Saturday 7 September 2013

IPA concedes wind farms successful in displacing coal
9 Jul 2013

The anti-wind campaigners sometimes have difficulty getting their facts in the right order. One of their most common complaints is that wind power does nothing to reduce emissions as it doesn't actually result in any fossil fuel generation being switched off, because fossil fuel needs to keep running as "back-up" in case the wind stops blowing.

Of course, this is not true. As the Australian Energy Market Operator notes in South Australia, where wind power accounts for around 25% of both capacity and demand, coal fired generation-both local and imported from Victoria-has fallen dramatically. There hasn't even been any need for new peaking power stations and the use of gas has not increased since the state started building the first of its 1,200MW of wind power.

The IPA, one of the most powerful and influential anti-wind groups, whose former head is now the WA state energy minister, is a strong proponent of the "continuous" back-up claim. But at the recent, lightly attended anti-wind rally in Canberra, its director of deregulation, Alan Moran made a crucial admission: wind power is forcing conventional coal generation out of the market, because it is making it uneconomic.

"(Renewables) are in fact squeezing out conventional energy, conventional, predictable and reliable energy, because they are "must run", and conventional energy is automatically backed off", Moran said, according to a transcript published on the anti-wind website Stop These Things. "This is leading to the retirement of coal fired stations, as subsidised wind makes them not profitable".

Well, quite so. And good. That is actually what these schemes-carbon price, renewable energy targets, emissions limits etc-are designed to do, to hasten the retirement of highly polluting power plants, or at least force them to invest in technology that reduces their emissions and pollution.

But Moran's admission goes to the heart of the campaign against wind and other renewables. It's not really a technological issue-as the Queensland network operator and the AEMO both make clear-it is an economic one for the incumbent generators. And the growing penetration of renewables is indeed forcing dirty, inflexible generation such as old coal plants out of the market-as it is in Europe and elsewhere.

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Govt puts $37m into Taralga wind far
9 Jul 2013

A contentious wind farm north of Goulburn is the first in the region to receive money from the Australian government's Clean Energy Finance Corporation. The corporation's $37.5 million loan will get the Taralga wind farm, comprising 51 turbines, finally under way.

The clean-energy financier joined an international consortium that provided about $280 million for the wind farm, 45 km from Goulburn and about three km east of Taralga village.

The farm, which should start working this year, is expected to generate enough power to supply 45,000 homes. Operators have a 10 year agreement with EnergyAustralia to supply the grid. The corporation's chief executive, Oliver Yates, said the loan was a catalyst for renewable energy investment in Australia.

The corporation has announced three projects: $50 million for energy efficiency loans; $50 million for a wind farm in Victoria and the Taralga financing package. Taralga's new wind farm will use towers made in Portland, Victoria, using Blue-Scope Steel steel.

Spain's Banco Santander has a 90% stake and renewable energy group CBD Energy will remain the project partner with 10%. The ANZ and Denmark's official credit export agency are also involved. Wind testing has been under way since 2001 in the sheep and cattle grazing district.

Ownership has changed hands during the planning and development stages. For more than a decade the proposal fuelled a bitter debate until the NSW Land and Environment Court concluded that public benefits outweighed private drawbacks that wound up twice in the NSW Environment and Planning Court.

Protesters said turbines would affect the landscape and generate noise. The court concluded the overall public benefits outweighed any private drawbacks either to the Taralga community or specific landowners.

Floating offshore turbines can reduce wind energy cost
5 Jul 2013

Texas leads the U.VICOSC, in energy production with a combination of conventional and alternative energy sources. The state also produces the most wind power of any state in the nation, but with a growing population, there is a demand for more resources of renewable energy. A new design of floating offshore turbines that is being developed by scientists at Texas A&M University may be a cost-effective answer to that challenge.

Typical land-based wind turbines have blades diameters exceeding the wing span of a 747 jet plane. Offshore wind turbine structures can be even larger and are rigidly attached to the sea floor. Near the coast; however, these very large structures can interfere with the ocean view.

Dr. Bert Sweetman, associate professor of Maritime Systems Engineering Texas A&M University at Galveston is studying a new type of structural designs that enable substantial reductions in cost, with only minimal decrease in the amount of electricity generated. Sweetman describes the engineering challenges involved constructing offshore turbines.

"Placing wind turbines beyond sight of land in deep water will require a different type of structure that floats on the sea surface, rather than being fixed to the ocean floor", he said. "Ideally, these floating structures are designed to minimize motion despite wind and wave activity. Unfortunately, this conventional design is very expensive".

Sweetman says the expense, in part, is due to stabilising the large size of wind turbines in deep water. He says cost of these structures could be reduced substantially, if larger motions were found to be acceptable.

"The larger motions of these new structures present a myriad of design issues", Sweetman said. "Like a spinning bicycle wheel, the gyroscopic effect of huge whirling blades makes designs of these offshore structures uniquely challenging".

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Battery may prove way to store wind energy
5 Jul 2013

Researchers are testing a new battery power storage system that may provide some long-term solutions to storing power from the electrical grid. The tests are being conducted at a wind farm near the Tri-Cities. Currently, wind power--and hydroelectric--must be used as it is produced.

"Electric in general is difficult to store, or to save for later; you have to use it", said John Steigers of Energy Northwest, a public power consortium. "The whole system in the country is based on the premise that what is being produced has to be used".

The new battery that is being tested is huge--we're talking half the size of a railway shipping container. It utilizes modern Lithium ion technology. Steigers says the battery is being tested at several different locations. The idea is that it can store wind power that is generated at times of the day when actual use by consumers is not all that high.

"It tends to show up at night, when the loads for the system are the lowest, and when it shows up you can store it, and then later in the day when air conditioners are on and people are working it, the electricity can be used at that time", he said.

Steigers says the battery is expected to be able to store enough electricity to power 50 homes for a year. He says long-term plans for the batteries would be to site them where they are needed, at industrial areas or neighborhoods to power individual homes.

Green bank saves 75 jobs
3 Jul 2013

THE federal government's green bank has funded another wind farm, saving 75 jobs at a Victoria turbine maker.

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation will fund $37.5 million of debt for the Taralga wind farm-45km north of Goulburn in NSW-as part of a $280 million consortium of financiers, a day after it helped refinance the Macarthur wind farm.

Unlike Macarthur, the Taralga is a new project with an installed capacity of 106.8 MWs of wind power and has a 10 year power-purchase agreement with EnergyAustralia. Under a joint venture between CBD Energy and Spanish bank Santander, all wind towers for the project will be engineered and manufactured at Victorian firm Keppel Prince, which last year laid off about 50 workers.

Keppel Prince general manager Steve Garner said he would have needed to lay off a further 75 workers if the firm had not secured the work. He said the CEFC was critical to Keppel securing the work and now the business was looking later this year to recruit more staff. "It has just been so slow and so unsupportive for local manufacturing", Mr Garner said of the past year.

"I would be extremely disappointed if the CEFC was to be abolished. It was the driving force behind us being able to secure this as a local manufacturer". "Without their help and assistance and continued effort of [Danish company] Vestas Wind Systems and CBD Energy, we would not have been in the hunt and the jobs would have gone to China. It has meant Australian jobs and it means taxes being paid in Australia".