Wednesday 4 June 2008

Geothermal search heats up

Business News
Thursday 29/5/2008 Page: 16

WESTERN Australia could be just a few years away from delivering geothermal power, according to one of the state's emerging geothermal exploration companies. With the government soon to award the state's first geothermal exploration permits, managing director of New World Energy Solutions, John Libby, is confident his company will have a small-scale five-megawatt demonstration plant in operation by 2012.

New World Energy has been assessing the geothermal potential of the Perth basin for the past 18 months, and is awaiting news on its bids for exploration lots near Dongara and Eneabba, and further south, near Binningup. The company is focused on generating electricity from geothermal resources, with a view to eventually develop power stations capable of generating between 30 and 50MW of electricity.

"There's a range of different things you can do with geothermal energy. You can use it for direct heating or cooling, you can use the heat to directly desalinate water, which is generally a very energy intensive process," Mr Libby said. "We are setting ourselves up as an energy company, so we'll generate electricity from the geothermal resource." While the company has a couple of geothermal exploration licences in South Australia, the most active state in terms of geothermal exploration, it remains focused on developing assets in WA.

Mr Libby said there were several advantages to developing geothermal assets in WA, rather than SA. He believes that, while areas with the best geothermal potential in SA tended to be hundreds of kilometers from transmission lines, geothermal resources in the South West of WA are close to well-developed power infrastructure and major industry.

This greatly reduces the cost of exploration and development, and allows WA explorers to generate electricity economically from much lower temperatures - about 140 degrees celcius, compared with 200 degrees plus in SA. "We've identified the highest heat is in the Perth basin at the right depths, at about 2.5 kilometres to three kilometres, which is reasonably deep, but no where near as deep as in SA, which is around five kilometres," Mr Libby said.

He said while the cost of a demonstration plant was difficult to assess at this early stage, it would probably be in the tens of million of dollars. "There's nothing new about geothermal. The stuff in SA is pushing new boundaries in terms of the depths they're drilling," Mr Libby told WA Business News.

"The drilling is similar to oil and gas exploration... it's new but it's not that new." Mr Libby, a geologist with more than 20 years' experience in the resources industry, is joined on the board by Ted Ellyard, former managing director and chief executive of Hardman Resources, current chairman of Key Petroleum Ltd and director of Minemakers Ltd.

New World Energy joins fellow WA geothermal exploration companies, Australian Securities Exchange listed Green Rock Energy Ltd and Torrens Energy Ltd, as the state's key emerging players in the industry. West Perth-based Green Rock Energy Ltd currently has three key projects - two in SA, including one at Olympic Dam, and another in south western Hungary. The company has also applied for geothermal exploration rights, by itself and jointly with other companies, in and around the Perth basin, through the government's tender process.

Torrens has several exploration licences in SA, the most advanced being the Torrens Project Area north of Port Augusta. The company would not comment on whether it submitted bids for exploration lots in WA. The state government received 64 valid bids from nine different companies for 38 lots, equating to a total area of 12,160 square kilometres, in its first geothermal exploration acreage release. The most popular areas were Dongara, Eneabba, kWinana and Pinjarra. A second acreage area, in the Carnarvon basin region, will be released later this year.

Crystals shed light on cheap solar energy

Coffs Coast Advocate
Thursday 29/5/2008 Page: 8

BRISBANE (AAP): Affordable solar energy for every household has moved closer to reality thanks to a groundbreaking discovery at the University of Queensland (UQ). Professor Max Lu, from UQ's Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, said researchers were one step closer to the holy grail of cost-effective solar energy. "We have grown the world's first titanium oxide single crystals with large amounts of reactive surfaces, something that was predicted as almost impossible," Professor Lu said.

"The crystals absorb sunlight and convert it into electricity." Prof Lu, who has been working on the project for the past 15 years, said the crystals were a cheaper alternative to solar panels. He expects it to take up to 10 years for the technology to be commercially available. Prof Lu said the crystals could also be used to purify air and water, and expected that to take about five years to commercialise. The work was the result of a longterm international collaboration with Professor Hui-Ming Cheng's group from the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Tuesday 3 June 2008

Seeing red at green rebates

Port Macquarie News
Friday 23/5/2008 Page: 8

ELECTRICIAN Jamie Harrison fears means testing the solar panel rebate scheme will put the environmentally friendly energy option out of reach for some people. In a federal budget move criticised by environmentalists and the solar industry, only households earning less than $100,000 qualify for the $8000 rebate on solar panels. A Port News article on Wednesday incorrectly said solar power rebates had been removed. The rebates are means tested.

Meanwhile, Mr Harrison, Harelec's business manager, expects to achieve accreditation in July as a solar panel installer at the completion of a Global Sustainable Energy Solutions course and three-day practical exam. He then will be eligible to fill out rebate paperwork verifying the work was done by a qualified installer. The accreditation was a logical progression from the company's use of energy efficient lights, Mr Harrison said.

The Port Macquarie electrician is concerned the rebate means test will limit the number of people who can afford solar panels. But he still feels there is a market for the work. "The people that can afford it tend to earn the high amount of money," Mr Harrison said. "I thought it was about reducing the reliance of carbon-based energy and doing the right thing for the environment." It costs about $11,000 to install solar panels in the average house.

Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett has declared the means test on solar panels is here to stay as pressure mounts for a post-budget backdown. Mr Garrett played down concerns from some sections of the solar industry that the means test would ruin businesses and force job losses.

$220m injection for ailing Hydro

Launceston Examiner
Wednesday 28/5/2008 Page: 7

THE State Government will take $220 million out of Transend to prop up Hydro Tasmania 's $1.13 billion debt. Energy Minister David Llewellyn yesterday released a consultant's report that showed the company required between $185 million and $495 million to repay debt. The Ernst & Young report found that Hydro's financial position had weakened because of several factors including: Low rainfall leading to more generation at the Bell Bay Power Station and imports over Basslink.

A highly contracted position in the Tasmanian market paired with low contracted prices for large customers and high energy prices in the National Electricity Market in 2007. Increasing capital expenditure on ageing core hydroelectric assets. Hydro chairman David Crean said the funds would be used to retire debt and improve Hydro's ability to compete in the National Electricity Market.

"The equity injection will predominantly increase our financial strength and reduce the cost of funding our debt," Dr Crean said. "So we'll be able to direct those funds to both achieving efficiencies in our asset base and developing growth projects." The report showed borrowing capacity for Transend was a maximum of between $220 to $270 million.

Greens energy spokesman Kim Booth said the Basslink gamble had not paid off for the Government. "The Greens predicted that Basslink would be a millstone for the Hydro with its $92 million annual cable rent fee to be covered before any power is even transmitted or paid for," Mr Booth said. Hydro spent an extra $100 million in 2006-07 importing power across Basslink because of lower than average rainfall.

Mr Llewellyn, however, said Basslink and natural gas had saved Tasmania's economy by avoiding power rationing, which might have shut down major industry. Opposition energy spokesman Peter Gutwein said he supported the equity injection in principle but questioned if Tasmania could have avoided energy price rises if the Government had acted earlier.

"Had the Government listened to Hydro and its own former Treasurer Dr David Crean back in 2005 and improved the Hydro's financial position then, would the ordinary men and women of Tasmania be paying the same power increases as today?" Mr Gutwein asked. The equity injection will be debated by the House of Assembly today and, if approved by the Upper House, will occur on June 30.

Geelong to slash energy - and fast! - City going green

Geelong Advertiser
Wednesday 28/5/2008 Page: 12

THE City of Greater Geelong will aim for an ambitious 30 per cent reduction in greenhouse emissions by 2010 as part of a corporate strategy aimed at tackling climate change. The city council has allocated a preliminary $350,000 to the project and senior staff must now meet key performance indicators in order to make the target. Environment portfolio holder Cr Tom O'Connor said the council had to reduce emissions by 9627 tonnes - the annual energy use of almost 3000 homes - to reach the target.

A reduction in energy use would put provide long-term financial savings for the council and would also put it in a better financial position if a national carbon tax was introduced. Some of the actions proposed include updating council strategies and policies to ensure all decisions consider climate change, including sea-level rise and impacts on Geelong's built and natural assets.

The council will also install solar arrays on the National Wool Museum, micro hydro and wind turbines and solar lights at high profile locations. Cr O'Connor said he didn't agree with criticisms by environmental groups that measures should have been in place years ago.

"They can say what they like but we've done an enormous amount of work over the last two years and this is a big target which we are very committed to," he said. "Our decisions have taken into account climate change prior to this but this is about formally adopting it into our planning framework." Cr O'Connor said the council would buy energy-tracking software and energy-efficient equipment, plus change fuel types on council trucks and vehicles. He said City Hall was considering changing to hybrid cars.

Coast in frame for offshore wind farm

Courier Mail
Wednesday 28/5/2008 Page: 21

AUSTRALIA'S first offshore wind farm could be built off the Gold Coast to help power the Tugun Desalination Plant. Peak environmental body the Queensland Conservation Council has applied for $4 million in State Government funding for a feasibility study for the project, which would see 12 huge turbine towers erected in the ocean off the glitter strip.

Tourism leaders have reacted cautiously, saying the environmental benefits could be outweighed by visual pollution. The desalination plant would be one of Queensland's most energy-hungry pieces of infrastructure when it comes on line at the end of the year. It will use a massive 200,000MW of power a year and emit as much carbon as a city the size of Mount Isa, and the Bligh Government has declared it wants the facility to be carbon-neutral.

This could be achieved through renewable energy, such as a wind farm, or carbon offsets (tree planting) or a combination of both. QCC executive director Toby Hutcheon said his organisation believed an offshore wind farm, to capture the strong winds that often lash the southeast Queensland coastline, was an ideal way to power the desalination plant.

The QCC has applied for funding from the $50 million Queensland Renewable Energy Fund to study the feasibility of the proposal. Mr Hutcheon said the QCC was looking to partner a commercial wind farm operator, and was talking to Australian and international companies. The turbines could be built far enough offshore so that they would not be visible, he said. Queensland Tourism Industry Council chief executive Daniel Gschwind said potential visual pollution was a concern.

"But by the same token, the tourism industry has a very strong interest in making sure that Australia and Queensland does the right thing by the environment," he said. "Australia and Queensland has long traded on its image as a 'green' destination and the question of sustainability is on everyone's mind these days." Mines and Energy Minister Geoff Wilson said Queensland had "significantly poorer wind resources" than southern states, where most of Australia's wind farms were located. But he said the State Government was backing renewable energy initiatives "every step of the way" and welcomed viable proposals.

Solar industry jobs go as means test applied

Cairns Post
Wednesday 28/5/2008 Page: 11

JOBS are being lost in the Far North because of the Federal Government's new means test for households installing solar power systems. Cairns Solar Equipment has already made one worker redundant, it has lost five $25,000 jobs and four more large contracts look set to be canned after the recent announcement to block households earning more than $100,000 from receiving an $8000 rebate.

Queensland Senator Ian Macdonald said the plight of the company echoed the concerns and realities faced by many Far Northern solar businesses, prompting a push to have the Government reverse it decision. Cairns Solar Equipment manager Rob Mulligan said yesterday it cost $25,000 to install a solar power system to the grid and it was generally only households making more than $100,000 who could afford the technology and now they were at a disadvantage.

"In these harsh financial times, most households have dual incomes just to make ends meet after they pay their school fees, mortgages, kids sports," he said. "The middle income bracket has now been left out of an environmental solution to their energy usage and once more has been abandoned by the Government." Senator Macdonald said the rebate made it affordable for ordinary Australians to do their bit for the environment but now that opportunity has been removed. "It also means that the businesses they have been building up over six or seven years are destroyed and their former staff will be thrown on the unemployment heap," he said.

Environment Minister Peter Garrett said the Government was committed to the solar industry and the Budget contained initiatives to encourage the industry. "Demand for solar rebates through the Solar Homes and Communities Plan has grown significantly and we've doubled the number of rebates per year from 3000 to 6000 and brought forward $25 million in this Budget to achieve in three years what the previous government set out to achieve in five." he said.

Climate for gas in $750m power bid

Wednesday 28/5/2008 Page: 4

A QUEENSLAND company plans to build and operate NSW's largest gas-fired power station, with fuel for the facility to be delivered along the first gas pipeline linking the states. The plan to build the state's first base-load, or continuously operating, power station in 15 years, at a cost of $750 million, has been sold by Premier Morris Iemma as a vote of confidence by the private sector in his efforts to privatise the state's electricity industry.

It will be built by the Queensland Gas Company in the Hunter Valley, north of Sydney, and will be the state's first gas-fired baseload facility, signalling a shift in the relative cost of electricity produced from coal and gas as Australia moves towards an emissions trading system by 2010.

A group of Hunter-based business figures plans to raise $850 million to build an 820km pipeline from the Hunter Valley to QGC's coal-seam gas fields in the Surat Basin in southern Queensland. QGC managing director Richard Coffee yesterday said the company would conduct a feasibility study for the power station, which would come on line in 2012, with its joint venture partners, ANZ Infrastructure and Toyota Tsusho Corporation.

Company sources said the project was almost certain to proceed, with a final announcement expected this year. Mr lemma said the proposal justified his controversial plan to remove the Government from the electricity industry by leasing out the three state-owned generators and selling off the three state owned retail companies. "This project would also promote the provision of cleaner, greener power, and provide a welcome boost to the state's energy security," he said.

He said the new station was not "the beginning of the end" for coal fired power, but showed that "coal has to get its act together to find ways of burning coal cleaner." Mr lemma's union-led opponents, who comfortably defeated his electricity proposal at Labor's state conference this month, have argued there is no guarantee a sell-off would encourage private investment in the extra capacity needed by the middle of the next decade.

The new power station, with a capacity of up to 600 megawatts, would deliver up to a third of the required extra power, supplying electricity to between 320,000 and 500,000 homes. Mr Cottee confirmed the feasibility of the station relied on the new imperatives of a carbon trading economy and Mr lemma's reform proposal. The fear had been that the Government would favour its own companies over the private sector or produce power for below the cost of supply to preserve jobs.

"A base-load gas-fired power station puts out only 40 per cent of the carbon dioxide of a coalfired station," Mr Cottee said. "The announcement of the Premier on electricity reform indicated that NSW was open for business and for private sector investment in baseload power stations. Before this debate occurred, we were concerned about the stranglehold the government owned corporations had."

He said the station would show "the divine right of king coal to be baseload is not a theological proposition, it's economic." Brad Page, from the Electricity Supply Association of Australia, said the QGC proposal indicated people were "starting to appreciate the role that gas can play in a carbon-constrained market." "It recognises that additional generation capacity will be required in the next decade against the background of climate change and growing energy demand in NSW," he said.

The NSW Government has promised to fast-track development approval for the power station and the pipeline. At the moment, the Moomba Pipeline and the Eastern Gas Pipeline link the Sydney basin to South Australia and Victoria, respectively, but there is no link to Queensland. Queensland Hunter Gas Pipeline chief Garbis Simonian said the QGC station would consume about a third of the capacity of the new pipeline, which would also offer distribution for "emerging coal-seam gas reserves in regional NSW, encouraging exploration and production along its route."

Solar-panel industry in the cold

Moreland Leader
Monday 26/5/2008 Page: 7

THE Moreland Energy Foundation has criticised the Federal Government's decision to means-test a solar energy rebate, which the agency says is already causing a withdrawal of orders for solar panels. The Government's decision will see couples with an income over $100,000 ineligible for an $8000 rebate on the purchase of solar panels. Foundation chief executive Paul Murfitt said many Moreland residents had been saving to buy solar panels but would now have to shelve their plans.

"I know some Moreland families who have been saving to make this environmentally friendly step, but now they are having to reassess things," Mr Murfitt said. He said it was important for governments to continue providing incentives for people to make environmentally-conscious decisions. Thornbury's Environment Shop, which stocks and installs solar panels, has been inundated with calls from customers.

"We've already had quite a few orders cancelled so it's already hurt us," manager Mick Harris said. "It's knocked a lot of people out (of the solar panel market)." Rodger Meads, managing director of solar system manufacturer Conergy, said the rebate restrictions had already equated to job losses in the industry.

"This budget policy does not encourage the uptake of solar panels, increase investment or support industry development - all of the outcomes we need to build a viable solar energy industry," Mr Meads said. Wills federal Labor MP Kelvin Thomson said several families and businesses in the area had contacted him over the decision.

He said he had sought answers from Environment Minister Peter Garrett about their concerns. "It's an issue that I've raised with Peter Garrett in the caucus briefing and we've written to him seeking a response to the concerns." Mr Thomson said.

Flannery backs clean coal investment

Tuesday 27/5/2008 Page: 6

SCIENTIST and climate commentator Tim Flannery has waded into the debate about "clean coal" technology, calling on the Rudd Government to boost research funding from $500 million to $5 billion in a bid to halt global warming.

Professor Flannery yesterday said the Government should ramp up spending on the experimental research - capturing greenhouse gas emitted from power plants and burying it kilometres underground tenfold to make it viable much sooner. Researchers estimate it is at least a decade away from being commercially available.

Speaking at a Gold Coast conference, Professor Flannery called for more funding and "real timelines for the industry to start developing this in the next two or three years." The 2007 Australian of the Year was scathing of the coal industry, saying it relied on public money to develop new technology despite reaping huge windfalls from skyrocketing global coal prices. He said power producers faced heavy penalties under an Emissions Trading Scheme, to be introduced in 2010.

They have never been in a better position to invest in these technologies and at the moment they are just ignoring the issue," he told The Age. They need to get off their bloody backsides and start investing and start lobbying for really substantial funding because otherwise we are not going to deal with the climate problem and their industry is going to fall in a heap."

A rift opened in the environment sector last month after lobby groups WWF Australia and the Climate Institute Australia joined the Australian Coal Association and the miner's union, the CFMEU, in calling for further backing for "clean coal." Critics argue public money should be devoted to renewable energy research. Professor Flannery said he doubted storing carbon underground would prove safe, but there was no choice but to back it. China builds a new coal-fired power station a week.

Monday 2 June 2008

Old school powers in to the 21st century

Warrnambool Standard
Saturday 24/5/2008 Page: 5

Solar panels, wind turbines and water tanks are powering a healthy interest in green energy among Port Fairy Consolidated School pupils. A $3.75 million building redevelopment and energy demonstration project were unveiled yesterday as the historic school entered a new era. Principal Lindy Sharp said the new facilities would complement the school's sustainable living projects and give pupils a first-hand look at helping save the planet.

"I think it is the way of the future," Mrs Sharp said. "Through all our sustainability projects, which include renewable energy, water management, waste and recycling projects, we're demonstrating for students how to live sustainably in everyday life." Fitted with 40 solar panels and a 30-kilowatt wind turbine, the new building will generate some of the school's electricity.

"We are hoping to generate 15 per cent of our own energy needs," Mrs Sharp said. "We're also hoping, during periods of low energy use, that excess energy generated will be transferred to the Victorian electricity grid." The school renovations also include three water tanks and a refurbishment of the bluestone building. Western Victoria MP Gayle Tierney, who opened the building, said the project had transformed the school.

ACT gets serious on energy initiatives

Sunday Canberra Times
Sunday 25/5/2008 Page: 20

WIND TURBINES at Canberra Stadium and Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve and solar energy to light Macarthur House car park will soon be in place, ACT Chief Minister Jon Stanhope has announced.

The Minister said the initiatives - part of the ACT Government's Climate Change Strategy 2007-2025, Weathering the Change - would see ACT Government and community buildings, public spaces and services adapted to replace non-renewable energy sources with renewable energy such as solar or wind.

The first renewable technology introduced is the Macarthur House car park on Northbourne Avenue which has had energy efficient LED and solar lighting fitted. "These lights are highly visible and banners have been installed to draw attention to them," he said. Macarthur House also has a comprehensive waste recycling facility and a large bike shed to encourage their use.

Over the next 12 months, the installation of wind turbines, solar photovoltaic panels and a 9sqm LED screen will take place at Canberra Stadium. Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve will have solar PV panels fitted on the north roof and wind turbines at the rear of the building, and five switchable lights that allow for the intensity of lighting to be varied during nighttime use will be installed at the Erindale Bus Interchange.

Mr Stanhope said the Government would also invest $3 million this year to install energy efficient street lights in Canberra, provide $500,000 for energy efficient housing and $1.6 million over four years to help make ACT public schools carbon neutral.

"The ACT Government's renewable technology showcase is just one of many climate change initiatives outlined in the Weathering the Change climate change strategy, which is underpinned by a $100 million investment over 10 years," he said. "By making our buildings and public spaces more energy efficient and environmentally friendly, the ACT Government can improve the community's understanding of the real and practical opportunities to address climate change."

Power up on sun, wind and water

Coffs Coast Advocate
Saturday 24/5/2008 Page: 30

THE Renewable Energy Fair, being held in the Bellingen Showgrounds, starts at 8am today and continues through until 4pm. "This is the second year we have held this fair," Bellingen Climate Action Group spokesperson, Lisa Siegelon said. "And it was a spectacular event last year, so don't miss this one." Entry is by donation. Businesses will have exhibits covering solar power, wind and hydro power, as well as insulation and solar hot water systems.

A highlight will be the major raffle - a '1kW grid connect solar power system', valued at $13,500 - which will be drawn on site at 2pm by Bellingen Shire Council Mayor, Mark Troy. Second prize is two nights accommodation at Lily Pily, a 4.5 Green Star Bed & Breakfast.

There will be a lucky-gate prize of thousands of dollars worth of LED lighting products from Planet Lighting. "These lights are the first of their kind in Australia - they have no toxic disposal problems, use a tiny amount of power and are produced in Bellingen." Other lucky gate prizes include gift vouchers from Kombu Wholefoods.

Visitors to the fair will be able to listen to presenters throughout the day, such Chris Reardon, the author of 'Your Home', an Australian guide to environmentally sustainable homes. Or Russell Simmons, who will give an update on the Currumbin Ecovillage, ABC New Inventors judge, Alison Page, is another presenter, and a recent episode winner, Solar Dryers Australia, will show its Solar Hybrid Kiln. Another local invention, the Kalang Solar Tracker, adds at least 50 per cent to solar panel output and will be at the fair.

There will be plenty of time for questions of each presenter and retailers at the fair too. People will be able to try out a solar powered massage chair; there will be everything from quirky gadgets to wholesome cakes; horse carriage rides to hybrid electric cars and electric bikes, and so much more. So get down to Bellingen Showgrounds today, and check out the Bellingen Renewable Energy Fair

The rise of wind power

Engineers Australia
May, 2008 Page: 75

In line with one of its Mission Statements, namely: "To make information on engineering available to the countries of the world and to facilitate communication between its member nations of world's best practice in key engineering activities", the Energy Committee of the World Federation of Engineering Organisations has been reviewing a range of current energy options. The review is being presented in a series of reports.

The review is intended to give the viewpoint of engineers on questions related to the technical and economic feasibility of energy issues of significance to society. Each report aims at providing engineers and decision makers with updated information regarding different technologies that are being used or are under consideration for the supply of energy.

The first document in the series published in 2005 was on wind power. The Australian national member Dr Peter Greenwood is a member of the Standing Committee and John Titcher was a significant contributor. I was in Barcelona a few weeks ago, where I met with the chief executive of the Electricity Company, which is generating 34% of its electricity from wind.

Wind energy is abundant and has vast potential. In recent years, it has shown good environmental advantage and, in a number of situations, has gradually approached cost competitiveness. Current concerns of the environment, global warming and reducing stocks of fossil fuels have driven increased participation in many countries.

Wind energy has been part of the energy mix. Even if its competitiveness has not always been apparent, many consumers have been willing to pay a premium for clean energy. In absolute terms wind energy is still a small portion of the world's energy; however, at the present time it is the fastest growing source. Key advantages are that environmental aspects come into play in the three phases of a wind turbine project - building and manufacturing, normal operation during its lifetime and decommissioning.

Aside from fossil fuels used in the manufacture of wind farm equipment and its lubrication, no fossil fuels are consumed or combusted and virtually no waste streams are created. No exotic materials or manufacturing processes are required in producing wind turbines or the building of the civil works. Decommissioning is not a significant problem.

The prime disadvantages are negative environmental impacts of acoustic noise emissions, visual impact and bird strikes which create public resistance to installations. As with other energy options, the construction of transmission lines from remote areas causes opposition, particularly in tourist coastal areas.

The full report can be read on

Wind turbine tests start at Bridgewater

Portland Observer
Friday 16/5/2008 Page: 3

Pacific Hydro has started the pre-commissioning of 25 wind turbines at its Cape Bridgewater Wind Farm. Each turbine will be individually tested, and when the remaining four turbines are installed and also tested, the company will then test the wind farm as a single unit of 29 turbines. The remaining four turbines are not expected to be installed until after June.

Wind farm plans

Albany & Great Southern Weekender
Thursday 22/5/2008 Page: 4

Verve Energy is continuing with its plans for an extension to the Albany Wind Farm after a positive response to its recent community display and question project. More than 170 Albany residents took part in the information sessions at Albany Plaza and Elleker Hall as part of Verve Energy's feasibility study into the proposed six-turbine Grasmere Wind Farm project. This will be adjacent the wind farm at Sand Patch.

Project manager Daniel Thompson said the public display proved a valuable means of informing the community and getting feedback. "We answered a lot of questions and found that most people were aware of the project and supported it," he said. "There were only a few objections, mostly regarding the location of the wind turbines and ongoing recreational access to the area.

"The points raised against the proposal were valid and this was a great opportunity for us to explain our position. " Apart from funding, the Grasmere Wind Farm needs approvals from the City of Albany and EPA before it proceeds. If built, the Grasmere Wind Farm will add almost 14 megawatts to Albany's wind energy and increase to about 80 per cent the annual average 'clean green energy' available to the city.

Going green profitable

Northern Miner
Friday 23/5/2008 Page: 5

THE decision by Hidden Valley Cabins to go green has paid dividends with the operator reporting record occupancy levels and a massive reduction in energy expenses. Now the team behind the move wants to help other operators make the switch to sustainable power. The $75,000 investment into solar panels is set to pay for itself in two years. Diesel prices are skyrocketing and the McLennan family has not turned on their generator since making the switch to green power six months ago.

The maintenance free solar panels aren't just a head turner - with diesel costing $1.80 per litre delivered to the property outside Paluma and the operation of the generator using upwards of 26,000 litres a year, they're saving the family business $46,800 a year on fuel costs alone. Operations manager Ross McLennan said other remote operators face annual bills of between $100,000 and $150,000 for their diesel generators - and the cost is increasing annually.

"We made the switch to solar power in December," Mr McLennan said. "Since then we've had huge publicity and our numbers have swelled dramatically. "We're really surprised that we haven't had to turn on the generator as a back up power supply. Not only have we increased our bookings, but we've significantly decreased our operational costs. "We're looking to run some workshops at our property to encourage other operators to make the switch to solar. "It's a real sustainable solution.

It stacks up economically and environmentally," Mr McLennan said. Townsville Enterprise destination marketing and development manager Brent Randall applauded the initiative and encouraged other operators to consider their impact on the environment and the savings to be made. "Hidden Valley Cabins have been recognised as pioneers, leading the country in green initiatives," Mr Randall said.

Their willingness to share their new knowledge with others shows this is more than a marketing ploy, it's about making a difference. With rising fuel costs costing regional operators both in bookings and in operational costs any steps to cut back on spending and encourage environmentally conscious visitors are steps we should be making co-operatively as a region.

"In this age of environmental awareness and threats such as global warming, visitors are looking for tourism operators who are committed to sustainable tourism development and an environmentally friendly approach." Any business interested in learning more about the benefits of solar can contact the Hidden Valley team on 4770 8088.