Thursday 29 July 2010

Qld to get first solar farm
July 23, 2010

Queensland's first community solar farm will power a hospital and water treatment plant. Premier Anna Bligh travelled to Hervey Bay on Friday to announce two solar power projects, which will cost a total of $4 million. Half of the funding will go towards developing the state's first community solar farm at the 120ha Fraser Coast Water Recycling Innovation Centre and Arboretum.

The solar park, which is to go to tender, will consist of about 1500 solar panels each measuring 1.5 metres by 1 metre, taking up about two hectares. The total area will be 10ha, giving the local council room to expand the project. Ms Bligh said the solar farm would feed energy into the electricity grid, offsetting the power involved in water and wastewater treatment in Hervey Bay and the arboretum project.

The project, which is subject to development approvals, is expected to begin later this year and be operating in early 2011. Energy Minister Stephen Robertson said if successful, the community solar farm could be replicated throughout the state. "Energy savings provided by a 400kW solar installation have the potential to save around 600 tonnes of carbon emissions every year, or the equivalent energy use of about 70 households", he said. Ms Bligh said the region's other $2 million project involved installing solar power panels on the roofs of the region's health service facilities.

Bright ideas bring rewards

West Australian
Saturday 24/07/2010 Page: 71

A Perth solar-technology company says it has developed a combined solar electricity and hot water system that is a world-first and will transform the Australian renewable-energy market. Bright Generation has won a three year contract with retailer NuEnergy for Eastern States distribution of the Solar Combi system and is in the final stages of securing a Perth retail chain to supply the WA market.

Chief executive and co-founder Andrew Hall said the system, to be officially launched in mid-September, would result in a saving on hot water costs of up to 90% and pay for itself within five years. In addition, households with the system would get income for selling electricity back into the grid, instead of energy bills. In WA, customers get 47¢ for every unit sold back into the grid. Mr Hall, a venture capital manager behind green companies like Smart Storage, together with his two cofounders owns a majority shareholding in Bright Generation. The minority investors include Stoneridge Ventures, the manager of Westscheme.

The company's technology grew out of Murdoch University but Mr Hall said his idea for Solar Combi came in part from the untapped opportunity to "double-dip" into the Government's renewable energy rebates. "The combination approach attracts a current renewable energy certificate value of between $6680 and $7680 dependent on location, as well as various State and Federal government solar hot water rebates of $500 to $1000, dependent on eligibility. "

The systems use panels made by German company Solon AG and cost $8000 for a classic and $12,000 for a premium, which factors in Government rebates. Mr Hall said the Solon AG technology was sleek, an important attribute given research had shown Australians they did not want to install equipment that might detract from the appearance of their homes. Bright Generation was also developing a solar air conditioning unit, which was expected to hit the market within two years".

New energy in old station

Hobart Mercury
Saturday 24/7/2010 Page: 17

Hydro power on the West Coast has come full circle with the official opening yesterday of the Lower Lake Margaret power station near Queenstown. The station was originally commissioned in 1914 to deliver electricity to the Mt Lyell Copper Mine but was decommissioned in 1995 because of extensive corrosion of the 1.9km wooden pipeline.

Yesterday a $13.2 million project to install a 3.2MW mini hydro plant in the station was officially opened by Energy and Resources Minister Bryan Green. The station will generate 21GW hours of energy, enough to power about 2200 homes, with zero carbon emissions. Hydro Tasmania chairman Dr David Crean said the energy would all be sold to Copper Mines of Tasmania under a commercial agreement. The power generated at Lake Margaret will be enough to provide 60% of the mine's annual power needs. Dr Crean said the project was part of Hydro Tasmania's effort to develop an additional 1000GW hours of energy from the existing power system.

It follows the opening of a $14.7 million redevelopment of the Upper Lake Margaret power station last year. Dr Crean said the skills and innovations involved in the Lake Margaret project were now being exported around the world. He said projects included a model for remote area power supply based around Tasmania's Bass Strait Islands. "Hydro Tasmania is developing renewable energy solutions for these Islands which will see 90% of their energy become renewable", he said.

Dr Crean said Hydro Tasmania was also helping India and Sarawak with hydro projects. West Coast mayor Daryl Gerrity, who lobbied Hydro Tasmania to retain the Lake Margaret complex, said the State Government had made $250,000 available to explore tourism opportunities relating to the redevelopments. "One of the ideas we are considering is the construction of an iconic walking track between Lake Margaret and Cradle Mountain", he said. Cr Gerrity said other projects being considered included a wilderness retreat or school and corporate and training facilities.

Carnegie rides CETO wave

West Australian
Saturday 24/07/2010 Page: 66

Renewable energy hopeful Carnegie Corporation Wave Energy has secured Government cash to fund a pilot project to test the success of its CETO technology in powering desalination plants. Carnegie Corporation, founded by one-time Fremantle inventor Alan Burns, has been testing its underwater wave energy technology for use as a zero emissions energy source at its Fremantle facility and this year began building a 5MW pilot plant at Garden Island with $12.5 million from the State Government.

It has also flagged the potential for the technology to be used in desalination projects. Now it has been formally given the go-ahead to prove that potential through the Rockingham based National Centre for Excellence in desalination, a joint State-Federal Government research institute launched by the Minister for Climate Change Penny Wong last night.

Speaking after the ribbon-cutting, Carnegie Corporation managing director Mike Ottaviano said the $500,000 project - jointly funded by Carnegie Corporation and the NCED - was an important first step in shoring up the CETO technology. "Having our initial project located in WA means we're well-placed to capitalise on desalination opportunities locally and then export this expertise globally", Dr Ottaviano said.

The CETO technology generates power through buoys anchored on the ocean floor that use the motion of passing waves to drive pumps to deliver pressurised water to shore. Under the desalination project, the water would be pushed into the incoming seawater being pumped into a traditionally designed desalination plant.

"There are a lot of desal plants already in operation today that are powered by fossil fuels... and about 40% of the bottom line of a desalination plant is energy (cost)!' he said. "So if you can remove that... you've got massive cost savings and greenhouse gas savings as well". Carnegie Corporation is among tenderers on the short list for the proposed Binningup desalination plant.

Wednesday 28 July 2010

Energy funds pledge to cool power prices

Adelaide Advertiser
Saturday 24/7/2010 Page: 75

INJECTING $1 billion into connecting renewable energy into the national grid will cut electricity prices, geothermal explorer Petratherm says. Welcoming the election pledge yesterday by the Federal Government as part of its climate change policy. Petratherm managing director Terry Kallis said the company was very excited by the announcement. "It's very positive particularly for emerging renewables like geothermal, solar and wave because there's recognition that many of the best resources are a little distant from the grid", he said. "Geothermal can offer baseload, low-cost supply and if you can get as much of that as possible to market then what that does is put downward pressure on prices".

Petratherm's Paralana project is in SA's Far North and Mr Kallis said as well as price and climate change benefits, an early go-ahead would help development. "It will help electrify and provide good infrastructure for the mining projects", he said. SA's electricity transmission company ElectraNet also welcomed the pledge. "It's the first time it's been recognised in a political sense that to get renewables to market you need two elements - the technology and the connection to the grid", chief executive officer Ian Stirling said.

He cautioned that details were yet to be explained and that "the $1 billion spread over 10 years and then spread across all the states won't amount to a whole lot for every single project". "But it's a great first start", he said. Investec Bank, which invests in renewable energy projects - mainly wind farms - called for a carbon price to encourage renewables. "Where you need the carbon price is to move from having a wind project here and a solar project there to - reducing our carbon intensity overall", said Investec Bank Australia head of renewable energy development Mark Schneider.

Citigroup analyst Elaine Prior said the planned constraints on new coal-fired power stations were likely to encourage the building of new gas-fired plants. Petratherm shares closed 9.4% higher at 17.5c on volumes three or four times above average. However on July 5, it hit a record low of 12.5c. ElectraNet is not publicly listed. Its shareholders include Westpac-owned Hastings Funds Management. Queensland Government-owned Powerlink and Malaysian-linked YTL Power.

Climate cash goes offshore

Courier Mail
Friday 23/7/2010 Page: 44

ONE of Australia's biggest fund managers yesterday said huge amounts of money available for investment in technology to fight climate change was exiting Australia because of inadequate government policy support. Colonial First State Global Asset Management head of responsible investment Amanda McCluskey said major institutional investors were eager to protect their assets from the physical or regulatory risks from climate change. As a result they were investing in clean technologies.

But the funds were flowing offshore to China and Europe where policies, such as carbon pricing, national clean-energy feed-in tariffs or state loan guarantees, gave investors confidence to invest in newer technologies over incumbent coal and gas power plants. At a Committee for Economic Development of Australia forum in Brisbane yesterday, Ms McCluskey said more supportive policies were needed to marshall private investment. "When I look across our portfolio, the place where we've got the most renewables investment is in China", she said. "There's real investment certainty there. Australia needs a carbon price, an emissions trading scheme".

Professor John Cole, director of the Australian Centre for Sustainable Business and Development, said China had invested a third of its economic stimulus in renewable energy But Australia, which used renewables for only 7% of its power, spent much of its (economic stimulus) at Harvey Norman, he said. The International Energy Agency has said recent studies suggested climate change was occurring faster than expected and even if global carbon emissions could be halved by 2050, it might not limit temperature rise to 2-2.4C a level that could render some countries uninhabitable.

Australia's renewable energy investment is languishing behind levels seen in other developed and even developing economies. The United Nations Environment Program this week said Europe and the US in 2009, as in 2008, added more renewable energy capacity than coal, gas or nuclear generation combined. China added 37GWs of renewable power capacity more than any other country. "We can take some lessons from the Chinese", Prof Cole said. "Increasingly, the power stations China builds will be renewable and nuclear.

Queensland Energy Minister Stephen Robertson said the Government wanted Queensland to be the "solar state" but he suggested there wasn't public acceptance of the higher electricity costs he claimed would come from a shift to clean power. Ms McCluskey said consumer trends showed people increasingly were trying to buy more environmentally friendly goods and services. Mr Robertson was asked if Queensland's state-owned electricity utilities should be more proactive in helping bring renewables on line.

"For governments, any decisions to reach new levels of investment in this area ultimately comes down to the price", he said. "You need to ensure there is public acceptance of an investment such as that... that results in a price increase". "The blowback we've seen from electricity price hikes this year... hurts our interests. Yes, people want to see investment in renewable energy but... are people prepared to pay for it?" Ms McCluskey asked him if the Government saw itself working with investors, perhaps by helping secure more affordable loan terms or loan guarantees, as is occurring in the US, or taking on some of the development risk.

Mr Robertson said the Government had a "range of tools it could bring to the table". A high school student later asked Mr Robertson what the economic impact could be for his generation from climate change. Mr Robertson said it could be huge and governments had a responsibility to take action. Prime Minister Julia Gillard will today unveil her plan to establish a Citizens Assembly to help formulate Australia's official response to climate change.

New wind farm plan for Pyrenees Shire
22 Jul, 2010

PLANNING is under way for another large-scale wind farm in the Pyrenees Shire. A proposed development of up to 60 wind turbines has been put forward, with industry service provider Transfield Services the main party behind the project. It is believed the turbines could generate 120MWs of power. The proposed turbines would be located on the ridges between Lexton and Amphitheatre, north-west of Ballarat. In a preliminary estimate by the Pyrenees Shire, it is thought the project could cost up to $240 million.

Transfield Services is yet to lodge the planning permit with the state government. Pyrenees Shire mayor David Clark, said only eight or nine landowners would be affected but they would be duly compensated. He said public knowledge of the plan remained limited for now, but that there would be public consultation in the coming weeks. Transfield Services project manager Nick Valentine said the planning process was still in its infancy and no official decisions had been made in regard to the project's cost or time frame.

"We've conducted a lot of technical studies and the like but haven't made any formal decisions as yet", he said. "It's absolutely critical we consult the community and give them as much information as we can". The news comes in light of a report completed on behalf of the Brumby government that found Victoria has the potential to rely solely on renewable energy. The Renewable Resources Victoria report found that Victoria had the potential to be powered by resources such as wind farms, solar and wave energy. A community meeting will be held on August 12 at the Amphitheatre Hall. Cr Clark encouraged all interested parties to attend.

Monday 26 July 2010

CSIRO powers ahead with water-free solar plant

Thursday 22/7/2010 Page: 28

TOWNS in Australia's vast tracts of dry and sunny terrain could benefit from a new joint venture from Japanese industrial powerhouse Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and the CSIRO. The organisations are working on developing a solar thermal power plant that uses compressed hot air instead of steam to drive a turbine and generate power. The main advantage of the technology is, unlike current solar thermal plants, it can be used in areas with no water, which are often the sunniest places on the planet.

The CSIRO believes the plant, which will be capable of generating up to 10MWs of power, could be deployed in areas such as the Pilbara in Western Australia where mining operations demand lots of power and water is scarce. One of the CSIRO scientists involved in the project. Jim Smitham, said Mitsubishi Heavy Industries saw the technology as a good fit for its current range of high temperature gas turbines and believed it had export potential for north Africa, the US and southern Europe.

Dr Smitham, deputy director of the CSIRO's Energy Transformed Flagship research program, said the plants could be grouped together to form a large solar station or used individually in remote areas. "The scale of the plant in the 2MW to 10MW range means it is modular and can start to be used in small population centres or at the ends of the electricity grid", he said. "The opportunities are there for remote communities and in reinforcing the power grid". He said CSIRO had struck a deal with MHI to provide research assistance and facilities to the company in return for a share of royalties and licensing fees when the technology was commercialised.

The plant works by heating air in a vessel to about 1000C and allowing it to expand through a turbine. The operating temperature is about 600C higher than current "trough"- style steam solar plants. Dr Smitham said CSIRO's intellectual property lay in the technology used to handle the higher temperatures at the point where the energy was concentrated on the tower. It has also developed methods to precisely align the field of curved mirrors below the tower to regulate the temperature.The heat required is generated by focusing the light beams from as many as required of the curved reflectors directly on to the receiver.

Dr Smitham said the higher temperatures used in the waterless plant gave it potential to operate at increased efficiency compared to solar thermal plants using steam, and photovoltaic solar plants, which create electricity directly from cells without turbines. The CSIRO is building a test field of 450 reflectors at its Newcastle, NSW, operation and it will be tested with one of MHI's turbines connected to the 30m-tall tower. By 2013, the two organisations hope to have a demonstration plant of between 1MW and 2.5MW constructed. By 2014 they hope to have a full-scale 10MW plant operating and to have begun commercialising the idea. The plant has no storage capacity, unlike some solar thermal plants, and will generate only while the sun is shining.

But Dr Smitham said the Brayton Cycle turbines used with the plant could easily be powered with natural gas, where it was available, giving 24-hour generating capacity if required. MHI, whose office was closed yesterday, has previously predicted costs for the waterless plant would be about 20% to 30% less than for current technology, which requires pumps and piping for the water. Water consumption for solar thermal plants can be high and the company hopes a waterless plant can find a market niche in the renewable energy field. MHI is believed to have held talks with several state governments and power companies about the technology.

The Japanese government is keen to assist its industrial heavyweights to move into renewable energy and it recently brokered a deal to build a demonstration plant in Tunisia. The plant is expected to use current steam technology. Japan hopes it will give it a foothold in solar power, where it has fallen behind European and US companies, and lead to projects in other areas, including the US and Australia. CSIRO declined to reveal details of its contract with MHI, but Japanese industry magazines have reported the initial development cost to be about $26 million, of which CSIRO will contribute one third. CSIRO received $5m from the federal government's Australian Solar Institute to build the test field and conduct research over two years.

Toxic test for farm land

Thursday 22/7/2010 Page: 4It

FARMERS' concerns about the growing coal seam gas industry on the fertile Darling Downs have pushed the Queensland government to appoint extra monitors to check mining activity. While the state government has approved two major coal seam gas projects on the Darling Downs, federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett last week delayed final federal approval for three months to seek further information from Santos and the British-based BG Group. Conservation groups and the National Party have been running a strong campaign against the industry, largely because they feel it has the potential to destroy valuable farming land.

The Bligh government has been a major supporter of the industry but the monitoring decision changed the tone. In a new announcement, it said: "This tougher stance... will significantly ramp up the monitoring, inspection and enforcement of the industry". Mines and Energy Minister Stephen Robertson said the new positions would "ensure that environmental obligations are strictly delivered on, and approved gas extraction processes are followed by the book". Acting Climate Change and Sustainability Minister Annastacia Palaszczuk said: "If the industry cannot operate within the limits and conditions of their government approvals, they have no place in Queensland".

In a related development, the state has put a temporary ban on the slaughter of cattle from near a pilot underground coal gasification plant near Kingaroy, after small quantities of the poisons benzene and toluene leaked last week. While gasification is a different means of extracting power from coal from that used in the coal seam gas industry, the government faces the same political problem, with farmers concerned about the integrity of their land. The government's Biosecurity Division aims to be able to tell cattle farmers today whether they can continue normal operations. In the meantime, it has advised them not to let animals drink bore water.