A new geothermal power station for Birdsville

Australia.to has a report on an upgrade to the low temperature geothermal power plant at Birdsville in Queensland - Bligh invests up to $4.3 million in new geothermal power station for Birdsville.

Birdsville's landmark geothermal power station will be upgraded to produce more clean energy for the remote south western Queensland community.

Mines and Energy Minister Stephen Robertson said today the Bligh Government is investing up to $4.3 million to help replace ageing equipment at the Ergon Energy-owned and operated plant. The funding will provide a 50 per cent subsidy for the project which will invest in new, leading edge geothermal technology.

"The Birdsville geothermal power station is the only one of its kind in Australia to tap into this clean renewable energy source to provide emission-free power," Mr Robertson said. "The plant draws its energy from near-boiling water taken deep from within the Great Artesian Basin that supplies water for the town. The power station currently generates about 30 per cent of Birdsville's energy supplies. It's also helping the local environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions by about 400 tonnes a year and diesel fuel consumption by approximately 160,000 litres." ...

The Birdsville power station was first commissioned in 1992 and remains Australia's only operational geothermal power station capable of electricity generation 24 hours a day. The energy source comes from hot water taken from the Great Artesian Basin at a depth of 1,280 metres. This hot bore water provides a 'free' energy resource, which would otherwise be wasted when water is cooled before use.

The ABC reports the local mayor is very enthusiastic about the plant - More backing sought for outback geothermal power.

he Diamantina Mayor says he would like to see more Government support for the geothermal sector, because he says it is the most sustainable power source. The Queensland Government has committed $9 million for a new geothermal plant to be built at Birdsville in the state's far west.

Mayor Robbie Dare says a large portion of the town's electricity is already provided by geothermal sources, using water taken from the Great Artesian Basin.

"It's been successfully running there for 20 years and it runs 24-hours-a-day, unlike wind or solar," he said. "It's so cheap. Fuel is one of the dearest commodities to run a generator right out here in the outback."

"This just runs off the heat of the water, once it's up and running it's just virtually maintenance. It should be put in all over Australia. This new plant will almost run the town again, or will run the town again."

Cross-posted from Peak Energy.

So the 50% replacement subsidy is $4.3Mill... Therefore project cost = around $8.6Mill.

16,000 litres of diesel fuel saved per annum (say @$1.40 /litre) = $22.4K

Payback period=384 years (!)... Estimated life of new kit (same as the old one): 20 years...

Required diesel cost for payback within 20 years = $43 per litre

Population of Birdsville= ~ 100 people

(I'm not normally a fan of solar PV, but couldn't it do the same job at a tiny fraction of this capital cost???? It's not as if there's a lack of sunshine in Birdsville. And how do we haul the new geothermal power plant components to Birdsville every 20 years? - By diesel truck, natch...
Improbability sum complete!)

Ummm - the article said 160,000 litres of diesel.

And this is the capital cost of the plant you are comparing too, so you should add in the cost of the diesel generators too.

I'm sure it still works out to be relatively expensive, but nowhere near as bad as your initial reckoning.

Whoops my mistake - never post with jetlag! ;-)

What happens to the water drawn from the bore? Probably let run to waste in a bore drain.
This sort of abuse of the Great Artesian Basin resource has been going on for well over 100 years.
There has been a government subsidized bore capping program operating for some time and long overdue.
Artesian water is a finite resource.The recharge rate is far below the current draw down rate even now.

I have a lot of time for people who live in the West.They deserve better treatment from the QLD government than this.Solar thermal would be much more appropriate for a place the size of Birdsville.Yet again the myopia of Bligh&Co stands proud.

I am almost certain that the water does drain away and is not reinjected. It uses about 30 litres per second. From memory of photos I have seen (and I have never been there to see it for myself) it runs away into a small surface trench to a drain and is cooled down and used as drinking water for stock.

I sort of agree with you that it is somewhat wasteful of water but what is the alternative. Solar thermal, or concentraing PV like in other outback places, would be a good complement for this station and not an alternative. Interestingly there was a power station in Thargominda (sp?) that was powered by the pressure of the water issuing from the bore which was fed through a hydro electric turbine.

Talk about wasteful of water, my family drew all our water from a hot spring in the place where I was born. The house burned down over a half-century ago and there is Mother Nature still pouring water through the pipe to the ashes of what was once a house that will never grow back again.

Somebody ought to do something about Mother Nature, wasteful old biddy that she is.

We have a spring on our property in New York now that once supplied the house but the FHA didn't cotton to that. A well was drilled. Mother is still pouring water out of that spring after all these years.

I tell you that woman is a menace to the environment. Can't Father Sun smack her down somehow?

Best, Terry

Nobody's talking about natural springs here, we're talking about man-drilled bores down into the Great Artesian Basin.

Some superb ideas here.

Replace the cheapest form of energy with the most expensive? Just great.

Anyone really think Birdsland is more isolated than, say, Iceland?

In Iceland where they are now drilling an experimental well for supercritical brines that could increase power output by an order of magnitude, there has long been a more important ecological breakthrough in the isolated hamlet of Husavik. The kalina cycle power plant utilizes low temperature waters with added heat from a garbage-burning facility to power an isolated village on an isolated island nation.

Reasonable cost estimates here are far beyond comments by this poster (or IMO any others) without sufficient data and stated assumptions. I am satisfied to associate myself with those brigands that have determined geothermal to be the cleanest, cheapest and most potent source of energy on the planet. :-)

Best, Terry

Replace the cheapest form of energy with the most expensive?

It's going to have to be done sooner or later (probably sooner), even ignoring the fact the the 'cheapest' fuel is finite and comes with a free atmospheric alterer. It's either that, or shut the town down and move the population.

Anyone really think Birdsland is more isolated than, say, Iceland?

Yep. Iceland is easy to get to by shipping. Water-borne transport of goods is remarkably efficient, even more so when you use wind instead of Fossil Fuels. To get to Birdsville, you have to go across land (semi-desert, in fact), and transporting goods across land is significantly more expensive and difficult.

Quite a bit different from hot rocks.