Friday, 24 November 2006

Democrats back renewable energy

Border Watch
Friday 24/11/2006, Page: 19

THE Democrats have backed renewable energy to meet Australia's energy needs, rejecting the Howard Government's focus on the nuclear option.

"Green power" not only has the potential to boost the nation's power supplies, but continues to generate significant economic development in the South East, which is already home to major wind farm infrastructure and other potential projects, such as energy generation from biomass or "hot rock" technology.

"We need flexible energy that meets our peaks and troughs and renewable energy is the best option to do that," Democrat leader and energy spokesperson Senator Lyn Allison said this week, claiming the emphasis on base load power to provide Australia's energy needs was misleading.

"Nuclear power is actually a wasteful way to produce energy because it runs 24/7 and can't be ramped down when demand is low." She said solar power was a great source of energy production because it was at its peak when consumers used the most energy.

"On demand renewable energy sources such as hydro, geothermal and bio-energy can be used with gas to kick in when production from other renewable sources such as solar or wind are low," she said. "Wind power spread across a number of regions can provide reliable energy across the grid, because when the wind's not blowing in one area, it's blowing in another." She said the argument coal and nuclear power were needed to provide base load was an attempt to support the government's fossil fuel energy policy. "Nuclear power is a costly, dangerous and short-term response to climate change, whereas renewable energy is clean, reliable, long-term and sustainable," she said.

However, Industry and Resources Minister Ian Macfarlane said the Prime Minister's draft nuclear energy review had confirmed nuclear power could be an important, safe and low cost part of Australia's "low emissions energy future". He said the taskforce's draft report was the most thorough analysis ever undertaken in Australia of the uranium industry and nuclear power.

"The report finds that while nuclear power faces hurdles of regulations and cost compared to conventional coal fired electricity, it is the least-cost low emission technology for baseload electricity in Australia," he said.

"In one scenario considered by the taskforce, nuclear power could eventually cut emissions from electricity generation by as much as 50pc." He said nuclear power could be part of the solution to lower greenhouse gas emissions, along with low emission coal technology and renewables. "We have to face the facts. Electricity generation accounts for one-third of our greenhouse emissions and demand for electricity in Australia is expected to more than double by 2050," he said.

However, Premier Mike Rann has already said he would consider introducing legislation to prevent a nuclear power plant being built in South Australia. "It seems clear to me that John Howard is on a crusade to introduce nuclear power into Australia," he said.

"For a country the size of ours, I think that would be ridiculous and is simply an excuse to stop the development of other and better forms of sustainable energy sources." He said South Australia was leading the way in sustainable energy use with installation of more wind power than the rest of the nation combined and the most solar power of any state.

"It would take at least 10 years to build a nuclear power plant at a huge cost in excess of one and a half billion dollars, and the high-volume, continuous and unalterable flow of energy would only be viable in very high density populations," he said. "And then Australia would have to build a high-level nuclear waste dump, which South Australia has already successfully fought long and hard against."

The choice is not nuclear energy v coal

Friday 24/11/2006, Page: 17

Generations to come will not thank us for shortsighted decisions.

THE findings of the Government's nuclear taskforce should come as little surprise, as the focus was narrowly on nuclear power and excluded consideration of clean energy sources, such as renewable energy, gasfired generation and energy efficiency. In essence, the review posits a false choice - between nuclear energy and coal - as if no other large-capacity power options were available. This is a false choice.

What conclusions might have been drawn if it had been a wide-ranging inquiry that compared solar power, wind power, bioenergy, geothermal "hot rocks", energy efficiency, solar water heating and natural gas, as well as nuclear power? We can only wonder, because it wasn't that sort of inquiry.

So, what has the review contributed? First, it was encouraging to see it conclude that a carbon price signal is essential for greenhouse gas reduction and for investment in the development and deployment of zero and low-emission technologies.

This is a critical step towards a clean economy. Per capita, Australians are the most polluting people in the world. Greenhouse gas emissions from coal-dominated electricity generation in Australia are soaring and forecast to rise rapidly. ABARE predicts our energy emissions will be more than 60 per cent higher over the next 25 years if we continue with "business as usual".

The most effective way to begin reining in these galloping emissions is to put a price on pollution. Putting a price on carbon pollution would, as former World Bank chief economist Sir Nicholas Stern says, simply "correct the greatest market failure the world has ever seen". A carbon trading scheme can be designed in a way that protects tradeexposed industries. But a carbon trading scheme needs to start soon, not in five or 10 years.

And this matter - of time - is of critical importance. We don't need to wait 15 to 20 years to build nuclear power stations. More importantly, we don't have 15 to 20 years to wait to build them.

As Stern observed in his recent report: "There is a high price to delay. Weak action in the next 10 to 20 years would put stabilisation even at 550 ppm (parts per million) carbon dioxide beyond reach - and this level is already associated with significant risks." Time is a precious commodity we don't have much of in relation to global warming.

Every tonne of carbon dioxide we release into the atmosphere is up there for the next 100 years. Every year we wait is a 100-year legacy that makes our job that much harder and requires much steeper cuts later.

If Stern is right, making nuclear power the vanguard of an energy revolution pitches Australia head first into risky territory - economically and otherwise - simply because of the delay it demands.

Australia already has an abundance of zero-emission renewable and low-emission energy technologies. They could be deployed en masse tomorrow and begin to cut our greenhouse gas emissions. This would be instead of our waiting 15 or 20 years for a nuclear power station to be built.

Australia does have lots of coal and uranium. But it also has almost unlimited quantities of clean renewable energy from the sun, wind, biomass, geothermal "hot rocks" and other sources, which can be used far more. We also have vast reserves of natural gas, which produce about one-third of the carbon dioxide emissions of coal.

Some of these clean energies are being put to good use. Their contribution needs to be expanded and others can - and should - be added to the energy mix now. This can take place while we consider and debate the merits of nuclear power.

Biomass, geothermal energy and gas are all storable forms of energy that can be turned up or down as needed, exploding the myth that coal or nuclear energy are our only base-load (24-hour) power options.

Renewable energies are proven and affordable. They work well now and they produce zero emissions. By next year, South Australia will have 15 per cent of its power needs met from wind when only a few years ago it was zero. The same could be done for the whole of Australia.

Another 20 per cent saving could be met by conserving the coal-fired electricity we already waste; another 20 per cent from converting from coal to natural gas; and another 20 per cent from bioenergy. The list goes on.

The decisions we will soon make about energy sources will go down in history as among the most defining ever - economically, socially and environmentally.

Generations to come will judge us on the paths we now take. Did we look at all the options and make use of all the clean energy sources at our disposal? Did we map out a responsible, strategic path to lower greenhouse gas emissions while maintaining a healthy economy and forging dynamic new markets in clean renewable energies?

Ric Brazzale is executive director of the Business Council for Sustainable Energy.

Saving energy

Bega District News
Tuesday 21/11/2006, Page: 4

The Save Our Bermagui Action Group recently hosted a Sustainable Future Forum to address climate change and explore ways of ensuring a healthy future for coming generations.

Speakers discussed practical ways the community can save energy and deal with environmental problems that scientists say are threatening future life on the planet.

Community discussion led to energy saving suggestions such as the improvement of public transport to reduce the need for individual car use, the building of bike paths to encourage cleaner transport, wind farms for energy supply, incentives for clean energy production and consumption and focus on a `clean energy town' in place of the `tidy town' campaign.

These are some of the simple energy saving measures that individuals can undertake.
  • Switching off lights when not in use.
  • Using energy saving light bulbs.
  • Switching off appliances on standby.
  • Using energy efficient appliances.
  • Sourcing green energy from suppliers.
  • Driving slower.
  • Planting trees.
  • Using energy efficient home design.
  • Planting a small vegie patch.
  • Conserving water.
  • Installing solar panels for power.

Exploding the myths of green nuke power

Newcastle Herald
Thursday 23/11/2006, Page: 9

It's time to set out the facts of wind energy, says Dominique La Fontaine.

WHERE do you start to refute an article ("Sorry, but wind and solar not sustainable", Colin Keay, Herald 16/11) criticising wind energy, especially when it contains the outrageous claim that "clean green nuclear reactors are the only practical non-polluting option"? As with so many proponents of nuclear power, Mr Keay fails to answer several crucial questions:
  • How long would it take to establish even one nuclear power station in Australia? (At least 10-15 years.)
  • How much would it cost? (No one can give a definite figure.)
  • How much pollution is created in the mining and processing of nuclear fuel?
  • Where will the waste be disposed?
  • Who will insure such a facility?
  • How will we will manage the associated security risks?
  • What do we do for electricity once the uranium runs out? (Estimated about 30 years, but less if nuclear power is widely adopted.)
  • When, how and at what cost will we decommission the nuclear reactors once they reach the end of their operating lives?
So, while we wait years for the promise of nuclear power, let alone the new breeder reactor designs mentioned, which appear to be little more than a pipedream at this stage, we could be doing something right now to reduce our carbon emissions by creating emission-free energy.

Meanwhile, Mr Keay trots out the tired old lies about wind energy, concerning things like intermittency, power output and bird impact, which have repeatedly been refuted around the world.

Wind energy is the fastest growing energy source worldwide - about 28 per cent a year for at least the past decade - for good reason.

Here are some facts:
  • It produces no pollution.
  • It consumes no fuel.
  • The energy taken to build and install a wind turbine is paid back within its first six months of use.
  • Wind farms provide guaranteed income to landholders who can still use their land for farming.
  • Wind energy helps to diversify our energy supplies.
  • Wind will never run out.
  • On top of that, a wind turbine can be removed, leaving almost no trace, once its working life is over.

The claim about intermittency betrays a lack of understanding of the electricity distribution system.

The electricity grid is designed to manage constant variations in supply from a range of sources and just as many changes in demand. The addition of wind power merely introduces one more variable to an infinitely variable system.

As for impacts on birds, Australian studies have shown these numbers to be very low, but regardless, the impacts of climate change will be devastating on all species if we fail to take action.

Charles Meredith from Biosys Research which carried out the Federal Government's own study of the proposed Bald Hills wind farm in Victoria, said in August: "I think we know a lot more about bird-strike than we did and I think we know enough to design and build wind farms in a bird-appropriate way." Mr Keay claims Denmark is building no new wind farms. On the contrary, the Danes are replacing their wind turbines with newgeneration models, producing more power more efficiently than ever.

Why he mentions last month's European blackout in relation to wind energy is another mystery. It was caused by the shut-off of a major power cable across a river to let a ship pass safely. It had nothing whatsoever to do with wind power.

With a good geographic spread of wind farms and improved wind forecasting, wind energy is proving more than ever to be a reliable, dependable, cost effective part of the world's energy mix. Europe is a prime example.

US Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said recently: "We want to change the way we power our homes and offices so that renewable energy someday accounts for as much as 20 per cent of our national generating capacity." If the true costs of pollution were included, electricity from burning coal would already be more expensive than wind energy, so economic arguments simply don't stack up.

Wind energy is not the only answer to our energy needs, but it must be part of the answer. It is available right now, the costs are known and there is no fuel or pollution to worry about.

You will be waiting a longtime to hear those claims applied to nuclear power.

Dominique La Fontaine is chief executive of the Australian Wind Energy Association (Auswind).

Chernobyl, Three Mile Island are the reality

Newcastle Herald
Thursday 23/11/2006, Page: 9

Would you want a reactor in the Hunter, asks Graham White.

COLIN Keay's article ("Sorry, but wind and solar not sustainable", Herald 16/11) on the merits of renewable energy versus nuclear was disappointing due to a number of fallacies about both renewable and nuclear energy.

Firstly, wind energy is not confined to small applications. There is more than 60,000 megawatts of wind turbine capacity in operation in the world now. Denmark gets 20 percent of its electricity from wind, Spain 8 per cent, Germany 6.8 per cent and the percentages are rapidly rising in countries including the US, Canada, China, India and the UK.

Wind energy is not on-again-offagain. It is variable, as are the loads in any electrical power system. Our electricity grid is designed to cater for variability.

No one is suggesting that wind energy should be the only source of energy- it is one of a number of zero emission solutions we can adopt as part of our future energy nix. The difference is that compared to other pollution-free energy sources, wind uses mature technology that is proven and available now.

Renewable energy can supply a significant proportion of Australia's electricity requirements without causing instability-despite the furphy that anti-wind groups keep on saying without foundation.

Power outages in Europe and other countries have had nothing to do with wind farms. Transmission grids are themselves subject to failure for a variety of reasons, but none of these are associated with wind energy.

Mr Keay's suggestion that nuclear is "clean" and "green" is quite fanciful and I would respectfully suggest that he read about Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, the many reports of radioactive leaks from Japanese reactors, and the issue of nuclear time bombs in rusting Russian submarines.

Nuclear energy, which produces by-products that must be safely stored for approximately 240,000 years and has the potential to cause catastrophic environmental damage, cannot be called green.

And can anyone guarantee that any society can store large quantities of waste safely for this length of time? The nuclear industry has been propped up by a few governments with massive subsidies. The promise of nuclear energy too cheap to measure has never happened and never will. Not only is nuclear energy a giant black hole for societies to squander their money on, it introduces significant environmental, military, security and commercial risks.

I think that at the outset of any debate on nuclear power for Australia, the locations of future reactors should be identified and local communities asked if they want such a facility.

In addition, who is going to insure nuclear reactors for accidents? Certainly there are almost no insurance companies willing to do so. The risks are so great that countries in may have to self-insure, which means you and I and every other Australian will be left to foot the bill if anything goes wrong.

Sustainability of future energy supplies while safeguarding the environment is critical to Australia. Many renewable energy technologies are viable, safe, reliable and are available today. Throwing good money after bad on the dreams of nuclear energy proponents is not the way to go.

Graham White is a professional engineer with more than 30 years' experience in the energy field.

Nuclear greenwash

Courier Mail
Thursday 23/11/2006, Page: 35

Nuclear power remains a dirty and dangerous industry, argues Mark Diesendorf

THE Switkowski draft report on uranium mining processing and nuclear energy is an exercise in "greenwash" for a dirty and dangerous industry.

It skates over the major risks of proliferation of nuclear weapons, nuclear terrorism and nuclear waste management, ignores the carbon dioxide emissions from the nuclear fuel chain and presents an excessively optimistic estimate of the cost of nuclear electricity.

The single positive outcome of this report is its recognition that carbon pricing - either in the form of a carbon tax or emissions trading scheme - is essential for reducing Australia's greenhouse gas emissions.

However, a more realistic assessment of nuclear economics would recognise that the carbon price range envisaged in the report - $15-$40 a tonne of carbon dioxide emitted - is too low to make nuclear power competitive with dirty (conventional) coal-fired power stations.

The report claims that nuclear power is only 20-50 per cent more expensive than coal power. It does this by assuming that it is financed with much lower interest rates than are presently available for nuclear power stations in competitive markets.

A more realistic pronuclear study by an expert group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that electricity from a new nuclear power station in the United States would cost 9-10c per kilowatthour (c/kWh) Australian.

For comparison, electricity from dirty (conventional) coal-fired power stations in eastern Australia costs 3.5-4.0c/kWh and wind power costs 7.5-8.5c/kWh.

In the United Kingdom, when the electricity industry was privatised in the 1990s, nuclear power was propped up by means of the Fossil Fuel Levy, which amounted to about £1.3 billion a year ($A3.2 billion). The cost of electricity from Britain's newest nuclear power station, Sizewell B, has been estimated at 6p/kWh (15c/kWh).

For comparison, wind power in the UK costs 3-4p/kWh (7-9c/kWh).

As spelt out clearly in the unbiased Ranger uranium Environmental Inquiry, published a generation ago, nuclear power is contributing inadvertently to the spread of nuclear weapons and hence the risk of nuclear war. Since then, the risk has become much worse. India, Pakistan and North Korea have all used civil nuclear technology to develop nuclear weapons.

Furthermore, the fragile barrier to nuclear proliferation - the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty - is being undermined by the US and Australia which are selling uranium to India and Taiwan, countries that are non-signatories to the NPT.

These sales are obviously part of a US strategy to build a nuclear wall around China. China's response will be to expand its own nuclear weapons arsenal.

However, China's uranium reserves are too small to do this and to fuel its nuclear power stations as well. So, Australia has come to the rescue with its uranium sales to China, freeing up Chinese uranium for more nuclear weapons. A future confrontation over Taiwan could be hot indeed.

The report's conclusions on proliferation are breathtaking in their complacency: "Increased involvement (in the nuclear industry) would not change the risks" and "Australia's uranium supply policies reinforce the international non-proliferation regime". This goes beyond greenwash to repainting black as white.

The report dismisses nuclear terrorism by remarking that "nor would Australia's (electricity) grid become more vulnerable to terrorist attack".

What about an attack on a nuclear power station, high-level nuclear waste in a cooling pond or highly radioactive nuclear materials being transported? Even if they don't hijack a jumbo jet, a small paramilitary group with suicidal tendencies could take over the control room of a nuclear power station and initiate a core-meltdown, creating hundreds of thousands of casualties.

The report assumes incorrectly that carbon dioxide emissions from the nuclear fuel chain are negligible.

In reality, emissions (especially from fossil fuel use in mining and milling uranium) will become much larger as the uranium ore grade declines over the next few decades. As a result, nuclear power will become a substantial greenhouse gas emitter beyond 2040.

It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the Federal Government's push for nuclear power, assisted by the Switkowski report, is simply a means of distracting attention away from its failure to implement strong greenhouse response policies.

The key measures needed are carbon pricing to encourage cleaner energy supply and regulations and standards to mandate efficient energy use.

As shown in the report, "A Clean Energy Future for Australia", we could cutcarbon dioxide emissions from the electricity industry by 80 per cent by 2040, by using a mix of efficient energy use, bioenergy, natural gas and wind power. The barriers are neither technological nor economic, but rather the political power of the big greenhouse gas emitters.

Dr Mark Diesendorf teaches and researches at the Institute of Environmental Studies, University of New South Wales

Simply solar: Around the Blocks

Canberra Times
Thursday 23/11/2006 Page: 6

SOLAR efficient houses were not only comfortable to live in, they presented huge benefits for the environment as they ran on sustainable energy, an Australian National University academic said yesterday.

Dr Keith Lovegrove, of the Centre for Sustainable Energy Systems, said one common application of solar energy for a home was the solar hot water system. It used a black metal plate and a standard hot water tank. Water flowed in and out of the tank and was heated for free ensuring big savings, particularly in an all-electric home, as one of the biggest uses of electricity was the hot water system, he said.

If designed properly, a home won't need any other sources of energy at all," Lovegrove said.

A solar passive llonie would need a lot of insulation and plenty of north-facing windows. He cited about three quarters of a north-facing wall to be ideally made of glass, however this could become too hot, so a lot of thermal mass, such as concrete, must be included.

For the summer, there must be shading on all windows, with appropriate eaves. There was the need for ventilation at night and with the existing thermal mass, there should be no need for cooling in the sunnier, Lovegrove said. Another benefit would be that a solar passive home would be more comfortable than electric heating or cooling in a badly insulated home, he said.

The construction of such a home need not be any more difficult than the construction of a conventional house. Lovegrove said there would need to be a rise in demand so enough builders would be compelled to supply such homes.

People who would like to retrofit their houses for more solar efficiency could add insulation to their walls, ceilings and floors. The windows and curtains could also be improved. Double glazed windows were an option and a solar hot water system could be installed and would attract a rebate.

Lovegrove suggested green electricity for people who would like to make their homes even more eco-friendly. It costs more than conventional electricity, but it would cone from green sources, such as wind farms.

If all Australians adopted this technology for their homes, it would remove the need for at least two coal-powered stations, he estimated. For every kilowatt of electricity, a kilogram of carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere. Every kilogram saved is a kilogram less in the atmosphere," lie said.

"There is proven technology today that means we could have a 100 per cent renewable energy-powered economy. It is technically possible. This includes transport, street electricity and home electricity.

Renewable energy is the world's fastest growing industry, mainly to do with large wind turbines." Examples of solar efficient homes in Canberra included 11 and 13 Ronia Mitchell Crescent, Majura Rise Estate, North Watson.

Together with local businesses, ACTEW Corporation, Actew AGL and Canberra Investment Corporation created the homes.

Number 13 was made of concrete and had a good thermal mass. It also had solar chimneys, full-height doors, solar panels, solar hot water and a water-recycling system from Canberra company Perpetual Water. The gardens were landscaped and drought sensitive.

Lots of options for alternative energy

Caledonia Argus
Posted: 11/21/06

Five people and five pigs can supply the energy needs of a family in China. That was one of several interesting alternative energy options described at a mini-conference at Four Seasons Community Center in Caledonia on November 16.

An afternoon session which about 20 people attended focused on anaerobic digesters and energy saving ideas. The evening one dealt with wind energy, both on-site and off-site. Anaerobic digestion is a process that produces biogas from decomposing manure. The gas can be used to create energy.

Most of the anaerobic digesters discussed were for large scale dairy farms. A 500-cow herd is a minimum, moderator John Benton said in his opening comments. That can be reduced to 200 cows using an Andigen methane digester, speaker Mark Riemer said later. The cost per animal is higher with this option, he said.

But perhaps the most intriguing operation was the tiny one in China that Steve Fruechte of Caledonia described. Fruechte talked while showing slides that he took during a trip to China in February of 2006. It was part of the Minnesota Agriculture and Rural Leadership program.

The basic concept was that manure went into a pit and the family collected the methane gas that came off it, Fruechte said. Family members used a mechanical control to run a hot plate and hot pot. They heated and cooked with it, and even ran lights using wicks that resembled those in a Coleman lantern, Fruechte said.

There were electric lights in the house, but the families try to use gas lights whenever they can, Fruechte said. “It really took me by surprise,” he said. Benton said more than once that digesters can be a good option for Third World countries that don’t have an electric grid. “You’ve got a village, you’ve got an energy source,” he said.

Neil Kennebeck, director of planning services for Dairyland Power Cooperative, joked about that aspect of energy production. “You throw down some baked beans and sauerkraut and your body’s going to generate methane in about a day,” he said.

But Dairyland’s focus is on a much larger scale. They have helped set up three farms with digesters, and two are in the process of being developed. Another 23 farms are waiting, Kennebeck said.

Digesters are producing electricity for 6.5-7 cents per kilowatt hour. “It’s too high,” Kennebeck said. “We are a wholesale electric supplier. We have to supply if for less than six cents.” Digesters are a good fit for dealing with ag waste, which is an important aspect as animal confinement areas get bigger, Kennebeck said.

They can also reduce odors and pathogens, Benton said, and they are not using fossil fuels to generate energy. But digesters also carry a big financial investment with a long payback period, both Benton and Kennebeck said.

Hydrogen fuel cell

In a related presentation, Richard Huelskamp from the University of Minnesota talked about producing electricity from a hydrogen fuel cell at the Haubenschield Dairy in Princeton, Minnesota. The fuel cell is powered by methane gas from cow manure in an anaerobic digester on the farm.

Fuel cells work by having hydrogen that was in the methane freed up inside the fuel cell. Hydrogen and oxygen end up on opposite sides of a series of plates coated with a proprietary 3M chemical. A voltage difference between the sides of the plates is created, causing electrons to flow. The electron flow is the electricity.

Hydrogen is seen as an attractive alternative to fossil fuels since it doesn’t release carbon dioxide or harmful greenhouse gases. There is no combustion in the process. It is expensive to implement, and the cost per kilowatt is high, Huelskamp said. It has a 10 year time line for affordability, he added.

Practical advice too

Larry Landherr gave the most practical advice about saving energy at the afternoon program. He is the chairperson for the southeastern Minnesota chapter of Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs).

The organization’s goal is to promote clean, renewable, safe, and reliable energy, he said. Energy efficient appliances and fluorescent lights are two good ideas, Landherr said. “There’s a variety of ways to do that, but they’re all money-makers,” he said.

For example: “Get rid of that refrigerator in the garage to hold the beer.” It’s probably 25 years old with blown gaskets. “You could probably go down the street and buy your beer at the bar and save money,” Landherr said.

He stressed the economic benefits of conservation too. Minnesotans are spending about $15 billion annually on energy, and most of that is leaving the state. “That’s money that could stay here and get recycled in the economy,” he said. Landherr would also like to see a shift to renewable energy. It’s the right thing to do, he said. “It’s jobs, jobs, and jobs,” he said.

So how do you get there? Turbines, wind, solar, biomass, biodiesel, geothermal, and biogas are some options, Landherr said in answer to his own question. Efficiency in your home is important too, he said. Compact fluorescent bulbs are five times more efficient than incandescent bulbs. Turning down the temperature on your water heater from its factory setting of 140 degrees to 125 degrees will also save money, Landherr said.

Gary Larson from the USDA office in Caledonia also spoke about the Environmental Quality Incentives program

The evening session speakers were Joe Deden, executive director of Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center; Bruce Anderson, Renew Northfield; and Mike Pieper, who works with renewable energy for Johnson Controls. Nick Nichols, environmental coordinator for Gundersen Lutheran Health Systems, was the evening moderator.

The program was presented by the Houston County EDA, its commercial-industrial and ag-business subcommittee, and CERTs Southeastern Minnesota.

EDA director Joyce Iverson can provide contact information for any of the speakers. Her phone number is 507-725-3450. Her email is

Delaware Landfills Produce Green Power

November 20, 2006

GEORGETOWN, Del.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Two solid waste landfills are about to take center stage in the ultimate recycling project – using the landfill gas generated from decomposing organic waste to produce renewable energy. The landfills, located in Kent and Sussex Counties, are owned and operated by the Delaware Solid Waste Authority (DSWA).

“Reducing the burden on the environment and recycling all possible waste products is central to DSWA’s mission,” said N.C. Vasuki, DSWA’s CEO. “The landfill gas-to-energy projects successfully utilize a resource that would have otherwise been wasted, and in the process, produce benefits for the landfill, the environment, and the local community.”

DSWA had the vision to recycle the landfill gas in a beneficial way, and selected Ameresco, an energy service company with an expertise in landfill gas project development, to make that vision a reality. Ameresco developed, owns, and operates the two multi-million dollar landfill gas-to-energy power plants at DSWA’s Southern and Central Landfills. Thousands of tons of naturally occurring methane, a potent greenhouse gas, will now be captured and converted into “green” electricity.

“With these two new plants coming into service, DSWA once again demonstrates its vision and commitment to environmental leadership,” said George P. Sakellaris, President and CEO, Ameresco. “Ameresco is proud to be a part of such a forward looking project, especially one that has such tremendous community and environmental benefits.”

Developing new sources of renewable energy will lead to improved local and global air quality by offsetting the need to use other, more polluting fuels for energy. The Delaware projects will reduce direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 60,000 tons a year, a local environmental benefit equivalent to removing more than 60,000 cars from Delaware’s roads, or offsetting the use of over 1,500 rail cars of coal annually.

Until now, the methane gas was safely extracted at the landfill sites through wells and pipes buried in the landfills and combusted in a flare. The gas will now be diverted from the flare to the landfill gas plants equipped with specialized GE/Jenbacher engines designed to burn non-pipeline gases such as landfill gas. The seven engines are expected to produce a combined 7.4 megawatts (MWs) of electricity – enough to meet the annual power needs of over 4,500 homes.

Constellation NewEnergy, North America’s largest competitive power supplier, has signed a 10-year agreement to purchase the power from the two plants. “Constellation NewEnergy is excited to partner with DSWA, Ameresco, and GE to bring these renewable energy sources online,” said Constellation NewEnergy’s Bruce McLeish, Vice President, Wholesale Origination. “The competitive power market in Delaware is expanding rapidly and competition is driving these innovations in renewable energy.” The State of Delaware has a renewable portfolio standard which requires power providers to have 10 percent of their power come from renewable resources by 2019.

Northeast Energy Systems, GE Energy’s Jenbacher distributor for the northeast region, provided the engine-generator sets, application engineering, and will provide parts and service support for operations. “Northeast Energy Systems (NES) shares the project partners' interest in renewable energy project development, and we are proud to deliver the best available technology for green power production,” said Al Clark, Vice President-General Manager.

GE’s Energy Financial Services unit is financing the project and noted the positive impact on the environment. "Combining our financing and equipment, the Delaware landfill gas projects demonstrate how GE's ecomagination initiative is helping customers meet environmental challenges," said Kevin Walsh, a managing director and leader of renewable energy investments at GE Energy Financial Services, which financed the purchase of the gas-to-energy engines. Ecomagination is GE’s commitment to expand its portfolio of cleaner energy products while reducing its own greenhouse gas emissions.

Governor Ruth Ann Minner applauded the public/private partnership and its positive impact on the environment and the State of Delaware. “The launch of these two landfill gas projects marks a new era for alternative energy in Delaware,” Governor Minner said. “By creating more diversity in our energy supply choices, we are setting the stage for improving our environment and our economy.”

Mr. Richard Pryor, Chairman of DSWA concluded, "Producing green power from landfill gas is a win-win for the environment and the community. And for DSWA, it is the ultimate in recycling. We are proud to partner with these companies and support this visionary project."

Cleaning system ensures smooth operation for wind power gear

November 22, 2006

With current global demand for energy exceeding the world’s crude production capacity, causing oil prices to soar, wind power is becoming an increasingly viable industry.

Over the past 15 years, the global wind power industry has been growing at an annual rate of more than 30percent. Consequently, green power (wind power, solar power, small-scale hydroelectric power, geothermal power, biomass fuel, and so forth) is rapidly becoming a smart investment.

Wind installations

According to the European Wind Energy Association, in 2003, wind turbines worldwide attained a record capacity of 39294MW, meeting the needs of 47million people.

And the US counterpart of the European Wind Energy Association, the American Wind Industry Association, estimates that wind installations worldwide will deliver more than 75000MW over the next decade and become a close to US$75billion industry.

The powerful global growth is expected to continue if policy incentives (fixed price and quantity systems, renewable portfolio standard laws) remain and technological advances in wind-turbine manufacturing continue to extend product life and reduce operation and investment costs for electricity production.

Demand for green power is also on the increase, since coal, a principal energy source, contributes the largest amount of pollutants to the greenhouse effect.

Continuing growth

While most agree growth will continue, it is also believed this will mainly take place in the top five wind-power producing countries – Germany, with a 36percent share, Spain, at 16percent, the US at 16percent, Denmark at seven percent and India with five percent.

When a new technology grows as fast as wind energy has done over the past few decades, conventional parts and solutions often no longer fit. Siemens Wind Power is one of the major wind turbine manufacturers that have helped develop wind-power technology.

Global capacity

With its headquarters in Brande, Denmark, the company was founded as Bonus Energy A/S by Peter Sørensen in 1981. Sørensen was the sole owner until December 2004, when he sold Bonus to Siemens.

As one of the top-five wind turbine makers in the world, Siemens has installed more than 5000 machines with a total capacity of more than 3300 megawatt (MW) around the globe. Its earliest turbines were 22–55kilowatt (kW), while today’s multi-megawatt giants are up to 3.6MW in size.

When Siemens developed its 1.3- MW model in 1999, the company devised a new oil cooling and filter system for the turbine gearboxes. Normal hydraulic hoses – typically 6-20mm in diameter – were too small or too stiff from steel reinforcements.

“We were looking for something bigger – 38mm (1.5inches) at first,” says Tommy Friis, Senior Buyer, Siemens Wind Power. “They had to be flexible – some of the hoses must be up to eight metres long. And we knew we’d need something that could go up to at least 63mm (2.5inches) or bigger. Today we’re at 102mm (4inches).”


The hoses would also have to be cleaned to very high standards (ISO18/16/13). Otherwise, particles in the gear oil could cause a failure. Siemens had trouble finding a supplier that could meet its demands.

“At first, everybody said our plan would not be possible,” says Friis.

Trelleborg could not only meet Siemens's strict demands for the part, but it made investments in a cleaning system to further seal the cooperation. “They’ve been willing to take action when it was needed,” says Friis.

Cleaning system

Trelleborg’s cleaning system for its gear-oil hoses has resulted in continuing co-operation with Siemens Wind Power. The key to Trelleborg’s continued success of its hose supply to Siemens Wind Power lies in a key investment for a cleaning system. The hoses, which range from 38–63mm in diameter and up to eight meters in length, transport oil from the gearbox to the filter/oil cooler and back.

“When Siemens was unsatisfied with the level of particles in the oil at first, Trelleborg invested in a completely new cleaning system, which flushes new hoses with oil at high pressure,” says Frits Johansen, District Manager, Trelleborg Industrial Supply Products Denmark. “Since then,” adds Johansen, “no problems have occurred.”


Johansen continues: “After each compression test and cleaning, the test results are transferred electronically to Siemens. “This gives them documentation in the further process. The order number is also embossed on the casing, so we have traceability. We can always tell when the hose was produced.”

Jack Jackson is with Trelleborg Industrial Supply Products Denmark.

Do you live near a power plant?

AAP Newswire
Tuesday 21/11/2006

CANBERRA, Nov 21 AAP - Do you live near a power plant? Are you close to a reliable water supply, and a town or city? Then your community could be one of 25 or so along the east coast of Australia tipped to have its own nuclear power plant within the next 50 years.

John Howard's prime ministerial taskforce, headed by former Telstra head Ziggy Switkowski, says nuclear power should play a significant part in Australia's future energy needs.

They know that many people are wary about nuclear meltdowns, radiation leaks, nuclear dumps and three-eyed fish. But they say a nuclear power plant is safer than a conventional coal or gas fired plant, and can help to cut greenhouse emissions.

Its the finding Mr Howard wanted when he set up the taskforce, stacking it with nuclear experts and excluding renewable energies like solar and wind power from its scope.

But how difficult will it be to sell the idea of a nuclear power plant within kilometres of suburban homes to voters ahead of next year's election? Opposition Leader Kim Beazley says Mr Howard must spell out where the nuclear plants will go. "Australians are quite wise in these areas. They understand that nuclear reactors have to be near cities and have to be near water," Mr Beazley said.

"So, there are plenty of communities that can identify themselves as potential sites. And what John Howard owes to those communities is a clear-cut statement as to whether they're in or out as far as nuclear reactors are concerned." But Mr Howard says its not the government's responsibility - or choice. "Obviously the question of the location of any power stations will follow commercial decisions," he said.

The government won't be nominating where nuclear power stations might go if we decide to have them, but obviously like any other investment you'll need to have a commercial driver for a nuclear power plant or station to be built. But we are a considerable time away from that." At least a year, many suspect - after the election.

All that energy wasted on a greenwash' for the nuclear industry

Sydney Morning Herald
Wednesday 22/11/2006, Page: 17
Dr Mark Diesendorf

THE draft report on uranium mining processing and nuclear energy is an exercise in "greenwash" for a dirty and dangerous industry. It skates over the serious risks of proliferation of nuclear weapons, nuclear terrorism and nuclear waste management, misrepresents the carbon dioxide emissions from the nuclear fuel chain, and presents a highly selective and excessively optimistic choice of numbers for the cost of nuclear electricity.

The single positive outcome of the report is the recognition that carbon pricing - either in the form of a carbon tax or an emissions scheme is essential for reducing Australia's greenhouse gas emissions. However, a more realistic assessment of nuclear economics would recognise that the carbon price range envisaged in the report - $15 to $40 per tonne of carbon dioxide emitted - is far too low to make nuclear power competitive with dirty (conventional) coal-fired power stations.

Indeed, the report recognises this implicitly where it admits: "If investor perceptions of risk were greater [than for other base-load technologies], higher carbon prices or other policies [that is, subsidies] would be required to stimulate investment in nuclear power." The report's very low estimates of carbon prices, required to make nuclear power economically viable, are achieved by a magician's trick. The report shows the cost estimates depend critically upon interest rates and that, at the high interest rates prevailing in a competitive market, nuclear electricity is likely to cost about 10 cents a kilowatt-hour.

However, in the comparison with the costs of competing technologies, the report selects much lower interest rates for nuclear power, in effect halving the cost of nuclear electricity. These carefully selected results are then reproduced in the executive summary, without any explanation that low interest rates were assumed, without justification.

As spelled out clearly in the unbiased Ranger uranium environmental inquiry, published a generation ago, nuclear power inadvertently contributes to the spread of nuclear weapons and hence the risk of nuclear war. Since then, the risk has become much worse. India, Pakistan and North Korea have all used civil nuclear technology to develop nuclear weapons.

Furthermore, the fragile barrier to nuclear proliferation - the nuclear nonproliferation treaty - is being actively undermined by the United States and Australia. The US is selling uranium to India and Australia is permitting sales to Taiwan. Neither country has signed the treaty. These sales are part of a US strategy to build a nuclear wall around China. The obvious response by China will be to expand its own nuclear weapons arsenal.

However, China's uranium reserves are too small to do this and fuel its nuclear power stations as well. Don't worry, Australia has come to the rescue with its uranium sales to China. This will free Chinese uranium for more nuclear weapons. A future confrontation over Taiwan could be hot indeed.

The report's conclusions on proliferation are breathtaking in their complacency: "Increased involvement [in the nuclear industry] would not change the risks" and "Australia's uranium supply policies reinforce the international non-proliferation regime". This goes beyond greenwash to repainting black as white.

It gets even better. The report dismisses nuclear terrorism with "nor would Australia's [electricity] grid become more vulnerable to terrorist attack". What about an attack on a nuclear power station, high-level nuclear waste in a cooling pond, or highly radioactive nuclear materials being transported? Even if they didn't hijack a jumbo jet, a small paramilitary group with suicidal tendencies could make a ground attack to take over the control room of a nuclear power station and initiate a core meltdown, creating hundreds of thousands of casualties.

The idea of adding value to uranium mining by introducing uranium enrichment is appealing to the authors of the report. However, there is a global over-capacity for uranium enrichment at present and the US is building a new plant. With no market, there would be no value-adding.

It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the Federal Government's push for nuclear power, assisted by the Switkowski report, is a means of distracting attention from its failure to implement strong policies in response to greenhouse gases.

As shown in the report A Clean Energy Future for Australia, commissioned by the Clean Energy Australia Group, carbon dioxide emissions from the electricity industry could be cut by 80 per cent by 2040 using a mix of efficient energy use, bioenergy, natural gas and wind power.

The barriers are neither technological nor economic, but rather the political power of the big greenhouse gas emitters.

Dr Mark Diesendorf is with the Institute of Environmental Studies at the University of NSW.

Nuclear costs understated: report's critics

Sydney Morning Herald
Wednesday 22/11/2006 Page: 10
Wendy Frew Environment Reporter

TAXPAYERS could be forced to subsidise the nuclear energy industry to the tune of several billion dollars as well as facing higher electricity prices, to get the industry up and running in Australia, energy experts say.

A Federal Government commissioned report published yesterday underestimated the current operating costs of nuclear energy, and put too low a price on the carbon pollution generated by coal-fired power, critics said. Alternative forms of energy will only be able to compete with coal if coal pays for its greenhouse gas pollution.

But a carbon price at least double that recommended by the taskforce, which was headed by the former Telstra boss Ziggy Switkowski, would be necessary if nuclear power was to compete with coal, said Mark Diesendorf, a lecturer at the Institute of Environmental Studies at the University of NSW. On top of that, it was likely extra government support would have to be offered to private companies to encourage it to invest in the industry, a point even the taskforce conceded in its report.

"The difference between me and Mr Switkowski is that I don't think nuclear power will get up even with carbon pricing ... I don't think it could compete with coal on a price of $40 a tonne of carbon," Dr Diesendorf said.

Based on Massachusetts Institute of Technology research, the Sydney academic has estimated construction of a 1000-megawatt nuclear reactor would cost about $3 billion. That does not take account of the cost of insurance, storage of highly radioactive waste and its eventual decommissioning.

In his report, Dr Switkowski said nuclear power would be between 20 and 50 per cent more costly to produce than coal or gas-fired power.

"This gap may close in the decades ahead, but nuclear power and renewable energy sources will only become competitive in Australia in a system where the costs of greenhouse gas emissions are explicitly recognised," the report said.

"Even then, private investment in the first-built nuclear reactors may require some form of government support or directive." It said nuclear power plants were initially likely to be 10 to 15 per cent more expensive than in the US because Australia had no nuclear power construction experience or any physical or regulatory infrastructure.

Studies by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Chicago showed the industry would also initially suffer from what is known as "first of a kind" costs common in complex engineering projects and initial learning curves. However, the report dismissed those costs.

A campaigner with the Australian Conservation Foundation, Dave Sweeney, agreed the taskforce's calculations were unrealistic. "We welcome a carbon price, but on this basis [$15-$40 a tonne of carbon] I don't think that it will be significant enough to cover all the costs associated with nuclear power, and that is reflected in the report itself, which says the first plants in Australia could not be built as cheaply as they could be built in the US, and would need additional measures to kick start them.

"This is saying very clearly that if nuclear power is pursued in Australia the public purse will have to be open a very long time." A campaigner with Friends of the Earth, Jim Green, said the Switkowski report's estimate that nuclear power was now up to 50 per cent more expensive than coal or gas-fired power was optimistic.

A recent Victorian Department of Infrastructure report had found that nuclear power was twice as expensive as coal-fired power, Dr Green said.

The Drawbacks
  • Insurance companies will not take on the risk associated with nuclear plants, forcing governments to act as underwriters.
  • The cost of cleaning up Britain's ageing nuclear facilities stands at £90 billion ($222 billion).
  • A carbon price of about $35 a tonne would make wind power competitive with coal.

Tuesday, 21 November 2006

Give wind a go

Yarram Standard News
Wednesday 15/11/2006, Page: 13

ALTERNATIVE energy sources such as wind farms should be considered seriously by society to alleviate an anticipated massive rise in greenhouse gases.

That is the view of Carrajung resident Daryl Silvester, in the wake of predictions by a climate change authority that greenhouse gas emissions are expected to rise by 22 per cent by 2020. Mr Silvester attended a seminar in Sale last month, hosted by The Climate Institute, and is a staunch supporter of a plan to erect a wind farm at Devon North.

The year 2020 is not that far away when we look at the increasing number of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere in recent years, he said. 'With the lack of rain and unusual annual weather patterns, we need to take some action to address climate change.

"The Climate Institute is saying that if we keep going the way we are, then sea levels will rise by half a metre by the turn of the century.

If that happens, septic tanks are going to be well under in coastal areas. If that is going to happen, then why are we still building in places like Port Albert, McLoughlins Beach and any other coastal areas?" According to The Climate Institute, spring will start earlier and summers will be longer, hotter and drier.

"The institute believes spring rainfall could become lower and what we've experienced this year could become the norm." "If that happens, then creeks, rivers, reservoirs and aquifers could all dry out. Aquifers have been filled since time began and it is only 50 years since man has been hooking into them in earnest and already they're going down rapidly." He believes wind farms are the best and most immediately available alternative form of producing electricity.

"A coal-powered electricity station, with reduced emissions, could be 10 to 15 years away and so could solar, but wind farms could have the ability to be up in 12 months or more.

And he said moves towards biofuels, such as canola- based products, may not be so reliable given the lack of rain in recent years.

"If the wind farm at Devon North is vetoed again, then the wind farm company might say 'We'll go somewhere else'. If they do, then people in this area will miss out on the opportunity to have them.

"I just want to see the wind up here utilised. It's one of those situations where you are damned if you do and maybe damned if you don't, but we may all be doomed if we don't.

"I'd rather have wind farms than plantations. If we have more plantations then we'll have more log trucks on the road" But what about the risk wind farms are said to pose to birdlife? "Wind farms are being blamed for the demise of the orange-bellied parrot, the bats, the eagles and in the Western District, the brolgas.

'The fact is that modern man has destroyed all of these birds because modern man has drained the wetlands, introduced foxes and removed habitat. its not wind farms that are the cause of it all"

Tourism increase

South Eastern Times
Thursday 16/11/2006, Page: 10

THE Millicent Visitor Information Centre has shown a 34 per cent increase in visitor numbers and enquiries over the last four years.

Wattle Range Council Tourism Manager, Janice Nitschke, said the rise reaffirmed the marketing strategy and decision to build on the clean and green image of the area and to produce a suite of new brochures on the area.

The new publications have included the distribution of 10,000 on the Woakwine Windfarm tour in eight months and town maps. There has also been a 26% increase in visitors to the Beachport Tourist Centre, and this has also included promotion of the town through marketing.

However, there has been a decline in tourist number, at the Penola-Coonawarra centre, in line with a decrease across the Limestone Coast.

Mrs. Nitschke said over the last four years Wattle Range Tourism has undertaken a number of initiatives, including:
branding Wattle Range Tourism;
  • designing a suite of brochures and DL cards promoting the region;
  • a distribution plan for the placement of the brochures,
  • DL cards and flyers across Western Victoria,
  • throughout the Limestone Coast and into the Fleurieu Peninsula;
  • increased advertising;
  • developing Wattle Range packs and encouraging visitors to stay in the area; and
  • continual upgrading of the Wattle Range website.
"This strategy has enabled us to build on the Melbourne to Adelaide touring route, with the promotion of the windfarm tourist drive, Millicent's Lake McIntyre and the coastal area," Mrs. Nitschke said.

"The increase in four wheel driving has afforded us the opportunity to promote this, and we are grateful of the efforts of the Wattle Rangers 4WD Club, who have produced maps and supporting information to enable safe driving through the parks.

"These maps have been blown up, and are on the walls of our centres, while smaller maps form the basis of the 4WD packs, staff have developed."

Wind farm on international stage

Stawell Times News
Friday 17/11/2006, Page: 7

ARARAT - The Challicum Hills windfarm returned Ararat to the international stage last week.

A group of dignitaries including Chile's Minister for Mining and Energy.

Karen Poniachik, the Australian Trade Commissioner for Chile Nigel Warren and Pacific Hydro's CEO Rob Grant, enjoyed a day tour of the area.

The trip to Ararat, part of their Australian tour to Melbourne. Sydney and Newcastle was initiated by Pacific Hydro, operators of Challicum Hills as an opportunity for the Minister to view first hand Australia's largest wind farm with the hope that Chile will soon follow suit.

Chile's traditional source of energy has been natural gas, however as explained by the Minister, the Chilean Government's goal is to ensure that by 2010, 15 percent of the new installed capacity originates from renewable energy through a variety of sources including wind farms.

It is interesting to look at Australia as a model," the Minister said.

"In Chile we have renewable energy operations using biomass and mini hydro with the river however we are now looking at renewable energy through solar and wind. Currently we are measuring the wind capacity." The Victoria Government's Victorian Renewable Energy Target (VRET) is another aspect Chile is interested in examining as a potential model to build on. with plans for the Chilean ministry to meet with the Victorian State Government to discuss VRET's framework.

Pacific Hydro's CEO Rob Grant described Chile's progress as 'leading the charge in exporting the idea.' describing the idea of applying the same VRET model in Chile as 'really encouraging'.

As part of the tour the group was able to enjoy the sights and tastes of Ararat with a luncheon shared with Rural City CEO Bill Braithwaite and Mayor Ian Wilson. It is significant that the Minister sought to come to Ararat, as we are now recognised as a leader across the State in renewable energy." Mr Braithwaite said.

The afternoon concluded with a road trip to Challicum Hills and a helicopter ride back to Melbourne.

Drinking seawater

Daily Telegraph
Monday 20/11/2006 Page: 6

THE first Australians began to drink seawater yesterday after Perth's $387 million desalination plant opened. The facility, which will eventually produce 130 million litres of water a day, started pumping into the city's supply system.

It will supply 17 per cent of Perth's water when it reaches full capacity in two months.

The plant - powered by electricity generated by a wind farm - is the largest in the southern hemisphere and third largest in the world.