From the top end or the Bega Valley Shire…
The northern end of Bega Valley Shire has embraced Clean Energy for Eternity’s 50/50 by 2020 since it’s launch in Bermagui in June last year. Any vague idea about what the climate change fuss is all about has disappeared and from a grassroots perspective, there are hundreds of individuals and groups, some of them for many years, conscientiously working to reduce the effects of climate change in our part of the Wilderness Coast.
Bermagui Pre-School is a great example of early childhood education in renewable energy and sustainable living. The children are already well into water conservation, how the sun and wind can generate power, and there are plans to use vacant land next door to establish a permaculture vegetable garden. The Pre-School Committee recently and very successfully launched it’s own fundraising campaign for solar panels for its premises,
And Little Yuin Pre-School, just across the Wallaga Lake Bridge, has so much natural light from skylights and its northerly aspect that electricity is used only on the greyest days. The proposed Family Centre extension to the building will run solar for hotwater and lighting and CEFE members from Bermagui and Moruya are looking at ways to help this along. Our friends at GetUp Narooma last month formed a working bee and built raised garden beds under a netted pergola and planted vegetables, and the Pre-School Committee’s next project is a dry creekbed area with bush tucker plants.
CEFE in Bermagui have been finetuning their energy audit program to help businesses and homeowners understand just how much electricity they use and recommending ways to reduce their power bills. The first business audit has taken place. The owner is in leased premises on Lamont Street, has changed to Green Energy, and is negotiating to install her own more efficient hotwater system which will also eliminate the cold water wasted in the pipe between the hotwater tank and the tap.
Fundraising for solar panels for the Bermagui Surf Club has been CEFE’s primary target since late last year and we’re aiming to raise the shortfall with a Pre-loved and New Fashion Parade on September 27 at the Bermagui Community Centre. Funds from this event will be shared between the Surf Club and the Bermagui Pre-School to complete their solar power projects.
Clean Energy for Eternity is for everyone, and we’re proud to be a part of the motivated communities in our “triangle” area.
The twin crises of peak oil and climate change require us to make choices about our future. In the case of peak oil, the rapidly increasing price of oil due to the reduction in its availability is only just starting to affect our pockets. For climate change the production of greenhouse gases through the use of fossil fuels and from other sources is only just beginning to impact on the environment. Our society is dependent on both the use of oil and essentially causes of climate change.
The real issue is to reduce this dependence for the long term and search for alternatives that do not take us full circle to where we are now. That’s security. ‘Solutions’ that create a reliance on finite resources and the continuation of green house gas emissions are being constantly presented.
Right now we have the choice to develop strategies that will not in the fullness of time see future generations face the same critical issues we do today. To make these choices we must take a careful look at the way we live our lives, from the products and services we use, the homes we build, the food we eat and more.
A common denominator of both climate change and peak oil is energy use. A logical conclusion is to dramatically reduce our energy consumption. This reduction will insulate our communities from oil price rises and depletion, and reduce the community contribution to climate change. A new local initiative South East Transition Towns recognizes this and aims to harness the talent of local people to develop ‘Energy Descent Plans ’ for participating communities.
These plans not only will deliver a dramatic reduction in energy use but also have the potential to benefit the community economically, socially and environmentally.
Food is just one great example, we have all the necessary resources locally to produce and supply a large portion of our needs. This will keep more of the dollars we spend on food within our local economy, increasing local employment, training opportunities, and investment.
My choice is Transition Towns.
Feed In Tariffs for solar
The federal government is committed to a uniform national feed-in tariff for grid connected solar power as a way to promote renewable energy and to meet their mandatory target of 20% renewable energy by 2020.
South Australia, Victoria and the ACT already have feed-in tariffs: in SA and Victoria the tariffs apply to net feed in – they only get paid if they generate more electricity than they use. In the ACT the tariff (60c/kWh) applies to gross feed in, or 100% of the generated electricity, and they buy the electricity they use at the normal retail rate of about 16c/kWh.
The ACT scheme is based on the highly successful model that has played a major role in driving the uptake of solar power in Germany at an average 55% a year for a decade, and led to the generation of 40,000 jobs and a multi-billion dollar economy. Feed-in tariffs are used in about 46 countries and jurisdictions around the world.
The elements of a successful feed-in tariff model are that
the tariff is for 100% of generated power
the tariff is guaranteed for 20 years
the tariff is a high enough incentive for the installation of solar power
the power companies are required to pay the generator at the tariff rate
the additional cost of the power is added to the retail price of electricity
The added cost of a feed-in tariff to consumers will be very low as solar power is a very small fraction of total electricity generation – less than 0.1c/kWh.
Incentives for the installation of solar power will only be necessary until the price of solar power reaches parity with the wholesale price of grid power – as soon as 2016.
Solar Farm update
Ausralia’s largest solar farm, in the Flinders Ranges. The pilot Bega Valley solar farm will be 20 times bigger.
The Bega Valley will be a step closer to hosting Australia’s first community owned solar farm this month. The Rudd Government is rapidly moving to honour its pre-election promises, including the $100,000 feasibility funding for the CEFE solar farm.
Despite Australia’s widespread sunshine, you can count our solar farms on one hand. At present, solar photovoltaic and solar thermal technology contribute less than 1% of national energy needs. Yet the potential is enormous.
While it wouldn’t be sensible to ‘put all our eggs in one basket’ with a single installation, this gives you an idea of just how efficient solar power can be. Large, commercial-scale installations produce cheaper solar power than small stand-alone installations on houses: in 2008, this is about 25c/kWh compared with 45c/kWh.
The great advantage of solar power is that the sun’s energy is free and abundant, and its cost does not change over time. To ensure solar energy reaches its potential in Australia, its initial development will need strong support from governments, e.g. through a national feed-in tariff (see next week’s article!).
Clean Energy for Eternity’s aim is to give local communities a practical working example of how to get a 1-2MW solar farm off the ground. The outcomes of the feasibility study will include our lessons about what funding and technical partnerships are needed.
We’ve already made great progress on a voluntary basis, but the pace will pick up rapidly with the funding. The first instalment will pay for a detailed budget breakdown of our milestones, the sites on offer and the most suitable technology (eg photovoltaic panels or concentrated solar thermal).
This is an exciting opportunity for the whole community to get involved in Australia’s first community solar farm. Contact CEFE ([email protected]) if you’d like to participate, have land to offer or want to know more about the project.
Philippa Rowland 11 July 08
The cost of solar
To think that much of Australia’s electricity could come from solar power seems too good to be true. We are told that solar power is too expensive and cannot compete with cheap power generated by coal-fired plants.
Electricity from coal plants has a wholesale price of 3.5 to 4.5 cents per kilowatt-hour (c/kWh) and we buy it at about 16c/kWh. Solar power costs about 25c/kWh when generated by a commercial solar farm of the sort envisioned for Bega by Clean Energy for Eternity, and about 45c/kWh for a small domestic home installation.
The price of electricity produced from coal is predicted to rise by about 3% a year – this may be an under-estimate when the combined costs of carbon, and the large amounts of water coal plants need, are factored into the price. Furthermore, capturing carbon dioxide and burying it underground will be an additional cost as it will use 30% of the power output of coal plants.
The good news for solar power is that technological advances and economies of scale are bringing the price of solar power down by 18% each time the total amount of solar installed around the world doubles – about every 20 months. In other words it is following a course that has become familiar for new technologies, like computers and mobile phones, as they mature.
It is confidently predicted that the cost of solar power will be equal to the retail price we pay for electricity 7 years from now (2015) and at 5 to 8c/kWh will be cheaper than coal power by 2025. Which would you prefer?
The quantity of solar radiation shining on Australia each day is thousands of times more than enough to meet our electrical needs, and it will always be free. Thus, once a solar installation is set up, the cost of the electricity it produces will not increase with inflation, but will stay the same for the 30 year-plus life of the solar cells.