Still living in the dark on baseload power  

Posted by Big Gav in ,

The Age has an article on the unnecessary and unnatural obsession with building more baseload power - Still living in the dark on baseload power.

A presentation this month by AGL’s Paul Simshauser, chairman of the Loy Yang brown coal-fired power station in the Latrobe Valley, showed the national electricity market (NEM) had too much base and intermediate-load power (by about 4000 megawatts, enough to power more than 1.5 million homes) and not enough peak-load power (we are short about 1700 megawatts).

Michael Ottaviano, chief executive of Western Australia’s Carnegie Wave Energy, took up the theme at this month’s Eco Investor conference in Sydney, arguing for an expanded role for wave energy, sitting somewhere between baseload power and intermittent energy sources such as wind.

‘‘Wave is a very consistent resource with 90 per cent-plus availability,’’ he said later. ‘‘It will vary as wave height varies. But unlike wind, which varies in minutes and is difficult to predict more than a few hours in advance, wave will vary over hours and be predictable over days.’’

A key, Ottaviano says, is a smart grid that can make use of all the available energy— renewable sources are not always conveniently located near coalfields, so we’re going to need new transmission lines— and supply it where and when it is needed.

(CommunicationsMinister Stephen Conroy is on to this and on Thursday, with cabinet colleagues Martin Ferguson and Peter Garrett, invited bids to build a $100 million smart grid in Queanbeyan , near Canberra. Which is a start.)

Distributed generation can help, too. At the same conference, Ceramic Fuel Cells managing director Brendan Dow presented slides showing about 80 per cent of the energy generated by coal-fired power stations is lost as heat (65-70 per cent wastage) or in transmission and distribution (5-8 per cent).

Given coal-fired power stations account for about 35 per cent of Australia’s carbon dioxide emissions, that’s a lot of carbon pollution for nothing.

Ceramic Fuel Cells makes a gas-powered fuel-cell appliance about the size of a dishwasher that can provide 17,000 kilowatt hours of electricity a year— twice that needed to power an average home, meaning far greater energy savings than an equivalent-cost solar-panel installation. The so-called BlueGen units have a world-beating 60 per cent electrical efficiency.

Even without any subsidy in the form of a feed-in tariff, the BlueGen unit is a commercial proposition—as long as utilities will connect them to the grid, and take the electricity they generate, as they must do with home solar panels.

Meanwhile, the grid continues to roll out, whether the public wants it or not. As reported earlier this month, on the NSW North Coast there is majority community opposition to a $227 million power line from Lismore to Tenterfield, according to state-owned proponent TransGrid’s own consultants. The residents say they don’t need the power, question the demand projections and point to cleaner alternatives such as solar, wind and the bio-energy already generated from bagasse at sugar cane mills at Condong and Broadwater.


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