Thursday 2 December 2010

System sheds light on renewable forecasts

Tuesday 30/11/2010 Page: 39

A hybrid forecasting system that integrates solar and wind power sources could make predictions for renewable energy schemes more accurate. Being developed at Central Queensland University, the system could overcome the unpredictable nature and dependence on weather changes of solar and wind power systems.

By integrating and forecasting the two power sources in a hybrid forecasting system, many of the problems could be resolved, according to CQU researcher Rahat Hossain. Mr Hossain has been working to develop a more robust hybrid forecasting system, which can provide accurate renewable energy predictions. "If you use these two things (wind and solar) in an integrated way, then it is a consistent and more correct prediction", he said.

Australia and, in particular, the subtropical regions are considered to be in one of the best positions to use a hybrid forecasting system, which would be unique in predicting energy from wind and solar sources combined. It is hoped the system could lead to a more sustainable future with less reliance on coal-fired energy.

Mr Hossain, a PhD student at CQU's Power Engineering Research Group within the Institute for Resource Industries and Sustainability (IRIS), is using historical solar and wind data from the CSIRO collected over the past 10 years. The initial stages had involved smaller-scale tests to predict wind speed and solar radiation individually, and these tests had almost 95% accuracy.

"The next target will be energy conversion from the wind speed and also energy conversion from the solar radiation", he said. "Then we will merge those things in a single system". The model would be developed in such a way that, with minor modifications in the coding, it would be able to perform the hybrid forecasting, ranging from hourly to daily within the same platform. A trial energy station is being planned in Central Queensland as part of the project.

Australia has committed to sourcing renewable energy for 20% of its energy by 2020. Many other nations, such as Germany and Denmark, are further advanced in renewable energy. Wind energy is one of the lowest priced renewable energy technologies.

The cost of producing energy from solar is also becoming cheaper following advances in solar panel technology. "You find when wind is blowing normally there is no sun and when there is a huge amount of sun, there is no wind", Mr Hossain said. "If you can merge these two things, what will happen is a consistent or continuous supply."

Farmers who lack rain turn to wind

West Australian
Monday 29/11/2010 Page: 18

Spattered across the coffee coloured landscape in a seemingly random pattern, 111 neat piles of blades, engines and 80m-high turbine stands are waiting to be constructed. Across 18,000ha on 14 farms near Merredin, the $750 million Collgar wind farm, which is understood to be WAs biggest wind farm and the second biggest in Australia, is in the final stages of completion. Amid one of the driest years on record, farmers are turning to farming of a different kind, where money is made without starting the harvester.

While grain yields have been low across WA's increasingly drying wheat-belt, wind strength never abates across the flat escarpment. With three turbines already put up this week and another each day for the next 108 days, the wind farm will start generating enough carbon-free electricity to supply milling projects, businesses and homes in Kalgoorlie, Yilgarn and Southern Cross by April.

Each 44m-long blade looks like a giant surf board fin. They were transported one by one by truck to Merredin, 260km east of Perth. Collgar wind farm executive officer Alistair Craib said 12 farmers across 14 properties had signed a 30-year lease receiving an annual rent and compensation for disturbed crop land. He said the carbon emissions expended to create the wind farm would be repaid 40 times during its life.

Farming brothers Glenn and Mark Crees run a 8000ha wheat and sheep farm and are reaping a "substantial" windfall. "It's well worth our effort to do it. The only drawback is loss of land but we don't lose much land, maybe 20-30 hectares, and it's mostly unproductive land", Glenn said. Mr Crees said the town had also benefited, with the employment of at least 100 local men.

Wednesday 1 December 2010

Sun and wind leave coal power out in the cold

Canberra Times
Saturday 27/11/2010 Page: 7

A combination of solar, thermal and wind energies could power Australia as cheaply as coal-fired power and generate more jobs, says one of the world's top solar researchers. Australian solar technology pioneer Professor David Mills said this new, flexible energy system would also eliminate the need to rely on large power infrastructure to generate baseload power, or daily electricity needs. "Baseload doesn't need to be part of this system, it's out of the equation", he said.

At a three-day national solar conference in Canberra next week. Professor Mills will present the results of a three-year energy study analysing hourly data for energy use across the United States. The breakthrough study shows wind and solar combined could provide 100% of the country's electricity needs, with wind acting as a back-up to solar power shortfalls during winter and at night.

Professor Mills, one of three scientists working on the US study, is keynote speaker at the Australian Solar Energy Society conference dinner at Parliament House next week. "I think what we've found will blow a lot of people away", he said. "Everyone says you need baseload capacity, which they assume somehow makes coal-fired electricity cheaper, and other forms of energy more expensive.

"What we are suggesting is a new paradigm. Baseload does not exist in this new scenario, but it hasn't simply been replaced by a another form of renewable energy-generated baseload. What we're talking about is a completely new model a new system of energy combinations with some storage capacity".

Professor Mills said the technologies required to build and run this system already existed. "They're not future technologies, they're already here, so we can do this", he said. The former Sydney University solar power engineer left Australia four years ago to set up a solar power company in California after failing to attract support from the Howard government for his world-first solar thermal technology.

Professor Mills has since sold his successful US start-up company to French energy conglomerate Areva as its new solar division. He recently returned to live in Sydney, "more or less in retirement mode". Professor Mills has spent more than 30 years developing solar technologies which are now in use throughout the world. He said Australia's governments seemed unable to comprehend the enormous potential of solar technologies to provide thousands of new jobs in installation and maintenance. "These are big enterprises and potentially big employers, providing cleaner and safer jobs than coal", he said.

Following yesterday's first meeting of the Gillard Government's business roundtable on climate change, Climate Change and Energy Efficiency minister Greg Combet said energy security remained "a very important consideration in establishing a carbon price mechanism". He reaffirmed the Government's commitment to provide financial compensation to the electricity generation sector when a carbon tax or trading scheme was adopted.

$750m power station to meet summer demand

Adelaide Advertiser
Friday 26/11/2010 Page: 8

A GAS-FIRED electricity power station will be built near Mannum to help meet peak demand over summer months. The State Government today will approve construction of the Cherokee Power Station at Tepko. The $750 million project would create 400 jobs, Industry and Trade Minister Tom Koutsantonis said.

"This is a major infrastructure project with enormous benefit not just for the Mid Murray, but for the whole state", he said yesterday. "South Australia's electrical loads are increasing in line with the state's economic growth and prosperity. "Cherokee Power Station will deliver a cleaner source of power to cater for the increased demands this will place on the electricity grid, which is currently reliant on coal".

The power station will be built by the Tungkillo Power Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of asset management company Investec Bank. Tepko was chosen as the site so power could be fed into the Tungkillo sub-station and the existing Tungkillo-Tailem Bend electricity transmission line. Energy Minister Patrick Conlon said the power station would reach a maximum generating capacity of 1000MWs by 2021.

"Cherokee Power Station will be a peaking station - which means it will kick in at times of peak demand", he said. "On the completion of its final stage, the facility will be capable of meeting up to 25% of the state's peak demand "The first stage of the project will create 250MW of generating capacity at an estimated cost of $200 million and is scheduled to come on line in 2013".

Investec Bank's head of project and infrastructure investment Mark Schneider said the company had found South Australia "an ideal place in which to invest". "We have undertaken extensive consultation and negotiation with landholders surrounding the proposed development site", Mr Schneider said yesterday. "We are confident the local community is right behind the (power) project".

Tuesday 30 November 2010

ACT lab proves it pays to go in windmill punching

Sunday Canberra Times
Sunday 21/11/2010 Page: 12

TECHNOLOGY developed in Canberra has made local company Windlab Systems a world expert in wind farming and one of Australia's fastest growing businesses. When CSIRO scientist Keith Ayotte started developing a wind modelling tool with colleague Nathan Steggel, wind farms were still in their infancy in Australia. But in the past four years company turnover has grown by 100% annually almost the same pace as the industry itself in Australia, which has seen the total installed capacity of wind power nearly doubled in the past five years.

The growth helped the global wind power development company overcome uncertainty around a carbon price and the global financial crisis to grow from a small business to a global enterprise, with 33 employees and annual revenue of $9 million Undaunted, the pair raised $10 million at the height of the economic downturn to develop wind maps that could quickly and easily identify potential wind farm sites based on weather data.

Windlab Systems's success also earned Dr Ayotte a spot in the national finals of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year awards in Sydney this week. "Being an Entrepreneur of the Year finalist means I get to learn things from lots of other people", he said. "As a scientist you make a habit of learning from anyone you can usually that is a fairly broad spectrum". Dr Ayotte said the company succeeded because it started from a solid base. "We've been successful because we started off with some good technology and then we found some good people", he said.

"I'm proud that we went and built wind farms which are big projects and difficult to do we made something that worked". But the next challenge will be securing the company's global position. "We are absolutely looking at international expansion", Dr Ayotte said. "The financial crisis affected us a little bit, we have had to do some rationalisation in the US but it is generally business as usual. "Recruiting the right people to do the jobs in foreign markets is hard, so that's a challenge for the coming year".

Is baseload power necessary?

Business Spectator
Wednesday 24/11/2010 Page: 1

For years, David Mills, the eminent solar power technology developer, has dreamed of creating a new model for an energy system that does away with the conventional design of massive baseload infrastructure. Next week the newly-retired founder of solar thermal technology company Ausra (now owned by French nuclear giant Areva), and a former leading researcher at UNSW, will present that model.

Using hourly data for energy use of the entire United States economy in 2006, Mills will demonstrate how it could have been powered almost exclusively by wind and solar (with storage and the help of biofuels for aircraft and some biomass capacity for certain smelting operations).

The details of his findings, including capacity and costing estimations, will be released when he addresses the Australian and New Zealand Solar Energy Society's annual conference in Canberra next week. But in an exclusive interview with Climate Spectator, Mills gave a broad outline of his conclusions and suggested there was a surprisingly small difference in costs.

"Everyone says that you need flatline baseload capacity - such as coal or nuclear, or in some countries hydro - and build on that platform, and use load-following gas turbines", Mills said. "They assume that being baseload makes it cheaper, and all other things are more expensive.

"What we are suggesting is a new paradigm. The traditional paradigm of flatline baseload does not exist in this scenario, but you need to understand that the replacement for baseload power is not another baseload - it's a system of flexible and inflexible energy mechanisms based around wind and solar and other sources".

The study is an extension of an idea that Mills has held dear for some time. In 2005 he presented a talk in Canberra suggesting that solar plants with a "primitive" storage model could run the electricity grid in eastern Australia. Two years later, he did a similar study for California concluding that, based on hourly data for energy usage in 2006, solar could have carried well over 90% of the electricity load.

The latest study - completed with a former R&D specialist at Ausra, Wei Li Cheng, and a US Department of Energy analyst Phil Larochelle - looks at how solar and wind could handle the entire electricity needs for the US in the same year, and also looks at whether it could handle the entire energy needs for the country, including transport.

Interestingly, wind and solar account for around 50% each of the electricity supplies to handle summer demand and peaks, while more wind was used in winter. Such a system would require a capacity redundancy above peak demand, but would in fact be less than current systems. Mills says the study looked to test a number of different premises. The first premise was that there was enough solar and wind that, in combination, could run the US economy. There was.

The second was that solar and wind would be connected with a new electricity transmission system, using high voltage direct current (HVDC) lines for the spine of the network, which will allow more flows and result in considerably reduced transmission losses. These are the sort of networks being contemplated by the Desertec Foundation consortium founded by a group of large European industrial giants that are looking to source solar power from north Africa to provide some of Europe's energy needs.

Mills says China is installing more HVDC lines than any other country in the world - looking to link coal plants with the Three Gorges dam and wind and solar from the north and west of the country. "It very clear to see what they are doing and that it is a very good thing to do", he said.

Mills says the data used for his study came from 2006, and was based around technology that might be used in 2050, but exists now - even though its lack of scale makes current deployment expensive. "Its not technology that we don't have now. I didn't want people saying that it's future technology".

He says the model would need to be refined to be implemented, but it provides food for thought. He says it could easily apply to the Chinese and Australian economies, which also benefit from a population largely based on the eastern seaboard, western deserts (which can provide power later into the evening to the eastern consumers), and strong wind resources.

The Mills model will add to the considerable debate about the role of renewables - whether they are a "worthy" but annoying addition to the current network systems, or if they can assume a prominent role in powering economies. Mills notes the work of the Beyond Zero Emissions group, which outlined a highly contentious study into how Australia could go 100% renewable by 2020 - not so much to suggest it should be done, but that it could be done.

The German industrial giant Siemens has also produced a report entitled "Picture the Future", which suggested renewable energy could, by 2030, provide 70% of Australia's electricity needs, with half coming from solar - augmented by storage and a suite of installation across different time zones - and the rest made up of an equal share of wind and geothermal.

CBD Energy has a $40m wind at its back

Summaries - Australian Financial Review
Wednesday 24/11/2010 Page: 53

Renewable energy group CBD Energy has announced a solar equipment manufacturing deal with China's Tianwei Group, and would soon form a joint venture to examine the acquisition of around $40 million worth of wind farm development assets. wind farm assets in NSW and Victoria, if fully developed, could generate 1250MWs. The Australian Bureau of Agricultural Resource Economics says Australia had 1703MWs of wind power generation in 2009.

Hot rock tax doubts hurt low-carb plays

West Australian
Tuesday 23/11/2010 Page: 40

WA's fledgling geothermal industry is missing out on investment because of uncertainty about whether explorers are entitled to the same tax deductions that other mining and energy companies receive, an industry lobby group has claimed. Australian Geothermal Energy Association chief executive Susan Jeanes said investors were being disadvantaged for backing geothermal exploration instead of iron ore, oil or gas.

Under the existing tax regime, a company that spends money on exploration is entitled to a tax deduction for the amount it spends, either offset against a source of revenue or carried forward as a tax loss. But Ms Jeanes said it was unclear whether the relatively new field of geothermal exploration was covered. She has written to the Federal Government's mining tax policy transition group in the hope that new incentives being considered under the tax could resolve the problem.

"(The Income Tax Assessment Act) does not specifically recognise exploration for geothermal resources potentially resulting in a divergent and discriminatory taxation treatment relative to exploration for other resources", she said in the submission. "AGEA believes that this is inconsistent with the Australian Government's policies to encourage a rapid transition to a low carbon intensity energy supply". Geothermal energy better known as "hot rocks" uses water heated by the slow decay of naturally radioactive elements thousands of metres underground.

While it is better known in South Australia than in WA, the Barnett Government has taken some steps to back the emerging industry, including introducing a maiden geothermal acreage program. Federal Resources Minister Martin Ferguson was unavailable for comment last night.

The Federal Government's now scrapped resource super profits tax had provided an exploration rebate that specifically included geothermal projects. However, the Federal Government has yet to reveal what if any exploration incentives will be included under the watered down mineral resources rent tax.