Home > Regular Features > Monday Message Board

Monday Message Board

August 11th, 2008

It’s time, again, for the Monday Message Board. Comments on any topic, civilised discussion, no coarse language please.

Categories: Regular Features Tags:
  1. August 11th, 2008 at 15:34 | #1

    I was wondering if Australian utilities were increasing their green power surcharges to cover the rising costs of non-renewable electricity. See my post here for details…

  2. Matt Gibbins
    August 11th, 2008 at 16:14 | #2
  3. Ken Miles
    August 11th, 2008 at 16:34 | #3

    Mat, I left a comment on Young’s site:

    And after that biologists could take Kent Hovind’s money by offering proof of evolution.

    And then there is a whole heap of cash up for the taking from various Nigerian gentlemen.

    Oh wait, at the heart of any such exercise, is the issue of trust. And I don’t have even a shred of trust in the integrity of any pseudoscientist nor internet scammer.

    I submitted a paper simply to watch Duffy wiggle out.

  4. Lord Sir Alexander “Dolly” Downer
    August 11th, 2008 at 20:20 | #4

    I have it on good authority that Michael Duffy is a shocking tight-arse. He will not pay up in a million years.

  5. pablo
    August 11th, 2008 at 20:49 | #5

    “If he doesn’t rise to the challenge then he (Quiggin) will be the one cleaned up”
    JQ that sounds to me as something of a threat. Is there such a thing as threatening behaviour by way of the internet.
    My guess is you will ignore it.

  6. observa
    August 11th, 2008 at 23:13 | #6

    “I was wondering if Australian utilities were increasing their green power surcharges to cover the rising costs of non-renewable electricity. See my post here for details.”

    Anecdotally LL, AGL are now paying me 44c/KwHr for SA’s solar feed-in scheme, when peak summer rates are 22c/KwHr now. Origin are the same as they and AGL were paying an extra 20c/KwHr on top of the SA Govt mandated rate but have knocked that off. Apparently Truenergy still pay the extra 20c and I’ll be changing over to them, although how long they’ll continue with that policy is anyone’s guess. Perhaps they need some greeny points the other 2 don’t. Bear in mind these suppliers charge around 17c for winter power and 8c off peak(hot water night time)so to the extent that they take on costs of 44c for this green power, other consumers will have to absorb those costs. They also have windpower to cost in to varying degrees.

    A word of caution here for solar fans. My 2Kw(max output) solar system is putting out around 1500-1600Watts in clear sunlight at present, dropping to 250-300W on rainy or very dull overcast days. Clearly there’s a supply reliability problem there solar fans, which isn’t an issue with Leigh Creek coal burning away in the background. The solar will be most useful in summer, due to SA’s peak aircond demand (apparently about 25% of our generation and transmission capacity is used for a couple of months peak summer demand) I guess the suppliers have to cost in this drop to 1/5-1/6th of installed capacity in their calculations. Basically solar technology can drop in price all it likes to avoid that massive taxpayer and consumer subsidy now, but it will still retain that massive reliability problem.

  7. observa
    August 11th, 2008 at 23:43 | #7

    Here’s some real figures for you with that 2KW system. It’s averaged 6KW per day over winter since mid May and by all accounts will average 9KW/day over the year, bearing in mind longer, clearer summer days to come. Now if my taxpaying compatriots weren’t kickling in $9500, the installed system costs a real $22,500 which at the Reserve’s current 7.25% interest rate works out to around 50c/KwHr just in interest by my reckoning. On top of that supply reliability problem, you can see that solar power is still a long way away from being a serious economic proposition.

  8. Ken
    August 12th, 2008 at 07:17 | #8

    Fossil fuels need to be squeezzed into the role of backup to renewables until the grid and storage get some upgrading. So, do proposed future coal plants as in past plants, have to run 24/7? Can they be designed to switch on and off in response to changing needs or are their designers still in the “can’t be done” headspace?

    Since there has never been any need for utility grade storage there isn’t any – pumped hydro does do that but only when and where convenient and probably had that capability as part of optimising the hydro schemes themselves rather than the overall grid supply. Well past time that some serious R&D was done on large scale thermal storage – which is bsed on simple enough principles so it’s a real challenge but not an impossible challenge. Improved grids will reduce the overall need for storage. HVDC to carry it long distances, or maybe it’s time to try some 21st century options like superconductors to carry power from one part of the world to another.

    Observa, if solar is so expensive (never mind that the technology to produce what you use is already headed for obsolescence as production of newer cheaper types of cells ramp up ) you could always convert to fossil fuels. Just get a diesel genset and see how much cheaper that is than solar!

  9. BilB
    August 12th, 2008 at 08:38 | #9

    This makes interesting reading


    Think coal as you move through.

    I particularly like the bit where Nauruans received royalties on a “needs” basis rather than a “rights” basis, until they finally, near the end of the resource, got wise.

  10. August 12th, 2008 at 08:48 | #10

    observa: Do you mean 6kWh per day? Because pulling 6 kW out of a 2 kW system is some trick. Also, how big is that system? 10m^2? We don’t have that much north facing roof- our house was built on a diagonal. That being said, the feed-in tariff here in the ACT hasn’t really kicked in yet, so I doubt that alone can explain the 18% cost increase.

    And Krudd nixed the rebate, so we’d be paying the full installation cost if we put one in…

    Ken: Coal plants are designed to boil water very efficiently, but water has a high heat capacity, so takes a lot of energy to warm up or cool down. You could build a faster starting/ stoppping one, but it would almost certainly have less overall efficiency- possibly drastically less.

  11. observa
    August 12th, 2008 at 10:17 | #11

    Yes LL that’s 6KwH/day average to date, because the system consists of 12 x 175W monocrystalline panels approx 1500 x 800mm at 30 degrees north facing(2100W or 2.1Kw maxm output) Now I had the perfect 30 deg pitch, combined double garage/double carport roof one side north facing, so it was just a matter of fixing the aluminium rails straight to the roof and bolting on the panels. You might cop another couple of grand for angled stands here. I still have the room for another row to double the size if system prices drop dramatically, no doubt ending that $4/W subsidy (maxm of $8000 per applicant,now income tested) On top of that subsidy there was another $1400 in RECs leaving me to pay the balance of $13000 including a new feed-in meter to ETSA.

    For your info, this morning is overcast and at 9AM the inverter readout was as low as 123W given that early shaded sun angle. That might run all the clocks and mandatory standby electronics and give me a free shave perhaps. Boiling the jug or the fridge cutting in and its back to that burnable dirt. I was in the shed the other day and noticed a real hum from the inverter to turn around and see it churning just over 2000W. It was clear and sunny at midday and we had had early rain so presumably the clarity and sun angle were all perfect but I haven’t seen it above that 1500-1600W output range any other time. Presumably maxm in summer, but bear in mind the efficiency of mono and poly crystalline panels falls with temp. Not so thin film panels but although they are cheaper per W, and don’t cut out a row of output with one cell shaded (those individual hexagons)they take up twice the space per W which is generally problematic domestically.

    What you have to bear in mind with solar feed-in tarriffs is it’s net metering ie what you’re producing at the time less what you’re consuming. That means you should run the aircon/heating at night, the dishwasher, washing machine, etc where possible and turn those electronics off at the wall because you’re only going to get one for one(ie your maxm tarriff now) return if you don’t. To get that maxm 44c/KwHr return means no usage during generation. All the solar Cos can give you estimated maxm average daily outputs and also the average nett daily output based on that, assuming you don’t run the reverse cycle aircon all day of course. By my reckoning for the net cost of my system I should get a risk free (effectively after tax) return of 10%. Basically I had the readies and in todays marketplace where am I going to get that now and for the next 25yrs? Take away those generous govt and consumer subsidies and forget it.

    Here’s a sample of more of that largesse and just look at the figures the ratepayers will have to fork over for Councillors to feel all warm and fuzzy-

    “ENERGY efficient lighting will be a key focus of Adelaide City Council’s new Carbon-Neutral Council Action Plan.

    In the plan, passed by the council tonight, $200,000 has been allocated to install energy efficient light globes in the council’s U-Park buildings and $130,000 to make city traffic lights more efficient.

    The plan for 2008-09 allocates money from the $1.3 million climate-change initiatives fund introduced in the council’s 2008-09 budget.

    “Replacing old and inefficient lighting throughout the city not only helps to tackle climate change, but it will also result in significant energy savings for the council – money which can be returned to the community through improved services and important projects,” Lord Mayor Michael Harbison said.

    The plan also includes $100,000 for upgrades to public lighting on King William St and North Tce and $200,000 to increase the amount of renewable energy bought by the council to 40 per cent.”

    Basically the poor battlers don’t know what’s going to hit them with all this flinging of their dough from the balconies.

  12. wilful
    August 12th, 2008 at 10:22 | #12

    I recently got a 1 kw system installed. middle of winter in Melbourne it’s generating about 3 kw a day averaged over the last two (not particularly sunny) weeks. Not bad since my power bill informs me we typically use about 6 kw a day at this time of year.

    I will find out how much it generates in summer, but I’m hoping for about 6 kw average, when my family uses about 2 kw a day then. We get the State gov mandated 60 c/kwh feed in, versus paying 15c/kwh, so net over the year I’m sure we’ll break even, possibly even make money!

    total ost of system was $11500, we scraped in a week before the budget so cost to us all up (inc new meter which we were going to have to replace anyway) was $4000. Should pay us back before too long.

    But if we had to pay the full cost rather than sucker taxpayers, there’s no way we’d do it.
    Observa, rather like many of your sarcastic comments round here about climate change solutions, it’s badly misdirected. Nobody here has advocated using current technology PV as a realistic solution for generating much if any electricity. Everybody recognises that it’s far too expensive, and yes it is unreliable.

    However, solar thermal in sunnier parts of the country is already just about there, will soon surpass coal. As for reliability, a mix of solar PV, solar thermal, wind, hydro, geothermal, and gas fired back up would provide plenty of reliability with very low emissions. I’d add nuclear to the mix except it’ll never happen in Australia.

  13. BilB
    August 12th, 2008 at 10:51 | #13

    Lab Lemming,

    The limiting factor for efficiency of boiler systems is in the latent heat of evaporation and flue gas energy. And the limiting time for starting a turbine system is in bringing the entire plant up to heat including the turbines which need to be heated then purged of condensation water before running.

  14. observa
    August 12th, 2008 at 11:45 | #14

    “Observa, rather like many of your sarcastic comments round here about climate change solutions, it’s badly misdirected.”

    My take is in the bigger picture it’s not. My view is it’s every citizens fundamental right to maximise his own outcomes within the constitutional marketplace his fellow citizens collectively agree to give him. It’s also his fundamental right to critique that overall collective wisdom but with that goes the responsibility to suggest better alternatives and that I’ve done. My ideal constitutional marketplace would have none of this divine right of benevolent, whimsical kings, but a market based Magna Carta for all to shelter equitably under. That said, of course it’s quite possible the king really does get about in fine robes and I’m one of only a few seeing him stark naked so regularly. A splash of the dismal science and not being on the king’s payroll for so long may well have something to do with that.

  15. August 12th, 2008 at 12:14 | #15

    Talking of home based power, I wonder when Infinia corporation might actually start selling its cool looking stirling engine solar systems which they claim will be cheaper than PV and generate more power. I do wonder, though, whether small birds which alight on the generator will get fried. They mightn’t take storm winds too well either, I suppose. Still, if something looks like the future, I’m easily persuaded:


  16. wilful
    August 12th, 2008 at 12:27 | #16

    just to be crystal clear, your cynicism is probably justified, but you tend to direct it at people on this blog, who typically respond that they know the government/popular solutions aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, but there remains cause for optimism more broadly.

  17. Hermit
    August 12th, 2008 at 13:50 | #17

    observa what you’re saying is that the feed-in tariff is a tax on the poor. Non-destitute people such as yourself get bling bling silicon panels on the roof helped paid for by battlers with higher electricity rates. The capital cost you cite works out at about $5.50 net per watt, not the 70c recently suggested by a techno-utopian. Remember winter insolation is less than half of summer. I note long before SA got into feed-in tariffs they wanted to switch off air conditioners by remote control. For summer electrical peaking I’d like to see an analysis of feed-in vs remote control vs sweating it out.

    They reckon Leigh Ck coal has got 30 years left and when they wanted to pump Hunter Valley CO2 to empty Cooper Basin gas wells companies like Santos said they weren’t quite ready yet.

  18. observa
    August 12th, 2008 at 14:02 | #18

    Just tilting at the king’s windmills so don’t take me too personally (I don’t) and I’m ever the optimist myself wilful.

    Where is the O really at I hear you ask? Assume for the moment AGW has not even entered the collective consciousness and where exactly is that new CM blueprint of mine coming from? Well it has its origins long before Kyoto in the sense that if you asked any gathering of reasonable intelligence back then this question- ‘If all the countries of the world were as successful as us (US, Japan,..?) at turning our natural environment to our our material wants, would our world be a better place?’ you’d usually get an uneasy silence and quick change of subject. The elephant in the room so to speak. I contend that’s exactly what my CM blueprint addresses right here and now, as well as the rather obvious shortcomings of our taxation system at present and its concomitant outcomes, particularly those final price signals that guide us all inexorably.

    Enter AGW as gospel and you say, nice blueprint but now it’s yesterday’s news O meboy and I say yeah well you could be right there, depending on that new policy direction of yours. Then I start looking around at the new conventional wisdom. Millions of bucks to Toyota shareholders, middle class solar handouts and power subsidies, councils and govts flinging money at CF light globes and shower heads, my local council spending $10-$11/kilolitre on plumbed rainwater at its civic centre when desal is around $2.50, etc, etc, etc as if there is no tomorrow and no opportunity costs. Then there’s the international centrepiece of it all in an ETS. Theoretically sound, but practically one that hasn’t worked so far, has massive jurisdictional, administrative and policing problems and as such is being cautiously introduced to 1000 big emitters, subject to satisfying all the special pleading and appropriate free permits, etc. All this I’m supposed to applaud roundly, yet wall to wall Labor govts can’t even demonstate such stunning credentials with water C&T in the MDB. If Kevin Rudd proposed that the centrepiece of Govt policy was to reduce world poverty by 60% by 2050, we’d all be asking ourselves whatever happened to that sensible bloke Mark Lithium?

    That’s the rub for me I’m afraid. Too many people have been inhaling too much CO2 if you ask me just spectating on all of this and so I come back to my blueprint. It still makes much local sense with the new imperative of international AGW in mind. Rather than jump on board with some experimental grand plan that has serious flaws to overcome, not to mention lack of players, we can do it our way and take a wait and see approach. My blueprint has carbon taxing at any level we ultimately decide and we can see how that goes while the rest of the world gets their grand plan right. After all we always have the option of switching straight carbon taxing over to a proven ETS scheme should it eventuate. In the meantime we’ve got other important environmental concerns to consider, as well as shares of a shrinking pie, which an ETS add-on does not. That’s my overall position now and I can’t see it changing with the current direction. I’ll remind you all of that as I see the current conventional wisdom unfolding in stupid and counterproductive ways, as it has done to date.

  19. observa
    August 12th, 2008 at 16:03 | #19

    “observa what you’re saying is that the feed-in tariff is a tax on the poor…”

    You’ve got it Hermit and it’s largely because we allow green credentialled officials to get all green with somebody else’s dough and electricity bills. Basically picking winners when we should all face the same price signals. SA has already trialled those smart meters for summer aircon peak load relief, where they turn off the compressors cyclically quarter of an hour every hour to ameliorate that peak load requirement. Sign up and you get cheaper tarriffs, which has stronger incentives if there’s carbon taxing, rather than solar subsidising consumers like me. Now you can argue I can afford to run the aircon at any such price, but that’s hardly an argument for solar subsidising me to do so. Give us all a level playing field on price and leave the income transfers to DSS is essentially my advice.

    Essentially if AGW hadn’t come along, I’d still be arguing for carbon taxing because it’s our use of fossil fuels that creates that material well being by allowing us to tap the natural environment at phenomenal pace, with no countervailing market force to stop it. You need to understand that intuitively now in a way John Locke never could, although no doubt he would have had he been around today. His treatise on private property enclosure to capture the fruits of one’s labour and avoid the tragedy of the common was relevant to his times. That was largely fencing off some infinite frontier to run some stock and till it with horse and plough. The social cost of that was quite low globally speaking and hence the social tithe low accordingly. Fast forward to the ubiquitous Cubby station and the shareholders can hire dozers to dam, flood the land and capture half the Darling so to speak. They can then use that for low private returns relatively speaking but at what social opportunity cost? That’s where reliance on resource taxing, including land use kicks butt eventually. If they only pay a few cents a kilolitre for the water it’s goodbye private profligacy. As well if they paid a land use maximum resource tax, similar to concrete/building/bitumen cover for the area their dam floods, that would be a killer too. Not so for the Snowy dams where that cost would be easily amortised over so many users downstream, including those John Walmsleys remember, with that new found market power in their hip pocket. That could include those Cubby station shareholders too after they’ve put the earth in those dams back where it came from for a new investment strategy. We could leave all that safely to the market as we began to shift to a new tax regime and that new CM. Sounds better to me than them switching to biodiesel or ethanol to earn some of those ETS carbon credits everyone’s so fond of these days. Leave all that in the capable hands of international finance and the next big thing after sub-primes eh greeny folks?

  20. BilB
    August 12th, 2008 at 16:13 | #20

    Good find Steve, that is the solution for me. I can see a range of methods to reshape the collector to romove its dih shape and ot fit it into the cavity of my roof. Thanks for that one. 3Kw is quite respectable. If this is a sealed unit and built as well as the NZ Whispertec unit then it should have up to a 15 year running life.

  21. Ian Gould
    August 12th, 2008 at 18:06 | #21

    Worley Parsons, a major mining contractor and infrastructure player has announced plans for $1 billion 250 megawatt solar thermal plant and wants to build 34 such plants by 2020 to supply 10% of Australia’s total electricity demand.

    BHP and Rio Tinto are amongst the backers so expect the first plant at least to be supplying remote mines rather than the national grid.

    Estimated unit cost is 15 cents per kilowatt.

    They’re also talking about adding coal- ore gas-powered back-up to boost total system reliability. With suitable heat storage technology and gas back-up solar thermal can supply power 24 hours per day.



  22. scott
    August 12th, 2008 at 19:07 | #22

    Ian that is perhaps the best news I’ve heard this decade!

    Although there’s no mention of it in those articles, there surely must be a storage component on these plants – either ammonia or methane reformation.

    Wow… Let the revolution begin!

  23. spangled drongo
    August 12th, 2008 at 21:13 | #23

    The usual price of this solar thermal energy is at least 100 times the price of Honda power. Plus batteries.
    Also, a power plant that only really delivers from 9am to 4pm on sunny days seems like tits on a bull to me.
    And do you really believe a battery will cook your meals, boil your water, heat your home, refrigerate your food, wash and iron your clothes etc without a standby generator?
    And if you’ve got one of these [costing $1000], why would you spend another $100,000 on solar thermal? [plus batteries]

  24. scott
    August 12th, 2008 at 23:36 | #24

    And do you really believe a battery will cook your meals, boil your water, heat your home, refrigerate your food, wash and iron your clothes etc without a standby generator?

    [plus a recycling facility] why not? Pipe me some of that methane to convert to CO2 too please.

  25. BilB
    August 13th, 2008 at 01:52 | #25

    What on earth are you going on about Spangled Drongo. The infinia unit is a solar ……Sterling……cycle generator. It is an engine that uses the heat expansion of a gas in a sealed unit to move pistons which in turn operate a generator. These are used in a power push pull system with the grid in the same way as solar photo voltaic cells are.

    Going through your list:
    refrigeration – a refrigerator fitted with eutectic panels will provide 24 frozen food with the charge time being in the day. Streets use such freezers, made in portugal, for their mobile sales.
    Hot water – these units have a hot spot and a cold spot. The cold spot is above 100 deg C and will provide more than enough heat to charge very large storage hot water tanks. Other surplus heat can be used to heat oil for night time space heating.
    Washing and ironing of clothes – no problem when done during the day, and nightime powered from a battery and inverter at 240 volt.

    Cloudy days these units are still working, just not as effectively. Infinia claim an efficiency of 24% which if true and combined with water heating from the units waste heat is truly excellent.

    The displayed unit features a moving dish, but it is entirely possible to have a flush roof fixed installation using some of the light piping techniques used on sheet metal laser cutting machines, which when coupled with the new light trapping die coatings developed by Mark Baldo and others will work extremely well.

    This is distributed power generation that really makes sense.

  26. BilB
    August 13th, 2008 at 02:55 | #26

    And I should have added that although this initial Infinia generator is not designed to do so, sterling cycle engines can be powered with any heat source of sufficient temperature and heat flow. This very especially includes a gas flame. Indeed the NZ Whispertec unit is entirely gas powered.

    So for installations that are away from the grid, night time power and extended extreme non solar periods can be handled with an auxillary gas supply which indeed could include methane from a sewerage digester. It just keeps getting better.

  27. spangled drongo
    August 13th, 2008 at 08:03 | #27

    Have you ever used one of these units separated from the grid?
    They are building them in Australia for some outback towns [360 kw for Windorah $4m+ for 100 people].
    I understand that the existing diesel generator will still be needed every night and morning.
    The mirrors will need to be washed and polished every day and they are 5x15m.
    If you haven’t got full back-up, you haven’t got the reliability you have at present.
    I’ve been using renewables for 50 years and they have their moments but when you need ’em most they are MIA.
    When you’ve already got a reliable system that you have to retain, this huge extra expense
    is economic stupidity.

  28. Hermit
    August 13th, 2008 at 10:07 | #28

    I’d expect the cost of gas backed solar thermal to be a weighted average of 10c and 20c per kilowatt-hour. True believers will of course insist on lower figures. However I believe the mining and metals industries have always liked power under 10c per kwh, more like 3c per kwh for aluminium smelters. Mining firms like to run crushers, ball mills and the like around the clock and I don’t think that will change to allow for lack of sunlight. At least in the outback they won’t have to build long transmission lines.

    Perhaps the day will come when the iron ore is only crushed when the sun shines and the sail assisted ore carriers only depart when the wind is blowing the right way.

  29. wilful
    August 13th, 2008 at 10:08 | #29

    Ian, the WorleyParsons proposal is much more expensive than the Solar Systems one being built in Victoria (154MW, $420M). What gives?

  30. Ian Gould
    August 13th, 2008 at 10:41 | #30

    Wilful, at a guess, WP are using older better-proven technology which is also more expesnive. Apparently they licensed the technology used in the Solar One [pant which has been operational since the 1980’s.

    The Spectralab concentrator cells will apparently be cheaper – if they work.

  31. Ian Gould
    August 13th, 2008 at 10:52 | #31


    Aluminium smelters go where the power’s cheap.

    Mines don’t have that luxury.

    I can’t find precise figures but Mt.Isa, for example, is using Diesel generators and a jet-fuel-powered turbine.

    That power is more expensive than the current grid price – so much so that they’re talking about spending $800 million+ to hook the North West into the main state grid.

    For a big diversified resource company like BHP or Rio Tinto, the question is really whether the premium for solar power costs less in total than finding equivalent reductions in their other operations.

  32. spangled drongo
    August 13th, 2008 at 11:35 | #32

    The real cost of solar electricity when all the “guilt” money is included will be nearer 100 times the present cost. ie annual household power bills of $100,000 [they won’t pay it directly of course].
    And we will always need considerable fossil fuel backup.
    I notice Worley Parsons aren’t investing in it.
    Will the net carbon/energy ratio improve?
    Nowhere near as much as gen 4 thorium nuclear.
    But it is great hair-shirt wearing, self flagellating indulgence especially when we can get “the guilty ones” to pay for it.

  33. Ken
    August 13th, 2008 at 11:50 | #33

    I know that Ausra’s solar thermal proposals include enough thermal storage to provide 24hrs output from a day’s sunlight – no conversion to anything involved, the storage is built into the steam cycle and provides steam to standard steam generation equipment. Sounds like a good approach and it may be expandable from 18hrs or so of storage to days. Not enough by itself but the situation gets better when such plants are spread across the continent. Molten salt storage seems to show great potential. Vanadium Redox batteries show potential too but aren’t likely to ever have the economies of scale that thermal storage offers. The problem of storage has been severely neglected – and it’s not like no-one’s seen it’s need coming.
    Ultimately (as in 5years ago) coal has to stop being burned in huge quantities – unless there’s carbon capture and that looks to me to be harder than developing utility scale storage.
    I don’t see conversion to clean technologies as optional. Being more expensive than coal doesn’t qualify as any kind of reason to fail to do so. Being more expensive than coal that doesn’t include the external costs of it’s use is definitely not a good reason to fail to do so.
    Coal has fuelled an enormous growth in prosperity across the world but it’s time to do better before the worst case scenarios for climate impacts are reclassified as the best case scenarios.
    Meanwhile the well of innovation isn’t anywhere near running dry when it comes to clean energy. It’s deployment on large scales has lagged because coal has been there and been cheap. Gov’t have tended to ask the existing power industry leaders to advise them on the viability of other options and got the tired old “too hard, too expensive, can’t be done, we’ll be ruined” lines from people with vested interests. Time to make coal economically unviable through the inclusion of externalised costs and even punitive taxation plus positive support for alternatives. If your retirement plan relies on it’s continued growth, too bad – it’s not like no-one could see it’s demise coming.

  34. wilful
    August 13th, 2008 at 11:57 | #34

    The real cost of solar electricity when all the “guilt� money is included will be nearer 100 times the present cost.

    Time for a cite, I reckon, or at least some explanation of your logic trail. Otherwise, you’re dismissed.

  35. spangled drongo
    August 13th, 2008 at 12:30 | #35

    The quoted cost for a small solar thermal at Windorah is $4 million for 100 people. And it still needs to keep the old diesel for most of the power supply.
    I bet even you could supply power to 100 people for 1% of this [$40,000].
    I thought this was a blog for economists.

  36. spangled drongo
    August 13th, 2008 at 12:37 | #36

    I could go down to the local shopping centre and buy them each a Chinese generator for a bulk deal of around $10,000.

  37. BilB
    August 13th, 2008 at 12:56 | #37

    So SD, then you have 100 very noisey, smelley, inefficient CO2 pumping small generator sets, all working individually without enough delivery (the $100 sets are 800 watts from memory) to do anything useful other than power lights. Get real.

    And on solar thermal, do some reading and come back. You are clearly underinformed.

  38. Ian Gould
    August 13th, 2008 at 12:57 | #38

    Spangled drongo, do you understand the difference between capital cost and operating cost?

    How about economics of scale?

    And how much is it going to cost you to transport those generators to Windorah and build a building to house them and fuel tanks?

  39. Ian Gould
    August 13th, 2008 at 13:17 | #39

    Oh and according to this document the cost is $2.5 million not $4 million.

    Estimated fuel savings are 100,000 litres of diesel per year.


    Current diesel prices are around $1.70 to $1.90 in rural Western Australia so Windorah’s probably also in that range.


    So I think the cost is somewhat less than 100 times the cost of diesel.

  40. spangled drongo
    August 13th, 2008 at 16:56 | #40

    BilB, that’s per head not per house and at 1/4 of 1%. Capital cost. Naturally there’s room for improvement [I was talking 1%] and the system they’ve already got probably would be better.
    That’s all you blokes do is read. You need a bit of hands on.
    Ian Gould, don’t believe all you read. It will still consume similar amounts of diesel because no one is home when the solar is working and try keeping 5x15m diameter reflector mirrors in working order in that country where the willy-willys bury you in dust six times a day.

  41. scott
    August 13th, 2008 at 17:19 | #41


    That’s good sand. Should be capturing it and storing carbon it.

    As for capturing sunlight, These optics are all wrong. We should be doing it Schmidt-Cassegrain style with underground photosystems making the most of the heat that is available to us for free.

  42. spangled drongo
    August 13th, 2008 at 17:33 | #42

    scott, the Cooper channels at Windorah have some of the finest tilth in the world, 10 metres deep.
    Doesn’t come much dustier.

  43. BilB
    August 13th, 2008 at 17:50 | #43

    And then of course, SD, there is the running life of small petrol engines. Sucking in all of that fine tilth and sand. Not very long I would wager. I would go for the 320 kilowatt system against the 80 kilowatt fuel consuming regular replacing one any day, cleaning mirrors or not. We are comparing some local employment against a regular capital replacement cost and perpetual fuel bill. Not a tough choice.

  44. wilful
    August 13th, 2008 at 17:53 | #44

    That’s all you blokes do is read. You need a bit of hands on.

    WTF do you know about any one here?

    BTW (everyone else), that solar thermal demonstrator seems like a bit of a rort. A four person household would do OK on a bog standard PV kit costing (say) $50 000. There are what, 25 households in Windorah? $1.25M for the lot, conventional current tech PV. Plus a premium for remoteness, less a discount for buying in bulk.

    Someone’s being had.

  45. spangled drongo
    August 13th, 2008 at 18:27 | #45

    “Not a tough choice”.
    Specially when it’s not your money.

  46. spangled drongo
    August 13th, 2008 at 18:59 | #46

    “WTF do you know about any one here?”
    I know that anyone who thinks they can clean a mirror with Windorah water is all theory and wheelspin.

  47. Ian Gould
    August 13th, 2008 at 19:15 | #47

    You mean like someone who compares the cost of solar and diesel systems without including the cost of diesel?

  48. spangled drongo
    August 13th, 2008 at 20:14 | #48

    You mean when the cost of diesel is equally applicable to both?

  49. Ian Gould
    August 13th, 2008 at 21:29 | #49

    So you’re saying the solar system will deliver zero percent of the towne’s power?

    Tell us again about your decades of experience with renewables.

  50. spangled drongo
    August 13th, 2008 at 21:47 | #50

    Well, it’ll keep the beer in the frig cold through the day but it needs half the town to keep it working.
    Cold beer’s worth a bit out there. But 4 mil?

  51. SJ
    August 13th, 2008 at 22:54 | #51

    Ian, what’s your source for the $2.5m price? I couldn’t see that number in the Ergon brochure. I’m not saying it’s not there, just that if it is, I’ve missed it.

    If that really is the price, though, wilful is right. It’s just a spectacular waste of money.

  52. SJ
    August 13th, 2008 at 23:03 | #52

    It’s OK, I found the price, which Ergon does indeed state as $2.5m.

    …$2.5 million Windorah Solar Project…

  53. SJ
    August 13th, 2008 at 23:24 | #53

    Wilful’s $50,000 per household figure might be a bit low. The Windorah thing will produce 175 kW peak, which would mean 7 kW per household. At current prices for conventional off-the-shelf roof mounted technology, that would cost more like $60,000 per household, for a total of $1.5m, which is still well under the $2.5m that Ergon is proposing to pay.

  54. SJ
    August 13th, 2008 at 23:33 | #54

    Cite for current prices. $8,355/kW.

    7 x $8,355 = $58,485, ~ $60,000.

  55. Ian Gould
    August 13th, 2008 at 23:39 | #55

    Solar Systems apparently likes to argue that the higher price of their systems is justified by the longer operating life and the fact that they’re upgradeable relatively cheaply if more efficient cells become available.

  56. spangled drongo
    August 14th, 2008 at 08:15 | #56

    5 mirrors the size of 6 storey buildings that have to be washed before dawn every morning with R/O purified water to make them work costing $4 million plus who knows how much to run and maintain needing a full back-up diesel system.
    If it was your money, real money, that you had to pay interest on, make a profit on, amortise over a very short space of time, what do you think you would have to charge each householder? $80-100,000 a year?

  57. Ian Gould
    August 14th, 2008 at 10:50 | #57

    Well let’s see – $4 million capital cost (I’ve seen both $2.5 million and $4 million quoted let’s go with the higher number)

    Assume a 20 year operational life, straight line depreciation and a 10% fixed interest rate. (I’m feeling lazy today.)

    That’s 15% of $4,000,000 or $600,000.

    Assume $100,000 per year for maintenance costs (which strikes me as excessive).

    Then deduct the $170-190,000 or so in diesel savings.

    Comes to just over $500,000 or $5,000 per person.

    That’s all based on pessimistic assumptions.

  58. spangled drongo
    August 14th, 2008 at 17:15 | #58

    Check some venture capital prices. You’re way under.
    If it’s a fizzer it’s a write off.
    It could last 5 years, maybe longer but because it’s such a potential white elephant it’s going to have a short life.
    But it is a venture.
    100,000 litres is what they now use. Do the sums.
    They ain’t gonna save much of that.
    The real world price is about 4 times yours.

  59. Ian Gould
    August 14th, 2008 at 17:23 | #59

    Even if your revised claim is correct and I don’t think it is, your original claim was wildly inflated.

    Incidentally, smaller Solar Systems plants have been operating for the last couple of years in other otuback communities so its hardly the wild leap into the unkown you apparently think it is.

  60. spangled drongo
    August 14th, 2008 at 18:00 | #60

    My first claim was 100 times.
    $20,000 per head or $80,000 per household is close to that.

  61. Ian Gould
    August 14th, 2008 at 19:33 | #61

    You know hwat, seeing as we can’t agree about the price of the project to the nearest million dollars and you’re trying to claim a four year life fro the soalr panels I suggest we suspend this discussion and see if the system is still in operation foru years from now.

  62. wilful
    August 15th, 2008 at 13:17 | #62

    Ian Gould: $5,000 per person
    spangled drongo: $20,000 per head

    100 times indeed.

  63. Ken
    August 16th, 2008 at 07:50 | #63

    Not sure of the specifics of this one particular project but I’m not prepared to consider it typical or as a basis for projections of the costs for other solar projects. In one sense we need to have real life testing of various types of systems and if Windorah shows this particular approach is too expensive and or unreliable, then that’s a worthwhile lesson – in the process of replacing the worlds dirty energy production it’s small change. What is typical is a big energy company investing small change in renewables for greenwashing purposes whilst investing vastly more keeping the dirty stuff growing strong. No real attempts to begin large scale conversion to clean energy from Ergon.

  64. spangled drongo
    August 16th, 2008 at 17:30 | #64

    You don’t think that seeing as they had to keep the old system anyway and it wasn’t their money, that it might have been a reasonable proposition to have only built one 6 storey mirror to test it out in the dust first?

  65. Ian Gould
    August 16th, 2008 at 18:30 | #65

    That depends, how dusty is Windorah compared to Hermannsburg; Yuendumu and Lajamanu?

    Because Solar Systems has been operating concentrating PV systems in those three locations since 2005. (Meaning according to your estimate of their life expectance they should be about to fall apart.)


  66. spangled drongo
    August 16th, 2008 at 20:37 | #66

    They may not get sandblasted into non-functionality or fall apart but being coated daily in fine dust reduces performance to possible uselessness.
    Cooper floods will reduce this [and they had one not so long back] but it is always on.

  67. flooreitilk
    August 22nd, 2008 at 23:06 | #67

    As newly joined user i only wanted to say hi to everybody, even though i know that noone really gives a damn 🙂

  68. BockCiffClock
    August 24th, 2008 at 01:41 | #68

    George Bush is my IDOL! 🙂

  69. August 24th, 2008 at 19:12 | #69

    Given the urgency, the following article by myself may be of interest:

    NSW electricity privatisation can be stopped!

    NSW Premier Morris Iemma has seized upon a limited and deficient Auditor-General’s report (pdf, 354K) as grounds to proceed with electricity privatisation and plans to rush through the legislation next week.

    However, the sale has been consistently and overwhelmingly opposed by the NSW
    public and unions, and can be stopped. 

  70. August 25th, 2008 at 00:13 | #70

    (linkspam deleted)

  71. August 25th, 2008 at 03:16 | #71

    Just a quick suggestion – it cleaned up most of the spam going into ozrisk at one fell swoop. Put anything that refers to a .ru domain into auto-moderation – or just straight to spam.

  72. August 25th, 2008 at 03:31 | #72

    (linkspam deleted)

  73. August 25th, 2008 at 05:17 | #73

    (linkspam deleted)

  74. August 25th, 2008 at 14:14 | #74

    (linkspam deleted)

Comments are closed.