Renewable Energy Surge Could Power A New Industrial Australia

500% renewables for Australia

In spite of the best efforts of our government, Australia is going to overshoot 100% renewables.

That’s the conclusion of big names in renewables like Oliver Yates (inaugural CEO of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and former independent candidate for the federal seat of Kooyong), who yesterday told a Smart Energy Council online seminar we should “re-industrialise” Australia to make the best use of excess renewable energy.

Yates told the seminar that the renewable energy sector still faces a:

“tide of disbelief”, adding that “it’s time to call these fools out,” because “fundamental change is unstoppable, and any attempts to dismiss or ignore it will fail”.

Yates was joined in the webcast by Beyond Zero Emissions’ CEO Vanessa Petrie, and Michael Lord of the University of Melbourne’s Energy Transition Hub in the “500% Renewables: Australia’s Renewable Future” presentation.

Together, they want to “break the lie” that renewables will harm the economy (as facilitator, the Smart Energy Council’s John Grimes, told participants).

“How do we debunk this? How do we go further?” Grimes asked, now it’s clear that renewables will by 2050 power the economy for $13 per MWh less than electricity costs today, meaning the economy will get stronger, not weaker, on renewable energy.

By “re-industrialising” the country, Yates explained, advocates of the 500% renewables approach believe cheap renewable energy will attract the kinds of heavy industry that we have mostly farewelled.

“Australia and Australians now have a nation-making opportunity in front of us,” Yates said.

Petrie name-checked the technologies already available to operate industrial manufacturing without relying on coal or gas.

She said heat pumps are already starting to make headway for lower-temperature processes (up to 160°C). They’re more attractive to manufacturers in industries such as food manufacturing, and pulp and paper, because as a replacement for burning gas heat pumps have a two-year payback.

Electromagnetic heating is the candidate at the next step up, for temperatures up to 2,000°C – such approaches include microwave heating, UV, and induction heating, the latter of which has been used for decades.

Petrie offered brick-making as an application example: if microwave-assisted heating replaces gas, the manufacturer can double their output.

For processes up to 5,000°C (such as recycling steel and some cement manufacture), the electric furnace (an arc furnace) is a well-understood technology – it was popular for decades until the 1970s, when gas came into vogue.

And finally, the growth of the hydrogen economy will cover applications the other three technologies can’t support – steel forges, and ammonia manufacture for agriculture.

Why Would Manufacturing Return To Australia?

Yates offered a simple reason heavy industry could grow again in Australia: we will have an abundance of cheap renewable energy, but transporting energy is expensive, and as industrial process automation will erode China’s low-wage advantage.

Soon, renewables will be the “only form of energy” the global population will permit Yates said, so countries without plenty of renewable electricity will either “have to move heavy industry close to the source of power, or import clean energy”.

While lauding the $20 billion Sun Cable project led by Mike Cannon-Brookes to export renewable energy from the Northern Territory to Singapore, Yates stated:

“moving renewable energy is expensive … it’s cheaper to move production to where the energy is”.

Government, Yates said, could and should support renewable-driven heavy industry by creating “green industrial zones”.

With steel alone responsible for 7% of global greenhouse gas emissions, Michael Lord said it’s urgent to de-carbonise metals production, and:

“Australia is one of the best places to do this: not only have we got this abundance in renewable energy, we’ve got the metallic ores”.

With resources such as iron, bauxite, lithium, manganese, zinc, gold, titanium, and rare earths, it’s stupid to “export rocks” and let others do the clever stuff.

“We’re exporting the valuable non-renewable resource at the lowest point on its value chain”.

Petrie used manganese as an example of this: “manganese exports from Australia are worth $1 billion annually, “but adding the value [in Australia] brings it to $5 billion”.

How Much Energy Do We Need For ‘Green Industry’?

The sheer amount of energy demanded by industrial processes looks daunting – that’s why the campaign is dubbed “500% renewables”.

The goal of exporting a million tonnes of hydrogen, for example, demands 23 GW of renewables, which Yates said is considerably more than the 14.5 GW currently under construction. Producing Australia’s ammonia would need another half-million tonnes of hydrogen, or another 11 GW of renewable energy.

Then there’s the world’s appetite for ammonia: nearly 200 million tonnes annually, or 800 GW!

However, Yates stated, there’s nothing standing in the way of achieving the scale needed, except the public perception that renewable energy is difficult, unreliable, and expensive. He said Australia is:

“moving to a future where power is not a restricted resource”.

What’s needed is public education:

“we need to make sure people understand what the opportunity is”.

Lord said the world is:

“on the precipice of a huge avalanche in demand for low-carbon metals. “By and large in Australia we’re missing out on this opportunity”.

The Smart Energy Council has the Webinar recording online here.

About Richard Chirgwin

Richard Chirgwin is a journalist with more than 30 years' experience covering a wide range of technology topics, including electronics, telecommunications, computing and science.

Comments

  1. I would really like to see this as Australia’s future.Unfortunately our politicians and a large percentage of the population remain ignorant and are not willing to see what is staring them in the face. I believe the world will not wake up before we go passed th global warming tipping point. Depressing isn’t it.

  2. Ian Thompson says

    Sounds exciting Richard.

    But, I have to ask, what is meant by the term “100% renewables”? Does this mean that 100% of our ENERGY needs, with sufficient POWER to meets these for 100% of the time?
    The reason ask is that recently a solar vendor stated that we had recently achieved 100% renewables, so go buy their product – I had to assume they meant 100% POWER for a brief period around midday on a bright sunny and windy day with low demand (Sunday?).
    What gives?
    And the reason I say that, is that the NEM & WA Supply and Demand widget just now, shows that 20.5 GW of the 27 GW demand is presently being generated by coal and gas. In other words, only about 24% of our demand is being met by by renewables, which is only going to now reduce as the sun goes down.
    It would seem we have a long way to go, when we realise we are now approaching peak solar production, and we will have to also allow for considerable extra capacity to allow for this, and to cover perhaps several days in a row of overcast and/or calm wind conditions in mid-winter.
    We will have to have much, much more storage capacity installed and operating as well.
    By all means talk up renewables, but please let’s not exaggerate – this is going to take quite some time to achieve, and a lot of money.

    • Nice reply Ian. I have to agree with you.
      I have about 4kW of installed Solar power here. Not a lot considering most people it seems these days get the usual max of 6.6kW.

      The peak power I get at around midday is wonderful. More so in summer. But in winter the peak power is around a 1’4 of that. The average power though over the day is relatively low, which as you say, means we would need a much bigger solar install than 6.6kW.

      According to this web site https://www.aemo.com.au/Electricity/National-Electricity-Market-NEM/Planning-and-forecasting/Generation-information
      The total installed capacity of all generation in Australia is 53,000MW.
      Of that total, battery storage is just 211MW. Clearly a long way to go.

      • Ian Thompson says

        Thanks Glenn

        I guess we should lump in a small amount of Pumped Hydro to be completely fair – still doesn’t amount to much though.

        Have delayed responding, as I wanted to first access some generation data I’ve downloaded from my 5kW inverter – my system is 6.24kW, located in a suburb of Perth.

        Over May-June-July this year, my system reports generating 1.3+ MWhrs over 91 days = averaging merely 14.54 kWhr/day. Over 1 bill during this period, my total imports were 446 kWhr, and Exports 585 kWhr – so on the face of it, if I had sufficient storage I could be self-sufficient. I say “sufficient”, because I noted three days in a row where the daily generations were 1.6 kWhr, 9.31 kWh, and 13.73 kWhr – to have some (small) margin, I think I’d need a storage capacity of at least 2 times the 3-day deficit – near enough to 40 kWhr of batteries – but also a 3-phase inverter able to drive ~ 3kW per phase. Big $, and I haven’t checked (yet) if the batteries would be maintained from going flat under certain circumstances (longer term lower generation, for example).
        Summer is a lot better – the average generation for December-January-February was 39.64 kWhr – over that period my import was only 316 kWhr, with exports of 1904 kWhr – every day in this period well exceeded my total use, so batteries only needed to cover from mid-late afternoon until early-mid morning (overnight).

        Interesting you mention the total installed capacity of ALL generation in Australia is 53 GW. Typically, the Live Supply and Demand Widget reports total demand (and generation) around 26 GW (as now, for example). This would suggest the average utilisation of generators to be ~ 50% – but I’d bet my socks that some are a lot less than that. e.g. my 6.24 kW solar system has a nameplate rating of 24 x 6.24 = ~ 150 kWhr per day yet across winter it only produces 14.54 kWhr/day – a utilisation of only 9.7% …!

        Yes – we’ve got a long way to go.

  3. Randall Mathews says

    Hi Richard. Thanks for this encouragement.
    We run three 20 MW gas boilers continuously for three months generating steam for food processing. We’re a bit boggled by the idea of a two year payback on the heatpumps…
    Could you help us chase up big industrial heatpumps please?

    • Geoff Miell says

      Randall Mathews,
      A quick web search found this:

      “HIGH TEMPERATURE HEAT PUMPS for the Australian food industry: Opportunities assessment”, published by the Australian Alliance for Energy Productivity (A2EP), dated Aug 2017, which includes in the Executive Summary:

      “The purpose of this report was to define the likely feasibility, and range of applications for heat pumps in the food industry, with a focus on high temperature (HT) heat pumps delivering useful heat at 66°C-150°C.”
      See: https://www.airah.org.au/Content_Files/Industryresearch/19-09-17_A2EP_HT_Heat_pump_report.pdf

      It includes case study examples in various countries as well as in Australia. Appendix A includes a list of organisations and individuals that provided input to the report.

      And there’s also BZE’s “Electrifying Industry” report, dated Sep 2018.
      See: https://bze.org.au/wp-content/uploads/electrifying-industry-bze-report-2018.pdf

      Is that useful for you?

      Indicators I see suggest that global production of fossil natural gas is likely to peak in the 2020s.

      Per “BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2019”, in the year 2018, the US was the world’s largest gas producer (at 21.5% global share), and with the world’s fifth largest proved gas reserves (6.0% global share) yet had an estimated proved reserves-to-production (R/P) of only 14.3 years from the end of 2018. At the same time, Australia was the world’s seventh largest gas producer (at 3.4% global share), and with the world’s fifteenth largest proved gas reserves (1.2% global share) yet had an estimated R/P of only 18.4 years.
      See: https://www.bp.com/en/global/corporate/news-and-insights/press-releases/bp-statistical-review-of-world-energy-2019.html
      Also: https://shalebubble.org/

      Exporting more of Australia’s gas resources serves to deplete Australia’s natural gas reserves sooner.

      Gas companies are proposing to build four LNG import terminals around the nation to supplement supply, whilst also insisting Santos’ high cost gas Narrabri Gas Project is needed. This is high cost gas that serves to line the pockets of the gas industry at the expense of Australian gas consumers’ energy bills.
      See: https://ieefa.org/ieefa-australia-gas-industry-cries-wolf-one-too-many-times-on-gas-shortages/

      I would suggest no amount of extra gas extraction in Australia will make the price of gas in Australia cheaper now, and impossible once a post- ‘peak gas’ world arrives – gas will inevitably become scarcer and more expensive. Time to switch to affordable alternatives now, to avoid the rush later.

      • Randall Mathews says

        Yes, this is very useful!
        We will be expecting our quality and environment people to explain why this was not brought to our attention sooner. Thank you.

    • Ian Thompson says

      Geoffrey

      From reading Richard’s post, I suspect he already knows about the problem – that is why he is asking where he can source heat pumps meeting the 2 year payback proposed – he wants to consider buying them – I would doubt he is too much interested in merely an academic study or report?

      But I could be wrong…

    • Lawrence Coomber says

      Randall what sort of boilers, and what is the delivery capacity and temperature for your operation please?

      • Randall Mathews says

        Ah now you have me…
        actually it’s my wife is the quality manager for 200,000 tonnes of tomato each year, so I’m using ‘we’ a bit differently here…and she’s away on an xmas company junket at an expensive spa, so no swift answers to tech questions today. Still, they have recently installed 200 kW of photovoltaics and a reduction in the gas spend will be welcome, so we will be chasing this.
        What I know so far is it’s a continuous cooking operation for three months round the clock. Please stay in touch and I will answer as soon as I know.

        • Lawrence Coomber says

          Yes please stay in touch Randall.

          Sounds to me like your operation is a good case for Specific Circuits PV Standalone Solutions, which is basically a machine or group of machines or loads that are supplied independently by a PV Standalone Solution of any size as necessary (Solar PV + Standalone Solar PV Inverter).

          A very efficient and popular generation plant strategy especially effective if the load duty cycle suits a 9 – 5 situation.

          Also applies to irrigation and Solar Pumping solutions using Variable Frequency Drives VFDs.

          Also up to a 100 kW total for the premises will be eligible for STC’s.

          Lawrence Coomber

          • Randall Mathews says

            9-5 is not applicable here, we run continuous 60 MW of 24hr processing for three months. The heat pumps would be run from the grid. I’m still looking for a price on 60 MW of heat pump.

        • Lawrence Coomber says

          9-5 is applicable in every application Randall.

          The rest of the daily operations if any, are easily transferred to the alternative grid supply via automatic changeover controls.

          And at 9 the next morning, the cycle starts again.

          Lawrence Coomber

  4. Ronald Brakels says

    I don’t think I can overstate how insignificant falling electricity prices are from a purely economic view, if climate and health externalities are ignored.

    Including all consumption, not just residential, Australians use roughly 10,000 kilowatt-hours a year per capita. If the price of electricity drops by 3 cents per kilowatt-hour then we will all be around $300 a year better off. Assuming a return to average economic growth for this century, Australia’s per capita GDP in 2050 should be roughly $150,000. So the fall in electricity prices will make us about 0.2% better off. That is nice. I could have a lot of fun with an extra $300 a year. I could take the whole family to dinner and a movie. Once.

    So while cheaper electricity costs are wonderful, the real benefit of renewable energy is limiting environmental damage so average economic growth actually occurs and doesn’t stagnate or become negative.

    • What never seems to be mentioned by those calling for lower emissions (I am speaking generally here, not this site) never seem to say what THEY will do to lower emissions. The call is always for “The Government” to do something.

      WE can all do our bit.

      • Armin Lunsmann says

        glenn, most of us already have solar panels installed. For example, I have a small house in regional South Australia, and on that house (and garage roof) I have installed 9.6 Kw solar panels with 8 Kw inverters.

        I run a small scooter on which I commute to work daily rather than using the car which usually sits unused for week at a time.

        My family eats only a small amount of meat as well, party due to price (have you seen the price of “lamb” lately?).

        I most definitely am doing my part as much as my low paying job allows me.

      • Geoff Miell says

        glenn,
        You state:
        “What never seems to be mentioned by those calling for lower emissions (I am speaking generally here, not this site) never seem to say what THEY will do to lower emissions. The call is always for “The Government” to do something.”

        The urgent and critical issue is that EVERYONE COLLECTIVELY throughout the entire world must reduce GHG emissions by 50% by 2030, and by net-zero by 2050 – there’s no avoiding meeting that objective, otherwise human civilization has a high risk of total collapse before the end of this century, and I’d suggest we are already seeing some indicators of the beginnings of some societies degrading already.

        IMO, ad hoc efforts by just some individuals won’t do the job now – it’s all in or we all collectively pay the dire consequences over the next few decades. Governments need to step up and act effectively and URGENTLY, like governments acted decisively on banning ozone depleting gases.

        But you are correct in stating: “WE can all do our bit.” It also makes good economic sense in more and more cases. I’ve had solar-PV panels installed, replaced a gas hot water storage system with a heat pump system, and replaced a gas space heater with a reverse-cycle air conditioner, reducing my energy bills substantially. Do what you can.

        But there’s only so much individuals can do, that are being negated by other wilfully ignorant and greedy, short-term thinking vested interests. All governments need to decisively put a stop to heading down the path to extinction, or we will soon find we may not be able to get off it.
        See: http://www.climatecodered.org/2019/08/at-4c-of-warming-would-billion-people.html
        Also: https://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/dangerously-close-tipping-points-may-trigger-climate-cascade-20191127-p53ej7.html

        You don’t mention much of what you are doing (apart from the 4 kW solar-PV system you have referred previously in an earlier comment above) but criticise others for not mentioning what “THEY” are doing to lower emissions – it’s a bit hypocritical, don’t you think, glenn? What other actions are YOU taking personally to do your bit? Anything else?

        • I have done all the things you have done myself. I also ride an E-bike for longer trips on errands or a standard push bike on others. Or we walk. My car does less than 4000km a year. It’s a small hatchback. In the distant past I drove a V8. Shock Horrow !
          In my last house I converted the hot water to solar and on moving house, I now live in 6 star (thats before the solar panels) home.

          We grow vegetables and fruit in our small garden…. OK thats not much but it all helps.

          What i object to and you agree, is some people say the Govt should fix things and they don’t do anything themselves.

        • Ian Thompson says

          Hi Geoffrey Miell

          Interesting – we have split-system reverse-cycle airconditioning in 3 separate locations, but we hardly ever use them.

          Instead, we rug up in winter, and use a 60W fan in summer when needed.
          Of cource, here in Perth autumn and spring don’t need anything done…

          Have had poor durability with heat-pumps – but we have had solar hot water (thermal) for about 40 years – with only occasional boosting required in winter.
          Difficult to justify a heat-pump anyway.

          Like Glenn, I too had owned a 5 litre V8 monster (in my younger days), now drive a very economical 4-cylinder petrol turbo.

          I agree with Glenn – too many people tend to say “someone should do something about — whatever”, rather than say “I will do this to help the cause…”.

      • Randall Mathews says

        Well we need 60 MW of heat all day and night every day and night. It’s a conveyor belt which cannot be allowed to cool. Shutdowns do happen when necessary ( and are very welcome ) but basically it’s not a 9-5 power supply that we need.
        Who makes these heat pumps and how much do they cost?

  5. Clearly the guy wanting to ‘throttle back’ PV solar to keep the coal generators running has a vested interest in old coal power. As I recall is was the Hornsdale Power Reserve in SA that ‘propped up’ Victoria when one of their old clunky coal stations tripped. It’s far to easy to tell half the story to get your own interests served, and most people wont bother to research the rest of the facts themselves. We are a lazy bunch.

    But I agree, it’s not (just) up to ‘the government’ to do something. We all do our own little bit with home solar & veggie gardens; that’s great but it doesn’t go far enough. We need (and have the space for) MASSIVE utility-scale solar & wind farms. On current numbers, a solar farm of equivalent output can be built for around half the cost of a new coal-fired plant, thereafter it’s even cheaper because you don’t need to pay for the coal. And we need batteries to keep the grid stable – I guess about 100 times the HPR (it’s already proved multiple times that it can to the job faster & cheaper then any spinning reserve gas plant).

    OK, I’ll throw it out there – who wants to join forces & build a BIG solar farm? Not a 100KW hobby-farm like putting panels on a uni roof. They are great but I mean 50+MW – big enough to sell electrons directly to the NEM. It’ll cost around $40-50m to build and pay 10-12% return. Then when we’ve proved solar works better than coal we can put some of that profit into building another, and another.

  6. Ian Thompson says

    Hi Greg

    With respect, I’d like to challenge your assumptions about the HPR – which no doubt helps a lot with short term FCAS – but it is hardly a significant grid-level storage, as you appear to agree (need 100x…).

    Looking at the Live Supply & Demand Widget right now shows that SA’s demand presently sits at about 1.2 GW (not sure why so low – WA is sitting at 2.9 GW – but very hot so maybe a/c load). SA gas power is at about 0.55 GW.
    I’ve been monitoring the widget for several months now – the most “generation” I’ve ever seen the HPR produce is the order of 0.05 GW, and I have observed the battery goes flat after an hour or so. Hardly grid-storage significant I’d think – but as I’ve said, good at FCAS.

    Imagine trying to support the whole SA grid when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining for say 2 days (without resorting to natural gas, or importing from nearby States that may be in the same boat). My calculations suggest you might need more than 360 x HPR’s to cover this. Big $.

    Please don’t believe the old mantra that “it is always blowing somewhere” – during late winter I noticed a total lack of wind generation over the ENTIRE NEM and WA for very long periods – often no sun either, and SA’s gas was providing their entire grid demand load for much of the time.

    No – presently SA is being “propped up” by NG and energy imports, with the HPR contribution being negligible (in terms of storage). Even your 50 MW solar farm is unlikely to produce much more than 0.015 GW averaged over the entire day – much less in winter – and would need companion storage to boot. You’d need 100x your BIG solar farms to cover SA’s demand, maybe more (or a sensible mix with wind).

    I’m not saying it won’t or shouldn’t be done – but we have to be realistic – transition is going to cost BIG $ – we should be prepared for this reality.

  7. renewables a plenty but when solar farms are switched to lower delivery because market pricing is low then there is serious mismanagement
    https://reneweconomy-com-au.cdn.ampproject.org/c/s/reneweconomy.com.au/australias-main-grid-reaches-50-per-cent-renewables-for-first-time-17935/amp/

  8. Ian Thompson says

    Hi Martin

    Yes and No…

    Note that this 50% figure was achieved only for a relatively brief time near midday, and falls away in early afternoon – as we would expect for solar.

    I think it is INEVITABLE that renewables will forced to have a name-plate total capacity far and away greater that 2x the current capacity – in order to provide full grid demand in the mornings, evenings, and overnight (by way of charging storage), and also to cover extended periods of low wind and overcast days). Plus cover the vastly reduced solar output during winter. Maybe 10x what we have now will “cut the mustard”.

    That being the case, there will often INEVITABLY be times when excess output will need to be curtailed – this is a technical issue, not market price – you can only store excess energy if you’ve got somewhere to put it – if the storage systems are already fully charged, and they will be from time-to-time especially in summer, this option is not available. Technically you cannot modulate the heavy coal contribution (shown in the graph for your link) quickly enough to respond to the relatively rapid changes in solar wind outputs – thermal timeconstants and operating constraints in coal thermal plant prevent this, even if you wanted to.

    The only way out that I can see, is to use the generation that is excess to demand, to drive some process that is not time-dependant – e.g. to make hydrogen and store this for sale overseas as has been suggested.

    So, Martin – I don’t think the issue is grid mismanagement or market price per se – rather it is the lack of adequate capital investment in infrastructure at the present time – I guess “Government Mismanagement” – perhaps this is what you meant? We urgently need MORE STORAGE, but we are being told batteries are presently too expensive (and Hydro involves large capital and takes a long time to implement). The Hornsby Big Battery in my mind offers relatively trivial storage – it’s primarily for FCAS and does a good job at that – and I guess could also be considered a “prototype demonstrator” to show that grid-level storage can recover investment costs, maybe?

    I think there will be more pain, before the gain we all wish for.

  9. Alistair Daley says

    Ian, all that you have said is “spot on”. Could I add my bit to your comments?

    First up I refer everybody to a book written by David MacKay, “Sustainable Energy without the hot air”. It’s written for England but can easily be adapted to Australia. You can see his presentations on UTube. A major theme in this book is “if everyone does a bit then all you can achieve is a bit”. We all have to do a lot and it will be painful. The notion that you simply switch to renewables is a nonsense. BUT whatever the cost we need to do it.

    To date I have not seen any attempt to quantify the requirements to De-Carbonise but there is plenty of material on the net to work out an “back of the envelope calc” to give you the dimensions of the problem. Here’s my conclusions.

    Of all the renewables available, in Australia we are building only Solar and Wind farms. That’s OK because we have plenty of both. The interesting bit is how to dispatch power from this infrastructure as required; ie.24/365.

    First up wind : The capacity factor for wind in Aus is 34% +/- 12%. This means 3 Watts of build for every Watt of dispatchable power plus 0.4 Watts of storage. Efficiency = 30%.

    Solar: Capacity factors for Solar are stated at 22-23%. I don’t believe you can use this number as it averages out Summer long days to Winter short days. We need to do our own maths. We need to build for the shorter winter months.

    In winter the solar production day is less than 6 hours. Let’s call it 6 as this neatly divides the day into four bites. To dispatch solar power over 24 hours we need to generate four watts of power in the 6 hour production window, 3 watts of which has to go into storage. So far 7:1 Watts of infrastructure per Watt of dispatchable power.

    Now add in losses due to cloud cover. On average our best solar locations are semi desert regions like Pt Agusta. I believe they work on 80% sunlight. If this is the best then if other locations are less, then for the purposes of our cals let’s call it 75%. We need to add another Watt of infrastructure, now we are at 8:1.

    Now add in the efficiency losses of storing energy. This assumes storage via pumped Hydro ( storage discussion in a bit). The efficiency of pumping water uphill is 75%, and downhill 90%. We need to add another watt and a half of Solar Panels and another Watt of storage. We are now at 10.5:1.

    Now we need to make an allowance for actual output versus nameplate rating of solar panels. My own solar system returns 65% due to not facing quite the best direction nor at the best angle. Commercial solar farms track the path of the sun but I don’t think they track the level, ie they are built for either the summer high sun or the winter low sun. All the panels I have seen are looking straight up, ie; to maximise output over summer. Let’s call it 95% against nameplate rating.

    We need to add in some losses due to ageing. As soon as you expose a solar panel to the sun it’s output degrades at approx. 1% of it’s rating per year. We need to add at least 0.5 Watts of build to our calc. We are now at 11:1.

    When you add all this up the efficiency of dispatchable power from Solar it is approx. 9%.

    Now a quick discussion on storage options. We have 2 choices, pumped hydro or battery. The life cycle of batteries is 8-10 years and for pumped Hydro 80+ years. I cannot see how batteries can ever store the baulk power requirements. They need to store 4.5 Watts for every watt of dispatchable power and deliver the same over many hours/days while needing to be replaced every 10 years. While the upfront cost of pumped hydro is expensive it is far cheaper in the long run. Batteries will be vital for system stability as demonstrated by SA’s 100MW battery. The more renewables added to our electricity grid the more and bigger batteries required for system stability.

    In conclusion I urge everybody to follow up David MacKay.

    The transfer to renewables is going to be a long haul. Blackouts will be the order of the day because we have not built any meaningful power infrastructure in 30 years.

    The last thing we need is for politicians trying to score political points in this debate but unfortunately they cannot help themselves.

    We need a real national discussion on transferring to renewables but the premise that power prices will be cheaper is rubbish. We will all need to pay more but there are no other options.

    • Randall Mathews says

      We spend a bit over a million bucks a year on gas…

    • Randall Mathews says

      Alistair you make good sense. Why is it so rare to see the numbers laid out like this?

    • Lawrence Coomber says

      Alistair thank you for your insights.

      You have painted a bleak but compelling argument that must be unpacked and addressed.

      As has been said by many others in this and other forums over the years, the energy science subject is large but that should not prevent thinking fundamentally about the underlying thermodynamic realities, and applying the immutable laws of physics in these type of debates as few have done, and unemotionally analysing the problem and reaching alternative conclusions as many nations have already but perhaps too quietly done, so that democracies including Australia can learn about enduring and rational energy science choices fit for purpose in perpetuity.

      The future is a long one. Short term solutions to all things are soon exposed and fail and won’t cut it over time.

      Lawrence Coomber

    • Geoff Miell says

      Alistair Daley,
      You state:
      “We need a real national discussion on transferring to renewables…”

      Not when most of the mainstream media continues to push the interests and propaganda of fossil fuel vested interests. And it seems to me you have been duped by them with this comment:

      “…but the premise that power prices will be cheaper is rubbish.”
      See: https://www.solarquotes.com.au/blog/powering-finland-nuclear-renewables/#comment-447646

      IMO, affordable low-carbon renewable electricity generation is achievable, and it can be done within a decade if there was the political will to do so.

      The real problem I see is finding low-carbon, affordable, adequate ERoI, rapidly deployable at large-scale petroleum replacement solutions for agriculture, long-distance aviation and marine transportation. I just don’t see any – that’s the real challenge for humanity.

      And time is running out on effective action on dangerous climate change.
      See: http://www.climatecodered.org/2019/12/leading-climate-researchers-we-are-in.html

  10. Ian Thompson says

    Alistair – you have obviously done a far more extensive anaysis than me.

    I’d agree that batteries don’t appear to be the optimum option for bulk storage (unless something new comes along – flow batteries have been proposed as bulk storage options for at least 30 years – e.g. bromide batteries – but I’ve not yet seen anything useful come out of this research so far) – and add that battery round-trip efficiencies have to include battery charger losses during charging and inverter losses during discharge – as well as the battery’s own internal losses.

    Many spout that wind is complementary to solar (implying that wind is good when solar is not), but I feel monitoring of the Live Supply & Demand widget largely puts the lie to that proposition – over the last 3 months I’ve observed numerous instances of long wind droughts – over all States – which means every night that SA for instance must rely on heavy NG consumption for power, and also source it inter-State from largely coal-generated sources like Qld, NSW, and Vic.

    I do accept, however, that Solar Bloggs can make an income from, and the public can make savings through installation of rooftop solar – especially with the STC’s available to them. And so to should they make these savings – after all, they are “stumping up” the capital to assist the renewables transition, so should be able to make a return on their investment.

    Although I take many statements that “my monthly bill is now zero” with a grain of salt – OF COURSE you can get your bill to zero – if you are willing to put in a big enough system with enough storage by paying enough capital up-front for the priviledge. The critical issue is the payback period…

    • Des Scahill says

      The underlying issue is that ‘batteries’ aren’t as yet – generally speaking – an economic proposition for many suburban households yet, especially those with 2 or less residents

      However, that may rapidly change.

      From recent news articles it seems clear that the LNP along with various others still hold the view that people who believe climate change is real are actually the ones who are causing climate change to occur because:

      (a) they are left-wing loonies , (b) they oppose the exciting new economic era that will emerge if we mine as much ‘clean’ coal as possible, and thus bring great future prosperity for every Australian citizen, (c) those with roof-top solar PV are the ones responsible for causing nearly all the grid outages (d) they are latte-sipping inner city dwellers whose agitation about climate matters arises solely from caffeine overdose, and (d) they are all on welfare and should get a job.

      I was somewhat downcast at the realisation that I had played my own small part in bringing such near ruin to the entire Australian economy by installing solar PV… but then…. hope rose anew in my heart…. we can all make amends!

      If we all buy batteries as soon as we can afford to AND also go off grid completely, then Angus and Scomo’s current torment will be sooner ended.

      What better Christmas present could we give them, then to solve all the problems they say we create by simply disappearing from the scene completely ?

  11. Ian Thompson says

    Hi Des Scahill

    I realise much of what you’ve said is somewhat “tongue-in-cheek” – and good for a laugh – but it gave me pause to reconsider a comment I had made in an earlier post – namely about going off-grid if battery prices finally came down to a level that had been suggested.
    On rethinking this, I now believe going off-grid could be considered mean-spirited (a la Jackson), and also isn’t the optimum means to reduce CO2 emissions.
    Obviously, any rooftop system with battery storage large enough to support me in mid-winter (without having to run a filthy fossil fueled generator – a la Jackson), will be INEVITABLY capable of generating far, far more energy excess to my requirements in summer). Even in winter, as is my situation, if the system is sized to cover several overcast days.
    Why not export this excess to the grid – this will provide the following benefits to society in general:
    1. This exported energy will offset otherwise fossil-sourced energy, thereby reducing emissions.
    2. Because the DNSP can buy my energy at a cheap price, and mark it up to sell to neighboring houses, they can derive an income this way – so hopefully they then don’t have to increase tariffs as much as they otherwise would need to, to cover the costs of infrastructure with a reduced customer base – good for everyone.

    Rose-tinted glasses?

    • Des Scahill says

      Hii again Ian,

      I’ll address your Point 2 first, ie the DNSP buying our solar at a cheap price, and then marking it up to sell to others, – because that also relates to the ‘subsidy rip-off’ claims promoted by opponents of renewables. They usually express that by using emotive adjectives and phraseology such as ‘huge’, ‘massive’, ‘ripping off other Australians’, ‘greenie rort’ and the like.

      The real facts surrounding that particular ‘myth’ are:

      (a) provided any FIT you receive is LESS than what a DNSP bills their users for per kwh, then the solar PV owner is doing two things
      1) initially, he is ‘repaying’ the STC offset he received when he first purchased his system.
      2) once that STC offset is repaid, then, for the remaining life of his PV system, he is then indirectly ‘subsidizing’ other grid users via the DNSP.
      The extent to which the DNSP passes that on to others (if at all) is unknown.

      Some figures might be helpful to demonstrate this.

      Person A buys a 6.66 Kwh system, using his own money. His average daily total consumption is 17 Kwh, his system produces 28 kwh per day on average. and he self consumes 8 kwh per day.

      The first calculation is : Kwh
      Total produced by system – 28
      Less self -consumed – 8
      Kwh exported to grid 20 kwh

      AND his billable consumption is (17 – 8) kwh ie 9 kwh per day

      Now, we will assume his STC rebate totalled $4200 when he first purchased his system, his FIT credit is 12 cents, and he is billed 26 cents by his DNSP for any usage that exceeds his self-consumption.

      So, on any one day our customer gets an FIT of $2.40 (20 x .12)
      and his DNSP retailer can potentially earn $2.80 (20 x .14) from reselling those 20 units exported to ‘some-one’.

      The $2.80 figure is thus the daily power bill subsidy to others made by our fictional PV system owner. It will take 1500 days before that amounts to $4200, or 4.10 years

      Using those figures, I would argue that the solar PV owner ‘repays’ his initial STC rebate in a little over 4 years, at the rate of $1022 per annum.

      If we assume that a solar PV system has a useful life of (say) 25 years, that means that over a 21 year period the solar PV owner subsidizes other users a total amount of $21,462, in addition to ALSO repaying his $4200 alleged ‘subsidy’ during the initial 4 year period.

      There is also another set of calculations that can be done – those relating solely to the PV system owner himself.

      Using the same data as above, those numbers are:
      (a) PV system owner gets $2.40 per day in FIT towards his power bill
      (b) PV system owner saves $2.08 (8 x .26 cents) a day via self consumption, which reduces his power bill from what it otherwise would have been..

      That means that very approximately, a solar PV system owner is as well, gaining a daily $4.48 benefit toward his initial upfront net outlay on his system. Depending on what that cash outlay (net of STC rebate) was, then it will take him about 4 years or so for him to ‘recover’ that personal cash amount outlay.

      As well, his daily FIT benefit of $2.40 will largely offset completely his ‘fixed charges’ of around $1.34 a day plus his usage bill of $2.34 ie $4.64 in total per day on average

      I need to stress that the above numbers are all approximate. They can vary significantly depending on how much attention a system owner gives to maximising his self-consumption, the FIT rate he receives, his geographic location within Australia, and his daily consumption patterns

      Having said that, I’d suggest that my numbers are reasonably indicative that
      (a) Roof top solar system owners DO in fact ‘subsidize’ other users, albeit indirectly. The amount of that subsidy is significant over the anticipated life cycle of his system.

      (b) They also indirectly repay any STC rebate they initially received in a little over 4 years out of an expected 25 year system life cycle,

      (c) As well, their personal outlay on a non-battery roof-top system will pretty much offset completely their personal household electricity costs for the full 25 years or so.

      Now, before people start screaming ‘my DNSP is ripping me off’ by adding a more than 100% markup on the FIT figure, it is quite unrealistic to expect them to pay YOU 26 cents and make no money at all.

      Given all the challenges that come with a widely dispersed national grid an FIT that is around 50% of the rate on-charged for billable usage seems not unreasonable to me, for a non-battery household rooftop solar system.

      I take your point about possibly being considered ‘mean-spirited’ by going off-grid, however there is also a certain class of person in the world who sees a willingness to be ‘reasonable’ or ‘generous’ as a weakness they can exploit for their own personal ambitions or gain.

      Where one draws the line on that is very much a personal choice, and is not always an easy call to make in relation to a particular individual.

      It is helpful to do some background research on individual politicians, and these days its far easier to do so. For example I found this web-page helpful in partially understanding a few of the motivations of our current Minister for Energy and the Environment.

      https://www.michaelwest.com.au/people/revolving-doors/hon-angus-taylor-mp/

      • Geoff Miell says

        Des Scahill,

        You make some good observations.

        IMO, the real challenge for humanity is to find an affordable, adequate ERoI, low-carbon emissions, long-term sustainable and rapidly deployable at large-scale replacement solutions for petroleum.

        You may find this of interest, particularly the Concluding Thoughts in Slide 32:
        https://www.artberman.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/LSU-NOV-22-2019_REDUCED-1.pdf

        • Des Scahill says

          Geoff Miell,

          Thanks for the link Geoff. Although the document you’ve linked to reads at times as if it was written as a promotional tool for use by various coteries within the overall ‘oil industry cheer squad’ , that’s understandable, given that Art Berman, the author of the website is a petroleum geologist by profession.

          I did read the document in full, along with a number of other articles linked to by artberman.com, including those on other websites.

          My overall impression was that the websites all seem adopt the approach that a problem or obstacle of any kind associated with ‘renewables’ automatically then becomes their justification for some version of a ‘business as usual’ status quo.

          In other words, ‘problems’ automatically become reasons for not doing anything, rather an obstacle to be overcome.

          I was fascinated to also learn more about ‘natural gas venting’ and ‘natural gas flaring’ associated with petroleum, oil and natural gas production. Within the USA alone, some 100 billion cubic feet per day is either vented or flared during production.

          During 2018 “…the percentage of U.S. natural gas that was vented and flared increased to 1.25% of gross withdrawals, up from 0.84% the previous year”

          You can visit:
          https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=42195
          (which is the US Government Energy Information Administration website)
          to see where I got that information from.

          As well, according to this Italian website:
          http://www.eniscuola.net/en/argomento/natural-gas1/environment-and-territory1/gas-flaring-and-gas-venting/
          gas flaring results in:

          “HUGE amounts of carbon dioxide together with sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxide, which have contributed substantially to atmospheric pollution. In order to better understand the scale of the problem, it is sufficient to observe nocturnal images of Earth from space: the gas flaring activity in regions corresponding to the major petroleum-producing areas are a proof that cannot go unnoticed.”

          You can also visit the Queensland website of the Gas Fields Commission at
          https://gasfieldscommissionqld.org.au/gas-industry/technical-information/gas-flaring

          That website gives 3 separate examples (out of many possible) when ‘gas flaring’ is applied in Queensland.

          The AEMC have forecast that electricity prices will fall over the next three years, (see https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-12-09/power-prices-set-to-slide-in-next-three-years-says-aemc/11778476 ), due to the impact of renewables.

          WA is seen as an exception to this though

          However their forecast comes with significant qualifications. To quote from the article: “…it’s important to note that over a decade of analysis we have seen trends change sharply in response to factors such as sudden generator closures and implementation of new policies.”

          That quote is perhaps a masterpiece of polite understatement, given past history regarding energy policies.

  12. Lawrence Coomber says

    Geoff Miell:

    As mentioned previously global energy is a big topic and it needs to be discussed in heavy tones only which have mainly been drowned out though, but that does not alter the inevitable and ultimate end game results and decisions, only delays the process whilst decision makers pause for breath; regather momentum then move off on another track forward.

    Human entropy is unavoidably at play.

    Once decision makers abandon modern science and scientific imperatives based on modern science, and all that which can come from adopting new age technologies only exploitable through modern scientific breakthroughs, we as global citizens are condemned to no future advancements possible beyond what we currently see around us.

    This sort of thinking should be roundly rejected by thinking people and actively challenged at every opportunity.

    Our future is based on great scientific breakthroughs in every branch of science, not at all on the very low tech bar currently espoused widely and vigorously by most global citizens regarding energy and power.

    Lawrence Coomber

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