JoNova

A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).


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SA Solar Thermal plant is a copy of US plant that was out of action for one third of its life so far

Crescent Dunes, Solar Thermal Plant, USA.   | Wikimedia  Author, Amble.

A company called SolarReserve is planning to build the new Aurora 150MW solar thermal plant at Port Augusta, which is apparently a copy of their Crescent Dunes plant in the US. But that project has been offline for most of the time since last October. The whole SA government is meant to be running 24/7 off “solar power”, which allegedly only has about 8 hours of energy stored up (as heat in the molten salt block). So an 8 month break will be a bit of problem for the SA government (except of course, we all know that the real baseload backup here at 4 or 5am everyday, and most of the day in winter, is ultimately the very fossilized gas and coal.) Since the project only began working in Sept 2015 it managed to operate for all of one year and one month before it went offline for 8 months due to a leak. The SA State Energy Minister is not concerned saying it was a construction issue and SolarReserve “have learnt from that”.

The 150MW myth: most of the time it will be less, a lot [...]

SA reduces blackouts by closing Holden Factory

It’s a creative South Australian solution to an unstable, expensive grid: close large factories and have less blackouts. If they can close enough, it’s guaranteed to succeed:

Holden closure will help Energy Market Operator manage SA’s blackout risk, report finds

Part of the soon-to-be vacated Holden factory in Adelaide is about to be transformed into a temporary power station to help stave off load-shedding blackouts this summer.

But the car industry’s closure will help the authorities manage the risk of blackouts in another way.

The exit of a once powerful manufacturing sector will see the state using less electricity, particularly during the all-important summer peak.

The information is contained in the latest Electricity Forecasting Insights published by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO).

 From a story last year:

The closure of Holden’s Elizabeth plant is expected to result in 13,000 job losses across the company and its supply chain.

Energy use in SA is set to fall from 3,116MW to 3,035MW in summer peaks. Even so, they’ll still need more temporary generators (time to cut more jobs?):

Nevertheless, AEMO is forecasting widespread shortfalls of reserve power over the next two summers, prompting [...]

Electricity cost train-wreck arrives in Australia

Something very “seismic” has happened to our electricity prices.

Paul McArdle of WattClarity goes through each state looking at quarterly trends and prices, and remarks that things are going “off the chart”. We had some electricity crises in Australia in the last 12 months, and 2016 was a significantly more expensive than all previous years bar the major drought year of 2007. But ominously, prices haven’t come down in what should be a “normal” quarter. In Tasmania there was a crisis last year when dams ran dry, and the undersea Bass cable broke. But this quarter, prices are only $3.20/MWh lower than the crisis levels of Q2 2016 despite water in dams and a working cable to Victoria. Something has gone seriously wrong with our electrical grid and market. In both Victoria and South Australia prices are higher on average than any previous April-June quarter in the 19 year history of the National Electricity Market. In Queensland and New South Wales, prices are at the “second highest”.

McArdle goes to some length to explain that this is not “one factor”, which seems obvious and fair — Its the combination of the closure of Hazelwood and Port Augusta coal generators; the [...]

Wind disappears in South Australia, costing wind-industry millions, BOM blames climate change even though models predicted faster winds

The wind fizzled out over the South East slab of Australia during June. Predictably, that meant the wind industry lost millions, and wholesale electricity prices went up. When the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) was asked where the wind had gone, Darren Ray, expert climatologist, said it was due to a high pressure system over the bight, which, he explained, was linked to “climate change”. Thus, as the world warms, wind farms will be progressively more useless in South Australia. Perhaps the BOM should have mentioned that before SA became dependent on wind farms? I don’t think he had thought this one through.

Perhaps the BOM is hoping that the masochistic sacrifice of South Australia will stop global warming before global warming stops the wind farms?

You might think that if the global climate models could see this coming they would have suggested that wind farms weren’t a good idea. Or maybe, since climate models predict every equal and opposite outcome in unison, the models are always right post hoc, but not so useful in projections?

Climate models predict climate change causes faster and slower winds over Australia

In 2017, Darren Ray, BOM expert, said the decrease in winds was due [...]

Coal Boom: 1600 new plants in 62 countries around the world – increasing 43%

“End-Coal” Global Coal Tracker  does a magnificent job of showing how essential coal is around the world, and which countries are pathetically backwards in developing new coal plants. It’s probably not what the “CoalSwarm” team was hoping to achieve, but this map is a real asset to those of us who want to show how tiny Australia’s coal fired assets are compared to the rest of the world. The site itself is a fancy-pants high gloss major database and website that also shows how much money is in the “anti-coal” movement. Oh, that skeptics should have even 2% of these funds. Heffa Schücking, the director of Urgewald, which created the maps, calls it a “cycle of coal dependency”. Normal people call it “freedom and wealth”.

Chinese companies build coal plants — NY Times

These Chinese corporations are building or planning to build more than 700 new coal plants at home and around the world, some in countries that today burn little or no coal, according to tallies compiled by Urgewald, an environmental group based in Berlin. Many of the plants are in China, but by capacity, roughly a fifth of these new coal power stations are [...]

SA govt to spend $100m on diesel generators (but could have spent $8m keeping coal plant instead)

I’d like to thank South Australia for so selflessly showing the world how well renewables work. (And thank we West Australians for paying for it).

To get ready for the shortfalls next summer, the SA government is said to be ordering in 220MW of diesel generation at an expected cost of $114m.

The government has contracted privately owned South Aust­ralian electricity distribut­ion company SA Power Networks to obtain and install 200 megawatts of back-up generation across the state before summer. But despite promising a “detailed costing” would be provided in last week’s state budget, Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis did not offer any such details.

The opposition said the budget had allocated $114m for operational costs in 2017-18 from the $550m energy plan, “indicating the diesel generators are going to be very expensive”.

This $106m sacrifice is expected to reduce global temperature by 0.000C, but will save the premier from being called a climate denier at dinner parties:

“Eighteen months ago the Tasmanian government spent $64m in leasing, site establishment and operational costs for 220MW of diesel generation for three months when a combination of drought and repairs to the Basslink left it short of electricity,” [...]

Shocking electricity price rises coming in Australia: Not a failure of energy policy but a complete “success”

The numbers are breathtaking. On the east coast of Australia (which means most households in the nation) they are looking at 15 – 20% increases next month on electricity bills which are already at bleeding point.

Get a grip on these numbers:

Charis Chang, News.com –

POWER prices are set to rocket after three major retailers announced increases of up to 20 per cent and $600 a year for the average customer in some states.

Origin, EnergyAustralia and AGL have all announced price increases for electricity and gas starting from July 1.

Small businesses may be the hardest hit, especially Origin customers in South Australia, which will see prices rise by a whopping $1453 a year when increases to gas and electricity bills are combined.

The biggest increase for residential customers will be for AGL customers in ACT, who will pay an extra $579 a year for a combined electricity and gas rise.

In NSW, residential EnergyAustralia customers will see electricity prices increase by up to 19.6 per cent. Origin Energy customers will get a 16.1 per cent rise.

The price hikes will take effect [...]

Finkel report destroys baseload coal power economics

Demand enough renewables and you might as well ban coal

There’s a lesson Australia needs to learn from South Australia. When intermittent renewables reach a certain percentage of daily average supply they make baseload power unfeasible. The situation develops into an impossible dead end that can only be solved with container-ships of cash.

The intermittent supply of wind and solar is the immoveable problem. It eats into the daily chart of the cheapest stable electricity supply — which is coal fired. Coal can’t be ramped in and out in minutes. It is a creature that runs best non-stop, efficiently, smoothly, at a high capacity factor (meaning it works best when it is producing around 90% of it’s design limit continuously).

Tom Quirk points out that sometime after these intermittent renewables hit 30% of the average daily supply, as they have in South Australia — locally sourced coal power becomes uneconomic. There are times during the daily cycle when renewables are providing almost all the demand. There is little demand left for the massive coal turbines to supply, so they spin on pointlessly, but costs remain, and profits are zero.

In [...]

Surely not: Climate revolt and another Australian PM?

It’s hard to believe Turnbull could fall for this one twice.

Dennis Shannahan warns us:

There is a revolt in the Coalition ranks and there are those prepared to say that Finkel is dead or worse.

More than 20 Coalition MPs spoke against the Finkel report last night, including Tony Abbott, all concerned that the priority is for cutting emissions and not electricity prices.

History repeats?

David Crowe on what he’s heard about the same liberal party room meeting:

Former prime minister Tony Abbott was a sharp critic of the clean energy target and made interjections throughout the ­discussions.

“He was the most sceptical about it — he said it wasn’t going to cut prices or provide certainty for consumers,” one Liberal said.

“He was probably the strongest critic throughout the whole ­meeting.”

One of the senior Liberal figures who took notes on the meeting said last night that about 32 people spoke and about one-third of them were not in favour of the Finkel proposal, while one-third supported the clean energy target and another third asked questions or had suggestions for changes. Victorian Liberal MP Russell Broadbent, [...]

Finkel: Turn the whole country into South Australia by 2030 — 42% “renewable”

In one of the most massaged spin-doctor sales messages in Australian history, the Finkel Report is here to “take the politics out” and solve our energy instability and out-of-control prices. But it’s actually an aggressive green-left weather-control program where cost and stability are secondary to the unspoken but main aim which is to slow storms in 2100. If Finkel were really aiming for stability and price control he’d let the free market run, get the government out of our electricity grid and look at the evidence that shows that solar-panels and wind farms don’t, won’t and can’t work as global air-conditioners for us or our grandchildren.

Australians, read this line and weep:

“Modelling for the Review estimates that by 2030, 42 per cent of electricity demand will be met by renewable generation.”

This is where South Australia is currently at, but it has a lifeline to coal power in Victoria whenever it needs it. What happens when the whole National Grid needs a lifeline? Pull out your wallet…

How much does an undersea cable to New Zealand cost? It’s only 2,000km.

For the same price we might be able to afford a new ultra-supercritical coal plant and catch [...]