Thursday 1 November 2007

Wind farm support

Warrnambool Standard
Friday 26/10/2007 Page: 4

MOST Australians trust wind farms and the CSIRO, but are not keen on nuclear energy stations or genetically modified crops, according to a new survey.

The National Technology and Society Monitor, conducted by the Australian Centre for Emerging Technologies and Society at Swinburne University of Technology, questioned one thousand people about their attitudes towards new and emerging technology.

The survey found 81 per cent of respondents were comfortable with wind farms. There was much less support for nuclear energy stations, with more than half those surveyed stating some level of discomfort. Another discovery from the survey was that half of those questioned were uncomfortable with genetically modified (GM) plants, while two-thirds felt the same way about genetically modified animals for food.

Scientists say energy supply humanity's biggest threat

Weekend Australian
Saturday 27/10/2007 Page: 21

ENERGY supply poses one of the greatest threats facing humanity, the world's leading academies of science have warned, highlighting the peril of oil wars and climate change driven by addiction to fossil fuelss. Nations must provide power for the 1.6 billion people who live without electricity and wean themselves off energy sources that stoke global warming and geopolitical conflict, the scientists demanded. "Making the transition to a sustainable energy future is one of the central challenges humankind faces in this century," they said.

Their report, Lighting the Way: Toward A Sustainable Energy Future, is published by the InterAcademy Council, whose 15 members include the national science academies of the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Brazil, China and India. It was written by a 15-member panel whose co-chair was 1997 Nobel Physics laureate Steven Chu of the US.

"Overwhelming scientific evidence shows that current energy trends are unsustainable," the report said bluntly. Its authors sounded a special alarm over the surge in the building of conventional coal-fired power plants in China and other developing countries, as such infrastructure will doubtless be entrenched for decades to come. "The substantial expansion of coal capacity that is now under way around the world may pose the single greatest challenge to future efforts aimed at stabilising carbon dioxide (CO) levels in the atmosphere," the report warned.

Managing the greenhouse-gas "footprint" of these plants while encouraging a conversion to Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) will be a mighty technological and economic challenge, it said. CCS means piping off CO' at a plant and then pumping it into geological chambers deep underground, such as disused oilfields, rather than releasing it into the atmosphere. Many scientists view this pilot technology warily, waiting to be convinced that CCS is safe, for a chamber breach could have potentially catastrophic consequences for the climate.

The report also appealed for a planet-wide drive in favour of energy efficiency to reduce carbon emissions. And it spoke loudly in favour of renewable energy, describing its potential as "untapped" and offering "immense opportunities" for poor countries that are rich in sunlight and wind but poor in cash to buy oil and gas. Nuclear energy as a low-carbon resource "can continue to make a significant contribution to the world's energy portfolio in the future, but only if major concerns related to capital cost, safety and weapons proliferation are addressed".

Turning to biofuels, the scientist said that these sources hold "great promise", but only through a switch to second-generation sources. At present, feedstocks such as sugarcane and corn are the main source for biofuels, which is effecting on global food prices. A more promising but uncommercialised goal is using lignocellulose stocks from timber chips and agricultural residues. Other dawning technologies, such as plug-in hybrid cars and hydrogen fuel-cells for energy storage, can make an important niche contribution.

But they cautioned that the move to sustainable energy could only happen if nations work together to free up the necessary financial resources and expertise -and setting a price for carbon to punish pollution and waste and reward clean energy was a key part of the mix. A 2006 report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) suggested world oil consumption would rise by nearly 40 per cent by 2030 as compared with 2005 levels, and CO, emissions would increase by 50 per cent over 1-004 levels, under a "business-as-usual" scenario.

Inconvenient risk

Herald Sun
Saturday 27/10/2007 Page: 98

FEELING trapped at the end of a jam-packed gabfest exploring the financial services sector's links to climate change, Westpac's man in London Martin Hancock did the unexpected-he raised the bar. Less than 15 minutes after winding up the two-day United Nations' Environmental Program Finance Initiative Global Roundtable at Melbourne Park this week, Mr Hancock, who also chairs the initiative, was blocked from leaving the venue's car park. So conscious, it seems, of conserving energy were the venue managers that they had switched off the lights and locked up the conference centre minutes after the forum finished, shutting down the car park exits on their way out.

When it was clear assistance was not forthcoming, Mr Hancock hopped out of the car and using all his brute strength, he forced up the barrier so his driver could get out. It seemed a fitting metaphor for the forum. The finance institutions, especially those with their eye on long term returns on the funds they manage, are trapped in the vicious cycle of short termism. They know how compelling and, for now, attainable it is to focus on gains to be made from one quarter to the next, and certainly the market analysts demand it. But the quest for quick-fix earnings growth is scorching the earth.

WHAT to do, if you are a capitalist with a conscience, profit-driven yet passionate about the planet? This was the question 170 delegates from around the world grappled with in a global show piece event masterfully brought to Australia by Terry A'Hearn and his team at the Environment Protection Authority. Mr Hancock, the chief operating officer of Westpac's institutional arm in London, knows what has to be done and so he has raised the bar in another sense by throwing down the gauntlet to his peers and telling them to pause the growth and roll out sustainable finance. "Business as usual is not an option," he told the meeting.

He believes economies should slow down their growth, even to a stand still temporarily, and concentrate on developing technologies to reduce emissions. "Once you've figured out how we are going to neutralise the carbon dioxide, then we can go for hell for leather again," he told BusinessDaily. "To me it makes sense. "If financial services institutions don't crack this one, we are not going to be around in 15 years to enjoy the profits we are making now." The round table's message is that institutions need to take a hard look at their portfolios and assess how they will perform in a carbon-strained world that makes polluters pay. "Anyone who is a funds manager, especially of superannuation, needs to start asking now whether assets are going to be safe for 10 to 20 years. "They need to figure out what the risks are in a future grappling with global warming. "We are caretaking the pensions of the future and our time horizons have to be out there and not just in the next quarter," Mr Hancock said.

In a broadcast from Geneva concluding the roundtable's session, the UN Secretary General's right hand man, Achim Steiner, delivered some bad hot-off-the-press news. He told delegates he had just been informed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the 3000-strong international body that examines the science on global warming, that carbon emissions had reached even more toxic levels than they had anticipated. "We are now at levels 35 per cent higher than in 2000," said Mr Steiner who is UN Under-Secretary-General Mr Steiner was about to deliver UNEP's latest global environment report, with all its pessimistic view for the future of the planet and its inhabitants, thanks to the spiralling consumption that climate change is being blamed on.

It will form a plank of the IPCC's fourth report to be launched next month in Valencia, just ahead of the gathering in Bali in December that will revisit the Kyoto Protocol's emissions targets. "We simply will not meet the target of reducing emissions by 50 per cent of 1990 levels in 2050 if this meeting does nothing to move towards a low-carbon economy," Mr Steiner said. "The time has come to stop experimenting. "The principles of sustainable finance must become mainstream. "Without them there cannot be the transformation necessary to mitigate climate change." Mr Steiner challenged the delegates to change their models, to talk to governments, to take a lead in mitigating climate change, because no one else was doing it, he said.

DURING the two days, delegates pondered how they could reinvent their tools to make sustainable finance just as profitable as their traditional investments. The potential of a global market for trading carbon credits was dissected over and over again. The ANZ's sustainability manager, Lloyd Fleming, described an alternative scenario where carbon credits would be superfluous. "I'm throwing down the gauntlet to you all," he told delegates. "Envisage a future in which big technological breakthroughs have been made that have enabled the large scale roll out of zero-emissions renewable energy. "Imagine if we could shift our thinking away from carbon markets altogether." He said he had lived through so many technological breakthroughs in his life, that he believed it was plausible to run an economy without spewing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

"Don't rule this view out of your thinking," he said. Credit Suisse vice-president Otti Bisang agreed that huge advances were well within the realm of possibility by 2020. "That year, 13 years from now, I can't believe I will be singing the old Beatles' song When I'm 64,"he said. "Yet 13 years ago, I would not have imagined wireless broadband, mobile phones like the ones we have today and so on. "And 13 years ago, there was no Kyoto Protocol, carbon emissions targets, or sustainability imbedded in company policies. "Change can really happen fast."

Wednesday 31 October 2007

Giant turbines face protest storm: General Electric develops 70m blades for more power

Canberra Times
Saturday 27/10/2007 Page: 25

A new generation of supersized wind farms could be on the way to a field near you. General Electric is developing wind turbines with blades longer than the tip-to-tip wingspan of a jumbo jet. In a move likely to dismay activists who view wind farms as a blot on the landscape, the United States company has taken the wraps off a project to develop power-generating windmills with blades of 70m - about 75 per cent longer than the typical existing length of 40m.

Longer blades can theoretically generate up to three times as much power, with a potential capacity of tip to six megawatts a turbine. A large coal-fired power station typically produces about 2000Mw. Super-sized turbines have previously been seen as impractical because of their weight, but GE's new blades use high-tech carbon composites of the sort used in aircraft engines. This replaces fibreglass, cutting the notional weight of each blade from 25t to 17t. The development is part of a campaign by GE to highlight its push towards environmentally friendly products, which it has called "ecoimagination".

At a technology day this week, GE also discussed LED light sources and "smart" electricity meters which switch on household appliances when utility prices are low. The vice-president of GE's ecoimagination division, Lorraine Bolsinger, was unapologetic about the aesthetics of giant windmills. "You can't say no to everything," she said, pointing out that there were also objections to nuclear and water generated power. "The economics of longer wind turbines are going to be pretty compelling. If you can put them in places where they're not eyesores, it'll be a win-win situation." The new turbines are under laboratory development at GE's research headquarters in upstate New York and are four to five years away from going into operation.

They are designed to bend in breezy conditions, allowing them to operate in high winds, and they are built in two parts, making them cheaper to ship. There was a hostile reaction from campaigners who have fought wind farms on the grounds of their appearance, noise and economic viability. The chairwoman of British pressure group Country Guardians, Angela Kelly, said she was "horrified" by jumbo jet-sized windmill blades and described the prospect as an "absolute disaster".

Imagine the amount of concrete you'd need to put down for the foundations of a turbine of that size," she said. Her group argues that wind farms still need back-tip from traditional electricity sources and are an excessively expensive form of generation. "We resent having to pay to destroy our own countryside." Environmental lobbyists typically find themselves treading a delicate path on the subject of wind fauns.

Campaign to Protect Rural England head Ben Stafford said his charity favoured building wind farms off-shore wherever possible, although energy companies say this is typically more expensive and can pose hazards to birds and shipping. "If they're on land, they should go through the planning system and they should be built away from beautiful landscapes," Mr Stafford said, adding that he would not oppose super-sized blades in principle. "I can't see that it would make a huge difference, although it might snake them visible from further away."

GE sees wind turbines as a huge business opportunity. In America, where they engender relatively little opposition, there are presently 7500 in operation, a figure forecast to rise to 90,000 by 2025, helping to satisfy demand for power which is set to swell by 17 per cent within a decade. GE executives say that not all generators can be located off-shore and they suggest that wind farms are gaining in acceptance. Ms Bolsinger said, "The world is changing a little bit, as are attitudes towards this kind of technology." Once regarded as an archetypal heavy industrial monolith, GE has become an advocate for action on climate change and is pumping increasing sums into green technology.

The company announced it will spend $1 billion this year on research and development into cleaner technology, edging closer to a target of $1.5 billion annually by 2010. The company has pledged to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 1 per cent by 2012 and has joined the US Climate Action Partnership - a coalition of businesses including General Motors, BP America and PepsiCo - which is lobbying the White House to introduce mandatory caps on emissions. Among GE's other projects presented this week were household water desalination devices, low-cost solar panels and an elaborate form of "intelligent" domestic electricity meter that will be an option for developers of new American homes from the end of this year.

Called an "eco-dashboard", the meter gives home owners detailed, up-to-the-minute information about the amount they can save by turning off individual appliances or lowering the temperature on their thermostats. It also has a function allowing automatic control of devices such as washing machines and dishwashers so that a computer can switch them on when grid-wide power demand is at a low point and when variable electricity prices are cheaper. New York state's energy research and development authority president Paul Tonko said wastage was often a problem in rented accommodation. "If we're talking about reducing demand, there's nothing better than having the consumer in control, knowing exactly what they're spending," Mr Tonko said.

In New York, the state government has set a target of a 15 per cent cut in electricity consumption by 2015, one of the most aggressive environmental aspirations in America. It has joined nine other north-eastern US states in a joint effort to develop a cap-and-trade system to control greenhouse emissions - a project shunned by the US Government.

Group extends its reach into Sydney

Milton Ulladulla Times
Wednesday 24/10/2007 Page: 18

A GROUP of environmentally passionate and concerned Sydney residents and business owners have taken a regional NSW initiative (Clean Energy for Eternity) and formed a metropolitan chapter,the first one in Sydney. Clean Energy for Eternity (CEFE) was conceived by orthopaedic surgeon Dr Matthew Nott who - inspired by Tim Flannery's book The Weather Makers'- decided to act on his instincts and involve his local community of Bega in addressing the climate change issue.

Since its inception in April 2006, the CEFE movement has quickly gained traction currently operating within five regions of South East NSW including Bega, Bermagui, Cooma/Monaro, Snowy Mountains and Shoalhaven. Convenor for the Sydney Mosman Chapter of CEFE, Mr Warren Yates, says the organisation's aim - to reduce energy consumption by 50 percent while undertaking a 50 per cent production of energy from renewable resources by the year 2020 (50/50 by 2020) - is ambitious, but achievable.

"We have learned a lot from our regional cousins and we are equally enthusiastic in having the metropolitan chapter become the springboard for other similar grass roots organisations throughout Sydney and other major capital cities in Australia. "The CEFE groups are making communities aware of climate change while at the same time continually nipping at the heels of government total, state and federal - to urge them to improve public transport, construct cycle ways and conduct feasibility studies into the use of renewable energies." The group is intending to gain support at a public launch in Mosman this month at which Mr Nott, other members of CEFE, climate change experts and local businesses that are already employing green technology, w l talk.

According to Dr Nott, business owners especially need to realise that climate change is not all doom and gloom. "Smart operators are seeing climate change as a business opportunity starting with the implementation of simple energy efficiencies. Finding climate change solutions will become core business for many organisations and while many businesses are currently burdened by red tape, there will be growing concerns about 'green tape' as the government looks towards introducing environmental legislation. "The Sydney Mosman CEFE initiative is a positive sign that the community is taking steps to become environmentally pro-active.

"If the people of Mosman support the 50/50 by 2020 program, I can see it growing to other regions within Sydney. The dream would be to see CEFE chapters eventually springing up all over the country!" More information about the Shoalhaven branch of Clean Energy for Eternity is available by phoning Kim on 4454 3696 or Julie on 4455 7194.

Tuesday 30 October 2007

Mortlake wind farm proposal

Moyne Gazette
Thursday 25/10/2007 Page: 4

TWO wind farms, each with 50 wind turbines, have been proposed for near Mortlake. Development studies and community consultation for the wind farms are being pursued by Acciona Energy, a world leader in renewable energy. Acciona Energy managing director Brett Thomas said the company was confident the wind farm would provide both environmental and community benefits. "Our proposal is to install approximately 50 wind turbines on each of two sites; one located 9.5 kilometres east of Mortlake and the other located five kilometres south of Mortlake," Mr Thomas said.

The wind farm would produce enough green electricity to power about 86,000 households. This would prevent about 390,000 to 450,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions every year. The company said it had completed an initial assessment of a range of factors covering energy production and transmission, environment and community; and the sites near Mortlake had the combined characteristics for viable wind farm development.

It is now undertaking detailed environmental studies including flora and fauna, cultural heritage, geology, landscape and visual effect to design the wind farm and prepare a planning application. The company hopes to lodge a Planning Permit Application for the wind farms at the end of this year. Mr Thomas said community consultation was an important part of the company's project. "A community information bulletin has been distributed in the local area and we are currently seeking feedback on the proposal from the local community," he said. As part of the community engagement activities, Acciona Energy has commissioned an independent telephone survey of people living near the proposed wind farm to gather information on community attitudes.

Wagga business wins top contract

Daily Advertiser
Friday 26/10/2007 Page: 33

WAGGA environmental business nghenvironmental has won an important contract to carry out the environmental planning and assessment of the biggest proposed wind farm in Australia. The Silverton wind farm, proposed by Epuron Pty Ltd, would be located west of Broken Hill and contain up to 400 wind turbines. Estimated to cost around two billion dollars, the project could produce up to 4.5 per cent of NSW's annual energy needs.

Requiring assessment as a major project under NSW environmental planning legislation, the project would power up to 400,000 homes, saving as much as three million tonnes of carbon dioxide each year. Over the past three years, nghenvironmental has worked with Epuron Pty Ltd on five other wind farm assessments - one located near Adaminaby, the others in the Yass and Goulburn areas.

Wind farms are a viable way to generate emission-free electricity and can have a much smaller environmental footprint than coal and gas-powered plants, nghenvironmental Wagga manager Eric Budde said. "They do have specific impacts however, that require serious consideration." Mr Budde said. "These include impacts of the visual character of the land, the community, compatibility with existing land uses, mineral exploration, Aboriginal archaeology and biodiversity values, among others," he said. He said nghenvironmental had begun work on assessing impacts in relation to the proposal at Silverton and would be carrying out additional field work at the site in November.

CBD taps the power of stored green energy

Australian Financial Review
Friday 26/10/2007 Page: 62

Sydney-based CBD Energy believes it has the solution to the problem of making sustainable energy sources more viable. CBD is preparing to build a $15 million energy storage demonstration project on King Island off Tasmania, with new technology that uses surplus electricity to heat blocks of granite, which then power a steam turbine to generate power when solar or wind energy is not flowing. The technology was developed by a subsidiary of German solar power company Solon AG, which bought 20 percent of CBD this year.

CBD executive chairman Gerry McGowan, previously known for founding budget airline Impulse Airlines and selling it to Qantas in 2000, said tests of the technology had gone better than expected. CBD plans to complete the first stage of the King Island project, in conjunction with state-owned electricity company Hydro Tasmania, by the end of 2008.

Less than perfect 2020 emission vision

Australian Financial Review
Friday 26/10/2007 Page: 25

According to projections undertaken by the Climate Institute Australia, Australia's greenhouse gas emissions are set to rise by 2020 regardless of who wins government in the upcoming federal election. The Climate Institute Australia's 'pollute-o-metre' suggests a 21 per cent rise in emissions would occur under the coalition's greenhouse policies, while an 18 per cent increase would be likely under Labor. Climate Institute Australia chief executive John Connor said 'both major parties need to commit to turning around rising greenhouse pollution within the next five year, and substantial reductions beyond, to ensure our children don't inherit a future of ever worsening droughts, bushfires and other dangerous climate impacts'.

The analysis did not make provisions for Labor's renewable energy target or plans by both major parties for an emissions trading scheme. Mr Connor said 'the stark reality is [energy efficiency] is the poor cousin when it comes to this debate'. According to a star rating of each major party's greenhouse policies released this week, Labor and the coalition are on equal footing on environmental issues once the opposition's decision to sign the Kyoto Protocol is taken out of the equation.

Wind farms trusted but nuclear feared

Adelaide Advertiser
Friday 26/10/2007 Page: 29

MOST Australians trust wind farms and the CSIRO but are not keen on nuclear energy stations or genetically modified crops, according to a survey. The National Technology and Society Monitor, conducted by the Australian Centre for Emerging Technologies and Society at Swinburne University of Technology, questioned one thousand people about their attitudes toward new and emerging technology.

The survey found 81 per cent of respondents were comfortable with wind farms. "For most people it's an abstract kind of support because they don't live near wind farms and don't have much to do with them," centre director Professor Michael Gilding said. There was much less support for nuclear energy stations, with more than half of those surveyed stating some level of discomfort, despite the industry receiving support from a government review earlier this year.

Monday 29 October 2007

Solar power student lure to a career

Adelaide Advertiser
Thursday 25/10/2007 Page: 24

UNLEY High School students have been lured towards careers in engineering, thanks to the hands on renewable energy projects being offered at the school. Five students are in an industry project with the University of South Australia to build a solar powered water pump for Mawson Lakes. They have developed panels and the pump in the school's technical laboratory. The equipment is to be used to regulate water levels. The pump is expected to be built by the end of the school year.

Year 11 students Adil Soh-Lim, 16, Caroline Chai, 16, and Ricki Deng, 17, said they now were interested in careers in engineering. "I participated in the robotics program last semester and wasn't interested in electronics but just continued with the industry project and it has been interesting and educational," Adil said. "I wouldn't say you could use solar power as our main source of power right now but if you invest in it, it could definitely be used. "If we are going to invest in clean coal, we should also invest in solar power and invest in wind energy." The students are mentored by scientists from Adelaide's universities to ensure they have up-to-date skills.

Unley High School is one of 500 schools in SA to receive a solar energy Lab to provide more students hands on solar electronics experience. The lab includes light and sound attachments for solar panels and teaching resources provided by The Advertiser's Newspapers in Education section. The kit has been sponsored by TAFE SA, which offers courses to help people enter careers in renewable energy and electronics.


Climate report says "break tradition"

Bairnsdale Advertiser
Monday 22/10/2007 Page: 1

As the Federal election clicks into top gear, a new report released last week by the Agricultural Alliance on Climate Change shows that the future for rural Australia lies not just in traditional crops and stock, but in harvesting the sun and the wind and carbon farming. The AACC commissioned the CSIRO report which shows that farmers could be enjoying up to an extra $2.94 billion every year by getting involved in delivering Australia's clean energy economy.

The AACC asked the CSIRO to look at the opportunities of providing fuel, as well as more greenhouse friendly food and fibre and environmental services into the Australian and global economies. CSIRO identified a number of opportunities:
  • Providing renewable energy infrastructure like wind and bio-electricity under policies such as a clean, renewable energy target of 25 per cent by 2020.
  • Assisting the agricultural sector with finding and delivering greenhouse gas savings from its own activities by rewarding early action.
  • Creating (accredited and verified) environmentally- sound offsets in the rural sector as part of a national emissions trading scheme.
  • Increasing active biodiversity conservation on private land from six to 14 per cent across Australia.
CSIRO also found that by harvesting clean renewable energy and farming carbon, farmers could earn up to $1.3b a year including wind royalties of up to $263m. The total potential annual revenue, including biodiversity stewardship payments is up to $2.94b.

This report shows that although farmers and rural communities have been on the frontline of climate change impacts, the future of rural Australia lies in climate solutions like harvesting wind, solar and carbon farming. However, report authors state that these rural based solutions and other mitigation actions won't happen without the right policies from Government to cut greenhouse pollution and drive the shift towards a clean energy future.