Tasmanian Times


The power supply issue

One notable absence from the increasing amount of pork barreling in Tasmania is about power supply.

The labor party has made some small noise about a feed in tariff but it is so far on the back burner that it will never even get luke warm. The liberals have not even mentioned it so far as I am aware.

It is on the radar of most of the mainland State Governments and NSW is banking on it to help them recover some of their lost credibility in their next election. The WA government is trying to forget that it promised to bring it in as one of their election pledges that helped them get elected.

The Tasmania labor party has trotted out the possibility of another Bass link, though the reasoning for that is not apparent. It could be because they know that Tasmania will possibly have to import even more power from the dirty Victorian power stations to survive and keep on selling power to big business at less than cost as is the current system.

The new wind farm is to be given a reprieve and might even survive after the election unless whoever wins can wriggle out of it.

But as far as looking forward to a reliable sustainable supply the only other option touted is to promote another horrendous option a wood fired power station. It would get all of the forest industry and Gunns on side of course and that has to be a vote winner for whoever gets it up.

The fact that it would further devastate the old growth forest and cause even more global warming would not matter to the interests involved.

A far seeing party that had a mandate could turn Tasmania into a model CO2 neutral powered state and save money in the long run.

First would be to put serious effort and finance into wind farms.

Next would be to promote localized power supply systems by bringing in a healthy feed in tariff for solar, wind or any other sustainable clean method.

It would be a feasible proposition to have a local wind turbine in each local area. To reduce the demand on the existing hydro supply.

One wind turbine mounted for instance on a hilltop near Cygnet, Huonville and even Hobart would make a big difference overall. It would not require a lot of extra infrastructure in the way of high-tension feeder lines but could be fed directly to the grid.

Tasmania has not encouraged any other form of sustainable supply such as wave power even though it would be a very suitable place to use it.

Apart from supplying clean energy it could also be the basis for new industry in the building and operation of the seagoing plant that would be required.

If the present ship building operations were to fall on hard times, as is the situation with our largest ship builder at the moment, they could perhaps diversify into this industry.

Storm bay is after all on the doorstep of Hobart and Bass Strait adjacent to three of the Northern cities where there is a constant demand for sustainable employment.
Robert LePage

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  1. Garry Stannus

    March 10, 2010 at 7:31 pm

    I’m the bloke does 85kph (95 when I’m holding anyone up) to work and back. For all my other round Lonnie travel, you’ll see me on my push bike – but I don’t stay out in the lane and hassle motorists. I ride on the footpath where appropriate, and at a speed that won’t frighten pedestrians. It’s legal, just in case you weren’t sure. You’ve probably seen me: on my back I have a bag with a ‘No Pulp Mill’ sign. In the car, I travel with my wife, so that we can cut down on petrol costs. This means downtime, while waiting for her to finish work. I read or snooze. I’ve ridden a bike all my life … as a boy, as an adult, 16 years delivering letters till Robin Gray advertised on the mainland that he wanted people to come over here and help build Tasmania. I don’t watch TV … well I do sometimes, but only rarely. I do use computers, so maybe I could cut back on that a bit … how many hours a week is ok? Personally, I don’t complain if the power goes off. Out in Liffey, if the power goes off, well, so what! There’s candles, accoustic instruments, combustion stove as back-up for cooking and hot water.

    I don’t know the answer to the ‘wind turbines kill birds’ conundrum. When I researched the issue of the eagles that lived in the gully/hill next to where they want to blast 100,000 cubic metres of dolerite up there at the Millerosa site, for the biggest bestest mill you’ve ever seen, I seem to remember that there were at that time said to be some 94 pairs per year that were able to produce a chick – in the entire state. The TW-TE (Tasmanian Wedge-tailed eagle – or tweetie bird if you like)is its own unique species. It is larger than its mainland counterparts. In fact, it is the largest raptor in Australia. Golly gosh, if you read the fine print in the Federal approval for the mill, you’ll see that construction of the mill and operation of it, will in no way be impeded by the birds struggle to keep at their nest or even if they abandon it. Have a look at the geography, there’s nowhere for them to go. If they can’t breed there, it’s down to 93 pairs left breeding in the state. Yep, I’d like wind power. I suppose I don’t want to see the turbines popping up all over the place. however. Haven’t got the perfect answer. Who does?

    Yes, I know what it’s like to be without power. Electricity is a marvellous thing. But I think we need to learn modest usage, and a heck of a lot of other things, like scaling back in general, and finding an economic model that will allow us to.

  2. Peter Brenner

    March 8, 2010 at 10:03 pm

    9 and 10, that would be the same as “caging” the wings of your light aircraft.

    Assuming a typical 40m diameter of a three-winged wind generator turning at moderate speed I have once worked out based on data available at the time that a wing tip rushes past at a speed of well over 200km/h every 2 seconds. You have to be a very agile birdie to escape that and the turbulence behind the blade.

    Also I advise everybody to stand near one of these monsters and report back what they heard. It’s quite frightening. Not for the faint hearted.

    Furthermore the larger specimens now have to carry VERY strong lights for aviation purposes. They are mounted at the top of the mast and constantly blink furiously as the blades travel past in front of them.

    Multiply that by a few dozen along a once romantic mountain range and you realise that you all of a sudden find yourself entrapped in an industrial nightmare without visual escape.

    But, there is of course always a good nature video for die-hard nature lovers …

  3. Steve

    March 8, 2010 at 9:45 pm

    How about a tax, based on the km travelled from production to consumption?
    It always offends me to see products from far away, offered for sale at considerably less than it would cost me to ship them back to their point of manufacture. The offence is amplified should it be a product that could be produced here, if not for the imported competition.

  4. Pete Godfrey

    March 8, 2010 at 9:37 pm

    I am not sure how they are going but a company in Victoria (I believe)were trying to get capital together to go into production of wind turbines that looked a lot like a Jet engine. The turbines were obviously designed to be turned by the wind but took up a much smaller area and could possibly be painted to make them very visible to birds,
    I agree with Andrew Wadsley on the issue of getting the majority to use less power but then there is a thing called pricing.
    If a true user pays system was introduced people may get the message that power is a scarce resource that damages the environment to produce it.
    It is easy to live on hardly any power but one must change their mindset. Money does that to a lot of people.
    If as an example a TV set that used 250 watts had a tax on it that was 5 times the tax on a TV that used 50 watts we may get somewhere.
    Just a simple example but environmental taxes will need to come.
    I don’t have much faith that the human race will actually survive our own greed and foolishness but then that may be good for the others who live on our planet.

  5. Dr Andrew W. Wadsley

    March 8, 2010 at 8:21 pm

    (#9) Caging the blades on a horizontal axis turbine reduces the efficiency significantly.

    Vertical axis turbines are more “bird-friendly”, but are not very efficient for power generation.

    Turbines proposed for buildings such as in Hobart (http://www.themercury.com.au/article/2009/12/09/114611_tasmania-news.html) are unlikely to generate much power due to extremely variable, gusty wind conditions in the city environment. They are also probably no more or less bird friendly than the buildings themselves and other associated structures.

    A potential solution is to site the turbines offshore, but these may prove to be too expensive in deep water (http://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKTRE6274KP20100308)

  6. Tony Saddington

    March 8, 2010 at 7:57 pm

    I have always wondered the same Garry – why not?

  7. Garry Stannus

    March 8, 2010 at 7:41 pm

    Yes, part of our future must be include a reduction of overall consumption/energy demand.

    PS Can the blades that threaten raptors be ‘caged’ like the protective housing around house fans?

  8. Dr Andrew W. Wadsley

    March 8, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    (#3,4) Chris, I agree with your argument with respect to reducing energy demand – this is certainly much more Earth-friendly: an ideal to which I would like to aspire.

    However, I believe that global warming is the greatest challenge facing us today, and that we may be able to do something about this by reducing greenhouse gas emissions (CO2, methane etc) in the immediate term. Unfortunately, on the time frame we have (decades or less), it will be impossible to change the attitudes of enough people to lower energy demand sufficiently to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, unless we substitute greenhouse neutral technologies for coal-fired electricity generation, and then progressively substitute for all fossil fuels (including gas).

    If we wait and try to persuade the punters to reduce energy consumption of the order required, the biosphere, as we know it, is doomed.

  9. Peter Brenner

    March 8, 2010 at 6:25 pm

    Chris (4), thanks for this excellent wrap. We cannot repeat enough: the only meaningful answer to the escalating energy use is a much more efficient use of existing energy sources and a radical change of wasteful habits.

    Repeat this rule ten to twenty times! Twice daily!

    Now assess whether it is still necessary (and some say it won’t be) to contemplate any extra energy source. If yes, choose the most efficient one to help stop the gap.

    Clunky, soul, landscape, bird and vista destroying, noisy machines like wind generators will probably not stand out as beacons of cleverness.

  10. Second fiddle

    March 8, 2010 at 5:38 pm

    Perhaps not pertinent to this discussion, but I am curious as to the damage done to solar-PV systems and solar-thermal installations during the recent Melbourne deluge.
    Any reports of damage?

  11. Chris Harries

    March 8, 2010 at 5:15 pm

    For a broader philosophical view of these issues perhaps see: http://energybulletin.net/51797

    There is no shortage of information about these topics.

  12. Chris Harries

    March 8, 2010 at 4:52 pm

    Here you have it. One contributor says go for wind. Another says don’t, because it kills birds. Some say don’t burn our forests for power, build wave power instead. Others throw in the nuclear bait.

    It’s all boys talk. Finding the ultimate magic source of energy.

    Forgive the mixed metaphors but….. There’s no such thing as a free lunch. No silver bullet. No magic pudding. Every energy source is a source of contention and adds to environmental loss.

    Once you argue for any preferred energy source you are effectively saying we don’t already supply enough energy for our needs, and thus you feed the notion that energy supply has to be forever expanding.

    The (limited) renewable wind and solar capacity installed to date does not even match new growth in energy demand (in the form of oversized plasma TVs and so forth). Fossil fuelled power is not being replaced by renewables at this stage.

    So long as the energy debate revolves around ‘supply’ options its a dead end game, nobody wins

    Think about the other end of the equation and you ask things like “Hold on a minute, why does Tasmania, a state that is self sufficient in dairy products, import large amount of dairy products?” Answer, because virtually identical products are freighted both ways across Bass Strait. Thousands of tonnes of it. Year in and year out.

    There are so many dozens and dozens of examples of stupid inefficiencies that lie on the ‘demand’ side of the energy equation, yet we prefer to turn a blind eye to these and turn our blind eyes to our preferred energy sources. It’s a mentality that a bemused David Henry Thoreau quoted as: “…. dealing with herds of cattle in order to supply yourself with bootlaces”.

    When we say we need energy supplies (from windmills or whatever other source), we are actually saying we need the energy to supply our entrenched inefficiencies. We are saying that we prefer to keep expanding the energy system, because it is the easier thing to do, even if it is the dumb thing to do.

  13. Geoff Croker

    March 8, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    Tasmania is perhaps one of but a few places where wind power may be economically viable. Why. Not because its windy. It’s because wind power can make use of Tasmania’s batteries, hydro dams. By using wind power to reduce the amount of water flow required to get hydro-power, the dams become a storage mechanism that can be turned on quickly when required.

    So wind power becomes part of the base load system. This cannot happen for gas, oil or coal fed base load. It takes too long to spin those generators up and so they they are always operating.

    The main problem is just how is it going to be funded? Victorian brown coal power costs $35/MWh, wind is $125/MWh. However, if nothing is done its easy to see why a government might want another BassLink DC line.

    Perhaps the populist answer is to do nothing for now and wait to see how pebble based nuclear reactors and silver offset printed solar panels and capacitors work out.

    There will be flooding in Tasmanian dams this winter and good rainfall should persist for about three years.

    Then again it takes three years to build anything. Wind power is expensive but it may be the only option that can be built in time.

    Otherwise more & more Tasmanian money is going to go the eastern seaboard NEM. Once that money is gone it does not come back.

  14. Dr Andrew W. Wadsley

    March 8, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    Personally, I’m not in favour of wind farms as they wipe out the large raptors. (see, for example, http://www.warmwell.com/raptors.html).

    The technology which appears to have the best future is solar thermal, which has an increasing number of advocates (for example, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article6368156.ece)

    As a transition to zero fossil fuel use, solar thermal can be combined with gas to provide 24 hour, high reliability electric power. Tasmania’s NE cost is highly suitable, close to the Bell Bay power and gas infrastructure. The footprint of solar thermal is less than hydro (watt for watt), the technology is simple and using either molten salt or superheated steam storage, can provide, by itself, 24 hour base-load power.

  15. Mark Duffett

    March 8, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    When someone like George Monbiot skewers the idea of feed-in tariffs, you just know there’s got to be fundamental problems with them. See what they are, HERE.

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