Australian news, and some related international items

Melbourne city at standstill as thousands marched to support remote Aboriginal communities

Thousands rally in Melbourne in support of remote Aboriginal communities ABC News, 11 Apr 15 Thousands of people have staged a rally in Melbourne against the forced closure of remote Aboriginal communities, bringing parts of the CBD to a standstill.

There were major delays to public transport on Friday as Flinders Street and St Kilda Road closed to traffic. Yarra Trams tweeted at 7:10pm to say Swanston Street trams running between the Arts Precinct and Melbourne Central Station were able to resume service.

Earlier, Metro Trains advised passengers to access Flinders Street Station via Elizabeth Street to avoid the crowds………

Last month, Tony Abbot backed the West Australian Government’s plans to close nearly half of the state’s 247 remote communities and said it was not unreasonable if the cost of providing services such as schools, outweighed the benefits.

“What we can’t do is endlessly subsidise lifestyle choices, if those lifestyle choices are not conducive to the kind of full participation in Australian society that everyone should have,” he said.

The Prime Minister’s comments received criticism from Aboriginal leaders, as well as both sides of politics.

“I think it’s a very disappointing and hopeless statement by the Prime Minister, quite frankly,” Indigenous leader Noel Pearson told The World Today in March……

April 11, 2015 Posted by | aboriginal issues, Victoria | Leave a comment

Victoria about to get 854 wind turbines worth $5 billion

854 wind turbines worth $5 billion ready to be built in Victoria CHRIS MCLENNAN THE WEEKLY TIMES APRIL 01, 2015

wind-Hepburn-community-farmWIND farms worth almost $5 billion are poised to be built across Victoria.Thirteen projects with 854 turbines have won municipal council and State Government support and are ready to go.

Wind farms near Mortlake, Ballarat, Ararat, Warrnambool, Port Fairy, Ballan, Colac and St Arnaud can turn the soil the moment the Federal Government implements a new Renewable Energy Target scheme…….

……AGL Energy has built big wind farms at Oaklands Hill and Macarthur costing $1.18 billion. In its submission to the Senate wind farm inquiry AGL ­Energy estimates it has created 875 direct and indirect jobs in rural Victoria.

Northern Grampians Shire Council Mayor Murray ­Emerson said his council last week approved the Enerfin proposal. “It is a $460 million project, individually it would be the biggest investment in the shire’s history,” Cr Emerson said.

“Small rural shires like ours are battling all the time and the economic benefits from a project of this scale would be incredibly welcome.”Ararat Rural City Mayor Paul Hooper, who spoke at the Portland inquiry on Monday, said there were wind farm projects worth $1.68 billion ready to begin in his shire.

“This is an industry we ­already know very well and our residents support, we have a community which is pro-wind farm. “There are lots of jobs in construction, benefits from rates and the farms benefit which host them. “Rural shires have low populations and big areas to service, so a free kick of this magnitude is something we are very excited about.”

MAV president Cr ­McArthur said the dollar ­investment from wind farms “was astronomical”.

…….Victorian Energy and Resources Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the Government was promoting wind farms because of job creation and regional development and impact on greenhouse gas.

Ms D’Ambrosio said the Government had recently reduced the exclusion zone from winds farms from 2km to 1km to help create even more projects. She said developments would now be approved by the state’s planning minister.

Victorian Greens leader Greg Barber said wind farms “would be a boon” to small rural councils with limited rate income.

Mr Barber said the pressure was on the State Government as well as the Federal RET negotiations “to make the wind farms happen”

April 1, 2015 Posted by | Victoria, wind | Leave a comment

Low-cost high-efficiency concentrated solar photovoltaic power station launched in Victoria

Victoria-sunny.psdThe central Victorian sun powers world’s first concentrated solar power station, ABC Central Victoria By Larissa Romensky and Jonathan Ridnell, 31 March, 2015 

 A pilot facility, claiming to be the world’s lowest-cost energy plant, has opened in Newbridge in Central Victoria converting sunlight into electricity. In a paddock off a dirt road stands a massive 25-metre tower directed at a field of silver rotating panels that shimmer in the sunlight.

This is the world’s first concentrated solar photovoltaic (CSPV) power station just launched by research and development company, RayGen Resources.”The end result is very low cost solar electricity and we think it’s going to really revolutionise solar energy,” said Robert Cart, CEO and co-founder of the company.

The tower acts as a receiver that collects sunlight from the mirrors that are computer controlled to move as they track the sun.”The collector field focuses the light on the receiver. The receiver directly converts that light to electricity,” said co-founder and technical director of RayGen, John Lasich.

The very small receiver is the unique part of this technology. “This is the only commercial version of this technology in the world,” said Mr Lasich.”It combines heliostats and denser photovoltaic cells, which when combined give very low cost and high efficiency.”

At this stage the $3.6 million project is a pilot testing facility. But the company are happy with the results.”It looks and feels pretty much like the real thing does,” said Mr Lasich.

High efficiency meets low costThe small plant generates enough power to run about 75 to 100 homes and the company says the technology is cheaper and more efficient than placing solar panels on roofs……….

The company recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with their Chinese commercial partners. Juye Solar have invested $6 million which will allow RayGen to expand its manufacturing. They are currently in the process of building a larger facility at the same location.

A further $15 million will be invested by Juye Solar to develop the business in China to meet the large demand……

The ultimate aim for RayGen is to have distribution around the world. “We build the high tech components and software and sell that to the companies and they build the balance of system and put the whole plant together,” said Mr Lasich.

April 1, 2015 Posted by | solar, Victoria | Leave a comment

Mildura’s solar farm – successful without a cent of government money

what makes the Mildura plant so special is that it was built without a cent of government grants being tipped in.

helps illustrate how solar’s smaller, highly modular scale and fast construction time could allow it to play a far greater role in ensuring the target for the large-scale RET is met

Belectric have a developed a standardised 3MW solar power installation system they call the 3.0 MegaWattBlock (pictured below) which they roll-out across the globe.Solar-installation-Belectri

Australia’s biggest solar farm powers-up but solar’s potential shines elsewhere, Business Spectator, TRISTAN EDIS  23 MAR 

Australia’s largest ever solar power plant, AGL’s 102 megawatt Nyngan – has begun feeding power into the grid. But there’s a far more interesting solar power plant no one is talking about in Mildura.

The Nyngan plant in Western NSW now has its first 25MW of capacity, involving 350,000 solar modules made by First Solar, generating power that is exporting power to the grid. Further generation will progressively be brought online over the next three months as the remaining three sections of the plant are individually commissioned.

It’s unambiguously good news, yet I’m far more excited about the solar power plant in Mildura even though it’s substantially smaller – 3MW of capacity versus Nyngan’s 102MW. In fact it’s quite astounding that the completion of the Mildura plant has received no press whatsoever, because when it started feeding power to the grid in April last year it was the second largest operational solar power plant in the country at the time, and remains comfortably the largest in Victoria. Continue reading

March 25, 2015 Posted by | solar, Victoria | 1 Comment

Victorian Labor government makes regulations easier for wind farms

WIND-FARMAustralian state of Victoria open for wind energy business Robin Whitlock Friday, 20 March 2015  The Victorian State Government in Australia has made some regulatory changes in order to make the state more attractive to wind farm developers.The changes will help to unlock billions of dollars in investment, providing a bipartisan deal can be reached on Australia’s Renewable Energy Target (RET). The director of the Clean Energy Council (CEC), Russell Marsh, said that under restrictive rules introduced by the previous government, a coal mine could be built closer to homes in the state than a wind turbine.

“It is important to get the balance right between attracting renewable energy investment to Victoria and ensuring that the voice of communities is heard when building a wind farm” Mr Marsh said. “But the restrictions introduced by the previous government simply drove wind farm companies to other states and robbed Victoria of investment and job opportunities in regional communities. New wind farm applications virtually dried up after these new measures were introduced.”

Mr Marsh added that it is fantastic to see the Andrews Government recognising the need for change and acting to address some of the most draconian parts of the former governmental legislation, which is clearly a step in the right direction.

The changes will mean that the 2 kilometre setback distance between houses and wind turbines will be reduced to 1 kilometre. The Planning Minister will decide on wind farm applications and local councils will be responsible for regulating new and existing wind farms. The ongoing review of the national RET by the Federal Government has led to an 88 percent reduction in investment in large renewable energy projects such as wind farms across the country over the course of last year. The RET remains the industry’s highest priority and bipartisan support for a strong RET needs to be secured in order to return investment and stability to the renewable energy industry. According to Mr Marsh, once this happens, the industry can look forward to working with the Victorian Government to build renewable energy infrastructure and pass the many benefits of that onto rural and regional parts of the state.

In turn, this will provide direct employment and will also provide flow-on benefits to local contractors, suppliers, shops, restaurants, accommodation providers and much more while wind farms are being constructed.

For additional information:  Clean Energy Council   Victorian Government

March 21, 2015 Posted by | Victoria, wind | Leave a comment

Melbourne rally in protest at plan to close remote Aboriginal communities

Aboriginal rally brings Melbourne CBD to standstil SAMANTHA LANDY HERALD SUN MARCH 13, 2015  HUNDREDS of Aboriginal rights activists have shut down Melbourne’s CBD in a protest against the planned closure of remote indigenous communities in Western Australia. The demonstrators brought Swanston St to a standstill during the evening peak, disrupting traffic and almost a dozen tram routes for about an hour and a half from 6pm…….

Ms Onus said Mr Abbott’s comments that living in remote communities was a “lifestyle choice” were “blatantly racist”. “These people live where their ancestors have been for tens of thousands of years,” she said.

“There will be (thousands of) Aboriginal refugees if these communities close. “We know what happens to homeless Aboriginal people — they’re often criminalised. “They’re gonna end up in prisons and hospitals and homeless shelters.”

Ms Onus said protests were also being held in other capital cities.
Victoria Police spokesman Adam West said there were no incidents during the

March 14, 2015 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Victoria, Western Australia | Leave a comment

Victoria’s Labor government to fund Macedon community solar energy program

Victoria-sunny.psdAndrews government shows renewed interest in renewables The Age, February 28, 2015  Michael Green

Renewable energy projects, including solar energy schemes i are staging a revival in Victoria under the new Andrews Labor government.

The Woodend local sustainability group is launching two green energy projects: a new solar energy scheme and the resurrection of a longstanding plan for three community-owned wind turbines.

Today, at the Sustainable Living Festival in Woodend, Energy and Resources Minister Lily D’Ambrosio will announce a $100,000 grant for a 30-kilowatt solar farm.

The panels will be installed at the old timber mill, where the tenants’ ongoing electricity bills will be reinvested in more  solar panels. It will create a “perpetual fund” for community renewable energy, says Ralf Thesing, president of the Macedon Ranges Sustainability Group.

Last week, D’Ambrosio announced a $200,000 grant for the central Victorian town of Newstead to become fully powered by renewable energy.

She says the Labor  government will “support and stand alongside” communities such as Newstead and Woodend, who are planning “to better control how their energy is made and where it comes from”.

“Everywhere I go, whether it’s metro Melbourne or regional and rural Victoria, people love renewable energy,” D’Ambrosio says. “That’s why we’re seeing many communities coming up with plans to make renewable energy part of their everyday life. They’re bottom-up approaches and they’re a terrific boon for local jobs.”

The Andrews government is preparing a “renewable energy action plan” and finalising the guidelines for its $20 million “new energy jobs fund”. It will also release a discussion paper on community-owned wind power.

For the clean energy advocates in Macedon Ranges shire, the election result was transformative. “It changes our situation completely – from being banned, we’re now unbanned,” says Barry Mann, who is helping co-ordinate the wind power project……….

The Victorian Liberal party appears to have had a change of heart under the leadership of Matthew Guy. For the first time, the state has a “shadow minister for renewables”, David Southwick. He says Victoria has the opportunity to be a leader in renewable energy. “We want an industry that can deliver more clean energy and clean energy jobs.”


February 28, 2015 Posted by | solar, Victoria | 1 Comment

Victoria’s Green Party has plan for boosting Renewable Energy

greensVictorian Greens to use renewable energy group as bargaining chip with Labor February 11, 2015   State Political Correspondent for The Age The findings of a new Victorian renewable energy group to improve the sector will be used by the Greens as a bargaining chip in upper house negotiations with the Labor government.

The Greens have invited industry and experts to help tackle Victoria’s low investment in renewable energy, under a Greens plan.

Last year the Climate Council found that Victoria had the least favourable regulatory conditions of any Australian state for renewable energy.

Greens Melbourne MP Ellen Sandell is hosting a meeting next month with experts from the sector to address the state’s poor performance and has invited Premier Daniel Andrews and Industry Minister Lily D’Ambrosio. Both said they would not be attending.

The Greens, who hold five critical upper house votes, say the roundtable will produce a plan for how to bring jobs in clean energy to Victoria, accusing Labor of having no real plan for the sector at last year’s election.

Ms Sandell, who is energy spokeswoman, said the roundtable and its findings could be used as a bargaining chip in upper house negotiations.

“We have always said we will use our power to get the best outcomes for climate change and renewables however, we can. I’m starting by bringing renewables experts together and I hope the Premier listens to their recommendations,” Ms Sandell said.

“Despite incredible wind and solar resources, we have the most restrictive policy environment in the country, making it the worst place in Australia to invest in new energy sources.”

“As a result, we have the second lowest renewable energy capacity per capita of all of the states. Something has to change, and I’m determined to make it happen.”

Ben Courtice from Yes2Renewables said uncertainty around Australia’s renewable energy target had stalled investment in large-scale renewable energy projects.

“There is a real role for state governments to keep renewable energy’s share of our electricity use growing and sustain the industry into the future,” Mr Courtice said.

Invitations have been sent to Infigen, Solar Council, Metro Solar, Keppel Prince, local universities and Environment Victoria.

February 14, 2015 Posted by | politics, Victoria | Leave a comment

Victorian government seeking federal climate money for energy efficiency programs

Schools and hospitals could win from climate-fund bid, The Age February 1, 2015 Jason Dowling and Tom Arup School buildings and hospitals could be upgraded to save power and reduce emissions under a potential bid from Victoria for a slice of the Abbott government’s multibillion-dollar climate-change fund.Victorian school buildings and hospitals could be upgraded to save power and reduce greenhouse gas emissions under a state government bid for a slice of the Abbott government’s multibillion-dollar climate-change fund.

Environment Minister Lisa Neville met her federal counterpart Greg Hunt to discuss how Victoria could access the $2.55 billion emissions reduction fund – the central pillar of the Coalition’s “direct action” policy.

She said while it had previously been unclear how states could win federal funding to reduce emissions, the conversation with Mr Hunt had been encouraging that it would be possible to get support to introduce energy efficiency measures across a series of schools and hospitals.


“He was saying we could do that, so hopefully that’s right,” she said.

Under the federal policy, companies and governments can bid for funding to cut emissions. Funding will go to projects that show through an auction process that they can cut emissions at lowest cost.

On other climate change policies, Ms Neville told Fairfax Media the Andrews government would review the state Climate Change Act and would look at reintroducing a state emissions reduction target. The former Labor Brumby government introduced a target of a 20 per cent emissions cut by 2020, but it was scrapped by the Coalition………

Ms Neville said South Australia was also reviewing its climate change laws and she hoped the two states could work together to become an investment target for renewable energy. A joint emissions reduction target with South Australia was not out of the question.

Environment Victoria chief executive Mark Wakeham said he would also like to see the state government explore ways to use the federal emissions reduction fund to shut some of the state’s high-emissions brown coal power generation.

On a new emissions reduction state target, Mr Wakeham called for a body such as the federal Climate Change Authority to be given the job of advising Victoria on targets.

He said Labor’s previous state target should be the starting point, and that targets should be short term to remain front of mind for politicians. ……..

February 2, 2015 Posted by | energy, Victoria | Leave a comment

Strong interest from South Australia and Victoria in ACT’s wind energy auction

Parkinson-Report-ACT wind energy auction: And the winners are …. REneweconomy, By  on 14 January 2015  The ACT government’s wind energy auction has thrown up some surprising winners, and none of the planned 200MW of wind turbines will be built within a bull’s roar of the nation’s capital, if market intelligence is correct. The ACT government advised the winning tenderers of their success just before Christmas, and have until early February to prove that they have the finance in place to build the projects.

The winners have not been publicly announced, and will be kept confidential. But through a process of elimination – i.e. by crossing out those among the 18 project tenders who concede they didn’t make it, there are three likely winners.

They are the Hornsdale wind project in South Australia – regarded as the country’s most prospective wind project because of its excellent wind resources. Industry estimates suggest that the project could be a go-er with a tariff of around $80/MWh…………

The second winner is thought to the small Coonooer Bridge wind project in Victoria. This is owned by Windlab, a spinoff of CSIRO which is based in Canberra. Coonoer is likely to be just 18MW, but will also likely have a level of community ownership through an innovative structure that we discussed here.

The third project is less certain but is thought to be the Ararat project owned by RES, also based in Victoria. It is also bidding for less than half of its nominated capacity of more than 220MW.

The ACT wind energy auction is important to the wind industry in Australia because the sector has been at a standstill for nearly two years. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, no new wind projects were financed in Australia in 2014 because of the Federal government’s attempts to nobble the renewable energy target.

That helped cause an 88 per cent slump in large scale clean energy investment, and pushed Australia down from 11th position to 39th in the world, below Myanmar and Honduras. For some international investors, the ACT auction was considered to be the last hope in Australia, given the uncertainty that continues around the RET.

Contrary to the federal government, which sees its future in coal, the ACT government hopes to source 90 per cent of its electricity needs from renewable energy sources by 2020. It will do this through a series of auctions – 40MW of large scale solar already completed, an initial run of 200MW of wind, and around 50MW of other large scale solar projects including storage, and 23MW of waste-to-energy projects.

The ACT government raised the prospect of winning tenders going to other states if the price was cheaper, although it did profess to have a strong “local content” component of the tender………….

January 16, 2015 Posted by | ACT, South Australia, Victoria, wind | Leave a comment

Hottest daytime temperatures on record – Victoria in 2014

heatVictoria experienced hottest daytime temperatures on record in 2014, BOM annual report reveals, ABC News By Loretta Florance 5 Jan 15 Victoria recorded its hottest year on record for maximum daytime temperatures in 2014, the Bureau of Meteorology’s (BOM) annual report has revealed.

The state also recorded the second warmest year on record for mean temperatures, and the third warmest for minimum temperatures. The mean maximum temperature was 1.53 degrees Celsius above average, the Bureau of Meteorology found………

climate modelling showed that an El Nino effect on both the atmosphere and the ocean might progress over the summer, which would mean warmer temperatures in Victoria.

“We know that the year an El Nino event gets going tends to be the warmer years, so globally you’d expect 2015 to be at least as warm as 2014 if not warmer – and 2014 globally is actually looking like it’s going to be the warmest year on record,” he said.

“For eastern Australia, you tend to have the warm conditions persist through the financial year, so at least until the middle of next year, is what you’d be expecting for average conditions.”

January 7, 2015 Posted by | climate change - global warming, Victoria | Leave a comment

Victorian election: Labor will re-introduce emissions reduction target, and promote wind and solar energy

ballot-boxVictoria election 2014: Labor promises to reintroduce emissions reduction target ABC News, 25 Nov 14 Victoria’s Opposition has promised to reintroduce a state-based emissions reduction target if it is elected on Saturday.

The pledge is part of of the state Labor’s newly-released environmental platform.

The Opposition said it would bring back the target, which was introduced in by Labor in 2006 before being wound back in 2009 after the federal renewable energy target was extended.

The Victorian Coalition Government removed the state’s target of 20 per cent by 2020 from the Climate Change Act in 2012

report by the Climate Council released earlier this month found that Victoria and New South Wales had the worst approach to renewable energy in the country.

Labor environment spokeswoman Lisa Neville said she wanted Victoria to play a leading role in tackling climate change…….

Ms Neville said Labor would also establish a $20 million fund to encourage investment in renewables.”[The fund] will co-invest with the private sector to drive wind and solar energy, and new technologies,” she said.

“We’ve also said that we’ll use the planning laws to actually encourage and promote renewable energies like wind farms in Victoria.”……..

November 26, 2014 Posted by | politics, Victoria | Leave a comment

Senator Christine Milne calls for a gradual, planned, phaseout of Victoria’s coal power

Milne,-Christine-13Greens call for an end to Vic coal power, Herald Sun  AAP NOVEMBER 20, 2014  GREENS leader Christine Milne has called for a phase out of coal-fired power in Victoria but says it doesn’t have to affect jobs.

THE Greens are leading a push to close Victoria’s coal-fired generators and rehabilitate the sites in a gradual phase-out that they say will leave communities better off.

        “There are 485 jobs that could be created straight away from the rehabilitation and decommissioning of mines,” Australian Greens leader Christine Milne told reporters on Thursday.”A lot of the jobs of people working in electricity generation are transferable to constructing and maintaining renewable energy systems as well.”The Greens have pinpointed the closure of the Hazelwood and Anglesea power stations, which they say are among the dirtiest in Victoria.Senator Milne said there was already an oversupply on the Victorian grid and the phase-out would have no effect on supply.”The Australian Energy Market Operators are saying that there is too much energy in the system,” Senator Milne said.”My question for Denis Napthine is: is AEMO wrong when they say there is 2200 megawatts excess capacity in the system?”…….
          Senator Milne said the closure of coal-fired power was inevitable and it should be a gradual phase-out rather than a rapid closure when the sites are no longer viable.”With huge excess power supply and last century technology they will become junk assets,” Senator Milne said.”After the fires in Morwell, Denis Napthine really needs to look at the impact of coal-fired power not just on the atmosphere but on the health of people.”


    November 22, 2014 Posted by | energy, Victoria | Leave a comment

    In Victoria’s State Election, Renewable energy a key issue in Macedon

    ballot-boxState election: Renewable energy a key Macedon issue, say environmentalist Matt Crossman 11/11/2014 A blanket ban on wind farms is out of step with community views, according to environmentalists who believe renewable energy will be among the issues to decide the marginal seat of Macedon in this month’s state election.

    The Macedon Ranges Sustainability Group (MRSG) and Friends of the Earth released a report on voters’ views at the site of a community-owned wind farm near Daylesford last Thursday.

    The report included results of a community survey, which found that 86 per cent of Macedon respondents supported community wind farms similar to those at Hepburn Wind.

    Almost 90 per cent of the 700 people surveyed believed communities should be able to develop their own wind facilities.

    A total of 97 per cent of respondents preferred renewable energy sources over fossil fuels.

    And 80 per cent of those aware of the state government’s anti-wind farm laws supported their repeal. The laws, introduced in 2011, banned wind farm projects in the Macedon Ranges, Otways and Dandenongs. Continue reading

    November 12, 2014 Posted by | politics, Victoria | Leave a comment

    Casltlemaine’s remarkable launch of a solar energy revolution

    text-community-energyRenewable energy: power to the people, SMH, November 3, 2014 Michael Green Chewton’s primary school, student population 40, perches on a hill above the houses of the small central Victorian town, which borders Castlemaine. Before the year is out, its red tin roof will be home to solar panels facing east and west, positioned to best offset its demand. The school is crowdfunding for a renewable energy system, by way of a new scheme called the People’s Solar.

    “Our savings won’t go back into the big bucket,” says principal Julie Holden. “They won’t be used for staffing and books.” She’s promising to fund environmental initiatives by students around the town instead, as well as more energy efficiency improvements for the buildings.

    Modest though its goal sounds, Chewton Primary is one front in a revolution. Continue reading

    November 4, 2014 Posted by | solar, Victoria | Leave a comment


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