Renewable energy

Port Augusta to vote on a concentrating solar power future

Support the call for Australia's first concentrated solar thermal power plant.

The campaign for Port Augusta to become the site of Australia’s first solar thermal power plant has escalated. Port Augusta residents will be asked to vote on the plan.

Newly-formed community group “Repower Port Augusta” will host a weeklong community vote, which they say will show the overwhelming support that exists for a solar thermal future for the town.

Port Augustans have long-suffered serious health impacts from the town’s two coal power plants, which supply 30% of South Australia’s electricity.

Research by Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) says they need not suffer any longer. BZE says that shifting from coal to solar power will address longstanding public health issues and massively cut greenhouse gas emissions.

It will also offer big employment benefits, from the maintenance and operation of the solar plants to the manufacturing that will take place in the area.

Critically, solar thermal power will provide far more jobs for the community than gas power. Gas would also still detrimentally affect public health and the environment.

Repower Port Augusta will launch the community vote on July 13 and will collect votes for a week from July 15. The groups says the ballot will ask “the community to decide if it wants concentrated solar thermal or gas to replace Port Augusta’s ageing coal power stations”.

Proposal director talks to Business Port Augusta

One of the directors of Beyond Zero Emissions, Mark Ogge, was in the city last week to present to Business Port Augusta about the proposal to build a concentrated solar thermal plant.

Mr Ogge said it was “really great” to be invited to go into detail with the group on what BZE is proposing.

“The discussion was really good and the questions were great,” he said.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for Port Augusta in terms of employment and business opportunities that would result in the proposal going ahead.”

See this week's Transcontinental for more.

It’s time to redesign the world’s energy markets

The path from point A to point B in the de-carbonisation of the world’s electricity markets is looking more problematic by the day. Even as more people can see what the destination looks like, few are sure of the best path to get there.

More and more reports are being produced that demonstrate how the world’s biggest economies can be powered by renewable energy sources – essentially the wind and the sun. The EU has done its own scenario planning, as has the International Energy Agency and numerous other institutions and think-tanks, including Australia’s UNSW and Beyond Zero Emissions. The US-based National Renewable Energy Laboratory this week released a report showing how the world’s biggest economy could be powered 80 per cent by renewables by 2050. But the problem is how to manage that transition.

Most studies, such as the IEA’s, Desertec’s and NREL’s, talk of a “new paradigm” in energy markets. But it’s not just a new way of thinking. Some utilities who operate in these markets are more prosaic – fearing that these markets are effectively defunct because renewables redefine the rules on which these markets were built. Or, at least, they displace those that were previously favoured.

This is in reference to the merit order effect, which we have documented on numerous occasions, and which is now entering the broad lexicon of policy decision-making.

Challenge 13: smart energy demand and renewable supply

In part 13 of our multi-disciplinary Millennium Project series, Mark Diesendorf argues that it is high time we got smart about power: how we generate it and how we deliver it.

Global challenge 13: How can growing energy demands be met safely and efficiently?

Solar Insights: How to build utility-scale solar with no subsidies

German firm Solaria has released more details about how it plans to build a subsidy-free, 60MW solar PV facility in Spain – one of the first of almost 1800MW of such projects in a country that cut all subsidies earlier this year. Solaria says the plant, to be built in 2013, will cost €60 million ($A75 million), or around $1.25/watt – that compares to $2.80 a watt for Australia’s planned Solar Flagships project (to be built in 2015).

Solaria estimates that it will be able to sell the electricity at €55-€60/MWh ($68-$75/MW), which will deliver an internal rate of return of 8-9 per cent. If it can tap into large electricity users – the self-consumption market – it could get up to twice the price. “We will build it in the second half of 2013 because we think the cost of PV will have dropped enough by then and, given the irradiation in Spain, will be totally competitive (with fossil fuels),” a company spokesperson said last week.

The emergence of solar PV as a “mature energy” technology that can compete with traditional energy sources without help is, of course, a game changer for the entire energy industry. Gehrlicher, another German company that plans similar projects in Spain, says solar PV will target the “self-consumption” market, for both small and large businesses and installations, while large-scale facilities will be built only by large, deep pocketed corporations – be they industrial or mining users, or banks and pension funds. Robert Kroni, the head of Swiss engineering company Jendra Power, says solar will be produced in Europe at a cost of 6c-7c/kWh – cheaper than gas and most new-build coal.

Solar Power's Merit Order Effect And The Texas Electricity Market

The people of Texas face higher electricity bills and the threat of unstable energy supply again this summer due to peak power demands - issues that rooftop solar power have been proven could address.
    
Like many parts of Australia, temperatures in Texas skyrocket over the summer and this results in massive demand on the mains grid; primarily through the usage of air conditioners
    
During such times, the wholesale cost of electricity jumps dramatically due to peak power generation facilities needing to be brought online. Heat also has an impact on a fossil fuel based power plant's operational abilities.

South Australia wind power figures vindicate radical energy plan

Yesterday energy consultants EnergyQuest broke the news that wind power supplied 31% of South Australia’s electricity in the last quarter.

Solar panels added another 3.5% to put renewable energy’s share in that state well above coal (26%) and getting close to gas (39.5%).

31% wind energy is up from 21% 12 months ago. Just six years ago, the contribution of wind in South Australia was close to zero.

Beyond Zero Emissions spokesperson Matthew Wright says the findings vindicate his group’s controversial Zero Carbon Australia plan, which outlines a transition to 100% renewable energy in ten years.

“The message this sends is that Australia can rapidly reduce its high fossil fuel use and carbon emissions, over ten years, not the commonly suggested 2050 date for serious emissions reduction targets.

 “Our plan has wind providing 40% of the annual energy of Australia, and making that transition in ten years. Clearly, progress in South Australia shows that we aren’t being so radical after all. Maybe our 40% was conservative: SA are nearly there already, and still adding more wind capacity.

 “If we combine the variable output of wind farms with a flexible, dispatchable renewable energy source we can abandon fossil fuels altogether. Modern solar thermal plants, that can run around the clock off stored heat can do this.

 “We are helping to develop a plan for the first such plants to replace the coal power stations at Port Augusta.

 “Wind energy has proven it is up for the task. We just need to get the right policy such as a feed-in tariff to support the newer solar thermal plants, and Australia can kick its fossil fuel habit for good.”

 

Solar thermal briefing

State Parliament would this week be briefed on the benefits of replacing the coal-fired power stations in Port Augusta with solar thermal.

The meeting with driving organisation Beyond Zero Emissions, organised by member for Stuart Dan van Holst Pellekaan, is to take place tomorrow morning before parliament sits.

Mr van Holst Pellekaan said without the briefing the Liberal party does not have a position on the proposal.

“I can say that there will not be another coal-fired power station built in this country,” he said.

All members of parliament are invited to attend, as well as their staff.

See this week's Transcontinental for more.

Sydney trigen? Try again with renewables

Since the industrial revolution, when cities became dirty places, we have been removing pollution from their streets and neighbourhoods.

We’ve seen old central coal plants closed down and replacements built hundreds of kilometres away.

Stricter and stricter vehicle emissions standards have been enacted to reduce local pollution and improve the health, wellbeing and happiness of city dwellers.

So why would you choose to then bring a gas power plant back into the centre of the city, where it will release large quantities of health-damaging nitrogen oxide?

A subsidiary of Origin Energy and the City of Sydney have done a deal to start rolling out trigeneration (“trigen”) gas generators in the most heavily populated urban area of Australia.

Trigen is being touted as the new clean, decentralised system for generating power. You might hear about its fabulous efficiency, or the potential to burn renewable bio-gas in future, but when you remove the spin, it’s just re-packaged fossil gas.

But our concern is not just that it’s not renewable, or the nitrogen oxide gases, among other pollutants, that will damage respiratory health. As it turns out, trigen’s carbon emissions and energy efficiency aren’t that great either.

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