pump water into reservoirs. When demand peaks the water drives generator turbines. A single site can store gigawatt-hours of energy.
  • Flow Batteries: Electricity is stored as chemical energy in solutions held in large tanks. The technology is scalable and can store more than 100 megawatt-hours of energy at a single site.
  • Flywheel Energy Storage: Using electric motors to spin up a flywheel to as much as 80,000 rpm can store up to 150 kilowatt-hours as kinetic energy.
  • Superconducting Magnetic Energy Storage: Energy is stored as a magnetic field, generated by large currents circulating in a superconducting coil. Superconductors need to be held at low temperatures so the technology remains expensive to build. Less than 100 megawatt-hours of SMES storage is installed worldwide.
  • Hydrogen: Electricity is used to split water molecules to produce hydrogen, which is then burned to generate electricity when needed. Projects in the UK and on Prince Edward Island in Canada will use wind turbines to generate Hydrogen, which will then be stored in tanks for use as fuel.

Wednesday 3 October 2007

Govt's target for clean coal power over renewable energy

Coffs Coast Advocate
Friday 28/9/2007 Page: 18

A LEADING scientist fears the Federal Government's clean energy target will be dominated by unproven clean coal technology. Australian Academy of Science president Kurt Lambeck said the technology is 20 years away, and even then, would have limitations in curbing carbon emissions. Prime Minister John Howard on Sunday unveiled a clean energy target of about 15 per cent of power generation by 2020. Professor Lambeck, a geophysicist at Australian National University, who has studied sea level change, disagreed with including both renewable energy and purported low emission technologies in the target.

"I think it's a great mistake to bundle those two things together because most of the targets, I suspect, will be addressed through the clean coal, rather than resulting in the development of renewables that are truly clean," he told the National Press Club in Canberra. Both the government and federal Labor support the development of clean coal technology as a way of tackling climate change while protecting the coal industry.

"There's a lot of talk about clean coal - it could be construed as an oxymoron," Prof Lambeck said. "The technological solutions that are being looked at are probably 20 years away before they can be really employed on the large scale. "The sequestration has its limitations, the capture of the CO2 has limitations, and it's never totally clean, anyway." He encouraged the take-up of solar and wind technologies. "I can't understand why the wind energy has such difficulty getting off the ground in Australia, when you see what's happening in Northern Europe, for example."

First turbine confirms Hallett's viability

Northern Argus
26/09/2007 Page: 5

The performance of the first wind turbine installed at AGL's Hallett Hill Wind Farm since March 2007, has confirmed the viability of the Brown Hill range as a terrific site for the generation of wind-powered energy. The construction of another 44 wind turbines at Brown Hill range is on schedule as the project enters an intense period of work over the next four to five months. "We will have 12 operational turbines by the end of the year, with a further 12 turbines in January 2008, another 12 in February 2008 and the balance operational by the end of March 2008,"AGL's Project Manager for the Hallett Hill Wind Farm, Steve Oswald said.

"The civil works are complete, the roads and electrical collection systems are complete. Now we'll be erecting the towers and turbines themselves. "We currently employ about 40 people at the site, and we'll be working up to a peak of 60 people. "We source a portion of the labour locally, although some of the equipment, for example the large 1000 tonne cranes, have work crews that travel with the machines." The wind farm will provide long term employment to five or six operators and maintainers who will probably be based at Jamestown.

"The local area has a number of very good sites and AGL has purchased rights to install further turbines at the Bluff and at Hallett Hill. It is expected AGL will make its investment decision on Hallett Hill in the next six months." The Hallett Hill extension alone would add a further 71.4 megawatts to the Brown Hill range project which will produce 95 megawatts of electricity, itself enough to supply green energy to 60,000 average Australian households. On completion in March 2008, AGL's Hallett Wind Farm will be the biggest wind farm in Australia.

Grant round now open for community groups

Burra Broadcaster
26/09/2007 Page: 10

The first official funding round for the AGL Hallett Wind Farm Community Fund is now on, with more available this year due to unspent funds. Community groups affected by the wind farm within the Goyder and Northern Areas councils are being urged to apply with the funding round closing on Monday, October, 8. Northern Areas Council's manager of community development, Stacey Goodes, said it is a fantastic opportunity for community groups that have found it hard to get grants elsewhere.

"It helps give community groups a boost," said Stacey. "It's great for any little community group that haven't been successful in gaining funding for that project or haven't found a grant they are applicable for." Stacey also said it was good that there is separate funding for both the councils, with the $8,300 available per year for the Northern Areas council and $4,200 per year for Goyder Council.

As this is the first official funding round, unspent funds from last year has increased the available funding in Northern Areas council area to $10,600, while in the Goyder Council area $8,400 is available. Stacey also mentioned that going through the council makes it a lot easier for applicants. "It's really easy for people to pop in and ask question if they have any, and get application forms and guidelines," said Stacey. "To apply, groups need to be incorporated or find a sponsoring organisation," added Stacey. "Groups that are under section 41 of the council can also apply." As a major employer and investor in the region, AGL has set up the community fund to make a positive contribution and fulfil responsibilities to the communities.

Copies of the application forms and guidelines are available on both councils' websites at or

Renewable target lag

The Land
27/09/2007 Page: 9

AUSTRALIA is being left behind in the world's race to create new industries in response to perceptions about climate change, fears wind farmer in waiting, Charlie Prell. Mr Prell cites "lack of empowerment through not ratifying Kyoto, Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (MRETs) set too low, and delays in setting the price of carbon". "It's superfluous that Australia has already achieved its MRET target, first set for 2010 of only two per cent of the 2001 energy market," Mr Prell said.

"Despite an independent review, tabled in Federal Parliament in January 2004, which recommended increasing the national renewable energy target to approximately four per cent of the energy market by 2020 with possible further extensions before then, this has not occurred," he said. China's target is to generate 20pc of its power through renewable energy by 2020. The NSW target, still to be legislated, is for 10pc of purchasable electricity to come from renewable sources by 2010, then 15pc by 2020.

Energy target too modest

Border Watch
27/09/2007 Page: 5

THE MANAGER of the region's largest renewable energy producer has described the Federal Government's new clean energy target as too modest. The Clean Energy Target (CET), announced by the government on Sunday, introduced a nationwide target of 15pc production of renewable and low-emission energy by 2020, equating to 30,000 gigawatt hours of clean power. The clean energy technologies included in the target will include wind, solar, geothermal and carbon capture and storage.

Babcock and Brown Wind Partners chief executive officer Miles George, who runs the Lake Bonney Wind Farm, welcomed the target, but said it did not go far enough. "We think it's a good thing, it's a move in the right direction, but it's a very modest move in the right direction," he said. He said the policy may improve the current system of differing state policies. "It would aggregate what had been a series of state based schemes," he said. "But having said that, the only reason the states went that way was because the Federal Government wasn't doing anything." Mr George was critical of the 15pc target, which includes energy levels currently being produced by the states. "We think it should be at least 20 per cent," he said. "The 15pc announced by the government is not 15pc of new renewable energy." When stage two of the Lake Bonney Wind Farm is completed in the first half of next year, the combined output of the development is expected to be 239 megawatts per annum, 80Mw from stage one and 159Mw from stage two.

Mr George said a smaller third stage could be possible, as could further sites along the South East coastline, which would "become viable if there is a good Federal scheme in place". The Government policy has drawn criticism from environmental groups, such as The Greens, for the inclusion in the target of low-emission technologies such as carbon capture and storage, commonly known as clean coal. However, Mr George did not object to this and said although clean coal was a "good" technology, he did not see it being sustainable on a large scale in the long term.

The policy has also drawn criticism from within the government, with Federal Tourism Minister Fran Bailey claiming windfarms were unsuitable for Australia and were more appropriate in the northern hemisphere. Mr George refuted these claims. "Australia has got one of the best wind resources in the world," he said. "Our windfarms are up to twice as efficient as windfarms in Europe." He also dismissed Minister Bailey's claim of windfarms having high noise levels, which he said was "not the case".

Developer says wind power is viable

Ballarat Courier
27/09/2007 Page: 4

CLAIMS that wind energy is largely unsuitable for Australia have been dismissed by the company behind a district development. Federal Tourism Minister Fran Bailey said this week there was no evidence wind energy was a feasible, alternative energy source. But Wind Power, the company proposing the Tuki wind farm near Smeaton, which Ms Bailey is campaigning against, believes she has "misunderstood" the wind industry. Director Andrew Newbold said he would be happy to meet Ms Bailey to discuss the economics and dynamics of the wind industry.

Mr Newbold said around the world, there was a great take-up of wind energy. The US is installing wind farms at 4000 megawatts per annum," he said. The other thing is, wind farms won't get built unless they contribute to energy generation and, as a project, you only get paid for the power you generate." Ms Bailey also said government policy should focus on developing solar power. Mr Newbold said wind energy was ready to go" and should be pursued vigorously.

Land value loss rebutted

Ballarat Courier
27/09/2007 Page: 4

PROPERTIES near wind turbines are unlikely to lose value, according to two independent valuers. Leader Property Practice director Alan Hives said in his experience, properties surrounding wind projects at Waubra and Challicum Hills hadn't shown any decrease in land prices. Mr Hives said the market was indicating turbines weren't scaring people away from buying property. We are just looking at what the market is doing at present and Waubra is a good case," he said.

The sales to date don't demonstrate any drop in value. There are a couple of sales there showing stronger prices than we have seen." Mr Hives, a property assessor for 25 years in Ballarat, said turbines did have the potential to scare buyers from purchasing property for a rural lifestyle or view, but because of demand it was likely any impact on value would rebound.

It will put some people off and that's fair enough. It will suit some and not others. In the end there will be people who won't like them and won't want to live near them, but people will want to take their place and I don't think the overall market will be impacted that much." The Spa Country Landscape Guardians Group, which opposes a proposed wind farm north of Smeaton, has used property values as an argument against the development.

A letter one landholder received from prospective buyers listed the proposed wind farm as the reason they decided not to buy. Ararat registered valuer Wigg & Partners director Peter Wigg also said he hadn't seen any evidence wind turbines had affected values around Challicum Hills. "I haven't seen any evidence to suggest properties within close proximity to wind farms have a substantial change to their value," he said.

Turbines could fit: Wind Power says farms could fit into landscape overlay

Hepburn Shire Advocate
26/09/2007 Page: 1

A SIGNIFICANT Landscape Overlay covering areas surrounding Smeaton won't prevent turbines from being constructed, a wind company has said. Wind Power is leading the push to build about 19 turbines as part of its Tuki proposal. Company director Andrew Newbold said consultants had delivered a draft report that was commissioned to find out what impact the overlay would have on its proposal to build turbines in the area.

"The draft advice indicates that there is a way of designing a wind farm around the significant landscape overlay," Mr Newbold said. "The advice is we need to be sensitive to the area and that there shouldn't be a blanket prohibition on putting turbines within the overlay. "The important thing to know is that it's draft advice." Mr Newbold said the report was commissioned to answer community questions about the number and design of the proposed wind farm."

Spa Country Landscape Guardians spokesman and opponent Will Elsworth said if the company was successful in putting turbines within the SLO it would be a first in Victoria. "If you go through all the planning panel reports on wind farms one of their biggest considerations is whether there is an SLO in the area," Mr Elsworth said. "There has never been a wind turbine put in a SLO. I don't think they checked the planning scheme before they came here because at the first community meeting in March they didn't even know what a SLO was." Hepburn Shire Council acting mayor Tim Hayes said Wind Power would need to provide good reasons to put wind turbines in the SLO covered area. "My view is Wind Power would need to provide an overwhelming reason to justify placing turbines within the area," Cr Hayes said.

Tuesday 2 October 2007

Big players wake up to which way the wind blows

Australian Financial Review
26/09/2007 Page: 14

According to Australian Ethical Investments, Australia's wind energy sector is set to grow significantly, especially if more government incentives are forthcoming. The group has already invested in Australian wind energy projects about $4 million of the total $43 million it has placed in the sector globally. AMP Capital Investors' Sustainable Fund has also earmarked 2 per cent of its $2.2 billion for renewables - mostly for wind energy. AMP had originally made a small commitment to Pacific Hydro's wind farms in Victoria in 2000.

With companies like Babcock and Brown Wind and AGL set to aggressively expand their wind projects, such investments are expected to grow. NSW government-owned utility Country Energy, which has inked long-term sourcing deals with four big wind farms, is also helping boost take-up of wind energy. Meanwhile, experts at institutions like Murdoch University's Research Institute for Sustainable Energy and the University of Queensland agree that wind energy is a growth sector with a promising future.

Rann says Australia has missed renewable energy chance

AAP Newswire
25/09/2007 National

ADELAIDE - The federal government has missed an historic opportunity to make Australia an international leader in renewable energy, South Australian Premier Mike Rann says. Mr Rann said the states had led the way on renewable energy initiatives and Australia now needed a real national renewable energy target. The premier was commenting on federal government plans to replace state and territory clean energy targets with a single national target, which it said would reduce costs and red tape and drive investment in low-emission technology.

Under the government's national Clean Energy Target, 30,000 gigawatt hours a year would come from low-emission sources by 2020 - about 15 per cent of Australia's energy consumption. Prime Minister John Howard said a national scheme would reduce red tape and ensure low-emission technologies were developed in the lowest cost locations, without being restricted by state and territory boundaries.

But Mr Rann said the plan would water down individual states' renewable energy schemes. "We need a real national renewable energy target, not the weak, watered-down shandy the Howard government is proposing which also includes low-emission technology," the premier said. "Instead of a new plan to tackle climate change, the commonwealth has given us a substantially weakened re-packaging of state schemes and tried to sell it in the name of streamlining." Mr Rann said he had no problem with streamlining if there was a real and tangible outcome. "But what John Howard is proposing shows no leadership and does nothing to make Australia a leader in renewable energy," he said.

PM pitches `mini' carbon trade trial at businesses

West Australian
25/09/2007 Page: 5

Australian businesses could be trading carbon as early as next year in a mini trial scheme designed to help them find ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions ahead of a national program due to start in 2011. John Howard yesterday invited stakeholders to participate in discussion over the next few months to determine the best way to trial emissions trading to ensure the Government gets it right when it implements the full scheme in four years' time.

"Our decision to establish a national emissions trading scheme entails detailed design on a highly complex issue," the Prime Minister said. "It is a significant economic reform and one which we have to get right through rigorous modelling and analysis. " In releasing the discussion paper, Mr Howard said the trading scheme's key details would be finalised next year. The early abatement plan would see permits issued for trading actions, which began after June this year, that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The initiative will encourage companies to start cutting emissions now rather than when the scheme begins. Mr Howard showed concern that his July announcement for a 2011 emissions trading program had given companies an excuse to do nothing until the scheme begins. His comments came a day after the Government announced a clean energy target to generate 15 per cent of the nation's energy from renewable sources and clean coal by 2020. But Mr Howard was criticised yesterday for fudging the numbers - critics said his plan didn't add up.

Greens Senator Christine Milne said the Government's new target of 30,000 gigawatt-hours a year of electricity coming from low-emissions sources amounted to only nine per cent of the nation's expected use. The Australian Bureau for Agriculture and Resource Economics projection for energy demand in 2019-20 is 342,000 GWh. "Where's is the extra six per cent?" Senator Milne said. "Either the Government is including significant, and as yet unannounced, energy efficiency measures into their calculations or they are deliberately using rubbery figures and hoping nobody examines them closely." The current Mandatory Renewable Energy Target is 9500 GWh, which amounts to little more than one per cent of total electricity generation.

That is on top of the pre-MRET regulations where 16,000 GWh is already produced from the country's major hydro schemes. Even adding that original MRET baseline to the new target, and factoring in Australia's increasing demand for electricity, it still leaves it way short of 15 per cent of total electricity use. The Government acknowledged yesterday that the increase to the MRET would add about 1.5 per cent to household energy bills.

Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd said Mr Howard had failed to act on climate change and renewable energy for his entire 11 years in Government and this announcement was a desperate election-eve stunt. Mr Rudd said that the Government had let the renewable energy industry run down in Australia.

Industry jockeys to cash in on renewables targets

25/09/2007 Page: 23

THE Queensland Treasury looks to be the immediate winner from rising government enthusiasm for wind and solar energy, set free by Prime Minister John Howard's declaration on renewable energy targets. Industry sources speculate that a portfolio of wind assets owned by the Queensland Government will have risen in value by around $50 million to $400 million in the wake of Mr Howard's target to have 15 per cent of all energy demand supplied from renewable sources by 2020.

Energy retailers Origin Energy and AGL are expected to head a list of bidders to be finalised this week, and to make the best offers, given their ability to make use of renewable energy certificates that will come with ownership of the wind assets. The certificates will be complemented by the proposed carbon trading scheme, and broadly encourage the use of renewable energy technologies now under development.

"Generators of renewable energy will gain certificates for each unit of energy they produce, which retailers of energy will be required to buy to comply with the scheme legislation," an AGL spokesman said. "Based on latest independent market operator load forecasts in the national energy market, and the South West Interconnected System, the federal Government's aims would amount to about 17 per cent of national energy output by 2020 " Shares in energy companies were in mixed demand yesterday, with AGL down to $16, Origin Energy down 13c to $10.15 and Babcock and Brown Wind Partners up 7c to $1.78.

Other wind energy producers have reacted cautiously to the Government's plans, calling it a step in the right direction but suggesting a 20 per cent share instead of 15 per cent. Pacific Hydro, operator of wind farms on the southern Victorian coast and owned by fund manager IFM, welcomed the proposal to unity targets and legal frameworks nationally. "Australia has incredible renewable energy resources, including wind, solar and geothermal energies that are available right across the country, so having one set of rules makes sense for business and ensures that all of our sites can be considered in the same context," said Andrew Richards, executive manager, government and corporate affairs, at Pacific Hydro.

Under the Government's proposal, all existing and committed state and federal schemes would contribute to Australia sourcing 15 per cent, or 30,000 gigawatt hours, of its energy a year from renewable sources by 2020, up from about 10 per cent today. Big energy retailer Origin Energy has access to wind-generated power but does not own its own farms, while AGL Energy has wind farms under development in South Australia and Victoria. It has the $236 million Hallett farm under development in South Australia and has announced plans for a $600 million wind farm complex at Macarthur in Victoria.

Potential bidders for the Queensland portfolio of assets are thought to include Epuron Pty Ltd, Transfield Services, Viridis, Babcock and Brown Wind Partners, one of the Allco vehicles, and International Power. The Queensland assets are a mixture of coal-fired thermal, wind and hydro power generation assets. There are wind farms at Windy Hill near Ravenshoe in the state's north, the Emu Downs farm in Western Australia and Toora in the south Gippsland region of Victoria. Other wind farms are the Starfish Hill wind farm near Cape Jervis and the Mount Millar wind farm on the Eyre Peninsula, both in South Australia. The biggest of the assets up for sale is Emu Downs, which generates 80 megawatts of electricity from 48 turbines.

In total, installed wind energy capacity is a little over 800 megawatts, while a further 5500 megawatts is proposed, according to figures from industry lobby group Auswind. Pacific Hydro's Richards said his company had been calling for a national target of 20 per cent by 2020 and 30 per cent by 2030. "While all of this is very achievable, the national clean energy target of 15 per cent by 2020 will maintain the current momentum with the advantage of drawing these schemes up into a national regulatory framework," he said. "As with most of these initiatives, the devil will be in the detail, so we look forward to working with the federal and state governments on building a single national approach to renewable energy and ultimately on the transition to a national emissions trading scheme."

Warming to a smart idea

Geelong Advertiser
22/09/2007 Page: 20

Point Lonsdale homeowner Donald Payne will be among the first Victorians to boast a home with a renewable heat source using the earth's stored energy. Drilling for the installation of bore holes began this week and Mr Payne, who aims to make the Queenscliff-Portarlington Rd property entirely sustainable, said the "flagship project" was most likely the first of its kind on the Bellarine Peninsula. "It's going to have solar panels, solar hot water, a wind turbine... we've got a vision for it," he said.

Not only does the geothermal technology reduce heating and cooling costs, it can also produce energy savings of up to 75 per cent due to reduced electricity consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. The EarthLinked system works by transferring heat in copper earth loops that are bored into the earth, with heat transferred from the ground through a flow control device to a compressor. The refrigerant pressure and temperature are then raised, a hot vapour routed to a heat exchanger and heat transferred to water, which is delivered to the hot water storage tank.

The system can heat water to up to 125F and supplier Energy Core claims it can deliver up to 400 per cent electrical efficiency. Mr Payne said the project on the 40-hectare property, which he owned with his father, would tie in with his recently completed PhD in Physics at the University of Melbourne. "There's talk about doing quite a lot of projects over the next few years and looking to organise a rebate scheme (for the system)," he said.

Not too late to save the planet, scientist says

Canberra Times
22/09/2007 Page: 13

Action on climate change should have been taken decades ago but it's not too late to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, prominent Australian author and scientist Tim Flannery said yesterday. Professor Flannery, the 2007 Australian of the Year, said climate change was now at a tipping point and the world could face dangerous climate change patterns this decade if current pollution levels persisted. "If we continue polluting the atmosphere as we are, we'll be at that point within a decade, so we don't have a lot of time to act," Professor Flannery said.

He told the One Planet - Leaving a Legacy forum in Melbourne that to reduce the negative impact on the world's ecosystems, industrial emissions would have to be reduced. Polluters should agree on a price to pay for the pollution they sent into the atmosphere. "We need to agree locally on a price for that pollution in excess of $50 per tonne of carbon," he said. "If we set the price somewhere above that, the cleanest technologies will become cost effective and will meet rapid uptake in the market." But emission reductions would not be enough. "We've left things too late. We should have acted 10 to 20 years ago on this issue." It was not too late to set carbon prices, but global agreements such as the Kyoto Protocol were also important because they encouraged international dialogue around climate change.

Federal Labor's environment spokesman Peter Garrett told the forum the ALP supported a range of renewable energy sources, and reiterated the party's opposition to nuclear power. "Apart from nuclear, which we have a serious objection to, we're basically saying that there are a suite of potential and existing renewable energy sources which need to drive clean energy revolution in this country, to enable us to reduce our emissions," Mr Garrett said.

Program manager for energy and climate change at the World Business Council for Sustainable Development Adam Kirkman said,"If governments are going to seriously look at zero-carbon energy sources then the conversation around nuclear has to be had.". Mr Kirkman, the co-author of a policy for a new international climate change framework produced for the council, said that while the Kyoto Protocol had brought together the greater part of the world to address climate change, it had not been universally embraced. A new framework should have more flexible emissions targets to attract rapidly developing countries such as India and China.

Wind farm planning application

Ararat Advertiser
21/09/2007 Page: 1

Crowlands - Pacific Hydro today announced that strong community and local government support had encouraged the submission of a planning application for the Crowlands Wind Farm. Following State Government notification, the planning- application will now be on statutory display for six weeks.

Pacific Hydro executive manager, Andrew Richards, today affirmed the role of the community as an essential element in Pacific Hydro's process. "Input from the local and surrounding community has been important right from the beginning." he said. "Not only did the community name the project, their input has been combined with results from specialist studies undertaken to inform the design of the wind farm. "We would also like to thank the Pyrenees Shire for their support and we look forward to continuing our positive relationship with them into the future."

The site for the Crowlands Wind Farm is located in the Pyrenees Shire, approximately 25 kilometres north-east of Ararat, along the ridge-top between Crowlands and Glenlofty. The area consists of cleared grazing land with a low density population. Despite being located on ridgetops, the topography of the site means that there are very few locations in and around Crowlands where it is possible to get a full view of the wind farm. "While parts of the wind farm will be visible from Crowlands and the nearby town of Landsborough, experts tell us it won't be visible from Elmhurst at all." Mr Richards said.

The planning application seeks approval for a maximum of 75, 2.3 megawatt (MW) wind generators. At this maximum size, the wind farm would produce 430 gigawatt hours (GWh) of zero emission electricity each year. This is equivalent to the annual power needs of 80.000 Victorian households, or the combined needs of Ballarat and Bendigo. The planning application will be on statutory display for six weeks (commencing today) in a number of locations around the site. During this time the community is encouraged to read the application or the summary document and make a submission. "The planning process allows for the community to have their say about the project." Mr Richards said. "Community can make a submission about the proposal by writing to Planning Panels Victoria. This ensures the opportunity to address the panel and put forward your views about the proposed project."

Project gains support

Ballarat Courier
21/09/2007 Page: 5

A PROPOSED Pyrenees Shire wind farm would produce enough electricity to meet the annual power needs of 80,000 households. Australian renewable energy company Pacific Hydro yesterday announced that strong community and local government support had encouraged the submission of a planning application for the Crowlands Wind Farm. The proposed wind farm site is approximately 25km north-east of Ararat along the ridge-top between Crowlands and Glenlofty.

The planning application seeks approval for a maximum of 75 2.3 megawatt wind generators. At this maximum size, the wind farm would produce 430 gigawatt hours of zero emission electricity each year, enough to meet the combined annual power needs of Ballarat and Bendigo. The proposed site consists of cleared grazing land with a low density population. Despite being located on ridge-tops, the topography of the site means there are very few locations in and around Crowlands where it is possible to get a full view of the wind farm.

"While parts of the wind farm will be visible from Crowlands and the nearby town of Landsborough, experts tell us it won't be visible from Elmhurst at all." Pacific Hydro executive manager Andrew Richards said. Pyrenees Shire Council Mayor Gabriel Horvat said the council was in "full support of the proposal". No community member has shown a negative view on this project and the company (Pacific Hydro) has been very good in expressing its proposal and in actually consulting with the local community and council," Cr Horvat said.

The planning application is on display for the next six weeks at a number of locations, including the Pyrenees Shire offices in Beaufort and Avoca. During this time, the community is encouraged to read the application or the summary document and make a submission. "The planning process allows for the community to have their say about the project," Mr Richards said. "This ensures the opportunity to address the panel and put forward your views about the proposed project."