Renewable energy could run Australia in less time than you think (reprint)

Note: this is an article from the Climate News Network 

By Paul Brown

All that stands between Australia and a future fuelled entirely by renewable energy, researchers say, is the political will to make the change – a finding directly relevant to a country currently ravaged by an extraordinary heat wave.

LONDON, 16 January – Australia could be self-sufficient in renewable energy in 10 years by converting to solar and wind energy if the country had the right social and political leadership, according to the Energy Research Institute of the University of Melbourne.

In a paper published before the current catastrophic heat wave (the Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan), the researchers conclude that existing proven technologies could be deployed on a large scale to show an example to the world and to wean Australia off its addiction to fossil fuels.

Australia, the world’s largest coal exporter, has one of the highest per capita emissions of greenhouse gases and has, until recently, resisted tackling climate change.

The report says that if there were the political will Australia’s enormous renewable potential could be harnessed and within a decade both make the country carbon-neutral and create thousands of new jobs.

About 40% of Australian renewables would come from wind farms, but key to the success of the project is the empty landscape and the almost constant solar power of the interior.

Nonstop power?

Solar power would be produced by many buildings, but most power would come from vast towers containing salt water with sunlight directed upon them from fields of mirrors.

The water, heated to more than 500°C, would drive turbines and create 60% of Australia’s electricity. Surplus heat generated during the day would be stored in underground molten salt storage tanks, which would release the heat overnight to enable the turbines to run continuously.

To cover times when the sun did not shine and the wind did not blow there would be back-up plants burning biomass, mostly waste from crop production. Existing reserves of hydropower would be held back to fill any gaps.

Even assuming that electricity demand was 40% higher than today, in 2020 it would still be possible to achieve 100% renewable generation, the report says.

There would need to be large-scale improvements in energy efficiency, particularly to smooth out peaks in demand. But the Institute says this is not impossible.  Germany’s per capita electricity use is already 30% less than Australia’s, and its policies are expected to reduce this further over the next 20 years.

The researchers point out that Germany is a modern industrial economy, with a high standard of living, partly based on manufacturing and metal production (including five aluminium smelters), so Australia cannot plead it is a special case.

While the report says that building new electricity production to power homes, offices and factories would come first, Australia would also have to embrace the electric car and train. Again this could be achieved, given the political will.

A total switch to renewable electricity would cost 3% of Australian GDP annually, about A$37 billion (US$39 billion), for 10 years, and an added 6.5 cents per kilowatt hour on the electricity price.

Researchers say wind and solar thermal generators have far lower life-cycle emissions than any other available technology.  This is true even of schemes to capture and store carbon from coal plants and of nuclear power, mainly because of the initial fuel mining, processing, transport and handling. Both sorts of plants also take much longer to commission that either solar or wind.

Employment opportunities 

The report details where these huge solar and wind power generators could be sited around Australia. The plan is for 23 wind farms,  each containing turbines able to produce 2,000 to 3,000 megawatts (a typical coal power station produces around 600–700 megawatts, while a unit in a nuclear power plant has an electrical power output of 900–1300 megawatts). They would be dispersed around the country to take advantage of the windiest places and the diversity of weather systems.

There would be 12 sites for concentrated solar power, each containing several towers. Each tower would contain molten salt water and would have 18,000 two-axis tracking mirrors focusing sunlight on the receiver – heating it to at least 565°C.

The towers could be adjusted for the seasons to get the maximum power from the sun. Despite the vast size of the wind and solar farms they would take up less than 0.4% of Australia’s land area.

The plan shows that many more jobs would be created with the construction of a 100% renewable energy grid than those lost with the phasing-out of coal and gas from the existing energy supply chain.

The plan would create 80,000 jobs in the construction phase and 45,000 in operation and maintenance that would continue for the life of the plant.  There would be an additional 30,000 jobs in manufacturing if half the plant was made in Australia. – Climate News Network

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21 thoughts on “Renewable energy could run Australia in less time than you think (reprint)

  1. john byatt says:

    Receive news letter from BZE

  2. Steve says:

    As the article suggests, the thing that is lacking is the political will.
    I can’t imagine either of the major parties as they are at present going for this plan.
    It will also be opposed and ridiculed by people with vested interest in existing mining and power generation.

  3. uknowispeaksense says:

    I’m no filmmaker but I did put this together a couple of years ago.

  4. gabrianga says:

    Just have a quick look at the nightmare solar caused for the Spanish Government then cast your eyes over Solyndra,Beacon Power,Abound Solar,Nevada Geothermal et al. and then tell us what a wonderful world we would have with “altenative enegy” sources as our sole provider.

    Dream on mate.

    • Ah, looking for energy disasters are we? After nuclear’s Fukushima? After oil’s Deepwater Horizon? All energy carries risks. Still, the Germans get 25% from renewables, and increasing. 100% renewable may be a dream. Fossil is a nightmare.

    • crank says:

      Do you have children, and, if so, why do you hate them so much that you wish to see them live lives of great distress in a dying biosphere? If you, thankfully, have none, why do you hate everybody else’s children?

      • gabrianga says:

        I don’t hate my children,my grandchildren or anyone else’s children.

        What I do hate are the “Global Warming” zealots who condemn another’s opinion and even have the audacity to suggest I would deliberately harm my children.

        I suggest you change your the first two letters of your name to as you appear to enjoy a spot of public onanism

        • uknowispeaksense says:

          When your opinion is based on bad information peddled by idealogues and non experts and the collective opinion of those like you results in delayed action on what is REALLY happening, then we “zealots” reserve the right to say whatever the hell we like about you and your stupidity and question why you allow your ignorance, more often than not wilful, to harm future generations. If you choose to accept the advice of non-experts over real experts then I suggest you go to your mechanic for the brain surgery you so desperately need.

      • crank says:

        Gabrianga, of course you either hate everyone under about thirty, or are just callously indifferent to their coming suffering,because your stupidity, ignorance and barely disguised ideological viciousness are condemning them to live in a world where today’s record temperature in Sydney will seem balmy. Returning to the ‘barmy’, your destructive idiocies are not ‘opinions’. They are at best hideous mistakes, the product of stupidity, ignorance, paranoia and egomania-the Rightwing Quadrella. At worst, if you are a knowing denialist, they ought, in my opinion, be judged as crimes against humanity and dealt with appropriately.

  5. Skeptikal says:

    Here’s a preview of what Australia can expect from its clean energy future….

    • john byatt says:

      Why is it that only those like skeptical who deny the science also hate renewable, why would they care where there energy came from if it was reliable

      No it is complete BS, they do not see a problem with CO2 therefore anything which addresses the problem is seen as confirming that we do indeed have a problem

      creationist are also very anti renewables believing that god placed fossil fuels in the ground for there use, they cannot even consider that he might have given us the sun and wind for the same purpose, must look up the bible for guidance

    • Better than the average oil refinery.

  6. gabrianga says:

    uknowispeaksense Speaking of bad information and idealogues I presume you include Gore,Hansen,Flannery,Milne Combet et al

    As for your unadulterated crap about wilfully harming future generations I would suggest you are the one who needs urgent treatment

    Unfortunately in your case brain surgery would be a total WOFTAM as you display all the signs of being another of the brain dead..


    • uknowispeaksense says:

      For a start dopey, let’s separate the experts from that pathetic list you provided and leave them out for just a moment. Do I accept the word of Gore? No. Milne? No. Combet et al? I’m going to pretend you mean all politicians, although we both know you mean only the lefties,so my answer is No. As Hansen is an expert in some aspects of climate science I am more likely to accept his evidence which has been through the rigours of peer review and published in worldclass scientific journals as fact than the people you choose to believe. With Tim Flannery, unless he’s talking about mammals, I don’t pay much attention to what he has to say.
      Now, who else do I see as being experts? The list is too long but every single one of them are actually working in their respective fields and have extensive publication records, all subject to peer review.

      Just as I go to a dentist for dental work,a mechanic for mechanical work and a plumber for plumbing work, I look to climate experts for information on the climate. If you wish to ignore real expertise, that is of course your right, but it doesn’t mean you are right. In fact the odds against your illinformed opinions being right are astronomical. Your failure to recognise the flaws in your logic system is obvious to all here, but not you. Now, if you’re just a troll, that’s one thing, we can all feel sorry for you and the self- esteem issues you must have as all trolls have. “Look everybody, lets all give Gabrianga the attention he craves.” However, if you genuinely believe that your opinion is correct based on the misinformation you choose to accept and the facts you choose to ignore, then you can only expect ridicule and derision here.

      So enlighten us all dopey, who are your experts? Let me guess? Watts, Monckton, McIntyre, Michaels, Christy, Lindzen, Nova, Evans…Willie Soon?

    • crank says:

      As occurrences like today’s record temperature in Sydney grow in number and frequency, I hope you’ve got some good alibis ready for the toxic sludge of your denialist imbecilities. A record as a fanatic and longstanding denialist is going to be really regretable, and soon, and I expect your erstwhile ‘mates’ on the Right, with their gift for viciousness and vengefulness, to be your main problem. I’d arrange for some plastic surgery, a passport in a new name and a one-way ticket to some denialist redoubt, if any exist in a few years.

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