Monday 31 December 2007

Never mind the weatherman

Sydney Morning Herald
Wednesday 19/12/2007 Page: 12

WHEN it comes to renewable energy it has long been a case of use it or lose it - until now. Two companies - one using solar energy, the other using wind energy - are deploying new technology to crack the problem of how to preserve excess energy and make what has been a feelgood exercise for individuals into a viable power source for entire communities.

Storage for renewable energy has largely been limited to compressing air underground, where it can later be released under pressure, or pumping water high above ground and capturing the energy in turbines when gravity pulls the water back down. Both techniques are effective, but they require suitable locations and much infrastructure.

The new solution, developed over the past six years by an Australian scientist, Robert Lloyd, overcomes the obstacles by harnessing energy that would be wasted. It uses graphite - as in graphite pencils - to absorb and retain heat for extended periods. The energy can then be redeployed as superheated steam that spins a turbine on demand rather than merely when the wind blows or the sun shines. "By using this energy storage system... we can add significant value to solar or wind energy so it is worth more in the market... " says the chief executive of Lloyd Energy Storage, Steve Hollis.

His company is designing renewable energy sites for Cloncurry in north-western Queensland, and Lake Cargelligo in western NSW. The Queensland project is set to make Cloncurry, population 4828, the first town in Australia to depend exclusively on solar power. Nearly 7200 mirrors will aim sunlight into holes in the bottoms of 54 elevated graphite cubes and heat them to up to 1800 degrees for steam turbines.

Similarly, CBD Energy, which has licensed the Lloyd technology, will build a windpowered version of the graphite system on King Island. The island, 85 kilometres north-west of Tasmania, relies primarily on diesel to generate power for its 1800 residents. The $15 million joint venture between CBD Energy and Hydro Tasmania will not make the island wholly powered by renewable energy, but it aims to eliminate the need for 1.25 megalitres of diesel fuel a year, says CBD's chief engineer, John Giannasca.

To achieve this, CBD will install two megawatts of wind turbines to supplement an existing system as well as six graphite blocks, each one the size of a standard shipping container. A few solar panels will be also be available for periods when the island is without wind. All of these would feed a 250-kilowatt steam turbine for power, Giannasca says. CBD Energy would heat its graphite blocks to 800 degrees.

Pacific Hydro fund donates $46,000

Moyne Gazette
Thursday 20/12/2007 Page: 2

Pacific Hydro's Sustainable Communities Fund has donated almost $46,000 to nine groups and organisations that serve the communities around the company's wind farms at Codrington and Yambuk. Local sporting clubs were rewarded, receiving the largest individual grants.

Pacific Hydro executive manager Andrew Richards said the company's sustainable communities fund allowed the company to provide practical support to groups which were working to achieve positive outcomes in their communities. "Our sustainable communities fund aims to support programs that encourage sustainability at a social level, so we are very proud to see sporting clubs, who play a pivotal role in encouraging community participation, feature strongly this year," Mr Richards said.

The groups to receive large grants included the Port Fairy Amateur Basketball Association that received $8615 to upgrade a scoreboard and shot clocks. Moyne Health Services received $5000 to support an outdoor recreation program for the elderly and the Yambuk Recreation Reserve was granted $8000 to fund a commnunity fitness project.

Other grants included: Port Fairy to Warrnambool Rail Trail Committee, supporting the development of the project, $3350; Ex Libris Port Fairy Book Fair, support for book fair, $1000; Port Fairy Agricultural, Pastoral and Horticultural Society, supporting installation of water tank, $5000; Moyneyana Festival, supporting CBD Live at the festival, $5000; Port Fairy Cycling Club, supporting the 100km Cycling Championships, $5000 and the Belfast Aquatic Centre, purchase of fitness equipment for the centre's studio, $5000.

This year is the third year of Pacific Hydro's Sustainable Community Fund. The prograin provides a portion of revenue from the company's wind farms at Codrington and Yambuk to the local community through support for education, sporting, cultural and environmental projects. The program will run for the life of the wind farms and has already provided in excess of $100,000 to local groups and organisations within the local area. "We always receive very large numbers of applications for a range of very worthwhile projects," Mr Richards said. "While it is never possible to fund everything, we aim to support a range of projects that are in line with the fund guidelines." he said.

Third wind farm

Ararat Advertiser
Tuesday 18/12/2007 Page: 1

RES Australia Pty Ltd has announced its intention to move forward with preparing a Planning Permit Application for a wind farm seven kilometres northeast of Ararat. Residents of the area will soon get the chance to learn more about plans to build a wind farm on the ridges of farmland adjacent to the Pyrenees Highway. RES Australia has commenced detailed site investigations into a wind farm of around 50 turbines and associated wind farm infrastructure.

If the project goes ahead, it will unlock a $250 million investment within Ararat Rural City Council and Northern Grampians Shire Council areas. The project will produce clean green electricity without pollution, for about 40,000 homes and will contribute to Victoria's renewable energy target. "RES Australia has assessed many potential sites in Victoria and after extensive feasibility studies we identified that the Ararat ridges are likely to be a suitable location for a windfarm." Sedat Erol, wind farm developer with RES Australia and responsible for preparing the permit application, said.

In addition our research indicates that there is broad support among the local community for a windfarm in the area. RES Australia commissioned a study of community perceptions and we found that more than 90 per cent of people are in favour of windfarms being developed in the region and more than 80 per cent of people would be in favour of a windfarm within 10 kilometres of their home.

"We will conduct a rigorous environmental assessment to ensure this is a world class project from all points of view. When the environmental assessment is complete. it will go on public exhibition and anyone who is interested will have an opportunity to comment. "As our plans progress, we will keep the community up to date with newsletters, open days and our website. Details of our first open day will be made public in the New Year.

RES Australia commissioned Environmental Resources Management Pty Ltd and Reark Pty Ltd to prepare the Report on Community Perceptions towards Wind Farms in the Ararat Region, Victoria in October, 2007. The report found amongst other things that:
  • 94 per cent of respondents are in favour of wind farm projects being developed in southwestern Victoria.
  • 82 per cent of respondents are in favour of a wind farm within 10 kilometres from their home.
  • 71 per cent of respondents are in favour of a wind farm within one kilometre of their home.
Mr Erol also expressed the company's commitment to maximising the local economic benefit to the Ararat and the Northern Grampians regions. "We are committed to making sure that wherever possible we will use local people, business and expertise," he said. As we commence our detailed investigations, we are also launching a register of local tradespeople. We expect 40 - 50 jobs to be created during the construction phase and several ongoing jobs during the life of the wind farm for operations and maintenance. "Local people and businesses who believe they can provide services in fields such as earthworks, roads, concreting, electrical services, carpentry, steel fixing, fencing and accommodation may contact me to register.

On November 22 RES Australia submitted a Referral with the Victorian Minister for Planning requesting a decision on whether an Environmental Effects Statement will be required. A decision is expected around March. 2008. The Referral documentation, the community perceptions survey report and other project information are available on the RES Australia website

More details for the project will be published as detailed environmental, planning, engineering and consultation activities are conducted during next year. RES Australia hopes to have a Permit Application ready for submission by around mid- 2008. "Ararat Rural City Council welcomes responsible economic development investment into our community and the wider region," Ararat Rural City CEO Steve Chapple said. "Council has recently commenced discussions with RES Australia representatives seeking to investigate the establishment of a new 50 turbine wind farm in our municipality. Council looks forward to working with the proponents over the next few months as the application process evolves.

"The community will be provided ample opportunities to be consulted on the proposal. Our council and community are committed to clean renewable energy initiatives. As with all such wind farm applications of this size and scale, the Minister for Planning has final approval responsibility." Glen Davis, Chief Executive Officer of Northern Grampians Shire Council said the Northern Grampians Shire Council is supportive of low emission power generation.

"With two national parks and large areas of crops, pasture, shrubs and forests, Northern Grampians is proud of its ecological contribution in burying carbon, creating carbon credits," he said. "The Federal Government has emphasised Australia's need to reduce greenhouse gas emission.

The substitution of wind energy for coal-fired power generation (a source of much of Australia's carbon debits) is a major opportunity. The proposed carbon trading regime will be a market in which both low emissions and carbon credits will be economically rewarded. And the Victorian Government seeks to use wind energy for water desalination plants.

"Northern Grampians Shire supports these government initiatives. We also welcome investments that will create new jobs and enhance local employment opportunities. "The Shire looks forward to receiving and reviewing the planning application from RES for a wind farm in the Shire."

RES Australia is an independent wind farm operator in the local market. It is a subsidiary of the Renewable Energy Systems group of companies based in the United Kingdom.

Macedon Ranges urged to act

Midland Express
Tuesday 18/12/2007 Page: 5

The question of Wind Farms will be reconsidered for Macedon Ranges if a motion to go before tomorrow night's Council meeting finds support. Cr John Letchford intends to put up a motion to return the Wind Farm Policy to the next meeting of the Shire's Environment Advisory Committee for review, with any recommendations to come back to council by April 2008.

He attended a recent Australian Local Government Association conference on Climate Change and said the message from that gathering is loud and clear. "Councils were advised that the situation is worse than is generally thought to be," he said. "A key point which emerged from the conference is the need to act now. The cost of inaction, the 'do nothing' approach,' is that the situation will get worse," he said.

Cr Letchford is disappointed with what he describes as a 'softening' of emission targets last week at the Climate Change conference in Bali. He believes local government can show leadership on this issue and would like to see a co-operative effort between Macedon Ranges, Mount Alexander and Greater Bendigo councils to work for efficiencies between themselves and to push for action (and seek funding) from other levels of government.

"It would be really nice to have all of us driving this issue. We are close to Melbourne, we could have a working partnership along the Calder corridor - an active alliance between Macedon Ranges, Mount Alexander and Bendigo." Co-operation about waste management already has taken place. "There is an existing partnership which can grow," Cr Letchford said.

Cr Letchford said Macedon Ranges once held a leading position in dealing with climate change, but believes it has now fallen behind others in this aspect of government. "My determination is to make Macedon Ranges a leader again," he said. Cr Letchford sees wind farms as one renewable energy and cost efficient option which should be explored for Macedon Ranges.

Re believes that while there is a real sense of urgency for change, and in part thinks this can be achieved through education about what individuals can do. Re wants council to revisit the shire's environmental policies of the past and introduce a higher education component for the community. Establishment of an Innovation Committee early next year to identify problems and find solutions, is another initiative he would like to see happen.

"Macedon Ranges is ideally located to be a showcase of what can be done," he said. "Our community is environmentally aware and is really demanding we do something proactive. They have always supported our initiatives and have a really positive enthusiasm about this area." A further initiative Cr Letchford would like to implement relates to the demise of the present CDMA mobile phone system at the end of January. This aim is for council to establish recycling points where people can dispose of their old phones, parts of which can be reused.

Roaring 40s sticks to land operations

Hobart Mercury
Wednesday 19/12/2007 Page: 17

WIND-POWER generator Roaring 40s says it has no plans for any offshore wind-based energy, either in Australia or overseas. Roaring 40s spokesman Josh Bradshaw said all the company's interests were land-based, but it would monitor overseas developments on offshore wind farms. He was commenting on plans in Britain to generate enough electricity through offshore wind farms to power every home in the country by 2020. The British Government has said the extra turbines would change the coastline, but the need for energy self sufficiency left it no choice.

Roaring 40s was formed in 2005 through a partnership between Hydro Tasmania and China Light and Power Group. The company now has wind energy generation at more than 13 sites in Australia and overseas. In Tasmania, it has a wind farm at Woolnorth in the far North-West and pre-construction is beginning at Musselroe at Cape Portland in the state's North-East. Mr Bradshaw said Roaring 40s would like to start construction at Musselroe Wind Farm in the first three to six months of next year.

Local scenery proves picture-perfect

Albany & Great Southern Weekender
Thursday 13/12/2007 Page: 71

A LOCAL amateur photographer is turning his love of Albany's scenery into a potential business. Twenty-one-year-old Sam Piggott has already produced a postcard from a photo he took one day at the windfarm and has since been inspired to continue the venture. Having sold over 600 with only a few left to sell, Mr Piggott said he was surprised at the response he has received since he began selling them.

"I went out there one day with a friend and used his camera. It wasn't until I got it printed that I thought I should make it into a postcard," Mr Piggott said. "It's sort of a hobby of mine, producing postcards. "I've only got one from the windfarm at the moment, but somewhere down the track, I may take photos of other scenic places." The postcards, on sale at local news agencies and general stores in Albany, have been received positively by visitors and locals.