A part of one of Australia's wind farms
Wattle Point Wind Farm, Yorke Peninsula, South Australia
Great opportunities for integrating renewables with other thingsI've discussed elsewhere what I see as game changes and the potential of hydrogen and e-methanol as carriers of clean energy and industries with great potential futures in Australia.
Integration of home solar power, electric vehicles and the power grid
For many years now we've been seeing solar panels going onto more and more Australian roofs. More recently we've been seeing nations with progressive governments adopting more and more electric vehicles (EVs; not so much in Australia with its fossil fuel obsessed federal government). And in recent years, in Australia especially, we've been seeing more and more home batteries being installed, some of these being integrated into virtual power grid backup batteries.
The source of the home-generated power will be solar photovoltaic (PV) generators built into the house (rather than added on as an afterthought as is usual at present).
The control of where power goes and when it goes will, of course, have to be controlled by a computer based on priorities set by the home owner.
Integration such as is being discussed but it seems that there is quite a way to go before it becomes an economic practicality and a common reality.
Another opportunity, combining solar power with farmingSolar panels could increase agricultural productivity if used well especially in regions that tend to be hot and dry - such as much of Australia. Solar panels will reduce soil temperatures beneath the panels during the summer and therefore will increase the effectiveness of any rainfall.
My wife and I used to have a small wine-grape vineyard in the Clare Valley of South Australia. We still own some land there. Climate change seems to be causing reduced rainfall; it is certainly causing higher average temperatures. Many of the wine-grapes in the Clare Valley used to be dry-grown - that is, not irrigated. Supplementary water is becoming increasingly needed.
Grapes are grown in rows. Solar farms have their panels in rows. Alternating a row of solar panels with a row of vines would make the natural rainfall more effective for the vines. Consideration would have to be given to avoiding the shading of the panels by the vines and to accessing the vines for pest control and harvesting.
Solar panels to provide shade
Australia is the perfect place for combining solar power generation with shade. The sunny climate is ideal for solar power generation and the hot climate makes shade desirable. And shade could be very useful in many other places than car parks.
Shade is only going to become more and more valuable as the climate warms.
The situation at the time of writing; Mid 2018
Geothermal energyDetermined attempts have been made to develop hot rock geothermal energy in SA. They have thus far failed to prove economically viable.
Air pollution is the world's single biggest environmental health riskA 2012 World Health Organisation (WHO) report, summarised in The Guardian, states that air pollution is the world's single biggest environmental health risk.
Coal (and gas) burning for power generation can be replaced with renewable energy.
Motor vehicles can be electrified or powered by non-polluting hydrogen, coal and wood burning in homes can be replaced with electricity, and the electricity for it all can be generated using renewables.
Even coke (made from coal) for smelting and refining metals can be replaced by hydrogen extracted from water using renewable energy.
In spite of both Labor and Liberal-National coalition governments (particularly the latter, from the Abbott Government starting in September 2013 to the Morrison Government, still in place at the time of writing, January 2019) supporting the coal industry, renewable energy has made great inroads into power generation in Australia.
Quoting Simon Holmes à Court in the Guardian article that published the graph:
"Highly polluting brown coal use is down 36.6% and black coal (still dirty!) has fallen 9.4%, mostly replaced by wind and solar."At the time of writing it was looking like the rate of renewable energy installation and coal power station retirement was only going to increase.
While these coalition governments have been nothing short of criminal in their opposition to action on climate change, fortunately they have been notably ineffectual in their efforts to stop the transition to renewable energy.
South Australia shows what is possibleThe graph below shows a record of South Australia's huge success in:
|South Australia's generation record (added to this page 2019/01/17)|
More solar PVThere are a great many rooftop solar PV installations in Australia, typically no bigger than 5 kW and rarely bigger than 100 kW; there is scope for far more. Recently utility scale solar PV farms of multi-MW capacity have become commonplace; a number of these have been in the 100 MW+ range.
At the time of writing many solar PV farms were either under construction or proposed in Australia. Wikipedia stated that:
"As of March 2018, Australia had over 7,803 MW of installed photovoltaic (PV) solar power, of which 1,651 MW were installed in the preceding 12 months."
In August 2018 Victorian Energy Minister Lily D'Ambrosio had proposed an initiative to install 2,600 MW of solar PV on 360,000 homes; whether it happens will depend on the outcome of an upcoming election among other things.
Solar thermal power with storageAt the time of writing Sundrop Farms, near Port Augusta in South Australia (photo on the right) was the only significant development of solar thermal power with energy storage in the country. It is not used to generate grid electricity, it powers a huge greenhouse including desalination of the very salty water supply.
There is huge scope for further similar developments around Australia.
In 2020 it seemed that solar thermal methods of generating electricity had lost the battle against solar photovoltaic, due to the economies of scale of the latter.
More wind farmsAt the time of writing 21 wind farms were under construction around Australia, totalling 989 MW; many others had been proposed.
More interconnectionIn February 2019 transmission network companies ElectraNet and Transgrid delivered their final report into their proposal to build a $1.5 billion link between Robertstown in South Australia and Wagga Wagga in NSW. They have dubbed the project “EnergyConnect”. For more information on the proposal see Renew Economy.
My impression is that this will be a boost for the renewable energy industry in both states, but particularly for SA, and help to reduce Australia's greenhouse gas emissions.
It is proposed that the new interconnector will have a capacity of 800 MW, which is about a half of the typical electricity generation in South Australia.
At the time of writing there was increasingly often more renewable energy generation in SA than could be used in the state or exported via the existing interconnectors to Victoria. I have been informed that curtailment on a particular wind farm has been around 3%, but rose to 8% in the last quarter of 2018; if this is typical for all wind farms it is a substantial loss of earning power, and it will only increase as more renewable energy comes on line. The new interconnector will allow increased wind and solar development in SA because any excess, beyond local consumption, will be able to be sent to NSW, displacing coal power there.
There are times when there is wind in SA and not in NSW (and vice-versa), so the new connector will allow one state to help out the other at these times.
Energy stored in one state will more readily be able to be used in the other state, when needed.
It is expected that the interconnector will be completed about 2022.
Synchronous condensersIn May 2020 Giles Parkinson wrote an article for Renew Economy reporting that four synchronous condensers were to be installed in the South Australian grid to remove some of the need for our polluting gas fired power generation. Two were being installed near Port Augusta, two more near Robertstown; others were also being installed in the eastern states.
The syncons, as they are called, provide 'system strength' and other services to stabilise the power grid. These services have in the past been provided by spinning gas- or coal-fired generators.
Of course the
Morrison federal government is trying to ignore the fact that this can be done, so that they can try to justify continuing to support the fossil fuel industry.
Perovskite solar panelsPerovskite is a mineral. In regard to the solar panels, it is the crystalline structure of perovskite, more than the chemical composition, that is important. At the time of writing this section perovskite solar panels were not competitive with silicon, but they seem to have great potential and the technology was developing quickly. It could happen in the future that perovskite panels will outperform silicon and be cheaper as well.
Just Have a Think has an interesting talk on perovskite solar panels.
Energy storageThe dominant forms of sustainable energy generation, sun and wind, are variable so it will be essential to store energy when it is plentiful so that it can be used as it is needed. There are many ways of doing this, and the technologies are being developed all the time.
I have looked into the amount of storage that will be necessary on another page on this site. It seems that pumped hydro-power is the only technology that is likely to be big enough to handle the loads that we should expect to see.
Open NEM shows that it is not unusual for renewable energy generation (considering only wind and solar) to fall from highs of around 12MW at midday to lows of 3-4MW in the peak demand late afternoon period. Over the year to 2021/01/21 the lowest weekly generation was 439GWh (a week in July) and the highest was 1064GWh (a week in January). The lowest month was June with 2,510GWh and the highest December with 4,250GWh.
I find it very hard to imagine that any form of energy storage could store the necessary amounts in high generation periods to make up for the low generation periods over periods of weeks or months given such variations. It is going to be essential to develop uses for electricity, such as hydrogen generation, that can take up very large amounts of energy and can vary greatly in their loads during the year. I have discussed possible ways of handling seasonal variation in energy generation elsewhere on this page.
Pumped hydropowerAt the time of writing there was little pumped hydro energy storage in Australia; much more was needed and was being considered.
By far the biggest that seems very likely to go ahead is Snowy 2.0 which is to link two existing Snowy Mountain Scheme reservoirs, Tantangara and Talbingo. It is expected to hold a reserve of 350GWh of energy and a maximum power output of 2GW.
The Tasmanian Battery of the Nation project is dependent on two new 750MW power cables being laid beneath Bass Strait, and at present no one seems willing to pay for these. An article published by ARENA gave 4.8GW and 140GWh as the estimated total capacity of the project.
One much smaller project that seems likely to come on-line in the near future is the 250 MW 2,000 MWh Kidston project using a worked-out mine pit as one of the water storages. Another 200-270 MW, 1,600 MWh one at Baroota, a disused reservoir in South Australia, has been proposed (photo in the Potential section); many more are needed. I've written in more detial on pumped hydro elsewhere on this page.
I've written more in the
What potential is there? section of this page.
BatteriesBloomberg New Energy Finance, as reported in The Sydney Morning Herald by Cole Latimer, 2018/11/07, has suggested that Australia is set to be a leader in what will become a $1.7 trillion battery industry. Bloomberg NEF says that Australia will be one of the nine countries leading this battery charge.
Batteries as 'Virtual' power plantsAt the time of writing several pilot projects were underway in SA, and probably elsewhere too, testing the practicality of integrating household batteries and household solar into the state power grid. The expectation was that this could add flexibility in matching generation to consumption.
In September 2018 the SA (Liberal!) government was aiming at building
the world's largest virtual power plant that would eventually include a total of 50,000 houses, 250 MW of solar power and 250 MW/675 MWh of battery storage.
Energy storage as hydrogen in salt cavernsExcess electrical energy can be used to produce hydrogen which can then be stored. Hydrogen is difficult to store cheaply except in salt caverns.
A quote from Ent X, a business that has proposed a salt cavern hydrogen storage on Eyre Peninsula, "Bloomberg NEF reports levelised cost of hydrogen storage (LCOS):
I've written more on this page about the advantages of bringing Eyre Peninsula into the National Electricity Market.
Energy storage as heat
One of the great advantages of solar thermal power stations is that it is easy to integrate energy storage with them, usually in the form of molten salt.
Storage of energy is also being explored in molten silicon.
At the time of writing (August 2019), molten silicon was looking promising.
Wikipedia molten silicon can store a megawatt-hour of energy in each cubic metre; a very high energy density.
The technology had been trialed on a limited scale in conjunction with the use of captured methane
in a waste water treatment plant near Adelaide in South Australia in 2019.
Compressed air energy storageThere are a number of ways in which energy can be stored in the form of compressed air. At the time of writing this method has not been used on a utility scale in Australia (so far as I know), although there is a 5 MW/10 MWh pilot project being built near Strathalbyn in South Australia. See Renew Economy for more information.
This method seems to have a lot of undeveloped potential in Australia.
Wikipedia has an extensive article on compressed air energy storage.
Cryogenic energy storage: CESA large subgroup of CES systems are liquid air batteries that involved using energy to liquify air, which can be conveniently stored at least for a number of hours, and getting some part of the original energy back when the liquid air is allowed to revert to its gaseous state. Wikipedia has an article on CESs.
The challenge with CESs seems to be in getting a high level of round-trip-efficiency.
There is a good talk on Just Have a Think about liquid air batteries.
Aluminium smelters could become virtual batteriesTransforming the Way Electricity is Consumed During the Aluminium Smelting Process, by Mark Dorreen, Linda Wright, Geoff Matthews, Pretesh Patel and David S. Wong.
Aluminium smelters consume a huge amount of electricity. Changing them to allow their electricity consumption and aluminium production to vary according to the electricity price and availability could be a win-win situation for the aluminium industry and the renewable energy industry.
Quoting from the Abstract:
"The EnPot technology can be used to help the aluminium smelting industry be part of the solution to accommodate increased intermittency in our future renewable energy generation, post COP 21. The EnPot system provides for the first time, dynamic control of the heat balance of aluminium smelting pots across the potline, so that energy consumption and aluminium production can be increased or decreased by as much as plus or minus 30% almost instantaneously."
Peaking powerAt least until various forms of energy storage (such as pumped hydro) can fill in the generation gaps from renewables we will need peaking power, which currently means gas-fired generation.
Base-load powerWith the current growth in renewables and energy storage there is absolutely no need for new base-load (coal or nuclear) power in Australia.
On the matter of base-load power generation the National Energy Emissions Audit from The Australia institute of August 2019, written by Hugh Saddler, stated:
"South Australian electricity supply system provides real world evidence of how a new base load generator, such as a nuclear power station, could not be incorporated into a system with a high proportion of variable renewable generation. The best complement for high renewables is storage and a diversity (in location and type) of renewables."While in 2019 SA was well ahead of the other mainland states in the adoption of renewable energy, wind power in particular, the eastern states were catching up. Tasmania too would not have any use for a base-load power station, because of its very high level of hydro power and increasing wind power.
I have discussed the
myth of base-load elsewhere.
ANU report, 2018/09/10Australia’s renewable energy industry is delivering rapid and deep emissions cuts; written by Ken Baldwin, Andrew Blakers and Matthew Stocks. Quoting from the Summary:
"During 2018 and 2019 Australia is likely to install about 10,400 Megawatts (MW) of new renewable energy, comprising 7,200 MW of large-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) systems and windfarms together with 3,200 MW of small-scale rooftop PV systems. Combined, this represents 30% of Australia’s peak electricity demand. The Australian renewable energy industry is convincingly demonstrating its capacity to install large amounts of wind and PV systems. If industry is able to continue to deploy wind and PV at the current rate into 2020 and beyond then Australia will:It is particularly interesting that all this progress was being made at the same time as the Liberal-National coalition federal government was dishonestly ridiculing South Australia's very successful adoption of renewable energy, trying to support the dying coal industry and slow the growth of renewables.
Seasonal variation in generationOpen NEM shows that solar- plus wind-generated electricity in the NEM states of Australia (all states other than WA) varied from a low of 2,510GWh in June 2020 to 4,250GWh in December of that year. Most of the variation from month to month was in solar, wind generation didn't show any distinct seasonal variation.
As renewables come to provide a greater and greater proportion of Australia's power how can this seasonal variation be handled? A few possibilities come to mind:
Further into the future
All new roofs will generate powerI can foresee a time when all new roofing will be photo-voltaic; and I don't think it will be very far off. If your roof can generate power, either for your own use or for you to sell to others, why not? I suspect that in a few years there will be little difference in the cost between 'ordinary' roofing and PV roofing.
Walls and windows could also be made capable of generating electricity; photo-voltaic window materials are already commercially available or close to it. Even paths and roads can be made to generate power.
There will be a time, and it will not be a long while off, when it will be thought very inefficient to not generate power from any artificial surface that is exposed to bright light.
What technology mix will we have in fifty years time?Quite apart from the urgency of action to limit climate change and related problems, at the time of writing this section there is an accelerated push for more renewable energy worldwide because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In Australia there is an additional urgency because there is something of a crisis in Australia's eastern states due to unavailability of some coal and gas fired generators at the times when they are needed.
Also at the time of writing, solar PV and wind power are cheap and becoming widespread, but their great and obvious limitation is that they are not necessarily available when and where they are needed. So either energy or power must be moved from where it is abundant to where it is in short supply, or some means must be used to store it until it is needed.
The big unknown: what will future governments do?It was announced on 2018/08/26 that Angus Taylor was Australia's new Energy Minister in the Morrison Coalition Government. At the time I hoped for the sake of the nation and the world that Mr Taylor was far better informed on energy in 2018 than he was back in 2012, but that hope proved to be unjustified. I had an argument with Angus about wind power on his Facebook page in 2012, when it became clear he was losing the argument he deleted it. Fortunately I kept a copy.
At least to January 2020 the Morrison Government had continued the anti-renewable energy stance of the previous Turnbull and Abbott governments.
Like the Turnbull Government, the Morrison Government has laboured the point of reliability of the electricity supply. AEMO's Electricity Statement of Opportunities, September 2017 forecast "From 2018–19 to 2021–22, progressively decreasing levels of potential USE [Unserved Energy - power failures due to insufficient generation] conditions are observed over the next four summers, due to increasing renewable generation." The AEMO report foresaw the highest chance of a USE event happening in financial year 2017/18. There were none in SA so far as I know.
Future federal governmentsAs of early 2020 the Liberal/National coalition showed no sign of significant action toward reducing fossil fuel emissions. The federal Labor Opposition under Anthony Albanese has stated that it will continue to support expansion of coal mining in Australia.
South Australia's state governmentA long-standing Labor government was replaced by a Liberal government in March 2018. Surprisingly, the new Liberal government has recognised the value of SA's renewable energy. While they have been careful to not criticise the federal Coalition government they seem to pose no danger to renewable energy developments in South Australia.
What potential is there?
At the time of writing wind power development in Australia has been confined to areas that were close to existing high capacity power lines; not a single transmission line has been built anywhere in Australia to connect an area of high wind potential to the NEM (National Electricity Market) or the SWIS (SW Interconnected Network) in WA.
South Australia has gone much further in developing wind power than any other state, with close to 50% of total generation being by wind at the time of writing. Even in SA there is room for far more; for example the map shows that Yorke and Eyre Peninsulas, in South Australia west of Adelaide, have excellent wind power resources. Wind power developments on both peninsulas have reached the (small) maximum imposed by the existing low-capacity transmission lines. South Australia's current wind power, 1.8 GW at the end of 2017, could be doubled or more if there was a power transmission system capable of taking the energy.
Other states have huge untapped wind power potential
At the International Renewable Energy Congress of 2022 at Murdoch University in WA Dr Jana Orszaghova stated that Australian offshore wind power potential was greater than that in Europe and the USA combined. Her group had estimated that Australian offshore wind potential was greater than 2000GW. At the time there were 32 offshore wind farms proposed in Australia, amounting to 45GW.
At the time of writing my impression is that there are no proposed offshore wind farm proposals that are very far advanced. One or two of those in the Bass Strait area are probably the most advanced. In Western Australia Myalup Wind Farm, near my current home, is the most advanced, but at best it will not be operational for nine or ten years.
Offshore wind power has been much more expensive than onshore, but with substantial and greatly accelerating offshore development overseas costs have come down substantially; see Unearthed and Wind Power Monthly.
There are advantages to offshore wind power compared to onshore:
Just in my state, South Australia, the potential for solar power development in the huge area north of Port Augusta – about 2/3 of the state – is mind-boggling. All that is lacking for its development is transmission lines and federal government getting out of the way.
Putting it another way, 3,500 km2 of solar panels in outback SA would be enough to power the whole country.
The greatest question with Snowy Hydro 2.0 is whether it can compete with a number of smaller installations elsewhere.
In early 2018 a 100 kW floating solar farm had been completed on effluent ponds in Lismore, NSW, with a proposal of installing another 500 kW later. The photo on the right is of an early (2015) pilot installation at Jamestown, South Australia.
Solar panels have been installed on a bigger scale, a megawatt, over irrigation channels in Gujarat, India in a project expected to reduce evaporation by 34 ML per year. Forty megawatts of floating solar panels have also been installed in an area flooded due to coal mining subsidence in China.
When the sun is not shining (more accurately, when the light is not bright, solar power is also generated under cloudy conditions) the wind may be blowing and wind power abundant; as in the right-hand side of the image on the right.
When the wind isn't blowing there may be abundant solar energy, as in the left-hand side of the image.
In South Australia at least it has been noted that winds tend to be stronger at night than in the day.
In this particular 24-hour period 30% of the state's power was generated by solar PV and 39% by wind power; 69% total renewables. Batteries provided 0.6% of the state's demand; expect to see far more energy storage in the future.
"Austria, China, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Japan, the Netherlands, Portugal, Korea and Spain have set official targets for electric car sales. The United States doesn't have a federal policy, but at least eight states have set out goals."
In 2019 it was obvious that electrically powered vehicles were the future of land transport, but Australia, due to its government being corrupted by fossil fuel interests, was a long way behind most of the rest of the world. Before the May 2019 federal election Australia's Energy Minister, Angus Taylor, was rubbishing EVs.
In an article written 2019/04/08 by Ben Potter in the Financial Review Australian billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes was quoted as saying that PM Morrison and Minister Taylor were 'tied up in knots' on EV; they were contradicting their own past statements.
As discussed above, South Australia sometimes generates more renewable energy than it can consume or export via electricity transmission lines to the eastern states. This excess at present poses problems; but it should be seen as a potential great asset; as renewable energy could be to the whole nation.
There are some technical challenges involved in achieving the full future potential of Australia's (and the world's) renewable energy resources.
ARENA Wire, 2018/08/18, described the trial of a system on Tasmania's Bruny Island...
It is an "innovative project using solar and batteries to meet energy needs during holiday periods, when the island’s population soars.
The fully automated Network-Aware Coordination (NAC) system being used is the first of its kind. In the trial, it coordinates batteries equipped with Reposit controllers, to support the network when and where it is needed. In the future, it will also have the capacity to integrate EVs, smart appliances and other distributed resources as they come online."
We will see more and more of this sort of thing, with energy storage being combined with solar and wind power in distributed, rather than centralised systems.
The use of hydrogen to support steel manufacturing is also being investigated in South Australia, and there has to be huge potential for this technology in places like Western Australia's Pilbara, where there are both enormous iron ore and renewable energy resources (wind and solar). Renewably produced iron and steel would have a far greater value to Australia than raw iron ore.
Also see BHP to pilot green smelting furnace using electricity, hydrogen and Pilbara iron ore, written for Renew Economy by Amalyah Hart on 2023/03/23.
Cars are by no means the only mode of transport going electric, commuter busses will be early adopters of electric motivation; electric training aircraft are already popular, electric trucks and ships are coming.
The article stated that Fortescue Future Industries (FFI) had revealed "that the company’s iron ore is being converted to metallic iron using electrolysis, where an electric current is used directly to remove oxygen from the iron oxide ore at a low temperature, removing the need to use coal." The electricity required is, or can be, generated renewably.
Almost all of the world's iron is currently being smelted from iron (oxide) ore using coal, in the form of coke. The process releases about 1.9 tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere for every tonne of steel produced. This new electrolytic process developed by FFI seems to have the potential to reduce the greenhouse emissions from iron and steel production to very low levels.
Why not just ship the hydrogen overseas? Hydrogen cannot be liquified by pressure alone, it must also be made very cold, even then it has a very low density and that means it takes up a lot of space and a lot of energy is used in refrigeration. It can be done, but it is expensive. On the other hand ammonia is easily liquified and there is already a major international trade in ammonia and it has many industrial uses. If required, ammonia can easily be broken back down into nitrogen and hydrogen.
By exporting ammonia Australia could further develop its huge potential wind and solar resources; we have hardly scratched the surface yet.
Hydrogen can also be used to produce methylcyclohexane, which, like ammonia is easier to transport than hydrogen. (Methylcyclohexane has the disadvantage of being very toxic to aquatic life according to Wikipedia, leading to risks in shipping.)
Australia's renewable energy resources are among the best in the world and, as of the time of writing, early 2020, are cheaper than no-renewable alternatives, so energy in the future will be more plentiful and cheap in Australia than in most other countries.
This has the potential to provide a market for the excess renewable energy that could be generated in Australia in the future.
A more speculative possibility; integration of solar power and rainwater collection
At the time of writing building a small solar farm in my area is marginally economical. If rainwater could be collected at the same time as generating electricity to sell into the grid it would improve the economics significantly.
I can think of at least three local situations where integrating small-scale solar generation with rainwater collection would be very attractive:
Would the collection of 50kL of water per year be a significant additional incentive? That would be up to the individual to decide.
ConsiderationsI have read some concern about possible contaminants in rainwater running off solar panels (possibly especially if the panels are damaged). As a great many roofs that have been used to collect rainwater have solar panels on them and I have never heard of contamination problems, I doubt that this is a point for significant concern.
Related sitesA related idea, using solar panels to harvest water from the humidity of the air: Steemit and Smart Energy Council.
High electricity prices have encouraged householders to install solar power. They have encouraged many businesses to install solar too; in addition a number of big businesses have contracted power purchase agreements with the owners of wind farms or solar farms.
The consequence of high power prices, it seems to me, has been, and will continue to be, for more and more individuals and businesses to switch to renewable energy and therefore increasing amounts of renewable energy being built.
For a full understanding of the table the reader should refer to the CSIRO report. The CSIRO table does not include the cost of gas fired electricity generation, that is included in a costings report from the World Energy Council on another page on this site.
The graph and the CSIRO report show clearly that renewables are cheaper than new-build coal-fired (and nuclear) power stations.
So the consequence of uncertainty to the power generation industry, it seems to me, has been, and will continue to be, for more and more consumers, individuals or businesses, to switch to renewable energy and therefore increasing amounts of renewable energy being built.
Legitimate concerns include:
The decisions should be made by a competent and independent body under instruction to:
A small part of a South Australian wind farm
A photo of a part of the North Brown Hill Wind Farm in Mid North South Australia, near my home.
This is only a small taste of what is to come.
Until about 2016 state Liberal governments in Australian were usually opposed to action on climate change, particularly wind power development. From that time onward there was a remarkable change toward a far more ethical stance. Why the state Liberals were able to see the light while the federals continued to wallow in darkness is a mystery to me, and, I suspect, to most Australians.
At the time of writing (January 2021) most states and territories had a net zero emission plan aimed at 2050. Of course it is easy for governments to make such long term plans in the knowledge that many changes (including in the party in power) will come in that time.
"... will support a range of initiatives targeting electricity and energy efficiency, electric vehicles, hydrogen, primary industries, coal innovation, organic waste and carbon financing."
Also see the NSW Government's Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap which, among other things, aims to attract $32 billion in private investment, mainly directed toward renewable energy, by 2030.
It had a very slow start in renewable energy. After building the 22MW Windy Hill Wind Farm in the year 2000 no further wind farms were built until the 43MW Kennedy Wind Farm in 2018. Meanwhile more than 5000MW of wind power had been built elsewhere in Australia.
However, since then they have greatly increased their aspirations.
The Queensland government, on a page titled "Achieving our renewable energy targets" that I accessed on 2020/12/23 stated:
"We set a target for 1 million rooftops or 3,000 megawatts of solar photovoltaics (PV) in Queensland by 2020. This goal was reached in October 2018. There is now more than 4,000 megawatts of small and large-scale solar power, effectively making solar power the largest power station in the state. With over 580,000 solar systems already connected, Queensland has the highest number of installations in Australia. This number continues to grow as solar PV is cheaper than grid-supplied electricity in many cases."The government Web page went on: "Queensland is expected to supply 20% of its electricity consumption with renewable energy sources by the end of 2020, making significant progress to reaching its 50% renewable energy target by 2030." In fact, in the year to 2020/12/23 OpenNEM indicated that they had only achieved 16.2% renewables in the previous year.
"South Australian energy minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan has set himself a goal of getting the state to its ambitious target of “net 100 per cent renewable electricity” before 2030, rather than the formal aspirational target of some time in the 2030s."Energy Minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan said that AEMO's estimate was that SA would be "a bit in excess of 85% by 2025". SA achieved 59% renewable energy in 2020.
The SA government has suggested that 500% renewable energy by 2050 is a reasonable aspiration.
"The Tasmanian Renewable Energy Target (TRET) will double our renewable generation to a global-leading target of 200 per cent of our current needs by 2040."Tasmania had already achieved 99% of their power demand being generated by renewables, mainly hydro, by 2020 (ref. Open NEM, 2020/12/23).
Victoria's renewable energy targets
20% by 2020, 40% by 2025, 50% by 2030, zero emissions by 2050. They beat the 20% by 2020 target, got 21.2% solar and wind alone, 26.4% including hydro.
I will note here that there is a huge unused wind energy resource along the coast from Perth to Mandurah, Bunbury, Busselton and Dunsborough. I spent three weeks mainly at Mandurah in late 2020/early 2021 and noticed how windy the weather was. About a decade earlier a wind farm was proposed for Lake Clifton, south of Mandurah, but nothing came of it. At the time of writing there was not a single wind farm in this 200km+ length of coast.
"up to 3,000 MW of generation capacity will be dedicated to large energy users in the Pilbara region, which could include new and expanded mines and downstream mineral processing. The bulk of the energy will be used for large scale production of green hydrogen products for domestic and export markets."The original proposal involved several undersea electricity transmission lines.
"Sun Cable concluded a significant capital raise in November 2019, which included lead investment from Mike Cannon-Brookes's Grok Ventures and Andrew Forrest's Squadron Energy."The Sun Cable Web site indicates that the panels are to be lain directly onto cleared ground, with small gaps between rows of panels. I would think that herbicides would have to be used to control plant growth. The average annual rainfall at Elliott is 586mm, much of it I would think would come in quite heavy showers; it would seem to me that the run-off could cause quite a bit of erosion and other problems. (I emailed an inquiry to Sun Cable on this matter on 2021/01/05.)
To put it further into perspective it is about five times the capacity of Australia's main grid, the National Electricity Market (NEM). Australia's biggest power station, Loy Yang, has a maximum capacity of 3.3 GW.
One such project, according to Mr Cannon-Brookes, is a high-voltage cable that could transmit solar energy between Western Australia and the eastern states. "If we had west to east connectivity of power we would need vastly less storage in the NEM [National Electricity Market]," Mr Cannon-Brookes told The Sydney Morning Herald's Sustainability Summit on Monday.While several shorter high capacity transmission lines to areas with good wind and/or solar resources would be justifiable (for example Eyre Peninsula in South Australia), I'm not sure of this one.
"Don't forget, 75 per cent of our population is about three or four hours ahead of the sunlight in Western Australia. That gets us through the evening peak of 5pm to 9pm having energy come from solar in West Australia which is very reliable, very consistent and even within our national boundaries."
E-methanol can be made by reacting 'green' hydrogen with carbon dioxide (obtained from the air or as waste from other processes). Methanol is a liquid that is easy to store and transport; e-methanol is simply methanol that is environmentally 'clean', potentially net-emissions-free.
Methanol (CH3OH) can be burned as a fuel, either mixed in small proportions with petroleum fuels or in modified ICE (internal combustion engines). It can be net zero emission if the energy used to produce it is renewable and the carbon dioxide comes from the air. The information on the Siemens page below states that methanol can be further processed to produce petrol, diesel or kerosene which are then usable in conventional vehicles, ships or aircraft.
The fuels are all potentially net-emissions-free. I gather whether they are entirely net-zero emissions will depend one the detail of the processes used to produce them.
This all seems to me to have great possibilities. And, of course, Australia, with its exceptional renewable energy resources, is ideally placed to develop this as a huge new industry (if our governments can divorce themselves from the fossil fuel industries - as an awful example, the Morrison Government).
Fuel from wind and sun; Siemens Energy, written by Gerhard Neubert, undated
Ørsted buys stake in large-scale onshore wind-powered e-methanol project in Sweden; Windpower Monthly, written by Gail Rajgor, 2022/01/12
Maersk secures green e-methanol for the world’s first container vessel operating on carbon neutral fuel; press release, 2021/08/19
In Australia as a whole (more accurately, in the combined NEM and SWIS) there has been very little increase in hydro power over the last couple of decades, while solar and wind power have been growing hugely. Utility-scale solar is the Johny-come-lately, but at the time of writing was catching up to roof-top solar. In 2018 there was about a tenth as much utility solar as roof-top, by 2022 utility was generating well over half as much as solar. Total solar power generation has been increasing by an average of about 25% per year since 2018. Wind generation has increased roughly four-fold since 2011.
Queensland has been the notable slow starter, not building a single wind farm between 2002 and 2017. It is still is the laggard among all the states in both wind power and total renewables.
Tasmania is the clear leader in renewable energy, most of which is hydro and has been in place for decades.
South Australia has seen by far the greatest growth in renewable energy over the last two decades (it had practically no renewable energy in 2002), especially in wind power. As of about 2018 there was so much wind power in SA that the market was near saturation and it became more profitable to build new wind farms in other states.
Victoria seems to have been the primary go-to state for wind farm developers with the hiatus in SA.
NSW and WA have neither been notable for progress nor lack thereof.
There could be up to five gigawatts of renewable energy including a hydrogen and ammonia plant built on the peninsula. To put that in perspective, some of the biggest present wind turbines are about five megawatts. Five gigawatts would require a thousand of these.
While Eyre Peninsula, particularly the west coast of Eyre Peninsula, has a huge wind resource and a sparse population, at the time of writing this resource was completely undeveloped. The advantages of EP in wind resource are several:
At the time of writing the only wind farms on Eyre Peninsula were Mount Millar, 70MW on eastern EP and Cathedral Rocks, 64MW on the far southern tip of EP. The existing transmission line has little capacity for any more than these two small wind farms. The nearest high capacity transmission lines were at Port Augusta, a distance of 300 kilometres from the west coast of EP.
Development of the EP wind resource has been suggested previously, see Eyre Peninsula Wind Project on another page on this site.
The South Australian Government Climate Change Action Plan 2021–2025" includes the following:
"South Australia's transformation to a net zero emissions economy and a national and international exporter of clean energy could mean achieving a level of renewable energy that is more than 500% of current local grid demand by 2050."Development of the wind resource of Eyre Peninsula would be a big step toward achieving this.
Western Eyre Peninsula...
EntX Western Eyre Peninsula green Hydrogen and Ammonia project; “The potential for large-scale underground salt cavern hydrogen storage”
Clean energy tech company EntX to explore Polda Basin salt deposits for hydrogen storage potential;
ABC Eyre Peninsula, By Bernadette Clarke and Emma Pedler, 2023/04/11
Amp Energy to build multi-billion-dollar green hydrogen facility on Eyre Peninsula; ABC Eyre Peninsula, By Lucas Forbes and Emma Pedler.
5 GW green hydrogen project wins bid for SA’s Eyre Peninsula, PV Magazine, written by Bella Peacock.
These articles don't explain how or where the renewable energy is to be generated, whether solar, wind or a combination, or how it is to be transmitted to Cape Hardy. They also don't mention the potential of the hydrogen being used to smelt the magnetite iron ore that is to be railed to Cape Hardy. This could be a big step toward the greening of the Australian iron and steel industry.
The proposed deep water port at Cape Hardy, if it is built, will serve the central Eyre Peninsula Iron Road magnetite mining project.
Iron Road; a short summary of the iron ore mining project.
Iron Road Ltd Information and Technical Data Sheet; Central Eyre Iron Project (CEIP)
The ore reserve in central Eyre Peninsula is magnetite, which is better suited to smelting using renewable hydrogen than is the haematite of the Pilbara in Western Australia.
The extrapolations are based on the demand between 2010 and 2020, which has remained pretty stable.
Table 1 is a linear extrapolation; based on the assumption that the percentage increase in each five year period will be the same as that between 2015 and 2020.
Table 2 is an exponential extrapolation; based on the assumption that the rate of increase in renewable energy will follow the same geometric trend as that between 2010 and 2020.
While growth in renewable energy in most jurisdictions has tended to be exponential in the period 2010 to 2020, I suspect that this is not likely to remain so for more than a decade or two. I would expect the actual figures to be something between the the figures of the two tables.
I should stress that these figures are extrapolations based on the past trend, not predictions.
There are many potential uses of abundant and cheap renewable electricity: I've listed them in the Game changers section of this page. As renewable energy becomes even cheaper and more abundant uses will be found in many areas:
Related pages on this siteWho wants renewable energy?
End of coal: why the coal industry has a very limited future.
Ethics: a subject that Energy Minister Taylor would do well to learn about.
Greenhouse/climate change: the greatest threat currently facing mankind.
Killer coal: how the burning of coal kills millions of people world-wide each year.
Power to Gas (P2G, renewable energy used to produced hydrogen gas) in Australia.
Pumped hydro energy storage.
Selfishness or altruism?: self or all?
South Australia's success in changing toward renewable energy
Angus Taylor, Australia's gobsmackingly biased Energy Minister
What matters? in climate change and government
Which electricity generation method should Australia choose for the future?
Which would you prefer, wind energy or fossil fuels?
Why would you choose nuclear power?
Wind power and wind farms in Australia
Wind power opposition: almost universally dishonest.
Related pages on external sites
AustraliaAustralian Energy Infrastructure Commissioner; gives information on energy projects and infrastructure, energy infrastructures locations, and electricity generation.
The Conversation: "Against the odds, South Australia is a renewable energy powerhouse. How on Earth did they do it?"; 2021/02/25, written by Michael McGreevy and Fran Baum.
ANU report, 2018/09/10, "Australia’s renewable energy industry is delivering rapid and deep emissions cuts"; written by Ken Baldwin, Andrew Blakers and Matthew Stocks.
Heroes building Australia's low-carbon economy, by 350 Australia, September 2018. "Despite a lack of federal government leadership, the low-carbon economy is thriving. The stories featured in this report have been chosen by a selection committee incorporating feedback from stakeholders in the low-carbon economy – businesses, community groups, NGOs, researchers, academics, investors and individual experts."
The Future of Energy: Australia's Energy Choice suggests that the best course for Australia is:
"... pursuing an energy mix dominated by intermittent renewables with reliability provided by a mix of dispatchable power stations is a no regrets policy direction for Australia. This would result in the country being supplied by 80% renewable energy within 20 years and with lower emissions from power generation (68% lower than 2005). It would also add more than $13b to GDP and enable an additional $6b in consumption by Australians."The report is from PWC in collaboration with Jacobs.
Related pages: External, energy storage"Want energy storage? Here are 22,000 sites for pumped hydro across Australia"; Andrew Blakers, Bin Lu, Matthew Stocks, 2017/09/21, The Conversation. "PHES [pumped hydro energy storage] can readily be developed to balance the grid with any amount of solar and wind power, all the way up to 100%, as ageing coal-fired power stations close."
These Australian National University researchers were awarded the prestigious
Eureka Science Prize for this work in August 2018.
Related pages: External, general"Coal is no longer cheaper – and we'll prove it": Sanjeev Gupta, the British billionaire who saved the Whyalla steel industry knows that the future lies with renewables.
Deloitte Insights: Global renewable energy trends; Solar and wind move from mainstream to preferred. "Technological innovation, cost efficiencies, and increasing consumer demand are driving renewables–particularly wind and solar–to be preferred energy sources. We examine seven trends that are driving this transformation."
Another nail in coal’s coffin? German steel furnace runs on renewable hydrogen in world first - traditionally coke, made out of high-grade coal, has been used for steel-making. 'It aint necessarily so' any more.
Just Have a Think provides a series of youtube videos on energy and climate-change related topics. This link is to the About page; the series is hosted by Dave Borlace.
Related pages: Hydrogen - A potential game-changerAs of 2020 hydrogen produced by renewable means (usually some form of electrolysis of water) is more expensive than hydrogen produced from fossil fuels (either natural gas or coal), but costs of 'clean, green hydrogen' are falling quickly.
Just Have a Think: Green Hydrogen: Can Australia lead the world?
Just Have a Think youtube home page
Adelaide: a demonstration plant"Australian-first, $11.4 million hydrogen demonstration plant to be built in Adelaide"; Media Release, Australian Gas Networks, 2018/02/21.
ARENA article on the same project.
Port Lincoln: a demonstration plant"Renewable ammonia demonstration plant announced in South Australia"; Ammonia Industry, written by Trevor Brown, 2018/02/16.
"The plant will comprise a 15 MW electrolyzer system, to produce the hydrogen, and two technologies for converting the hydrogen back into electricity: a 10 MW gas turbine and 5MW fuel cell. The plant will also include a small but significant ammonia plant, making it “among the first ever commercial facilities to produce distributed ammonia from intermittent renewable resources.”
AustraliaGrattan Institute "Start with steel: A practical plan to support carbon workers and cut emissions" Australia could use its abundant renewable energy to produce hydrogen, use the hydrogen to convert its abundant iron ore to steel and create thousands of jobs at the same time as greatly increasing its export income.
The Guardian, by Katharine Murphy, 2019/06/22, "Australia's energy future: the real power is not where you’d think".
CSIRO's National Hydrogen Roadmap sketches the opportunities in using hydrogen as a medium for the storing, transporting and consumption of energy.
Hydrogen for Australia’s future: A briefng paper for the COAG Energy Council – Prepared by the Hydrogen Strategy Group, (headed by Dr Alan Finkel, Australia's Chief Scientist), dated August 2018.
Enough ambition (and hydrogen) could get Australia to 200% renewable energy; The Conversation, 2019/11/21; Scott Hamilton, Changlong Wang, Falko Ueckerdt, Roger Dargaville
HiTeMP OUTLOOK 2018: Transforming High Temperature Minerals Processing: A multi-stakeholder perspective on pathways to high value, net-zero CO2 products for the new economy. University of Adelaide. The paper discusses potential used of renewably produced hydrogen among other things.
Opportunities for Australia from hydrogen exports: ACIL Allen consulting for ARENA, dated August 2018. This report's medium growth scenario estimated world-wide annual energy demand for the production of hydrogen to be: 9 TWh by 2025, 32 TWh by 2030, 85 TWh by 2040. To put this in perspective Australia's total current electricity generation in the NEM in 2018 was less than 200 TWh.
$180 million investment in renewable hydrogen energy storage in ACT: ACT Open Government, 2016/08/30.
"How Australia can use hydrogen to export its solar power around the world"; Bianca Nogrady writing in The Guardian 2017/05/19.
16 renewable hydrogen projects backed by ARENA grants, written by Sophie Vorrath in Renew Economy, 2018/09/06. "... ARENA said the research and development projects targeted by the funding covered a diverse range of solutions, with at least one from each point in the supply chain: production, hydrogen carrier, and end use."
"Japan's hydrogen future may be fuelled by Australian renewables"; ARENA Wire, 2018/07/27.
The worldBloomberg Green; Hyundai Hydrogen Chief on Why the Company Bet on Fuel Cells.
IndexAgrisolar; combining solar power with farming
All new roofs will generate power
Aluminium smelters could become virtual batteries
Area of solar panels required to power Australia
Cost: renewables are now cheapest
Cryogenic energy storage
Decisions; how should they be made?
Energy storage as heat
Energy storage as hydrogen in salt caverns
Energy storage in compressed air
Evaporation on pumped hydro storages
Exporting hydrogen products made using sustainable electricity
Exporting renewable energy beyond Australia: the great opportunity
Exporting sustainable electricity
Eyre Peninsula, South Australia
High prices; the effects
Hydrogen generated from renewable energy
Hydrogen to replace natural gas
Hydrogen powered vehicles
Integration of solar power with other needs
Integrating generation, storage and consumption in the power grid
Integration of PV into roofing
Integration of solar power and rainwater collection
Integration of solar power and farming
Australian Capital Territory
New South Wales
Iron from ore electrolytically
Liquid air batteries
Methanol; as E-methanol
More solar PV
More wind farms
NEG (National Electricity Grid)
Opportunity, the great. Exporting renewable energy beyond Australia
Opportunity, combining solar power with farming
Opportunity in 'unusable' solar power?
Perovskite solar panels
Potential, offshore wind power
Pumped hydro energy storage
Related pages on this site
Related pages on external sites
Hydrogen: a potential game-changer
Related pages: External, energy storage
Related pages: External, general
Rooftop solar potential – a calculation
Salt cavern energy storage as hydrogen
Seasonal variation in generation
Shade from solar panels
Solar panels to provide shade
Snapshot, 2021-22 financial year
Solar power potential
Solar thermal with storage
Uncertainty; the effects
Value adding to our exports: Making the most of our cheap energy
What area of solar panels would be needed to power Australia?
What technology mix will we have in fifty years time?
Wind power potential
Working together; wind and solar complementing each other