Thursday 5 April 2012

Huge solar project in limbo as Newman pulls funding
29 Mar 2012

The new LNP government plans to pull funding for the Solar Dawn solar research and power plant at Chinchilla. The first chance to test whether solar thermal energy can provide large-scale alternative power in Australia may be in doubt under the new LNP state government. The incoming Queensland government wants to pull out of an agreement formed by its predecessor to provide $75 million towards the $1.2 billion Solar Dawn solar research and power plant at Chinchilla, west of Toowoomba, Premier Campbell Newman said yesterday. The Solar Dawn Project is set to be one of the largest of its kind in the world.

New Queensland Premier Campbell Newman plans to cut green programs started by the previous government. Photo: Glenn Hunt Mr Newman said following the first LNP party room meeting the cost of the federal government's looming carbon tax would affect the state economy and public sector, and said Queensland would be "paying twice" if state-based climate change initiatives were not dumped. However he said the green programs set to be axed under his government could be revived if the carbon tax was scrapped. Mr Newman said during the state election campaign he wanted to dismantle Queensland's carbon reduction schemes to save $270 million for the state budget.

Solar Dawn is a 250 MW solar thermal project using sun-heated water in tubes to produce steam-driven energy, and is backed by the federal government and was supported by former Premier Anna Bligh. It is part of the federal government's Solar Flagship Program. A similar project at Moree, in New South Wales, has received federal funding under the same program. The University of Queensland has developed a $60 million research project to link to Solar Dawn.

UQ's Professor Paul Meredith, the head of the university's renewable energy research, said he was worried the LNP's decision would damage what he thought was a worthwhile project and one that provided almost 400 jobs. ''Hypothetically if the state contribution of $75 million does not flow that leaves a very big hole in the project's funding,'' Professor Meredith said. ''And I think it is anybody's guess what the Federal Government will do at that point.''

The Gillard Government has promised $475 million and the Bligh Government agreed in February this year to give $75 million in a ''conditional agreement'' to help build the huge solar thermal plant, which is scheduled to be operating by December 2015. The project must reach ''financial close'' by June 30 this year. Federal Energy Minister Martin Ferguson, speaking in Queensland yesterday, said he was surprised the new state government was considering backing out of Solar Dawn.


Solar project in the dark on funding future
28 Mar 2012

The operators of a proposed $1 billion solar thermal electricity plant in Queensland say their project will go ahead despite claims by the state's new Premier that he will withdraw funding. Yesterday Campbell Newman said he would dismantle all of Queensland's carbon reduction schemes to save $270 million for the state budget, including $75 million earmarked for the Solar Dawn Project near Chinchilla, which is part of the Federal Government's Solar Flagship Program.

The Federal Government also is threatening to withdraw $464 million of its funding. But the operators of the proposed 250 MW power station, led by two renewable energy manufacturers, Areva and Wind Prospect CWP, say they signed a conditional agreement with the Queensland Government last month and have not been notified of any change. Up to 450 people were expected to work on construction if the project went ahead. But Mr Newman says he made it clear during the election campaign that funding for renewable energy programs would be shut down due to the introduction of the carbon tax.

In a statement, Solar Dawn said was not aware of any changes in its agreement with the State Government. "Solar Dawn has not been notified of any change of intentions of the Queensland Government under the terms of the existing conditional agreement", the statement read. "We appreciate the commitment of the State of Queensland, which signed a $75 million conditional agreement with Solar Dawn for project assistance in February this year". Federal Resources and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson said in a statement the Federal Government continued to support the Solar Flagships Program and Solar Dawn. But he has put the ball squarely in Queensland's court.

"If the new Queensland Government chose to breach the existing financial commitment to the Solar Dawn Project, the Australian Government would naturally need to consider its own position", the statement said. Mr Newman said this morning the Federal Government must fund renewable programs using income from the carbon tax. "We frankly have a mandate to make these decisions", he said. "They are difficult decisions but they have to be made because we've got to provide savings back to Queensland families, and that's our commitment to them.

"This is now up to the Federal Government to deliver carbon mitigation because they have this great carbon tax. It's a great scheme according to them, so they can pay for these things rather than Queenslanders and Queensland families paying twice". Professor Paul Meredith, from the University of Queensland, who leads research on the the Solar Dawn Project, says clean energy is a critical issue for Queensland, and the state will lose $60 million in research funding if the project does not go ahead.

"I think we have to realise that if we are going to be players in this revolution in the energy sector that we have to build core capacity, we have to build it now and we have to start training scientists and engineers and technologists and economists in this", Professor Meredith said. "And if we continue to sit on the fence for what are very, very long-term objectives then clearly we're not going to be a player in this clean energy agenda".

Suzlon signs 332-megawatt North Sea turbine deal with PNE
27 Mar 2012

Suzlon Energy Ltd. (SUEL), India's largest wind turbine maker, will deliver 332 MWs of offshore turbines to a German North Sea project being developed by PNE Wind AG. (PNE3) Suzlon Energy's REpower Systems SE agreed to supply 54 turbines to the Gode Wind I wind farm 35 km (22 miles) north of the Frisian Islands, Pune-based Suzlon Energy said today in a web statement. No terms were disclosed.

Companies including Alstom SA and Siemens AG (SIE) are developing 6- MW offshore wind turbines as nations including France and the U.K, seek to reduce costs of the energy-saving technology. Germany is targeting 10 GWs of wind power in its seas by 2020 from about 200 MWs now while the U.K, plans to reach 18 GWs by the same year.

REpower Systems has sold 150 of its 6.15- MW offshore machines to date including to Gode Wind, according to the statement. The facility, developed by Cuxhaven, Germany-based PNE Wind AG, will generate enough power for 324,000 homes when built, Suzlon Energy said in the statement. The project will be commissioned in 2015, according to Suzlon Energy.

Wednesday 4 April 2012

Gas could be just as dirty as coal, study reveals
28 Mar 2012

Coal seam gas, widely touted as a greener fuel than coal, could have just as deep a carbon footprint unless world-class standards are used when extracting the gas from the ground, an expert report has found.

A study into the life-cycle greenhouse emissions of Australia's energy sources by consultancy WorleyParsons found conventional gas from large offshore wells typically produced 38% less greenhouse emissions than black coal, largely because it burnt more cleanly.

But the equation could shift dramatically for the fledgling coal seam gas industry-the subject of a fierce political battle in NSW and Queensland-if meticulous standards were not followed when the gas was extracted from the ground.

So-called ''fugitive emissions'', particularly of methane, which is a much more powerful greenhouse gas than CO₂, can tip the balance and make coal seam gas as dirty a fuel source as black coal burnt in ageing power plants, the report says.

''If methane leakage approaches the elevated levels recently reported in some US gas fields,.. the [greenhouse gas] intensity of CSG,.. generation is on a par with sub-critical coal-fired generation,'' the report states.

The lead author, Paul Hardisty, said in a statement: ''The implications for regulators and the emerging Australian CSG industry are that best practice applied to design, construction and operation of projects can significantly reduce emissions, lower financial liabilities under the carbon tax, and help make CSG a less GHG-intensive fuel option.''


Ballarat renewable energy advocates speak out as government dumps CO2 plan
28 Mar 2012

Ballarat renewable energy advocates have criticised two decisions from the Victorian government, including the abandonment of plans to cut the state's greenhouse gas emissions. Energy Minister Michael O'Brien yesterday announced Victoria would not proceed with a restriction on approvals for coal-fired power stations that would exceed a target emission level of 0.8 tonnes of CO₂ per MW.

The announcement follows an independent review of the state's climate change laws which has found "no compelling case" to keep a plan cutting Victoria's greenhouse gas emissions by 20% over the next decade. The review found keeping the state target was counterproductive after the federal government's minimum target to cut emissions was set at five%, achieved through the introduction of a carbon tax.

Spokesperson for 100% Renewables Andrew Bray said the decisions represented "a real back flip".

"It raises real questions about whether the Baillieu government understand the real economic benefits that renewable energy can bring to the economy. International spending on clean energy outstripped spending on fossil fuels for the last two years, with investment in wind and solar flowing through to regions like Ballarat", he said, adding that the decisions were a further blow after the government introduced restrictions on wind farms.

After the Rudd government's Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme failed to pass the federal parliament, the former Brumby government in Victoria passed laws to cut emissions by 20% below 2000 levels within 10 years. Yesterday, the newly-elected Queensland government recommitted to unwinding that state's various carbon reduction schemes.

Interest in Lake Macquarie wind farms
28 Mar 2012

Lake Macquarie City Council has called for the state government to introduce wind farm guidelines that were not ''unnecessarily restrictive''. Mayor Greg Piper said interest had been expressed about power-generating wind farms in Lake Macquarie. ''Information has been provided that the area's climate is suitable [for wind farms],'' Cr Piper said. ''There may be a proposal in future that could be given consideration.''

Cr Piper said wind farm plans would need to overcome hurdles about their effect on residents, visual amenity and environmentally sensitive land. He said where wind farms were possible, they should not face ''undue restrictions''. Cr Piper said it would be ''very difficult for any proposal to be approved under draft state government guidelines for wind farms''. Cr Paul Scarfe expressed concern about wind farms in Lake Macquarie. ''Most of us support ecofriendly electricity generation as a matter of principle, but wind farms can be terribly ugly things,'' he said. ''I don't think too many people around the lake would want to see mass farms here.''

Cr Hannah Gissane said ''one man's trash is another man's treasure''. ''I for one would rather see wind farms than subsidence, ash dams and coal-fired power stations,'' she said. Cr Gissane said the government's draft guidelines would ''impose incredibly onerous measures that are likely to seriously inhibit investment in clean technology in NSW''. Cr Phillipa Parsons said the guidelines were the ''greatest hypocrisy''. ''It's open slather for coal seam gas and coal operators,'' Cr Parsons said. ''They're putting the brakes on wind farms, yet it's 'come one, come all' for coal.''

Cr Jodie Harrison said the draft guidelines included a ridiculous measure that would require wind farm proponents to gain written consent for every resident within 2km of proposed wind turbines. The Clean Energy Council, an industry group, said Australia had 1188 wind turbines and 57 operating wind farms. Wind power in Australia had increased by an average of 35% a year in the past five years.

Concerns over wind farm guidelines
March 28, 2012

Lake Macquarie Council will write to the state Planning Department outlining its concerns over the Government's Draft Wind Farm Guidelines. The Planning Minister Brad Hazzard has described the draft document as the "toughest wind farm guidelines in Australia and possibly the world". But the guidelines have been criticised by environmentalists and renewable energy lobbyists as unnecessarily restrictive. Greens Councillor Hannah Gissane agrees.

"We've endorsed a submission to the draft guidelines exhibition which would pick a part the bits and pieces of it that make the process too onerous", she said. "We've also endorsed wind farms as a key mechanism in achieving 20% renewable energy by 2020. "And that any guidelines should be part of a strategic facilitative approach to renewable energy".

Councillor Gissane says the guidelines are too tough and criticism of wind turbines is not warranted. "Our beautiful Lake Macquarie has ash dams, has coal-fired power stations, has coal mines, has subsidence all from non-renewable energy sources", she said. "I'd like to see future for the city where the glint of a solar panel and the whirl of a wind turbine were actually features of the city".

Vestas remains top wind turbine maker, Goldwind is second
27 Mar 2012

The wind-power market is expected to grow more slowly than prior estimates, with Make Consulting and Navigant Consulting Inc. (NCI) cutting forecasts through 2016.

Global installations will probably increase at a compound 7% a year in the next five years, Aarhus, Denmark-based Make said today in an e-mailed statement, down from its prior 10% figure. Navigant's BTM Consult unit cut its cumulative forecast for the five years through 2016 14% to almost 270,000 MWs of turbines.

Turbine makers from Vestas Wind Systems A/S (VWS), the biggest, to Spain's Gamesa Corp. Tecnologica SA and India's Suzlon Energy Ltd. (SUEL) have been buffeted by the loss of subsidies in three of the seven biggest markets. In the US, a cash-grant program ended last year and a tax credit expires in December, while Spain suspended clean-energy incentives in January and an Indian tax break for wind farms is set to expire on March 31.

"The reasons for the downgrade are regulatory uncertainty in the US, India and Spain", Robert Clover, an analyst with Make, said today in a phone interview. In North America, the expiring U.S, incentives led to "a certain amount of demand being pulled forward, which will lead to a drop-off next year".

BTM forecast delays in extending or replacing the U.S, tax credit will cut 2013 installations by about 9% to 7,500 MWs, said Aris Karcanias, one of the report's authors. "We're anticipating an extension", Karcanias said today in an interview. "There will be a bit of a delay to activity in the U.S, until that's resolved".

Vestas on Top
Spain, which in 2009 was the top wind turbine installer in Europe, according to Global Wind Energy Council data, this year suspended subsidies to new renewable installations as it reins in spending. The European share of new wind power fell last year to 24.5% of the global total from more than half five years ago, according to BTM.

Vestas Wind Systems (VWS) remained the world's largest wind turbine maker with 12.9% of the market in 2011, BTM said. It topped Xinjiang Goldwind Science & Technology Co, with a 9.4% share. General Electric Co. (GE) was third with 8.8%, Gamesa Corp was next at 8.2% and Enercon GmbH ranked fifth at 7.9%, Ringkoebing, Denmark-based BTM said today in an e-mailed statement. Sinovel Wind Group dropped to seventh from second.

AGL big on wind power
26 Mar 2012

AGL Energy has foreshadowed a go-ahead next year for the first stage of a huge wind power project in NSW, in a clear sign it expects an improvement in the climate for renewable energy investments. The energy generator and retailer bought the development rights for a potential 1000- MW wind farm north-west of Broken Hill that could cost $2.5 billion to develop in full, according to The Australian Financial Review.

AGL Energy acquired the Silverton venture from Germany's Epuron and Macquarie Capital Wind Fund for an undisclosed sum. The project already has planning approval for an initial 282 wind turbines involving 300 MWs of capacity. Construction of this stage, which Deutsche Bank says may cost $750 million, could start next year, AGL Energy said. AGL Energy estimates it will cost $500 million to $700 million.

Final approval is yet to be secured for subsequent phases, involving a further 316 turbines, which could be subject to stricter planning regulations in NSW for wind projects. In December, NSW Planning Minister Brad Hazzard proposed a ban on erecting wind turbines within two km of homes unless specifically agreed to in writing with landholders, or unless allowed under a "gateway" process.

A 1000 MW project would be more than double the size of AGL Energy's Macarthur wind farm under construction in Victoria, set to be the largest in Australia, said Deutsche Bank analyst John Hirjee.