PESA News likes to keep members up-to-date with the progress of
alternative energy technologies and their utilisation in Australia.
The following article provides detail of the latest, and largest,
wind farm development in Australia to date. However, with a number
of Australian and major international petroleum E&P companies
supporting various alternative energy technologies does this indicate
their cost-effectiveness or are they just paying lip service to
the greens? At the end of this article, we provide you with some
of the pros and cons of wind power, selected from three web sites.
On the more general subject of greenhouse gas emissions, and their
effect on planet Earth, in the article prepared for PESA News by
Professor Ian Plimer, provides some thought-provoking information.
Feel free to voice your opinion by emailing PESA News:
Australias largest wind farm, with a capacity to supply up
to 52,000 homes with renewable energy, was officially opened in
mid-June on the Yorke Peninsula in South Australia. The $165 million,
55-turbine Wattle Point Wind Farm near Edithburgh, which can generate
91 MW, was developed by Southern Hydro Australias largest
privately owned renewable energy generator. It is claimed to have
the capacity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions relative to equivalent
coal-fire generated electricity by up to 300,000 tonnes a year.
The South Australian Premier, The Honourable Mike Rann, and Southern
Hydro Chairman, Dr Keith Turner, opened the wind farm in an official
on-site ceremony. Today heralds the start of a new era for
solving Australias growing electricity needs and is a significant
milestone for South Australia, said Dr Turner, and added that
the opening of the wind farm is further evidence that wind power
is a serious and economically realistic alternative
source of energy. Wattle Point proves that wind farms can
make a major contribution to solving Australias electricity
challenges. More than 90% of Australias energy comes from
fossil fuels, meaning this country has the second highest per capita
level of greenhouse emissions in the world, he said.
Southern Hydro said the Wattle Point Wind Farm project has also
set new benchmarks in community consultation, ongoing com-munication
with stakeholders, environmental management, health and safety,
engineering, and in working positively with the local Narrunga people.
Through this project, Southern Hydro has established itself
as a world leader in the development and construction of environmentally-sustainable
wind farms, stated Dr Turner. The opening of Australias
largest wind farm shows what we can do, but it also stands as a
symbol of what we must do more of if damaging climate change is
to be averted.
The location was chosen because research identified Wattle Point
as having one of the highest average wind speeds on mainland Australia
perfect for a wind farm. Construction of the wind farm took
12 months; provided up to 162 on-site jobs at its peak; and now
that it is fully operational employs five full-time staff to manage
it. More than 37 km of underground cabling and 25 km of overhead
transmission line have been installed to link the farm to the national
The Pros and Cons of Wind Energy
According to Geodynamics Limiteds website (www.geodynamics.com.au),
wind power is one of the most expensive ways of generating electricity.
Although stating that it is not easy to compare worldwide electricity
costs (capital costs and operating costs) of traditional power generators
such as coal, gas and uranium, and the main forms of renewable energy,
the total cost of electricity from wind is estimated at A$80/MWh,
compared to A$35 for coal and A$40 for natural gas depending
on the size and scope of the project. However, the fossil fuels
are mature technologies and have received many benefits and subsidies
from governments, such as infrastructure subsidies and special concessions,
and these hidden costs are generally not accounted for in the cost
of electricity. The website also states that renewable energy has
large upfront capital expenditure which includes all its future
fuel (e.g. infrastructure), whereas fossil fuel generators
have to purchase fuel on an ongoing basis. Renewable energies are
therefore independent of increases in future fuel costs.Uranium
SA is a website prepared by the South Australian Chamber of Mines
and Energy (www.uraniumsa.org), and also has a comparison of different
energy sources. While coal and gas are listed as costing US 2.5
4.5 cents and US 2.3 4.7 cents per kWh, respectively,
wind is listed at US 5 cents per kWh. According to the comparison,
coal and gas are both cost effective, whereas wind is irregular
and not able to meet base load demand. The availability and reliability
of coal and gas is good; wind is variable and dependent on the weather.
However, wind power generation produces no greenhouse gas emissions,
whereas coal produces 1 kg of CO2/kWh and gas 0.5 kg of CO2/kWh.
Another website, www.nucleartourist.com, compares the advantages
and disadvantages of the different types of traditional and renewable
energy sources. Coal is inexpensive and easy to recover, but requires
expensive air pollution controls; significantly contributes to acid
rain and global warming; and requires an extensive transportation
system. Wind is free if available and can provide an unlimited supply
of energy, but has several other disadvantages, including: A need
for three times the amount of installed generation to meet demand;
it is limited to a few areas; the equipment is expensive to maintain;
it needs expensive energy storage (e.g. batteries); it is highly
climate dependent and unpredictable; and can affect endangered birds.
Noise and visual pollution are also commonly listed
One of the main advantages of wind energy is obviously that it
doesnt pollute the atmosphere, but will this environmental
benefit ever override the cheapness and ease of electricity generation
from coal or gas?