Friday 16 March 2012

Voters call for action on climate change
9 Mar 2012

AS THE Baillieu government prepares to reveal the future of Victoria's climate change laws, a poll has found two-thirds of Coalition voters think the state has a responsibility to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The Essential Media poll of 1009 Victorians, commissioned by conservation group Environment Victoria, found 76% believed the state government should cut emissions and not leave it to the federal government to take action through a carbon tax or other steps.

Among Coalition voters, 66% said the state had a responsibility to cut emissions. Victorians want the state government to act despite belief in climate change being split between those who think that it is caused by human activity (47%) and those who think it is either due to natural variation or not happening at all (44%).

The poll comes as the state government is due to this month release a review of the Climate Change Act introduced by the previous Labor government, which includes a target of cutting Victoria's emissions by 20% this decade. The Baillieu government has wound back some clean energy programs and fuelled expectations the target could be reduced or scrapped.

Other findings from the poll conducted in December and January were:

  • Just 22% of voters consider wind farm laws that give households right of veto over turbines within 2km of their house fair.
  • 50% said the laws were not fair.
  • A majority said they wanted fewer coal-fired power plants (63%) and more renewable energy (78%) and energy efficiency (82%).

Survey: Americans Not Warming Up to Nuclear Power One Year After Fukushima
7 Mar 2012

(US) WASHINGTON, -- Contrary to Industry Predictions, Reactor Disaster Seen As Having a "Lasting Chill" on Perceptions; It's Not All Fukushima: 3 in 5 Americans Less Supportive Due to Woes of US Nuclear Industry in Last Year. One year after the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear reactors in Japan, Americans continue to want to keep the brakes on more nuclear power in the United States, according to a major new ORC International survey conducted for the nonprofit and nonpartisan Civil Society Institute (CSI).

To gauge any shift in public attitudes, the new survey was benchmarked to an earlier poll carried out by ORC International in March 2011 for CSI. Conducted February 23-26 2012, the new survey of 1,032 Americans shows that: Nearly six in 10 Americans (57%) are less supportive of expanding nuclear power in the United States than they were before the Japanese reactor crisis, a nearly identical finding to the 58% who responded the same way when asked the same question one year ago. This contrasts sharply with pre-Fukushima surveys by Gallup and other organizations showing a 60% support level for nuclear power.

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Acciona to build Moree Solar Farm
8 Mar 2012

THE owner of the Gunning Wind Farm, ACCIONA Energy, will take on the construction of the Moree Solar Farm following a competitive bidding process for the contract. The renewable energy developer owns wind farms in NSW, Victoria and South Australia, and has previously built solar farms overseas. Spokesman for the Moree Solar Farm consortium, Lane Crockett, said he was confident in ACCIONA Energy's ability to deliver the project to schedule and within budget. "They were preferred contractor for a while and became selected contractor just before the bid was submitted", Mr Crockett told the Moree Champion. Last week the consortium also confirmed in a press release that BP Solar had withdrawn from the project and the remaining partners Fotowatio Renewable Ventures (FRV) and Pacific Hydro would take up the minority equity stake previously held by BP.

California nuclear backlash hits relicensing after Japan meltdown: Energy
8 Mar 2012

Two nuclear power plants perched near earthquake faults in California could struggle to get relicensed after a cascade of natural and nuclear disasters across the Pacific Ocean in Japan galvanized opposition groups.

Fukushima-inspired concerns have rippled through Orange County, where the cities of Laguna Beach and San Clemente asked regulators to decide whether Edison International (EIX)'s San Onofre atomic plant 60 miles (97 km) southeast of Los Angeles could withstand an earthquake and tsunami before extending its permit to 2042 from 2022. Further north, PGE Corp. (PCG) asked for a delay in relicensing Diablo Canyon pending seismic studies.

"An accident would be devastating" at San Onofre, Laguna Beach Mayor Jane Egly said in an interview in her home overlooking the seaside enclave. "If they don't do anything to address our safety concerns, I would support shutting it down". Nuclear anxiety in the most populous state, a bellwether for political and environmental issues nationwide, is echoing in New York, Ohio, Virginia and Vermont, where local groups oppose operators' efforts to extend the lives of their plants. Eleven U.S, power companies including Edison, PGE, Entergy Corp. (ETR) and Progress Energy Inc. (PGN) seek 20-year license extensions to keep 15 atomic generators running through age 60.

At stake is whether reactors designed in the 1960s and 1970s, the same vintage as those overwhelmed by a 9.0-magnitude quake and 46-foot (14-meter) tsunami in Fukushima, Japan, should remain the foundation of a 104-reactor U.S, fleet through mid-century. The debate over atomic energy, which provides about 20% of the nation's power, extends even into new projects.

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Outlook inspires whispers
7 Mar 2012

THE 23m-high wind turbine that stands in front of Geelong firm Austeng's factory isn't the only thing that sets the company apart. As impressive, though less readily visible from the highway, are the engineering company's forward-looking attitude and willingness to innovate and change. "If we serviced only our old customers and produced the same products we'd always produced, we'd be out the back door so fast", says managing director and founder Ross George. "The future for manufacturers like us is about trying to be innovative and producing products that are new and different".

The world's quietest wind turbine, Eco Whisper, and a second product, pre-cast geopolymer graves, fit that bill. "Many of the new products we see being worked on here in Australia are tied up with environmental and energy efficiency and are about being green", Mr George said. "Because so many of our old customers are now sourcing from overseas, we've had to reinvent our customer base to survive and grow". Michael Le Messurier of Renewable Energy Solutions Australia, which owns the Eco Whisper technology, became an Austeng client last year. "Austeng came to us highly regarded and they've been passionate champions of our technology ever since", he said. "They really want to see it work".

As part of its role in the project, Austeng offered to buy and install an Eco Whisper on site. That was not only to test the product, but also to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. Eco Whisper is designed to offset energy requirements at commercial, manufacturing and industrial sites, as well as at shopping centres and schools. Mr George said the wind turbine would supply about one third of the energy Austeng consumes. "Having a carbon management policy and being perceived as carbon neutral is good for our business image--and it's helped our customer out", he said. Austeng will be producing four to six more wind turbines for RESA's Victorian customers over the next six months, as Queensland-based RESA focuses on the Victorian market.

Monday 12 March 2012

Study plays down turbine noise fear
7 Mar 2012

SUBSONIC noise from wind farms is reportedly no worse than that of the ocean, the hum of Adelaide's CBD Energy or other energy plants. wind farm opponents have seized on earlier reports indicating turbines produce low-frequency noise undetectable by the human ear to argue against development. Analysis by Adelaide-based acoustic consultancy firm Sonus, provided to The Advertiser, shows the controversial technology does create sub-sonic noise, but at levels that meet international standards.

The findings come amid changes proposed by the State Government that would allow wind farms to be constructed within 1km of homes. The Opposition will attempt to block it on grounds including health concerns. The study measured noise levels near two operating wind farms, including the Clement's Gap station in South Australia's Mid North. It was commissioned by renewable energy proponent Pacific Hydro.

"The measurement results indicate that the levels of infrasound in the vicinity of the two Australian wind farms are,.. of the same order as that measured from a range of sources, including the beach, the Adelaide central business district and a (gas-fired) power station", the study states. Medical director of the anti-wind farm group Waubra Foundation, Dr Sarah Laurie, said there was not enough independent evidence on the effect of infrasound once it infiltrated homes. Typical symptoms of turbine sickness include chronic stress and disrupted sleep.

Pacific Hydro executive manager Andrew Richards said the study disproved concerns that wind turbines produced infrasound damaging to human health. A spokesman for Planning Minister John Rau said wind farms must comply with noise standards and the Government was considering submissions on health impacts and turbines in a development review.

OK for Woorndoo wind farm
5 Mar 2012

WORK on Woorndoo's Salt Creek wind farm will begin today after Moyne Shire Council's unanimous decision to endorse NewEn Australia's plans last week. NewEn Australia director Ernst Wey-hausen welcomed the council decision to support the 15-turbine wind farm. "At NewEn Australia we believe passionately in working with the community and we endeavour to create positive outcomes whenever possible", he said. "While there is a great deal of local support for the wind farm, there is one family living nearby with concerns. We are willing to remove some of our turbines near their houses to create a better outcome for all involved, provided that council will accept such an amendment to the planning permit".

Mr Weyhausen said NewEn Australia has committed to working with the council and the nearby family so the final number of turbines could be reduce to as few as 10. "With new technology available we can source more efficient turbines, which would enable the wind farm to produce its projected output of 29.9 MW from as few as 10 turbines instead of 15. It's a win-win for all parties concerned", he said. Mr Weyhausen said works on the project would begin this morning in order to satisfy the requirements of the planning permit.

"We have invested considerable time and finances in this project and are very excited that works will finally begin", he said. "There were 47 conditions and more than 150 sub-conditions in the planning permit which we've been working with the Moyne Shire Council and associated referral agencies to satisfy. We are very much looking forward to commencing early works on Monday". The director said the Salt Creek wind farm was unique, as it had an onsite quarry. "It is because of this we anticipate the project will have a reduced impact on the local road network, as much of the material is likely to be sourced from the quarry", he said.

Wind farm group defends south-west road damage
6 Mar 2012

AN umbrella group representing wind farms has defended the industry's tarnished reputation as the cause of major damage to rural roads. The Clean Energy Council has told The Standard wind farm companies generally restore local roads "to a higher standard" after construction was complete. "We need to be careful about unfairly making wind farms the scapegoat in areas used by vehicles such as petrol tankers, livestock trucks and haulage trucks for other industries", the council's policy director Russell Marsh said.

His comments come after months of criticism from south-west residents and Moyne Shire Council about severe damage to roads leading to the huge $1 billion Macarthur wind farm, construction of which started last year. Hundreds of trucks have been plying district roads for months, bringing in thousands of tonnes of material from quarries across the region.

Mr Marsh said his council encouraged the wind industry to "construct their projects in a way that is respectful of the local community". "Any major construction project--wind farm or otherwise--can cause inconvenience for those nearby", he said. Mr Marsh said recent changes to Victorian government planning policy raised concerns that wind companies were turning their attention to developing projects in other states. "Ultimately this is about regional jobs and investment and we are potentially missing an opportunity to generate thousands of jobs and bring an income to struggling farmers", he said. "We are not aware of any new wind farms applications since the government implemented its new policy at the end of August last year".

Mr Marsh also defended the industry's ability to gain government financial support. "wind farms are supported by the 20% national Renewable Energy Target", he said. "This is a market-based scheme that provides renewable energy at the least cost to consumers. It is funded by the national electricity market, meaning the cost is shared across all electricity users. "wind farm providers earn large-scale Renewable Energy Certificates, which go up and down in price as a result of supply and demand".

Maine-based company ready to install new tidal power unit
5 Mar 2012

(US) PORTLAND--With its federal license in hand, a Maine-based tidal energy company is ready to install its underwater power system for the first time on the floor of the ocean. Ocean Renewable Power Co, aims to begin installation of its first grid-connected power unit in mid-March at a 60-acre site in Cobscook Bay at the nation's easternmost tip. The first unit capable of powering 20 to 25 homes will be hooked up to the grid this summer, and four more units will be installed next year at a total cost of $21 million for the project, said Chris Sauer, president and chief executive officer of the Portland-based company.

Eventually, Ocean Renewable hopes to install more units to bring its electrical output to 4 MWs at sites off both Lubec and Eastport. Ocean Renewable holds permits for three sites in the area, one of the world's best tidal sites, where twice a day the tide rises and falls 20 feet. All told, the company sees up to 50 MWs of tidal power potential in the Eastport and Lubec areas, enough to power thousands of homes, Sauer said. "It's never going to be the dominant power-generating resource in the state of the Maine, but it's going to be a significant contributor", he said.

The Ocean Renewable turbine generator unit self-starts when the tidal current reaches about 2 knots, and is designed to produce up to 180 kWs under ideal circumstances. On average, however, it'll produce 60 kWs at the installation site in Cobscook Bay near Seward Neck in Lubec, Sauer said. Once it's completed, the full array of five of those turbine generator units will produce about 300 kWs under the pilot project license issued last week by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The completed pilot project will produce enough electricity for about 100 homes.

A month earlier, FERC issued the first such license to Verdant Power, which hopes to produce tidal energy from New York City's East River. Verdant's tidal power design looks a lot like a wind turbine, only it's underwater. Ocean Renewable uses rotating foils that lend the appearance of a manual reel mower for cutting grass. Ocean Renewable starts work later this month with underwater installation of a heavy steel base, which will be about 100 feet down on the ocean floor. A turbine generator unit will be attached to the base, with at least 60 feet of clearance between the device and the ocean surface at the low tide.

Previously, the company's prototype was tested in the waters off Lubec and Eastport, but it was mounted on a barge and lowered underwater for testing. The Coast Guard will set rules to ensure fishing and recreational boat can safely operate despite the presence a barge, platforms with cranes and boats with divers. The general contractor is Perry Marine & Construction. Officials in Canada are watching the Maine project with interest. By 2014, Ocean Renewable and Nova Scotia-based Fundy Tidal Inc, hope to install the same units in waters off Nova Scotia, where the Bay of Fundy offers even greater tidal power potential, officials have said.