Thursday 7 August 2008

Renewable investment

Thursday 10/7/2008 Page: 42

People who own properties in shires where the power supply is weak or 'fringe of grid' can take advantage of the State Government's 50 per cent rebate on the capital cost of installing renewable power systems up to the value of $150,000. This opportunity is gaining momentum with landholders as they realise the amazing benefits available, particularly farmers who can use the tax benefits as a fabulous spin-off. These systems generally operate for at least 25 years, making the return from investment very attractive.

Electricity prices are forecast to increase at least 10 per cent year-on-year for the next eight years, so an investment in renewable power is sound and increases the value of your property. Motivated by a strong desire to help solve the global warming problem, the team at Earthrise Renewable, operates a friendly, relaxed and personal company. They endeavour to provide their clients with tailored solutions. because, in their words.

"No two jobs are quite the same" - an aspect of their work that they find energising. solar power, a mainstay of the business, can be mounted on roofs, the ground or alternative specialised structures like carports. A customer said recently: "You took the time to advise me the best way to manage my energy use; I could immediately see the savings in my energy bills." Earthrise Renewables does all of the paperwork to simplify the process for its customers.

It's easy being green in a house purpose-built for sustainability

Sun Herald
Sunday 13/7/2008 Page: 68

IT WASN'T long ago that grey water collection systems, rainwater tanks and car sharing would have been associated only with alternative groups. Thanks to a growing interest in sustainability, and tighter State Government development rules, many green initiatives are going mainstream in new communities along the NSW coast.

In the Port Macquarie region, the Camden Haven Eco Village has development approval for a 65-lot subdivision that will have its own sustainable road, water, sewage, energy and waste recycling. Developer Ian Bailey, an architect known for his environmentally friendly designs, brought in sustainability expert Michael Mobbs to plan the eco initiatives. Mr Mobbs said the project was about to proceed to the marketing and development stages.

Key features include light-coloured roofs and pale roads with tree coverage to reduce summer temperatures by up to eight degrees, an orchard to supply up to 25 per cent of the residents' fruit, and annual electricity and water bills of less than $200 a household, thanks to water reuse and energy generation. A Port Macquarie-Hastings Council spokesman said the council had amended its policy to allow for off-sets in development contributions for ecologically sustainable developments.

While the concept of eco villages has been around for 30 years, big developers such as Mirvac and Stockland are giving it a modern twist. They are creating estates that have sustainable elements but without the obligation of communal participation. They recognise people may want to live sustainably but not want to take part in the community.

At the 20-hectare development of Murrays Beach, 30 minutes' drive south of Newcastle, all water used on the site is captured and recycled. Street plants, filtration systems, ground water return and at- source treatment help to capture the water, while all homes have rainwater tanks and bio-filtration basins to filter storm water run-off.

Developer Stockland has won several accolades for the greenness of Murrays Beach, including the 2006 Housing Industry Association's GreenSmart Design Concept Award and the 2006 Urban Development Institute of Australia's NSW Award for Excellence in Sustainability. Eco initiatives include design guidelines for residents building their own homes that focus on energy-efficient design, solar orientation and cross-ventilation. One in five buyers are young families and one-quarter are empty nesters.

Land prices start at $230,000, home and land packages from $550,000, and houses from $595,000 Magenta Shores on the Central Coast is a Mirvac development and has an environmental plan that includes restoring local sand dunes and rehabilitating adjacent forest. All wastewater is collected and filtered, and all storm water is retained onsite. The development isn't perfect - many buildings still have energy-guzzling downlights and split-cycle air-conditioners.

However, it won the Housing Industry Association's GreenSmart Estate of the Year in 2007. At Jervis Bay, the Bayswood development is two kilometres inland from CollinGWood Beach. Half of the development will be retained as parks and protected environmental space and a cycleway will be built to the beach. At Balgowlah, the Village is a planned medium-density development, which won the HIA GreenSmart Development Design Concept of the Year. The Village will feature a heat exchange system that will use waste heat from the air conditioning unit for hot water needs in the town houses and units. Award judges were impressed that 90 per cent of materials from the previous demolition have been reused or recycled.

Nuclear key to refinery jobs: report

Courier Mail
Monday 14/7/2008 Page: 2

THE Rudd Government is being urged to embrace nuclear energy as a source of clean energy, amid warnings its emissions trading scheme could result in "desolate" industrial wastelands. Australian Workers Union national secretary Paul Howes will today release a key report on emissions trading by the Per Capita consulting firm that shows Australia's aluminium sector, employing 35,000 people, could be devastated.

"This report demonstrates that if we get the design of the ETS wrong, we will have Newcastle replicated 10 times over and across the rest of the country," Mr Howes said. The NSW city went into a period of financial decline after BHP closed its steelworks a decade ago. Union leaders and business figures fear an emissions trading scheme will hurt industry, causing job losses and sending investment offshore. The aluminium sector is particularly vulnerable.

The Per Capita report says jobs could be lost to Brazil, China and India if Canberra imposed tough laws. The study recommends the Government give the aluminium sector a "partial exemption" from carbon trading for up to five years. It also recommends the embrace of nuclear energy for the energy-intensive aluminium sector.

Beat this: free electricity for life

Earthmover and Civil Contractor
June, 2008 Page: 60

The 12 permanent residents of Innamincka in South Australia's far north are about to have free electricity for years to come.

THE TINY outback town 1065km north east of Adelaide, has always relied on diesel generators. The annual power bill of $200,000 will soon to be a thing of the past when free, hot fractured rock (HFR) geothermal energy arrives, courtesy of GeoDynamics Limited. HFR geothermal energy is produced using heat extracted from buried hot granites by circulating waters through an engineered, artificial reservoir or underground heat exchanger. The company has created the largest such reservoir in the world at its Cooper Basin site near Innamincka in north east SA.

Executive director Dr Doone Wyborn has declared that GeoDynamics will trial the technology at the town before looking to expand its operations throughout Australia. "By the end of this year we expect to have a 1MW power station up and running which will provide Innamincka with electricity as early as possible in 2009," he states. The project will require a transmission line from the power station to the township, a distance of 11km, and upgrading all connections to the buildings.

State Premier Mike Rann, who visited the site recently, said it was a glimpse of an exciting future for SA. "Dr Wyborn believes that this area in our state's north could supply a very significant part of Australia's baseload power in coming years. He believes the capacity of the area to be the equivalent of the world's entire existing geothermal power source." The premier said nearly $700m would be invested in the state's geothermal resources within five years. To speed up applications for geothermal leases and exploration, the government had allocated a further $3.325m over four years.

Turning the light on with timber waste

Thursday 10/7/2008 Page: 3

WA's environmental watchdog has given the green light for a controversial biomass plant to be built in the State's South-West. The $110 million Manjimup plant will turn 380,000 tonnes of waste from the timber industry each year into 40 megawatts of power for the State electricity grid. WA Biomass Pty Ltd, a joint venture between Babcock and Brown and National Power, still needs the approval of Environment Minister David Templeman to start building at the Diamond Timber Mill site.

Environmental Protection Authority chairman Paul Vogel said the proposal would have low emissions and result in greenhouse gas savings which would contribute to the Government's 20 per cent renewable energy target. Biomass Action Group spokesman Neal Bartholomaeus said there were still major concerns about the impact of the project on agriculture.

Tuesday 5 August 2008

A city with sunshine to spare Solar plans for dam

Blacktown Sun
Tuesday 8/7/2008 Page: 6

Blacktown Council will ask the Federal Government to consider a plan to develop Prospect Reservoir as an experimental solar power centre. Mayor Leo Kelly said he would endorse the innovative proposal by former Papua New Guinea district commissioner David Marsh, but said it was too complicated to be dealt with by the State Government. Mr Marsh's plan would see solar power generated from Prospect Reservoir linked to the national power grid.

"The open land site is suitable for a land-based solar array," Mr Marsh told the Sun last week. "The topography allows for cell arrays to be located on frames near the shoreline. We will use a raft of sealed plastic pipes to support the solar array to allow the panels to be floated in the dam while tethered to the frame structures offshore. "The panels will also act as an evaporation inhibitor and help retain the water in the dam." Mr Marsh has also proposed the solar power generated could be used to run the desalination plant at Botany Bay.

"My proposal will provide a strong impetus to the development of the industry," he said. "The superseded panels can also be sold to farmers as a power source, as well as dam covers to slow evaporation." Blacktown Council is a member of the Blacktown Solar Cities Consortium. The group, which includes BP Solar, Integral Energy, the ANZ Banking Group, Landcom, and Big Switch Projects, was set up after the city was named as part of the Federal Government's $75.3 million energy saving Solar City initiative. "I will refer Mr Marsh's plan to Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett for study," Mayor Kelly said. "I have no confidence in our (State) experts. They laughed when the then Sydney University Professor Harry Messel proposed solar power use more than 50 years ago.

"I don't want them to kill Mr Marsh's plan without careful study." Integral Energy's major projects manager, Len Blair-Hickman, said its main interest was in how the solar equipment could be connected to its electricity network. "This could pose some difficulties, but would technically be possible," he said. A Sydney Water spokesman referred the Sun to the Sydney Catchment Authority. A spokeswoman for the authority said water quality was its main concern with the plan.

"Prospect Reservoir is an integral part of Sydney's drinking water supply. It plays a critical role as a back-up water supply source when supply from the other dams are interrupted," she said. "Water quality would be adversely affected if large sections of the reservoir were covered with solar panels." State Climate Change Minister Verity Firth said Mr Marsh's proposal could be eligible for support under the Government's $40 million NSW Renewable Energy Development Fund. "This fund supports projects that will lead to greenhouse gas emission savings through the use of renewable technologies and supporting their early commercialisation," she said.

Firm touts sale of Snowy Hydro

Canberra Times
Friday 11/7/2008 Page: 6

Snowy Hydro is urging local communities to rethink their strong opposition to privatising the Snowy Mountains hydro-electricity scheme, saying it remains "the most sensible" option for its future. The company is distributing 10,000 copies of a corporate DVD to homes and businesses across the Monaro and Snowy Mountains regions, arguing a case for the benefits of future privatisation.

NSW Treasurer Michael Costa is also pushing for Snowy Hydro to be privatised, telling a recent public meeting in Cooma the company is losing its business value and "could be in trouble in a few years' time." Mr Costa also told the meeting the proposed $3 billion sale of the company in 2006 "was blown" by ill informed opposition to the NSW Government's proposal to sell-off the Snowy scheme to private investors. In a recent community newsletter, Snowy Hydro chief executive Terry Charlton said he hoped Mr Costa's "blunt but correct comments will now serve as a wake-tip call to all."

Mr Charlton said failure to privatise the Cooma-based hydroelectricity generator in 2006 "was then, and continues to be today, detrimental to the long-term future of the company" Speculation over the future of Snowy Hydro has been renewed following suggestions in the draft Garnaut climate change review that its continuing public ownership by three governments - NSW, Victoria and the Commonwealth - could restrict competitiveness in the national electricity market.

Labor sources have told The Canberra Times that before last year's federal election, members of the Labor Opposition investigated the possibility of a federal takeover of the Snowy and subsequently leasing it to a private operator. Any further plans are on hold until conflict over the NSW Government's sale of the state's electricity industry is resolved. Member for Eden-Monaro and parliamentary secretary for defence Mike Kelly said he remained "passionately opposed'' to privatising the Snowy and was "adamant that abandoning its sale was the right thing to do."

The sale of the Snowy scheme in 2006 was supported by state Labor governments in NSW and Victoria, but collapsed when the Howard government refused to sell its 13 per cent stake in the scheme. A NSW parliamentary inquiry into continued public ownership of Snowy Hydro concluded "if more information had been provided to the community prior to and during the proposed sale", community concerns and opposition could have been reduced.

A former Snowy Hydro chief engineer, Max Talbot, said local communities were concerned state and federal governments were ''gearing tip for a privatisation-by-stealth campaign. "Why was the sale of the Snowy raised in the Garnaut report?" he said. "My view is that it's opening the door for a sale to be considered as ultimately beneficial and unavoidable within the context of climate change."

Pressure builds for wind farm probe

Friday 11/7/2008 Page: 4

THE Brumby Government is under pressure to subject a massive proposed project containing 282 wind turbines Victoria's biggest to environmental scrutiny amid increasing unrest from local residents. Wind Power, the company behind a wind farm initially blocked over the Orange-Bellied Parrot, is fighting claims the project will be detrimental to the nationally threatened striped legless lizard, the Wedge-Tailed Eagle, the golden sun moth and the Brolga, a crane common in northern Australia but vulnerable in Victoria.

The company said yesterday it had reduced the number of proposed turbines at the Stockyard Hill Wind Farm, west of Ballarat, to address concerns about the impact on the Brolga. Wind Power has written to Victorian Planning Minister Justin Madden stating that its preliminary work showed an environmental effects statement was not warranted. The Pyrenees Shire Council has urged Mr Madden to order an environmental examination given the magnitude of the project and the level of public concern about its impact.

Pyrenees Shire Mayor Lester Harris said last night the local community was divided about the project. Although there had been minimal public objections to three smaller wind farms in the region, residents were concerned about the number of proposed turbines at Stockyard Hill and their visual impact.

"Our view, as a council, is anything with 282 turbines requires the most stringent examination of whatever conditions might need to apply," Mr Harris said. "It is ludicrous to say that a wind farm of 282 turbines doesn't require an environmental effects statement. There are a whole range of issues that need to be addressed." A spokeswoman for the Western Plains Landscape Guardians, Cathy Franzose, said residents were deeply concerned about the project's impact on the landscape and the environment, particularly the Brolgas.

Ms Franzose accused the company of failing to adequately consult with the community by refusing to hold a properly constituted public meeting to consider the project. Mr Harris said he was prepared to have the council conduct a public meeting, but the company had expressed concern any public forum would be hijacked by the project's opponents.

Ross Richards, engineer and community consultant for Wind Power, said the company had placed advertisements for residents to attend forums and no one had turned up. Mr Richards said 60 land holders had signed on to have turbines on their properties. "This wind farm alone should produce enough power to supply the equivalent of 16 per cent of Melbourne homes, or more than six times the homes in Ballarat, based on a long-term average and assumed capacity factor of 30 per cent," Mr Richards said.

"It also represents an investment of about $1.5 billion, which will be a huge contribution to the local and regional economy." The wind farm, located between the towns of Beaufort and Skipton, would cover about 250sq km. "This project will be part of the solution to the problem of climate change," Mr Richards said. "It's the sort of project that is necessary to help fulfill Kevin Rudd's vision of 20 per cent renewable energy by 2020."

Petratherm powers on

Adelaide Advertiser
Friday 11/7/2008 Page: 84

Petratherm could be supplying Madrid with green power by mid-2010, after the company announced a full feasibility study into its Spanish project yesterday. The Adelaide-based company said it would move to a full feasibility study, after initial work indicated the potential to generate 45,000 megawatts of thermal energy per year. This is equal to the heating needs of 4000 households. Petratherm's Spanish project aims to tap underground reservoirs, with the hot water to be used for direct heating.

The project, which Petratherm picked up late last year, already has five deep wells drilled on it. The pre-feasibility study found there were geothermal reservoirs between 200m and 800m thick about 1.6 km underground, producing temperatures of about 70-90 degrees celsius. Managing director Terry Kallis said yesterday the company had now started clearing the site, about 40 km northeast of Madrid, and was preparing for detailed well inspections.

"These inspections should tell us everything we need to know to assess the wells' physical and economic potential, from temperatures and flow rates, to depth, structural and other technical parameters to finesse our final decision on project commerciality," Mr Kallis said yesterday. The feasibility study, to be completed over the next six months, will include an environmental impact statement, securing a rig to drill any additional deep wells up to 2 km deep and confirming customer demand and price setting. Petratherm shares closed up 0.5c at 75c yesterday.

Wind farm plans aired for public

Melton Express Telegraph
Tuesday 8/7/2008 Page: 3

Moorabool residents have until August 8 to make submissions on the Lal Lal and Elaine wind farm projects. An application for the farms was lodged with the State Government in March, but the company announced only last week that its plans were now on display. WestWind is planning to erect 70 turbines across two sites: Fisken Hill in Lal Lal and Elaine. The Fisken Hill section is two kilometres from Yendon and has almost 150 dwellings within a three-kilometre radius.

The Midland Highway dissects the Elaine component, which has 84 dwellings within a three-kilometre radius. The application shows the turbines will be up to 140 metres high. The Lal Lal and Elaine Landscape Action Group, which formed almost two years ago, has questioned the suitability of the project for a semi-rural community. Group spokesman John McMahon said there were 800 households within a five kilometre radius of the two sites.

He said residents were still not fully aware of the impact the wind farm could have on the landscape. "This will be the biggest change to our landscape since the goldrush." Last year more than 1300 people signed a petition against the Lal Lal wind farm project.
  • The application is on display at Moorabool Shire's offices in Ballan and Bacchus Marsh during business hours.
  • Submissions should be addressed to the Minister for Planning, Planning Panels Victoria, Level 1, 8 Nicholson Street, East Melbourne 3002.

Hit the yellow cake road

Herald Sun
Thursday 10/7/2008 Page: 71

THE Queensland and West Australian state governments remain firmly opposed to uranium mining, despite bipartisan support at a federal level. But junior uranium explorer Scimitar Resources isn't overly bothered. It's still allowed to look for yellow cake in WA with its exploration license -the state government just won't grant uranium mining licenses. Yesterday, the company reported its first significant find at its Yanrey project in WA's Carnarvon Basin.

Scimitar's managing director, Terry Topping, was clearly enthused about the discovery, which he says BusinessDaily elevates the company above the ranks of grassroots explorers. And he believes WA will eventually come around and allow uranium mining. Topping says it's crazy that Australia, which produces about 30 per cent of the world's uranium, is helping other countries reduce greenhouse gas emissions through nuclear energy, yet is still undecided about the alternative power source in its own backyard.

"States like Western Australia and Queensland really have to have a close look at whether they want to contribute to that or not," he says. "Do they really want to be part of a global solution or do they just want to look at what's going on in their own state?" Scimitar, which listed at the start of 2005, is about to start drilling in ernest at its NT and SA tenements. Altogether the company has 20,000sq km to explore, having secured the area three years ago when the spot price of uranium was about $US20 a pound.

The sector has had a nice little run since then with the spot price surging last year to $US138 a pound. It's back at about $US60 a pound but Topping, who paid a bargain $70,000 for Scimitar's current tenements, still kicks himself that he didn't shore up more ground. "If I'd have known that the price was going to go from $US20 to $US138I would have pegged 100,000 sq km," he says.

Output of coal to triple by 2030

Courier Mail
Thursday 10/7/2008 Page: 16

QUEENSLAND, already belching out 30 per cent of Australia's greenhouse gas emissions, is set to nearly triple coal production by 2030. Premier Anna Bligh said the state's commitment to coal heightened the importance of developing new technologies. Speaking yesterday at the opening of the RG Tanna coal terminal expansion at Gladstone, she said climate change made "clean" measures important for the coal industry.

"I think the public wants to play its part as they did in other cases like water use, but they also expect us to be finding alternative sources of energy, like solar," Ms Bligh said. "I think they also understand that a massive industry like the coal industry, rather than just give up and walk away from it, if we can make it clean, if we can bury the emissions... that would be a great thing for countries like Australia and we should make that effort." Ms Bligh said the industry was doing its part by investing $600 million over five years on clean coal research. From 200,000 tonnes in 1960, Queensland is expected to export 200 million tonnes of coal within the next 18 months and 370 million tonnes in 20 years.

The RG Tanna terminal expansion has increased its output from 30 million tonnes a year to between 40 and 70 million tonnes. Gladstone's role in Queensland's coal-based economy is set to grow. The Wiggins Island terminal is scheduled to ship 25 million tonnes a year by 2012 and a Curtis Island expansion is under consideration. According to a recent climate change inventory, in 2006 Queensland produced 170 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, 30 per cent of the national figure.

Monday 4 August 2008

Snowy power may go private

Canberra Times
Thursday 10/7/2008 Page: 1

The Federal Government has plans to acquire and privatise the Snowy Mountains scheme's electricity supply to attract $800 million in private investment. A former Snowy Hydro chief engineer has warned that this will expose the Rudd Government to millions of dollars in compensation claims from private investors if water is diverted from energy generation during drought. The prospect of a federal takeover and privatisation of Snowy Hydro was investigated by the federal Labor opposition before last November's election.

This was despite Labor's election promise to the Eden-Monaro electorate that Snowy Hydro would not be privatised under a Rudd Government. Labor's election pledge to maintain public ownership followed vehement public opposition across the marginal electorate in 2006 (then held by Liberal Gary Nairn) to the proposed $3 billion sale of Snowy Hydro. The sale, supported by state Labor governments in NSW and Victoria, collapsed after the Howard government refused to sell its 13 per cent stake in the Snowy scheme.

The Rudd Government's takeover plans are now on hold until conflict over NSW plans to privatise the state's electricity industry is resolved. The Member for Eden-Monaro, and parliamentary secretary for defence, Mike Kelly, said Labor would revisit the question of privatisation after seeing how the situation in NSW played out. A federal takeover of Snowy Hydro "with subsequent leasing to private industry" was being assessed but the Rudd Government "remains opposed to outright privatisation as such."

The possibility of privatising the Snowy scheme and Tasmania's hydroelectricity assets was flagged last week in the draft Garnaut review of climate change. The 500-plus-page report stated that ownership of the Snowy scheme by three governments - NSW, Victoria and the Commonwealth - could restrict future development and competitiveness in the national electricity market. It said hydroelectricity could play a key commercial role in "supporting the intermittent nature of solar and wind" as a way of meeting growth in future peak demand for electricity.

The Rudd Government's renewed push to privatise Snowy Hydro is certain to draw strong opposition from communities in the Snowy Mountains. A former chief engineer with Snowy Hydro, Max Talbot, wrote to the Prime Minister earlier this year after hearing that privatisation was being considered. His letter expresses concern that Snowy Hydro could be privatised "whilst the scheme and its assets remain in public ownership but leased to a privatised Snowy Hydro Ltd, thus 'getting around' the communities' concerns relating to scheme privatisation."

Mr Talbot said Snowy Hydro was "worthless as a business" without its water licence. "The licence is weighted towards the use of water for electricity production and trading rather than optimisation of the use of the water as an invaluable resource for irrigation, communities and the environment.

"It does not adequately regulate Snowy Hydro and contains compensation clauses that would result in the payment of hundreds of millions of dollars by governments to private owners should the licence need to be amended during its 75-year term." Alpine River keepers spokeswoman Acacia Rose said the Garnaut report's comments on privatising Snowy Hydro failed to recognise its importance as a water manager.

"The Snowy scheme is vital for water security and must be repositioned for water storage and management despite the recommendations of Garnaut that focus primarily on energy generation," she said. With diminishing rainfall for south-eastern Australia there will be less water available for energy generation."

AGL buys into geothermal explorer Torrens

Thursday 10/7/2008 Page: 20

AGL Energy has agreed to buy a stake in geothermal exploration company Torrens Energy, potentially expanding its renewable energy portfolio to include power generated from hot rocks. AGL, Australia's largest gas and electricity supplier, will pay $2.2 million for a 9.99 per cent stake in Perth-based Torrens. The companies have also agreed to jointly develop geothermal projects close to the national electricity grid.

Under the agreement, AGL will have the right to earn 50 per cent of any geothermal resource project identified by Torrens in return for funding the drilling of a well, estimated to cost about $10 million. AGL's competitors have also been busy investing in hot rocks. Origin Energy and Woodside Petroleum have recently invested in GeoDynamics, a geothermal energy company that is testing the transformation of heat into electricity from underground rocks in the Cooper Basin in South Australia.

AGL managing director Michael Fraser said geothermal energy was an emerging renewable technology that would complement the company's existing projects in hydro and wind and could help it meet the federal Government's Mandatory Renewable Energy Target scheme (MRET), which would require energy companies to source an increasing proportion of their power from renewables.

"If successful, geothermal energy could play an important role in meeting AGL's longer-term renewable energy obligations," Mr Fraser said. AGL's renewable energy generation assets now comprise about 40 per cent of its generation portfolio. Torrens, which listed in 2007, has been granted a large geothermal tenement holding in areas close to Adelaide.

Earlier this year, it completed exploration drilling in an area north of Port Augusta and found temperatures of more than 200 degrees Celsius at about 4000m depth which it says is well within the range required for hot rock commercial power generation. AGL shares closed up 52c to $14.32 yesterday while Torrens rose 6c to 41.5c.

Australians to benefit as world moves to solar power: analyst

Thursday 10/7/2008 Page: 2

AUSTRALIA will be one of at least 10 regions in the world enjoying solar-generated electricity that costs the same as conventionally produced power by the end of the next decade, a new analysis predicts. US-based McKinsey & Co says solar power is already creeping towards cost competitiveness in some parts of the world.

The McKinsey analysts are unsure which of several competing technologies will emerge as the cheapest. But as investors pumped $US3.2 billion ($3.3 billion) into the sector last year, they say new competitors raise the potential for excess supply and falling prices.

"During the next three to seven years, solar energy's unsubsidised cost should equal the cost of conventional electricity in parts of the United States (California and the southwest) and in Italy, Japan and Spain. These markets have in common relatively strong solar radiation, high electricity prices and supportive regulatory regimes that stimulate solar capacity growth needed to drive further cost reductions." Taking these factors into account, McKinsey says at least 10 regions with strong sunlight - including Australia - will have reached parity by 2020.

It predicts the price of solar electricity will fall from more than US30c a kilowatt hour to US12c or even less than US10c. Solar capacity installed globally over this period will grow at 30-35 per cent a year, from 10 gigawatts to 200-400 gigawatts, needing investment of more than $US500 billion. "Even though this volume represents only 1.5 to 3 per cent of global electricity output, the roughly 30 to 40 new gigawatts a year of installed solar capacity would provide about 10 to 20 per cent of annual new power capacity over this period," the report says.

First trials prove a success in capturing carbon dioxide

Thursday 10/7/2008 Page: 2

AUSTRALIA has conducted its first successful trials of the leading technology for capturing climate warming carbon dioxide from a coal-fired power plant. Using the technology known as post-combustion capture (PCC) a team of industry technicians and CSIRO researchers successfully removed more than 80 per cent of the CO2, from the exhaust-gas flues of a pilot power plant in Victoria's Latrobe Valley. News of the trials at Loy Yang power station, which began last month, came yesterday at a meeting of scientific and industry experts at the Gippsland campus of Monash University.

Isolating CO2, is the first step in a process known as carbon capture and geosequestration, an emerging technology designed to reduce CO2, emissions from gas and, critically, highly polluting coal-fired power plants. CSIRO energy technology chief David Brockway said: "Coal is the primary fuel for over 80 per cent of Australia's current power supply.

It's what turns the lights on in most homes, so we need to find ways to make it a cleaner energy source." In PCC, flue gas is cooled and cleaned, then fed into a cylinder containing a liquid that absorbs the CO2,. The cleaned flue gas, mostly 100 per cent nitrogen, is released into the atmosphere. In the trials, the CO2 was also released, but commercial plants would compress and cool it to form a liquid to be sequestered.

Although trials of PCC are ongoing in Canada, the US, Europe and Japan, Dr Brockway claimed Australia was not lagging behind. Dr Brockway, a chemist specialising in combustion and gasification, Australia's challenge was greater than that of the rest of the world because Australian plants are older and dirtier. "Others already have (pollutants like) nitrogen oxide and sulphur dioxide removed." Because systems to remove these pollutants are expensive, Dr BrockWay said the team devised a method of eliminating them, too.

Queensland University chemical engineer Paul Massarotto said it might be possible to sidestep capture: "We wouldn't have to capture the flue gas first." Along with UQ colleagues, Professor Massarotto announced yesterday he had joined Chinese researchers to develop a pilot project to pump greenhouse gas emissions directly into underground coal seams.

According to Dr Brockway, the key to effective PCC is tailoring the mix of flue gases with the absorber. Most systems use different forms of aqueous amines. The PCC project will trial several at Loy Yang and pilot plants to be commissioned at Munmorah on the NSW central coast, in Beijing and in Queensland. The Loy Yang trials are part of the Latrobe Valley PCC Project, a collaboration between Loy Yang Power, International Power Hazelwood, state and federal governments, the CSIRO and the CO2CRC

Billionaire Pickens unveils energy plan to ease US dependence on foreign oil

Thursday 10/7/2008 Page: 2

Boone Pickens, the billionaire Texas investor, has unveiled a national energy plan designed to cut US dependence on foreign oil. The country was "very close to a disaster" because it imported nearly 70% of its oil, he said. Mr Pickens said he had launched an advertising campaign for his plan at a cost so far of about $US10 million ($A10.48 million). "I am going to give a solution to the trap we have put ourselves in," said Mr Pickens, who is developing a 4000-megawatt wind farm in Texas.

The problem is that we are buying $700 billion of foreign oil a year. That number is not going to stay at $700 billion. It's going to move up." Mr Pickens, founder and chairman of Dallas-based BP Capital LLC, made his comments as Congress has been investigating how much speculators have contributed to oil's 92% surge over the past year. Mr Pickens said the gains were because global demand exceeded supply. "It isn't driven by speculation," said Mr Pickens, who manages funds linked to energy commodities and equities.

He said presidential candidates had failed to tackle the energy crisis into which the US had drifted since the 1970s. "I think it's the No. 1 issue in this presidential campaign;' Mr Pickens said. "This is like a war as far as I'm concerned:' The use of natural gas powered vehicles could reduce oil imports by 38%, said Mr Pickens, who is the largest shareholder of Clean Energy Fuels, a natural gas supplier for bus and truck fleets.

Wind could generate 200,000 megawatts of power by 2010 and account for 22% of the electricity supply, he said. The US Department of Energy said in May that wind could account for 20% of the nation's power supplies by 2030.