SA Mines and Energy Journal : April-May 2010
APRIL/MAY 2010 SA MINES & ENERGY JOURNAL 16 FEATURE they were not necessarily the most cost-effective way to reduce carbon emissions and meet demand, Professor Brook said. "Renewable energy is diffuse, expensive and mostly intermittent, so a distributed grid with plenty of storage and backup is essential, " he said. "While we have enough sun, wind and waves to power most of our energy needs, there is a good argument to be mounted that when you take into account the need for backup and storage, nuclear power is, in fact, cheaper than solar. "Scaling up renewable to be a viable replacement power source on a planetary scale is an incredible logisitical challenge and quite possibly not ever achievable. " It is important Australia stays abreast of nuclear developments. The specific requirements and geographical challenges of Australia's electricity market mean only the very latest Generation IV nuclear technology would meet the country's demands. This is not likely to be viable until 2030, increasing the attractiveness of geothermal energy, which is expected to be available before then. Commissioner Tim O'Loughlin, who heads the two-year, $20 million Renewable Energy Commission set up last year to encourage investment in green energy in SA, sees no need to develop a nuclear energy industry in our state. While nuclear has a role to play in South Australia's economy, he argues the nation does not have the demand, the economies of scale or the network needed to make it economically viable. "When you are blessed with the natural resources that we have got and the very limited market that we have here for nuclear energy, I just can't understand why people are so gung-ho about developing a nuclear industry. It just doesn't make sense, " he said. Commissioner O'Loughlin has been charged with attracting investment in renewables in our state so SA can meet the State Government's target of 20 per cent of our electricity being derived from renewable sources by 2014 and 33 per cent by 2020. He is confident the targets will be met and said the state has renewable resources on its doorstep waiting to be explored. "You would struggle to find a region anywhere in the world that is as well-endowed with renewable energy resources as SA . We have got everything except hydro- electricity, " he said. Wind is the most mature of the renewable technologies, providing between 12 and 13 per cent of the state's energy. SA Premier Mike Rann boasts the state has 11 wind farms across SA, providing 868 megawatts of power daily -- "more wind capacity than the other states combined" . Electranet's December 2009 report, Renewable Energy -- Transmission is Part of the Solution, says there are currently six windfarm connection applications in SA. Committed wind projects in the state are expected to contribute another 289 megawatts of power, and projects contributing a further 800 megawatts are considered likely, the report says. Commissioner O'Loughlin said he would look to the wind to provide most of the growth needed to meet the Government's renewable energy target. "Wind power at the moment is the one that comes closest to matching conventional power in terms of price, " he said. "We've got strong wind, hundreds of kilometres of semi-inhabited and uninhabited coastline, and we've got Australia's best land use planning system for wind farm developers. " Macquarie Capital has been commissioned to undertake a $1 million Green Grid study into what is needed to deliver another 1000- 2000 megawatts of wind energy from Eyre Peninsula. "That will tell us how much wind is available, the best sites for wind in SA, the investment needed, returns available and what the issues are, " Mr O'Loughlin said. Geothermal energy, where water is pumped through naturally hot rocks deep underground, is another promising technology. Unlike wind and solar, geothermal has the potential to provide reliable baseload power. A major hurdle for this technology is that its resources are generally remote and far from a transmission network, with most promising geothermal sites located in the state's north. Market rules currently don't favour remote generation, but a government proposal to overcome this is due mid-2011. Electranet's Renewable Energy report estimates it will take at least five years to construct a major transmission line and 10 years for this type of energy to be We have got everything except hydro- electricity SA's solar resource is strong.