Friday, 21 November 2008

Soft landing a big challenge

Weekend Australian
Saturday 8/11/2008 Page: 1

Power stationAUSTRALIA'S $120 billion domestic power and gas industry will go into 2009 in what is being described as "an unprecedented period of complexity, change and uncertainty".

The industry, the most critical element in Australia's 21st century economic supply chain, is grappling not only the fall-out from the global credit crunch but also a three pronged local challenge of surging consumption, ageing asset replacement needs and policy moves to reduce its greenhouse gas footprint from current levels.

The sector produces more than 35 per cent of Australia's greenhouse gases, but employs 49,000 people directly while providing a vital service to energy-hungry industrial plants employing more than a million more, an eighth of the national workforce.

Politically, delivering voters a soft landing while reshaping the national approach to emissions and sustaining economic growth in a time of global financial turmoil is the Rudd Government's toughest task some see it as ''mission impossible", while the Greens and environmental activists, who will be an important factor in the outcome of future national elections, argue simultaneously for an even stronger approach to burning and exporting coal.

The degree of difficulty in devising a viable carbon control policy is harder in Australia than the European Union, where governments are in year five of struggling to introduce an emissions trading scheme, because 92 per cent of electricity here is generated using brown and black coal versus only 30 per cent in the EU, a large user of nuclear energy.

Most of the domestic power and gas industry's capital is invested in electricity assets $100 billion worth and it would be facing significant stress even without the carbon problem or the aftermath of the international market meltdown.

The Australian Bureau of Agricultural Resource Economics has predicted that national demand for electricity, which has risen six-fold since 1965, will go up 90 per cent between now and 2030. This will require billions of dollars to be outlayed on extra supply infrastructure, not only for power stations, but also transmission systems and distribution networks.

However, Engineers Australia, the professional voice of the discipline, is warning that the country faces an additional problem: the ageing of generation plants. EA believes there has been substantial under-investment in generation capacity and Australia is now "reliant on relatively large, ageing plants".

It says: "From about 2013 the demand for electricity generation begins to exceed supply capacity, indicating the onset of an energy security problem unless significant additional capacity, over and above what is planned, comes on line." Engineers Australia points, in particular, to ongoing surges in peak demand and calls for federal, state and territory governments to recognise that households and businesses face the real cost of electricity supply. Energy Supply Association forecasts indicate that peak load requirements in NSW, the ACT, Victoria and Queensland home to 80 per cent of national power consumption will be a third higher in 2016 than in 2006.

Moreover the capital spending needed, and the flow-on of costs to electricity bills, does not stop at the power station gate: half the costs of supply are caught up in the web of pylons, poles, wires, sub-stations and transformers that carried electricity to consumers.

Supply cannot serve community needs without network reliability which is only as good as its weakest link and billions of dollars of assets have been, and will continue to be, built for use only in extreme weather when loads peak. Sydney-based energy economist Margaret Beardow, writing in Powering Australia yearbook, claims that as much as 70 per cent of Australia's existing distribution network may need to be replaced over the next 20 years.

Assets installed around 50 years ago are approaching the end of their lives, she says. This perspective is supported by Lew Owens, chief executive of the privatised ETSA Utilities, the South Australia power distributor. He is currently seeking regulatory approval to spend $1.5 billion over five years to refurbish and expand the SA network, and says much of the system was installed in the 1950s and 1960s.

Most network assets," he points out, "have design lives of 40 to 50 years, at the end of which they need to be either replaced or refurbished. The SA network has a significant amount of equipment that has lasted much longer than originally intended." The pressure for refurbishment and augmentation to meet large increases in demand is most marked in three widely-separated areas: South-west Western Australia, where the network service provider, Western Power, is spending $1 billion a year at present and is seeking regulatory approval for a $6 billion outlay over the next three years.

South-east Queensland, where the network company, Energex, says it is spending $3 million a day as part of a $3.5 billion five-year project to meet soaring demand as well as to replace ageing equipment.

The country's biggest power market the Newcastle-Sydney-Wollongong region, home to a third of total national consumption. The two NSW government-owned distribution businesses serving the region, EnergyAustralia and Integral Energy, and the state transmission corporation, TransGrid, are currently asking the Australian Energy Regulator to sanction their spending some $13 billion on replacing older assets and meeting new demand growth and this is just for the five years from 2009 to 2014.

Large as these outlays are, they are still less than the costs the electricity industry and eventually Australian consumers through tariffs will be called on to handle if the Rudd Government's climate change policies are pursued. Whether the new policies will be put on hold because of the massive impact on the domestic economy of the global financial crisis remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, both government-owned and investor-owned generators are wrestling with how to deal with the core element of the plan: driving them away from burning coal and to using natural gas or coal seam gas and renewable energy.

The electricity industry claims that just building conventional plant to meet growing demand will cost it about $13 billion in the next 10-12 years, while constructing low emission power stations to replace the older coal burners initially stranded by carbon charges could push this up to $33 billion.

A carbon charge big enough to deliver 5 or 10 per cent cut in actual Australian greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 as opposed to slowing their growth could require the closure of about quarter of the eastern seaboard's coal burners, the electricity industry claims. This, it argues, would require providing perhaps 6700MW of new, lower emitting generation, the equivalent of adding a new South Australia and Tasmania, in terms of capacity, to the supply system.

Meeting the Rudd Government's renewable energy target intended to deliver a fifth of the nation's electricity needs by 2020 will be expensive, too. Estimates of $27 billion to $35 billion are being put forward for investment in wind farms and other forms of renewable generation between now and 2020 to meet the target.

The key word that comes up now in every industry discussion is uncertainty. The range of questions for which there can be no clear answers at this stage is large and growing. They include: Will the Government actually go ahead with emissions trading? Trying to get banks to finance projects without clarity on this point would be close to impossible even without the terra incognita that is the post meltdown finance sector.

If carbon charges are introduced and they drive large-scale investment in gas generation at the same time that the eastern seaboard is being exposed to international gas prices as a result of coal seam methane exports, what will happen to domestic gas prices? Analysts' forecasts of the impact on eastern seaboard gas prices range from doubling to trebling.

What will happen to fuel prices for the remaining domestic black coal generators? Until the past two months, it was a given that these plants would have to meet far higher coal prices than they are paying under present long-term contracts, some about to expire, because of the sharp rises internationally in the past two years.

What will happen to the development costs of new projects, both renewable and conventional, in an environment where the Australia dollar's value is far below what is was a year ago? But, as with those steak knife adverts on television, wait there is more: Ross Garnaut, the Business Council and the electricity industry all agree that introduction of a large amount of renewable energy plant will require a big outlay on transmission networks. New technologies, Garnaut says in his final report, delivered at the end of September, will require the plants to be sited far from the existing grid and will need major changes in network links. Industry estimates set the price tag just from now to 2020 at about $4.5 billion.

Garnaut in his final report sees a need for government intervention in transmission planning and possibly subsidies for links to important remote renewable sources. A move like this would have a major impact on the national electricity market operations and would be greeted with howls of indignation from existing conventional generators, as well as being yet another adverse signal to capital lenders.

Achieving all these changes in an orderly fashion in just a dozen years presented power suppliers and government with a raft of social as well as development challenges before the financial crisis. Whether or not emissions trading goes ahead, new skilled workers will have to be found by the emerging renewables sector and by the networks businesses, who have almost as big a problem today with replacing ageing workers as they do with replacing with ageing equipment.

Meanwhile, the other vital social and economic service sector the water industry is going to be in the financial and skills marketplaces in competition with the domestic energy industry. The Water Services Association, in its new annual review, says the major urban utilities will need to outlay $30 billion in the next decade to replace old assets and meet new consumption needs presented by a bigger population and an expanding economy.

A critical factor for the Rudd Government will be the approach other regimes around the world adopt to embracing a replacement treaty for the Kyoto Protocol. The local politics are awkWard here, too the vital UN meeting in Copenhagen at the end of next year will impact on the scheduled 2010 federal election while the Kyoto agreement expires in 2013, when the subsequent election is due.

Already commentators around the world are saying that the replacement treaty is DOA dead on arrival because the developing nations and very probably a financially-devastated US will not be prepared to embrace any other major impacts on their economies. Rushing ahead with a carbon policy that succeeds only in disadvantaging the domestic economy because other nations won't follow this path could create an enormous backlash for Kevin Rudd.

Fuel cells drawing on power of the most faithful

Weekend Australian
Saturday 8/11/2008 Page: 4

QUEEN Victoria was in only her second year on the throne. France had a Bourbon king. Prussia dominated a cluster of states that had still to become Germany. Martin van Buren was president of the US. It was 1839 the year two scientists, one German, the other Welsh, simultaneously came up with the idea of fuel-cells and 170 years later their invention is still battling to establish its place in the energy spectrum.

With General Motors announcing the imminent birth of a fuel-cell car, the Sequel, and Honda beginning small-scale commercial production of their Clarity, it might seen that the long arduous trek of the concept from the minds of Christian Schoenbeing and Sir William Grove to community use is finally over, but not so fast nothing is ever easy with fuel-cell development.

It is not hard to see why motor manufacturers including Ford, Daimler, Hyundai, Toyota and BMW have fuel-cell propelled cars as a key goal. The vehicles are virtually noiseless and their exhaust is distilled water. But the inability of technologists to deliver hydrogen supplies in scalable volumes and the non-existence of infrastructure for refuelling is not so much a bump in their road as the Grand Canyon.

The outlook is not helped by the fact that the fuel-celled cars need engines using platinum, a repeat of the precious metals issue manufacturers had to overcome when catalytic converters were first put in cars. Ford's chief engineer for hybrid and fuel-cell technology, Scott Staley, is blunt about the problem. He has told US technical media that there is "a lot of serious science that has to be done to get costs down by a factor of 10 or more". But, he also points out, the cost factor was 100 to 1 at the start of the decade.

Unfortunately, the environmental movement is not all that enthusiastic about fuel-cell vehicles either. The Friends of the Earth in Britain summed up their attitude by commenting recently: "Hydrogen-fuelled cars are a long way off the immediate priority of the motor industry should be cutting vehicle emissions by producing smarter cars that burn less fuel." The other aspect troubling the environmentalists is that hydrogen is complex to produce and requires a great deal of energy in the process. It would be cheaper, they and others in industry point out, to take the methane needed for gas turbines to provide this energy and pump it straight into the fuel tanks of gas-propelled cars.

The hype this year of GM and Honda in announcing their concept cars is an extension of innumerable announcements of breakthroughs over nearly four decades by manufacturers and fuel-cell developers. However, with international pressure to slow the growth of fossil fuel use and to transition to a sharp reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, fuel-cell research has grown substantially this decade and its proponents see real prospects for success, although not necessarily a major shift in fuelling motor vehicles in even the medium term.

Fuel-cells, in fact, have been in use now for almost 40 years. They power space capsules, the NASA shuttle and the space station. They are used in submarines because they generate no noise or vibration and, in still limited applications, they are being used to recover energy from methane exuded by waste water and garbage dumps as well, more recently, to operate co-generation (heat and power) plants in buildings.

The US fuel-cell sector points out that they are now at work powering thousands of American buildings, including hospitals and hotels usually as back-up in case of grid failure and are also in use for vending machines, highway road signs and even industrial-strength vacuum cleaners.

"This is an exciting time in the history of fuel-cells," gushes Valerie Browning, spruiking a large conference on the topic she is chairing in Phoenix, Arizona. "Everyone's been talking about fuel-cells and now they are finally using them. After decades of research and development, they have come of age."

Her optimism is shared by the well-known Tokyo research institution Fuji Keizai Co, which claimed last month that the Japanese market for fuel-cells has the potential to expand by 300 times its present size by 2020, generating sales of more than $US11 billion. Fuji Keizai's projections include a big future for the cells in the automotive industry, embracing buses and trucks as well as cars, and a strong take-up by households.

American technologist Bela Liptak, inventor of a solar hydrogen system, claims that the cost of his cells, which he asserts can make solar energy available night and day, can be driven down from $US3000 per kilowatt today to about $US250/kW. By comparison, an American diesel generator today costs between $US800 and $US1500 per kW and a natural gas turbine no more than $US400. "Reducing the fuel-cell cost to $US250," says Liptak, "will make it competitive for virtually every type of power application."

Tasmania feels the power pinch

Weekend Australian
Saturday 8/11/2008 Page: 3

IT'S not easy being green even if you have been in the renewable energy business for almost a century when you have to contend with the weather. The drought, considered the worst in Australia for 100 years, would have had a dire effect on the country's greenest state, Tasmania, if it were not for a fortuitously built link to the mainland, ironically to the country's highest greenhouse gas emitting power system.

Three years of low rainfall have severely tested the state's government-owned Hydro-Electric Corporation, which trades as Hydro Tasmania. Chairman David Crean, noting that the generator's dam storage levels had fallen below 20 per cent for the first time in 40 years, acknowledges that it is the controversial Basslink high voltage transmission line across Bass Strait that has enabled his business to "keep on the lights" and sustain employment in Tasmania's energy-intensive manufacturing industry.

In 2007 Tasmania imported more than 1,900GWh of electricity across Basslink, built by Britain's National Grid Company for $780 million and recently sold to Singapore's CitySpring Infrastructure Management for more than $1.2 billion, a significant amount in a state where annual consumption sits just under 10,000GWh. Only 618GWh flowed north last year.

Without Basslink, a development which the Greens and others opposed bitterly, "Tasmania would have faced the prospect of winter power restrictions with inevitable negative impact on the economy," chief executive Vince Hawkesworth says. Rescue has come at a substantial cost. Hydro Tasmania spent more than $100 million in 2007-08 buying power from Victoria and gas to run a small power plant at Bell Bay in the state's north.

Hydro development, says David Crean, has been crucial to Tasmania's development in the 20th century, with the corporation building up its water-driven generation resource to 50 dams and 29 power stations providing a capacity of 2615MW and an asset value of $3.4 billion before the hydro construction period came to an end in the 1990s in a nation-rocking controversy over the eventually-banned Franklin River project.

Today more than 80 per cent of Hydro Tasmania's water storage is in two dams the Great Lake, Australia's largest natural freshwater lake in the Midlands, and Lake Gordon in the south-west wilderness area.

Hydro Tasmania is by far the largest contributor to Australia's existing renewable energy generation producing more than 8000GWh a year compared with less than 4000GWh annually from the Snowy system out of a national total of almost 14,000GWh. All the hydro power together, however, adds up to barely 6 per cent of Australia's electricity supply.

Existing hydro-electric schemes are specifically excluded from the mandatory renewable energy target scheme, but the new MRET provides Hydro Tasmania with opportunities to upgrade and augment its generation and to build wind farms. The corporation is investigating adding 1000GWh annual capacity to its system at a cost of $400 million "under the right market conditions."

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Make the switch

Sunday Mail Brisbane
Sunday 9/11/2008 Page: 9

Big Light Switch campaignABOUT 80,000 homes are expected to install energy-saving light bulbs for the first time, thanks to The Big Light Switch campaign, which starts today. The Queensland Government is giving away a million environment friendly light bulbs and 500,000 of them are going to readers of The Sunday Mail. The compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) come in twin packs valued at $20 each.

Replacing two traditional bulbs around your home with the energy saving lights will cut $22 a year off your electricity bill and reduce your household greenhouse gas emissions by 144kg a year. Premier Anna Bligh said the $3.5 million scheme would reduce Queensland's greenhouse gas emissions by 72,000 tonnes a year.

Ms Bligh hoped it would also motivate people to change other light bulbs in their home. "The roll-out of this energy saving technology has always relied on voluntary uptake. With this campaign we can deliver it into homes that have never previously used these bulbs," she said. "We can see that as many as 80,000 homes will use these bulbs for the first time as a result of the campaign.

"In these uncertain economic times, something as simple as a light bulb can save you money, energy and the environment. It's the perfect trifecta." A study by Research International, commissioned for The Big Light Switch campaign, revealed 21 per cent of Queensland homes had no energy-saving bulbs at all.

The research showed that those that did use CFLs had them in less than 40 per cent of the compatible light sockets. Office of Climate Change executive director Greg Withers said he was surprised more people had not installed compact fluorescent lightss as they were one of the cheapest and easiest ways to make a home more energy-efficient. Mr Withers said installing compact fluorescent lightss where possible could drastically cut the cost of home electricity bills.

Queenslanders can slash up to $350 a year off their bills by replacing incandescent bulbs around the home. Most houses have about 25 compact fluorescent lights compatible light fittings and the energy-saving bulbs use up to 80 per cent less electricity than traditional bulbs. Take the token from today's paper to a participating newsagent to get your free light bulbs. When you install your bulbs, some specially selected ones will glow green.

If yours glows green you will win a 12-month subscription to The Sunday Mail and a ClimateSmart home energy audit, as well as going into the draw to win one of three major prizes. There is a Honda Civic hybrid car worth $37,000 to be won by one lucky reader, as well as a 1.05kW home solar system from Infinity Solar and a nine-day holiday for two to Daintree Eco Lodge and Spa, including return flights to Cairns. Readers are reminded that bulbs should not be used in dimmer light fittings.

Winds of change for Snowtown

Sunday Mail Adelaide
Sunday 9/11/2008 Page: 34

BAD news travels fastest on the winds of gossip. Italian gossips are called "little winds". Today, there's a bigger wind with better, brighter news. Good news. It's been a week of good news, fresh starts, hope and a brave new world.

Snowtown is an ordinary, medium-sized town in the Mid-North: silo, sandstone Soldiers Memorial Hall (with adjacent supper hall), shops open and shut, agricultural agencies, a grand pub, a "muriel" on the very clean public toilet block, a railway line, a drought and some very bad news a decade ago when foul people did foul things, none of whom had any connection to the town.

It just happened and put a fine town already struggling with a terrible drought back a lot. Then there was a great day in Snowtown. I had the pleasure of attending the opening, last Sunday, of 47 wind turbines. A wind farm for Snowtown. From the main street where 2000 people gathered to celebrate a good turn for their town, you can see the enormous blades of a turbine slowly turning in the now more valuable wind over the Barunga Ranges to the west.

For generations, the farmers of Snowtown have looked to the west for the weather - squinted into a harsh sunset. But now they look to the west for another symbol of hope and even prosperity. There was a big country fair to welcome Premier Mike Rann to open the wind farm built by NZ company Trust Power and the international company Suzlon.

It's magic to ponder that 58 per cent of the nation's wind energy comes from SA - that's more than all the other states combined. Clean power. The turbines are big windmills and cockies know the value of windmills, and the feathered cockies and other birds soon learn to fly around them. It was a wonderful day.

Steak and sausages sizzled, hotdogs boiled and strawberries macerated in a friendly, welcoming town that has struggled for survival and redemption from trespassers. It is, financially, a poor town but rich in spirit and love of land, and each other. So poor is Snowtown that the Lutheran op shop takes things on consignment. My heart bleeds.

We were excellently entertained by country singers Danny Hooper, Gary Mannion and the children of the Snowtown Area School and the Kadina Mixed Choir; there were popular bus tours of the wind farm and kids on decorated bikes. Boundless joy. A display of the wind farms and the mounted 44m wind turbine blade - which is much bigger than you think - will bring interest and tourism.

And the sun shone when I met a wonderful lady called Edna Altmann. She's "coming up 80 and I've lived here my whole life". She worked for 37 years in the Snowtown Hospital laundry ("hard work never killed anyone") and she's one of the big-boned, bighearted, big-smiling, big-spirited country women who truck no nonsense, really run the town and should run the world. Wise, funny. A helper. A doer. A worker.

One of nine children of a farm worker she walked 8km to school at Wokurna over the hills and not so far away; had to leave school at 12 to work at the pub as a waitress; married, worked, was widowed and is now a blessed great-grandmother. Salt of the earth. It's her country and her town, and she's proud of it. She's grown out of this place and, like it, she endures. She sits with her posse of card ladies with broad country faces ravaged by skin cancers, and they look and laugh and love. Snowtown is blessed by Edna Altmann and every community is blessed by her like. Cherish them.

Nobody speaks much of the horror at Snowtown but Edna is hurt by an article in a Melbourne newspaper in which Melbourne footballers list 10 reasons why they wouldn't want to live in Adelaide, and one of them is Snowtown. Bloody nerve. The joke's on them because when those footballers in Melbourne turn on a light, a coffee maker or a hair dryer they're powered by the wind farms of the Snowtown they fear. The wind dries tears and heals, and brings rain and power to Snowtown. On. On. On.

Selling the sun to the world - ANU spin-off in talks to build giant Indian power project

Sunday Canberra Times
Sunday 9/11/2008 Page: 3

A Canberra company is in talks with an Indian group to build what would be the largest solar plant in the world at an irrigation development in the Indian state of Maharashtra. Wizard Power, which is marketing technology developed at the Australian National University, is in negotiation for a solar plant five times as large as the world's biggest plant at Nevada in the United States. After years in the wilderness solar technology has once again begin capturing worldwide attention.

Wizard is also in negotiations with an Israeli company and for five projects in Australia. Along with consortium partners Sanctuary Energy and the Springfield Land Corporation, it is behind the proposal to build a solar plant and data centre in Canberra with the support of the ACT Greens. At 100MW, depending on its completion date, the ACT solar farm could be the largest in Australia.

Unlimited energy from the sun has long been a dream of the sunburned country. However, for 20 years much of the research into sustainable energy has focused on wind energy, Keith Lovegrove of the ANU Engineering Department said. He said wind energy had moved ahead of solar because in many parts of Europe, where the sustainable energy movement was strongest, wind energy turbines were extremely practical.

But Dr Lovegrove who heads research into the solar technology at the ANU said Europe was rapidly running out of wind sites. "As a result there was a resurgent interest in solar for Spain and even North Africa with proposals for underwater cable to carry the energy to Western Europe. " Interest was once again growing in the United States, particularly in areas such as California and Arizona. Dr Lovegrove said the ANU and its partner Wizard Power were well-positioned to take advantage of the renewed interest with the most advanced combination of solar technologies in the world.

The ANU system uses a 500sqm mirror which could track the sun across two axes so that it captured maximum energy during the day regardless of the season. The heat generated was sufficient to superheat ammonia and separate it into its constituent parts which could then be stored. The ammonia could then be recombined, creating sufficient heat from the chemical reaction to run a turbine and produce electricity. In this way the plant could produce electricity clay or night.

A new mirrored dish is currently being constructed at the ANU to experiment with improvements in focusing solar energy and achieving higher temperatures. The proposed Indian plant would be easily the largest in the world at 325MV and would be used to pump water for irrigation.

"There is a lot said about the reluctance of China and India to commit to emission targets but the amount of work that is now taking place in those countries on alternative technologies could eventually see them taking the lead on sustainable power technologies," Dr Lovegrove said. Wizard Power chairman Tony Robey said the company was working on about five projects, all of which had the potential to provide up to 100MW of energy.

The best known is the project at Whyalla in South Australia which is well advanced and will soon be expanded. There are three projects under negotiation in Queensland including one at Greater Springfield, whose owner Springfield Land Corporation is working with Wizard Power and Sanctuary Energy on a solar farm and data centre plan for the ACT.

Negotiations are also under way for Wizard to provide solar energy for a large mining project in Western Australia. The scale of the proposed projects is vast - each dish is the size of a small house block, and a farm generating 100MW requires between 800 and 1000 dishes.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

BP pulls out of British wind sector to renew its energy in the US

Canberra Times
Saturday 8/11/2008 Page: 20

wind farmsBP has dropped all plans to build wind farms and other renewable schemes in Britain and is instead concentrating the bulk of its $US8 billion ($A12 billion) renewables spending program on the United States, where government incentives for clean energy projects can provide a convenient tax shelter for oil and gas revenues.

The decision is a major blow to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who has promised to sweep away all impediments to ensure Britain is at the forefront of the green energy revolution. BP and Shell - which has also pulled out of renewables in Britain - are influential among investors. BP has advertised its green credentials widely in Britain and has a representative on the ruling board of the British Wind Energy Association.

But it said difficulty in getting planning permission and lower economies of scale made the British wind sector far less attractive than that of the US. "The best place to get a strong rate of return for wind is the US," a BP spokesman said. He confirmed the group had shelved ideas of building an onshore wind farm at the Isle of Grain, in Kent, and would not bid for any offshore licences.

BP has enormous financial firepower as a result of recent high crude oil prices. Its move away from wind energy in Britain follows a decision by Shell to sell off its stake in the London Array project off Kent, potentially the world's largest offshore wind farm.

Shell gave the same reasons as BP for the move, saying the economics of British wind were poor compared to those onshore across the Atlantic, where incoming president Barack Obama has promised to spend $US150 billion ($A223.7 billion) over 10 years to kick start a renewable energy revolution.

BP said about $A2.24 billion would be spent next year on US wind projects and the company expected to spend the $A12 billion up to the year 2015. BP is proceeding with limited solar, biofuels and other schemes, but will concentrate on wind. By the end of 2008, BP expects to have one gigawatt of US wind energy installed and plans to have trebled this by 2010.

Britain is not the only country to miss out on BP's largesse. The company said on Thursday it was also pulling out of China, India and Turkey. BP had formed a joint venture with Beijing Tianrun New Energy Investment Company, a subsidiary of Goldwind, China's largest turbine maker.

The two companies had signed a deal in January under which they planned 148.4MW of wind capacity in Inner Mongolia. BP had also started building two wind farms in India and was considering schemes in Turkey. It is now expecting to sell off the Indian facilities and halt work in Turkey.

Green campaigners have been highly sceptical about BP's plans to go "beyond petroleum" and feared the company's new chief executive, Tony Hayward, would drop this commitment, started under his predecessor, John Browne. The company has always insisted it remained keen to look at green energy solutions. It is also in the middle of a marketing campaign, with huge posters on the London Underground boasting of its moves to diversify into wind and other energy sources.

Using the sea a tempting answer

Weekend Australian
Saturday 8/11/2008 Page: 6

THE worst drought in a century, especially in Australia's most populated and fastest growing regions, has forced state governments to make expensive, and in some quarters unpopular, decisions to secure water supply. As rainfall dwindles, new dams are a less-than- promising prospect, so governments have looked to the boundless resource surrounding us the sea for an answer. Their solution: desalination.

Last year was Australia's sixth warmest on record. It was the warmest in the Murray-Darling Basin and in South Australia, NSW and Victoria. The south-west and south-east continue to suffer long-term low rainfall. The Bureau of Meteorology, in its annual climate statement for 2007, reported that south-east Australia has now missed out on the equivalent of an average year's rainfall in the past 11 years, making the current drought one of Australia's most severe on record. The current drought is notable for its record high temperatures and record low inflows to water storages. The statement warns of a drying trend in the decades ahead.

Four states Western Australia, Queensland, South Australia and NSW either have working desalination plants or are planning to build them. Opponents say that producing the large amount of electricity required to run a desalination plant hastens climate change, which may be the culprit behind Australia's drying trend. The scientific jury is still out.

Some governments have countered or appeased those arguments by building wind farms to offset the power needs of their desalination plants. In Queensland, Premier Anna Bligh has challenged energy companies to come up with the best way to power a planned desal plant at Tugun on the Gold Coast using only renewable sources.

She said recently: "I want industry to come to us with their best ideas it could be solar or wind-generated power for example, it could be carbon offsetting, or it could be a combination. Making the plant carbon neutral will save 207,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions every year which is equivalent to emissions from 46,000 cars."

Western Australia was first off the mark with a large-scale plant. Its Kwinana plant opened in November 2007. Now it provides about 45 gigalitres of water per year, about 17 per cent of Perth' s needs. It is powered by a wind farm at Emu Downs, although the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission recently found that statements by the Perth Water Corporation that the plant was carbon neutral were misleading, and told it not to make similar claims in the future. The corporation is now calling for tenders for a new plant at Binningup, 155km south of Perth (see box).

Victoria is building a plant at Wonthaggi in Gippsland which will supply about 150 billion litres a year, roughly one third of Melbourne's water. The Victorian Government says it has already included the price of using renewable energy into the cost of the project.

Sydney's desalination plant is being built at Kurnell on Botany Bay. The state government hopes to have it pumping 90 gigalitres of potable water per year from late 2009. To offset the power needs the state is building, with a private partner, a wind farm at Bungendore, east of Canberra. The 63-turbine farm is projected to have a capacity of 132 megawatts, about eight times greater than NSW's existing installed and accredited wind energy.

Stung by public criticism of the plant's power needs, the state government says that renewable energy certificates earned from the wind farm will provide clear public evidence that the desalination plant is powered by 100 per cent renewable energy.

The pioneer of desalination was South Australia, albeit small-scale. Since 1999 a plant at Penneshaw on Kangaroo Island has been providing with 300 kilolitres of fresh water every day. The island has no natural fresh water. In Coober Pedy, salty underground water is treated. At Marion Bay on the Yorke Peninsula a plant produces 60 kilolitres of water each day more cheaply than carting in fresh water.

Now the state is going upscale, and has plans to build a plant at Port Stanvac that will initially supply a quarter of Adelaide's water. The 50 gigalitre plant is expected to cost about $1.1 billion. Desalination plants work by drawing in sea water and passing it through a porous membrane, which filters salt and impurities. The water is then treated with lime, chloride and fluoride to bring it up to drinking standard. Last, it is blended with fresh water from other catchment sources. What is left over, super salty brine, is returned to the sea.

Not everyone is happy with desalination. Community groups have sprung up in each state where a plant is planned to oppose them on environmental and finance grounds. In South Australia, the Save Our Gulf Coalition says the planned plant at Port Stanvac presents many problems. Coalition chairman Peter Laffan says for one, the site is a contaminated former oil refinery.

Our chief concern is the brine in the Gulf St Vincent because it is very slow moving water and we have unusual phenomena in dodge tides; every two weeks there is no tidal movements for a day or so." That, together with the fact that flushing takes three to six months, means there is a significant threat that the brine will not disperse. Laffan says brine builds up in low oxygen slugs that can create "dead" zones. And he questions the plant's renewable energy credentials.

Using the sea a tempting answer

Weekend Australian
Saturday 8/11/2008 Page: 6

THE worst drought in a century, especially in Australia's most populated and fastest growing regions, has forced state governments to make expensive, and in some quarters unpopular, decisions to secure water supply. As rainfall dwindles, new dams are a less-than- promising prospect, so governments have looked to the boundless resource surrounding us the sea for an answer. Their solution: desalination.

Last year was Australia's sixth warmest on record. It was the warmest in the Murray-Darling Basin and in South Australia, NSW and Victoria. The south-west and south-east continue to suffer long-term low rainfall. The Bureau of Meteorology, in its annual climate statement for 2007, reported that south-east Australia has now missed out on the equivalent of an average year's rainfall in the past 11 years, making the current drought one of Australia's most severe on record. The current drought is notable for its record high temperatures and record low inflows to water storages. The statement warns of a drying trend in the decades ahead.

Four states Western Australia, Queensland, South Australia and NSW either have working desalination plants or are planning to build them. Opponents say that producing the large amount of electricity required to run a desalination plant hastens climate change, which may be the culprit behind Australia's drying trend. The scientific jury is still out.

Some governments have countered or appeased those arguments by building wind farms to offset the power needs of their desalination plants. In Queensland, Premier Anna Bligh has challenged energy companies to come up with the best way to power a planned desal plant at Tugun on the Gold Coast using only renewable sources.

She said recently: "I want industry to come to us with their best ideas it could be solar or wind-generated power for example, it could be carbon offsetting, or it could be a combination. Making the plant carbon neutral will save 207,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions every year which is equivalent to emissions from 46,000 cars."

Western Australia was first off the mark with a large-scale plant. Its Kwinana plant opened in November 2007. Now it provides about 45 gigalitres of water per year, about 17 per cent of Perth' s needs. It is powered by a wind farm at Emu Downs, although the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission recently found that statements by the Perth Water Corporation that the plant was carbon neutral were misleading, and told it not to make similar claims in the future. The corporation is now calling for tenders for a new plant at Binningup, 155km south of Perth (see box).

Victoria is building a plant at Wonthaggi in Gippsland which will supply about 150 billion litres a year, roughly one third of Melbourne's water. The Victorian Government says it has already included the price of using renewable energy into the cost of the project.

Sydney's desalination plant is being built at Kurnell on Botany Bay. The state government hopes to have it pumping 90 gigalitres of potable water per year from late 2009. To offset the power needs the state is building, with a private partner, a wind farm at Bungendore, east of Canberra. The 63-turbine farm is projected to have a capacity of 132 megawatts, about eight times greater than NSW's existing installed and accredited wind energy.

Stung by public criticism of the plant's power needs, the state government says that renewable energy certificates earned from the wind farm will provide clear public evidence that the desalination plant is powered by 100 per cent renewable energy.

The pioneer of desalination was South Australia, albeit small-scale. Since 1999 a plant at Penneshaw on Kangaroo Island has been providing with 300 kilolitres of fresh water every day. The island has no natural fresh water. In Coober Pedy, salty underground water is treated. At Marion Bay on the Yorke Peninsula a plant produces 60 kilolitres of water each day more cheaply than carting in fresh water.

Now the state is going upscale, and has plans to build a plant at Port Stanvac that will initially supply a quarter of Adelaide's water. The 50 gigalitre plant is expected to cost about $1.1 billion. Desalination plants work by drawing in sea water and passing it through a porous membrane, which filters salt and impurities. The water is then treated with lime, chloride and fluoride to bring it up to drinking standard. Last, it is blended with fresh water from other catchment sources. What is left over, super salty brine, is returned to the sea.

Not everyone is happy with desalination. Community groups have sprung up in each state where a plant is planned to oppose them on environmental and finance grounds. In South Australia, the Save Our Gulf Coalition says the planned plant at Port Stanvac presents many problems. Coalition chairman Peter Laffan says for one, the site is a contaminated former oil refinery.

Our chief concern is the brine in the Gulf St Vincent because it is very slow moving water and we have unusual phenomena in dodge tides; every two weeks there is no tidal movements for a day or so." That, together with the fact that flushing takes three to six months, means there is a significant threat that the brine will not disperse. Laffan says brine builds up in low oxygen slugs that can create "dead" zones. And he questions the plant's renewable energy credentials.

Perth stores winter rains for summer sprinklers

Weekend Australian
Saturday 8/11/2008 Page: 6

AUSTRALIA'S first large-scale desalination plant, at Kwinana near Perth, has allowed the city to "bank" water. Perth Water Corporation spokesman Phil Kneebone says the plant can pump 10 billion litres into the Canning dam. 'We'll use that this summer," he says. Kwinana opened in November 2007 and has well and truly lived up to expectations, Kneebone says. When its cracking at full pace it provides up to 150 megalitres a day.

"We have been able to stay with one of the lightest sprinkler roster regimes of two days a week since 2001. The reason for that is we're able to bank some of it, during winter, when we're not using the stuff." Perth and the south-west have suffered significant rainfall deficiencies for nearly 40 years. The Bureau of Meteorology's National Climate Centre says the area has endured a long-term downward trend in regional rainfall (from) the 1970s. In the past 12 years, Perth's annual rainfall has been 10.1 per cent below the 1961-1990 average.

Kneebone says: "It only rains here three months of the year and we don't get the big downpours. (For the sake of horticulturalists) we simply cannot have total sprinkler bans, which is why we went to desalination." Tapping a groundwater source was considered too environmentally risky, so desalination it was.

Kwinana turned out such a success that the Carpenter Government decided another plant would be built at Binningup, about 155km south of Perth. The new Liberal Government will decide next month which of two Spanish companies will build it. Kneebone says the new plant will be powered 80 per cent by conventional renewable energy such as wind energy, and 20 per cent by emerging technologies such as wave power.

Well go solo on solar: Tebbutt

Sydney Morning Herald
Saturday 8/11/2008 Page: 5

SOLAR panels will soon be earning their keep. The State Government is moving to introduce feed-in tariffs - where people generating renewable electricity will get paid extra for it - if the Federal Government does not introduce a national scheme. The Environment Minister, Carmel Tebbutt, told the Herald NSW "can't wait forever" for a national tariff and would follow other states by kick-starting a local solar industry.

"If we don't see any movement on a national approach within the next couple of months, we will put something in place in NSW because we can't wait forever," Ms Tebbutt said. "We want to see some pretty clear signals of a national approach.

We haven't seen those yet." It has yet to be decided if a NSW tariff would pay owners of rooftop solar panels for all the power they generate, or just for the electricity fed back into the grid. Ms Tebbutt said the State Government would prefer a national scheme, rather than different systems introduced by each state or territory.

"I will need to work with the state Energy Minister but we're committed to taking action to put something in place in NSW," Ms Tebbutt said. Even with a tariff, investing in enough rooftop solar panels to power the average home is expensive.

A two-kilowatt system would cost about $12,000, even after the Federal Government rebate of $8000 for families earning less than $100,000. A gross tariff in NSW would mean a system could pay for itself in a decade, with the bonus that households would no longer be vulnerable to rising energy prices. Without a tariff, installing a two-kilowatt system might take 40 years to pay off, according to the Alternative Technology Association.

Victoria, Queensland and South Australia have introduced feed-in tariff legislation this year, with homes and some small businesses that send power back into the grid being paid at above the market rate.

In the ACT, a more generous gross feed-in tariff will pay people who generate solar or wind energy at home for the electricity they put back into the grid and for the energy they use. The rate is expected to be about 65 cents a kilowatt hour, with payment guaranteed for 20 years. The Federal Government promised before last year's election to consider a nationwide tariff to boost the solar photovoltaic industry. The issue has been discussed at premiers' conferences but there has been no announcement yet.

A national tariff is supported by renewable energy groups, including the Clean Energy Council, and the concept of a "carefully calculated" feed-in tariff was supported by Professor Ross Garnaut in the national climate change review he released last month. The NSW Opposition has urged the State Government to develop a scheme, saying it would reduce greenhouse gases by the equivalent of taking 16,000 cars off the road. feed-in tariffs have been adopted successfully around the world, particularly in Europe.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Blow for economy excuses

Hobart Mercury
Tuesday 4/11/2008 Page: 32

Arnold SchwarzeneggerTHE US Government has come in for a lot of stick over its climate policies since George W. Bush said in 2001 that energy supply and economic growth were too important to be compromised by carbon emission reduction measures. Such sentiments were echoed last week by critics of the Australian Government's decision to push ahead with emissions trading in 2010. With economic woes still unresolved and Treasury modelling failing to account for the recent downturn, they said, it's foolhardy to introduce a carbon taxing measure so soon.

In light of frayed nerves from the harrowing experience of stockmarkets in turmoil and diminishing investments, it's noteworthy that the Government has elected to pursue its emissions trading agenda regardless. But there's plenty of evidence that it's the right decision.

First. the climate crisis demands urgent action. As Ross Garnaut said, the evidence out there is so strong - the probability so high that we're causing climate to change - that inaction is an extremely risky option. And deep emission cuts need to happen sooner, not later.

Among Australian economists, there's a school of thought that the time to introduce significant structural reform - such as emissions trading - is when things are in a state of flux, when we're more open to accommodating long-term solutions. But if we really need convincing about assertive action on climate change - including tough emissions targets and strong support for renewable energy and home improvements - then we need look no further than the US.

Ironically, under a President who scorned scientists' advice and supported powerful, established, conventional energy interests, the state of California has become a world leader in embracing the science, setting tough energy targets and supporting alternative, renewable technologies.

Unlike President Bush, Arnold Schwarzenegger, elected Republican Governor of California in 2003, decided early on that climate change was his top issue. Within two years he had issued an executive order to really get cracking on renewable energy and other measures to lower emissions. With American national leadership so indifferent to climate reform, his attitude is extraordinary.

While Australia set a 2050 emissions reduction target of 60 per cent, his target is 80 per cent. Where we have opted for a renewable energy target of 20 per cent by 2020, he has set the same target for 2010. It's just a state, not a country, detractors might claim - so it's not that important. But the pressures on California's economy, which is larger than Australia's, are no less than they are here. Despite the downturn in the US, Mr Schwarzenegger shows no sign of slackening off.

Now, an economic report card has come in, and it looks pretty good. A University of California report released a fortnight ago has predicted that California's energy efficiency policies will increase the economy by about $76 billion, raise real household incomes by up to $48 billion and create more than 400.000 new jobs. The report put California's success down to early action on energy. We're late starters and times are harder than before, but that's no excuse for inaction.

Peter Boyer is a Hobart-based science writer and a presenter for Al Gore's Climate Project.

peterboyer@southwind.com.au

Power, water, roads at risk: climate report

Sydney Morning Herald
Friday 7/11/2008 Page: 4

THE country's electricity and water supplies are at high risk from climate change, and immediate action is needed to prepare for the threat, a report presented to the Federal Government has warned. Dams, roads, power stations and even paved footpaths are all at risk of damage from the increasing number of droughts and bushfires and rising sea levels during the next 30 to 50 years, said the report by the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering.

A national taskforce should be formed to develop guidelines for adapting to climate change and to consider legal liabilities for allowing developments to go ahead, said the report, made public yesterday by the Minister for Climate Change, Penny Wong. Electricity production and distribution in southern Australia has "a very high degree of vulnerability" to climate change.

As warmer temperatures curtail snow falls, less power can be generated from hydroelectric sources. But less cooling water would be available to coal-fired power plants. Higher temperatures are expected to increase the demand for air-conditioning, but they are also likely to lead to more bushfires, which can damage and even destroy power grids. 'Adaptation to cope effectively with these situations is expected to require major investment with integrated, high-level strategic planning," the report said.

The use of ageing timber for electricity power poles in many parts of NSW made them vulnerable to bushfires and storms, while hot days caused overhead power lines to sag dangerously, it said. The report suggested burying power lines would be a justified expense because it would lead to fewer power cuts. Sea level rise could also be a threat to power plants in low-lying areas of NSW such as parts of the Hunter Valley and Central Coast.

"Developments in low-lying coastal areas, which are now at risk from inundation and erosion, will become increasingly vulnerable," the report said. Planning approvals in areas that are already regarded as flood prone, such as parts of the Central Coast and the Hawkesbury region north-west of Sydney, might have to be reviewed.

Sydney Airport, which protrudes into Botany Bay, and other airports in low-lying areas could face "serious disruption to services" due to combined effects of sea level rise, flooding and storm surge, the report said. Dams and watercourses in southern Australia are at "high to extreme risk, with effective adaptation capacity requiring major investment and national strategic planning".

As well as recycling more water, extra desalination plants should be considered as long as they were not powered by burning fossil fuels, the report said. "Coupling desalination installations with thermal power stations may be worthy of consideration," it said. The NSW Government said the desalination plant being built at Kurnell would offset all the emissions for the electricity it needed by paying for the construction of a new wind farm.

The report suggested pavements would need to be repaired and roads sealed more often because of dryer soil combined with more extreme heavy rainfall. Despite many engineering and scientific challenges the report examined, it concluded that most of the country's infrastructure was robust enough to withstand most effects of climate change.

Running on empty: deserts could solve energy crisis

Age
Wednesday 5/11/2008 Page: 6

solar thermalDESERTS could generate enough renewable energy to power Australia, in the process creating unprecedented opportunities for its remote communities, a leading scientist says. Dr Barrie Pittock, a lead author with the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and former head of CSIRO's climate impact group, says deserts could also create a substantial clean energy export industry focused on Asia.

He today will tell an Alice Springs deserts symposium that Australia is better placed to develop clean energy than almost any other nation, mainly due to its capacity for large-scale solar and geothermal power plants. "If you look at a map of solar radiation reaching the Earth, then Australia is the continental area that has the greatest intensity of sunlight because we have the desert region," Dr Pittock said yesterday.

"There is a huge potential. If you had all of the intensity of the sun over a 50-kilometre area, you could supply all of Australia's electricity." Dr Pittock will call for solar thermal power plants to be built near regional communities, particularly job-starved indigenous communities, to meet the Federal Government's 2020 target of 20% of energy coming from renewable sources.

He cites engineering firm WorleyParsons' plans to build the world's largest solar thermal plant in Australia by 2011, and another 33 largescale solar thermal plants by 2020. Dr Pittock also envisaged a viable geothermal industry. More than 30 companies are investing in transforming the heat from rocks hundreds of metres underground into electricity.

It will require billions of dollars of government spending on infrastructure to link clean power stations to the electricity grid. But it would be cheaper than developing nuclear energy or building coal-fired power stations, Dr Pittock said. "If you go up to Darwin you could run something like the Basslink undersea connector to link with the Indonesian grid and you could supply Indonesia with electricity," he said.

About 1% of Australia's electricity comes from renewable sources. Government climate adviser Ross Garnaut has recommended widening the $20 billion Building Australia Fund to cover new energy infrastructure.

Brace for the worst Fires, floods, power cuts

Courier Mail
Friday 7/11/2008 Page: 16

PEOPLE in Queensland should brace themselves for major bushfires, more power cuts and floods because of climate change, a report has claimed. The Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering yesterday called for a national taskforce to help Australia adapt to the changing climate. Federal Climate Change Minister Penny Wong launched the report in Melbourne. "With more extreme weather events resulting from climate change, the potential impact on our buildings is a significant concern," she said.

In Queensland, the report looked at effects on gas, oil and coal infrastructure as well as transport, buildings and communication links. Drought would put pressure on water-cooled power stations and increased tires, coupled in north Queensland with more severe storms, could jeopardise electricity distribution, it said. "It was noted that there was increased likelihood of bushfires and that the consequences of this could be significant for a region in which bushfires have not had the same sort of impact experienced regularly by Victoria and NSW," the report said.

The Gold Coast, with its low-lying land and extensive housing and tourism development, was singled out as an area "vulnerable to effects of flooding, causing property damage as well as erosion". The director of Griffith University's National Climate Change Adaption Research Facility, Jean Palutikof, welcomed the depth of the study and the call for a taskforce.

But Professor Palutikof warned against duplicating existing efforts. Professor Keith Crews, deputy director at the Centre for Built Infrastructure Research in Sydney, said the report was a "wake-up call" for all levels of government to recognise the need to develop resources for rehabilitation and upgrading of key infrastructure. CSIRO Climate Adaptation National Research Flagship director Andrew Ash said the report "clearly highlights that Australia's infrastructure is highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change and climate variability".

Carbon scheme: Wong quiet on possible delay

Canberra Times
Friday 7/11/2008 Page: 6

Climate Change Minister Penny Wong gave away no clues yesterday about whether the Federal Government was considering delaying or altering the emissions trading scheme in light of the global financial crisis. In Melbourne to launch a report on the impact of climate change on Australia's infrastructure, Senator Wong said only that the Government would take economic circumstances into account when designing the carbon pollution reduction scheme.

The scheme, a cap-and-trade system that would put a price on greenhouse gas emissions, is scheduled to come into force in 2010, with the draft legislation to be issued next month for wider consultation. Senator Wong said effective climate change policy was necessary for Australia's future economic security, but the Government would take a responsible approach to the task.

"Of coarse the Government will approach the design of the carbon pollution reduction scheme with economic responsibility at the forefront of its mind," she said. ''But as the Prime Minister has said ... we understand that climate change is not something we can simply avoid, we do have to transition the Australian economy over time to a lower carbon future.

"What we know from what Nicholas Stern told the world, what Ross Garnaut told Australia through his review, and from the Treasury modelling, is that delay will simply increase the cost." Delays and altering the scheme's goals were neither conclusively ruled in nor out. Globally, the response will depend greatly on the result of the United Nations Climate Change Conference to be held in Copenhagen in November next year.

Senator Wong indicated a hope for increased leadership from the United States now Barack Obama had been elected to succeed President George W. Bush. "We have always said for an effective global agreement to be in place we will need leadership from the United States, and we will need the engagement particularly of China and India," Senator Wong said.

"We do understand that the United States is a critical and key player in international negotiations." The Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering report made seven recommendations, including a taskforce that would assess the national adaptation to climate change.

Senator Wong thanked the academy for increasing the "knowledge base" and said while recommendations had already been adopted, the Government recognised more work was needed. "We will continue to progress our adaptation agenda as part of our three pillars of climate change policy," she said.

Hot rocks firms now a hot topic for investors

Adelaide Advertiser
Wednesday 5/11/2008 Page: 53

INVESTORS have bought into South Australian geothermal energy explorers in response to renewed Federal Government support for the sector, says Petratherm managing director Terry Kallis. Federal Resources and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson reinforced the Government's commitment to a $50 million geothermal drilling program at a CEDA speech in Adelaide on October 24. Shares in SA-focused geothermal energy stocks have since climbed a combined 34 per cent despite turbulent market trade.

"The Federal Government is reinforcing the fact that they're still committed to the renewable energy sector ... I think people are starting to see what the quality stocks are in each sector," Mr Kallis said. Shares in advanced hot rocks power plant developer GeoDynamics have received the most attention in the past fortnight, climbing 44 per cent, up 32.5c to $1 since October 24.

GeoDynamics expects to build a 50MW demonstration power station at its Innamincka-based geothermal site next year. Drilling at Petratherm's Paralana project begins in May, 2009 under its $57 million TRUEnergy farm-in agreement. Its shares have climbed 37 per cent since October 24, up 13c to 48c. Greenrock Energy and geothermal Resources have also experienced 13 per cent and 43 per cent share price boosts respectively. Smaller player Torrens Energy remained unchanged at 17c yesterday.

Mr Kallis said Petratherm had costed its Paralana Project at $6 million per megawatt (MW) for a 30MW base-load plant operating around the clock. A typical wind project would cost $2 million per MW of installed capacity, but would only operate for one third of the time, making geothermal as cost competitive as wind, Mr Kallis said.

He said Petratherm planned to generate revenues as early as May, 2010 when its Geo-Madrid District Heating Project is expected to be on stream. Agreements with potential joint venture partners for its Chinese and Spanish projects were progressing.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Sun powering world's biggest ships

Daily Telegraph
Monday 3/11/2008 Page: 74

Solar SailorONCE sails on boats were used to harness the wind. Now they are being used to capture the power of the sun. For almost 10 years, Sydney renewable energy company Solar Sailor has been putting solar wings on boats, ranging from luxury yachts, to ferries, to harbour cruisers. Now it's struck a deal with China's biggest shipping company COSCO to develop wind and solar energy technology for giant tanker and bulker ships.

The company has signed a memorandum of understanding with the shipping giant to design and engineer wind and solar energy units for the monoliths of the sea. Solar Sailor is a member of the NSW Government's Australian Technology Showcase program and has patented technology that consists of solar panels that look like wings.

The ones designed for the tanker and bulker will be as big as the wings of an A380 and will be covered with solar panels to capture the sun's energy while also harnessing the energy of the ocean's winds. "This is a case of back to the future back to the days of sailing ships but to the future in terms of high technology solar and wind sails operated by computer rather than sailcloth and rigging manned by crews," State Development Minister Ian Macdonald said.

"Up until now this technology has only been used on smaller vessels but this new partnership with one of the world's biggest shipping companies aims to see it put to use on tanker and bulker ships. This technology will allow COSCO to supplement the use of ship fuel with renewable energy to cut costs and environmental emissions." Solar Sailor will spend the next 16 months designing, engineering and retrofitting its technology in a pilot test.

Fears mount as Arctic melt prompts historic methane rise

Age
Monday 3/11/2008 Page: 4

ATMOSPHERIC concentrations of methane, "a greenhouse gas more than 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide", have risen for the first time in eight years, prompting concern about the pace of climate change. A global study in Geophysical Research Letters found the first increase in methane levels this century - by about 28 million tonnes since mid-2006 - was in part due to release of gas in and near the Arctic.

CSIRO senior climate scientist Paul Fraser said the data was in line with predictions that rapid melting of Arctic ice would create natural wetlands, one of the most common methane emitters. "This is not good news for global warming," he said. Over the past decade, methane emitted from wetlands, rice fields, cattle, bushfires and coalmines had been largely offset by absorption of the gas by dry soil and through atmospheric oxidation, Dr Fraser said. "Over the past year, the total sources have overwhelmed the total sinks and methane has started to rise." he said.

Methane is estimated to be responsible for about 20% of global warming since the Industrial Revolution. The published study comes after British newspaper The Independent reported that scientists aboard a Russian research ship had found millions of tonnes of subsea methane was bubbling to the surface and being released into the atmosphere off the Siberian coast this northern summer.

Research published in Nature Geoscience last week found the first evidence that the rise in Antarctica temperatures in recent decades was caused by human-induced emissions of greenhouse gas. The research, led by British scientist Nathan Gillett, compared temperature rises at the Arctic and Antarctica since 1900 with four computer simulations.

Only models that factored in man-made emissions were able to reproduce the changes observed in the real world. This is a step on from last year's UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, which identified evidence of manmade climate change on every continent except Antarctica.