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Solar Power for the ACT?

PantsMan 4 September 2008 63

[First filed: September 03, 2008 @ 08:26]

Just noticed this new addition to the CMD [Chief Minister’s Department] website:  Solar Power Plant Pre-feasibility Study

Gas power station, data centre, now a field of solar rays – got to dump something on the north side of the city I suppose.  Maybe the old radar station site. 

Just when you thought the October election was going to be a bore!

[ED – And the Chief Minister’s media release on the subject is now online. They’ll need a stonking 120 hectare plant to power just 10,000 homes according to the Study. The image is of the site in Nevada which is named as the inspiration for the proposed ACT plant]

UPDATED: Jonathon Reynolds notes that a gas fired power station appears to be part of the plan for this development too.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Having thought about it all day Zed has responded incredulously to the chutzpah of another power station being announced.

    “Given the crisis that Stanhopes last power station venture caused, I am not sure that the Canberra community trusts this Government to build any major project.

    “The Canberra Liberals are supportive of seeking new ways and increasing investment in renewable energy. The concept of a solar farm is well worth considering; however, neither we, nor the Canberra community, know what technology will be involved, where the station will be located, and how much exactly it will cost.”

Zed also thinks the proposal is light on detail, so we look forward to his next in-depth policy announcement.


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RuffnReady RuffnReady 1:49 pm 05 Sep 08

Deano said :

RuffnReady said :

Deano, read your article about wind and it raises the point that you need to invest in the right infrastructure and control systems to integrate wind into power supply

Exactly. The Government’s proposal is only half a solution and without the necessary infrastructure investment it is likely to be a white elephant.

We have decent grid interconnectors in Australia, and they are being upgraded as we speak. The issues in the US are not the same as here – as you rightly point out, most of the problem in Australia is NIMBYs and planning law.

It is not all the government’s fault either – business expects to be able to run without stricture, and then the moment any infrastructure has to be built they go running to the government to pay for it. How is that fair? Surely business should bear some of the infrastructure cost burden as well since they are the ones who will be making the profits from using it for the next 50 years?

RuffnReady RuffnReady 1:44 pm 05 Sep 08

peter@home said :

what is a four poster??

definitely a solar power nutbag!

Yeah, bother to read the post peterh?

Simple – the Nimbies oppose them pretty much everywhere on the grounds of visual/noise pollution and bird killing. Just look at our local examples where projects around Lake George and Molonglo Ridge have been abandoned due to community opposition. Unfortunately the precedent has been set and communities are much more likely to reject wind turbines than to accept them.

Yes, I know that, but that’s where strong leadership should kick in (but never does).

The visual “pollution” angle is a joke – what is any human development (road, rail, housing, cities in general!) but “visual pollution”? And property prices in Japan, Europe and the US haven’t been affected by wind farms, doubt they would be here either. “Noise” pollution, come on! You get more noise from a road than you do a windfarm. As for the birds, that story was shown to be scientifically false and retracted, and large-sized turbines (which are all that you’d put in given economies of scale) have been shown not to kill birdlife (it’s the little ones that may have some impact).

The NIMBY attitude to wind farms in Australia reveals just how incredibly short-sighted and selfish a community we have become… happy to chew up the planet’s resources and screw the climate so that we can play X-box and turn the thermostat up to 25C, but not willing to make even minor changes to life as we know it for the sake of the future.

Deano Deano 12:09 am 05 Sep 08

RuffnReady said :

Deano, read your article about wind and it raises the point that you need to invest in the right infrastructure and control systems to integrate wind into power supply

Exactly. The Government’s proposal is only half a solution and without the necessary infrastructure investment it is likely to be a white elephant.

Deano Deano 12:04 am 05 Sep 08

RuffnReady said :

However, elephants in the room:
– why aren’t there wind farms going up all over Oz according to the CSIRO wind mapping studies? In particular, I would have thought the Great Divide would be perfect (wind, close to high-voltage power line corridors)… wind is not much more expensive than gas at $60-70/MWh;

Simple – the Nimbies oppose them pretty much everywhere on the grounds of visual/noise pollution and bird killing. Just look at our local examples where projects around Lake George and Molonglo Ridge have been abandoned due to community opposition. Unfortunately the precedent has been set and communities are much more likely to reject wind turbines than to accept them.

peter@home peter@home 11:59 pm 04 Sep 08

what is a four poster??

definitely a solar power nutbag!

RuffnReady RuffnReady 10:32 pm 04 Sep 08

Peripheral.

There, boosted my post count sufficiently for now. lol

RuffnReady RuffnReady 10:31 pm 04 Sep 08

And then on Q&A both sides of politics talk of their “hundreds of millions of $ going to renewable energy research”… sorry? “Hundreds of millions”? Sure, 500mil over 5 years (and a few other peropheral programs) in a time of annual 10-20 BILLION $ surpluses!?! WTF?

Modern life in all senses is entirely reliant on massive centralised energy systems, and the future of those systems is getting 150mil a year To me, that is absurd.

RuffnReady RuffnReady 10:15 pm 04 Sep 08

In fact, the American example of over “500 owners” of grid infrastructure is a great example of a case where public ownership makes sense – not of the generators, but the tranmission and distribution infrastructure. The problem with wind in the US is that the best sites aren’t near the population and no-one wants to pay for upgrading the grid infrastructure, which is a HUMAN BEING problem, a MARKET problem (companies and governments not getting along and finding ways to simply get it done for the good of all). Same problem in Oz with the geothermal assets in the Cooper Basin – who is going to pay for the 500km of high voltage lines to the nearest high-voltage connector?

RuffnReady RuffnReady 10:06 pm 04 Sep 08

Deano, read your article about wind and it raises the point that you need to invest in the right infrastructure and control systems to integrate wind into power supply, but Denmark have managed to run 20% of their grid off wind, so although technically challenging, it is entirely possible, or the Danish are lying.

RuffnReady RuffnReady 10:03 pm 04 Sep 08

Toad said this tosh: “Anyhoo, back on topic, solar power may be useful when there is no alternative – eg, in the outback to power a small application for a short time. It can’t supply bulk power without reliance on other supply – like when it’s dark or cloudy.”

Actually, wrong. If you spread wind and solar over a significant geographical area, it becomes very stable and able to deliver baseload power – latest research in California, check it out. Also, we are talking about a tiny part of the overall grid here, not switching the whole grid from one source of electricity (ie coal) to another (eg renewables) overnight – it must be a gradual process, and that process must start somewhere.

Also, thank you Gungahlin Al for bringing some sense into the discussion at post #45. Of course the guy meant 2kW – he stumbled over his words. And BTW, keep your eyes out for the new generation of PV that will be able to be printed onto any surface – technology is 2-5 years away and will revolutionise the marketplace.

As for this thermal plant, DO IT, and do it in conjunction with gas. Re thermal, people seem to forget that nascent industries start with small to medium sized projects – this is one such and obviously part of the vanguard of renewables. I also support the gas because it is significantly cleaner than coal per unit of electricity provided (about 30% cleaner), it is peak-focused (see my rant on the baseload paradigm below), and it is the only decent transitional technology we have. With an inevitable carbon price, support both, and pave the way for more to come all across the country.

However, elephants in the room:
– why aren’t there wind farms going up all over Oz according to the CSIRO wind mapping studies? In particular, I would have thought the Great Divide would be perfect (wind, close to high-voltage power line corridors)… wind is not much more expensive than gas at $60-70/MWh;
– demand reduction is the cheapest form of energy conservation and studies estimate that savings up to 30% can be found. Emphasise behaviour change and teach people what to do! (It is soooooo easy to halve your energy consumption without affecting your lifestyle – I did it in 12 months).
– change the structure of the energy market so that you pay more as you use more over a certain threshold (at the moment, bulk use is CHEAPER for commercial/industrial customers! And only marginally more expensive for householders! The is little incentive in the market to use less!);
– A/Cs are causing major summer peak-load issues, but their use coincides with the intense sunshine… bring in tight MEPS on A/Cs and require that they are purchased in conjunction with solar panels or RECs. The alternative is building billion dollar plant to service summer peaks at the expense of everyone (we all pay through higher electricity charges to pay for the extra plant). Alternately, live without an A/C you softies!;
– the baseload myth! Why do we have coal-fired pps producing power 24 hours a day when demand for electricity is mostly encountered in 2 peaks? Examine the entire paradigm! Progressively retire the coal-burners which take 24-48 hours to start and stop, and move to a new paradigm of daytime solar, gas peakload (far more thermally and greenhouse/particulate efficient than coal), wind/geothermal/tidal 24 hours a day for baseload. I am talking about a 30-year plan here, but it won’t happen unless you ban new coal-fired generation. Conversely, we keep building new coal plants, which have a lifetime of 40 years and maintain the status quo of running 24 hours a day whether we need them or not!!! Aaaaaaaaarggghhhh!!!

I could go on, but what’s the point?

🙁

Deano Deano 12:33 pm 04 Sep 08

peterh said :

questions I have always thought about:
is there any way to dump power from the grid into some sort of containment for future use? (safely)

Some relevant information on the problems of integrating green energy systems into the existing grid:Wind Energy Bumps Into Power Grid’s Limits

Storage technologies: Pumped Storage Hydro

A good overview:Solar Thermal Energy

why are PV cells more prevalent than solar thermal?

Scale – solar thermal works best on large scale.

Deano Deano 12:22 pm 04 Sep 08

peterh said :

um, what about a battery of batteries?

wouldn’t they be able to store power at each individual house for evening consumption?

Well, size would be an issue for a start. You don’t just need to store power to get you through the night but also the possibility of a week of rain (remember those – kids these days wouldn’t know just how slow a wet week was!). We are talking a sizeable quantity of batteries here. There there is the problem of toxic materials – lead, cadmium, lithium take your pick. And would you really trust a percentage of the population to safely store a significant quantity of energy inside there house?

Deano Deano 12:15 pm 04 Sep 08

Gungahlin Al said :

For Pete’s sake Deano – you aren’t serious about those “calculations” are you??

1. The discussion for the power station is about solar thermal not PV. (and solar thermal can store heat for night-time generation BTW)

I was commenting in respect of the person advocating the supply of PV to individual houses.

VYBerlinaV8_the_one_they_all_copy VYBerlinaV8_the_one_they_all_copy 12:11 pm 04 Sep 08

Batteries aren’t yet viable on this scale, and come with their own environmental problems in terms of both manufacture and disposal.

peterh peterh 11:35 am 04 Sep 08

nathan said :

I grew up with solar power – batteries are expensive, bulky, maintenance-intensive and less efficient than using the power immediately, i.e. feeding it into the grid.

the newer batteries (of similar type to the hybrid batteries in cars) are less maintenance intensive, and more efficient. but the big stumbling block is the cost. until they are cheap to manufacture, we won’t see them as a viable solution.

questions I have always thought about:
is there any way to dump power from the grid into some sort of containment for future use? (safely)

what happens when we can harness lightning – and gain thousands of KW from one strike?

why are PV cells more prevalent than solar thermal?

nathan nathan 11:18 am 04 Sep 08

I grew up with solar power – batteries are expensive, bulky, maintenance-intensive and less efficient than using the power immediately, i.e. feeding it into the grid.

peterh peterh 10:38 am 04 Sep 08

Deano said :

tortfeaser said :

A dude was on 666 this morning, pushing photo voltaics. Mentioned that $140mil could buy PV for 25,000 houses at 2MW each house. Combined with solar hot water, this would be sufficient to supply that house’s needs. Much better value, no loss of land for other productive uses, greater choice for individuals in sourcing their power.

I’m loath to parrot the dude off the radio and can’t rebut the figures, but alternatives need to be considered.

The dude has no idea about how electricity supplies work. Putting PV on houses would create a system where the peak generating capacity is in the middle of the day (when people aren’t home) and the peak loads are in the evenings. You can’t generate electricity for use later on. Electricity that isn’t used or stored somehow just doesn’t get created. The current grid just doesn’t have any significant storage capacity and the efficiency of most practical storage technologies is less than 10%.

He also has no idea about solar power either. The absolute maximum solar power falling on the earth at the best place at the best time is 1KW per square metre. To generate 2MW per house with 100% efficient PV cells, each house would need to be 2000 square metres!

Another interesting calculation is to look at the proposed 120ha solar station, which is 1,200,000 square metres, divide that by the 10,000 homes it is intended to support equals 120 square metres per house, and compare that to the average house size of 190 square metres.

um, what about a battery of batteries?

wouldn’t they be able to store power at each individual house for evening consumption?

Loose Brown Loose Brown 9:58 am 04 Sep 08

Go solar!!!!

Gungahlin Al Gungahlin Al 9:32 am 04 Sep 08

For Pete’s sake Deano – you aren’t serious about those “calculations” are you??

1. The discussion for the power station is about solar thermal not PV. (and solar thermal can store heat for night-time generation BTW)
2. The 120ha is total area – including the gaps between the solar tracking troughs, infrastructure, parking, yada yada…
3. Think someone is mixing their Ms with Ks.
4. Any calculations on costs must also incorporate the foregone revenue of the land that is consumed, vs any calculation on rooftop PV must incorporate zero land content.
5. Peak consumption is at night?? It was once perhaps. But along came cheap reverse cycle A/C. Summer peaks now correspond with peak solar production periods.

It’s all very well for us to trot out our thoughts, hunches and feelings about these issues, but if we are going to stary bandying about numbers, I think the calculations need to be a bit more rigorous that above.

p1 p1 9:03 am 04 Sep 08

The dude has no idea about how electricity supplies work. Putting PV on houses would create a system where the peak generating capacity is in the middle of the day (when people aren’t home) and the peak loads are in the evenings. You can’t generate electricity for use later on. Electricity that isn’t used or stored somehow just doesn’t get created. The current grid just doesn’t have any significant storage capacity and the efficiency of most practical storage technologies is less than 10%.

While this is true, it is not necessarily the whole truth. If the PV pannels are feeding the grid, it just means that someone else on the grid, whom it costs more to produce electricity will reduce production slightly, then in the evening, increase production to cover the peak load.

So while there will be just as much coal and gas power being used in the evening, at mid day there will be less, and so the total average will have reduced.

This does of course mean that the price you can sell your solar power to the grid for is always going to be the mid-day price, which means it will take a lot longer for the solar farm to pay for itself, compared to a gas plant where you can choose to use it or not depending on demand (and there for price per KWh).

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