Australian news, and some related international items

Immense coal mine “good for the environment” says fossil fuel lackey Resources Minister Matt Canavan

This Politician Reckons Australia’s Largest Coal Mine Will Actually Be Good For The Environment  March 23, 2017, Rob Stott BuzzFeed News Reporter, Australia  Australian resources minister Matt Canavan has defended the proposed Carmichael coal mine, saying it will actually have a positive effect on the environment. The mine, which would produce more than 60 million tonnes of coal per year and significantly contribute to global carbon emissions, is proposed for Queensland’s Galilee Basin.

March 23, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics | Leave a comment

Rooftop solar the unsung hero in recent South Australia blackouts.

 Regional home and business owners driving Australia’s solar energy boom, ABC PM By Angela Lavoipierre , 23 Mar 17 

“……….Rooftop solar panels do not necessarily power the buildings they are attached to.Most of the time, the power generated by those panels is sold straight back to the energy market.

Generous state-based schemes designed to tempt people into the market paid handsomely for that energy in the past, but those deals all but disappeared.

At another time in Australian history, that change might have had a chilling effect on solar uptake, but soaring energy prices have made sure that is not the case. To those who own their own homes, with mounting power bills, solar still looks pretty tempting, even if it is just for your own personal use. The rapid pace of growth in rooftop solar has slowed.

But Hugh Saddler, an energy analyst based at the Australian National University, said Australia could expect to see an ongoing boom in the uptake of small-scale solar for businesses.

“The steady or in more case rapid increase in the commercial sector is being driven to a significant degree by the steadily falling cost of installing a solar system,” Dr Saddler said.

There are currently industry-based schemes, paid for by consumers, to encourage businesses to go solar.

Dr Saddler predicts those schemes, once they end, could prove to be a hiccup in the growth of Australia’s solar industry, but little more. “I suppose one challenge will be whether it will still be an attractive investment when the small renewable energy scheme comes to an end and I’m sure that it will be because the prices are coming down all the time,” he said.

If 2.8 per cent does not sound like much, Dr Saddler makes the case that rooftop solar was the unsung hero in recent SA black outs. “If it hadn’t been for the rooftop solar making a very large contribution at about 4 o’clock in the afternoon … then that peak would have been about 7 per cent higher than the peak demand on the grid two hours later,” he said.

“And that would have roughly doubled the number of consumers that had to be cut off for load shedding.”

March 23, 2017 Posted by | solar, South Australia | Leave a comment

Huge savings predicted from Tasmania’s largest solar rooftop farm.

Proponents predict big savings from 4000-panel solar farm NICK CLARK, Mercury March 23, 2017 A $2 million solar farm, Tasmania’s largest, will inject power into the state’s grid during summer and save thousands of tonnes of greenhouse gases.

Proponent Nest Energy will place 4000 solar panels on the sawtooth roof of a former wool store in the Launceston suburb of Kings Meadows. Partner Mark Barnett said 15 people would be employed during construction with the project anticipated to be running by August. He said the privately funded project would produce about 1GWh of electricity a year – enough to fully power 200 homes.

It would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20,000 tonnes over the 35-year project life.

Mr Barnett said in winter the panels would produce enough for several businesses while in summer there would be 30 per cent excess electricity, which would be injected into the grid with the company receiving a feed-in tariff. “The building tenants will receive their power at a significant discount while the building owner will realise an improved building value so it’s a fabulous win/win” he said.

Mr Barnett said the project had been two years in the planning. He said a drop in the price of renewable components coinciding with a trend of rising power prices, meant there was plenty of opportunity for further projects, especially in agriculture. Treasurer Peter Gutwein said the project demonstrated an increased level of confidence in the northern Tasmanian economy.

March 23, 2017 Posted by | solar, Tasmania | Leave a comment

Victoria and South Australia embrace grid-scale storage for power reliability

Two Australian states embrace grid-scale storage for power reliability, Dive Brief:

  • Two Australian states are ramping up energy storage to address rising electricity costs and rolling blackouts, according to media reports.
  • In South Australia, the government says it will hold a competitive solicitation for a 100 MW battery storage installation and construct a 250 MW gas plant, according to Energy Storage News reports.
  • The state of Victoria is also investing $20 million in an effort to boost energy storage to 100 MW by the end of next year, ABC News reports.
Dive Insight:The government announcements come days after Tesla told South Australia officials that it could install a 100 MW battery system in 100 days that would solve the state’s power problems.

South Australia has been suffering from rolling blackouts brought about by high heat and a lack of baseload power. The situation has attracted developers like ZEN Energy and Tesla, who say that battery storage could go a long way toward integrating renewables into the state’s grid and solving grid instability problems.

South Australia officials also announced plans for a 250 MW gas-fired generator to act as backup for intermittent renewables.

Officials said the gas plant would be turned on only when power shortfalls are forecasted, according to ABC. A bill is reportedly in the works to give the state energy minister more control over power dispatch, after criticisms of the Australian grid operator stemming from the power outages.

Victoria, meanwhile, is looking at a range of energy storage solutions, including batteries, pumped hydro storage and solar thermal technology. The $20 million investment will come on top of a separate $5 million solicitation for a 20 MW energy storage system issued last month.

March 23, 2017 Posted by | South Australia, storage, Victoria | Leave a comment

Solar energy should be priced fairly, recognising its many benefits

Avoided transmission costs…… Reduced distribution costs… Reduced CO2 emissions…. Health benefits…… Retailing costs….. Additional benefits

A fair price for rooftop solar? Try 10-18c/kWh REnedweconomy, By  on 20 March 2017

This is the first of a series of articles produced by the fair value for distributed generation project. In this article we explain the background to the project and the basis for our calculation that local rooftop solar is currently worth in the range of 10-18c/kWh when all the network, environmental and health benefits are taken into account. Continue reading

March 23, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, solar | Leave a comment

Australia’s urgent need for long-term planning on energy, especially on energy efficiency

Gas crisis? Energy crisis? The real problem is lack of long-term planning, The Conversation,  Senior Industry Fellow, RMIT University, March 20, 2017 “……The long view

When we consider the long term, we must recognise that we need to slash our carbon emissions. So coal is out, as is any overall expansion of natural gas production.

Luckily, we have other affordable long-term solutions. The International Energy Agency, as well as Australian analysts such as ClimateWorks and Beyond Zero Emissions, see energy efficiency improvement as the number-one strategy – and in many cases, it actually saves us money and helps to offset the impact of higher energy prices. Decades of cheap gas and electricity mean that Australian industry, business and households have enormous potential to improve energy efficiency, which would save on cost.

We can also switch from fossil gas to biogas, solar thermal and high-efficiency renewable electricity technologies such as heat pumps, micro-filtration, electrolysis and other options.

Renewable energy (not just electricity) can supply the rest of our needs. Much to the surprise of many policymakers, it is now cheaper than traditional options and involves much less investment risk. Costs are continuing to fall.

But we need to supplement renewable energy with energy storage and smart demand management to ensure reliable supply. That’s where options such as pumped hydro storage, batteries and heat-storage options such as molten salt come in.

This is why the crisis is more political than practical. The solutions are on offer. It will become much more straightforward if politicians free themselves from being trapped in the past and wanting to prop up powerful incumbent industries.

March 23, 2017 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Historic time for Australia’s solar energy movement

25 years on, solar industry finds itself in midst of historic moment, REneweconomy
By Nigel Morris on 20 March 2017 
Every now and again if you are really lucky, you get to observe what’s going on around you and bear witness to history in the making, a unique event or occurrence that is unlikely to ever happen again or something representative of a small milestone in mankind’s history.

I’ve been called “The Big Kev of Solar” for my gushing enthusiasm and excitement around solar energy, but bear with me for a minute.

A few months ago, the idea of holding a small party for twenty or thirty solar pioneers came to life. With a precedent at a similar US event, a small group of Australians figured it was time we celebrated too and on Friday night that came to life in Sydney.

We figured we had something a bit special on our hands when the numbers passed fifty, and by the time the doors opened almost eighty guests who had passed our 25 year minimum service requirement for entry steadily streamed in…..

Our event was designed to celebrate not only what happened, but more importantly, where are today and where we are headed. The fact that every single person in that room (and many more who couldn’t make it) had contributed in their own small way made it a joyful, exciting and genuinely uplifting experience.

We heard countless fascinating stories about key events in the formative years of the industry but also bore witness to the continuation of this work through common threads, right up to today……

This event was also a great reminder that the solar industry is a wonderfully diverse and eclectic mix of people and disciplines.

We have the world’s best solar scientists. We have leading, highly innovative manufacturers. We have forward thinking and genuinely visionary leaders. And of course we have steadfast, reliable and hard working people who pull it all together and get it sold and installed.

There were also some thought provoking observations about our group and the trials, tribulations and success that have occurred.

Almost without exception everyone in the room has managed to make a living, bring up their families and survive off the proceeds of solar energy for more than two decades; no small feat on its own.

However, only a very tiny proportion have made substantial money from our industry and even less have managed to hang on to any wealth, typically re-investing it and doubling down if they were so lucky to have made it in the first place.

One observer of the event highlighted to me that there is also a bit of a consistent theme when you look at the people who qualified as solar pioneers.

“In the majority of cases, solar pioneers are not the owners of mass market highly successful solar companies in Australia. They seem to have a habit of bouncing between companies or business opportunities that are typically just ahead of the curve which sadly prevents them from reaping huge financial rewards and stranding them in the perpetually volatile world of high risk start-ups. That’s not necessarily a bad thing or a problem, but it is a shame.”……

March 23, 2017 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Japan holds nuclear war evacuation drill

Japanese schoolchildren hold first nuclear war evacuation drill amid fears Kim Jong-un will unleash salvo of missiles after rocket tests Sirens blared and loudspeakers broadcast warnings in Japan’s first civilian missile evacuation amid fears of imminent North Korean attack

March 23, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Trump administration to review decades-old US aim of world without nuclear weapons

Donald Trump’s administration to review decades-old US aim of world without nuclear weapons, The Independent, Policy review under way as US opposes proposed UN treaty on a global nuclear weapons ban Lizzie Dearden  @lizziedearden  Donald Trump’s administration is to review whether the US will keep its policy of nuclear disarmament.

Christopher Ford, the National Security Council’s senior director for weapons of mass destruction and counter-proliferation, said an assessment of US policy will examine whether the aim was “realistic”.

“Like all administrations we’re reviewing policy across the board, and that necessarily includes whether or not the goal of a world without nuclear weapons is in fact a realistic objective, especially in the near to medium term, in the light of current trends in the international security environment,” he told the Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference.

“It’s too early to say what the answers will be – looking at things with fresh eyes is not saying we will necessarily end up with different positions.”

Mr Ford said there was a “tension” between the goal of nuclear disarmament and the security requirements of the US and its allies.

He argued that the “headspace” for reducing nuclear arsenals had diminished in the years since the Cold War and cuts by the US and Russia seemed unlikely while other nuclear states continue development.

Mr Trump “will not accept a second place position in the nuclear weapons arena” but is open to broader engagement with Russia on the issue, Mr Ford said. He added that the current “threat environment” had changed substantially from when the review that established America’s current aims took place under Barack Obama in 2010.

The nuclear adviser said the Trump administration would continue American opposition to a “dangerous and misbegotten” proposed treaty to ban nuclear weapons.

UN member states voted overwhelmingly to start negotiations on a “legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination” last year.

A conference on the issue will be held in New York starting on 27 March but the treaty was opposed by nuclear powers including the US, Britain, Russia, France and Israel.

Mr Trump has not made any official policy statement on nuclear weapons but has touched on the issue repeatedly in his speeches and tweets.

Questioned about his warm statements towards Vladimir Putin at a press conference in February, the President warned that war between the US and Russia would be a “nuclear holocaust like no other”……..

March 23, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Questions, from Republicans, on Donald Trump’s mental stability

Republicans Close To Trump Say President Is Showing Signs Of Mental Illness By  , Mar 20th, 2017 
Republican strategist and MSNBC contributor Nicolle Wallace said that people outside of the administration who have spent time with Trump said that the president is showing signs of paranoia and delusion over his belief that Obama wiretapped him.

Wallace said, “I sense that they have no plans today of walking away from this claim. This is still the president’s belief. Some folks still close to the president, but not on the White House staff said it’s a word I can’t say on family-friendly TV, but the initials are B and S. Another person who spent time with the president this weekend in Florida said it was signs of paranoia and delusion around this idea that he’s so right. Interestingly, he has sought to have people outside the government corroborate this wiretapping claim, which either suggests this observation of paranoia and delusion is in fact operation or extreme ignorance of all the powers at his disposal and all the investigative powers of the federal government.”

These are Republicans close to Trump who claimed that the President Of The United States is paranoid, delusional, and believes that Obama wiretapped him. Wallace’s comments on MSNBC were a statement that the President might be mentally ill.

Before anyone asks, the constitutional standard for the removal of a president contains no discussion of mental fitness. It would be difficult to nearly impossible to remove Trump from office due to mental illness. It would have to be demonstrated that Trump is physically unable to perform the job of president.

The Trump claim that Obama wiretapped him was not some brilliant diversion. Trump’s belief that Obama spied on him is the mark of a paranoid, and mentally ill president.

March 23, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

How nuclear apologists mislead the world over radiation

Fukushima 311 Watchdogs

George Monbiot and others at best misinform and at worst distort evidence of the dangers of atomic energy


A girl is screened in Iitate, about 40km from the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant, where high levels of radiation have been detected.

From Monday 11 April 2011

Soon after the Fukushima accident last month, I stated publicly that a nuclear event of this size and catastrophic potential could present a medical problem of very large dimensions. Events have proven this observation to be true despite the nuclear industry’s campaign about the “minimal” health effects of so-called low-level radiation. That billions of its dollars are at stake if the Fukushima event causes the “nuclear renaissance” to slow down appears to be evident from the industry’s attacks on its critics, even in the face of an unresolved and escalating disaster at the reactor complex at Fukushima.

Proponents of nuclear power – including George…

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March 23, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment