Friday 7 January 2011

Cash cloud over wind farms

Hobart Mercury
Wednesday 29/12/2010 Page: 20

TASMANIAN wind farm operators are confident planned projects will proceed despite a steep fall in the price of Renewable Energy Certificates. About $1.5 billion of wind farm investments nationwide are under a cloud as the price of certificates has dropped 20% from a high of $36 in October. The certificates are given to the generators of renewable energy and can be sold on the open market to polluters to offset their emissions.

Roaring 40s managing director Steve Symons said the drop would have to be reversed to bolster the industry in the medium term although the planned $450 million Musselroe project remained on track. Federal Government changes to the certificate scheme will see major and minor projects traded in different markets from January 1. "It's not as though we're not going flat out on Musselroe and waiting for the RECs to move, we are at the moment full steam ahead on Musselroe", Mr Symons said. "There's an expectation from the shareholders that we will see the REC price improve as the new scheme works through. "The market needs those certificates to be up around $50 to $60".

The project manager for the proposed 225MW Cattle Hill wind farm, Shane Bartel, said the REC price was not critical but a higher price helped. "Renewable Energy Certificates really do make wind farms happen and any degree of security is really sought after by the industry", he said. Mr Bartel said the Federal Government's target of 45,000GW hours of renewable energy a year by 2020 helped keep the industry going but more was needed.

"The 20% [target] by 2020 that we currently have is fantastic but after that we need something more: either a price on carbon or something else like that". He said the Cattle Hill project was proceeding well, with approvals likely in the first quarter of 2011 and construction near Lake Echo to start in 2012.

Wind Farms Operating:

  • Woolnorth Wind Farm: 62 turbines 140 megawatt (mW)
  • Huxley Hill Wind Farm, King Island: 2.45mW.
  • Nichols Poultry farm: 225 kilowatt (kW).
  • Flinders Island: 80 kW.

Proposed Wind Farms:

  • Musselroe Wind Farm 56 turbines,168mW.
  • White Rock Wind Farm, 220 turbines, 400mW.
  • Cattle Hill Wind Farm 50-75 turbines. 225mW.

Think ahead for wind

Tuesday 28/12/2010 Page: 8

THERE are huge investments in wind power going ahead around the world right now. Wind offers the best bang for the buck in clean energy at present. We do not need yet another Senate inquiry, as suggested by Tim Le Roy (Letters, 21/12). We have talked enough about mitigating greenhouse gas pollution. It is time for action.

With off-the-shelf technologies available, including wind, solar thermal, hydro and reverse-hydro storage and biofuels, we can achieve 100 per cent renewable energy in Australia within 10 to 20 years. It is up to government to set the parameters to achieve this.

John Merory, Ivanhoe East

Bungendore wind farm expansion

Sunday Canberra Times
26 December 2010, Page: 7

A company operating a major wind farm north of Bungendore is proposing a $180 million expansion into an adjacent site, potentially erecting a further 55 wind turbines. The proposal has been lodged with the NSW Planning Department by Capital II Wind Farm, a company wholly owned by renewable energy business Infigen Energy. Infigen Energy already operates the 67-turbine Capital Wind Farm, east of Lake George. It proposes its new wind farm be operational by mid-2012.

Infigen Energy's proposed wind farm expansion comes as the company plans a $150 million joint venture with SunTech Power Australia to construct a solar farm, also adjacent to the Capital Wind Farm. The solar panels would span about 100ha. The photovoltaic array proposed would have a maximum height of 3.5m. Infigen Energy hopes to secure approval for two layouts for its new wind farm - although only one would be built.

The proposed operation would be located within the Palerang local government area, about 10km north of Bungendore and 30km east of Canberra. It would cover about 50km², although the actual area occupied by wind turbine equipment would be about 47ha. Under Infigen Energy's proposal, each generator would comprise a three bladed rotor with a diameter of up to 114m mounted on a 100m steel tower. The top of the blade sweep would be up to 157m above the ground.

The project's construction phase would take 12 to 18 months. - - Palerang Council Mayor Walter Raynolds welcomed the planned investment and said Infigen Energy would provide about $2 million to fund infrastructure - principally for roads - if the proposals went ahead. "It's a great investment to the district and all sorts of good things", he said. "... It's good for local infrastructure and local employment and local tourism".

Infigen Energy development manager Laura Dunphy said the energy company was working on a funding proposal with Palerang Council, but the details had not been finalised. Palerang Greens councillor Catherine Moore said "some people benefit from wind farms when they're privately owned". "[However] a lot of other people feel that they're right next to them, they're looking at them, they're often feeling the vibrations, but they're not getting the benefit by way of compensation", she said. "I guess in general terms I'd like to see us moving towards community owned [wind farms]. And maybe more of them and smaller".

She added, "If we had some land in Palerang... we could actually start a community-owned wind farm and get the benefit for the whole community, rather than just a few people". Ms Moore said wind farms were a move away from coal-fired power, "which is certainly a big thing for the Greens". An environmental assessment of the proposal produced by the consultancy Monteath and Powys found the wind turbines and associated infrastructure would be spread over open farming country that had been extensively cleared.

"There are minimal obstructions in the landscape as the area is predominantly used for grazing and some cropping", it found. The environmental assessment noted potential impacts on flora and fauna related to site disturbance during construction, and once operational, the possibility of "blade strike by birds or bats". "It was determined that the project is unlikely to impose a 'significant impact' on local populations of threatened species, endangered communities or their habitats... on the basis that the proposed works are limited to disturbing only a minor portion of the site", it said.

"At most, there are occasional visits by woodland birds and bats, although there is no breeding or special habitat for such species on the project site". Monteath and Powys found if the project was implemented in accordance with environmental management controls identified in the assessment, it would not "compromise environmental values at the locality, including ecological, heritage, soils and water quality". "Overall, it is considered once the mitigation measures have been applied that any adverse impacts will be of a minor nature and outweighed by the positive longer-term environmental, social and commercial benefits of the project".

Wednesday 5 January 2011

The hills are alive with the sound of wind turbines
December 26, 2010

REMEMBER the Orange-Bellied Parrot, the bird that briefly stopped a wind farm on Victoria's south-east coast? Well, endangered birds are so 2006 when it comes to wind farm politics. The biggest issue these days is infrasound, the low-frequency noise anti-wind farm campaigners say is generated by turbines and makes people sick.

Infrasound is the latest front in the battle over wind farms and will be investigated next year by a Senate inquiry set up by Family First's Steve Fielding. The inquiry will look at the health impacts of living near turbines and concerns over excessive noise and vibrations caused by wind farms.

Anti-wind farm campaigners say infrasound causes ''wind turbine syndrome''. Sufferers complain of nausea, dizziness and headaches. In July, the National Health and Medical Research Council reviewed the scientific evidence and found no link between wind turbines and illness.

But now one large wind farm operator has put the theory to the test on its own turbines. Pacific Hydro hired Adelaide-based acoustic consulting experts Sonus to measure the level of infrasound - created by the turbine blades moving through the air - at two farms, Cape Bridgewater in Victoria's west and Clement's Gap in the mid-north of South Australia.

As a comparison, they also measured infrasound in the Adelaide central business district and suburbs, at the beach, on a coastal cliff, inland from the coast and at a gas-fired power station. At all these places, the infrasound was not audible to the human ear. It was actually recorded at higher levels on the beach and in the Adelaide CBD Energy than it was near a wind turbine. The results for all of the places came under the internationally recognised levels a human can perceive infrasound, which is 85 - on a ''G-weighted'' scale standardised for the infrasound frequency range.

In results Pacific Hydro will send to its landholders, 67decibels (dB) was recorded 185 metres downwind of the closest operating turbine at Clement's Gap and 63dB was recorded 200 metres downwind of the closest operating turbine at Cape Bridgewater. The infrasound was a little less, 62dB, when the turbines were not turning at the Victorian site.

By comparison, 76dB were recorded for the centre of Adelaide, 75dB for the beach at Cape Bridgewater, 74dB for a gas-fired power station, 69dB for a cliff face at Cape Bridgewater, 57dB for eight kilometres inland from the Victorian coast and 51 for an Adelaide suburb.

''Infrasound is generated by a range of natural sources, including waves on a beach and against the coastline, waterfalls and wind,'' the report said. ''It is also generated by a wide range of man-made sources such as industrial processes, vehicles, air conditioning and ventilation systems and wind farms.''

The consultants, who have assessed the noise of dozens of wind farms, measured the sound with a special test chamber that stopped the results from being distorted by wind on the microphone. In response to the federal government's review of infrasound earlier this year, anti-wind farm campaigners said the review effectively said people were lying about wind turbine syndrome.

In its letter to residents who have turbines on their land, Pacific Hydro said the study was not exhaustive and is not standardised, as no standards exist in measuring infrasound.

Pacific Hydro's executive manager of government and corporate affairs, Andrew Richards, said the study would be made available and was just one contribution to the infrasound debate. He said the wind industry looked forward to presenting its case at Senate hearings next year.

Setback with green energy

Herald Sun
Monday 27/12/2010 Page: 33

The federal government's scrapping of the Green Start program is a blow for household energy efficiency. With its predecessor, the Green Loans program, and the home insulation scheme, the Government now has a record of great environmental ideas executed poorly. With electricity bills rising steeply, the scrapping of Green Start means people on low incomes will be stuck paying a lot more for their power, contributing to financial hardship.

It is now important the Government explains how it is to help people improve household energy and water efficiency. While some state governments are considering extending power bill concessions, the best long-term solution is to help people install environmental measures such as energy-efficient lighting and appliances in their homes.

Damien Moyse, Alternative Technology Association, Melbourne

Tuesday 4 January 2011

Survey blows off wind farm syndrome

Adelaide Advertiser
27 December 2010 Page: 13

AN Adelaide-based acoustic firm has seemingly debunked the theory that wind farms can make you sick. wind farm giant Pacific Hydro says a survey of infrasound levels at three of its farms, in Adelaide's CBD Energy and various sites in SA and Victoria, proves "wind turbine syndrome" is a myth. Anti-wind farm campaigners say the syndrome is caused by infrasound and produces symptoms including dizziness, headaches and nausea.

The study, conducted by acoustic experts Sonus, found the highest readings of infrasound in the CBD Energy, followed by Cape Bridgewater beach. Infrasound measurements at Pacific Hydro's Clement's Gap and Cape Bridgewater wind farms were significantly lower.

Pacific Hydro's general manager Australia Lane Crockett admitted the study wasn't exhaustive, but said it backed up a Federal Government review that also concluded wind farms didn't make people sick. "There's infrasound all around us and the infrasound produced at wind farms is not even as high as... you will find standing on the street in the middle of a city", he said.

Clean energy powers up in ACT region

Canberra Times
23 December 2010, Page: 5

From mini-hydro power stations on our water storages to $100 million wind turbines, the ACT region is making a growing contribution to the nation's clean energy industry. The latest modelling predicts more than 55,000 jobs are expected to be created in renewable energy across Australia by 2020, many in regional areas. The Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Scheme, which commissioned a new $30 million, 14MW power station near Talbingo this year, is still a major employer and producer of renewable energy.

While Canberra's hydro-power capacity is tiny, it is growing. Two existing stations, at the Mt Stromlo and Googong water treatment plants, generated little during the drought, but Stromlo can generate around 2000-3000MWh. As part of the Murrumbidgee to Googong water transfer project, ACTEW is planning a mini-hydro power plant at Burra Creek to help offset greenhouse gases from the pipeline project.

The Clean Energy Australia Report 2010 says more solar power was installed on rooftops across the country between January and October this year than for the entire previous decade. Greater affordability of solar power meant the technology was fast becoming "the Hills Hoist of the 21st century", according to the Energy Council of Australia's chief executive Matthew Warren. In the past year, wind power generated almost 5000GWh of electricity enough to power more than 700,000 homes.

Joining Australia's 52 operating wind farms next year will be Union Fenosa's project at Crookwell, near Goulburn, which has approval for 46 turbines and is proposing another farm of between 25 and 35 turbines. Bioenergy generates about 1% of Australia's energy. Two-thirds comes from bagasse fibre residue combustion in the sugar industry, while the second largest contributor is landfill gas.

At the former Woodlawn mine near Tarago, Veolia Environmental Services commissioned a 1.1MW landfill gas power plant. The gas is captured from a network of pipes through the waste, and output is expected to increase when Veolia expands annual waste from 500,000 tonnes a year to 1.13 million tonnes a year.

State of play:

  • 8.67% of Australia's electricity was generated by renewable sources such as solar and wind in the last year, a total of 21,751GW hours (equivalent of over three million Australian households)
  • Good rainfall in key catchments led to a 15% increase in hydro electricity from previous years
  • ACT clean energy projects are bioenergy, hydro and solar PV
  • ACT capacity: 10MW, or 0.09 per cent of Australia's renewable installed capacity
  • ACT feed-in tariff: 45.7 cents kW (gross)
  • ACT policy support for clean energy: Target of zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2060; home energy audit program; expanded feed-in tariff scheme for household, medium and large-scale solar.