SA Conventional & Renewable Energy

Economics - The Cost of Generation

Mandatory Renewable Energy Target Review

    The Federal Government’s Mandatory Renewable Energy Target program commenced in April 2001. It requires an extra 9,500GWh of electricity to be generated by renewable sources by 2010. When this target was first suggested, the 9,500GWh equalled 2% of the forecasted electricity demand in 2010. As it turns out the GDP has grown faster than expected and hence the figures used this forecast was a little light. Today, a true 2% target is forecasted to be approximately 12,800 GWh.

    In March 2003, a panel was formed to review the Commonwealth’s Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (MRET) legislation and provide a report into their findings by the end of September 2003. It was to determine, among other things, if the scheme should be abolished in favour for a common carbon-trading scheme as suggested by the Parer/COAG report, or if the target should be increased to a true 2%, 5% or 10% (in line with UK and Germany).

    The report recommends the scheme should continue with the current target of 9,500GWh to 2010 and then introduce steady increases to reach a 20,000 GWh target by 2020. As one could imagine this lack of support for renewable energy and the reduction of greenhouse gases has angered many community and green groups. Even many state governments are wondering why it can’t be increased to a true 2% or 4% when the report indicates it would have little effect to the GDP and wholesale electricity prices.

    However the report suggests given that we are only 6 years away from the target date it is not enough time to raise the 9,500GWh 2010 target and the generate enough investment to meet it. Yet, the report suggests a 20,000 GWh target for 2020 which is still only 2% of the 1997 baseline. If time was really an issue why isn’t the 2020 target raised higher than 2% of the 1997 baseline? If the Federal Government was serous about a 2% target, why not at the very least have a true 2%.

    While Australia produces more greenhouse gas per capita that any other country, Australia’s low price of electricity makes most renewable energy more expensive than coal and gas generated electricity. In countries like Germany where a 10% target is supported, electricity prices are double that of Australia’s hence more renewable energy can be installed without grossly upsetting the economy with higher electricity prices.

    While the Parer Report led to much investment uncertainty and the stalling of investment with in the renewable energy sector, this last report should not be seen as negative despite the rock bottom target. The 2% target still exists like it has since 2001. The report forecasts $215 million will be spent on new renewable energy in 2004, increasing to $454 the following year in the lead up to $2.025 billion in 2006. If this proves to be correct, it should make renewable energy a growth industry of the next 3 years with Wind Energy being the biggest benefactor.

Conventional/Fossil Fuel Power Stations - The Workhorse

    The majority of South Australia’s power generation comes from gas turbines with approximately 53 percent of the state’s gas supply being consumed for electricity generation in power station turbines and cogeneration plants. This gas was, until recently, supplied by a single production plant at Moomba and a single gas pipeline from Moomba to Adelaide. This can lead to significant restrictions when a breakdown occurs like was the case in February 2003 and which is presently occurring once again in January 2004.

    Origin Energy, International Power and TXU have completed the construction of the $500 million, 690km SEA gas pipeline which is now piping gas from Victoria into South Australia. The extra 125 PJ per annum will provide extra security for both gas customers and electricity generation.

    Press Release :

    Power StationOperatorCapacity (MW)Fuel
    Torrens Island ATRUenergy480Natural Gas/Oil
    Torrens Island BTRUenergy800Natural Gas/Oil
    NorthernNRG Flinders520Coal
    Pelican PointInternational Power487Natural Gas
    PlayfordNRG Flinders240Coal
    OsborneATCO & Origin Energy190Natural Gas
    HalletAGL181Natural Gas/Oil
    Dry CreekInternational Power156Natural Gas
    QuarantineOrigin Energy98.3Natural Gas
    MintaroInternational Power90Natural Gas
    Ladbroke GroveOrigin Energy86Natural Gas
    SnuggeryInternational Power78Distillate
    Port LincolnInternational Power48Distillate

    All the natural gas fired plants listed above except for Pelican Point all Natural Gas Open Cycle. Pelican Point, one of S.A.’s newer plants uses Natural Gas Combined Cycle (NGCC) which is more economical to run. Omitted from the above table is a small portfolio of non-scheduled, peaking or cogeneration plants such as a 60MW plant at Whyalla, 20MW Cummings Plant at Lonsdale and the newly commissioned 4.4MW cogeneration facility at Cooper’s Regency Park premises.

    In 2002/03 there was no increase or upgrades to scheduled generation. Current wholesale prices are creating uncertain market conditions with many generators re-evaluating their positions.

Interconnects - Opening up Market Competition

    South Australia has the following two interconnectors.

    ConnectorOwner/ManagerCapacity (MW)Connection Points
    HeywoodElectraNet SA460MW Import
    300MW Export
    Lower South East S.A. to Lower South West (Portland) VIC
    MurrayLinkTransEnergie Australia/SNC Lavalin 200MWRedcliff VIC to Monash (Riverland) S.A.

    The MurrayLink Interconnector is a DC transmission line which started commercial operation in early October 2002. Using HVDC Light technology, it consists of two 2 D.C. cables buried 1.2 m deep and extending 180 km in length from Redcliff in Victoria to Berri in South Australia. At each end is a converter station which converts the AC into DC and vice versa. It is currently the world’s longest underground power line and has recently been awarded the Engineering, South Australia Award for 2003.

    Also in the Pipeline is the South Australia / New South Wales Interconnect, nicknamed the SNI. It is a 250MW link being proposed by Transgrid, a NSW government owned High Voltage Network Provider. It was first planned in 2001 when average spot prices in NSW was $19MW/h dearer than S.A, however it’s benefits are depleting considering another regulated transmission line will only increase transmission costs further for South Australians, already suffering from excessively high ETSA and ElectraNet SA transmission costs.

Solar Power - Advertising for Governments

    While we don’t focus at the many smaller power plants under 1MW, the ‘North Terrace’ power stations are a good indication of the position of Photovoltaic Solar Cells and their current prohibited costs for mainstream grid connected systems.

    The first North Terrace Power Station was opened in November 2002. It consisted of 112 BP Solar Panels providing a total of 19.8kW. The panels are mounted on the north, main facing roof of the SA Museum in the CBD. Seven smaller inverters were used to convert the DC current into AC current. The project funded by the South Australia Government at a cost of $200,000 produces 25,950kW/h of electricity a year, enough to power 7 homes. At the time of opening it was the largest PV array in South Australia.

    In July 2003 a second ‘North Terrace Power Station’ was brought on-line. This time, 129 panels were bolted to the Art Gallery at a cost of $250,000 to the state government. It is suggested this station will produce approximately 31,000kW/hrs a year, cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 35 tonnes.

    Looking at infrastructure and construction costs, these two solar projects cost about $10,000 a kW to install. When we later look at wind power you will typically see infrastructure/construction costs around $1500/kW. As renewable energy has no fuel costs and often little maintenance costs, the cost of power is directly attributable to the infrastructure and construction costs.

    One can quickly see these two plants have little chance of being viable and only makes for a good advertising campaign. It makes the choice easy when it comes to spending tens of thousands to put solar panels on your roof or to invest it in the many renewable energy companies in Australia where your money could be more effectively pooled together to reduce carbon dioxide emissions ten fold. These current figures put power from Photovoltaic Solar at in excess of 30c kW/h. Even AGL SA’s excessive Domestic Light/Power tarrif is no where close at approximately 17.7c kW/h. (Even next years summer tarrif @ 20.944c)

    It’s not to say photovoltaic Solar Panels have no place. They are wonderful in remote locations such as the township of Parachilna where their 21kW system is saving money compared to the diesel generators which have previously ran 24 hours a day. They are just not competitive when you have a good connection to the grid. Solar panels will become more efficent and hence cheaper over time. For example research is being carried out into using a tantalum oxide film rather than traditional silicon oxide which reflects more light with initial results seeing a 25% increase in efficiency.

Origin Energy Sliver® Cell Technology

Origin Energy has started construction of a $20 million dollar "Sliver" Cell plant at Regency Park. The plant will help reduce the cost of solar cells, by reducing the use of silicon by as much as 90%.


Photo courtesy Origin Energy

Landfill / Sewage Gas - Mature Alternative Energy

    Landfill gas and biomass renewable energy plants are proven with some being in existence in Australia since the early ‘90s. While electricity from these plants is cheaper to produce than Wind, they are very limited in size. Typical South Australian plants such as Wingfield I, Wingfield II, Tea Tree Gully, Pedlers Creek and Highbury have an output of a couple of MW each. These five plants are operated by Energy Developments (ASX:ENE). One of Energy Development’s larger Australian landfill gas plants is the 12.7MW site at Lucas Heights. Landfill gas and biomass do however have the advantage of suppling base loads (24 hours operation except for maintenance).

    SiteDeveloperCapacity (MW)Fuel
    Pedler CreekEnergy Developments2.9Landfill Gas
    Wingfield 1Energy Developments3.9Landfill Gas
    Wingfield 2Energy Developments2Landfill Gas
    Tea Tree GullyEnergy Developments2Landfill Gas
    HighburyEnergy Developments1Landfill Gas

    Landfill gas is not the only good source for Methane. The decomposition of sludge using anaerobic digestion in Waste Water Treatment can also provide a good source. SA Water has turbines installed at three of its waste water treatment sites, listed below. However all this energy is used to power the plant’s pumps, air blowers and other equipment. Much of the energy is used to maintain optimum conditions for anaerobic digestion which requires the sludge to be maintained at 36degrees. There is no electricity pumped back into the grid.

    SiteDeveloperCapacity (MW)Fuel
    BolivarSA Water3.5Waste Water / Sewage Gas
    GlenelgSA Water1.8Waste Water / Sewage Gas
    Port AdelaideSA Water1.0Waste Water / Sewage Gas

    Babcock & Brown and National Power has announced preliminary plans for a $60 million Plantation and Timer Waste BioMass plant to be build around Millicent or Mt Gambier. The plant is suggested to be operational by 2005 supplying a larger 30MW of electricity. Auspine Limited has also announced plans for a simular plant at Tarpeena generating 60MW from Biomass scheduled for completion by Mid 2004.


Hydro - In South Australia?

Wind Farms - The Successful Alternative Energy Source

    Wind has proven itself to be the most viable and successful form of renewable energy to date, having a current renewable energy market share of 11% (August 2003) in Australia and is expect to grow to 41% by 2020. However like many renewable energies, while Wind Power is zero emission, it is not capable of supplying base loads, i.e if the wind stops, so does the power. Wind power at suitable sites in Australia has a 80-85% availability. Due to the size of the turbines, typically greater than 60 meters in diameter and siting on towers 70-100 meters tall, Wind turbines can lend themself to greater visual "pollution" than other forms of renewable generation.

    One solution is to place the large turbines out at sea which has been done for many years in other countries. However while there is better wind speeds out at sea due to the flatter surface (less resistance), there is a large cost penalty caused by sea based electricity grids, wind tower foundations, construction costs and the life of plant. Denmark and other such countries already operating sea based wind farms have electricity prices much greater than Australia, in the case of Denmark as much as three times (Source : Electricity Supply Association of Australia 2003). As Australia has the second cheapest electricity of any major developed nation (second only to South Africa), it is considered sea based wind farms are just not yet currently viable in Australia.

    The concept of wind is not new for South Australia. Wind energy was first studied by ETSA in the 1950’s with a Wind Energy Committee set up in 1984. The first wind monitoring units were established on the Fleurieu Peninsula in mid 1985 with a total of 30 sites monitored around SA by 1988. A single 150kW Nordex Wind Turbine was installed in Cooper Pedy and was commissioned on the 15th March 1991.

    Operational South Australian Wind Farms :

    SiteDeveloperCapacity (MW)DetailsCost
    Starfish HillTarong Energy34.5MW23x NEG Micon NM64C/1500 (1.5MW)$65M
    Canunda (Lake Bonney Central)Wind Prospect
    International Power
    46MW23x Vestas 2.0MW$92.5M
    Lake Bonney Stage 1Babcock & Brown Wind Partners80.5MW46x Vestas V66 (1.75MW)$157.6M
    Wattle PtSouthern Hydro / Meridian Energy91MW55x Vestas NM82 (1.65MW)$165M

    However South Australia only comissioned its first large scale plant in July 2003. Being developed by Tarong Energy (A Queensland Government owned electricity generator), the $65 million dollar project is situated north of Cape Jervis with a total of 13 NEG Micon 1.5 MW NM64C/1500 wind turbines generating 34.5MW. This is enough energy to power approximately 18,000 South Australian homes. The farm connects to the ETSA Utilities’ Yankalilla Substation via a 66KV High Voltage Transmission Line.

    South Australian Wind Farms under Construction :

    SiteDeveloperCapacity (MW)Turbines
    Cathedral RocksHydro Tasmania6633 x 2MW
    Wattle PtMeridian Energy9155
    Mt Milar (Formally Yabmana)Tarong Energy7035

    Proposed South Australian Wind Farms :

    SiteDeveloperCapacity (MW)Turbines
    Clements GapPacific Hydro5835
    Vincent North Wind FarmPacific Hydro59.436
    Lake Bonney Stage 2Babcock & Brown Wind Partners160-
    Uley Basin Stage 1Babcock & Brown9060
    Myponga (Sellicks Beach)TrustPower3520
    Kemmiss Hill Road Wind FarmOrigin Energy3016
    KongorongStanwell Corp5033
    Lake HamiltonHydro Tasmania11073
    Waterloo (Clare Valley)Hydro Tasmania117-
    Loch Well BeachAusker Energies5033
    Tungetta HillAusker Energies & ANZ5033
    HallettWind Prospect320.
    Barunga (West of Snowtown)Wind Prospect260130
    Green PointWind Prospect & Novera Energy5418
    Troubridge PtWind Prospect2515
    Woakwine RangeWind ProspectNA60
    Weymouth HillMeridian Energy & Wind Farm Develpments20
    Waitpinga (Victor Harbour)Wind Farm Developments4020
    Collaby Hill (East of Port Pirie)Wind Farm DevelopmentsNANA

    Another farm in construction is Babcock & Brown WindPower Pty Ltd’s Lake Bonney Stage One, an 80.5MW Wind Farm costing more than $100 Million. Work has begun on the first of 46 foundations and 76 metre towers to support the Vestas 1.75MW Wind Generators having blades 66 meters in diameter. The farm was under threat in 2001 when "outstanding issues associated with the connection of the wind farms to the high voltage grid system" was hindering the farm’s commercial viability according to a Spokesman for Babcock & Brown Windpower. It appears many farms are having trouble with monopoly ElectraNet S.A. in connecting to the H.V. transmission grid at reasonable prices.

    No doubt you will notice Wind farms are having a few publicity problems at the present. This appears to have stemmed from a minority of residents who have legitimate concerns about a farm being built nearby and the possibility of visual pollution. Coupled with the media who really doesn’t care if it is fact or fiction, provided it makes a good story, the problem has escalated from myth to myth.

    Here are the normal myths circulating at present:

    • Wind power is not base load and we will need to build extra generation to supplement wind power when the wind is not blowing. Typically availability is quoted 30%.
    • The energy payback time for a wind farm is too great.
    • Wind Farms and the power they generate are expensive.
    • Wind Farms cause visual pollution.
    • Wind Farms are noisy.
    • Wind Farms kill birds.

    Myth #1 Wind power is not base load and has an availability of 30%.

    Wind farms are the most successful form of renewable energy to date. As a result it carries the weight of some far-fetched ideas that wind farms will one-day replace fossil fuel power stations. It’s probably easy to guess why someone would jump to this conclusion. After all the growth of wind farms have been quite significant in the past couple of years.

    However if some how it was possible, so called experts would point out wind is intermittent form of energy and wind only blows 30% of the time. Well the statement is not entirely correct but what they are talking about is the capacity factor (CF). There is no hidden secret. The capacity factor of a wind farm is approximately 30%. What is capacity factor?

    "So ask yourself the question: If South Australia was stupid enough to go for wind, how would you run air-conditioners or, indeed, hospitals and industry for the other 244 days of the year? " - David Bellamy

    Wind farms, have an availability figure of around 96-98%. This indicates the turbine will be ready to generate energy say 98% of the time. During the other two percent, the turbine or grid may be undergoing maintenance, the distribution grid may be down due to fault or for bush fire prevention etc.

    Then there is a wind availability figure. At most good sites within Australia this is approximately 80%. This indicates that 80% of the time, the wind is fast blowing enough to generate power, or less than the cut-off wind speed at which the turbine shuts down and turns out of the wind. This is done to protect the turbine from damage in very strong winds.

    Last there is a turbine power curve which plots power output against speed. It shows at what wind speed the output of the generator will peak. Multiply all these figures together with the wind speeds at the site and you get a capacity figure as a percentage. This means if you have an 18.2MW wind farm you could expect an output of approximately 47.8GWh/year (18.2MW/h x 24hours x 365days x 30%).

    Pacific Hydro which has built both the Codrington Farm and more recently Australia’s Largest Wind Farm, Chalicium Hills, quotes Capacity Factor on the fact sheets for its farms. Codrington (18.2MW) was expected to be about 32%. In the 2002/03 Annual Report, Codrington generated 47.8GWh of clean renewable energy. That’s a 29.98% capacity factor which is not bad for the first couple of years when the farm is still being fine tuned and serviced under the manufacturers warrantee.

    So the media is right. A 18.2MW wind farm really only generates 30% of the name plate capacity. This then requires scheduled generation when the wind is not blowing. This is not a significant problem as gas fired peaking plants or hydro can be brought on line quickly. So what does the media (the people in the know) suggest as alternatives? Solar? Yep. Wave? sure do.

    Unlike wind, the sun doesn’t shine 80-85% of the time. At worst case from sunset to sunrise, you would be really scratching at a maximum of 14 hours or 58%. Then you have cloudy days, which can see the output drop 5-20%, and maximum power output at certain conditions no different to wind. Most solar panels don’t track the sun, and they are less efficient at higher temperatures.

    The North Terrace Power Station (PV Solar), has an installed capacity of 19.8KW. Each year it generates 25,950kW/hrs so we can conclude it has a capacity factor of 14.9% (19.8KW x 24 hours x 365 days = 173,448kW / 25,950). Gee, that’s poor. The North Terrace Power Station was commissioned in November 2002, Codrington was in November 2001 so both use about that same era of technology. To be fair, the Redding Report states CF figures for Solar at a slightly higher 18%.

    Unfortunately we are still a few months of seeing the first prototype wave power plants being installed in Australia and there is no comprehensive wave studies in Australia. Economics has been the main reason why wave has not let taken off. While I prefer to work on actual production data, we will have to base our wave capacity on research.

    Like wind, Wave power is said to have an approximate availability of 80% in Australia. However in a report from the Australian Greenhouse Office, it is suggested Wave power has a capacity factor of 7% upwards to 25% based on the device used.

    "The efficient use of every form of energy is a must. In your sunburnt country, surely solar power can bridge the gap until wave power begins to provide real base load power to solve the problem. " - David Bellamy.

    So David Bellamy, if we adopt solar power how do we run our air-conditioners or, indeed, hospitals and industry for the other 310 days of the year?

    It has never been suggested Intermittent Renewable Energy such as Wind would replace fossil fuels. Most renewable technologies simple do not scale up well. However they are designed to supplement power generation, and we must start somewhere. We can’t keep putting of construction hoping for some miracle solution to come along.

    It is hard to understand how Wind could ever overtake fossil fuels without some significant shift in Federal Government Policy. The Mandatary Renewable Energy Target calls for 9,500 GWh of renewable energy by 2010, or about 1.5% of electricity to come from renewable sources. At present Wind makes up 11% of renewable energy and is expect to grow to 40% by 2020. Therefore Wind would be predicted to make up approximately 0.6% of generation. Any further generation would have no REC’s to support it. Even if MRET was increased to 10%, Wind would only ever make up 4% of total generation. AusWEA suggests that up to 20% of electricity could be generated by Wind before it would cause problems.

    Myth #2 The energy payback time for a wind farm is too great.

    The energy payback time is the time taken to repay all the energy used to manufacture, install, operate and decommission the plant. The payback time for wind is in the order of a couple of months, typically anywhere from 3 to 8 months depending upon the wind speed at the location.

    In comparison solar cells have a payback time of around 1 to 4 years depending upon the technology. It’s typically around 4 years for today’s multicrystalline-silicon cells and 3 years for thin-film modules.

    It can be expected both will continue to decrease as technologies get better. Only two years ago it was common to use 1.3MW wind turbines, today they are using 1.75MW turbines economically.

    Myth #3 Wind Farms and the power they generate are expensive.

    The comparison of capital costs for various forms of generation is normally expressed as cost to install 1kW of name plate generation. It is not a true comparison, as Capacity Factor will effect viability of the project.

    TypeCapital CostPower Cost
    Wind$1500/kW$75 MW/h
    PV Solar$10,000/kW>$300 MW/h
    Solar Tower$4000/kW$180 MW/h
    Wave$1500/kW$100 MW/h

    While Australia is a good location for Solar Power it’s price still makes it prohibitive on a large scale. Wave is predicted to be better, but would still be many years away.

    Myth #4 Wind Farms cause visual pollution.

    Two Turbines from Pacfic Hydro’s Codrington Farm (Victoria)

    Extract from Adelaide’s NewsPapers : Picture of decade old wind farms which the media love to recycle. These photos originate from overseas. No one needs to worry about a farm ending up like this. Being so old and inefficient, its simply not economically viable to build such a monstrosity.

    This is true to some extent. However it is highly dramatised by the media. Early farms overseas used smaller turbines and consequently many more of them. They were all placed on top of each other in a small density polluted farm. The media has these first images and have never let go from them. In reality turbines today are much larger and placed much further apart.

    The other myth is the speed of the blades. People visualise ‘fans’ spinning around. In fact the speed of the blades spin around at a typical speed of 15 to 17 revolutions per minute, or 3 and a half seconds to do a single revolution. I can remember approaching my first farm from a distance and actually thought they were aseptically pleasing to watch.

    Wind farms normally have all cables buried underground. Therefore if I was given the option to have a wind farm across the road or a couple of gas/coal turbines complete with rusting chimney stack and high voltage switch yard or an open cut coal mine, I think I would take the first option.

    Myth #5 Wind farms are noisy.

    Another myth about wind farms is its noise. Really, some misinformed people must turn on their fans and really visualise the turbines are just as noisy!

    The most you can hear directly standing under a turbine is the swishing of air as the tip of each turbine cuts through the air at 15RPM. Even this is insignificant. At 400 meters which is the closest a turbine can be built to a house, the noise level is 40dB. This is the equivalent to a library. You can easily hold a conversation under a Wind Turbine, which is said to be 60dB.

    For the sake of economics you would expect the farm to be built in a location known for high winds. In this case you are more likely to hear the wind blowing, than you would the swishing noise.

    Australian Wind Energy Association Fact Sheet on Noise

    People having a conversation under a Turbine from Pacific Hydro’s Challicum Hills Farm

    Myth #6 Wind farms kill birds.

    Yes, it’s a given that the turbines can and will kill birds. However it’s important to get it in proportion. Motor Vehicles, Buildings & Windows, Power Lines, Communication Towers, Global Warming and even Domestic Cats will kill many times more. An Australian Study suggested mortality rates of 0.23 birds per year per turbine, quite insignificant when compared to mortality rates caused by domestic cats or motor vehicles. The study showed after a farm was installed, birds would change their flight a couple hundred meters before approaching the blades and actually fly over it, as they would other obstacles.

    Australian Wind Energy Association Fact Sheet on Birds

Gippsland Circus - The Bald Hill Debate

    While it is known some individuals strongly oppose wind farms, what is only just becoming evident is the length some groups will go to when lead on by the media, and of course a federal election! The recent Gippsland Circus in Victoria is a prime example of this.

    At stake is the 52 turbine Bald Hill wind farm on the Bass Coast of South Gippsland said to produce 104 megawatts of power. The developer Wind Power Pty Ltd estimates the project will cost $220million.

    It starts with the British Professor of Botany, David Bellamy who helped to heavily promote wind farms in Britain in the 1980’s. Today, he has changed his mind, rather leading the campaign in Britain against wind farms. The UK has older ‘first generation’ wind turbines, which are noisier, smaller and less efficient than today’s turbines. Their smaller size and lower efficiency requires many more turbines to be placed together to generate the same power achievable with just a couple of today’s high tech, high efficient units. For example, the Australian Financial Review used capacity factor (CF) figures from German wind farms, which were in the vicinity of 11%, and tried to incorrectly apply these to the Australian Market using newer technology where 30% CF is normal. Doing this introduced almost a 200% error in CF used by the AFR to support views they were ineffective. Bellamy makes the same mistakes.

    "The wind is indeed a useful element all over this world. One thing is certain; when all the reserves of fuel, like coal and oil, have been used up there will still be the wind. You see the winds which blows around this planet remain largely untapped: A huge and constant source of energy for a power hungry world." - Prof David Bellamy - 1989

    Hence Bellamy is quite justified complaining about the situation in the UK. His complaints stem around the capacity factor for wind farms and the number of old and aging turbines required over their country side. Because the wind is not blowing all the time, it is only reasonable to expect to obtain 30% output from new wind farm. Bellamy however recommends Australia focuses on solar energy - something which is at best six times more expensive and has a capacity factor of only 15% or at best, half the capacity of Wind.

    Channel nine’s Sixty Minutes paid for Professor David Bellamy to stir up a small delegation of 800 residents concerned about the consequences of Bald Hill in a public meeting in Foster, a town in Gippsland and the marginal Federal electorate of Macmillan. Some conservationists liken it to scientists being paid in the fifties to travel around and say cigarettes don’t kill you.

    Other journalists armed with questions about Bellamy’s controversial and somewhat misleading views were prevented from raising their concerns directly with Bellamy :

    Is there any reason why the Australian Broadcasting Corporation isn’t allowed to ask any questions of Professor Bellamy?

    Sixty Minutes Spokesman : Because he’s gotta go home and go to bed.

    Rachel Carbonell : Can he make that decision or is that a decision that you make?

    …So Professor Bellamy is there any reason why you won’t answer questions from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation?

    DAVID BELLAMY : Because I’ve been asked not to.

    But at the end of the staged public forum, the circus was just getting started. With a federal election just around the corner, why can’t the Federal Government enter into the debate? At the time, it was thought little could be done at the federal level. The necessary planning and development approvals, which include impact statements regarding bird mortalities had been obtained. The Victorian Government had signed off on the project in August.

    But liberal candidate for the seat of McMillan, Russell Broadbent enlisted the help of Environment Minister Ian Campbell. He creatively found a way to halt the project under the federal government’s silver bullet - the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. This is an extremely rare occurrence. In the history of the act only two major projects have ever been halted or vetoed.

    Ian Campbell said the project should be delayed until the operator supplied more information about the economic and social impacts of the project and potential effects on bird life. Ironically some conservationists are now suggesting we may not have to worry about this problem in 2050 as many of the hundreds of species of birds will no longer exist if CO2 emissions continue to grow.


Gippsland Circus - The Bald Hill Debate turns to Parrot Politics - Part II

    With the election over, you would think the circus would finish – at least until the lead up to the next election. But nope – it’s time to play Parrot Politics.

    " Word is out this morning that the Federal Government is going to try and scuttle the Bracks Government's plan for a large wind farm at Bald Hills in south Gippsland. Federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell is due to make an announcement this afternoon that a two year investigation indicates the wind farm's 52 turbines will disrupt migratory birds. So is this the end of the Bald Hills wind farm and indeed perhaps other wind farm proposals?" - Libby Price, The ABC. Wednesday, 05/04/2006.

    Indeed it would seem so. As expected, the Federal Environment Minister intervened and overruled the development of the farm. The reason? The need to protect the orange-bellied parrot.

    But interesting enough the report concluded not a single orange-bellied parrot was observed near the proposed Bald Hills wind farm. Where too next? The developer’s take Federal court action against the decision. (Even the Victorian Government offered to take federal court action to overturn the federal decision to stop the farm)

    By June, and with the court in session, Federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell was in damage control, denying reports he ignored explicit advice from his own department which recommended approving the farm.

    The federal court battle ends in August when Federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell agrees to reconsider his decision. The court issues orders by consent for the Minister to reconsider and pay the developer’s legal costs. (More tax payers money)

    Planning Minister Rob Hulls said "This court order today makes it pretty clear that his original decision to knock back the Bald Hills wind farm was a purely political decision"

    So surely there is closure now? Nope. There is Victorian Elections in November. Unbelievably now it’s the Greens wanting to stop the farm. No, you are reading this correct – The GREENS. Greens candidate, Jackie Dargaville contested the local seat. She indicated while the Greens support renewable energy over coal and nuclear electricity generation, "we do believe that renewables should be in the right place". Yep, you guessed it. It turns out she lives close by – the old NIMBY problem – Not in my backyard.

    Finished yet? Nope – two days later (August 17th) Vandals cause $100,000 damage too two Wind Monitoring tower at the proposed site. Twelve days later, on the 29th August, Federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell announces a $3.2 million dollar fund to protect the endangered orange-bellied parrot.

    Stay tuned for part III. Another Federal Election coming up next year . . . . . Sadly, In the mean time Global Warming isn’t slowing.


    1st September 2006

Hot Rock Geothermal - Could it be the future of Renewable Energy?

    Certainly worthy of mention is South Australia’s world class HFR (Hot Fractured Rock) or HDR (Hot Dry Rock) geothermal energy resources. The Cooper Basin is one of the world’s hottest locations for HFR energy and is the site for the Geodynamics (ASX:GDY) demonstration plant. The operation consists of drilling two wells approximately 5 kilometres into the ground. A heat exchanger is then formed by hydraulic stimulation where the temperature of the granites is approximately 270°C. The technology and concept is not new. France has the Soultz HDR project which is considered the most advanced HDR geothermal project in the world. HDR geothermal energy uses proven binary power plants and proven drilling techniques used everyday in the mining industry. HDR geothermal exploration in Australia was kick started by SA and NSW’s recognition of HDR by granting Geothermal Exploration Licences (GELs) and the Government’s Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act 2000.

    “The ability of industry to innovate and promote new technology is exemplified by the experimental Hot Dry Rocks Project. I am quietly confident that this project, dependent on high heat flow of basement rocks in the Moomba - Gidgealpa region, will be the beginning of new era of clean green energy production for South Australia. This project has the potential to provide a significant proportion of South Australia’s energy requirements. I await the results from the first geothermal well, the 4.5 km hole Habanero 1, with great interest."-Paul Holloway - Part of the SA’s Minister for Mineral Resources Development opening speech for the South Australian Resources and Energy Investment Conference in Adelaide. 30th May 2003

    Geodynamic’s economic modelling suggests it can produce power from a 13MWe demonstration plant at around $63MW/h. This is cheaper than wind, and has simular infrastructure costs. A scaled up plant of 275MW is suggested to produce power at a cost of $40MW/h which is the first base load zero emissions renewable energy source to rival the cost of conventional fossil fuels. This data is produced in collaboration with MIT and has been independently reviewed by Sinclair Knight Merz.

    Geodynamics has successfully obtained a technological transfer agreement and sub licence for the use of Kalina Cycle technology. Kalina Cycle is the world’s highest efficiency heat to power conversion technology which when used in the proposed binary geothermal power plant can increase the efficiency by as much as 25%. Such increases has been demonstrated in a plant in Iceland. Traditional plants have used an Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) based on organic fluids where the Kalina Cycle uses a water ammonia mixture.

    One of the problems with producing power of this quantity in the Cooper Basin is the cost of connecting it to the High Voltage Transmission Network. As Geodynamics has another GEL for the Hunter Valley (close to Sydney) some wonder why this site was not chosen for the demonstration plant. However Geodynamics points out the temperature of the granites may be tens of degrees lower at the Hunter Valley site which can cause power output to be cut substantially.

    "It is also worth noting that South Australia is now a hotbed of exploration for geothermal energy – with investment coming from Geodynamics, Minotaur, Scopenergy, Perilya and Green Rock Energy. There opens some chance for an emissions free energy future - not just for the State - but for the nation. Some of you may have noticed the recent announcement by Queensland’s Premier Peter Beattie of Geo-thermal licences. I’m sorry Pete, but you’re three years behind us. Not only that, Geodynamics already have a well near Inniminka that I am told is coming along nicely. -One year after Paul Holloway’s first mention of HDR, he is at it again - SA Resources and Energy Investment Conference - 10th May 2004

    The 275MWe scaled up plant could be connected to the High Voltage Distribution Grid with a line to Olympic Dam. This proposal is suggested to cost approximately $5 to $10MW/h still making the project very viable. The 275MWe plant harnesses an area of HDR 2.5 x 2.5 kilometres. Geodynamics GEL97 & GEL98 HDR geothermal exploration tenements in South Australia alone cover an area of 991 square kilometres and with mention of future capacities in the thousands of MWe, We can only wait and see what eventuates of this exciting technology. The 1000 square kilometre HDR resource is the equivalent of 50 billion barrels of oil or 10.3 billion tonnes of coal. This is 20 times larger than all the known Australian oil reserves and equivalent to 40 years current black coal production.

    Habanero 1 & 2, Geodynamic’s first two geothermal wells (named after a hot chilly pepper) has produced very exciting results. Hydraulic stimulation of the underground heat exchanger, the most riskiest part of the project, has been successfully completed. It was reported to have exceeded all expectations with a heat exchanger seven times larger than expected. A initial water circulation test in mid April 2005 lasting 40 hours reached temperatures of 198.5°C. A five week diagnostic flow test programme is now expected to start the week beginning 2nd May 2005 and after completion, a 3MW geothermal power plant will be built to demostrate HFR geothermal energy. Literally it’s full steam ahead for Geodynamics.

    Petratherm Limited (ASX:PTR) has a different strategy to that of its peers. Instead of focusing on obtaining the highest temperatures, they are aiming to find hot dry rock in excess of 220°C but at a depth less than 3.5 kilometres and positioned close to infrastructure. They believe finding hot dry rock close to established infrastructure but at lower temperatures out weighs the cost of drilling deeper and running transmission lines across the state.

    Unfortunately we will have to wait a couple of years to see if this strategy proves correct. Petratherm has announced it will drill its first exploration well in the forth quarter of 2004, kick starting a two-year exploration program. Petratherm have identified three areas of interest and have obtained geothermal exploration licences GEL156 Paralana and GEL157 Callabona, both northeast of Leigh Creek and GEL158 Ferguson Hill, approximately 70 kilometres north of Olympic Dam.

    Eden Energy, a subsidiary of Tasman Resources (ASX:TAS) has applied for seven geothermal licences in South Australia. It intends to harness Hot Dry Rock energy not only for electricity generation, but also for the production of hydrogen fuels.

    Eden Energy has a significant stake of Brehon Energy, which holds world leading technology and patents for the cryogenic storage of hydrogen and the production and use of Hythane, a mixture of compressed natural gas (CNG) and hydrogen. This technology has initially been developed over the past 15 to 20 years as part of the NASA space program, been trialed in a wide range of applications and is now ready for full-scale commercialisation.

    Eden has just announced details of a joint project to replace Beijing’s 10,000 diesel buses with low emission Hythane alternatives. This technology will be ready and on show to the world at the up coming 2008 Beijing Olympics.

    Green Rock Energy Limited (ASX:GRK), formally Mokuti Mining Limited has acquired Perilya Geothermal Energy Pty Ltd & Green Rock Energy Pty Ltd which each own a 50% share of five geothermal exploration licences around the Olympic Dam area covering 2200 square kilometres. Green Rock Energy will start drilling investigation wells in the 2nd quarter of 2005 and subject to good results will drill it’s first geothermal exploration well in 2006.

    Geothermal-Resources, a spin off from Havilah Resources (ASX:HAV) has recently announced an IPO. Geothermal Resources currently owns GEL181, 208, 209 and 210 in South Australia’s Lake Frome area and have applied for GELA214, 215, 216 and 217.

    Renewable energy company, Pacific Hydro is also hot on hot rocks. Pacific Hydro has a record eighteen geothermal exploration licences in South Australia covering a total of 8,894 square kilometres.

    While South Australia and New South Wales were the first to recognise Hot Rock Geothermal exploration, it would appear the NT, Victorian, Queensland and more recently Western Australia are busy passing legislation allowing the exploration of Hot Rocks.


16th November 2006

Parabolic Solar Collectors - A Solar Oasis?

    For quite some years there has been talk about a $80 million Solar Oasis Project to be built in Whyalla on South Australia’s Spencer Gulf. Using technology being developed by engineering professor Stephen Kaneff from the ANU, the project is suggested to consist of two hundred 22.6m wide parabolic dishes. The dishes would concentrate the sun on a boiler which produces steam and hence is suggested to produce 22.2MW electricity. The heat from this process could also be used to distil some 20 megalitres per day of water.

7th October 2003

Other Innovative Power Generation Projects around Australia.

Solar Hydrogen - "Energy of the Future"

    A team of scientists from the University of NSW’s Centre for Materials and Energy Conversion, believe within seven years they will be able to produce a solar panel which produces hydrogen. It has been suggested if 1.6 million individual households equipped their roofs with 10m x 10m of solar hydrogen panels they would meet all of Australia’s energy needs.

    The panels would use a special titanium oxide ceramic that harvests sunlight and splits water to produce hydrogen fuel without creating any greenhouse gases or other pollutants. This hydrogen gas could then be used for transport, heating and cooking, or used in fuel cells to generate electricity.

    The UNSW work is currently backed by Rio Tinto, Sialon Ceramics and Austral Bricks.

27th August 2004

Base load Solar Power?
1st July 2004

High Reliability Wave Power with Desalination by-product.

    It is estimated some 2,000,000MW of energy could be derived by wave action from the world’s oceans. However harvesting this energy has proven to be problematic with fouling and durability problems causing on-going maintenance and a greatly reduced life.

    To date, wave energy has been converted to electricity by funnel like turbines mounted on the surface of the water. As the water rises, air is funnelled through a turbine to generate electricity. This creates an obstacle along the coast and a hazard with underwater high voltage transmission lines connecting the units to the grid.

    Seapower Pacific is set to change this. Using patented technology, the CETO wave power plant consists of two parts. The magic is in a submerged unit that does not protrude above the water line and consists of a flexible diaphragm. As waves pass the diaphragm, compression and expansion occurs which can be used to pump sea water to shore under high pressure (1000psi). On shore this high-pressure water is converted to electricity using a conventional non-marine qualified Pelton turbine.

    The construction of the underwater unit is made of concrete, steel and rubber which are all proven in sea conditions. With the generator located on shore, no special requirements are needed for grid connection. The by-product of the plant is highly pressurised sea water which can be used in reverse osmosis desalination to produce fresh water.

    On the 26th of July 2005, it was reported that CETO underwent its inaugural operational testing 300m west from Rous Head where it successfully transmitted high pressure seawater to shore at in excess of 500 psi. In the second half of 2005, typical pressures of between 620 to 850 PSI was obtained on-shore. In late November, the company had ordered desalination equipment which will be installed once delivered. The company has a plan to produce its first commercial CETO by the end of 2006.

    In 2005, Seapower Pacific Pty Ltd was acquired by UK based Renewable Energy Holdings PLC. As part of the acquisition, the original Australian owners, Carnegie Corporation (ASX:CNM), Pacific Hydro, Burns group & Seapower Pty Ltd each have an interest in REH. The project is said to have attracted great interest from overseas renewable energy bodies and with most Australian states now investigating desalination, such a plant which doesn’t consume plentiful amounts of electricity but rather generates it can only be a winner for reducing GHG emissions while ensuring Australia doesn’t run out of fresh water.

    Related Links:

    The Western Australian Government has announced plans to build a reverse osmosis desalinisation plant capable of producing 45 gigalitres (17% of Perth’s water supply) a year. Using conventional electric pumps to force the salt water through the micro filters, it is being built 40km south of Perth next to the Kwinana power station due to its hungry power requirements. While its still early days to see Seapower’s Technology commercialised, WA’s plant will help other states see desalination as a viable opportunity and will most certainly strive to do things better.

    15th January 2006

Distributed Generation using Miniturbines or Fuel Cells

    As utilities try to squeeze more profit from their expensive electricity grids while at the same time adversely effecting their reliability, large scale and lengthy power outages are becoming more frequent. One way of safe guarding this is by installing your own efficient, low emission generation.

    One of the fastest growing sectors in the energy industry at the moment is Distributed Generation (DG) also known as Decentralised Energy (DE). Currently about 7% of world wide generation is DG with some countries such as Germany having as much as a 13% DG market share.

    One type of Distributed Generation is mini-turbines such as the Capstone C30. These are miniature Gas Turbines which are connected up to either Natural Gas or LPG. One of the benefits of DG is the co-generation capability often referred to as CHP (Combined Heat Power). This allows the consumer not only to generate their own power, but also to use the otherwise wasted heat for room or water heating.

    The other fast growing type of DG is fuel cells. Fuel cells are still a little way off from participating in the zero emission hydrogen economy, part due to the availability of hydrogen, but they are a very real option today for DG from natural gas.

    There are many types of fuel cells, but the common ones are :

    • Polymer Electrolyte Membrane Fuel Cells (PEM) - Used in fast starting applications such as UPSs and typically operate on pure Hydrogen.
    • Molten Carbonate Fuel Cells - More suited to commercial applications and larger power plants.
    • Solid Oxide Fuel Cells - High electrical efficiency and well suited for small to large scale generation.

    Ballard Power Systems is leading the world in PEM Fuel Cells. Today, You can purchase a 1kW AirGen Fuel Cell Generator which is a small portable unit which can generate electricity for up to 8 hours from it’s three internal hydrogen cartridges. After this the unit can switch to an external higher capacity Hydrogen Cylinder. These units are more aimed at back up UPS power supplies for computer rooms, telecommunications etc but can have a range of other uses. Running on pure Hydrogen means they generate no emissions making them ideal for indoor use.

    In the Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC) arena, a world renowned Melbourne based company, Ceramic Fuel Cells Limited (ASX:CFU) is considered to be leading the world market. CFCL is working to commercialise a 1kW SOFC later this year that also functions as a Domestic Hot Water service that can service a family of 4. Larger units up to 5kW will also be avalible to suit businesses.

    The Residential Micro CHP produces electricity from natural gas (Methane), LPG, Propane without combustion, noise or moving parts providing for a greater electrical efficiency of up to 50%, while reducing CO2 emissions by 60%. By harnessing the 850 degree heat generated by the fuel cell, the owner can gain hot water and an overall system efficiency of 85%. This makes the SOFC much more efficient that the large scale CCGT (Combined Cycle Gas Turbine) that your power station may use, and without loosing another 10% power from losses in the grid.

    The Australian Technology Park in Sydney is one site in Australia who uses a large fuel cell to generate 200kW of electricity from natural gas for use within the park, while at the same time reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

    Ceramic Fuel Cells has recently set up a subsidiary in the United Kingdom where it intends to set up a large scale manufacturing plant. It has the backing of many large shareholders including Woodside Petroleum, Energex, Western Power, BHP Billiton, CSIRO & the Commonwealth of Australia.

    Related Links:

6th November 2004

Australia’s Greenhouse Future ‘lies’ in the hands of Roam Consulting - or does it?

    Coal is the predominant fuel used in Australia for the generation of electricity and unfortunately has the highest greenhouse intensity of most fuels. Thirty three per cent of Australia’s greenhouse emissions come from electricity generation, with 92 per cent of this from coal.

    Today, coal is typically used in PV (pulverised fuel) power stations which have a thermal efficiency of approximately 33%. A new technology is being demonstrated around the world called Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) which can increase efficiencies by greater than 50% and thus minimally reduce GHG emissions. However coupled with carbon capture and storage the emissions can be greatly reduced or more accurately ‘stored’, preventing them from reaching the atmosphere.

    So far IGCC has only been used overseas in demonstration plants and is still considered uneconomical to be used in larger scale plants. For this reason there are no IGCC plants in Australia but as the technology improves this should change.

    To say the least, IGCC is quite an impressive technology. It involves converting coal into a synthetic gas called syngas consisting of hydrogen and carbon dioxide. This gas can then be burnt in traditional CCGT (Combined Cycle Gas Turbine) plants that would traditionally run on natural gas. IGCC plants are also visioned to be the stepping stone to the hydrogen economy where Syngas can be separated into carbon dioxide and hydrogen with the latter being used for cars, heating or electricity generation via fuel cells.

    If you have a BIG problem, bury it - Geosequestration

    However the problem occurs with the carbon capture and storage more commonly known as Geosequestration. While some technologies to support the concept exist today, as a whole Geosequestration is currently an unproven technology which requires many more significant years of development should it ever be economically viable. While the oil industry has in the past injected gas into active wells, little is known about the long-term storage of C02 in disused wells. The consequences of vast amounts of CO2 escaping could be devastating, possible affixiating nearby communities while undoing billions of dollars of work by storing it in the first place.

    Despite little being known about the technology and the huge development risks involved, the Howard government known for its good economic management, is going the next step. It has put all its eggs in one basket by throwing large amounts of tax payers money into what some consider a short sighted distant and ambitious technology of Geosequestration, while abolishing Australia’s only renewable energy CRC, ACRE. After all, renewable energy is not needed anymore.

    Currently there are few used oil and gas wells or coal seams that could be used for storage. It is considered some may come available in about 2030 but would not be available in all states. The greatest potential for storing CO2 is in Western Australia, yet most of the CO2 is generated in the eastern states. It should be noted, that the technology is not perfect and is never expected to be. It is not Zero Emission Coal as some incorrectly call it. While a good 80% of the emissions can be collected using proven technology today, there will still be some CO2 escaping the system and entering the atmosphere.

    But more important, while there are hundreds of good ideas in existence, it must be economically viable to survive. The International Energy Agency (IEA) has calculated, full geosequestration from either an IGCC or natural gas CCGT would cost approximately $67.50 AUD a tonne of CO2. This would include the capture, compression, transportation and storage. A typical IGCC plant produces about 0.7 tonnes of CO2 per MW/h of electricity produced. Therefore at current prices (assuming you can build an IGCC plant economically) Australia is looking at about $100MW/h. For comparison, a wind farm can produce power at a cost of approximately $70MW/h and Hydro is about $60MW/h.

    So how does government come to such a decision to funnel money from renewable energy and place all its eggs in one extremely risky basket for the benefit of all Australians, . . . sorry, benefit of Rio Tinto?

    It starts with the Prime Minister’s Science, Engineering and Innovation Council (PMSEIC) which Mr Howard personally chairs twice a year. It is his government’s principal source of independent advice on issues of science, engineering and innovation. In the 9th meeting on the 5th of December a paper was presented titled "Beyond Kyoto - Innovation and Adaptation"

    The paper proposed and heavily supported only one emerging solution - something that will be economically viable within 10 years - The sequestration of CO2. But if, in isolation you read the report yourself, you would of come to the same conclusions. There is only one way forward for Australia. Stop wasting money on renewables. The solution can’t be simpler.

    The reason why the Howard Government will not increase MRET is that it will marginally increase the price of power. This will make some industries uneconomic, causing job losses and the GDP to fall. In the report Geosequestration was suggested to cost as low as $10 per tonne, a figure quoted from Roam Consulting’s unpublished data. Roam Consulting is a small Queensland based consultancy agency. The report goes on to say “Such figures compare favourably with other options offering large reductions in emissions”, i.e the ones that cause job loses and a fall in the GDP such as wind, hydro and wave.

    The comparative cost of power. Note how cheap "zero" emission coal is compared to Hot Dry Rock. (It’s also interesting to see Wind so cheap).

    So one has to wonder where this $10 a tonne figure comes from? Roam Consulting? No, interesting enough they deny the claim and do not understand how their name was associated with this data. So who better to ask, than Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Robin Batterham who just happens to be Chief Technologist and a board member of Rio Tinto. In fact, that’s just what the ABC’s 7:30 report did. When asked, he clammed up and suggested to ABC’s Andrew Fowler to check the ’Hansard’, after all it was the same question Greens leader Senator Bob Brown had asked when recently grilled in Parliament. Dr Batterham did eventually give an answer to the question on the 7:30 report - “unpublished data”.

    It is now understood that the data was fabricated.

    Another quite intriguing part of the report was a table on page 30 of the report showing a comparison of energy abatement options. It suggests should Australia take the option of "zero emission" coal, we can begin to see a rapid decline in CO2 emissions from as early as 2006. Somehow it assumed a significant amount of research will be conducted, the technology developed, tested & refined and made economically viable, and a couple of large scale plants built and a couple of old large scale PV coal power plants shut down in - well less than 3 years flat. While its debateable that Geosequestration may be a miracle if it becomes economically viable on a large scale, I think you will certainly agree that if all the developments occur above, then it will definitely be a miracle.

    Even though the country now has three Cooperative Research Centres (CRCs) devoted to fossil fuel research under the Howard Government, to date there has been no significant breakthrough in Geosequestration.

    The best indication of the realistic future of this technology comes interestingly enough from within the Howard Government. In March 2004, Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane told the ABC, "We have got to realise that the first of these technologies may not be ready to test, even in a pilot situation, for five-10 years". He goes on to say "Certainly 2015 would be optimistic in terms of a significant pilot plant. If we can get to the stage where 20 per cent of the electricity in Australia is being generated by zero emissions technology in coal fired power stations by 2030, we will have done well."

    Ironically, the paper listed two other technologies, Hot Dry Rock Geothermal and Fuel Cells running on Hydrogen that were dismissed as being future options, 50 or more years away.

    Geodynamics Limited is streets ahead of ICGG in proving economic viability by extracting heat from Hot Fractured Rock (HFR). Unlike other renewables, HFR has a huge potential as it can deliver large base load, true zero emissions power. Economic modelling conducted by world recognised organisations such as the energy lab at MIT and Sinclair Knight Merz suggest HFR energy can be extracted using ORC (Organic Rankine Cycle) at $39/MWh. A discount of up to 30% can be added with Kalina Cycle Technology which Geodynamics have licenced and is currently improving, making the technology either in line with, or cheaper than present day Coal.

    In 2003, Geodynamics started spudding Habanero 1 in South Australia’s Cooper Basin to a depth of 4400metres where they successfully formed a much larger than expected heat exchanger and significantly reduced the risk of the project. The drilling of Habanero 2 is currently under way where it has penetrated the heat exchanger formed under Habanero 1 making way for circulation tests later this year and into early 2005. This will prove if HDR is economic and if so Geodynamics will build a demonstration plant, only some impressive 50 years ahead of schedule to the government’s paper.

    The 975 square kilometre tenancy in the cooper basin is estimated to have a phenomenal energy equivalent of 50 billion barrels of oil. This project has sparked so much interest, that the Queensland government whizzed though a Geothermal Energy Exploration Bill in May 2004 so interested prospectors could start searching for Hot Dry Rock in Queensland. Following suit, the Northern Territory government is now doing the same, and a second hot dry rock Geothermal company Petratherm has listed on the stock exchange and is preparing to drill it’s first exploration well. Geodynamics has additional exploration licences for the Hunter Valley in NSW.

    You can only wonder where Australia’s renewable energy industry would be today, if for example Lyall Howard, John Howard’s nephew was head of government relations of Geodynamics instead of his current position as head of Rio Tinto’s government relations?

    Further Reading :

    Update :
    • Chief scientist’s dual roles ‘damaging’ - The Age - 6th August 2004
      A Senate committee has found no evidence that Dr Batterham’s acted "inappropriately or improperly" in regards to his conflict of interest between Rio Tinto and his Chief Scientist post. The committee did however recommend the Federal Government’s chief scientist position should be made full-time to prevent such issues arising in the future. The Senate committee was established, following the Howard Government acting to prevent Dr Batterham to appear before a Senate Estimates Committee to answer conflict of interest allegations.

    • Halve gas emissions: top scientist - The Age - July 19, 2004
      "Talk of such a target by the Federal Government’s most senior scientific authority, who recently defended himself before a Senate committee, is in stark contrast to the recently released white paper on energy policy, which tied Australia’s future energy mix and economic base to the high-emission coal and aluminium industries. . . "
    • Scientist sets high target for emissions - The NZ Herald - August 2, 2004
      "Australia’s Chief Scientist wants his country to halve its emissions of global warming gases by 2050 - a far bolder target than the Howard Government has adopted. . . "
    • Australian Scientists Reduce Coal Greenhouse Emissions By 33% - Yahoo News - 3rd August 2004
      "CANBERRA, Aug 3 Asia Pulse - Australian scientists today reported the successful trial of a process for drying brown coal which could reduce greenhouse emissions by one third. . . ."

    6th November 2004

Securing Australia’s Energy Future - LETDF

    On the 16th of June 2004, Prime Minister John Howard released his energy package titled Securing Australia’s Energy Future. In some circles, the whitepaper has been nicknamed Securing the Coalition’s Political Future, or Securing Australia’s Coal Industry.

    Starting with an early pre-election sweetener, it promises fuel excise tax cuts worth a staggering $1.5 billion. On top of this comes another $1.5 billion worth for the coal industry to pursue Howard’s ambitious dream of "Super Dooper" (Howard’s own words - LETAG 6 June 04) low emission coal technologies - we fund $500 million of that. Then there’s $100 million for renewable energy development (over 7 years) and $75 million for a solar cities trial.

    By specifically funnelling money into solar panels with a capital cost of around $10,000 per KW (see advertising for governments), Howard can ensure the money is not spent on more economically viable technologies, indicating it is nothing to do with climate change but rather demonstrating to the Australian public he is actually doing something.

    For example $75 million would buy 7.5MW of solar power producing 9.85GWh/year and abating 8,865 tonnes of C02. Spending it on Wind power may not win any political votes, but would buy 50MW of generation producing 131GWh/year and abating 118,000 tonnes of C02. Investing $75 million in newer HDR geothermal technology, which is only a couple years away from being demostrated in Australia, would buy 30MW of generation producing 249GWh/year of base load zero emission electricity abating some 224,000 tonnes of C02. Australia has some of the best hot rock resources in the world.

    But probably the biggest disappointment is hidden deep in the report, indicating MRET would remain unchanged with no increase, now, or in the future. This has effectively stalled investment and job creation in this sector. Not fazed by this, Senator Meg Lees introduced her Renewable Energy Amendment (Increased MRET) Bill 2004 on the same day of the report, calling for a sensible increase of the MRET target to 4.5%.

    It appears the government has learnt some lessons. In this report, zero emission coal is now referred to as low emission coal. On page 142 there are estimates of the $/MWh cost to produce power from various sources in 2010. Anything that includes geosequestration now has a cost indicated as N/A . .

    30th July 2005
LETDF - First Round Grants

    The 25th October 2006 saw the first successful grants being announced. $75 million was contributed towards a project by Solar Systems to build a solar concentrator.

    Instead of traditional thermal concentrators, Solar Systems’ Heliostat Concentrator Photovoltaic (HCPV) will use mirror collectors to beam concentrated light, 500 times the concentration of sunlight onto special PV solar panels.

    The 154MW plant is expected to generate up to 270,000 MWh per annum (CF or 20%) during daylight hours when full commissioning is complete in 2013. Total capital cost is $420 Million or $2,727 per KW.

    A further $50 million from the fund was awarded to UK based International Power for a $369 pilot brown coal drying with post production CO2 capture and storage. The demonstration retrofit is expected to be fully operational by 2009 and provide up to 30% reduction in emissions.

    The 1,600 MW Hazelwood power plant in the Latrobe Valley has more than 500 years of brown coal reserves and had previously topped a international list of the dirtiest power stations world's major industrialised countries with a CO2 intensity of 1.58Mt/TWh.

    25th October 2006
LETAG - Lower Emissions Technical Advisory Group

    An investigative unit of the ABC has made an intriguing find into the formation of the Howard Government’s fossil fuel dominated energy white paper, Securing Australia’s Energy Future. The ABC has obtained leaked meeting minutes, emails and memos suggesting the government invited a hand picked group of 12 companies from the big side of town to provide exclusive input into the report and its recommendations.

    "Fossil fuel producers - Exxon Mobil, Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton and high level fossil fuel users and generators - Alcoa, Holden, Boral, Amcor, Energex, Edison Mission and Origin Energy were part of the Government’s exclusive invitation only group." - Andrew Fowler.

    "This leaked document provides a remarkable insight into how the policy agenda is really set under the Howard Government. It’s quite clear now that when the Prime Minister wanted new policy directions to deal with climate change, he decided to call a secret meeting with Australia’s biggest polluters and said, ’Tell me what I need to do’." - Clive Hamilton.

    "According to notes taken by one of the executives during a LETAG meeting the Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane stressed the need for absolute confidentiality. The Minister saying that if the renewables industry found out there would be a huge outcry."

14th September 2004

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