Open Thread

Open Thread 7

Open Thread 6 is getting overly bloated in its old age, at 650 comments, and is taking too much time to load. So it’s time for new one.

The Open Thread is a general discussion forum, where you can talk about whatever you like — there is nothing ‘off topic’ here — within reason. So get up on your soap box! The standard commenting rules of courtesy apply, and at the very least your chat should relate to the broad theme of the blog (climate change, sustainability, energy, etc.). You can also find this thread by clicking on the Open Thread category on the left sidebar.



You may find this letter of interest, on the IFR and an upcoming book on Len Koch: The death of something wonderful.

TCASE #5 at the RiAus is coming up next week. There are still seats available, so book now (free, but you must register). Details below (and here):

Thinking critically about sustainable energy: Demand side management and energy storage

When: Wednesday 3rd of November 2010 – 6:00 – 7:30 pm

Venue: The Science Exchange Address: 55 Exchange Place, Adelaide

Click here to book for this free event.

Demand side management (DSM) aims to improve the efficiency of energy consumption by reducing demand and using supplementary energy sources at peak times. Emerging systems can store excess energy produced during low demand periods and return it to the grid during peak periods. Smartgrids, which can monitor and control domestic usage instantly, are just around the corner. Will these systems play a significant role in reducing our power consumption? Professor Barry Brook and an expert panel (Craig Oakeshott from AEMO, Andrew Dicks and Glenn Platt) explain the role of these technologies. This event is the fifth of six public forums on sustainable energy technologies.

By Barry Brook

Barry Brook is an ARC Laureate Fellow and Chair of Environmental Sustainability at the University of Tasmania. He researches global change, ecology and energy.

367 replies on “Open Thread 7”

DV82XL, on 13 November 2010 at 8:47 AM — I told you what I know. Google the search term for the IEEE report yourself.


The penny is beginning to drop.

About two weeks ago NSW reduced its feed in tariff from 60c/kWh to 20c/kWh for all new residential solar panel installations.

A few days ago the federal government announced it is cutting back it subsidies for the upfront cost of solar panels.

Yesterday, the ACT Governmnet admitted the feed in tariffs for solar PV would raise the cost of electricity by $225 per year for the average houselhold (I’d guess that’s an increas of about 30%).

Of course, the panels have been bought by the wealthy (the Greenies) and the subsidy will be paid by the poor.

More of the irrationality forcved on us by the you know who!

It also occurred to me that if Australia had not prohibited nuclear in about 1990, and had voted the Coalition into government instead of Labor, Australia’s emissions from electricity generation would be between 10% to 20% lower now than they are.



If you are correct that there is no realistic way to reduce the LCOE from nuclear plants, I guess we are stuck with coal, gas and some CCS for Australia for a while. Either that or we will introduce a high carbon tax or some other measure. However, I personally doubt that will get approved by the majority of voters, and even if it does get majority support it will not contribute to reducing world emissions. It just disadvantages Australia for no gain. Another dumb symbolic gesture.

I am becoming persuaded that Australia will have to live with coal and gas generation because of the deep resistance to nuclear in the community and the fact that even the main participants on this web site seem to be opposed to even discussing how to get nuclear implemented in Australia at a LCOE less than coal. Since BNCers have that opinion what chance is there for less knowledgeable groups? What chance of convincing the media or politicians that nuclear is a realistic solution that will reduce rather than increase the cost of electricity?

I haven’t suddenly arrived at this opinion. It’s been developing over quite a while I’ve been trying to get BNC contributors to discuss this issue for 18 months but it is clear that the contributors are turned off by this subject. They clearly prefer to discuss anything but.

I expect the reality is that Australia will continue with mostly coal, perhaps build some ‘CCS ready’ coal plants (what ever that means) for a while, build lots of gas plants, and play around with wind, solar, geothermal, wave and CCS to keep the population distracted.


Peter Lang, on 14 November 2010 at 7:26 PM — I fear that reducing the LCOE of NPPs is largely a technical mettar about which I, at least, have no expertise. I agree that the regualtory burden might be lowered but I doubt that this woudl affect the cost appreciably; the discount rate surely has a greater effect.


A stupid question, if I may.

I’ve recently tried to post a comment over at Quiggin’s blog, in the nuclear discussion thread… but can’t get the comments to post. I enter the comment, click submit… and wait for the page to reload, but the page reloads with no comment posted. It doesn’t say your comment is awaiting moderation or anything like that.

Does anyone have any ideas as to what I’m missing?


Luke, for some reason some (only some) of your messages keep entering the SPAM queue here on BNC — just today — even when they have no links etc. I keep having to rescue them. It might be the same problem at JQ’s blog, especially if he is using WordPress.


Hmmm. I’ve been trying to post a comment in the nuclear energy thread on Quiggin’s blog, but the comment simply will not post. I hit submit, and the page reloads… but without my comment.

I wonder if there’s something I’m missing?

Surely they wouldn’t be so blatant as to simply ban me from posting, would they?


Luke Weston. May be. They frequenbtly exclude posts from people they don’t want to hear from. And cut off discussion if they don’t like the direction it is going.


JQ is using WordPress, too, as far as I can tell.

I did notice that I had a similar failure before, when I tried to post a comment here.

I wonder why it would suddenly do that when there have been no problems previously?

Unless some twit has flagged my email address onto the WordPress list of known spammers?

I do have two email addresses that I sometimes alternate between on posts on WordPress blogs, but they should both work fine, on many different blogs.


Port Hope ponders legal action against local anti-nuke groups

Nov 18, 2010 – Karen Lloyd PORT HOPE – “After a week of provocative commentary from anti-nuclear activist Dr. Helen Caldicott, the Municipality of Port Hope may take legal action.“We all know a fight’s a fight, and you can defend and you can defend, but after awhile you have to fight back,” Deputy Mayor Lees said told council members Tuesday night.

“I say things that people are often afraid to say,” Caldicott said. “In fact, you know, if someone wants to charge me with something, I’d welcome it.”

But Deputy Mayor Lees is not interested in Dr. Caldicott. Instead he wants to go after those who made her recent visit possible, and gave her the publicity that has resulted in a new nation-wide belief that Port Hope is unfit for habitation.

Dr. Caldicott’s visit was arranged by Families Against Radiation Exposure (FARE) and Friends of the Port Hope Cleanup, after she was quoted over a year ago saying the community is unsafe because of its exposure to Low Level Radioactive Wastes…”

She has, apparently suggested everyone who lives in Port Hope should up and leave and sue the federal government for the costs. The fact is that the town of Port Hope has lower background radiation than Banff National park, and the idiot Caldicott exposes herself to more radiation on the plane trip over than she would have received in the town.

Her words are doing huge damage to Port Hope, to the realtors, and to the people that live there, the property values, to real estate in general and to the image of the town, and the town is fighting back.

They are right, the guilty party here is not Caldicott, she is what she is, but those that brought this pest into Port Hope and let her rant on uncontrolled..


I believe there is a snowball’s chance in hell that Hazelwood power station will be replaced by gas. No politically survivable level of carbon pricing will overcome the cheapness of brown coal at $6 a tonne. This poses the question when will gas run out for the south eastern States SA, Vic and Tas? Despite suitably large numbers of tcf’s quoted for the southern gas basins behaviour suggests otherwise. For example Adelaide’s 1.3 GW gas baseload plant has supply pipes from two of the basins, Cooper and Otway. Another hint was that Santos said it had plenty of empty space to store sequestered CO2 piped in from NSW coal stations.

Now I see connectors are being replicated from Qld’s Surat Basin the major source of coal seam gas. This links outlines plans coming onstream now
Conceivably flow could be reversed eg so that Surat CSG flows to Adelaide then to Victoria and then to the Hazelwood replacement. Which won’t happen.

Of course Surat Basin CSG will soon be liquefied at Gladstone and sent overseas in cryogenic ships. We evidently won’t need the gas in the south east since we have perfectly lovely coal. Once again I call on Minister Ferguson to explain where this is all heading and incidentally how to replace a million barrels of oil a day.


I thought some would be interested in seeing a portion of Trainer’s recent paper from Energy Policy. Trainer’s analysis of nuclear power, frankly, stinks.

but his analysis of renewables’ limitations bears much resemblance to Peter Lang’s and I thought Peter might appreciate the passage I cite. This article is well worth reading, the nuclear parts nothwithstanding. I think the comment on the misleading use of levelized costs in discussions of renewable energy is especially useful.

Trainer (from p. 4112, section 2.5, implications for redundant generating capacity):

In addition as we have seen there are times, especially in winter, when wind for example will be contributing little or nothing, meaning that a sufficient amount of solar plant to meet demand at such times would need to have been constructed. Indeed given the very low capacity credit for wind (Lenzen, 2009,
p. 92) there will be times when alternative generating plant almost equivalent in magnitude to the wind system would need to be available, and its construction would add greatly to the capacity and investment costs of a wholly or largely renewable system. In other words the intermittency of the renewable sources creates a very significant need for redundant plant.

The combined effect in the above budget [445 EJ/yr–gm] is that much more peak generating capacity must be built than the 17.5 billion KW of coal or nuclear capacity that would suffice. In fact the amounts of peak capacity in the above budget are, wind 9 billion kW, PV 26
billion kW and solar thermal 64 billion kW, making a total of 101 billion kW, some 7.3 times as much as would have been needed in the form of coal or nuclear plant. In addition this creates a problem of energy dumping. At times of good wind and solar radiation when all renewable components of the system under examination are functioning at peak output,
supply would be 6 times demand. The crucial point here is that the task is not to average a flow of kW, it is to maintain it at all times. (2008, pp. 186–187),

Similarly it can be quite misleading to think in terms of the levelised cost of electricity from specified renewable sources when estimating total system costs. Advocates of renewables typically do this, for instance claiming that the levelised cost of wind power is comparable to that of coal fired power. This might
be so if lifetime outputs at average capacity are compared, but that overlooks the point stressed above that the crucial task is to maintain the required level of output. Because there will be times when wind cannot contribute much and resort must be made to
redundant plant, the cost of providing that plant needs to be somehow included in the cost of the wind sector. It is an essential part of the wind sector if that sector is to be able to make its contribution continually, just as an emergency generator must be understood as part of the total energy supply cost of a hospital (Lenzen, 2009 recognises this in passing).


okay, speaking of caldicott, I was teaching her chapter 3 on radiation (np is not the answer), and in rereading the horrific chapter, I came upon the following comment. Speaking of TMI, she notes toward the end of her ludicrous narrative that in 1990, “2.3 million gallons of radioactive water containing tritium were PURPOSEFULLY evaporated from the damaged reactor building, exposing many people in the vicinity to DANGEROUS radioactive elements.” [I highlight the scare words].

Charpak and Garwin, in Megawatts and Megatons, discuss the same event, indicating that “General Public Utility Nuclear…between 1991 and 1993 evaporated 2.2 million gallons of radioactive water, USING FILTERS TO RETAIN THE RADIOACTIVITY.” (175)

The second highlight indicates what Caldicott managed to OMIT, thus allowing her to use the scare words, with connotations of conspiracy (PURPOSEFULLY).


it is interesting to note, given the recent discussion about left and right on another thread, etc., that Peter Lang and Ted Trainer, who could not be more opposed ideologically– have much different views of capitalism, consumerism, free markets, etc.–come to the same conclusions about renewable energy.

for whatever reasons, the two of them have taken great pain and care in some areas of investigation, and it pays off. both are much less careful in other areas of investigation.

we all have our blindspots. unfortunately, we tend to have them in areas of inquiry whose consequences matter.


If Ted Trainer is dismissive of nuclear it could be over the issue of timing rather than the huge over-capitalisation he identifies for renewables. I believe his prescription is to get used to hard times. Even Barry seems pessimistic about 10,000 NPPs ever getting built.

I was working on a roof the other day and I started sliding backwards. I was saved by the gutter. That tale seems to encapsulate the Trainer thesis.


hi john:

in the article I cite, Trainer dismisses nuclear on peak uranium grounds. he says there’s enough uranium for 85 years of operation at current levels.

there is a note referring to his 2008 work where he addresses IFRs.


John: shit, I should be more precise. T does not “dismiss” nuclear exactly. He says it will not produce significant quantities of energy.

8 EJ out of 469 EJ or 627 EJs (if renewables power hydrogen conversion for transport–section 2.1.13).


Luke: your comments elicited a bizarre response. ernestine sees you as producing obfuscatory spin because of the way your comments come out on that blog (formatting quirks).

I’m disarmed by this type of response. the argument that nuclear plants produce a tiny fraction of the radiation that characterizes natural variation convinced me that radiation was not a worry. that and the underwhelming evidence for LNT.

I can’t wrap my mind around not being convinced by this argument. you have to turn nuclear power plants into malevolent, demonic entities and radiation from power plants into special forces for evil.

It seems to me that the radiophobia borders on attributing nearly all cancer to nuclear power plants, and the less evidence, the more sinister the invisible force.

on the other hand, the barriers to agreement here are no greater than those around climate change.


I wonder if nuclear phobia has religious overtones. People seem to take great umbrage if you question bizarre tales of the supernatural and other-worldly powers of the prophets. Get a subculture going with icons (wind turbines), mantras (solar not nukular) and prophets (Caldicott etc). When you have enough like minded souls any critics are clearly overstepping the mark because they are taking on just individuals but a whole class of people.

However I didn’t see any of that at the open day today at my neighbour’s mini hydro. There were no questions about frequency regulation in asynchronous generators, more like ‘what happens if a yabbie gets sucked in the pipe?’. Some ideas did seem to get a consensus over the tea and scones. One I recall is that aluminium smelters should pay more like household electricity prices or get lost. Another is that 20c per kwh is plenty for a feed-in tariff.

All of the 50 or so people attending evidently thought that the 220 MW Franklin-below-Gordon should be built. Oh no it’s special some will say and there’s those religious icons again. There was some discussion of how tall a weir a run-of-river hydro could have without being strictly a dam. 1.5 metres? The trouble is that now 200 MW just isn’t enough when we want to replace gigawatts of coal a.s.a.p.


John Newlands – I don’t know how old you are, but any baby boomer will tell you the the words ‘atomic’ and ‘nuclear’ were terms of real fear during the Cold War. There were drills at school, there were regular tests of the civil defense sirens, and the emergency broadcasting network, both with terrifying sounds that went on for minutes.

People were digging fallout shelters in their back yards, or hardening rooms in their basements, and laying in emergency supplies. Magazines were full of ‘after the attack’ advice, and there were no end of TV dramas that dwelt on the subject. And of course everyone had read On the Beach, or seen the movie.

We were kids, and we were having the shit scared out of us, on an almost daily bases, half convinced that we were not going to make it to adults.

That is what is at the root of fear of radiation, and all things nuclear.



Spot on. I don’t know whether there were any such things as civil defence drills etc in Australia – I’ve never heard of them – but the fear was certainly here too. My mother has told me of the recurrent nightmares of nuclear armageddon that plagued her. I’m sure sure was not alone in this.

That fear was not irrational. Events such as the Cuban missile crises were certainly quite sufficient basis for grave concern.


Of course the situation was not improved by our parents, for whom global warfare was a vivid memory. They gave the nuclear Armageddon scenarios a great deal of credibility, unlike say, vampires, and zombies, that would be dismissed as nonsense.


I’m on the young end of boomer, and much of the culture around nuclear turned to laughs and schtick. my neighbor had a pillow (remember, he’s 12): “in case of nuclear attack, put your head between your knees and kiss your ass goodbye.” then there were the godzilla movies (I’ve seen every one).

the stuff that scared people was china syndrome and silkwood. Recently, david mitchell’s great novel cloud atlas has a very scary attempted murder of an anti nuclear activist (she was digging into safety issues at an analogue of diablo canyon). but great novelists like david mitchell are not read enough to produce a mass cult impact. (in case people are interested in the novel, it has very little to do overall with nuclear power)

what’s important to remember is that most ordinary people, those who are not “anti nuke” activists, are very open to nuclear power and interested.

btw, for those leftists out there (david, fran, geoff and maybe charles b, peter Lalor), or for those who like to keep an eye on the leftists, there’s a new book out called ecology and socialism. I like it, yet it is sheer crap on the questions of np and renewables.

NP critiques therein circulate the usual suspects: a quote from caldicott here; one from Lovins on gen four there. and the renewables stuff consists of the just-so-stories from scientific american, with fantasies about desertec thrown in. it’s interesting to see the combination of care and rigor (discussions of fracking are great) on the one hand, and propaganda on the other. and by propaganda, I don’t mean that all arguments for renewables are necessarily propaganda.

To me, propaganda is signalled by insistent cherry picking and double standards, which is what you see in this particular case. the one book this author (a physics and chem prof at Pace U) cites that many here will have read is david mackay’s, yet he manages to cite mackay several times while avoiding the inferences one would draw about the plausibility of renewables without nuclear.


What does Peter Lang make of the IEA finally ‘sort of’ admitting peak oil?

“Crude oil output reaches an undulating plateau of around 68-69 mb/d, by 2020, but never regains its all-time peak of 70mb/day reached in 2006.” —International Energy Agency

PDF here…

Click to access factsheets.pdf

Lifetime geologist Kenneth Deffeye’s says…

Make that 2005; then we’re talking about the same planet. The implied IEA message is that the peak happened several years ago and the world didn’t come to an end. Wayminnit. We are in the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression and we don’t know whether we can ever restore our earlier prosperity. My interpretation is that the 2008 crude oil price, $147 per barrel, shattered the global economy. The “invisible hand” of economics became the invisible fist, pounding down the world economic growth to match the limitations of crude oil production.

And where is ABARE on global peak oil again? Oh yeah… never got to that one did we?


DV8 and other good number crunchers, after reading your comments on wind and solar, I’m just wondering what kind of *hypothetical* energy storage technology we’d need to make wind and solar work?
For a while I’ve been saying “we’d need batteries 1000 times cheaper and 100 times stronger”, but that’s just a guess-timate.

How would we *actually* measure how much cheaper and ‘stronger’, or greater energy density and storage, we’d actually need? Just to illustrate the impossibility?

Take, for example, the compressed air balloons they’re talking about being much cheaper than hydro. A summary from the following podcast… “It’s cheaper than any storage so far: Batteries are at about $500 thousand per mWh, Pumped hydro is about $80 thousand per mWh of storage, but these compressed balloons are only about $1 thousand per mWh!”

But is $1000 / mWh cheap enough? How cheap would ANY form of energy storage need to be to back up the wind?
(I picked wind because it is apparently one of the cheaper forms of renewable energy WHEN it actually can be bothered to produce any energy, and the costs seem to come from trying to overbuild capacity for when it isn’t producing energy).


It’s going to take three kinds of storage placed at key locations on the grid to utilize renewables and become energy secure. Looking at the possibilities with current technology we see that these are:

Grid scale storage that is located on the major transmission corridors to prevent curtailment, congestion, and stabilize intermittent resources. If power is cheap enough to produce, yet has a high price in a particular market, this can be accomplished with large scale NaS batteries, Vanadium Redox systems, and of course, pumped hydro, if available. For sure there are some markets where this is cost effective, and several working installations are in service.

The next storage need is area management, best controlled with fly wheel technology, superconducting magnet energy storage (SMES) systems and banks of supercapacitors with a voltage-source IGBT converter. This level is rather well developed and several installations are operating offering an ancillary service called Reliability Must-Run (RMR) Contracts. However in most cases this can be accomplished less expensively by gas fired turbine generators, the more exotic technology used where very, very rapid response is required.

The final storage realm needed is to control utility side variability. This last is the real stinker, cost wise, and is the regime where the the vehicle-to-grid schemes are supposed to make a difference. The fact is that the costs here are very high, and not economic for a utility to install. Basically a large battery (a one cubic meter unit, if we are talking NaS) would have to be installed with about the same frequency as distribution (pole) transformers, throughout the network. This is the big killer in any integrated grid storage plan.


Peter Lang wrote:

“If you are correct that there is no realistic way to reduce the LCOE from nuclear plants, I guess we are stuck with coal, gas and some CCS for Australia for a while.”

Maybe, but don’t forget that even peak coal is now on the airwaves!

From the following podcast at the 24 minute mark…

* ABARE says ‘at current rates’ we’ve got 90 years of coal left.
* As the program finally says, and us peak oilers have been saying for years, there’s no such thing as ‘at current rates’. Production always increases, exponentially, until it peaks and then declines, exponentially.
* If growth continues the way it has been, we’ll RUN OUT in 45 years.
* As we know production runs in a bell curve, so Australian peak coal should be well before then.

All of which means only a dramatic increase in our use of nuclear power can prevent our hitting peak coal, and possibly extend our coal out past 90 years… and hopefully leave a lot of it in the ground as we move to a 100% clean nuclear future.


It would be strange if the public objected to molten sodium in IFRs but not in electrical substation batteries. It seems to me dense forms of energy storage are prone to violent failures. The PV charged lead acid battery in my garden shed has lasted 6 years so far I guess because it is clunky and operates on a shallow cycle. Note the wind charged vanadium redox battery that fills a big shed on King Island has not been copied much elsewhere. Too big too costly.

e.n. parts of Australia are looking at imminent coal shortages eg SA’s Leigh Ck field. However Vic’s Latrobe Valley could last all century and beyond. It will power the big new desal despite the public being told that wind farms are doing all the work. Perhaps the worksite spies could report on that instead. That is why I’d bet London to a brick that some pathetic ruse will be used to keep the brown coal stations going for another 20 years. For example the stations could work towards being ‘carbon capture ready’. Or they could get not offsets but ‘legitimate’ carbon tax deductions for planting trees in school playgrounds. Any kind of lame excuse to maintain cheap electricity.


I was just thinking about something interesting.

If you were to install a small modular nuclear energy system like a Hyperion Power Module, or Toshiba 4S, or Adams Atomic Engine or similar, and you were able to sell electricity back into the grid at the same kind of feed-tariffs that solar power proponents want to see to offset the cost of small solar power systems, like 60 c/kWh or so, then you would pay back the cost of the reactor extremely quickly, and you would make gigantic amounts of profit.

But that is, if there was a fair, level playing field for nuclear energy and solar energy.


That’s true of course Luke but the reason the 60cent tariff was abandoned was precisely because the state couldn’t afford to pay it if fully subscribed.

When solarPV units were a lot more expensive, this acted as a constraint, but as soon as they dropped, the state had a problem.

Even at 20cents it is doubtful if this is sustainable. Bear in mind that we are haggling over whether an interim carbon price of $23 per tonne is reasonable. The implied price of 20cents per kWh prices CO2 at roughly 8.6 times that price and the one they abandoned at 3 times that. This made it about 50% more expensive than cash-for clunkers which was rightly abandoned.

Really, at $23 per tonne, assuming we get it, the feed in tariff shouldn’t be more than about 2.3 cents per kWh. Then again, why impose one at all?

If solarPV were a cost-effective way to abate CO2, wouldn’t you think the generators themselves would lease people’s rooves from them, install PV and pay them according to the net value of the output? Why would the state need to become involved at all?


Does anyone know much about the ammonia based chemical storage mooted for the CST “Big Dish” at Whyalla? Where will they source the ammonia? How will they store the H2?

Come to that, does anyone have any definite information on whether it is going ahead, or its specs? I couldn’t find any beyond the promotional bumph.

Curiously, Barry’s face was in one of the powerpoints!


Well, I gave a talk at the same conference in Whyalla as when that CST presentation was given — ironically, my talk emphasised the need for nuclear and said that Whyalla might be a good place to build a NPP!

I’m not aware of any prices given for the chemical storage of that CST plant or where they’ll get it from, but it’s simple enough to obtain. They were only talking about a small-scale demonstration with a few 10s of MWh of storage.


Thanks Barry

One verison of the plant quoted 150mW but later versions spoke of 80mW.

It was said that the best use of thermo-chemical storage was if the plant was in excess of 500mW so why they were talking about it in connection with this was hard to follow.



“Where will they source the ammonia?”

Fertilizer manufactures I guess would be the big manufacturers of ammonia. Gibson Island in Brisbane perhaps?


I believe there are two sources of ammonia in that area. The OneSteel coke ovens at Whyalla produce ammonia from Newcastle coal and Olympic Dam produces ammonium sulphate byproduct for sale as a fertiliser. Not sure where OD gets raw ammonia.

When I last looked the Whyalla ammonia CSP project was a joint venture between the Uni of SA and ANU. I’ve hung around both those august institutions as well staying with rellies in Whyalla a few times yet I’m not confident. To my knowledge the basic concept of thermally dissociating ammonia then recombining to release heat has not yet been proved on a megawatt scale. The whole project could disappoint. I don’t mean to be uncharitable but if it was a goer it would have been done long ago.

If so the list keeps getting longer.. hot fusion, cold fusion, hydrogen cars, hot rocks etc etc then perhaps ammonia CSP. There must be a point at which we proceed with proven technology rather than hold out for new technology breakthroughs. BTW if Spencer Gulf was to supply cooling water for a serious thermal plant it should be either well south of Whyalla or on the opposite side. Electric cable could be laid under the gulf as there are already gas and water pipes.


“Not sure where OD gets raw ammonia.”

I would guess that they synthesize it on site, rather than transporting it by road or pipeline.

That’s a neat thing about ammonia… all you need to synthesize it is a bit of hydrogen (from natural gas or water), and nitrogen out of thin air.


… the basic concept of thermally dissociating ammonia then recombining to release heat …

… requires enormous amounts of hydrogen to be stored per unit energy: about seven times more than if it would be combined with oxygen.

… has not yet been proved on a megawatt scale

Partial deoxidation of magnetite would produce ferrous oxide, a much less awkward energy-storing substance. The linked document talks about using it to produce hydrogen, but that is snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, It can simply be reoxidized.

(How fire can be domesticated)


Re magnetite reaction I’d guess most solar furnaces have to work in batches of solid material rather than continuous flow of fluids. That must be a major disadvantage. The graphite hot block planned for Cloncurry Qld has been mothballed. The idea was that the block is stationary but the steam tubes work intermittently.

I wonder if auxiliary power losses and plumbing problems have a habit of undermining theoretical yields. That seems to be the case with granite geothermal. Now the same enthusiasts hope ammonia CSP will be the next big thing. If it doesn’t work as well as hoped I suspect there will be more reaction vessels and pumps and separators. Then I expect the promoters will ask for more grant money to make it bigger. I believe the govt has pulled the pin on granite geothermal after $300m in grants. The solar updraft tower never went ahead. CETO and other wave power devices seem to be struggling.

OTOH Gen III nukes can be bought off the shelf. Cut the NBN budget in half and buy two of them.


Fran, mW is milliwatt (one thousandth of a watt) – granted the context makes it pretty obvious whether its supposed to be mega or milli, but units matter!


On the two NPPs funded by halving the NBN budget I have specific suggestions; the unbuilt Bayswater B NSW and Hazelwood Vic for the symbolism. Note both will need over 1.5 GW output.


I thought people might find this amusing. I love the “new paradigm” metaphor. makes a dumbass idea sound like Galileo or Einstein, and if overwhelming objections and refutations are offered, that just shows we folk trapped in the “old paradigm” lack imagination.

Peter Lang (don’t leave us: a little discipline from BWB never hurt anybody) has a response on the climate spectator site.

Is baseload power necessary?

Giles Parkinson

For years, David Mills, the eminent solar energy technology developer, has dreamed of creating a new model for an energy system that does away with the conventional design of massive baseload infrastructure.

Next week the newly-retired founder of solar thermal technology company Ausra (now owned by French nuclear giant Areva), and a former leading researcher at UNSW, will present that model.
Using hourly data for energy use of the entire United States economy in 2006, Mills will demonstrate how it could have been powered almost exclusively by wind and solar (with storage and the help of biofuels for aircraft and some biomass capacity for certain smelting operations).

The details of his findings, including capacity and costing estimations, will be released when he addresses the Australian Solar Energy Society’s annual conference in Canberra next week. But in an exclusive interview with Climate Spectator, Mills gave a broad outline of his conclusions and suggested there was a surprisingly small difference in costs.

“Everyone says that you need flatline baseload capacity (such as coal or nuclear, or in some countries hydro) and build on that platform, and use load-following gas turbines,” Mills said.
“They assume that being baseload makes it cheaper, and all other things are more expensive.”
“What we are suggesting is a new paradigm. The traditional paradigm of flatline baseload does not exist in this scenario, but you need to understand that the replacement for baseload power is not another baseload, it’s a system of flexible and inflexible energy mechanisms based around wind and solar and other sources.”

The study is an extension of an idea that Mills has held dear for some time. In 2005 he presented a talk in Canberra suggesting that solar plans with a “primitive” storage model could run the electricity grid in eastern Australia.

Two years later, he did a similar study for California concluding that, based on hourly data for energy usage in 2006, solar could have carried well over 90 per cent of the electricity load.
The latest study – completed with a former R&D specialist at Ausra, Wei Li Cheng, and a US Department of Energy analyst Phil Larochelle – looks at how solar and wind could handle the entire electricity needs for the US in the same year, and also looks at whether it could handle the entire energy needs for the country, including transport.
Interestingly, wind and solar account for around 50 per cent each of the electricity supplies to handle summer demand and peaks, while more wind was used in winter. Such a system would require a capacity redundancy above peak demand, but would in fact be less than current systems.
Mills says the study looked to test a number of different premises. The first premise was that there was enough solar and wind that, in combination, could run the US economy. There was.
The second was that solar and wind would be connected with a new electricity transmission system, using high voltage direct current lines for the spine of the network, which will allow more flows and result in considerably reduced transmission losses.

These are the sort of networks being contemplated by the Desertec consortium founded by a group of large European industrial giants that are looking to source solar power from north Africa to provide some of Europe’s energy needs.

Mills says China is installing more HVDC lines than any other country in the world – looking to link coal plants with the Three Gorges dam and wind and solar from the north and west of the country. “It very clear to see what they are doing and that it is a very good thing to do,” he said.

Mills says the data used for his study came from 2006, and was based around technology that might be used in 2050, but exists now – even though its lack of scale makes current deployment expensive. “Its not technology that we don’t have now. I didn’t want people saying that it’s future technology.”
He says the model would need to be refined to be implemented, but it provides food for thought. He says it could easily apply to the Chinese and Australian economies, which also benefit from a population largely based on the eastern seaboard, western deserts (which can provide power later into the evening to the eastern consumers), and strong wind resources.

The Mills model will add to the considerable debate about the role of renewables – whether they are a “worthy” but annoying addition to the current network systems, or if they can assume a prominent role in powering economies.

Mills notes the work of the Beyond Zero Emissions group, which outlined a highly contentious study into how Australia could go 100 per cent renewable by 2020 – not so much to suggest it should be done, but that it could be done.

The German industrial giant Siemens has also produced a report entitled “Picture the Future”, which suggested renewable energy could, by 2030, provide 70 per cent of Australia’s electricity needs, with half coming from solar – augmented by storage and a suite of installation across different time zones – and the rest made up of an equal share of wind and geothermal.


An open letter from long-time ALP member Phil Sawyer to federal Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency Greg Combet:

Briefly put, I wish to argue that our traditional opposition to nuclear energy has effectively blinded us to the significant advantages that would actually follow from a well managed change in policy, and that our politically expedient concord with the greens on this issue is coming at a very high cost, to the party, to the Government, and to the public interest, and that it needs an urgent rethink.

The full letter is at

Janet Albrechtsen also riffs on Sawyer’s letter in The Australian today.

Left and Right speaking with one voice. Interesting and hopeful times.

Here’s hoping Combet and Gillard are listening.


greg meyerson – I don’t want to leave your post unanswered. This, ‘we don’t need baseload’ meme is simply one of the worst lies being told by the renewable side, and one of the most dangerous.

The problem is that numbers work out, BUT only if one is prepared to radically change the way energy is used. It must change so radically, in fact, that it would require a total overhaul of modern civilization, and the cultures that inhabit it. Bluntly, the arguments seem to be of the same general flavor as the arguments for a single global language that were popular at the turn of the previous century – and about as practical.

Like the latter, Mills considers the problem superficially, conceding that there need be changes only in the transition and distribution infrastructure, ignoring the massive legacy we have in technology that depends on the availability of baseload power. The expense of converting both plants and processes to work with this system would be staggering. In many cases it would mean the end of certain industries, or at least their concentration into areas with existing hydro. Even then it is doubtful that capacity could be maintained at current levels.

We have seen this sort of reasoning before, both in energy and in other domains. I’m reminded of statements to the effect that Canada need not burn a drop of heating oil, if we all lived in R100 homes and heated with electricity. True, as far as it goes, but the cost of the R100 conversions to every building in Canada would have been several time the gross domestic product for the country. Therefore, so what? It may be true but it is unobtainable.

At any rate Mills’ scheme is clearly a case of putting the cart before the horse – energy supplies should be tailored to the need, not the other way around. And this brings up the final nail to be driven into the coffin of this idea: there is no real path for growth in this plan. It is not just the total energy use across the globe will rise as more want to obtain a decent standard of living, but per capita use will go up as well as dealing with things, like climate change, makes more demands on energy supplies. Renewables cannot meet future needs.

This is a pure case of misdirection, right out of stage magic, everyone looks at the detailed calculations he made, and thinks the reasoning is sound. No one looks at costs of making it come about.


Sometimes the public gets it and sometimes not. For example; the world’s oceans are full of water therefore there can be no water shortages. The public sees the flaw in the argument immediately. With energy I’d bring it down to a mundane level, like making coffee and toast at 7 a.m.. Sure the problem is solvable since people who camp in the remote outback in motor homes have solved it with propane (since piped gas will be disallowed) or with batteries and inverters. Does the whole of suburbia want to take up that approach?

I doubt there is enough hydro world wide to do all aluminium smelting. It is noteworthy that the supposedly hydro powered Comalco smelter in northern Tasmania is within 10km of two combined cycle gas plants and a HVDC converter station. Also interesting to see in the sidebar that an aspiring Greens Party political candidate was burned at the stake for suggesting that solar may struggle to replace Hazelwood brown coal fired power station.


Be fair, Miles is taking the existing demand data, admittedly only at hourly resolution, and creating a system to meet it. No major behavioural change or smart grid impositions. The approach doesn’t look THAT different from Barry’s OzEA project, except that he’s overbuilding the renewables rather than burning gas to cover shortfalls. The problem will be the cost, how much overbuild and transmission infrastructure is it going to need, and how often will you still need to burn gas? It will be too expensive for China and India to afford, therefore it doesn’t solve the problem.


Luke – It is precisely because he doesn’t admit that these changes must occur, that I am criticizing him for.

It is abundantly apparent that his scheme requires load flatting and other forms of demand management, and these are the very things that cannot be implemented, particularly in heavy industry, by bolting on a box somewhere. That’s the rub – possibly most processes could be redesigned to work with this sort of scheme – it’s the cost of implementing these changes that cannot be ignored.

Some things, like smelting, simply cannot, and these would have to be relocated near reliable continuous sources, again at huge costs.

Even the distribution network he envisions is a non-trivial expense, especially with the levels of redundancy that would be needed to maintain any sort of reliability. Again, not impossible, just very, very expensive.

And for what? To sooth the irrational fears of a handful of people that reject nuclear energy? It just doesn’t make any sense to suggest that we turn the world’s economy, and industrial base upside down, and remake it to accommodate this plan, when a better option is available.


I’m glad you chimed in, DV.

i agree the idea is dangerous, not because it would really happen but because it stops the nuclear build.

it won’t really happen. ironic to cite China for its HVDC lines connecting coal to wind given both their continued building of coal plants and their big nuclear build planned. I’m sure China will take Mills advice and stop the coal and nuke build.

you say that the numbers work out. what do you mean by this? the article states that overbuild would only be slight, “a capacity redundancy above peak demand,” but no more and less than we have now.

where are numbers for this that don’t amount to a just-so-story?


greg meyerson – I recall looking at this sometime in 2007 when Mills’ ideas were being featured in Scientific American. There was also a paper he wrote around that time that I looked at. I admit that I am echoing here the conclusions I drew then based on those sources.

As I recall, the figures he was batting around at that time were superficial plausible, that is there were no glaring errors that stood out for me. The problem was, of course, time-domain averaging of electrical consumption is somewhat meaningless beyond its use as a general forecasting tool in power arbitrage. Assuming that it represents a hard number for long-term planning is a stretch at best.

If you play 21 as the house, it is statistically guaranteed that over the long run you will win more than you lose, however that doesn’t mean that there cannot be a significant loss on any given hand. Electric power is unlike money in that it cannot be easily stored, so while a momentary loss to the house may be tolerated on the blackjack table, a momentary loss on the grid cannot be. This is what makes trafficking in measurements of central tendency fraught with problems when looking at electric power.


central tendency leaves out the fluctuations, right? so you’d have power outages left and right unless you had a “genius” grid.

even so, I just don’t understand the minimum overbuild claim. capacity factor alone rules this out.


One would think, but then again conceptual errors are always a problem when looking at electric power, if one makes the tacit assumption that it is the same as every other fungible commodity.


Mark Duffet, thanks for posting that link to Phil Sawyer’s letter to Greg Combet. This strikes me as a really important document – a considered political strategy for the ALP to switch its position on NP (as opposed to an energy strategy, or a climate response strategy).

We can’t expect people, or parties, to act against their own interests. Phil Sawyer’s argument is important because it clearly articulates how changing policy on NP aligns with the ALP’s current political interests, and makes the case in the terms of a positive party political outcome.

I await Combet’s response.


I also note Barry’s twitter link to the story of the Green’s candidate being disendorsed for displaying an ounce of commonsense and rejecting the idea that the 1600 MW Hazelwood coal reactor should be closed down and replaced with 1200 MW of photovoltaic cells.

Cheryl Wragg, from the Latrobe Valley, was disendorsed last night in a row with Greens MP Greg Barber, over the proposed closure of the Hazelwood Power Station.

Ms Wragg will continue to appear on the Greens list on the ballot paper but says she will be running as an Independent.

She says Mr Barber’s proposal to close down the Hazelwood Power Station in four years will not work.

“Mr Barber’s plan proposes to replace the 1,600 megawatt base-load generation of Hazelwood with 1,200 megawatts of photovoltaics,” she said.

“It just won’t work. It’s technically incompetent. Mr Barber doesn’t seem to understand that base-load power needs to be there 24 hours a day.”

Some coverage:


phil sawyer says:

People like the doyen of alarmists, James Hansen, and the Gaia Guru Lovelock, are very influential, and pro-nuclear to boot, as you would know, and could be expected to suitably laud our new approach. Closer to home, Bob Carr and people like Professor Barry Brook come to mind, not to mention Ziggy, as folk who ostensibly believe in AGW, but who see nuclear energy as the only rational response to the challenge at hand. It is rumoured that such people even inhabit the cabinet room!

yes, I guess barry ostensibly believes in AGW.

do these folks look at evidence and argument or do they just react to what “sounds extreme,” especially if it implies having to change things up significantly?

to me, this letter, welcoming as it is to people who want nuclear power, engages in more guilt by association. if you think our institutions need “transformation,” you are a “fundo,” an “alarmist,” etc. etc.

even though this blog has made clear how serious the challenge is confronting the world, it’s nice to think that little centrist shiftings of alliances will make all okay.


Mind you John, Ms Wragg is calling for coal gasification, which is good enough in my opinion to get her dumped.

Barber’s “plan” may well be technically incompetent, but there’s no advantage in having a Green elected to vote for what is essentially an ALP proposal. Barber isn’t going to get his way in eny event.


Hi DV8,
thanks for the comments on the various power types.

I’m after a baseline figure… but if you think it requires the same work as a Phd to come up with… I’ll settle for a rough guesstimate.

The same science show flagged batteries as 500 times as expensive as the balloons. Batteries are over $500 thousand per Mwh but these underwater balloons are *projected* to only cost $1000 / Mwh for reliable compressed air storage.

Being underwater rubber balloons full of air also mitigates the concerns John Newlands voiced about toxic, potentially violent high energy storage out in the suburbs. These balloons would be all along our coasts.


eclipsenow – any CASE type system suffers from a huge problem of high losses do to the fact that there is a major heat loss during the compression stage, and the need to return that heat to the air as it is decompressed.

I also understand that the people that have come up with this scheme, envision specially designed wind turbines with free-piston compressors internal to the blades. Even if this idea had merit, and frankly I think it would be a nightmare to make and run, (the lubrication/airseal issues alone would be staggering) they would be tremendously expensive, negating any gains that might be realized.


But the point is they claim $1000 / Mwh.

The point is that wind is expensive because it is only produces a third of the nameplate capacity and is intermittent. How cheap would storage have to be to make wind, the cheapest of the renewables, baseload?


“How cheap would storage have to be to make wind, the cheapest of the renewables, baseload?”

I would think that could be calculated in a rough fashion by something like: wind turbine + storage < = cost of traditional baseload plant.


Yes but I have no idea how to calculate that for Australia let alone carry around a hard and fast rule for the world. There are so many different sites for wind and different capacity factors. Some sites are closer to cities, others require far more transmission lines and more expense. Some have higher capacity factors that would lower the storage draw down.

I guess I’ll leave it. Looking at the cost of my energy from the last energy bill, $1000 / Mwh seems expensive, if I assume say 2/3rds of my bill at that rate.


DV82XL said:

I would think that could be calculated in a rough fashion by something like: wind turbine + storage < = cost of traditional baseload plant.

Providing the storage could lift the capacity credit to something like the baseload plant used to compare it with.

So if a 1.6GW plant like Hazelwood is 85%available, you’d have to show that a wind plant could produce pro-rata, 1GW of wind would produce 1GW 20 hours per day 7days per week or equivalent at a similar price.


C40 watches as San Francisco replaces petroleum taxis with full electric cars supplied by Better Place, with the battery swap service keeping the car running 24/7.

Now, C40 is watching switchable-battery electric taxis come to the San Francisco Bay Area to cement the region as the EV capital of the U.S. Seeing the success of the project in Tokyo – both in terms of emissions reduction and quality of life – the U.S. Department of Transportation (via the Metropolitan Transportation Commission “MTC”) awarded us a major grant to help us launch the U.S. taxi project. After analyzing a variety of proposals, the MTC decided on the Better Place approach based on its ability to move the needle the most on emissions reduction, mentioning that the application scored the highest marks of all filings.

The C40 meeting is now winding down in this Asian business hub, the center of a region from which many next-generation transportation solutions will emerge. As the mayors from the world’s greatest cities prepare to depart, I am eager to see how their experiences here translate into policy and action at home.


My take on yesterday’s carbon price meeting in Canberra
is that the end result will be trivial or perverse. It seems to me that genuine players were outnumbered by rentseekers, greenwashers and corporate bullies. The same problems that plagued the ETS seem likely to re-appear in new form.

Specifically I think that offsets will come back in the form of carbon tax deductions. The meeting included banks who stand to make huge profits from carbon trading v.2. Also present was the farm lobby who seem confident they can get some kind of financial advantage, perhaps selling carbon credits for keeping less methane intense livestock and other unverifiable measures. The presence of airlines and steel makers could have been to convey a subtle threat. They may have given a wink to the farmers and banks that they want carbon credits (questionable or otherwise) at an affordable $2 a tonne when carbon tax is $20-$30/t.

Treasurer Wayne Swan seemed pleased with the proceedings perhaps as a piece of political theatre. Mother Nature may take a different view of the resulting carbon cuts. However fossil fuel prices must soon go up in absolute or relative terms with or without carbon pricing . Perhaps big biz really wants more handouts like fuel tax cuts, feed-in tariffs and some kind of kudos for gas helping out renewables.


I’d be for a carbon price if I knew the funds raised would actually go towards REAL solutions like Fast-Rail, EV’s, and of course Nukes.

The fact that the offsets seem to fund coal so much just makes me SICK of the whole political system.


There is now a Senate inquiry underway and I encourage submissions from BNCers ->

The Social and Economic Impact of Rural Wind Farms

Information about the Inquiry

On 27 October 2010 the Senate referred the following matter to the Senate Community Affairs Committee for inquiry and report.

The Leader of the Family First Party (Senator Fielding), pursuant to notice of motion not objected to as a formal motion, moved business of the Senate notice of motion no. 1- That the following matter be referred to the Community Affairs References Committee for inquiry and report by 30 April 2011:

The social and economic impacts of rural wind farms, and in particular:
(a) Any adverse health effects for people living in close proximity to wind farms;
(b) Concerns over the excessive noise and vibrations emitted by wind farms, which are in close proximity to people’s homes;
(c) The impact of rural wind farms on property values, employment opportunities and farm income;
(d) The interface between Commonwealth, state and local planning laws as they pertain
to wind farms; and
(e) Any other relevant matters.

Please be advised that the committee has sought advice from the Clerk of the Senate on the matter of parliamentary privilege for potential submitters and witnesses that have signed confidentiality agreements with windfarm operators.

Submissions should be received by 10 February 2011. The reporting date is 30 April 2011.


***** also I would recommend people having a read of this article recently pub’d in the Australian ->


Fran Barlow,

Providing the storage could lift the capacity credit to something like the baseload plant used to compare it with.

So if a 1.6GW plant like Hazelwood is 85%available, you’d have to show that a wind plant could produce pro-rata, 1GW of wind would produce 1GW 20 hours per day 7days per week or equivalent at a similar price.

I think you are on the right track. You may have missed this comment
which I think will answer the question you are addressing about the cost of hydro to back up for wind power;


“… but these compressed balloons are only about $1 thousand per mWh!”

Is this before or after the thermal penalties. That’s the problem with all CASE schemes, PV=nRT keeps getting in the way


I’m not sure where the thermal penalties come in? These compressed air balloons are designed for special wind turbines that compress air, not produce electricity. They catch and compress air. As I understand it the turbines are further downstream somewhere, either drawing off the balloons if it is a quiet night, or drawing down off the compressed air directly from the turbines themselves.

(Everything I’ve just said may be completely irrelevant to your point. I’m just trying to explain how these things work).


@eclipsenow – When one compresses any gas, like air, it heats up. In fact as the pressure increases much of the energy being used to compress the gas is turned to heat. Much of this heat is lost to the surroundings, in this case the body of water the balloons are siting in.

When the gas is expanded, to do work, that heat must be returned, and it has to come from somewhere. Mostly this is solved in most CASE schemes, by using the compressed air as a high pressure feed to a methane burning turbine generator. The burning natural gas is needed to return the lost heat from compression.

This is a consequence of the fundamental thermodynamic properties of compressed air, and cannot be ignored or brushed off as irrelevant, it is the major source of loss in these systems, and the losses are substantial.

Therefore I would like to know if this estimate on the cost of energy storage is taking this loss into account.


This is the guy, Seamus Garvey, Professor of Dynamics and Research, Faculty of Engineering.

This is his comment on heating air: I have no idea how to critique it of course. I’ll leave that up to you.

“To Rich (July 23). You calculation for pressure is wrong. 750m of water gives you 7.5 MPa, not 20 MPa. The stored energy density at that level is between 33 MJ/m3 and 65 MJ/m3 depending on how much you reheat the air recovered from store and whether you reheat it between expansion stages. The lower figure is extremely conservative and it involves expanding the air “isothermally” at about ambient temperature. Let’s take 40 MJ/m3 as a reasonable energy density. I agree with your approximate volume calculation so the stored energy in one bag would be around 160 GJ. That is equivalent to over 45 MWh – about 380 times more than the 120 kWh which you suggest !”

(It’s about the second comment down dated S.D.Garvey :
06 Aug 2010 12:25:11am)

Here’s a shot of him with the scaled down energy bag. In 2011 they’re building full scale house-sized energy bags.

This article also mentions another feature: cutting the wind cost itself by 4 by building super-sized turbines.

“230m (755ft) diameter is the baby of the family – and considering some radical redesigns, the total amount of structural material per kilowatt of rated power can be slashed, effectively cutting costs by a factor of four or more.”


I would like see just how they intend to expand the air isothermally, and still make it do work. Look this is hand waving around the thermodynamic issues that plague all CASE systems. When you calculate the amount of heat involved it turns out to be huge.

This is the other issue, trafficking in large amounts of heat is not trivial, it has to be dumped out in the compression stage, which means some sort of cooling, and it has to be added back during expansion very quickly, and in huge volumes. One way or the other that is going to involve burning natural gas, or some other fuel. There is no other way around this problem.

Thus this idea is just another way renewables are being used as a Trojan horse for natural gas.


eclipsenow, let me try and provide some scale for the issue DV82XL is describing.

When you compress a gas it gets hot. You might have noticed this pumping up a bike tyre. If you let a compressed gas expand it cools. You might have noticed this spraying an aerosol can.

If this submerged bladder thing compresses the air from 1 atmosphere (101 kPa) and 25 C to 7.5 MPa, and the heat is not dissipated, the compression will heat the air to 730 C, if I did my sums right.

But the heat apparently is dissipated, lost into the ocean I assume. Thats what Garvey means by isothermal – the temperature stays the same, because you’re throwing away this heat.

When you go to recover the stored energy, the air expands and the temperature drops. Suppose the temperature at 750 m deep is 10 C (I’m just guessing). If you forced it to expand till it reaches atmospheric pressure again, without heating, the temperature would drop to -190 C. But at that temperature its only a quarter of its original volume, so its not blowing very hard.

This is what DV82XL was referring to when he said: “I would like see just how they intend to expand the air isothermally, and still make it do work.” The same issue applies to schemes to store compressed air in underground caverns (perhaps to a lesser extent due to better thermal insulation, but probably with other losses from pumping into porous rocks, and leakage).

So if you’re storing, say, wind energy, on the round trip you through away the energy that would heat the air to ~750 C on the compression cycle, and then burn fossil carbon to effectively heat the air from -190 C to ambient on the expansion cycle. This is on top of the other usual losses, such as friction, viscous losses, and transforming mechanical energy to electrical and back a few times.


bryen: that wind article is pretty interesting and it cites Peter Lang, but it says things like this:

“Boswell says at $2.4 million per kilowatt hour, the construction cost for wind is about 2.5 times that of coal or gas.”

The guy must mean per megawatt, not kilowatt, which would put the cost at 2.4 billion per gigawatt. and I don’t think he means per kwh.

and 2.4 billion per gigawatt wouldn’t come close to the real cost Peter cites (this even though the article cites Peter’s costs later).


bryen that article The Great Wind Rush provides plenty of food for thought. In a roundabout way it says that Australia’s nameplate wind capacity must increase from 1.9 GW to 18 GW in just 10 years. No way Jose, yet a sizeable segment of Australia’s political elite doesn’t question it.

It also mentions that the REC system will be split between large and small generators with coal burners having to buy certificates from the large renewables sector, presumably excluding hydro built in the 20th century. The effect of this will have to be analysed. Suffice to say it would be a lot simpler if generators were told they could have an average carbon intensity of x% and no more.

Perhaps a simpler way to explain the poor CO2 savings from wind would be to point out that gas burning in 75% working mode + 25% standby mode isn’t much less than 100% working mode. I like the notion that wind turbines have become the new form of religious icon.


Gregory / John

Yes, journalists never gets things quite right do they. However, it was good to see an article that is prepared to give a voice to the people like Humphrey & Jennifer, who have been dealing with windfarm issues for about 10 years, and now have a whole bunch more turbines to deal with.

When I drove past Cullerin WF a few days back they have now started construction of the nearby extension, which I believe is about another 80 turbines. I am pretty sure it is the Gullen Range development. Was very sad to see it going ahead.

+ The Vinalhaven “community wind farm” in Maine is now about a year old, and is still plagued with noise problems. This WF was originally supported by the community, until it got switched on… ->

***Again, I would ask Barry & other BNCers who have the time to put in a submission to the Senate Inquiry :

The Social and Economic Impact of Rural Wind Farms

You can bet Diesnesdorf will be putting a sub in to say how great wind is, he did for the inquiry last year. In fact his word (& those of the developers) was practically taken as gospel, so it is very important that people like Barry and other BNCers make subs if you can. Closing date for sub’s is 10 Feb 2011.


Back in 2004 when I lived in southern NSW I was thinking of moving to a bush block in the Gunning-Jerrawa area but I moved to Tas instead. I see a few Sydney connected VIPs have moved to that area and they want to keep it pristine.

I also note that Origin Energy thinks that a Mwh of wind energy displaces a Mwh of fossil fuel, based on 30 MW nameplate displacing 100,000 tonnes of CO2 a year. See
Any submission must clarify that CO2 savings may possible if the pre-existing system has sufficient flexibility and does not require new backup or transmission. That is why I think estimated wind power costs must be based on 85% capacity and include all subsidies.


Kaj, I don’t believe so. At what temperature would you store this heat? 750 C? In that case this large underwater air storage system needs to be thermally insulated, and made of materials that work at this high temperature.

Would you store it at something less than 750 C? Say 400 C in some hot body? Then you through away a lot of energy in the Carnot cycle. And you still need high temperature materials and excellent thermal insulation. But now you also need heat exchangers and other elements of the storage and regeneration. This is a long way away from the simplicity of the original idea, and no doubt very expensive.

Or would you store it at lower temperatures, say, 80 C, where materials are less of a problem and maybe thermal loss rates slower. Well, then the recoverable energy is stuff all, due to Carnot cycle losses.

I can’t see how thermal regeneration could work with this storage concept.


Kaj, I don’t believe so.

I said it’s possible, not that it is cheap or rational.


Adiabatic storage retains the heat produced by compression and returns it to the air when the air is expanded to generate power.

Many things are technically possibel, but economically not. Like to establish a colony on to Moon. Yes, it can be done. The moon is there, and we know how to go there. But…

All of our energy can be extracted from the wind. Yes, it can be done. The wind is there, we know how to build windmills. But…

This is sometimes confusing. Many things are technically possible are not economically possible. Or impossible for some other reason. We all knows that there are far more wind and solar available than we ever need. But…


The recent wind turbine fire at Cape Jervis is now the 3rd one in South Australia.

I have been told this turbine collapsed in strong winds about a week after the fire, but I have seen no further reporting in the press of this incident other than this news article, which also includes a couple of pictures of the blaze ->

a brief excerpt from the start of the article –>

Last Saturday at 2.33 pm, the Southern Fleurieu CFS group was alerted to a fire at the Starfish Hill Wind Farm, near Cape Jervis, in which a turbine had caught alight.

The fire caused $3,000,000 in damage.

On arrival, CFS officers could do little but watch the blaze from half a kilometre away, as the situation was deemed too dangerous to approach.

“There was not a damn thing you could do about it,” said Mr Crawford of the turbine fire.

When Work Safe arrived to the scene, CFS officers were told to retreat a further 500 metres away from the fire, as the blades continued to spin.

“There were tips of the blades flying some distance,” said Mr Crawford.

“You could go no closer than a kilometre away.”

CFS officers kept watch for spot fires, but were unable to extinguish those close to the turbine.



Pisarenko & Rodkin
Heavy-Tailed Distributions in Disaster Analysis
Springer, 2010.

Emphasis on earthquakes, but considers other distributions of extreme events as well. Relevaant to power gird planning.

Castronuovo, ed.
Optimization Advances in Electric Power Systems
Nova Sci. Publ., 2010


There was a guest post on BNC, quite a few months ago. It was a post written by somebody who is usually a critic of nuclear energy. I don’t remember exactly who it was, but I think it was Ian Lowe, or maybe Jim Green, or Diesendorf. But my memory of the exact details is unreliable.

Can anyone remember the post in question, and remember exactly who the author was? Also, a link to that post would be helpful if someone might be able to find that for me. Thanks!


Jim Green wrote a post on nuclear safeguards. Michael Goggin wrote a pro wind post. Those are the ‘dissenting’ opinions I recall posted here.

There was also Barry’s posts on his debate with Diesendorf and others, here, which you might be thinking of.


Barry suggested that this might be a good place to post this link to Kirk Sorensen’s “Energyfromthorium” Bloq .

( see my nov30 posting)

The paper you can download there (“CWF……”) discusses one of any genuinely sustainable nuclear power scenario’s key “technical issues” (reprocessing radwaste management) & outlines a practical solution to one of the problems posed by the current IFR implementation scenario.

Please read the paper (don’t forget the footnotes) & offer your comments/opinions. If you wish you can email me directly.



John Newlands, on 29 November 2010 at 8:31 AM said:
“Back in 2004 when I lived in southern NSW I was thinking of moving to a bush block in the Gunning-Jerrawa area but I moved to Tas instead. I see a few Sydney connected VIPs have moved to that area and they want to keep it pristine.”

I am not sure what you mean by this comment John. The wind farm issue is upsetting the locals in South West Slopes and surrounding regions, and has has been for a long time! Ever since they put up the useless Crookwell 1.

Have a read of this article on the Yass Valley WF and the comments by the Mayor of Harden ->

“Wind farm consultation under fire”

begin excerpt ->

Harden’s Mayor Chris Manchester is frustrated.

They are fast tracking a lot of this major development, he said.

Its taken out of the hands of local government and we have no say or no control over what does happen, they are rushing through.

Harden council has told the Planning Department the area of the proposed wind farm is steep, inaccessible in wet weather, bushfire prone and susceptible to soil erosion.

Councillor Manchester says locals are apprehensive.

Its a major concern. The Copabella one, there was very little consultation of the community. It just happened and the next minute it¡¯s on sold to Origin Energy,¡± he said.

Origin Energy says it is currently responding to public submissions about the Copabella wind farm and once that is done a development application will be lodged with the State Government.

Cr Manchester says the new development would significantly impact on Jugiong and Bookham.

He says the State Government has not done enough community consultation.

Its creating problems within the local community, with the local landholders because they’re unsure where it’s going and what’s happening and what they’re going to get out of it, if anything, he said.

What’s going to happen with the local community?

—– end excerpt —–

The wind farm Coppabella, is part of the Yass Valley WF proposal (215 turbines), which will stretch 30 km along the Hume, and encompass the villages of Binalong & Bookham. This new application for Jugiong will add another 80.

To get an idea of whats planned in the Goulburn to Gundagai area this article gives a good idea ->

although the number is getting nearer to 1000 proposed turbines already. Imagine all that lot going offline at once, instead of just Capital & Cullerin as it is at the moment. There are also many other wind monitoring masts owned by wind prospectors that will be putting in apps in the next couple of years.

These are the most recent NSW Dept planning apps ->

Birrema (80, turbines this is the one near Jugiong mentioned above) ->–communications–energy—water/generation-of-electricity-or-heat-or-co-generation/?action=view_job&job_id=4101

Collector (60 to 80) ->–communications–energy—water/generation-of-electricity-or-heat-or-co-generation/?action=view_job&job_id=3778

Rugby / Boorowra (90 turbines ) ->–communications–energy—water/generation-of-electricity-or-heat-or-co-generation/?action=view_job&job_id=4316

Adjungbilly (26 turbines )->–communications–energy—water/generation-of-electricity-or-heat-or-co-generation/?action=view_job&job_id=3837

**** This is clearly not planning for geographical diversity and smoothing! I wonder why….


bryen the thing about VIPs is they get listened to. Plebs don’t. I’m sure the fact Gerry Harvey and John Singleton have horse farms next to proposed new Hunter Valley coal mines makes a difference. Otherwise those farms would be holes in the ground.

The fact they (Origin etc) want to string wind farms along the Hume Highway suggests a large PR element. Look how green we are as we drive along. In Tassie they leave 400 year old trees next to the road and clear fell just out of sight. When I lived in Yass one really good idea was a CNG truck filling station for semis on the Sydney to Melbourne run. Let’s not bother the authorities said. Perception beats reality every time.


Hmmm… John Quiggin’s nuclear thread is closed.

So, that’s it then, no more discussion of nuclear energy is acceptable for Quiggin?


Hmmm… John Quiggin’s nuclear thread is closed.

So, that’s it then, no more discussion of nuclear energy is acceptable for Quiggin?

It’s all this ALP talk about nuclear power. He’s terrified that by allowing a little of it on his blog, he’s invoked Something from Ye Spheres Outside which has got loose in this world. Too late he’s remembered the advice of the ancient sages not to call up that which you cannot put down. :-P


Oh, but I forgot to mention, articles posted at TOD will need some defence. We’ll all need to be ready to respond if Barry or someone does post a nuclear article over at TOD. Peak oil doomers may try to jump all over it. Overall it is a very popular site and it would be great to see some BNC content over there.


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