Solar thermal is coming. But where will it land?

By Stephen Bygrave. Climate Spectator, January 30 2014.

With the news that Chile is to join the solar thermal club, Australia could before long become the only inhabited continent without this revolutionary electricity generation technology.

Spanish developer Abengoa is set to build a large solar thermal 'power tower' with a capacity of 110 megawatts for the Chilean government. Solar thermal plants already exist or are actively being developed and constructed, on all other continents.

The solar thermal technology concentrates the sun's free energy with a field of mirrors onto a heat receiver mounted on a central tower, and then uses that heat to generate electricity, and also stores the heat to generate electricity after sundown. The Chilean plant is to have storage capacity for 17.5 hours of operation after sundown, enabling it to provide 24-hour solar power.

That a poorer country like Chile is now building this technology highlights that a wealthy country like Australia should also be building this technology. Figures from the Bureau of Resource and Energy Economics in December show the estimated cost of building solar thermal power plants has fallen 30 per cent in the last year.

Abengoa's 183MW Solucar complex, Seville, Spain. Pic: Abengoa

ARENA, Alinta agree funds for Port Augusta solar thermal study

By Giles Parkinson. RenewEconomy, 15 January 2014

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency has finally come to an agreement with the privately-owned Alinta to co-fund a feasibility study into a solar thermal power station to augment or replace the existing coal fired generators in the South Australian township of Port Augusta.

ARENA announced on Wednesday it would contribute $1million to the study, with $1.2 million to come from Alinta and a further $123,000 from the state government.

However, the study would not conclude until 2016, which may dash hopes for an earlier start to the project and a near-term replacement for the ageing Playford and Northern coal-fired power stations. Alinta recently said it wanted to extend the life of its two coal fired power stations for another two decades.

Ivanpah solar thermal plant, California. Pic: Chad Ward/Brightsource

Renewable energy facts undermine fossil-fuelled opinion

By Trent Hawkins. Yes2Renewables, January 24 2013.

The right wing war on renewables is heating up as the Abbott government announces yet another investigation into wind energy and health and a review of the Renewable Energy Target.

Australian Financial Review (23 Jan) featured an opinion article by Alan Moran from the climate change denying think tank the Institute of Public Affairs criticizing renewable energy. Moran argued that the performance of solar and wind during the recent heatwave in southeast Australia proves the technology’s unreliability. It seems neither Moran or AFR made any attempt to check the facts behind his opining.

Trent Hawkins

Port Augusta solar thermal plans in limbo as inquiry falls flat

By Sophie Vorrath. RenewEconomy, December 19 2013.

South Australians calling for the development of solar thermal power in Port Augusta – to replace the region’s aging coal power stations – have been left disappointed, after a Select Committee set up to investigate the merits of the proposed development failed to offer a clear mandate.

The Repowering Port Augusta proposal, put together by Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE), details a plan to replace the Alinta Energy Northern and Playford B coal-fired power stations at Port Augusta with concentrating solar thermal plant.

In its interim report, just released, the Committee said it “considers the health of the Port Augusta community to be a very significant factor in support of BZE’s Repowering Port Augusta proposal.” But while the report leaves open the possibility of CST, it doesn’t go so far as to recommend a speedy path to implementation.

Alinta's ageing coal-fired Northern Power Station, Playford Station at Port Augusta likely to stay until 2030

By Valerina Changarathil, Adelaide Advertiser December 21, 2013

SOUTH AUSTRALIA's ageing coal-fired power station will run at least for the next two decades if ongoing tests to use blended coal from a rejuvenated Leigh Creek mine are successful.

The development eases some pressure off owner Alinta Energy to fast-track its $200 million proposed feasibility study into a replacement solar thermal plant at Port Augusta.

Earlier estimates had predicted that the mine, located approximately 250km north of Port Augusta, would run out of coal by 2017, leading to the closure of the partly operating Northern Power Station and mothballed Playford B Station.

Casting away carbon, street by street

By Stephen Bygrave. From Climate Spectator

Australia's homes are among the largest and most inefficient in the developed world. Then we wonder why our household energy bills and carbon emissions are so high. 

There are, also, few ways we get feedback regarding our household energy consumption meaning we are mostly 'driving blind' when it comes to energy use and emissions from our homes – we get a bill at the end of the month or end of the quarter, far past the time the energy was actually consumed. The lack of instantaneous feedback makes it difficult to correlate our energy consumption to a particular event.

An inefficient home is also uncomfortable, it is draughty, damp, too hot in summer and too cold in winter. Live in North America or Europe and you will know what an energy efficient and low emissions home is like, and the opportunities that exist for energy efficient homes in Australia.

Our homes are a ripe area for direct action, with real benefits for the climate, our comfort levels and for our hip pockets.

Scrap East-West Link, build public transport

Narendra Kommalapoti, Green Left Weekly

Communities in the firing line of the East-West Link road in Melbourne have been agitating not merely against the tunnel, but for a shift of transport priorities to public transport. Labor politicians, including Richard Wynn in the City of Yarra, have supported the campaign, and promised an alternative transport plan.

Labor has now come out with its public transport policy: Project 10,000. It is named after the 10,000 jobs it promises to generate. The project addresses almost none of the concerns raised by those demanding rapid expansion of public transport, or moving away from cars and fossil fuels to avert climate disaster.

The project proposes to spend $300 million on a new city loop with new stations in inner Melbourne.

Other proposals include: $2 billion for city and rural roads, take 5000 trucks off the Westgate freeway by building a new Westgate distributor road, add a lane in both directions to the Westgate freeway, expand the Tullamarine freeway to a six-lane road, and ease traffic flow on Hoddle Street through improved traffic monitoring technology.

The bloody-minded Banjos keepin' carbon in our air

Stephen Bygrave, Climate Spectator

Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics about average household expenditure show how repeal of the carbon price cannot save households very much.

Why not? Because households don't spend very much on power.

For a house that is struggling to pay all its bills, that may not sound like much comfort, but the amount we're talking about is relatively tiny.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics figures for 2009-2010 show that houses spend an average 2.63 per cent on 'domestic fuel and power'. That includes electricity, gas, bottled LPG and even firewood. It also includes those houses that pay an extra premium to buy GreenPower, to get 100 per cent renewable electricity.

Multi-billion dollar inaccuracy

High speed rail debate update

Researchers point to a $190 billion profit miss on the federal government’s high-speed rail study, Marion Lopez reports. From Contractor magazine, August 2013

In light of potential cost savings valued at $40 billion, the ARA has called for the HSR project to be put to market.

Image: Spanish T350 high speed train

Fatty costs and lean profits were, in brief, the cost-benefit analysis’ that came out of the federal government’s $20 million phase 2 high-speed rail (HSR) study in April.

One month later, researchers at Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) proved the exorbitant $114 billion project price tag was simply a build-up of “fat” – or superfluous technicalities – that, when cut, could reduce construction costs by $40 billion.

Further research into the forecast profits of the project also unearthed the discovery that the government officials and consultants paid to conduct the study – including AECOM and sub-consultants Grimshaw, KPMG, SKM, ACIL Tasman, Booz & Co and Hyder – had underestimated HSR revenue by as much as $190 billion.

High-speed rail network $30 billion cheaper than first thought: study

ABC Lateline - by environment and science reporter Jake Sturmer

A comprehensive new study investigating east coast high-speed rail argues that it could be $30 billion cheaper than first thought and pay itself off entirely within 40 years.

The rail debate is back on track, with the Federal Government vowing to speak to the states about the project and to protect a future corridor for the network.

The Melbourne-Sydney flight route is the fifth busiest in the world and for decades governments have been discussing high-speed rail as a solution to ease the pressure on airports.

Clean energy group Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) and the German aerospace centre came up with a model of a 1,799-kilometre route, linking Brisbane with Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne.

Video: click to watch news story at ABC website

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