The Bullroarer - Tuesday 12 August 2008

Business Spectator - Dream solar system

So much for those hoary old arguments that Australia could not possibly meet an ambitious renewable energy target of 20 per cent by 2020. Australian engineering firm WorleyParsons has unveiled an ambitious project to build up to 34 solar thermal power stations that could provide 10 per cent of the country’s energy needs by 2020. The $34 billion project – each station could cost around $1 billion – would meet half of the 20 per cent renewable energy target that has been set by the Rudd Government for 2020 and could provide significantly more over time.

WorleyParsons hopes that the first solar thermal plant – using proven parabolic mirror technology in use in California for the pasts 20 years – could be built in Australia by 2011. Other solar thermal technologies would also be considered over time.

Peter Meurs, who heads the project, says each plant would be a "utility” sized installation of around 250Mw, the size of many gas and coal fired stations, and would most likely produce electricity at a cost of 15c per kilowatt hour. Meurs says the technology is ideal to meet Australia’s “peak energy” requirements, the daylight hours when energy use surges as air conditioners and the like are turned on.

Peak Energy - Worley Parsons' Solar Dream

As solar thermal power is probably my favoured form of large scale clean energy, I was very pleased to see today's press on a plan by Worley Parsons to build the world's largest CSP plant in Australia - a 8.5 GW plant in the Pilbara - something I've suggested here a few times, due to the concentration of industry in the area and the world leading solar insolation levels.

ABC - Solar rebate applications up since means test, inquiry told

The Labor Senator heading a federal Senate inquiry into means testing for solar panel rebates says evidence heard in Brisbane today has vindicated the Government. A Senate committee is reviewing the means test which disqualifies households earning more than $100,000 a year from receiving the rebate. Opposition senators say those who want to go solar are being discouraged by the test and most people want it scrapped.

ABC - Residents to fight Wollombi gas plan

More than 200 residents concerned about coal seam gas extraction in the Wollombi Valley are gearing up to fight the proposal. Sydney Gas has an exploratory licence to conduct test drilling in more than 12 locations across the Hunter Valley. It has just begun drilling two core holes at Wollombi.

Ninemsn - APA grows pipeline portfolio

Managing director Mick McCormack said the Central Ranges Pipeline was an opportunity for APA to acquire a strategic asset at a reasonable cost. "The attractiveness of this asset arises from both its location to new coal seam gas production areas and the storage services that can be developed around its capacity," he said.

The Australian - Chevron's domestic gas proposal to coincide with LNG plan

CHEVRON plans to include a domestic gas plant as part of its $20 billion Gorgon liquefied natural gas project in Western Australia. The company had planned to submit a proposal to develop a 300 terrajoule per day domestic gas plant by December 31, 2010 but will now accelerate that to coincide with its development proposals for the LNG project.

The importance of securing new sources of domestic gas in WA was underlined recently when Apache Energy's Varanus Island gas processing facility was shut down after a pipeline explosion, slashing the state's supply by 370 terrajoules per day. The state consumes about 1,000 terrajoules per day of domestic gas.

The Australian - Western Australia could forgo LNG terminal

DARWIN is rapidly firming as the probable site for Japanese energy company Inpex's $12 billion LNG export plant, with the West Australian Government unable to meet its latest timetable for selecting LNG hub sites on the northwest coast. Industry sources and analysts said Inpex was expected to lock in Darwin as its preferred option as early as this month. Despite an extra $700 million price tag, the only thing that would stop a commitment to the Northern Territory would be a quick WA decision on a proposed Kimberley LNG hub.

The Australian - Coal protesters target BHP Billiton in London

GREEN activists glued themselves to the revolving doors of BHP Billiton in central London in a protest over coal, the BBC reporte

Peak Energy - Words Of Warming

The Guardian has an essay from Tim Flannery on the current state of play for global warming - Words Of Warming.

Crikey - State of the Planet: World watches UK coal plant protests

The UK government's decision on whether to allow a proposed new coal fired power plant in Kingsnorth, Kent will have implications for similar plants under development worldwide. In total, around 100 similar plants are in the planning stage – more than half of these are in China, with the others split between the UK, Germany and the US – and governments are watching closely to see what decision is taken in the UK.

GWAG - Recyclers cashing up

This is the sort of change we can expect as our resources deplete: people become more interested in recycling the resources. It's something that showed up in my research for the Carbon Account Challenge, that if you recycle material rather than making new stuff, what's saved isn't so much energy - only 20% for the average urban mix of rubbish, more like 98% for aluminium but only 5% for paper - but resources. And that has indirect savings in other areas.

SMH - Cameco close Aussie uranium project dea

Cameco Corporation, the world's biggest uranium producer, says it has closed the acquisition of a 70 per cent stake in the Kintyre uranium exploration project in Australia for $US346.5 million ($A391.1 million), along with partner Mitsubishi Group.

Peak Energy - Where did Tbilisi go ?

While Medvedev is claiming the fighting has stopped because they have given the Georgians a hiding, it is perhaps possible they have been confounded by a sudden lack of navigation, as Google seems to have cleansed Google Maps of all features on the map of Georgia (along with Azerbaijan and Armenia, just to be safe).

Peak Energy - The Titan - Another "World's Biggest Wind Farm"

Peak Energy - The Tragedy Of The Anti-Commons

The New Yorker has an interesting look at the opposite of the "tragedy of the commons" problem - what can happen when there is too much private ownership - something we frequently see happen in the field of intellectual property, which really should have a very short half life. Another example they use is of the difficulty of building out the grid when large numbers of small landowners need to be negotiated with - a problem we will see more of as we switch to large scale renewables (which may be a factor favouring distributed generation instead of large, centralised CSP or wind plants) - The Permission Problem.

Peak Energy - On The Towpath Back To The Future

Peak Energy - The End Of Food


Are you still planning to do a piece on Australian coal seam methane? Enjoyed your article on Australian natural gas.

Yes - sorry - its in the works.

If I haven't posted it in a few weeks feel free to hassle me again - I've assembled all the material, just haven't had time to put the post together.

Meurs says the project would not be feasible without the renewable energy target, noting that California and Spain had both generated large investments in solar thermal because of either renewable energy targets or generous feed in tariffs.

He says a carbon price would also help, although a minimum price per tonne had not yet been identified. “At around $10 investors would not be too enthusiastic. $20 is better, and $50 is a very strong signal.”

Worley Parsons will not be an investor in the project, they just want to build it and make a nice juicy profit on the engineering. But they don't want any of the risk and the above quote from the report explains why.

It seems we have a way to go befoer Solar CSP will stand on it's own feet against fossil fuels and other renewables. What we need to do is deregulate the retail electricity market and let the price find it's own level rather than having it artifically depressed for political reasons. If coal and natural gas is priced at the export level for domestic consumption, maybe the renewables like CSP and wind would have a better chance. Then agian who owns the coal and NG if not us?