"Renewables" a Mirage

Press release from Viv Forbes, Chairman of the Carbon Sense Coalition. [info@carbon-sense.com]

The Carbon Sense Coalition today accused governments and media of spreading myths on the ability of "renewables" to supply Australia's future electricity. The Chairman of "Carbon Sense" Mr Viv Forbes said there was no chance that wind, solar, hydro and geothermal could supply 20% of Australia's electricity by 2020 without massive increases in electricity costs and severe damage to Australia's industry and standard of living. "The belief that we can go further and eliminate coal from our energy supply is a dangerous delusion."

Wind and solar suffer three fatal flaws which no amount of research dollars, climate junkets, green papers, government gifts, carbon taxes, ministerial statements or imperial mandates will change. The first fatal flaw is obvious even to children at school - no wind turbine or solar panel anywhere in the world can supply continuous power. Power from wind turbines varies with the wind speed, stops when the wind drops and they have to be shut down in strong winds, storms or cyclones. Solar power stops at night or when it is cloudy, and solar panels only supply maximum power around midday, in summer, in the tropics.

The output of both wind and solar varies or shuts down with little warning; this causes big problems in maintaining stability in large power grids. Thus any power grid with more than 10% supplied by wind and solar will risk sudden blackouts or damaging fluctuations. To maintain stable power requires that every kilowatt of solar or wind is shadowed by standby power (preferably gas or hydro) ready to switch on to full power in a very short time. The capital and operating cost of these standby facilities should be added to the real cost of "green power".

The second fatal flaw with wind and solar is that the supply of energy is very dilute, so a large area of land is required to collect significant power. This causes extensive environmental and scenic damage and very large transmission and maintenance costs.

The third fatal flaw of wind and sun power is that only a few places are ideally suited to collect significant quantities of energy, and these places are often far from the main centres of population. Solar power is best collected from places like the Tanami Desert in Northern Territory, and wind power is best collected from places in the path of the Roaring Forties, such as King Island and Western Tasmania. It will be a long time before either of these sites is connected by high voltage power lines to Penny Wong's desk in Canberra or the PM's Lodge in Sydney.

Wind power is useful for providing stock water and moving sailing ships; using solar hot water heaters makes good sense; and solar energy (combined with harmless carbon dioxide from the air and minerals from the soil) provides the primary resources for all farming, forestry, fishing and grazing industries. But neither wind nor sun will supply economical and reliable base load electricity to big cities or industries.

Hydro power can provide low cost stable energy providing it is backed by a large dam in a reliable rainfall area. Finding such spots where approvals could be obtained in a reasonable time frame is almost impossible in Australia. Hydro will not keep the lights on for a growing population.

Natural gas and coal seam gas are hydro-carbon fuels which produce the same two "greenhouse gases" as coal and oil - water vapour and carbon dioxide. They too will be crippled by Emissions Trading and carbon taxes. When the Luddites realise that gas is also a non-renewable carbon fuel, it too will be taxed and regulated to death. It is not a "renewable" and it is less abundant than coal. It is far too valuable to be mandated for base-load electricity generation or city hot water systems.

This leaves geothermal. Geothermal makes good sense in places like New Zealand and Iceland with big areas of active volcanic rocks at shallow depth. But in an old, quiet, cooling continent like Australia, hot rocks are rare and deep. Here it is a totally unproven power source likely to have very high costs for exploration, development, transmission and water. It is worth investigating by people prepared to speculate their capital, but geothermal will not prevent the power brownouts on the horizon unless someone abandons the misguided "crucify carbon" campaign.

With nuclear power and oil shale banned, and plans to tax coal, oil and gas out of existence, man is headed back to the "green" energy sources of the Dark Ages - muscles, horses, firewood and sunshine. But without carbon fuels to bring heat, light, food, transport and water to our large cities, many people will not survive the transition to green nirvana, especially if the current global cooling trend continues.

Posted by John Ray. For a daily critique of Leftist activities, see DISSECTING LEFTISM. For a daily survey of Australian politics, see AUSTRALIAN POLITICS Also, don't forget your roundup of Obama news and commentary at OBAMA WATCH

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