Australian news, and some related international items

Melbourne and Moree get new solar businesses and employment openings

Spanish renewable energy firm sets up Melbourne-based subsidiary, THE FIFTH ESTATE 23 September 2014 Spain’s Elecnor Group has ignored the current political climate in Australia’s renewable energy sector and launched an infrastructure subsidiary based in Melbourne. ……..

Elecnor Australia’s first project is the $164 million solar photovoltaic farm in Moree, New South Wales for the Moree Solar Farm Company Pty Ltd, part of Fotowatio Renewables Venture. The joint venture originally included Pacific Hydro, which announced in August it was withdrawing from the project due to the policy-driven uncertainties impacting the renewable energy industry.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency has contributed $101.7 million towards construction and operation of the project, and $47 million has been provided by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

Covering 191 hectares, the farm will comprise 232,960 panels with a forecast annual output of 150 gigawatt-hours direct into the main energy grid, enough to power about 15,000 homes. It is expected to be complete and commissioned by the second quarter of 2015.


In a media statement, Elecnor said Australia will be a base for it to expand operations in the Asia-Pacific region, focusing on developing business infrastructure and renewable energies………

The Moree project has already created a number of positions to be based at the town, with the firm earlier this month advertising for an assistant project manager (engineer), a construction manager, six technical engineers as sub-contract supervisors, mechanical and electrical engineers, a civil engineer, two draftpersons, accounts and administration, purchasing and logistics.

September 27, 2014 Posted by | business, employment, New South Wales, solar, Victoria | Leave a comment

Australia’s Lucas Heights nuclear reactor to get less security

terrorism-targets-2Lucas Heights nuclear reactor’s security may be cut DANIEL MEERS THE DAILY TELEGRAPH SEPTEMBER 24, 2014 THERE are fresh fears federal police numbers may be cut at the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor, the site of a security breach on Monday.

Just a day after police intercepted bushwalkers at the restricted site 31km southwest of Sydney, the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union claimed Australian Federal Police numbers would be cut from 21 to six at the site next month and ­restructured. The union’s claims follow funding cuts for the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) which the organisation says has led to a ­restructure in operations.

Safety supervisors would also be outsourced under the restructure.

A spokesman for ANSTO yesterday said the union figures on policing were wrong but conceded there had been changes to roles…..

AMWU NSW secretary Tim Ayres said he was concerned about security at the site. “In a climate of heightened security risks, we’re about to hand over security of a ­nuclear reactor to a contractor firm. How can this deliver better safety?

“The community expects our high-risk security targets are patrolled by professional federal police officers and a strong on-site safety culture. But ANSTO … has decided to go with the cheaper option.”….

September 24, 2014 Posted by | New South Wales, safety | Leave a comment

Risks of uranium mining outweigh any benefits

text-uranium-hypeAnti-uranium activists criticise NSW exploration program, Australian Mining 15 September, 2014 Vicky Validakis Anti-nuclear campaigners have criticised the NSW government for opening up the state to uranium exploration.

Last week the state government invited six companies to apply for exploration licences.

The move comes two years after NSW overturned a uranium exploration ban. Mining uranium is still restricted.

Three locations around NSW – near Broken Hill, near Cobar and south of Dubbo – have been earmarked for drilling activity.

Natalie Wasley, spokeswomen for the Beyond Nuclear Initiative, said the decision was disappointing, ABC reported.

“Uranium has very unique and dangerous properties and risks,” Wasley said. “It’s linked to the production of the world’s most toxic and long-lasting industrial waste, as well as proliferation of the world’s most destructive weapons, so it poses a risk to workers, to communities and the environment.”

Wasley said the sector will only create a small number of jobs, and claims the risks associated with uranium outweigh any economic benefits. “We know that in rural and regional areas there’s a much better opportunity for long-lasting sustainable jobs in the renewable sector.”

“We’d really encourage those local governments and the state governments to be putting money and resources into developing more creative, long-term and sustainable jobs for people.”……..

The six companies invited to apply for licenses are Australian Zirconia, Callabonna Resources, EJ Resources, Hartz Rare Earths, Iluka Resources and Marmota Energy.

September 16, 2014 Posted by | business, New South Wales, rare earths, uranium | Leave a comment

Uranium mining still prohibited in New South Wales, and not considered economically viable

Uranium exploration in western NSW – but mining is still prohibited  NSW Country Hour  Sally Bryant and Julie Clift  15 Sept 14, The New South Wales Government has invited six mining companies to put in expressions of interest to explore for uranium, but mining will remain prohibited, until deposits prove economically viable.

However not all of the mining companies who are involved in this process are actually interested in mining for uranium.

One of six companies invited to tender for an exploration licence, Alkane Resources, is developing a rare earth project near Dubbo, in the state’s central west.

Alkane say they’re not interested in uranium, that they are merely protecting their rare earth project from other resource companies applying for an exploration licence over the top of them

Managing Director Ian Chalmers says this is an insurance policy for his company……..

September 16, 2014 Posted by | business, New South Wales, rare earths, uranium | Leave a comment

Yea! Boo! Australian government destabilises the solar power industry

Australia-solar-plugAustralia’s solar installers face another boom and bust Solar energy installers are expecting a boom then sharp contraction of their businesses as the Abbott government prepares to take an axe to renewable energy support. Continue reading

August 31, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, New South Wales, solar | Leave a comment

New South Wales: new Bill to enforce environmental protection laws

justiceAustralia: Tough new environmental enforcement measures under NSW Bill Mondaq Clayton Utz,  17 August 2014 A range of new and much higher penalties, and a new power for the EPA to require bank guarantees for remediation, are the key features of the Protection of the Environment Legislation Amendment Bill 2014, introduced into the New South Wales Parliament on Tuesday.

If passed, the Bill will amend

  • the Contaminated Land Management Act 1997;
  • the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997; and
  • the Radiation Control Act 1990.

Bank guarantees for remediation work

The EPA will be able to require financial assurances, such as a bank guarantee or bond, as part of a management order under the Contaminated Land Management Act. The EPA can set the amount, but it cannot exceed the EPA’s reasonable estimate of the total cost of carrying out the relevant action (including EPA supervision costs).

If the person fails to carry out the required action, the EPA can then do the action itself or contract someone else to do it, and then make a claim on the financial assurance to cover its costs.

The Court can also use this mechanism in proceedings under the Contaminated Land Management Act if it orders an offender to carry out a specified work or program for the restoration or enhancement of the environment……….

New penalties, including restorative justice

For some offences under the Contaminated Land Management Act and Radiation Control Act, the Land & Environment Court will be able to order new penalties, including ordering the offender:

  • to publicise the offence and its environmental and other consequences;
  • to notify specified persons, such as shareholders of the offence, via the annual report or other methods;
  • to carry out a specified project for the restoration or enhancement of the environment in a public place or for the public benefit; or
  • to carry out any social or community activity for the benefit of the community or persons that are adversely affected by the offence (a restorative justice activity) that the offender has agreed to carry out………

Waste tracking

It will now be an offence not to fit GPS tracking to waste transportation vehicles………

August 18, 2014 Posted by | legal, New South Wales | Leave a comment

Good news: Single-Axis Tracking Solar PV Project for Moree, New South Wales

Construction Set To Begin At Australia’s First Single-Axis Tracking Solar PV Project  Clean Technica 12 Auh 14 While Australia’s carbon policy seems to have hit a dead-end, good news from the renewable energy sector continues to pour in. The country will soon see construction begin on its first solar photovoltaic power project with single-axis tracking feature.


The solar pv project owned by Fotowatio Renewable Ventures (FRV) will have a generation capacity of 70 MW (DC) and located at near Moree, New South Wales. The project will be supported by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), which has provided more than A$101 million……

A single-axis tracking panel equipped with horizontal axis trackers would partially rotate about the horizontal axis, and track the sun’s movement through the day in the north-south direction. Panels with vertical axis tracking will track sun’s movements through the day in the east-west direction. Horizontal single-axis tracking arrangement is simpler, easy to maintain, and cheaper than vertical axis tracking arrangement.

ARENA, established as part of the Clean Energy Future policy of the Labour government, has lost favor from the current Liberal government that has spared no effort to ban it. The fact that the agency has survived the axe till now is quite miraculous. But its future continues to hang in the balance. The ARENA repeal bill was tabled in the Australian lower House of Parliament in June, and was then referred to a Senate committee which is seeking stakeholders’ views.

August 12, 2014 Posted by | New South Wales, solar | Leave a comment

Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) funding large solar farm at Moree

solar-farmingMoree Solar Farm puts big solar in big sky country  4 Aug 14 The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) today announced $101.7 million of support for Moree Solar Farm, which upon completion will be one of the largest solar plants in Australia.

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht congratulated renewable energy company Fotowatio Renewable Ventures (FRV) who are set to begin construction on the project shortly. “Moree Solar Farm will be the first large-scale solar plant in Australia to use a single-axis horizontal tracking system, where panels follow the sun across the sky to capturesunlight and maximise power output,” Mr Frischknecht said.

“The 56MWac (70MWp) farm will produce enough electricity to power the equivalent of 15,000 average New South Wales homes.”

Mr Frischknecht said the Moree community would benefit from the project and had been keen supporters, along with the Moree Plains Shire Council, for several years. “The $164 million Moree Solar Farm will benefit the local economy and will also deliver an estimated 130 local jobs during the construction phase over 2014–2016.

“More than 50 locations around Australia were investigated before the developers selected the site 10 kilometres out of Moree in NSW’s northern wheat belt, an area known as ‘big sky country’. “The location benefits from high levels of solar radiation and also allows the solar farm to connect to the national electricity grid.”

Mr Frischknecht said the project, which is also being supported by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, would aim to demonstrate that large-scale solar power plants can be constructed and operated within Australia’s major electricity grids.

“ARENA will work with FRV to share the valuable knowledge gained in delivering the Moree Solar Farm with the rest of the industry,” Mr Frischknecht said. “We recognise reducing early mover disadvantage and supporting the transfer ofinformation will help advance development of more utility scale solar plants in Australia.”

Moree Solar Farm is a solar flagship project ARENA inherited when it was established in July 2012. Last week, another former flagship project supported by ARENA, reached a major milestone when the first of approximately 1.35 million panels were installed at AGL’s large-scale solar plant in Nyngan, NSW.

August 4, 2014 Posted by | New South Wales, solar | Leave a comment

Forget Australia’s Abbott government – Capital cities are going ahead with renewable energy!

renewable-energy-pictureSydney and Melbourne going green despite uncertainty over future of Renewable Energy Target  
By Lisa Tucker Australia’s biggest cities are setting ambitious targets to cut carbon emissions despite signs the Federal Government will wind back the Renewable Energy Target (RET).

The review into the country’s RET is expected to make its recommendations next week.

But when it comes to going green, Melbourne and Sydney are on the same page and are determined to make it happen, whatever direction Canberra takes.

The cities are rolling out solar panels, installing LED light systems and designing energy efficient buildings.

Sydney plans to reduce its emissions by 70 per cent by 2030 while Melbourne aims to have zero net emissions in just five-and-a-half years.

City of Melbourne Councillor, Arron Wood, says environmental action is at the forefront of everything the council is doing.

“We’re certainly making big inroads, but to reach that goal by 2020, there’s some pretty big numbers,” he said.

“[But] I am absolutely vehemently opposed to any relaxing of the renewable energy target. It’s done wonderful things in terms of renewable energy investment.

“Interestingly enough we talk about the cost that renewable energy targets add to people’s bills, but when you look at the wholesale cost, it’s one of the only measures which is actually putting pressure on wholesale electricity prices.”

Renewable energy key factor in reducing emissions. 

Sydney’s goal is to produce 70 per cent of its electricity needs from tri-generation, a more environmentally friendly, low-carbon production method with solar and wind power making up the rest.

Melbourne is aiming for a renewable energy contribution of 50 per cent.

“Really, you do have to have a large proportion of your energy mix coming from renewable to have a hope of reaching that target,” Cr Wood said.

“Even the Urban Forest Strategy, which is about cooling our city: we’ve got a target of doubling the canopy cover in the city by 2040.

“That’s really about decreasing ambient temperatures and meeting the urban heat effect. But what it does is, it also makes the city look good.”

Sydney’s Lord Mayor Clover Moore says any change to the target will make Sydney’s goal more difficult to achieve.

“It’s much better if the national Government is also committed to taking action on climate change,” Ms Moore said.

“We already know with the winding back of the carbon pricing that it’s making it harder to achieve our tri-generation precincts in Sydney. So that would have an effect.”

Ms Moore says the steps being taken have the community’s full support.

“We are the most urbanised country in the world and we know that our cities are where 70 per cent of emissions occur,” she said.

“I think it’s really incumbent upon city leaders to commit to taking this action and follow through on it.”

July 28, 2014 Posted by | energy, New South Wales, Victoria | Leave a comment

Lucas Heights nuclear reactor – safety fears, as safety supervisors dumped

safety-symbolFears for safety at Lucas Heights nuclear reactor: permanent supervisors to be dumped as part of cost-cutting GEOFF CHAMBERS THE DAILY TELEGRAPH JULY 25, 2014 PERMANENT frontline safety supervisors will be dumped and Australian Federal Police roles overhauled as part of cost-cutting measures at the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor.

Lucas-09The Daily Telegraph can reveal that six permanent ­safety positions will be ­outsourced from next month at the Australian Nuclear ­Science and Technology ­Organisation (ANSTO).

Workers at the facility in Sydney’s south have expressed concern about the removal of permanent safety inspectors.

The AFP will retain an armed presence but it is ­expected that light duties, including boom gate operation and CCTV monitoring, will be outsourced.

With 260 production, ­laboratory and technical staff on its books, the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union has firmly opposed what it describes as a “cost-cutting exercise” by ANSTO.

The union’s state secretary, Tim Ayres, said that the reactor site was an important local ­employer and crucial for the innovation and manufacturing industry.

“This is in no way an ­improvement to safety at ­Sydney’s only nuclear facility, this is a decision to wind back the safety protections purely on the basis of costs,” he said.

“This is a nuclear facility in the middle of a very large population centre — they’ve had to work very hard to get the confidence of the community that it can operate ­safely. But outsourcing the senior level safety inspectorate to some private company is going to absolutely shatter the confidence that this place can be run to the standard of safety and quality that the community expects.”

Mr Ayres said having ­permanent safety inspectors on staff should be a priority for management.

The inspectors, many with years of experience, are the first point of contact at Lucas Heights during an emergency situation.

      “This sends a message that safety is a second-order issue. It will set the safety culture back,” he said………

July 26, 2014 Posted by | New South Wales, safety | Leave a comment

Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) funding Lord Howe Island’s hybrid renewable energy project

renewable-energy-pictureLord Howe Island’s Clean, Renewable Energy Future 25 July 14  The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) is helping to fund a hybrid renewable energy project on Lord Howe Island that will include energy storage.

ARENA will contribute $4.5 million in support for the 1 MW, $11.6 million wind, solar, storage and diesel hybrid system that will reduce the Island’s consumption of diesel by 70%.

“Lord Howe Island is 600 km off the east coast of Australia and, like other remote off-grid communities across the country, is heavily reliant on diesel generators that are costly to run and subject to volatile fuel prices,” said ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknech.

“It is another significant project to come out of ARENA’s Regional Australia’s Renewables Initiative, which is focused on increasing the uptake of renewables in offgrid Australia.”

It’s been a long road to reach this point according to Lord Howe Island Board CEO Penny Holloway; who said said the community had been working towards a renewable energy future for more than ten years and ARENA’s support means it can now become a reality.

The Lord Howe Island Group is part of the state of New South Wales; administered by the Lord Howe Island Board.

NSW Environment and Heritage Minister Rob Stokes congratulated ARENA and the Lord Howe Island Board for their vision and commitment.

“Lord Howe Island was included on the World Heritage List because of its unique natural and heritage values and this initiative is a powerful way of protecting these into the future,” he said.

In other recent news from ARENA, the body announced it is also providing $500,000 to the Clean Energy Council (CEC) to support the execution of the first stage of a project to future-proof Australia’s energy system and improve the electricity grid to support the growth of clean energy.

The CEC  will be working with industry, government, regulators and consumers and commissioning various related analyses; with the first stage of the future proofing project due to be completed by the middle of next year.

July 26, 2014 Posted by | energy, New South Wales | Leave a comment

New South Wales on the way to renewable energy success

Renewable energy: NSW to be ‘Australia’s answer to California’, SMH,  July 22, 2014  Environment Editor, The Sydney Morning Herald New South Wales aims to be “Australia’s answer to California”, accelerating the use of renewable energy and finding new ways to curb waste, in a push that puts it at odds with Coalition counterparts in other states and at the federal level.

The Baird government says it plans to adorn as many of its buildings with solar panels as possible and ease the way for more wind farms.

The announcement comes days after the Abbott government secured its almost five-year quest to axe the carbon price and amid ongoing signs it will weaken the national renewable energy target (RET),  “We are making NSW number one in energy and environmental policy,” Environment Minister Rob Stokes told the Clean Energy Week gathering in Sydney……….

Mr Stokes said NSW was committed to the 41,000 GW-h goal – a target that was the federal Coalition’s pre-election commitment. Maverick MP Clive Palmer has said his party will use its balance of power in the Senate to block any effort by the Abbott government to cut the renewable energy target.

Star watch

The NSW Resource Efficiency Policy will take advantage of the government’s scale – with more than half a billion dollars spent on energy, water and waste each year – to demand savings.

Investment over the next decade is likely to reach $290 million and deliver savings to energy bills of $55 million a year by then, Mr Stokes said.“We are the country’s largest employer,” he said of the NSW government. “We purchase 1 per cent of all new cars in Australia and we own half of all the land in the state – around 400,000 square kilometres.”

All new electrical equipment bought by the state will have to meet at least the average energy efficiency star rating for each appliance. For dishwashers that means 4 stars or higher and 3.5 stars for small air conditioners.

The Energy Efficiency Council said it applauded NSW’s leadership.

“Other governments around Australia should watch what NSW is doing and follow its lead,” said chief executive Rob Murray-Leach.

Improving energy performance was “a no-brainer”, strengthening the budget, as well as forcing through higher standards that build industry capacity, benefiting other parts of the economy, Mr Murray-Leach said. Mr Stokes told Fairfax Media: “It’s never been anyone’s job in the Department of Health or Department of Education to go and look at these efficiency opportunities.

“It’s a big opportunity, we’ve got a vast building stock, and there’s been nothing to activate it.”

As part of the policy, the Health Department will be required to audit energy use for 55 per cent of their power bills by June 2018; other departments will have to audit 40 per cent of their bills. The rate will rise to 90 per cent by 2024.

Wind-farm noise

In a separate nod to the renewable energy sector, Mr Stokes said he has recommended that the Environment Protection Authority treat noise from wind farms as it would noise from other mining and resources projects.

“I’ve asked the NSW EPA to consider the inclusion of the draft noise standards for wind energy projects into the Industrial Noise Policy, which is due to be finalised by December,” Mr Stokes said.

“This will provide clarity and certainty for wind farm operators, and will facilitate appropriate and responsible siting of wind farms in regional and rural areas,” he said…….

July 26, 2014 Posted by | energy, New South Wales | Leave a comment

Solar battery hybrid storage system for Muswellbrook, New South Wales

Parkinson-Report-Photon to build solar plus storage unit for NSW broadcast tower REneweconmy, By  on 15 July 2014  German-based solar group Photon Energy is to install a large scale solar plus battery storage hybrid power system at a telecommunications tower in New South Wales that it says could be the fore-runner of thousands of such installations across the country.

The system, to be installed at a broadcast tower operated by BAI near Muswellbrook, will provide 24/7 power through a 39kW solar array and a 215kWh battery storage installation. An 8kW diesel generator will provide standby in emergencies.

Photon Energy says once successfully tested the concept could be implemented on thousands of sites across Australia.

Michael Gartner, the head of Photon Energy‘s Australian operations, said the project was a great step forward“ for solar power to provide clean and economically viable power supply for remote sites.

“The potential for solar PV in the replacement of conventional energy sources is substantial and will bring cost benefits and emissions savings for Australia in the coming years and decades.“

“… We can show how to incorporate solar PV into any given energy system and prove that using abundant sunlight for your own power consumption is the way forward.”……..

July 21, 2014 Posted by | New South Wales, solar | Leave a comment

Sydney gets world’s first solar integrated house

sunWorld’s first building-integrated solar system built in Australia July 8, 2014 –  Many people looking to go (at least partially) off the grid install rooftop solar panels, but a house purpose-built for solar power is another matter entirely.

The first building-integrated solar energy system was recently installed in a house in suburban Sydney, Australia, CleanTechnica reports.

The house’s rooftop array thin-film photovoltaic panels with a solar-thermal duct system that warms and cools the air. While the top layer produces electricity like any other solar panel, heat trapped between the layers is also used by the house.

Australian steel manufacturer Bluescope produced the $5 million system with government assistance in the form of a $3.2 million loan grant from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA). Government money is often an important factor in getting projects like this off the ground (no pun intended).

Whether integrated solar catches on remains to be seen, but at least the public will now get a chance to see what this technology can do. This post appeared first on

July 9, 2014 Posted by | New South Wales, solar | Leave a comment

Darkinjung Local Aboriginal Land Council stopped proposed Wallarah 2 longwall coal mine

judge-1Darkinjung Local Aboriginal Land Council did what the O’Farrell and Baird Governments were averse to doing – it stopped the proposed Wallarah 2 longwall coal mine in its tracks, North Coast Voices, 13 June 14 Early in 2014 the Darkinjung Local Aboriginal Land Council took Wyong Coal Pty Ltd (First Respondent), Minister for Planning and Infrastructure (Second Respondent),Planning Assessment Commission NSW (Third Respondent) and  NSW Aboriginal Land Council (Fourth Respondent) to the NSW Land & Environment Court.

The judgment does not appear to have been published yet.

However, The Daily Telegraph reported on 13 June 2014:

THE controversial Wallarah 2 coal mine, which ICAC target Nick Di Girolamo lobbied for on behalf of Korean mining company Kores, has been put on hold and may never go ahead after a Land and Environment Court decision.

The decision was a win for the local Aboriginal Land Council, which had fought the mine on its land.

Planning Minister Pru Goward made clear last night she would not intervene in the matter, releasing a statement saying: “I have considered the judgment and I accept the decision of the court.”….

The proposed Wallarah 2 longwall coal mine put forward by the Korean-owned mining company Kores Australia Pty Ltd and, its joint venture partners Catherine Hill Resources Pty Ltd, Kyungdong Australia Pty Ltd, SK Networks Resources Australia (Wyong) Pty Ltd, SK Networks Resources Pty Ltd and progressed by Wyong Coal Pty Ltd (T/A Wyong Areas Coal Joint Venture), had already failed basic environmental and risk management standards as the 4 June 2014 NSW Planning and Assessment Commission Final Report summary indicates:…..

June 14, 2014 Posted by | aboriginal issues, legal, New South Wales | Leave a comment


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