Solar telephone

This page is companion to Solar power in Australia.

New section, 2014/06/17 South Australia's renewables success

Sustainable energy in Australia

Australia is one of the highest per-capita greenhouse gas producing nations in the world, we have a moral obligation to reduce our CO2 production levels.

We are suffering terrible climate change damage – consider the decline in run-off in the Murray Basin, rising temperatures, increasing frequency and violence in extreme weather events, increased ferocity of bushfires and length of the fire danger season, increasing acidity of the oceans and rise in sea levels, the decline in rainfall in the southern half of the country, the damage to the Great Barrier Reef, etc. – we should reduce our CO2 production levels for our own benefit.

Energy conservation is a big part of the answer, but sustainable energy generation is too, hence this page.

This project is not being kept up to date – I have enough to do with other pages, but I do edit it from time to time, if there is something new to say.
This page was created 2008/11/12, last edited 2022/01/25
Contact: email


Major sections on this page are...


Sustainable energy generation methods

Biofuel | Biomass | Geothermal | Hydro | Tidal | Wave | Matching Generation with demand
The wind and solar forms of sustainable energy are covered elsewhere on this site.

Matters relating to sustainable energy

News | Comparative costs of power generation | Balance in sustainable energy rebates | Transport | Links

Changes needed in the electricity supply system

Balancing generation and load | Storing electricity | Need for transmission lines

Major tables

Bagasse Biomass installations | Landfill Methane Biomass installations | Sewage Methane Biomass installations | Other Biomass installations


Index | Units

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Wind turbines

This page is companion to Wind power in Australia.



Sustainable energy by class - Installed capacity
Energy by class
Bagasse, landfill methane, sewage methane and most of 'other' fall in the biomass energy catagory.
Extracted from Dept. Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts data, 2009/02/20

Dept. Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA) data, 2009/02/20, indicated the following totals for installed capacity in the various sustainable energy classes:
Landfill methane159.7
Sewage methane53.5
Hydro7 956.7
Wind1 760.3
Total10 626.5

Data points
From Scientific American, March 2009, and Worldwatch Institute
Annual global energy use 133PWh
Energy that can, in principle, be harvested with current technology (PWh)
Percent of global energy used:
By buildings:40
For electricity generation:41
Percent of global energy generated from renewable sources, including hydro-power: 20

Note that the DEWHA figure above for wind power is 1 760MW while mine on the Wind Power page is 1 494MW. The DEWHA figure includes about 50 wind farms of less than 160kW, which are not included on my page (total of 1.48MW), and Bungendore, Clements Gap and Hallett 2 wind farms (total of 260MW), which as of the time of writing (2009/02/24) were not completed.

The figures above are 'installed capacity'; they do not show the amount of energy actually generated in each classification. Hydro-power infrastructure needs rain before it can generate electricity, the more rain the more electricity; on the other hand, it will not produce much in a drought.

20% by 2020

The Rudd Government has a 20% renewable electricity by the year 2020 policy. As wind power seems be the key to achieving this goal, if it is achieved, I have discussed this goal and whether it is likely to be achieved on my Wind Power page.

Sustainable energy generation methods


Biofuel has a lot in common with biomass. On this page I have used 'biofuel' to mean liquid fuel produced from biological processes and 'biomass' to mean biological solids such as agricultural waste and wood. I have also written a page on firewood as a fuel elsewhere on this site.

See Wikipedia.

Oil from algae

Interesting research has been carried out in Australia in developing algae, grown is large shallow ponds, as an energy source. Oilgae has an article on this; some extracts from that page...
"Dr Jian Qin, of Flinders University, investigated the use of a well-studied green alga known as Botryococcus braunii, or Bb for short, as a supplier of biological hydrocarbons. Bb is a colonial alga of lakes and reservoirs, where it blooms into large, green, floating mats - and it's a remarkably oily little plant. Up to 75% of the dry weight of this particular species is a natural hydrocarbon that can be converted into petrol, diesel or turbine fuel or other liquid or gaseous hydrocarbons."

"The researchers found that to obtain the maximum biomass of algae and the best hydrocarbon production, the optimum culture conditions for this strain are: a temperature of 23°C, a light intensity of 30-60 W/m2 irradiance, a photoperiod of 12 hours light and 12 hours dark, and salinity of 8.8%. This last finding confirms that the alga is tolerant of brackish waters."
(The salinity of seawater is around 3.5%.) The research was done by Murdock University, "Australian research network BEAM". I was unable to obtain any information from that site due to a broken link.

Ethanol from corn

The use of corn as a raw material for the production of ethanol has been financially encouraged in the USA. This is a very dubious practice as the amount of energy input into growing the corn is similar or possibly greater than the amount in the ethanol produced, and of course the corn is diverted from human consumption which is a much more valuable use for it.

Ethanol from sugar cane

There may be more potential for growing cane sugar in Australia for the production of ethanol, but care would have to be taken to ensure that the harm done in the agricultural side effects would not be greater than the good achieved.

Methanol from wood waste

Forestry Insights, NZ discusses how methanol can be produced from wood waste. An excerpt from that page...
"Methanol is recovered by a process known as gasification. Wood constituents are broken down to simple gases by heating wood to high temperatures in the absence of oxygen. The resulting carbon monoxide and hydrogen (together known as producer gas) are treated under pressure in the presence of certain copper-based catalysts, producing significant volumes of methanol. Methanol has potential as a liquid fuel, but is also used as feedstock for production of formaldehyde and other chemicals."
Wikipedia has an article on Methanol fuel.

Concluding remark

The amount of available agricultural land is entirely insufficient for growing enough biofuels to replace our current use of petroleum, but there is scope for significant production of some biofuels.


Biomass has a lot in common with biofuel. On this page I have used 'biofuel' to mean liquid fuel produced from biological processes and 'biomass' to mean biological solids such as agricultural waste and wood.

See Wikipedia.

Sugar cane waste (bagasse) is used as a fuel.

I have dealt with the possible greater use of firewood elsewhere on this site. It is even possible to run a car on firewood.

The amount of available agricultural land is entirely insufficient for growing enough biomass to replace our current use of fossil fuels, but there is scope for more efficient use of existing biomass.

Forms of biomass – in relation to energy
Extracted from Oregon (US) Govt. site


Conversion Process Type

Major Biomass Feedstock

Energy or Fuel Produced

Direct Combustion Thermochemical wood
agricultural waste municipal solid waste residential fuels
Gasification Thermochemical wood
agricultural waste municipal solid waste
low or medium energy producer gas
Pyrolysis Thermochemical wood
agricultural waste municipal solid waste
synthetic fuel oil (biocrude)
Anaerobic Digestion Biochemical
animal manure agricultural waste
medium energy gas (methane)
Ethanol Production Biochemical
sugar or starch crops
wood waste
pulp sludge
grass straw
Biodiesel Production Chemical rapeseed
soy beans
waste vegetable oil
animal fats
Methanol Production Thermochemical wood
agricultural waste municipal solid waste

Bagasse Biomass installations

Extracted from Dept. Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts data, 2009/02/20
NameState kWCommis.Comments Status
BabindaQueensland 6 000Unknown Oil supplementary; exports 0.5-2MW to grid Operating
BingeraQueensland 5 000Unknown Woodchip supplementary; Plants of 1.5MW's & 3.5MW's Operating
BroadwaterNew South Wales 8 0001996 Sugar Milling Co-op. A 30MW cogeneration plant at the Broadwater sugar mill has been approved by Richmond Valley Council (12/02/03). Sunshine Energy is a consortium of Delta Electricity and NSW Sugar Operating
BroadwaterNew South Wales 35 0002008 A 30MW cogeneration plant at the Broadwater sugar mill. Sunshine Energy is a consortium of Delta Electricity and NSW Sugar. $75 million cogeneration plant with cane trash fuel (no more canefield fires needed). Opens May 2008Operating
CondongNew South Wales 3 0001981 Sugar Milling Co-opOperating
CondongNew South Wales 30 0002008 Upgrade of suagr mill with cogeneration. $75 million cogeneration plant with cane trash fuel (no more canefield fires needed). Opens May 2008.Operating
FairymeadQueensland 6 750Unknown Oil or woodchip supplementary; Plants of 5.5MW's & 1.25MW'sOperating
FarleighQueensland 13 000Unknown Coal supplementaryOperating
HarwoodNew South Wales 4 5001964 & 1982 Sugar Milling Co-op; 1964 1.5MW; 1982 3MW Operating
InkermanQueensland 12 0001963 & 1976 Up to 2MW exported; oil supplementary; 1963 2MW; 1976 10MWOperating
InvictaQueensland 50 000 1976, 95 & 9635-40MW sold to grid; 1976 9MW; 1995 2.5MW; 1996 38.5MWOperating
IsisQueensland 10 700 1965, 75,? , new plant 2006 Woodchip supplementary; 1965 1.5MW; 1975 2.7MW & 6.5MW. The Qld Govt and Ergon Energy is constructing a $23M 25MW cogeneration plant that is expected to be fully operational in May 2006 Operating
KalamiaQueensland 9 0001976 Sells 2MW to gridOperating
MacknadeQueensland 3 0001965 Up to 3MW exported to grid Operating
MarianQueensland 18 000 1967, 76 & 78Up to 3MW exported to grid; coal supplementary; 1967 3MW; 1976 10MW; 1978 5MW Operating
MaryboroughQueensland 4 750Unknown Woodchip supplementary; Plants of 0.75MW's, 2MW's & 2MW's. Installing a refurbished 3.5MW turbo alternator to replace an old 700kW unit. Expected to be completed in August 2006 Operating
MillaquinQueensland 5 0001970 1x2MW, 1.1.75MW and 1x1.25MW Operating
MoretonQueensland 2 750 1970Located near Nambour and closed late 2003. 1x2.0MW & 1x0.75MW steam turbinesClosed
MossmanQueensland 11 000 1954, 64 & 95Exports 2MW to grid; coal supplementary; 1954 2MW; 1964 3MW; 1995 6MW Operating
MourilyanQueensland 4 250Unknown Oil supplementary; Plants of 1.75MW's, 1.5MW & 1MW Operating
MulgraveQueensland 10 5001970 Coal supplementary; Plants of 5MW's, 3MW's, 1MW and 1.5MW'sOperating
Ord Sugar MillWestern Australia 6 0001995 Sugar processing plant at Ord River Operating
PioneerQueensland 7 2001958, 63 & 76 At Brandon near Townsville. Up to 1MW exported; oil supplementary; 1958 2.5MW; 1963 1.2MW; 1976 3.5MW. CSR to build a $100M 63MW bagasse fired power plant. Due for completion in 2005Operating
Pioneer 2Queensland 63 0002005 Located at Brandon near Townsville. A $100M 63MW bagasse fired power plant is to be constructed at the Pioneer sugar mill. About 80% of the power generated will be sold to Ergon Energy Operating
Plane CreekQueensland 20 0001970&1997 Oil supplementaryOperating
PleystoweQueensland 10 1001966 & 1975 2MW exported to grid; 1966 3.1MW; 1975 7MW. Will cease production from 2009Operating
ProserpineQueensland 16 000 1974,78 & 99Oil, coal, woodchip supplementaryOperating
RacecourseQueensland 10 500 1968 & 19823MW exported to grid; coal supplementary; 1968 3.5MW; 1982 7.0MWOperating
Rocky PointQueensland 30 0002001 Woodchip supplementary; Stanwell sold plant to JV for $5.12M (6/06)Operating
South JohnstoneQueensland 11 5001997 Coal supplementary; Plants of 2MW's and 9.5MW's Operating
TablelandQueensland 7 0001998 Located at Arriga (SW of Mareeba on the Atherton Tablelands); can export up to 3MW.Commissioned July 1998 Operating
TownsvilleQueensland 2702000 115kw unit at Citiwaters Cleveland Bay and 155kW unit at St Johns water plantsOperating
TullyQueensland 21 400 1956, 65, 75 & 97Coal supplementary; 1956 1.5MW, 1965 4.5MW; 1975 5.3MW; 1997 8.7MW Operating
VictoriaQueensland 11 8001965 & 1976 Produces own power; 1965 3.2MW; 1965 3.6MW ; 1976 38.5MW Operating
Total (MW)467

Landfill Methane Biomass installations

Extracted from Dept. Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA) data, 2009/02/20.
NameStatekW Commis.Comments Status
AtlasWestern Australia 1 1002005 Landfill methane power station commissioned on 14/11/05Operating
AwabaNew South Wales 1 1002007 The Awaba landfill gas generator was commissioned in February 2007 at the Lake Macquarie Landfill site Operating
BelconnenACT 1 0001999 Landfill methane at Belconnen tip. Operating
BelroseNew South Wales 4 0001995 Belrose landfill in a Sydney suburb Operating
BerwickVictoria 4 0001992 MelbourneOperating
BroadmeadowsVictoria 7 0001993 MelbourneOperating
BrockwayWestern Australia 1 0001994 -Operating
BrooklynVictoria 1 0002002 -Operating
Browns PlainsQueensland 1 0001996 Brisbane suburbOperating
CanningvaleWestern Australia 4 0001995 -Operating
ClaytonVictoria 10 0001995 MelbourneOperating
CorioVictoria 1 0001992 MelbourneOperating
Eastern Creek 2New South Wales 8 8002008 Landfill gas generation plant Operating
Fitzgibbon-Roghan RoadQueensland 1 9002004 Landfill methane generator at Roghan Road near Fitzgibbon providing enough power for about 1000 homes. CAT3520 gas engine generator setOperating
GlenorchyTasmania 1 6882006 Landfill methane power station in Hobart Operating
Grange AvenueNew South Wales 1 2602006 Landfill methane power station near Marsden Park Operating
Hampton ParkVictoria 1 1002007 Hampton Park landfill gas generator was commissioned in February 2007Operating
Henderson-WattleupWestern Australia 2 1302006 Landfill methane power station commissioned on 10/4/06 Operating
HighburySouth Australia 2 0001995 Adelaide suburbOperating
Jacks GullyNew South Wales 1 0002001 -Operating
KalamundaWestern Australia 2 0001996 Perth landfillOperating
Kelvin RoadWestern Australia 2 2002003 The Kelvin Road landfill power station near Gosnells was commissioned in Oct 2003Operating
Lucas Heights INew South Wales 4 0001994 Southern Suburb of Sydney Operating
Lucas Heights IINew South Wales 9 0001998 Southern Suburb of Sydney Operating
Mandurah - Mt HerronWestern Australia1 4162007 The plant uses bacteria to breakdown greenwaste to produce a biogas to fuel a 1.4MW generator. Developed by a local engineering companyOperating
McRobies RoadTasmania 1 0642006 Landfill methane power station commissioned on 15/3/06 Operating
MerrylandsNew South Wales 1201986 Sydney suburb; not operational 0.12MW Not Operating
Millars RoadWestern Australia 1 6002003 The Millars Road landfill power station near Rockingham was commissioned in Nov 2003. Consists of 1x1000kW and 1x600kW generators Operating
MolendinarQueensland 7702002 -Operating
MorningtonVictoria 7702002 Near FingalOperating
MowbrayTasmania 1 1002007 The Remount Road landfill gas generator commenced operation in January 2007Operating
Mugga LaneACT 1 0001999 Landfill methane at Mugga Lane tip Operating
NowraNew South Wales 9862002 West Nowra landfill site. A $150 000 SEDA grant provided. By the time the generator is running at full capacity in 2006 it is expected to annually displace 8000t of greenhouse gas emissions Operating
Pedler CreekSouth Australia 3 0001996 Adelaide suburbOperating
Red HillWestern Australia 2 650Unknown Perth landfillOperating
Reedy CreekQueensland 5052002 Near Andrews on Gold Coast Operating
RochedaleQueensland 3 3452004 Rochedale landfill gas powered generator commissioned 21/8/2004Operating
Shoal BayNorthern Territory 1 1002005 Off Vanderlin Drive, Karama Operating
Sleeman Sports CentreQueensland 770 0.77MW Landfill Methane power station Operating
SmythesdaleVictoria 4702007 470kW landfill gas generation plant Operating
South CardupWestern Australia 6 0002005 Landfill site in Perth. Commissioned April 2005 Operating
SpringvaleVictoria 7 0001995 MelbourneOperating
StapyltonQueensland 7702002 -Operating
Stotts CreekNew South Wales 3702006 Landfill methane gas power station commissioned on 18/4/06Operating
SunshineVictoria 7 5001993 Sunshine CouncilOperating
SuntownQueensland 7702002 At Arundel on Gold Coast Operating
SwanbankQueensland 1 0002002 Landfill gas piped to Swanbank power station; ReOrganic Project. Commissioned Feb 2002Operating
Tamala ParkWestern Australia 1 7002004 Utilises waste from Wanneroo, Joondalup, Stirling, Perth, Vincent and Cambridge and Victoria Park local authorities. Operating
Tea Tree GullySouth Australia 3 0001995 Adelaide suburbOperating
TruganinaVictoria 1 1002006 Landfill methane power station commissioned on 2/2/06 Operating
Wagga WaggaNew South Wales 6262002 Gregadoo Waste Management Centre Operating
Whitwood RoadQueensland 1 1132004 Landfill Methane Project at 189 Whitwood Road, New Chum (near Ipswich). LMS is part of the Sims GroupOperating
Wingfield ISouth Australia 5 0001994 Adelaide suburbOperating
Wingfield IISouth Australia 2 0001994 Adelaide suburbOperating
WollertVictoria 1 1002006 Landfill methane power station commissioned on 15/5/06 Operating
WoodlawnNew South Wales 25 5602006 The first landfill gas generator arrived early 2006 (6x1.04MW Jenbacher J320GS). The Woodlawn Bioreactor is located in a disused 25Mcm open-cut mine. Woodlawn will receive up to 500 000t of residual waste per annum. Waste will be hauled to Woodlawn byOperating
WyndhamVictoria 1 0002002 Near WerribeeOperating
Total (MW)160

Sewage Methane Biomass installations

Extracted from Dept. Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA) data, 2009/02/20.
NameState kWCommis. CommentsStatus
BolivarSouth Australia 3 5001993 Electricity for internal use Operating
Carrum Downs 1 & 2Victoria 17 0001975 & 2007 Carrum Downs 2 commenced in 2007 with a 9.5MW sewage gas power stationOperating
CronullaNew South Wales 4972001 Burns gas produced by the Cronulla sewage treatment plant anaerobic sludge digesterOperating
ElanoraQueensland 2302005 Located on Tullebudgerah Road, 3.5km SW of Burleigh HeadsOperating
GlenelgSouth Australia 1 9501994 Electricity for internal use; +natural gas Operating
Luggage PointQueensland 3 2001979 Brisbane Luggage Point Treatment Works Operating
Macquarie PointTasmania 1422005 Located near Macquarie Wharf Operating
MalabarNew South Wales 3 0001999 Heating sludge digesters Operating
Oxley CreekQueensland 1 0302003 -Operating
Port AdelaideSouth Australia 1 9201995 Electricity for internal use; +natural gas Operating
SheppartonVictoria 1 4002009 Stage 1 due to be completed 2007 and Stage 2 due to be completed 2008Under Construction
SubiacoWestern Australia 1 2001999 Enersludge Technology converts waste sewage to oil & gas (cost $22.6M). Decommissioned in 2001 due to economic reasons Closed
TaturaVictoria 1 1002007 Tatura township sewage treatment plant. Power station commissioned 20 January 2007 Operating
WerribeeVictoria 1 3001995 Melbourne Water's Western Treatment Plant - Sewage Gas. Werribee Sewage Treatment PlantOperating
Werribee (AGL)Victoria 7 8001996, 1997 & 2005Two 630kW and two 1244kW power plants at Werribee sewage plant. Four new engines added 4.3MW's in 2005 Operating
Werribee 2Victoria 7 0001998 Floating plastic cover collects methane released from sewage decomposition in the lagoon system. Werribee sewage treatment plantOperating
Woodman PointWestern Australia 1 2001998 10km south of Fremantle; wastewater management project; two large anaerobic digestersOperating
Total (MW)53

Other Biomass installations

Extracted from Dept. Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA) data, 2009/02/20.
NameStatekW Commis.Comments Status
BallaratVictoria 601990 100%power and heat used in process; Uses waste gas Operating
Ballarat 2Victoria 130Unknown 100%power and heat used in process; Uses waste gas Operating
BayswaterNew South Wales 5 0001982/84 Blending woodwaste into Bayswater Coal Fired Power Station (assumed 5000kW's generated from the woodwaste) Operating
Berrybank FarmVictoria 2001991 Located at Windermere near Ballarat. A $2M investment in a Total Waste Management System at the Berrybank Farm Piggery is saving $435 000 per annumOperating
Big RiverNew South Wales 4502007 Woodwaste fired power plant near Grafton commissioned in January 2007Operating
BrisbaneQueensland 2 0001997 Located on Gibson Island. A 1x2MW waste biomass fired steam turbine cogeneration plant. Heat used for paper recycling and manufacturing Operating
CamelliaNew South Wales 3 5002003 An anaerobic digester in Sydney's west near Parramatta. Converts about 80 000t per annum of food waste to electricity and fertiliser. Reported cost $36MOperating
DandenongVictoria 2 0002008 An integrated green waste processing and energy facility in Ordish Rd. Should save 60 000 tpa of greenhouse gas emissions. Fluidised Bed Combustion to power a 2MW steam turbine Under Construction
Eastern Creek UR-3RNew South Wales 3 0002004 The $70M waste to energy project processes 175 000t/ann of municipal waste. Practical completion was reached on 11 September 2004Operating
Gladstone A&BQueensland 10 0001976/82 Blending woodwaste to provide about 10MW's of renewable powerOperating
GympieQueensland 1 5002003 5 000tpa of Macadamia nut shells will be burned in a $2M 6MW high pressure steam boiler and a 1500kW steam turbine at Suncoast Gold MacadamiasOperating
HazelwoodVictoria 10 0001964/71 Blending woodwaste, crop waste, municipal solid waste to produce about 10MW's of powerOperating
Kalgoorlie - biodiesel Western Australia 63 0001984, 1990 Occasional use of biodiesel. 596 km E Perth. 37MW GT, 1x25MW GT 84/98Operating
LiddellNew South Wales 5 0001999 Cofiring sawmill waste; up to 5% biomass blended with coal. Assumed to be generating 5MW from woodwaste Operating
MaryvaleVictoria 24 0001937/76/89 Pulp and Paper Mill (3x12MW's and 1x18.5MW's). Australian Paper has 2 x Black Liquor recovery boilers (renewable fuel type about 50%)Operating
Mount GambierSouth Australia 10 000 1954, 1968, 1997Located on Jubilee Highway east of Mt Gambier. Radiata pine residues. Generation Licence issued by the Essential Services Commission of SA (23/5/05) - Radius power station 9.5MWOperating
Mount PiperNew South Wales 5 0001992/93 Blending woodwaste into Mt Piper Coal Fired Power Station (assumed 5MW's of renewable energy generated) Operating
MujaWestern Australia 5 0001965,81,85/86 Blending woodwaste into Muja Coal Fired Power Station (assumed 5MW's of renewable electricity generated) Operating
NarroginWestern Australia 1 0002006 Integrated wood processing demonstration plant. Verve Energy stated that the process is commercially viable and will move to a full scale $40M 5MW plant within 2 years Operating
StapyltonQueensland 5 0002003 Power station burning everything from grass clippings to tree trimmings. A 5MW proof of concept facility has been constructed. Approval to build another 20MW'sOperating
TahuneTasmania 452006 Tahune woodgas power plant was commissioned September 2006 Operating
TantanoolaSouth Australia 30 0002005 A $60M biomass power station to be built in the Millicent-Mt Gambier region of South Australia. 280 000tpa of woodwaste will be required. 150 direct and indirect jobs will be created Under Construction
TumutNew South Wales 17 0002001 Tumut pulp and paper mill power plant Operating
Upper ChitteringWestern Australia 102001 Utilises food and agricultural wet waste Operating
Vales Point BNew South Wales 5 000- Blending woodwaste into Vales Point Coal Fired Power Station (assumed 5MW's of renewable electricity generated) Operating
Wallerawang CNew South Wales 5 0001976/80 Woodwaste blended into Wallerawang Coal Fired Power Station (assumed 5MW's of electricity generated from woodwaste) Operating
Whytes GullyNew South Wales 2 5002000 A 2.5MW syngas fired reciprocating plant. Solid wastes energy and recycling facility near Wollongong" Closed
Total (MW)215

Geothermal power

There are two types of geothermal power;
  1. Volcanic: There are no active volcanos in Australia so this form is not available.
  2. Hot rocks: There is great potential for this, but it is an unproven technology.
The most advanced geothermal power project in Australia is that of Geodynamics in the Cooper Basin in the far north of South Australia.

While there is certainly a huge amount of energy potentially available from the hot rocks at depths of greater than four kilometres in parts of Australia (see the Renewable Energy Atlas of Australia), the practicality of tapping this energy efficiently is far from proven.

The practical problems of drilling through rocks at high temperatures and at great depths seem to have been overcome. The biggest remaining question seems to be whether the circulating water will quickly remove the heat from a small volume of rock surrounding the larger fractures or whether it will flow through many smaller fractures and efficiently remove the heat from a large volume of rock over a much longer period.


There seems to be nowhere on the Internet that hydro-power generation figures are available for the whole of Australia. (I have made inquiries, Feb. 2009, but do not yet have an answer.) Wikipedia has a page listing hydro power plants in Australia.

Wind and water
Hydro has been Australia's biggest sustainable energy type; this is changing. Below is a rough comparison from the figures on the left.
Generated power (GWh/yr)
Hydro (Snowy+HydroTas)14 800
Wind5 000
While Snowy-Hydro and Hydro Tas. are the biggest hydro companies in Australia, there are many other hydro power stations scattered about the eastern states.

Hydro power has decreased during recent years because of decreasing rainfall, wind power is increasing as wind farms continue to be built.

Installed power (MW)
The installed power data was extracted from the Dept. Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts site, 2009/02/20, and applies to all recorded installations in Australia.

This table was created Nov. 2008 and modified March 2009.

Wikipedia states that the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority "generates on average 4500 gigawatt hours of renewable energy each year". The Snowy-Hydro site gives the same figure.

Hydro Tasmania runs all hydro power stations in Tasmania and states its long-term average power output as 1180MW (=10 300GWh/yr).

As a comparison, South Australia, the top wind power state in Australia, was producing around 210GWh per month (=2500GWh/yr) as of May 2008 (from the Electricity Supply Industry Planning Council of SA, Annual Planning Report, 2008, p64.) The remainder of Australia was producing almost as much wind energy as SA.

AGL owns ten hydroelectric generating schemes comprising 16 power stations in Victoria and NSW.

New hydro power

AGL is constructing a new $230 million, 140MW underground hydro-power station near Bogong village and beside Lake Guy. The project does not involve building a dam, but does include a new 6.5km tunnel. Some information is on one of the Bogong village pages.

Matching generation with demand

Scientific American published an article called Gather the Wind in their March 2012 issue. It discussed a number of methods that could be used to store electricity generated by sustainable methods when it is plentiful so that it could be fed back into the grid when demand outstripped generation.

The Scientific American article started with pumped-hydro, which I have written about elsewhere on this page. SciAm went on to discuss compressed air, advanced batteries, thermal storage and, a more speculative, home hydrogen.

Air can be compressed when electricity is abundant and stored underground; either in caverns or porous and permeable formations. When demand increases or supply decreases the compressed air can be used to drive turbines and generate electricity. The major problem discussed was the unwanted heating of air on compression and chilling of air on decompression; ways of getting around this were mentioned.

The thermal storage was within molten salt, as has been used in several pilot solar-thermal power stations.

Under home hydrogen it was suggested that water could be broken up into water hydrogen and oxygen in a home-scale plant when power was cheap and plentiful and these could then be recombined in a fuel-cell with regeneration of electricity as required.

Scientific American considered pumped hydro, thermal storage and compressed air the most practicable of the options.

Pumped-hydro power: matching generation with demand

In this section...
Characteristics of various generation technologies
Pumped hydro: general
Pumped-hydro in SA?
Kangaroo Island pumped-hydro
Pumped storage at Cathedral Rocks?

On another page...
A dedicated page on Pumped-hydro

Characteristics of various generation technologies

Technologies compared
Table source: International Energy Agency, 2014: The Power of Transformation: Wind, Sun and the economics of flexible power systems
The table on the right shows that hydro power has several advantages over other forms of power generation in its flexibility. It can be run at a great range of rates and can be 'ramped' up or down to suit demand very quickly.

Pumped hydro power: General


Pumped hydro power study in Australian National University

Ecogeneration published an informative piece about a study on the pumped hydro power potential in South Australia, Queensland, Tasmania and the ACT on 2017/08/09. The study was headed by Professor Andrew Blakers. The group was next to look for sites in NSW, Victoria, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

Blakers pointed out that for Australia to develop a high percentage of renewable energy both energy storage and increased long-distance power transmission would be required.

Balancing generation and load

See also balancing generation and load elsewhere on this page and balancing the electricity grid on my page on sustainable electricity discusses ways of varying consumption to help match the rate of generation.

"The missed energy storage technology"

Written by Tristan Edis and published in Business Spectator on 2014/03/03.

Tristan's piece refers to a study by the University of Melbourne's Energy Institute and discusses the heretofore largely overlooked potential of pumped hydro in Australia.

Energy Island

The Dutch are so committed to wind energy that they are seriously considering building an "energy island" in the north sea. (The Netherlands, being very flat, does not have hydro-power or potential hydro-power in the 'normal' sense.)

The idea involves building a circular dam in water about 20m deep, creating a controlled storage area several kilometres in diameter. The water will be pumped out of the storage into the sea when wind farms have put plentiful and cheap energy into the grid, it will be allowed to flow back in through turbines when the electricity in the grid is in short supply and its price is high. See Times Online.

High capacity pumped storage proposal; by Peter Lang

Brave new climate, a pro-nuclear blog site, discussed a pumped storage 9GW hydro power system, costed by Peter Lang, that could be set up between two major existing dams in NSW, Blowering and Tantangara, at a cost of $7b to $15b. It's 53km tunnel length would make its use for quick response to changes in supply and demand in the grid impractical.

Peter Lang wrote this piece with the expressed aim of showing new pumped-hydro schemes are unviable and therefore that incorporating large amounts of renewables into the electricity grid is impractical.

An electricity supply system (power grid) has to continually balance supply and demand. Total electricity consumption must, at all times, be matched by generation. Renewable energy forms such as wind and solar are, by their nature, variable in the amount that they generate and totally dependent on whether (and how strongly) the wind is blowing or the sun is shining. Consumption, too, is variable.

It follows that there must be some source of electricity available on demand to balance the grid. Pumped-hydro is one such; it can be quickly started and stopped as needed. At present gas-fired generators are most commonly used, at least in Australia, to balance supply with demand, but gas-fired power is unsustainable and we must eventually move to sustainable power.

It doesn't matter what causes any inbalance between supply and demand. An excess of power in the grid could be due to many wind farms generating strongly at the same time or to low demand for power in the early morning. A deficiency of power in the grid could be caused by the wind not blowing or to a jump in demand due to many air-conditioners being used on an unusually hot day. What matters is that pumped-hydro can help to provide the needed balance.

Denmark obtains about 20% of its power from wind (World Wind Energy Report, 2008) and buys hydro-power from nearby Norway as required to fill in any short-fall in power supply when the wind is insufficient.

Not only can hydro-power be fed into the electricity grid when there is a shortage of supply and the wholesale price is high, but energy can be stored as potential hydro-power when there is an excess of electricity and the wholesale price is low. Instead of generating power from falling water, power can be used to lift water from a low-level storage to a high-level storage (see Pumped-storage hydroelectricity in Wikipedia).

Reduced run-off into hydro-power catchments in recent years is a major problem for the operators of hydro-power stations, but it could to some extent be overcome by developing pumped recycling of the limited water in the system.

Tumut 3 Power Station in the Snowy Mountain Scheme of NSW, for example, is set up for pumped-storage. In generating mode water can flow from the upstream storage, behind Talbingo Dam, through anything up to six turbines into the downstream storage, behind Jounama Dam. At times when electricity is plentiful and cheap, two (or three?) of the Tumut 3 turbines can be used as pumps to lift water from the Jounama pondage up into the Talbingo reservoir. In effect, electricity is stored in the form of the potential energy of the water in the high storage. This system can be, I believe, about 80% efficient.

I know of no new development of pumped-storage hydro in Australia aimed specifically at balancing the grid since wind power has become a major component of our power supply; apparently using gas-fired power stations to fill in the gaps when the wind isn't blowing are a cheaper option in the short-term.

Existing pumped hydro in Australia

(Extracted from Peter Lang's comment No. 95 in the Brave New Climate article on the Tantangara-Blowering proposal.) The energy storage capacity is 5GWh per day and 20GWh total.

The estimated total energy storage capacity per 6 hour day is:

  • Wivenhoe = 1,968 MWh (1,640 MWh for 5h average pumping per day)
  • Tumut 3 = 2,378 MWh
  • Kangaroo Valley = 630 MWh
  • Bundeela = 315 MWh
  • Total = 5,290 MWh

Capital cost of pumped-hydro-power

This paragraph added 2016/06/27
Andrew Blakers on The Conversation, 2014/07/09 wrote
"Initial estimates suggest that the cost of an off-river system at a good site is around Aus$1,000 per kilowatt of installed capacity."

Peter Lang provided the following:

"World experience is that hydro projects cost about US$2,000/kW to US$4,000/kW. The Electricity Storage Association gives a range of costs for Pumped-Hydro of US$500/kW to US$1500/kW."
On this page I have used $2000/kW ($2 per Watt) for my calculations. This is, of course, the capital cost of building the facility. Once built, profitability depends on how often it can be used, how much electricity it can generate at each cycle, and the difference in the buying and selling price of the power.

Cost of wind power

I have used $150/MWh as the buying price for the pumping power in these calculations. I have calculated that the cost of production of wind power is around $74/MWh.

I have calculated the capital costs of wind power in Australia at around $2.00 per installed Watt, or $6.00 per generated Watt (the weighted average capacity factor of Australian wind farms is 34%).

Altered 2017/02/24

Pumped-hydro in SA?


Investigation of February 2017

The ABC reported on an investigation being carried out by Energy Australia with funding from ARENA. This was looking into an installation in the Cultana area, SW of Port Augusta; a power rate of 100-200MW for up to eight hours was reported – that is a total of from 800 to 1600MWh of energy.

Supposing a difference in altitude between the lower and upper reservoirs of 200m, which seems reasonable for the hills in the area, this installation would require a reservoir size of about 2GL. (This can be compared to the capacities of existing reservoirs in northern SA: Baroota, 6.1GL; Beetaloo, 3.2GL; Bundaleer, 6.4GL. The Tod River Reservoir near Port Lincoln has a capacity of 11.3GL.)

In early 2011 South Australia had more wind power per capita than any nation on Earth with the possible exception of Denmark, and this will increase by about 22% when Snowtown Wind Farm Stage 2 is completed in late 2014. The variable output of the wind power must somehow be matched with the variable demand in the grid, at present this is done by a combination of gas-fired generators and bringing power in from the eastern states, but pumped-hydro could also have a place.

SA has few mountain ranges of any significance and generally low rainfalls, so pumped-hydro opportunities are not easily found.

What is needed for an efficient pumped-hydro system suitable for short-notice balancing power supply and demand?

Water storages at a high and low level;
The bigger the better and the greater the vertical distance between the high and low storages the better (small distances must be matched with bigger storages).

Water to fill the storages;
As the water can be used over and over again, this is not quite such a problem as in conventional hydro-power. Sea water is plentiful and widely available, but its use presents some environmental challenges.

A relatively short distance between the two pondages;
Close proximity of the two storages is ideal to minimise both the friction losses (and therefore required diameters of tunnels and pipes) and the inertia of the water in the tunnels and pipes, so allowing quick response to changes in the supply-demand balance in the power grid.

A suitable location
The site must be close to either the wind generators, a high capacity power line, or a large market for electricity. (Any of the above would be acceptable, all of the above would be ideal.)

How big a storage?

A few hundred megalitres at altitudes differing by about 100m is sufficient for smoothing the power from one wind farm over a period of a day, and this seems to be the most economical size. (The energy from 100ML falling 100m is 27MWh – this is roughly equal to the energy from six modern (2016), utility scale, wind turbines running at full power for an hour.)

At least hundreds of gigalitres with an altitude difference of 100m would be needed to smooth the output from all the wind farms in SA over a period of weeks. Sites suitable for such large storages are probably not available in South Australia, but may be in the Great Dividing Range in the eastern states.

Where are suitable sites available in SA?

Basing a small pumped-hydro systems on existing water reservoirs such as Little Para and Mount Bold may be viable, but the altitude difference would only be around 40m. A smaller reservoir could be built close on the downstream side of the existing storages and water shuttled between the new lower storage and existing higher storage.

The most obvious source of large volumes of water is the sea. If sea water is to be used then where are there elevated areas suitable for storages of considerable size close to the coast and close to the power grid? There are few such places; the north coast of Kangaroo Island (both the main part of the Island and the Dudley Peninsula) is one, the southern Fleurieu Peninsula is another. There are some moderately elevated areas along the western coast of Eyre Peninsula, but they are not suited for building large water storages.

Kangaroo Island and Fleurieu Peninsula pumped-hydro


Environmental considerations

If sea water is to be used then of particular concern is the probable seepage of this into whatever aquifers might underlie the storage. Kangaroo Island generally has very poor (in quality and quantity) groundwater resources, but obviously investigation would be needed. It may be necessary to line the storage with a water-proof membrane and to control the build up of natural groundwater outside the membrane; this would minimise the possibility of slumping as well as protecting the groundwater from contamination.

Size of components

Instead of one large pump of 250MW and one turbine of 125MW several smaller pumps and/or turbines would give greater flexibility in operation, albeit at increased capital cost. My calculations indicate that a pipe diameter of six metres would be about right (giving a flow velocity of 5.2 metres per second and a friction head loss of 1.8m at the full flow rate of 146 cubic metres per second).

Why generators having half the capacity of the pumps?

Australian wind farms have a weighted average capacity factor of 34%. If a pumped-hydro scheme is to smooth the power output from wind farms it would apear to be ideal that it can absorb 66% of the power output when the wind turbines are running at full output and generate about half that when the wind turbines are not generating anything. This may well be an over-simplification.

Hill-top storage – Fleurieu Peninsula

In the main text I have looked at storages based on damning gullies. This is an example of a storage that could be built on a hill-top. At Latitude S35.541, Longitude E138.157, it would be possible to build a storage with a circumference of about 2km, an average depth of 20m, an altitude around 150m about 700m from the sea. This would yield up to 800MWh of electricity.

This was picked out in a few minutes; a more thorough search would produce better sites.

A search using Google Earth suggested to me that the best areas in South Australia for pumped-hydro were on Kangaroo Island and in the vicinity of Starfish Hill on the western coast of Fleurieu Peninsula. (I have discussed the great untapped wind power potential of Kangaroo Island on another page.) Storages of around 10GL are potentially available on Kangaroo Island at altitudes of more than a hundred metres and within two or three kilometres of the coast (an effective slope of around 40 to 60m/km). Kangaroo Island is 150 to 200km (depending on the rout taken) from the main power market in South Australia, Adelaide.

10GL at 170m elevation has a potential energy of around 5GWh, which would be sufficient for smoothing the output from several hundred turbines for periods of a day or so, or around a hundred turbines for a much longer period. (Peter Lang, referred to above, wrote that Australia's pumped-hydro energy storage capacity was "roughly 5GWh can be stored per day and 20GWh total".) If the pumps and generators were 250MW they could run for 20 hours. Based on a cost of $2000/kW this gives a total capital cost of $500m. My calculations on Cathedral Rocks Wind Farm (see below and in the box on the right) suggest that it would be desirable if the pumps have twice the capacity of the hydro-generators; so perhaps 250MW in pumps and 125MW in generators (maximum operating time 40 hours) would be preferable. So a capital cost of $375m might be more appropriate.

I will assume that power from the facility can be sold for about three times the buying price. (Peter Lang used $150/MWh buying and $600/MWh selling; I will use $150/MWh buying for pumping and $450/MWh selling from generation.) Supposing four hours of pumping at 250MW and eight hours generating at 125MW each day, an effeciency in each operation of 85% (combined efficiency about 72%, which I believe is conservative), we can calculate annual pumping costs of about $64m, generation income about $140m, a gross profit of $75m and a pay-back time of 5 years.

100GL-plus storages, if they could be found at similar altitudes, could smooth the output of a large part of SA's wind power generation for periods up to a few weeks. If the costs are dependent mainly on the capacity of the pumps and generators then the greatest possible storage is a high priority.

Pumped storage at Cathedral Rocks – an exercise

Model of operation of Cathedral Rocks wind farm with additional pumped-hydro
wind farm generation
See text for explanation
Peter Seligman suggested to me that Cathedral Rocks Wind Farm would be a good place to set up a hydro-power scheme to smooth the generation output of the wind farm. His idea was to pump from the sea at the base of the nearby cliffs into a cliff-top storage when power was plentiful and then to run the water through a hydro-power station back into the sea when the wind farm was not generating.

Not only would a system like this allow power to be fed into the grid at times of low generation, but it could profitably divert wind-generated electricity from the grid at those times when there was excess generation. (At such times a penalty is payable by the wind farmers.)

I did some calculations based on this idea. The dark blue line on the graph shows the power actually generated by Cathedral Rocks wind farm on 2011/02/25 (AEMO data); there was strong generation early in the day and very little from midday to about 2200hrs. When wind generation was plentiful, early in the day, I modelled diverting power from the turbines to a pump that lifted water from the sea to a cliff-top storage; this power is shown by the pink line. When the wind dropped (hour 7 and then hours 9 to 21) I ran water from the cliff-top storage through a hydro-power station; this power is shown by the yellow line. The aqua coloured line shows the final, smoother, output from the combined wind and hydro station into the grid.

In effect, some of the power from the early morning generation was stored and then fed into the grid later in the day when the wind stopped blowing.

My model was a very simple one. In reality one would have to give serious consideration to the need for variable pumping rates and variable rates of hydro-generation. For the sake of efficiency it may be necessary to have several pumps of different sizes and several hydro-generators of various sizes; I have just used one in my model.

The cliff-tops at Cathedral Rocks are rather more than 100m above sea level; I used 100m as the altitude for the hypothetical storage. As mentioned elsewhere in these pages 2.7MWh is required to raise 1GL by 1m. The calculations assumed an efficiency of 85% for the pump and the same for the hydro-power generator. The pump had a capacity of 30MW; 15MW would be sufficient for the hydro-generator (the installed capacity of the wind farm is 66MW). The cliff-top storage needed a capacity of 500ML, which could be handled by a reservoir about 330m long, 250m wide and 6m deep. This would be sufficient for smoothing one day's output, a larger storage would be needed if smoothing was required over a longer period. The pipe for pumping would need to be about 2.5m in diameter, a slightly smaller one would suffice for the hydro generator.


Tidal power

Tidal power is a form of Hydro-power. So far as I know there is no significant tidal power generated in Australia in early 2009.

From ABC Online news...

Tuckey pushes Kimberley tidal power

Posted Wed Nov 5, 2008 2:38pm AEDT

There are renewed calls for the development of renewable energy in the Kimberley, with the federal Member for O'Connor spruiking the merits of tidal power. Wilson Tuckey wants the Commonwealth to spend $10 billion establishing the necessary infrastructure for a tidal power industry in the region. Mr Tuckey says tidal energy could provide 10 times the country's current electrical capacity without producing any carbon emissions. He says the Commonwealth should fund start up infrastructure before commercial interests jump on board like the State Government did with the North West Shelf. "This will be the same. If the Australian Government puts in the original tidal generating capacity and the interconnecting transmission lines, which is probably the most important, the Kimberley will then see a rash of people charging in to produce that same electricity from other localities," he said. The Federal Government says it will release a white paper on Australia's future energy needs next year and will consider all the options, including the use of tidal power in the Kimberley.
This article seems very speculative and should not be taken too seriously.

Wave power

Scientific American (March 2009) printed that 40 to 70kW per metre of wave power could theoretically be generated on the Pacific Northwest coast of the USA (US Dept. of Energy figures). Many parts of the Australian coast would have similar potential.

ABC Science on-line published an article by Rebecca Martin 2009/02/23.

"A recent report by RPS MetOcean, commissioned by Carnegie Corporation, one of the Australian companies looking to launch wave power technology, suggested that Australia had a near-shore wave energy resource of 170,000 megawatts, or around four times the national installed power generation capacity.

Even if only 10 per cent of that potential power was extracted, says Carnegie, it would supply 35 per cent of Australia's current power demand."

Martin quoted Andy Baldock who is a UK wave energy analyst from engineering firm Black & Veatch:
"There's a phenomenal number of [wave technology] devices out there, with several thousand patents. Over 100 ideas have been actively pursued, of which around 50 have had a reasonable amount of work done on them and around 20 are still being pursued quite seriously. At least ten are planning to do near full scale prototypes."
The resource is there, the technology is well under way, the question is, is there the will in the Australian people and the Australian government to change away from fossil fuels?

The Australian Greenhouse Office lists three wave power projects:
Oceanlinx, Port Kembla, NSW, 500kW, operating
"Construction completed at the Eastern Breakwater in December 2006. The special turbine is currently being tested". See

Ocean Power Tech. (Aust) PL, Portland, Vic, 20kW, operating
"Wave energy demonstration unit. Received $230 000 in Commonwealth funding to help with construction and installation. The PowerBouy is 20m long and 4.5m in diameter. 1500kW project expected to be completed Dec-10" See

Sea Power Pacific, Rous Head, WA, 100kW, under construction
"Proposed CETO wave energy technology. Unit to be anchored to the sea floor off Rous Head" See

From ABC On-Line News
Wave power plan mooted for Eyre Peninsula.

Posted Tue Nov 11, 2008 9:22am AEDT

A wave energy project is among $1 billion wish list being put forward for South Australia's Eyre Peninsula, as the Federal Government moves to kick-start the economy through infrastructure. The region's development board has nominated a new deep-sea port for mineral exports and water desalination projects. The board's chief executive, Mark Cant, says it is hoped a pilot wave energy project can be underway within a year. "Eyre Peninsula is being looked at because it's got a consistent swell, it's between three and five metres," he said. "We identified five or six locations on Eyre Peninsula where we could possibly have wave energy as a new industry starting on Eyre Peninsula. We've isolated that down to one key location at this stage for a pilot project." The proposal is from Western Australian company Carnegie Corporation. Managing director Michael Ottaviano says wave technology could be supplying one-fifth of the nation's renewable energy by the year 2020. "There's no silver bullet when it comes to our future power sources, but wave [power] certainly has a hugely significant role in our future energy mix," he said.
Many projects are proposed, few come into being.

Matters relating to sustainable energy


Renewable energy rebate for remote homes axed

The Federal Government has for several years provided a 50% subsidy for installation of solar and wind energy systems in those households that are not connected to the electricity grid. It was scrapped today without any warning.

Gov'ts approves renewable energy target plan

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) approved the Federal Government's renewable energy target (RET) today. The legislation is expected to pass through parliament without major problems.

Extracted from a media release by the Renewable Energy Council.

Updated 2017/02/21

Comparative costs of power generation

Solar power Power Purchase Agreement prices
Solar PPA costs
Graphic from an Origin Energy presentation via RenewEconomy, 2017/02/21
The graph on the right shows how the price of bundled power purchage agreements for solar power has declined in the past few years. The graph was added on 2017/02/21.

The data that were in this section became outdated and were deleted. Up to date costs of solar, wind and other electricity generation methods are on another page on this site.

Balance in sustainable energy rebates

I have discussed various state and federal sustainable energy rebates elsewhere on these pages. The danger of using rebates to encourage the take-up of sustainable energy is that, if they are not well thought out, they may be unfair and cause unintended harm to some sectors of the industry.

At the time of writing (2009/02/28) there are rebates for installing photovoltaic power on private homes and schools, but no rebates for installing small wind turbines, except in isolated areas not connected to the electricity supply grid. This is very unfair to the manufacturers and suppliers of small wind turbines and it discourages development of this, potentially important, sector of the sustainable energy industry.


Hydrogen powered cars have been discussed as an option for renewably powering future transport, unfortunately they do not seem to be near practicality yet (as of Nov. 2008).

Electric cars do seem to be near practicality, and they can be 'green' if their batteries are recharged using green power (not fossil-fuel or nuclear generated power). Their biggest drawback is their relatively short range; around 100 to 150km.

Electric Car

The Green Car Website, Oct. 26th 2008, carried a story about a proposal by alternative-energy car company Better Place to set up an electric car network in Australia.

The idea is that people would buy the cars and then pay by the mile to use them. The range on one charge would be around 100km, the cars would be aimed at the commuting market, and the company would provide numerous recharging stations.

The quote below is from the Better Place page on the subject...

"We selected Australia, the world's sixth largest country, to show that our model works in any country, regardless of size. If Australia can do it, so can others. We will build an electric vehicle network capable of supporting the switch of Australia's 15 million gas cars to zero emission vehicles. We have two strong partners: AGL Energy, with Australia's largest portfolio of privately-owned renewable generation; and Macquarie, well known for making smart infrastructure investments around the globe. AGL will provide all of the renewable energy - from wind and other sources - needed to power the electric vehicles and work with Better Place to optimize the network. Macquarie will provide financial advice to help raise AUD $1 billion for the initial network build. Moving Australia off oil will benefit the economy and the environment."

Of course the suggestion that the cars will have zero emissions is marketing bullshit; emissions do not only come from the vehicle fuel. However, they should be far better than the present petroleum based cars.

I have written at greater length on sustainable transport, in the global context, elsewhere.


CEDEX (Carbon Emissions inDEX) report, by Pitt and Sherry, 2014. Shows how much carbon emissions decreased from 2006 to 2014.

Yes to Renewable Energy, a campagn in support of the development of renewable energy projects in Victoria by Friends of the Earth. (A response to the anti-renewables stance of the new, 2010, Victorian Liberal Government.)

The Energy Report by WWF (Feb. 2010; 8MB).

Peter Seligman's "Australian Sustainable Energy – by the numbers". Inspired by "Sustainable Energy – without the hot air" by David J.C. MacKay, FRS. " _the_numbers3.pdf" (there should be no spaces in this URL; 2MB). Melbourne Energy Institute, University of Melbourne, July 2, 2010. A very good read.

Australian Sustainable Energy: Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan, " ZCA2020_Stationary_Energy_Report_v1.pdf" (there should be no spaces in this URL; 9MB). From The University of Melbourne, Energy Research Institute.

Changes needed in the electricity supply system

Balancing generation and load

For any form of sustainable energy to be developed efficiently and effectively, techniques must be employed to help balance the variable generation inherent in sustainable energy, such as wind and solar, with the demand for electricity (the load).

Price-responsive-load, in which the electricity market can respond to retail electricity price changes, must be adopted as soon as possible. For this to work several changes must be made to the way electricity is sold, especially at the retail level:

  • The retail electricity price must be allowed to rise and fall, depending on supply and demand, just as the wholesale electricity price does;
  • Consumers must have access to the price at all times, and have the option of using electricity or not depending on the price;
  • Consumers must have the option of selling electricity as well as buying it.
Methods for storing electricity will also come into the equation. Energy storage is not a high priority while there is a substantial amount of gas-powered electricity generation in the system because this can be fired-up or down as needed to balance supply and demand. However, gas-fired electricity generation is neither sustainable (the gas won't last for ever, it's a fossil fuel) nor greenhouse friendly (it produces about half as much carbon dioxide per unit of power as does coal-powered electricity generation.

I asked Terry Teoh of Pacific Hydro whether PH was looking into pumped-storage hydro as a means of levelling supply and demand relating to wind energy development. A part of his answer...

"In the short term the intermittency of wind can more easily be dealt with (from both technological and cost perspective) by using gas generators to handle the increased dynamic variability. Gas generators already perform the bulk of the balancing function for SA as our overnight demand is roughly 50% of daytime demand. Adding more wind into the system causes gas generators to be a bit 'busier' and for now this is cheaper than storage. The existing market design should allow this to occur quite readily."
Balancing generation and load is dealt with in greater depth in Sustainable electricity elsewhere on this site.

Storing electricity


How much storage do we need?

A good 4 minute video clip on "The storage necessity myth: how to choreograph high-renewables electricity systems" was produced by the Rocky Mountain Institute and is on YouTube.
Edited 2014/07/23
In the context of a sustainable energy system the motive for storing electricity is to take it from the grid when generation exceeds demand and to put it back when demand exceeds generation. The financial incentive will be the profit from buying when prices are low and selling when prices are high.

Storing electricity as a way of balancing the grid is closely linked to the principle of Price-responsive-load.

Over several years up to mid 2014 (as I write this) there has been a lot of discussion about batteries, but by far the greatest energy storage capacity in the world is pumped storage hydro. From Wikipedia:

"Pumped storage is the largest-capacity form of grid energy storage available, and, as of March 2012, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) reports that PSH accounts for more than 99% of bulk storage capacity worldwide, representing around 127,000 MW. PSH reported energy efficiency varies in practice between 70% and 80%, with some claiming up to 87%."
Energy storage comparison
This graph shows how a number of energy storage techniques are placed in terms of capital cost per unit of power and capital cost per unit energy. (CAES = Compressed air energy storage, EC = Electrochemical, UPS = Uninteruptable power supply).
Source: Electricity Storage Association

The graph at the right shows some energy storage techniques and their capital costs in terms of energy and power. An important factor that it does not show is the efficiency of each process, that is, how much energy is lost in storing the energy and getting it back. Capacitors and flywheels can be highly efficient, batteries less so, and perhaps compressed air least of all?

The length of time the power must be stored is an important variable. Capacitors and flywheels are well suited for storing power for short periods (capacitors leak and flywheels run down), hydro suits longer periods because the water stays where it is put until it is needed.

Pumped-storage hydro-power is a part of the answer; heat storage in solar-thermal plants is another part, techniques like the reversible formation of ammonia from hydrogen and nitrogen (experimental and not shown on the graph) could be another part.

The capital costs of most of these techniques is quite high. An opportunity will arise when and if electric vehicles become common, the batteries will already exist for use in the cars; there will be no additional capital cost. It will be possible for the car batteries - which will be connected to the power grid for recharging - to be used to help balance electrical supply and demand. They will, at the same time, produce some extra income for their owners who will be selling electricity when it is expensive and buying at lower prices.

It is possible to store huge amounts of compressed air in geological formations; this involves much less capital expense than storage in man-made tanks.

All these methods depend on opening the electricity market to free trade, similarly to most other markets.

Also see:

The need for transmission lines:
Efficient power transmission over long distances

What is stopping Australia developing its full sustainable energy potential? One of the big problems is our power transmission system; lack of political will is the ultimate problem. To mid 2010 no long-distance power transmission line has been built or upgraded anywhere in Australia specifically for the development of renewable energy. In contrast, "Nine European countries, including Germany, Britain and France, have announced plans to create a huge inter-country power grid in order to utilise electricity from renewable energy production more efficiently." This is expected to cost about $46b. (2010/01/07; Renewable Energy News)


Cost of transmission lines

A document by the US Congressional Research Service, "Wind Power in the US: Technology, Economic, and Policy Issues" (2008), contains the following: "On a national scale, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) states that the most cost-effective way to meet a 20% wind energy target by 2030 would be by constructing over 12,000 miles of new transmission lines at a cost of approximately $20 billion". That is, $1m per killometre. (At the time of writing, the $US and the $Aus were equal in value.)

High voltage direct current (HVDC)

Extract from Wikipedia...

"HVDC has the ability to transmit large amounts of power over long distances with lower capital costs and with lower losses than AC. Depending on voltage level and construction details, losses are quoted as about 3% per 1000 km. High-voltage direct current transmission allows efficient use of energy sources remote from load centres."

The same Wikipedia article indicated that 5GW was quite feasible for a transmission line with four cables (bipolar, two pairs of cables).

Connecting WA to the 'Australian' grid

An article in Scientific American (Nov. 2010) suggested indirectly that an 800MW, 800kV line could connect Western Australia to the eastern Australian power grid (a distance of 2500km) with a loss of no more than 8%.

Cost of high voltage direct current transmission lines

Extract from a World Bank document...

A graph indicates that for a 2GW transmission line DC is cheaper than AC over distances greater than about 700km, and for a 1200km line the cost would be around US$550m.

"Assumptions made in the price calculations: For the AC transmission a double circuit is assumed with a price per km of US$250 000 (each), AC substations and series compensation (above 600 km) are estimated to US$80m. For the HVDC transmission a bipolar OH line was assumed with a price per km of US$250 000, converter stations are estimated to US$250m."

The same document states that construction times for HVDC systems are lower than for HVAC systems.

A map and table on my Wind Power Potential page give more detail on the areas within Australia where wind power could be harnessed. The potential of these areas could be realised if collector transmission lines were built in the wind farm areas and high voltage direct current (HVDC, see box on right) transmission lines to take the power to the markets in the eastern states where NSW and Queensland in particular have much inferior wind resources to SA, Tasmania and WA.

Epuron has proposed a 1GW wind farm for Silverton near Broken Hill. If it is to be run effectively a high capacity transmission line will have to be built from Broken Hill to connect with a larger power market (Average power consumption for the whole of SA is about 1.5GW; Broken Hill could not use 1GW). Epuron intends to build a 290km transmission line from Silverton to the NSW end of the Murraylink HVDC Interconnector at Redcliffs. An imaginative government committed to sustainable energy might rather build a 5GW transmission line from Mid North SA through Broken Hill to Sydney (1200km), with a branch to Brisbane to cater for expansion in the SA sustainable energy industry.

Importantly such a line could also feed power back into SA when needed. In the record heat-wave of January 2009 that affected Victoria and South Australia a number of large areas had to be blacked-out because of record power consumption and the failure of the Bass-Link line to Tasmania. Heat-waves often affect both Victoria and South Australia at the same time; a link between South Australia and NSW would be very valuable at those times.

Australian governments have always been willing to build transmission lines to serve new fossil-fuel power stations, why - if they are as much in favour of sustainable energy as they claim to be - are they unwilling to build them for sustainable energy development?

Should we follow the lead of Texas? From Terry Teoh (Pacific Hydro)...

"Texas is in process of implementing their CREZ (competitive renewable energy zones) policy which is a departure from contemporary electricity sector micro-economic thinking in the industrialized world. Under CREZ, government takes the up front risk of building the backbone transmission system to remote regions which have world class wind resources. The transmission capacity is then auctioned to the private sector. So government takes a 'build and hope' approach."
In Australia we can only dream of this sort of pro-active action on the part of government. Also see Texas State Energy Conservation Office.

Western and northern SA have huge potential for geothermal and solar power. They could use the same interstate connectors: once they have been proven to be economically viable, an HVDC line from around Inaminka to Broken Hill (supposing that by that time Broken Hill is connected to both east and west by a high capacity transmission line) should be built.

This section added 2014/06/17
Edited 2014/07/04

South Australia's renewables success story

I have written a separate page on this elsewhere on this site.

Wind farm generation and South Australian power consumption
Mike Hudson's graph
Acknowledgements: data from AEMO, graph produced and kindly supplied by Mike Hudson
While the nation wallows in the renewable energy doldrums caused by the Abbott Government's antipathy to anything that might reduce the profitability of the Liberal Party's beloved coal industry South Australia is doing very well. SA switched from very little renewable energy in 2003 to around 40% wind plus solar PV by 2014.

Indeed, in a windy period SA gets most of its electricity from the wind, as shown in the graph on the right.