Thursday 20 December 2007

New contract creating local jobs

Dalby Herald
Friday 14/12/2007 Page: 1

Major Metals is growing, thanks to a new contract to create wind towers. They are hiring 45 new staff, spending $20 million to expand their workshops, and will start creating pipes as long as football fields. The increased number of staff, from their current 30 workshop workers and six office staff, will include at least 35 new workshop workers with skills ranging from welding, crane operation, blasting and coating, rolling steel plates and cable connection. Six or seven senior staff will be appointed by Major Metals parent company RPG Australia, an integrated steel solutions company.

RPG Australia managing director Barry Cox said the lucrative contract to manufacture 43 wind towers for the Capital Wind Farm in New South Wales was a project that will provide a major boost to Dalby's economy, as well as increase Major Metals' percentage of output for RPG Australia, which has offices in Brisbane and Adelaide, to one-third of all national production.

Mr Cox said the expansion was set to begin in January next year,"be in fully fledged major production" by mid-year, and was progressing quickly, thanks in part to a very supportive Dalby Town Council. Mayor Cr Warwick Geisel, who was onsite for the official media announcement on Wednesday, was full of praise for the massive project. The wind towers being created will be made in four 65 tonne sections, and when assembled will be as long as football field, 80 metres high and 4.5 metres in diameter.

Each tower will be fully blasted, painted, coated, fitted with platforms, cables and ladders before they are transported to New South Wales. Addressing the skills shortage has been identified as potentially challenged and Major Metals have asked interested workers to call Ina Hirovanaa on 4662 5561 to find out more about possible positions. "We encourage anyone from experienced tradesmen to young locals looking to establish a career in an exciting new industry to make contact with us now." Mr Cox said.

Council signs green power deal: Clare and Gilbert Valleys the only Mid North council to join contract

Northern Argus
Wednesday 12/12/2007 Page: 17

The Clare and Gilbert Valleys Council is one of 24 local government bodies to enter into a three year $8 million contract for the supply of black and green energy. Clare and Gilbert Valleys is the only Mid North council to take up the offer from power supplier Powerdirect. The contract will start on January 1, 2008 and is for power supply to buildings and facilities which use more than 160 kilowatt hours of power annually.

The cost effective electricity supply includes 20 percent "Green Power" and has been made possible through bulk purchasing by participating councils through the Local Government Association. "While GreenPower is slightly more costly than traditional power supply the cost has been offset by the overall savings in the bulk purchase of power by Councils," Local Government Corporate Services chief executive officer, Paul Slater said.

"The new contract which has been carefully stitched together by Local Government Corporate Services, working with the various power retailers to achieve the best deal at the best price for the 24 Councils and their communities,"he said. "Councils are committed to achieving the target of 20 percent renewable energy before the 2014 deadline and with this contract more than one-third of councils will be energy compliant by 2008. In October, Premier Rann challenged councils to meet this target and I must say councils have risen magnificently to his challenge.

"One of the recommendations from the LGA's 2005 Independent Inquiry into the Financial Sustainability of Local Government was for Councils to look at ways of minimising operating costs by entering into collaborative approaches to service provision," Mr Slater said. "This new power supply contract with Power Direct meets this recommendation and will deliver cost and service advantages to communities."

In January this year 38 Councils opted to buy 20 percent of their electricity as GreenPower which represents 80 percent of Local Government electricity purchase in the State and is the environmental equivalent of taking 3900 cars off the road. Mr Slater said the new contract is in addition to the one signed in January. Greenpower is generated by renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, water or biomass. In SA it is mostly wind energy.

Light safety bid for wind turbines

Warrnambool Standard
Saturday 15/12/2007 Page: 10

WIND turbines planned for near Port Fairy could be fitted with lights after a safety request from Australia's aviation authority. The safety measure was suggested last month by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority only days before an independent panel report regarding the 68-turbine development was expected to given to the Victorian Government for consideration. The wind development spans 3600ha of farmland bounded by the Port Fairy-Hamilton Road, Fingerboard Road and the Shaw River.

Strobe lights on the towers would point skyward to improve the wind farm's visibility for pilots approaching Warrnambool airport. The Australia project manager Adam Proctor this week said it was disappointing a decision on the project was going to be delayed because the authority changed its stance. The cost of the lighting was negligible but delays in planning approval would be costly, he said. A Civil Aviation Safety Authority spokesman said the request was not unusual and often lights were fitted to towers, buildings and structures in flight paths.

Uh-oh, we picked the wrong cure for coal

Australian Financial Review
Saturday 15/12/2007 Page: 25

There are three ways the coal industry will survive in an era calling for clean technologies. First, the CO2 could be converted into something valuable. Secondly, the burning of coal could be made much more efficient, resulting in less burning of coal. The third way involves somehow separating the CO2 from other exhaust gases, capturing it and transferring it to faraway locations to be pumped underground and left there indefinitely. It is thought to prove technically feasible, but whether it will be economically viable is another question.

The latest estimates suggest Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) would reduce the efficiency of coal-fired plants by as much as 25 per cent, meaning more coal would have to be burned. The CSIRO says CCS would double the cost of producing electricity. This is on top of the doubling in capital costs for building coal-fired plants that Rio Tinto says has occurred in just the last four years. Against the alternatives of wind, hot rock technology, and wave and solar power, it begins to look like the end of the road for coal is approaching.

There are coal alternatives such as carbon fuel-cell technology which dramatically increase efficiency, but these have received little attention and no funding. The other alternative, turning the CO2 into something valuable, has been looked at by Japanese researchers who have turned it into propane and butane and are aiming to make petrol. There is also a process using solar energy to create methanol. In Victoria Smorgon is ducting flue gases into bioreactors to feed algae, which can be either turned into biodiesel or used as biomass to generate electricity.

Wednesday 19 December 2007

High winds harnessed to cut emissions on the high seas

Sydney Morning Herald
Monday 17/12/2007 Page: 4

THE world's first commercial merchant ship pulled by a giant kite that helps its engines to cut greenhouse gas emissions has been launched in Hamburg. The SkySails kite is designed to catch strong winds up to 300 metres above the surface of the sea. It is worth 500,000 ($840,000) and projected to cut fuel costs by about 20 per cent, or $US1600 ($1800) a day. Its designers say that it will reduce output of CO2 by a similar proportion.

Niels Stolberg, the chief executive of Beluga Shipping, which helped develop the system, said the shipping industry emitted 800 million tonnes of CO2, and this would rise above 1 billion tonnes in five years. "Playing a role in reducing emissions is important for us," he said. "It's important to look at the commercial side of this but also the CO2 aspect. In a few years shipping companies will have to cut emissions or pay a price." MV Beluga SkySails will make its maiden voyage across the Atlantic to Venezuela in January.

Its kite can use offshore winds with the help of its high-tech control pod but would be useless in head-on winds. The system would not benefit ships traveling faster than 16 knots. Mr Stolberg, who plans to install the kite system on two vessels twice as large as MV Beluga SkySails by 2009, said the fuel savings would cover the costs of the investment in three to five years.

More than 450 people crowded into the harbour and onto the ship on Saturday to witness the launch and watch the giant white sail tethered to a 15-metre mast near its bow unfold just above the deck in a gentle breeze. Stephan Wrage, the managing director of SkySails, got the idea to harness the wind years ago as a kite and sailing enthusiast. "Our goal is to have 1500 equipped by 2015," he said. "That would save a tremendous amount of CO2."

Big Oil talks clean but spends dirty: Petrol giants going brown

Sunday Age
Sunday 16/12/2007 Page: 21

Shell, the oil company that recently trumpeted its commitment to a low-carbon future by signing a pre-Bali conference communique, has quietly sold off most of its solar business. The move, taken with rival BP's decision a fortnight ago to invest in the world's dirtiest oil production, in Canada's tar sands, indicates that Big Oil might be giving up its flirtation with renewables and going back to its roots.

Shell and BP are among the biggest producers of greenhouse gases in the world, but both have been keen to paint themselves green through a series of clean fuel initiatives. BP, under its former chief executive, John Browne, promised to go "beyond petroleum" while Shell has spent millions advertising its serious interest in the future of the environment.

But at a time when interest in solar power is greater than ever, with the world's first "solar city" being built at Phoenix, Arizona, a small announcement from Environ Energy Global of Singapore revealed that it had bought Shell's photovoltaic operations in India and Sri Lanka, with more than 260 staff and 28 offices, for an undisclosed sum.

The sell-off, to be followed by similar ones in the Philippines and Indonesia, comes after another major disposal executed in a low key way last year, when Shell hived off its solar module production business. The division, with 600 staff and manufacturing plants in the US, Canada and Germany, went to Munich-based SolarWorld. Shell has, however, promised to build one solar plant in Germany. The Anglo-Dutch oil group confirmed last week that it had pulled out of its rural business in India and Sri Lanka, saying it was not making enough money. It was not bringing in any profit for us there, so we transferred it to another operator," said a spokeswoman at Shell headquarters in London.

The oil group said it was continuing to move its renewables interests into a mainstream business and hoped to find one new power source that would "achieve materiality" for it. It continues to invest in wind farm schemes, such as the London Array offshore scheme, which has British Government approval. Shell has also been concentrating on biofuels but declined to say whether it had given up on solar power even though many smaller rivals continue to believe the technology has a bright future.

Environmental groups have always accused Shell of using clean energy initiatives as "greenwash" to deflect criticism from its core carbon operations, especially tar sands. The latest pull-out has annoyed rival business leaders at London-based Solar Century and local Indian operation Orb Energy, who fear the impact of a high-profile company selling off solar business. Jeremy Leggett, chief executive of Solar Century and a leading voice in renewable energy circles, said Shell was undermining the credibility of the business world in its fight against global warming.

"Shell and Solar Century were among the 150 companies that recently signed up to the hard hitting Bali Declaration. It is vital that companies act consistently with the rhetoric in such declarations, and... an all-out assault on the Canadian tar sands and extracting oil from coal is completely inconsistent with climate protection. "This latest evidence of halfheartedness or worse in Shell's renewables activities leaves me even more disappointed. Unless fossil fuel energy companies evolve their core activities meaningfully, we are in deep trouble," he said.

Damian Miller, former director of Shell Solar's rural operations and now chief executive of Orb Energy, said Shell was missing an opportunity by pulling out at a time renewables markets were starting to mature in the developing world. He said some customers were complaining of being abandoned by Shell and were worried about what servicing of equipment they could expect from Environ. "We see former Shell customers who are highly disappointed not to be receiving proper service for the solar systems they have invested in," Mr Miller said. "These customers have often invested 20-30% of their annual income in a system to ensure they have some minimum amount of lighting and access to radio, TV, or a fan." He added that the oil majors, including Shell, had invested time and energy in promoting their plans for renewable energy in the media, but were not able to lead the transformation the world needed towards renewable energy and energy efficient solutions.

Shell declined to comment on the criticisms. But chief executive Jeroen van der Veer did make a number of comments a few months ago that could have paved the way for a change in policy. Alternative energy sources such as renewables would not fill the gap, he said in June, forecasting that even with technological breakthroughs they could supply only 30% of global energy by the middle of the century. "Contrary to public perceptions, renewable energy is not the silver bullet that will soon solve all our problems," he said.

BP has been accused by Greenpeace Canada of lining itself up to help commit "the biggest environmental crime in history." This follows its decision to swap assets with Husky Oil, giving it an entrance ticket to the Alberta tar sands, which are said to be five times more energy-intensive to extract than traditional oil. Former BP chief John Browne had said BP would not follow Shell into tar sands as he pledged to take the group "beyond petroleum." New boss Tony Hayward has pointed the corporate supertanker in a new direction, although his minders insist BP remains committed to exploring the potential of renewables.

"Tony Hayward... has endorsed the low-carbon strategy that involved BP creating its alternative energy business late in 2005," said a spokesman. "We are spending $US8 billion ($A9.2 billion) over 10 years and are pressing ahead with 450 megawatts of wind production capacity in the US. The tar sands deal in Canada does not represent a change in direction, it was just a very good opportunity." Greenpeace climate campaigner Joss Garman, commenting on Shell's solar exit, said Shell needed to become not just an oil company but an energy company. "One wonders if Shell's executives have noticed what's happening in Bali," he said.

Windmill will power college

Wimmera Mail Times
Monday 17/12/2007 Page: 5

MURTOA College will generate its own power with a windmill next year. Principal Ian Martin said the 37-metre turbine would generate enough power to meet the school's needs. Mr Martin said the tower and the blades for the windmill arrived at the school on Thursday.

"The next step is to build the concrete slab to specification. Then the tower goes up and is bolted onto the slab. We will have to get a crane in to do that just like we did to get it off the truck yesterday," Mr Martin said on Friday. "Then we dig all the holes to put the copper wiring in and then hook it up." Mr Martin said a representative from Rotterdam-based company Wind Energy Solutions would travel to Murtoa to oversee the building of the windmill and explain how it should be serviced.

He said the school expected the windmill to be operational in March or April next year. "We first talked about the project four years ago, when we asked the state Education Minister for money for capital works projects," Mr Martin said. "We asked for money for this project, not really expecting anything, and sure enough we got the money." Mr Martin said the school tried to purchase a windmill in Australia, but the only suitable company went bankrupt, forcing it to look overseas.

The turbine has a blade span of eight metres. "We decided to put the turbine on the southern boundary of the school property, because we have done tests and found that is where it is most windy," he said. Mr Martin said the environmentally- friendly project was part of a $3.5-million redevelopment of the school. which included new science and home economics wings and the wind turbine.

"The kids think it is fantastic. We are developing facilities that are second-to-none in the Wimmera. We started the process of building the classroom in 2004, when we got a capital works grant. We called for tenders in 2005 and were not successful in attracting one, but one builder took on the job and began work in April this year," he said. Mr Martin said straw bales were used to build new classrooms as they were a renewable resource good for heating, cooling and acoustics.

AGL signs on for wind farm

Portland Observer
Wednesday 12/12/2007 Page: 14

THE proposed 450-megawatt Macarthur Wind Farm has taken a further step forward with AGL Energy signing a heads of agreement with Meridian Energy. The agreement will allow both parties to explore the potential joint development of the wind farm. AGL managing director Michael Fraser said the agreement would bring together the key skills of both parties to determine the most favourable final generating capacity of the project.

"If the Macarthur Wind Farm goes ahead, it will make a significant contribution to AGL's requirement to meet the Federal Government's expanded Mandatory Renewable Energy Target which will require retailers to purchase 45,000 GWh of renewable energy by 2020," he said. "AGL has put considerable work into building a renewable generation portfolio that will deliver substantial environmental and financial benefits in a future carbon constrained world.

"If the Macarthur Wind Farm is built, AGL's renewable generation portfolio will extend to well in excess of 1000MW - Australia's largest privately owned and operated renewable portfolio." Meridian Energy is New Zealand's largest generator of electricity and is committed to using only renewable resources to generate electricity. It develops, owns and operates wind farms throughout New Zealand and also operates nine hydro power stations.

First turbine 'up by Christmas'

Plains Producer
Wednesday 12/12/2007 Page: 7

The first turbine will be erected at the Snowtown windfarm before Christmas. The 124 metre tall structure will be the first of 42 turbines to be built before September next year. TrustPower major projects group manager, Deion Campbell, said putting the turbines together was something of a logistical nightmare, although roads in Adelaide and South Australia made the project a little easier.

In preparation for the arrival of the first turbine, the largest crane on wheels in the world has been transported to the site - with the help of 32 trucks. The 1200 tonne crane has been moved to Snowtown from the Hallett Wind Farm. The turbine will also be a challenge to construct. Each tower (sourced in Adelaide) will arrive in four parts, while the main shaft, weighing 70 to 80 tonnes, is shipped from India, and is expected to arrive at Port Adelaide on Monday, December 19.

Blades arrive two to a truckload, and are 40 metres long. The hub will arrive on another truck, while another container of "bits and pieces" will also arrive over the coming two weeks. Mr Campbell said if there was a good run with the wind, the turbine was likely to be erected in two days, but they could not be put up in high wind. He said other parts of the project were ahead of schedule. "We're probably about 80 per cent through the civil construction work," Mr Campbell said.

Electrical infrastructure is now being put in the ground, and the substation is almost ready to go live. "All the operations and maintenance buildings are in place now, and a couple of months ahead of schedule," Mr Campbell said. "The weather's been quite kind to us and now we're heading into summer, we're unlikely to get rain to hold us up." About 80 people are employed on the site.

Tuesday 18 December 2007

Heat is on for serious greenhouse reduction

Newcastle Herald
Wednesday 12/12/2007 Page: 9

Australia needs to make a major commitment on emissions targets for the post-Kyoto framework, argues Glenn Albrecht.

THE time for delay in reversing global warming is over. There must be action at every level, from the personal and the local, to the international discussions under way in Bali on a post-Kyoto framework for emissions reductions. The sceptics must now admit that they were wrong. They must also admit that their scepticism has contributed significantly to the delay in action to tackle rising carbon dioxide emissions. If we had started a collective effort (globally, nationally, regionally and personally) to reduce greenhouse gas pollution a decade ago, the urgency of the problem we face right now would have been avoided.

The latest climate science is now telling us that even the IPCC's Fourth Report published only this year is out of date. The world is warming faster than anticipated and the primary cause, greenhouse gas emissions, are escalating faster than all had thought possible. The net result is that our world is rapidly changing right now and is at foreseeable risk of irreversible and dangerous change to all life and life support systems. The simple reason for this risk is that science is saying that global warming beyond an extra two degrees (Celsius) above the pre industrial level is likely to trigger catastrophic changes to the world's climate.

To keep this risk under control scientists say that we need the global CO2 concentration in the atmosphere below 450 parts per million. It is now (2006 data) at a record high of 381.2 ppm and is rising at about 2 per cent per annum on business-as-usual and economic growth scenarios. The global mean temperature is rising at about 0.2 degrees per decade on top of the 0.8 degrees of warming already delivered in the past 100 years.

It is for this reason that in Bali the Rudd Government must commit Australia to a tougher and more short-term target for reducing CO2 emissions than the pre-election proposed 60 per cent reduction by 2050. Economic imperatives should not be driving our new greenhouse targets. It is science that should determine the speed and depth of the cuts and the latest advice is that no matter what the cost in the short term, the developed world must cut emissions by at least 85 per cent on 2000 levels by 2050.

In the Hunter Region, given our coal-based power generation and exports, a positive response to the reality of global warming must be particularly strong. For at least a decade a growing number of citizens have been engaging in the vital task of warning people about the risks of a coal-based economy in the face of climate chaos.

It has been groups like Rising Tide, Climate Action Newcastle, Climate Change Coalition and The Greens that have had their positions vindicated. It is now time for all of us, all generations, to join forces with them and co-operate in a change process to build a genuinely sustainable future. What kind of future can the Hunter have in the face of such imperatives to change? A future based on clean, safe, renewable energy is technologically possible and it is now urgent that we create such a future.

The coal industry does not have a long-term future in the valley anyway, so we may as well start its phased withdrawal now. Such a conclusion means there can be no new coalmines, no extensions of existing mines, no new coal transport infrastructure and definitely no new coal-fired power plants. A single new coal-fired power station will wipe out the benefits from all past energy saving and greenhouse gas emission reductions undertaken by people of goodwill.

Our region is in a great position to harness all forms of solar energy (sun and wind in particular) and is already a world leader in new technologies that take us away from coal and oil dependency. I can see it now: hundreds of solar arrays and grid-connected wind turbines in the valley. Most could be located on the 500 square kilometres that have already been degraded by coalmines. solar power stations would hunt under the sun as would the solar chimneys as they generated base-load power around the clock.

Every house in the Hunter could be a net power generator with photovoltaic panels. There are jobs, jobs, jobs in such a future as the workforce retrains for the solar economy. And we would all live in a valley and on a planet that was no longer at risk of meltdown.

Dr Glenn Albrecht is an associate professor in environmental studies at the University of Newcastle.

Allco, super funds spend $1.68b: Australian power grab in US

Sydney Morning Herald
Wednesday 12/12/2007 Page: 25

THE growing tussle among Australian investment funds to acquire North American power generating businesses has been joined by the ASX-listed infrastructure manager Allco Finance and a 40-strong group of not-for-profit superannuation funds. Allco and Industry Funds Management have followed the most recent aggressive players in the sector, Macquarie Group and Babcock and Brown, in grabbing assets in the expanding US energy sector.

The latest deal will result in Allco and IFM spending $US1.48 billion ($1.68 billion) on 29 power generation plants at 12 locations in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Maryland from Con Edison. Allco will pay $US287 million for a stake of almost 38 per cent in the power projects, with IFM providing the remaining 62 per cent. Allco plans to sell down its interests to a number of its managed funds, including the unlisted Energy Infrastructure Fund, to start operating next year. Allco's shares rose 42c, to $7.78, in reaction to the deal.

IFM, the manager of $14.5 billion and the holding company for the Members Equity superannuation group, will inject its portion into a $3 billion international infrastructure operation. The intervention of Allco and IFM has increased the already fierce competition among fund and asset managers who have targeted regulated utilities such as electricity, gas and water businesses as long-term investments to provide steady and reliable cash flows.

Yesterday's move comes six weeks after Macquarie snapped up Puget Energy, the owner of the largest power company in the state of Washington, for $US7.4 billion. Macquarie put together a consortium of investors including the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board and the British Columbia Investment Management Corporation to acquire Puget, which supplies electricity to more than 1 million customers and natural gas to 720,000 consumers. That deal put Macquarie ahead of Babcock and Brown in a race for assets.

In July B&B missed out on a previously agreed acquisition of the Montana energy provider NorthWestern. The company had accepted B&B's $2.7 billion bid but it was blocked by local regulators, who were concerned about the possibility of a huge increase in energy costs for NorthWestern's customers. B&B is still scouring the continent for similar deals. Its listed power fund subsequently bought wind farms in Texas and Colorado. Yesterday B&B announced it had sold 70 per cent of a retail portfolio of 53 properties in Switzerland, raising 233 million ($389 million).

Climate drive backed

Adelaide Advertiser
Friday 14/12/2007 Page: 7

THE vast majority of Australians say the Federal Government should move swiftly to cut the nation's greenhouse emissions, a poll shows. The Greenpeace-commissioned Newspoll of 1202 adults this month also found strong support for replacing Australia's coal-fired power stations with renewable-energy sources by 2010. "Australians clearly understand the link between burning coal and climate change," Greenpeace's Steve Campbell said. The survey found 86 per cent of Australians supported Prime Minister Kevin Rudd introducing new policies to ensure greenhouse gas emissions begin to decrease in the next three years.

Eco plan a $1bn windfall for BBW

The Australian
December 17, 2007

BABCOCK and Brown could bring $1 billion worth of new wind energy projects on stream in Australia following the Rudd Government's commitment to having 20 per cent of energy use in the form of renewable energy by 2020. The chief executive of Babcock and Brown Wind Partners, Miles George, said this could involve 500 megawatts of new wind energy projects around Australia, where development had been put on hold because of uncertainties about the federal Government's energy policies.

"Babcock and Brown has developments in Australia which have effectively been put on hold because of the hiatus in federal government policy over renewable energy," Mr George said in an interview with The Australian. "The company has leased sites all around Australia which are likely to be revisited now there has been a change of government." At the moment, wind energy represents only about 1 per cent of Australian energy use.

Mr George said the Rudd Government's renewable energy targets could see a tenfold expansion of the wind energy industry in Australia by 2020. He said Babcock and Brown Wind Partners, Australia's largest wind farm operator and the fourth-largest in the world, was expecting to double the size of its business over the next few years. "We are adding around 1000 megawatts a year to our total portfolio and would expect to double the size of the business over the next two or three years," he said.

BBW has 68 wind farms around the world - in Australia, the US, Spain, Portugal, Germany and France. In Australia, it has wind farms in Mount Gambier in South Australia and Geraldton, in the West Australian midwest, with plans for another near Canberra. Mr George said the company's expansion would be stimulated by the fact that Australia was finally catching up with the rest of the world in terms of its policy in encouraging renewable energy.

Wind energy is considered the most economically viable of all the renewable energy options: it is several times cheaper than solar power and environmentally more acceptable than hydro projects. BBW, which listed on the ASX in October 2005, has failed to excite much interest among Australian institutions. Listing at $1.40 a share, it was trading above $1.80 a share this week but its growth has been less than other resource and energy stocks.

However, Mr George said he hoped the change in federal government policy and the evolution of the wind energy business around the world would lead to an increased interest in the company by Australian fund managers. He said the listing of the Spanish-owned Iberdrola Renewables, the world's largest owner of wind energy plants, on the Madrid Stock Exchange this week should help build more institutional interest in the industry.

"It's a good thing for us as it will be the first time we have had a major wind energy business in the listed sector which is comparable for our stock," he said. "The wind industry here is relatively small. In Europe and the US it is much larger and better understood." The $22 billion Iberdrola Renewables has a capacity of 7000 megawatts of installed capacity of wind energy, compared with the total 2400 megawatt capacity operated by BBW.

Mr George said Australia represented only about 15 per cent of the company's installed capacity because of the Howard government's on-again, off-again policy towards renewable energy. It set a target of 9500 gigawatt hours of renewable energy with a scheme announced in 1999, stimulating the development of the wind energy industry in Australia but it stalled when the government failed to renew the targets in 2004.

The Rudd Government's target of 20 per cent by 2020 amounts to a range of 45,000 gigawatt hours of energy - much of which will be supplied by wind energy. BBW has about 40 per cent of the 800 megawatts of installed capacity of wind energy in Australia. "The Rudd Government's target has the potential to increase installed capacity by about tenfold to about 8000 megawatts by 2020," Mr George said.

He said the introduction of a carbon emissions trading scheme next year would further boost the cost attraction of wind energy. Moves towards cleaner coal would also make wind energy more relatively economic. The Australian wind energy industry only has a small number of players, including Babcock and Brown, Pacific Hydro and Hydro Tasmania. The Transfield Services Infrastructure Fund entered the industry when it spent $460 million last month to buy the wind energy assets of the Queensland Government.

Babcock and Brown, which had its origins in San Francisco, has been in the wind energy business for more than 20 years, stimulated by tax incentives for wind energy in the 1980s given by the government of California. It expanded its operations into Australia following the Howard government's initial renewable energy incentive scheme in 1999. Mr George said BBW had a strong pipeline of wind farms under development for it by Babcock and Brown as well as two companies in Europe.

He said this meant it did not have to pay high prices in expensive bidding wars for new capacity. While there would be further expansion in Australia, he said, the US was the fastest growing market for wind energy and would soon become the biggest in the world, overtaking current leader Germany. "It's a great thing that the Labor Government is now introducing policies to encourage renewable energy," he said. "The industry will be reinvigorated. "We are the fourth largest (wind energy) company in the world and we are sitting in a country which doesn't support renewable energy. The last couple of years have been a difficult period for us but, going forward, it will be much more positive."

Support for wind farm

Ballarat Courier
Friday 14/12/2007 Page: 4

A SURVEY has shown more than 450 people would be prepared to pledge more than $3 million to the proposed community-owned Leonards Hill wind farm. The survey was carried out by the Hepburn Renewable Energy Association, which has set up a co-operative called Hepburn Wind to build and operate the $8 million wind farm. Chairman of Hepburn Wind is Simon Holmes a Court, son of prominent businesswoman and philanthropist, Janet Holmes a Court.

"Naturally were very excited by these results," Mr Holmes a Court said. "They've confirmed that this project is supported by the majority of people in this community, and is truly set to become Australia's first community-owned wind farm. "There is no doubt that the tremendous response to the survey is a direct result of the hard work and sheer volume of hours that many volunteers have committed to the project.

It's a fantastic feeling to have this hard work rewarded with such a good result." Hepburn Renewable Energy Association president Per Bernard said the survey was required by Sustainability Victoria, which will provide a grant of $1 million to the project. The wind farm proposed for the Ballan-Daylesford Rd includes two 68m turbines with 41m blades.

Hepburn Shire Council approved the project in February by, but an appeal saw the natter referred to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. The tribunal approved the farm in July by after a four-day hearing. Tribunal members Margaret Baird and Ian Potts found that 16 homes would be between 519 metres and 895 metres from a turbine.

Australia gets behind emission cuts: poll

Canberra Times
Friday 14/12/2007 Page: 5

An overwhelming 86 per cent of Australians say the new Rudd Government should move swiftly to cut the nation's greenhouse gas emissions, a new poll shows. The Greenpeace-commissioned Newspoll survey, which polled 1202 adults this month, also found strong support for phasing out and replacing coal-fired power stations with renewable energy sources by 2010. "Australians clearly understand the link between burning coal and climate change," Greenpeace spokesman Steve Campbell said yesterday.

"They want to see the nation end its reliance on coal by beginning to phase out coal-fired power and move to renewable energy technologies." The survey found 86 per cent of Australians supported new Prime Minister Kevin Rudd introducing policies that would ensure Australia's greenhouse gas emissions began to decrease within the next three years. And 77 per cent also said the Government should begin phasing out existing coal-fired power stations and replacing their with renewable energy generation by 2010.

When asked about Australia's export coal industry, 73 per cent of respondents said coal exports should be capped or reduced. "Reducing our emissions matters to the Australian public but the results show they also want to see Mr Rudd take global responsibility by adopting policies that will see coal exports stay at current levels or decrease," Mr Campbell said.

Labor's existing climate policies would see total emissions increase to 15 per cent over 1990 levels by 2020, but cuts of 25 to 40 per cent were needed to stop global warming "topping the danger threshold." "This week Mr Rudd has the opportunity to show leadership at the Bali climate talks and help gain consensus on the 25-40 per cent range of reductions. "This poll shows that such a move would be extremely popular with the people of Australia, who delivered Mr Rudd a firm mandate at the last election, and want him to take even stronger action by reducing Australia's emissions within his first term."

Monday 17 December 2007

Winds of change blow

Bendigo Advertiser
Wednesday 12/12/2007 Page: 25

BRITAIN unveiled plans yesterday to generate enough electricity through offshore wind farms to power every home in the country by 2020, increasing production more than 60-fold and changing the look of the country's coasts. Britain's business secretary John Hutton yesterday said the government planned to reach the target through a fourfold increase in the amount of space off Britain's coast allocated for wind farms.

The move would change Britain's coasts. Hutton acknowledged, but said the need for energy self-sufficiency left the country no choice. He said the plans would depend on environmental impact studies. "But if we could manage to achieve this, by 2020, enough electricity could be generated off our shores to power the equivalent of all of the United Kingdom's homes," Hutton said in a statement.

The British Wind Energy Association, a trade body which represents the country's wind and marine energy industries, welcomed plans for more offshore wind farm sites, but it said it would be difficult to raise Britain's wind energy production to 33 gigawatts by 2020 from half a gigawatt presently.

Eight gigawatts' worth of wind generation projects are already planned, but the group said the limited supply of turbines meant the amount of wind energy produced by 2020 would likely be closer to 20 gigawatts. "We'd really be struggling from a 'Where can we get the turbines?' point of view," the association's economics director Gordon Edge said. Environmental campaigners and opposition MPs welcomed the plan, but some noted that wind generated power is expensive.

Wind energy-generated electricity is presently more expensive to generate than its coal or gas-generated counterpart. Although Britain's wind-swept coasts and shallow waters are ideal for offshore turbines, wind generated power accounts for less than two per cent of its energy generation. However, massive new offshore wind farms, such as the one gigawatt London project planned for the Thames estuary in the country's south-east, are to go online by 2014. According to the BWEA, the country is on track to overtake Denmark as the world's largest generator of offshore wind energy next year.

High price of a green reality

Australian Financial Review
Wednesday 12/12/2007 Page: 55

The reality of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by the targets that are being suggested in Bali will be hard for politicians and diplomats to swallow as they are likely to be far more costly in terms of GDP and jobs than most people realise. These are the sorts of issues that can make or break governments. Of course the sooner we accept these hard decisions and start to plan for them, the easier they will be to implement. Absorbing the costs over years or decades will be much easier than getting stung with a huge bill at the last minute.

The problem is that many people in the developed world think it is just a matter of erecting more windmills or down-grading to a smaller car. It is actually likely to require a lot more sacrifice than that for many people and the political will to force significant lifestyle changes onto voting populations is a rare commodity.

Chile Power: $570m project

Adelaide Advertiser
Wednesday 12/12/2007 Page: 49

Pacific Hydro said yesterday it planned to invest about $570 million to develop renewable energy projects in Chile once the South American country passes new legislation for the sector. Pacific Hydro and BHP Billiton said last month they signed an agreement to develop wind energy in excess of 100 megawatts in Chile's northern mining region.

Changes may buoy Cape Wind project: Patrick seeks to alter state law
December 11, 2007

Governor Deval Patrick's administration proposed several changes to state environmental-protection laws yesterday that could help speed construction of offshore wind energy farms, including the controversy-plagued Cape Wind project that Patrick strongly backs. The Department of Environmental Protection formally unveiled several changes to the state's Chapter 91 waterways protection laws, which could take effect as soon as April after a public comment period that ends Jan. 17.

One major change would be to declare cables conveying power from offshore renewable-energy projects - including wind farms and hydroelectric generating units - to be water-dependent. That designation would get those projects speedier, more favourable consideration by department regulators, who are required by Chapter 91 to apply heavier scrutiny to non water-dependent projects in protected waterfront and river areas.

"The governor has made it an environmental priority to increase renewable energy, and the most important piece of these changes would make the regulations consistent with the administration's support for renewable energy, by allowing renewable energy from offshore to connect to the grid onshore," said Ed Coletta, a department spokesman.

Besides the 130-turbine Cape Wind project in Nantucket Sound, other proposals the changes could help include construction mogul Jay Cashman's plan for a 120-turbine wind farm in Buzzards Bay off Dartmouth and Fairhaven, and the Hull Municipal Light Department's proposed wind farm. The announcement was made a month after Patrick's administration supported House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi's inclusion of a measure in the House's green-energy bill. The measure exempts Cape Wind and the Cashman project from regulatory hurdles in the state's Ocean Sanctuaries Act, which limits or bans development in most coastal waters.

Though former governor Mitt Romney relentlessly opposed Cape Wind, Patrick and his energy and environmental affairs secretary, Ian A. Bowles, have called the project crucial to meeting state goals for renewable energy and helping to market Massachusetts worldwide as being friendly to renewable energy companies.

Mark Rodgers, a Cape Wind Associates spokesman, said yesterday that his company had not yet seen the proposed changes but said they sounded like "a step in the right direction from our viewpoint." The current designation of offshore wind farms as non water-dependent projects, Rodgers said,"doesn't make it impossible, but it adds another layer, and it never struck us as a policy that makes sense." Rodgers said offshore wind farms are clearly water-dependent because it is their location in the open ocean - where winds are much steadier and stronger than on land - that makes them feasible for generating electricity.

Officials from the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, which has been battling Cape Wind for six years, and the Conservation Law Foundation, an environmental group backing Cape Wind, declined to comment.

Last month, Cape Wind angered its foes by asking the state Energy Facilities Siting Board to use its unique authority to approve the project by preempting eight different state and local permits - including the DEP waterways permit. This move came after the Cape Cod Commission voted against approving transmission lines connecting Cape Wind to the regional power grid in Yarmouth.

Peter J. Howe can be reached at