All solar fans’ eyes were turned to the budget this week as Treasurer Wayne “The Knife” Swan brought down his sixth budget (gee doesn’t time fly Swanny?). So how did solar energy (and renewables in general) fare in the Budget? Did we do OK ? Or was it a case of solar energy being once again the target as cuts are made? [Read more...]
As the Federal Budget approaches, renewable energy supporters — including solar power fans — tend to get a bit twitchy. You know the deal folks, Julia “The Ranga Boss Lady” Gillard tells Wayne “The Knife” Swan that we’re not getting enough revenue from the carbon tax and to go find some more.
The Knife then goes through the options: Tax polluters more? Pop round Gina “The Big G” place with the hat asking for more shekels Oliver Twist-style? Try another, fairer, mining tax? [Read more...]
photo credit: flickr - kateausburn
Unless you’ve been living a hermit’s existence with no access to news outlets, the Internet or NSW premier Barry “Bumper” O’Farrell’s rants you’ll have heard the constant chorus “Frack Off!” being directed at the (not-so-green) gas industry led by AGL. The choice insult refers of course to the gas industry’s latest controversial method of extracting gas by fracturing deeply buried rock using a pressurised fluid. [Read more...]
As I sit here writing this week’s rant, we are (it seems) in the middle of one of the worst heatwaves ever to strike the continent. Characterised by indecently high temperatures, bushfires and breathless “on the spot” news reporters, the harsh weather is crossing the land from west to east, north to south. [Read more...]
Australian waste management group Veolia Environment Services are very proud of themselves this week as they prepare to celebrate the installing of their brand-new, state-of-the-art solar powered energy source at its Arndell Park facility in NSW.
On Feb.23, the company will be hosting a knees-up to mark the recent installation of the 50 kW solar panel system, which has been added as part of the company’s drive towards boosting its renewable energy source. The project — in collaboration with BP Solar and installed by Solar Technology — is a key part of the Blacktown Solar City project, described, a little breathlessly in a company press release of Feb. 14, as being derived from “…a $94 million Australian Government initiative to help lay the foundations of a sustainable energy future.”
Not sure how many SolarQuotes readers caught this fascinating Radio National discussion during the week. Amongst a number of issues raised, it gave a number of insights into the problems facing how Australian governments deal with solar power incentives.
Hosted by Waleed Aly with guests Matthew Wright, executive director of the renewable energy action group Beyond Zero Emissions, and Tony Wood, energy program director at the Grattan Institute, the discussion also included a brief cameo appearance by phone from the ACT’s minister for sustainable development, Simon Corbell.
News that the Perth-based renewable energy company Hyperion Energy is planning to build a solar tower in mid-west Western Australia sent your correspondent scurrying to the research files this week.
According to the company website, Hyperion have purchased a 127,000 hectare site near the town of Tuckanarra. The site is near mines and an airport and is judged to have a low risk of natural disasters such as earthquakes or cyclones. Chiefly though, the main advantage of the site for the location of a solar tower is the “horizon solar radiation of 2300MJ/m2″ (read huge), according to the company.
The theory behind the solar tower technology sounds simple enough. A flat, large expanse of a greenhouse-like material is spread around the base of a tall tower. When the sun heats the air under the material it rises (remember your science?) and as such has only one place where it can go: the central solar tower (see diagram). The hot air is forced through the narrow space of the tower where it causes a wind which turns a number of turbines inside the tower.
Hyperion points to three key advantages of solar tower technology over other forms of tapping the sun’s energy.
Fascinating article this. The UK’s only Green MP, Caroline Lucas, takes to the pages of The Guardian to launch a broadside against the UK Government’s investment policy in relation to solar energy.
The UK Government this week lost an appeal in the High Court against a lower court’s ruling that its retrospective attempt to change the solar feed-in tariff rates imposed by the previous Labour Government was “legally flawed”. The Cameron Government had tried to reduce the rates before the agreed consultation period had expired.
The announcement last month from R&D company Silex Systems that construction on Australia’s largest solar power station at Mildura, VIC, has begun gladdens the heart. And the hip pocket nerve. After all Victorian and federal taxpayers are helping to fund this venture to the tune of around $120 million.
This year should be the year that renewables start to take off in Australia:
- We will have a carbon tax in place that will support renewable energy and overseas money is starting to flow in.
- Large scale solar is finding funding, following the trend from overseas.
- Chinese production of solar panels is bringing the cost of solar energy rapidly down towards that of fossil fuels.
But there is one factor that governments, both federal and state, need to provide: stability.
The solar industry needs to sense that financial support given in one year won’t be withdrawn the next when the going gets tough or when a newly-elected government reverses the previous government’s solar policy just because they can.
Certainly in the case of solar energy the governments’ efforts to forecast costs got an “F” grade this year. In a New Year’s resolution that we think makes complete sense, the Australian Solar Energy Society (AuSES) has promised to carefully watch over the government’s solar forecasting in 2012 on behalf of the nation’s solar industry. Reading between the lines it seems AuSES is none too pleased with the end-of-year report card for government forecasting agencies.
“As a national voice for Australia’s solar industry, the Australian Solar Energy Society has made a New Year’s resolution: to work more closely with Government agencies to ensure there’s no repeat of the 2011 solar forecast mistakes,” the society said in a recent release.
This brings an image of government forecasters sitting in class rooms watched over by AuSES teachers. The solar forecasters, gazing out into the playground where their fellow number crunchers are all playing, before looking down and writing: “I must not bugger up the solar forecasts again” 100 times.
Am I being too harsh here? After all a forecast is just as it states: a forecast. But surely it should have some relation to the outcomes?
The AuSES release points to four key areas where forecasts had to be speedily revised to bring them to within a bull’s roar of real outcomes.
1. The Productivity Commission’s overstating of the cost of solar subsidies per tonne of CO2, forcing it to revise down the cost of solar subsidies from $431-$1041 to $177-$497.
2. The Energy White Paper, released by the federal government, which overstated solar’s cost by a factor of three.
3. The Treasury Department’s estimate that the country would have around 9 gigawatts of solar by 2050. However 1.2 gigawatts has already been installed, with yearly installations increasing ten fold since 2009.
4. The NSW Government, led by Barry “The Terminator” O’Farrell, forced to revise the cost of the state’s solar bonus scheme down by nearly a quarter.
Hardly inspiring is it? No wonder AuSES chief executive John Grimes described 2011 as “a horrible year for government solar forecasting”. And why are the forecasts always so against the interests of the solar industry? Is the reason for the solar forecasting simply the innocent result of a culture of excessive drinking and partying in our state and federal capitals? Or are there other motives at work?
There you go folks, a nice little conspiracy theory to kick off the year. Wishing you all a safe, happy and productive New Year.