Australian news, and some related international items

The Waubra anti-wind power campaign still lives!

Can wind turbines make you sick? Debate divides tiny Victorian town of Waubra, ABC Radio, PM  By Danny Tran, 24 Mar 17, In the sleepy Victorian town of Waubra, a bitter feud over wind power is driving a wedge between neighbours and friends.

Key points:

  • There are 79 wind farms in Australia and more than 2,000 turbines producing 5 per cent of the nation’s electricity
  • Waubra’s own wind farm is one of the largest in Australia, with 128 turbines on the properties of 37 farmers
  • Wind turbine syndrome describes symptoms a small number of people claim arise from living near wind farms

About two hours north-west of Melbourne, Waubra produces enough electricity from its wind turbines to power two of Victoria’s largest regional cities.

But after almost a decade of operating, wind power remains a painful issue in the town, which is only home to about 500 people.

Waubra is so synonymous with wind power that opponents have christened the so-called illness that some claim comes with living near turbines “Waubra disease”.

The town might be at loggerheads over whether wind can make you sick, but what does the science say?

What is wind turbine syndrome?

Waubra disease, better known as wind turbine syndrome, describes a range of symptoms a small number of people claim arise from living near wind farms, ranging from headaches to nausea.

It was first coined in 2009 by New York paediatrician Dr Nina Pierpont, who claimed wind turbines disrupted the inner-ear through inaudible, low-frequency vibrations.

The claims were rubbished by science and health bodies across the world, but anti-wind power groups seized on Dr Pierpont’s claims, which quickly spread to Australia.

Experts dismiss wind turbine syndrome as the result of a “nocebo” effect, where negative expectations of symptoms can amplify an actual negative effect — the opposite of a placebo.

But that hasn’t stopped Waubra locals from taking a side………

the Australian Medical Association’s Victorian president, Dr Lorraine Barker, said that anxiety over being near wind turbines can cause symptoms of its own.

“There is no indication that infrasound, for instance, could induce the symptoms … [but] anxiety certainly can,” Dr Barker said.

“Noises that are continuous in the background can be irritating, so that level of irritation may affect someone if they are standing very close to a wind turbine.

“However, infrasound, or the sound that is beyond the detection of the human ear, is not believed to cause harm to humans.”

March 25, 2017 Posted by | Victoria, wind | 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

Malcolm Turnbull talks up his grand Snowy Hydro energy scheme, “better than solar and batteries”

Malcolm Turnbull says Snowy Hydro plan will outdo South Australian battery storage
PM says plan would turn Snowy Hydro into energy storage system but Labor says proposal leaves unanswered questions, Guardian, 
, 16 Mar 17, Malcolm Turnbull has used his expansion plans for the Snowy Hydro to try to outdo South Australia on battery storage, saying it would provide 20 times the capacity of the battery system proposed by the premier, Jay Weatherill. Continue reading

March 17, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, energy, New South Wales, politics, Victoria | Leave a comment

Daylesford’s community renewable energy success

Renewables roadshow: how Daylesford’s windfarm took back the power
In the first of a series about Australian communities building renewable energy projects, we look at how Victoria’s Hepburn Shire overcame local opposition to deliver a new homegrown, community-owned generator,
Guardian, , 15 Mar 17 From the fertile spud-growing country of Hepburn Shire, 90km northwest of Melbourne, has sprung what many hope will become a revolution in renewable energy in Australia.

On Leonards Hill, just outside the town of Daylesford – famed for its natural springs – stand two wind turbines that not only power the local area, but have also added substantial power to the community-owned renewable energy movement in Australia.

The turbines, cheesily called Gusto and Gale, constitute the very first community-owned windfarm in Australia. It borrows the idea from a long tradition of community-owned power that was forgotten in Australia, but lives on strongly in Denmark.

“In Denmark there’s over 2,100 versions of this,” says Taryn Lane, the community manager for Hepburn Wind, the cooperative that owns and operates the windfarm. “Their model – this way of owning your own energy generator locally – emerged in the late 70s, so they have been doing it for decades.” .

It was at a community meeting for a large corporate-owned windfarm, like the one near Hepburn, that the idea for Hepburn Wind emerged…….

the group had overwhelming local support. “We are a cooperative of 2,007 members,” says Lane. “They’ve contributed just under $10m.”

The majority of the investors are from the local region, something the cooperative has written into its rules.Paul Howden is one of them. As with most investors in community-owned renewable energy, his motivations were a mix of hard-nosed financial ones, and the desire to do a bit of good. “Partly, obviously because it’s a renewable energy project,” he says, explaining his investment. “But also because we thought it was a good and wise investment for our super fund.

“This is a win-win for both the environment [and] the community.”

One of the things that made him confident that the project was a good investment, he says, was the level of community support it received, and the passion of the people running it.

But beyond the construction of the 4.1MW windfarm – enough to power about 2,300 households – Hepburn Wind pioneered the modern large-scale community-ownership model of renewable energy in Australia, which is now being replicated around the country.

Simon Holmes à Court was the founding chairman of Hepburn Wind. And after spending years developing a model that worked, and navigating the various logistical potholes in getting it up and running, he set up Embark, a non-profit company dedicated to helping other community energy projects adopt the Hepburn model.

Several projects around the country have received advice and support from Embark, including Pingala, which gathered locals in Sydney’s Newtown to build a solar array on the top of a brewery, and the Sydney Renewable Power Company, which recently built Australia’s largest CBD solar farm.

But back in Hepburn shire, not satisfied with the windfarm, the residents are expanding the renewables in their area.

By a picturesque lake in Daylesford, where locals go to swim and cool off, is an antique hydro generator, which used to power a few homes around the lake, and the lake’s lights. “It kept the lake area electrified,” says Lane.

In February, that was made possible when the energy retailer that buys Hepburn Wind’s electricity – Powershop – announced it had crowdfunded more than $100,000 for community-owned renewable energy projects, and one project that would receive a slice of it was Hepburn Wind’s hydro project.

“The original size was 13kWs or just under,” says Lane. “And we will look to somewhere between there and maybe up to 40kWs if we can put a side-by-side motor next to it.”

She says that will be enough to power about eight to 12 houses – not a huge amount, but it’s an easy win.

And with Hepburn shire adding its name to a growing list of councils shooting to reduce their emissions to zero, every bit counts. Says Lane: “At Hepburn Wind we really want to play our role in helping our community reach zero net emissions.”

March 17, 2017 Posted by | Victoria, wind | Leave a comment

Clean Energy Finance Corporation funding 3 big solar energy projects

CEFC tips another $70m into big solar, as market confidence soars, REneweconomy, 

The three projects, which are being developed by Edify Energy alongside international renewable energy investor Wirsol, include the Whitsunday and Hamilton Solar Farms in Queensland, both 57.5MW, and the Gannawarra Solar Farm in Victoria, at 50MW.

The “benchmark” financing deal – announced on Monday – commits the CEFC, the Commonwealth Bank and Germany’s NORD/LB to a syndicated senior debt facility to support the three projects, with Edify and Wirsol are providing equity. Continue reading

March 15, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Queensland, solar, Victoria | Leave a comment

Solar panels set for Victorian prisons

VICTORIA’S prisons are going green, with solar panels set to be rolled out in a bid to reduce inmates’ carbon footprint. (subscribers only)

March 11, 2017 Posted by | solar, Victoria | Leave a comment

Victoria’s opportunity for profitable leadership in community renewable energy

text-community-energyRenewable power to the people could reap profits in Victoria, The Age, Benjamin Preiss , 6 Mar 17   Electricity bill shock has become a distant problem for residents in Soren Hermansen’s hometown in Denmark. It is far more likely they will receive a cheque in the mail for their power on Samso Island.  The island is carbon neutral and runs on renewable energy, with power and profits flowing back into the community.

Now Mr Hermansen travels the world championing community-owned power generation methods. Most recently he was in Victoria discussing with local communities how they can harness the power of the sun, wind and other renewable sources.

Last week Mr Hermansen spent a day in the Latrobe Valley meeting with residents who are concerned about how their communities will cope once the Hazelwood power station and mine close at the end of this month.

On Samso most of the wind turbines are mostly owned by locals. The island is powered by 11 onshore and 10 offshore wind power turbines, a solar plant and three straw-fired plants………..

Mr Hermansen believes Victoria is ripe with opportunities for community renewable energy generation, including the Latrobe Valley.

He suggested the Latrobe Valley could form part of a renewable energy distribution hub, capitalising on existing infrastructure and skills.

Latrobe City mayor Kellie O’Callaghan said Mr Hermansen’s visit was a “natural extension” of discussions already taking place in the community.

She agreed the Latrobe Valley already offered sound energy distribution infrastructure and expertise that could translate well into the community renewable energy projects.

Cr O’Callaghan said an “employee transition centre” set up to deal with the looming closure of Hazelwood had already included a “vision” for community-owned and operated energy generation.

“It is based in a firm belief community ownership means no longer being subject to the commercial whims of a large multinational company,” she said.

Mr Hermansen said the Hepburn Wind project in near Daylesford was proof that community energy was viable in Victoria. Hepburn Wind is a community owned wind farm with two turbines producing enough power for 2000 homes.

March 6, 2017 Posted by | energy, Victoria | Leave a comment

Solar farms to benefit farmers in Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo areas

solar-panels-and-moneySolar farms: ‘Farming sun, instead of wheat’ KATH SULLIVAN, The Weekly Times March 2, 2017

THREE solar farms with the ability to generate enough electricity to power Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo will be built in northwest Victoria this year.

A $500 million investment by Australian-owned Overland Sun Farming and ­London-based Island Green Power will see construction at Wemen, Iraak and Yatpool.

Two hundred jobs are expected to be created in the construction phase, which will begin in the second quarter.

Each solar farm is expected to begin producing energy from January 1 next year.

Overland chief executive Brett Thomas said he had worked with landholders and local government for three years to develop the plans.

He said each farm would cover up to 300ha, with farmers paid for use of the land — typically wheat and grazing country — for up to 30 years. “It provides a strong off-farm income for farmers,” Mr Thomas said, likening the project to primary production.“We’re farming sun, instead of wheat,” he said.

Mr Thomas described the technology as “relatively simple, the same as roof tops” however solar panels would use mechanical trackers to move east to west and follow the sun.

Mildura Development Corporation chair Jenny Grigg described the project as “massive” for the region.“It’s a great regional development opportunity,” Ms Grigg said.She said she expected that up to $30 million would be spent in the local economy during the construction phase of the farms.

March 3, 2017 Posted by | business, solar, Victoria | Leave a comment

Victorian government more than doubles solar-feed-in tariff

Parkinson-Report-Victoria solar feed-in tariff more than doubles to 11.3c/kWh, REneweconomy,By  on 28 February 2017 More than 130,000 solar households in Victoria will benefit from a steep increase in their solar feed-in tariff in 2017/18, and will receive a minimum 11.3c/kWh for their exports back to the grid, up from 5c/kWh currently.

The hefty increase announced by the Essential Services Commission on Tuesday is the result of a big rise in wholesale prices, and the Victoria Labor government’s instruction to include an implicit carbon price, network benefits and environmental benefits into the tariff. Continue reading

March 1, 2017 Posted by | solar, Victoria | Leave a comment

Fairfax press tones down its “radioactive cow ‘” story, (caves in to Victorian government)

cow-radioactiveRadioactive cow site no cause for alarm, says state government,  The Age Carolyn Webb, Mark Hawthorne , 27  Feb 17 

Revelations of radioactive cow carcasses buried beneath land slated for a $20 billion education precinct in Melbourne’s west should be no cause for alarm, the state government says.

Fairfax Media revealed on Sunday 60 carcasses were buried at a Werribee site the government was trying to sell to a Chinese consortium.

Documents obtained by Fairfax Media estimated the cost of cleaning up the radioactive waste could reach $300 million.

Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio did not deny the 775-hectare site was contaminated by toxic waste. But she said a more recent report to be released publicly shortly indicated there had been no flow-on contamination.

“I can assure everyone that with the more recent report into the extent of the contamination of that land … indicates that there is no cause for concern in terms of contamination to ground water in the effects beyond the actual area of the land itself.”

A consortium called Investors Direct is the last remaining bidder on the site, which includes parts of the old State Research Farm, laboratories and veterinary schools, where for decades there was scientific testing on animals.   Investors Direct, with former premier John Brumby an adviser, plans to build an Australian Education City, home to 80,000 residents  and 50,000 students on land adjoining the planned new youth detention centre.

Documents obtained by Fairfax Media estimated the cost of cleaning up the radioactive waste could reach $300 million, with a further $770 million required to removed thousands more cow carcasses considered a biological hazard…….

February 27, 2017 Posted by | environment, Victoria | Leave a comment

Radioactive cows buried in Werribee, Victoria

According to the environmental report, in a worst-case scenario, “some radioactive isotopes may have entered surface water or groundwater”, in which case up to 130,000 cubic metres of contaminated soil would have to be excavated, and disposed of off-site.

That is the equivalent of 8125 standard dump truck loads of radioactive material travelling through Melbourne’s western suburbs, and would add $770 million to the clean-up bill, taking the total cost to $1.07 billion.

The report notes that the burial pits are “unsuitable to remain within the developed site beneath structures or anywhere within sites used for sensitive uses”. One of areas used to bury animal carcasses is now the site of a student residence.

cow-radioactiveA sewage farm. A youth detention centre. Now meet Werribee’s radioactive cows Mark Hawthorne, Senior Editor 

Sixty radioactive cow carcasses are buried beneath land in Werribee that the Andrews government is trying to sell to a Chinese consortium keen to build a $20-billion education precinct in Melbourne’s west.

Documents obtained by Fairfax Media estimate the cost of cleaning up the radioactive waste could reach $300 million, with a further $770 million required to remove thousands more cow carcasses that are considered a biological hazard. Even conservative estimates put the cost of the clean up at $35 million.

Investors Direct is the exclusive bidder on the 775-hectare site, which includes parts of the old State Research Farm, laboratories and veterinary schools, where scientific testing on animals was conducted for decades.

The consortium, which has former Victorian premier John Brumby as an adviser, plans to build Australian Education City – a precinct that will be home to 80,000 residents and 50,000 students – on land that adjoins the site of the planned new Youth Detention Centre.

Fairfax Media can reveal the Victorian state government and VicUrban were told that radioactive cow carcasses were buried on four hectares of land in Werribee in early 2009, when Mr Brumby was premier. Another burial pit, which contains the remains of non-radioactive cows, is located on the site of the planned detention centre.

Coffey Environment completed a phase 1 environmental assessment report on the Werribee site in March 2009. The report found that “animals that have been subjected to testing with radioactive tracer dyes” were buried at the site. The report lists the cow carcasses as a “possible biological and radiological hazard” and says the contamination could impact both soil and groundwater.

The report states that “the tracer dye used was predominantly tritium” which “has a half-life of approximately 12 years”. Continue reading

February 27, 2017 Posted by | environment, Victoria | Leave a comment

Victoria’s ground-breaking climate change bill passed into law on 24 February



Has Australia’s mainstream media not noticed this? And if so, why so?


Victoria-sunny.psdAustralian state passes bill to reduce emissions to zero by 2050,  By Charlotte McLaughlinFeb 24, 2017, The southern Australian state of Victoria passed the climate change bill yesterday. The legislature of Victoria, Australia has passed a climate change bill committing the state to reduce emissions to zero by 2050. Achieving this would imply phasing out super-pollutants like hydroflurocarbons (HFCs).

HFCs are some of the fastest-growing climate pollutants. R404A, an HFC commonly used in refrigeration and air-conditioning, has a global warming potential (GWP) of 3,922 (in other words, 3,922 times that of carbon dioxide).

The Victoria bill sets out how to achieve the long-term target by “determining the amount of total greenhouse gas emissions attributable to the State, including any removals of greenhouse gas emissions from the atmosphere due to activities within the State; and (b) deducting from that amount any eligible offsets from outside of the State”.

Options for reducing emissions to zero may see Victoria take part in an emissions trading scheme or introduce carbon capture measures.

The state government will determine targets for each year once they have received feedback from experts on how to achieve this ambitious goal. It will then give relevant departments and local government “a description of actions” that they need to achieve over the next five years to work towards the goal of reducing emissions completely.

Extreme weather nudging Australia in right direction

The legislation marks an important step for Australia on climate change, whose federal and state governments have been traditionally hesitant to act.

The conservative Liberal Party and the primarily rural-based National Party, who control the national government, revoked Australia’s carbon trading scheme two years ago.

Australia is also the least-active country among the biggest global economies that make up the G20 when it comes to climate protection, according to a 2016 report from Climate Transparency, an NGO.

Public opinion is shifting in the wake of Australia experiencing record temperatures of over 47oC in the past few weeks. A recent poll by Essential Media puts the number of people who agree with the statement that “climate change is happening and is caused by human activity” at 60%.

According to Accelerate Australia & NZ reports that the federal government in Canberra will table an HFC phase-down plan by the end of next month and pass it by June of this year.

February 25, 2017 Posted by | climate change - global warming, Victoria | Leave a comment

World-first digital energy marketplace for rooftop solar launched by Australian consortium


The consortium is launching two pilot projects in the ACT and on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, each involving around 5,000 households. The projects are also being overseen by a reference group that includes the Australian Energy Market Operator, the Australian Energy Market Commission and Energy Consumers Australia.

Australian consortium launches world-first digital energy marketplace for rooftop solar

Pilot program will allow homeowners to tap into a network of ‘virtual’ power stations made up of smart grids of rooftop solar and batteries, Guardian, , 24 Feb 17, With that challenge in mind, in 2016, GreenSync got together with electricity network operators United Energy and ActewAGL, energy tech startup Reposit Power, and energy retailer Mojo under the auspices of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency’s A-Lab; an initiative that the Arena chief executive, Ivor Frischknecht, describes as an “innovation sandbox”. Arena contributed $450,000 towards the total project cost of $930,000.

What they came up with has yet to be done anywhere in the world: a network of “virtual” power stations made up smart grids of rooftop solar panels and batteries. Continue reading

February 24, 2017 Posted by | ACT, solar, Victoria | Leave a comment

Powershop electricity customers funding community renewable energy

solar-rooftopPowershop reveals cash for renewable projects from customers who paid more

Energy retailer raised $100,000 from customers, which will be given out as grants to community-owned energy projects,  Guardian, , 9 Feb 17, Amid fresh attacks on renewable energy targets from the federal government and large energy retailer ERM Power, smaller electricity retailer Powershop has raised $100,000 from its customers to be given out as grants to 10 community-owned projects around the country.

Three months ago Powershop launched the Your Community Energy initiative, where they gave customers the opportunity to pay higher rates, which it said would then be distributed to renewable energy projects that were community-owned.

Powershop aimed to raise $20,000 by the end of 2016 but, as of February 2017, it had raised $100,000.

One project – rooftop solar on the Centre for Education and Research in Environmental Strategies (Ceres) centre in Melbourne – has already received $10,000 from the initiative and used that to complete their 15 KW solar installation.

A spokeswoman for Ceres, Judy Glick, said the installation would save the community group $2,000 each year and reduce their yearly emissions by almost 16 tonnes of CO2. “Ceres is on a mission to achieve zero emissions by 2025,” she said.

Five other projects were also announced as recipients of a share of the money. Continue reading

February 10, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, solar, Victoria | Leave a comment

Australia’s national government falters on climate policy. Victoria races ahead

Victoria-sunny.psdVictoria steps up climate ambition. Turnbull takes two steps back, REneweconomy, By  on 30 January 2017

As an increasingly divided Turnbull government rules out any new policy tools to cut power sector emissions or boost renewable energy development, Victoria’s Labor government has upped the ante on climate action, pledging to cut state emissions by up to 20 per cent within three years on the road to its ultimate target of zero net emissions by 2050.

The new interim target, announced by Victoria’s energy and climate minister Lily D’Ambrosio on Sunday, aims to cut the state’s greenhouse gas emissions by between 15-20 per cent from 2005 levels by 2020.

Details on how the Andrews government aims to meet that target were released alongside the party’s Climate Change Framework, which maps out a plan to 2020 to put it on track for its 2050 goal.

As has been noted, the majority of the 2020 target will be met through the March closure of the state’s Hazelwood coal power station, following a decision made by the plant’s French owners, Engie, last year. But it will also require other cuts through energy efficiency and renewable energy programs.

The state has set renewable energy targets of 25 per cent by 2020 and 40 per cent by 2025, on which it is currently being advised by former ACT climate minister and renewables policy mastermind, Simon Corbell.

Adding to Victoria’s emissions reduction momentum will be the TAKE2 program – Australia’s first state government-led climate change pledging program, which calls on local governments, schools and businesses to take action to reduce emissions.

As part of the program, the Andrews government has pledged to reduce its reported emissions from government operations by 30 per cent below 2015 levels by 2020.

However it winds up being reached, the new target puts Victoria at the front of the pack on government climate ambition, further highlights the disconnect between the states and Canberra, and tightens the screws on a PM faced with renewed internal discord on climate and renewables.

In a speech at a Young Liberals conference in Adelaide on Sunday, former PM Tony Abbott­ called on Turnbull to scrap the RET – an electoral promise he himself was never able to fulfil – and said that the party’s “first big fight this year must be to stop any further mandatory use of renewable power.”

Frequent assurances from both Turnbull and Frydenberg that the national RET will not be increased, and the complete absence of any renewables target beyond 2020, suggest Abbott & Co have little to worry about on that count.

But according to a report released by Melbourne-based carbon consultancy RepuTex on Monday, the renewable targets set by Labor state governments in Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and the ACT are combining to effectively increase the federal RET to 35 per cent by 2030…….

February 1, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Victoria | Leave a comment