200907

Community Installation of Solar Panels

On Tuesday 28/7/09, solar photovoltaic panels will be installed on the roof of the St Johns church in Bega. The money for the 2 kWatt panels was raised as a joint venture between Clean Energy For Eternity and the St Johns congregation, with the major fundraising event being the Brogo Dam LifeSaving Energy Big Swim held in February of this year. A CEFE raffle will be drawn at the St Johns Church fete on 8/8/09 with prizes including an electric powered mountain bike, a pool table (donated by Sports Power), a lawn mower, a Peter Otton limited edition print, and a bed and breakfast stay at the Brogo Fernmark bed and breakfast. The solar panels will reduce the churhes electricity bill by $700 per year and will be officially launched by Bishop George Browning on 26/9/09.

1200 households signed up for the recent solar bulk buy deal on offer across SE NSW. Despite unexpected changes to the Federal Government rebates, 1200 panels will be installed within the next 9 months. As a result of the bulk buy deal, 20 x 2 kWatt community installations will go on within that time period.

Below is the list of 20 Community Buildings that have been pre-approved for a DEWRA grant:

Bega Eco Neighbourhood Development (BEND)Murrah Community Hall
Moruya Historical Society Museum
Towamba Community Hall
Berrambool Sports Complex
Mongarlow Fire Shed
Cobargo School of Arts Hall
Wyndham Hall Committee
Little Yuin Aboriginal Pre-School
Nardy House Inc
Tanja Community Hall
Candelo Town Hall
Bega Showground Trust
Bega District Volunteer Rescue Squad
Narooma Pre-School
Nerrigundah Agricultural Bureau Inc.
Mollymook surf club
Milton Rural Fire Station
Ulludulla Youth Centre
Kiola Coastal Patrol

There are at least 15 other community installations that missed out on a 2 kWatt system due to sudden and unexpected withdrawal of government rebates. It is hoped that those installations will go ahead, but a smaller system of 1 or 1.5 kWatt will have to be put on. Further information about these community systems will be available in the near future, so stay tuned. Well done to all the community groups and team leaders who made this possible.

Matthew Nott

Revisiting wind energy facts

Wind farms are not new. Around the world they have been operating with great success for well over 20 years. With a renewed interest in our area perhaps it’s time to revisit some facts.

Advanced weather forecasting computer systems can predict wind speeds 40 hours or more ahead. This information is then used to balance energy outputs from different sources. Rather than being erratic and unpredictable, as claimed by opponents, wind energy is in fact variable, but predictable.

Wind energy continues to grow at a staggering rate globally. In Europe last year, more wind power was installed than any other electricity generating technology. China doubled its wind energy capacity for the fourth year in a row and the US now leads the world in the number of installed wind turbines. Wind power is part of the energy mix in over seventy countries around the world. Even countries such as Spain, India and Egypt with their enormous natural solar resource have many times more wind power installations than they do any other renewable technology.

The fact that Europe sees wind energy as profitable, despite having a much weaker resource than we do, is testimony to the viability of wind power and indicates the enormous potential we have here. On average a single 2MW wind turbine produces enough electricity to power 850 homes and save 6000 tonnes of ghg emissions, but with a stronger than average wind resource in our area, the figures are expected to be even better.

Every bit of clean power produced from wind equates to the same portion of power that doesn’t have to come from fossil fuels. Any project that is delayed and every turbine not installed means more ghg emissions released from fossil fuel power stations. It’s as simple as that.

Coal fired power stations are not easily turned on or off, so they burn coal 24/7. However, the amount of coal burnt is varied to correspond with the actual power generation required, so when clean sources of electricity such as wind are also being generated, the quantity of coal burnt can be reduced, thereby lowering emissions.

It is perplexing that some people argue for the urgent need to reduce our emissions and find alternatives to burning fossil fuel yet criticise wind energy, one of the essential and most economic means of achieving the very thing that delivers those emissions cuts. Wind power alone is expected to save 10 billion tons of CO2 globally by 2020. It is currently the only power generating technology that is capable of making a substantial difference in reducing CO2 emissions by the large amounts necessary leading up to 2020. This is because it is proven clean technology that is available now, is cost effective, quick to install and can be operational within a matter of months. With this in mind and with the great employment and financial benefits that would flow into our community, isn’t it time we welcome wind energy rather than shun it?

Rashida Nuridin
Friends Of Renewable Energy
East Jindabyne

So where has all the rain gone?

I don’t have to tell anybody how dry it is; all the farm dams are disappearing in front of our very eyes at the moment and we seem to be sliding straight back into 2002 all over again. I’ve been telling my customers that the rain is on back order, probably stuck in a transport depot somewhere, but the humour is wearing pretty thin.
It has been so dry for so long now that I decided to do some research on just how little rain we’ve actually been having. I looked up the rainfall data for Bega on the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) web site and came up with the following figures.
Our average annual rainfall over the last 128 years is 865mm – 35 inches in the old language. (Floods produced by occasional south coast lows dominate the long term figures – taking the top 5% of rainfall events away would give a much lower and more realistic idea of our effective annual rainfall.) Although figures from individual years are incredibly variable, long term monthly averages are fairly even right across the year with the first six months slightly higher than the last and a noticeable dip through July, August and September which historically are our driest months (see Graph). The rainfall figures since 1995 however tell a vastly different story.
Our average rainfall over the last 14 years is only 536mm (21 inches). This is a massive 40% reduction on the long term average and 50% less than post war averages. To make things worse, our average rainfall over the critical autumn months from March to May has halved, dropping from 240mm to only 120mm. April is now usually our driest month.

On the Dept of Water chart hanging on the wall at Bega Ag, that details flood peaks and frequency in Bega from 1840 until 1995, there is a distinctively wet period over the 40 or 50 years following the Second World War. This period, 1945 to 1995, incorporates the living memory of most people farming today and corresponds to 40 years of wetter than average weather that meteorologists have documented right across Australia. So have we now returned to the drier climate that prevailed for the 100 plus years prior to 1945?
I don’t doubt we will have wet years again and hopefully even floods, but after 14 years we probably should be getting the hint and starting to think how we can adapt farming practices to conditions that are significantly drier than the previous 40 or 50.
Changes in the valley are already evident. We have seen a real shift to pasture weeds that colonise bare soils because “normal” stocking rates have bared off paddocks through overgrazing under the prolonged drier than “normal” conditions. I visited a farmer in Boorowa recently who is now grazing paddocks for only 4 days and then resting them for over 9 months to try and build a diverse base of perennial native species and maintain soil cover. This involves a lot of temporary fencing but is producing very promising signs after only two or three years. Some farmers in the Bega valley now fallow their paddocks over summer when establishing new perennial, dryland pastures; in the same way that cropping farmers in drier regions out west have always fallowed to preserve moisture for sowing crops.
I’m sure there will be different solutions for different farmers in the Bega valley, but I’m also sure that Bega farmers will provide many of the answers themselves, as they have to previous challenges and will for future ones.

So where has all the rain gone? Peter Abramowski B.Agr.Sc.
I don’t have to tell anybody how dry it is; all the farm dams are disappearing in front of our very eyes at the moment and we seem to be sliding straight back into 2002 all over again. I’ve been telling my customers that the rain is on back order, probably stuck in a transport depot somewhere, but the humour is wearing pretty thin.
It has been so dry for so long now that I decided to do some research on just how little rain we’ve actually been having. I looked up the rainfall data for Bega on the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) web site and came up with the following figures.
Our average annual rainfall over the last 128 years is 865mm – 35 inches in the old language. (Floods produced by occasional south coast lows dominate the long term figures – taking the top 5% of rainfall events away would give a much lower and more realistic idea of our effective annual rainfall.) Although figures from individual years are incredibly variable, long term monthly averages are fairly even right across the year with the first six months slightly higher than the last and a noticeable dip through July, August and September which historically are our driest months (see Graph). The rainfall figures since 1995 however tell a vastly different story.
Our average rainfall over the last 14 years is only 536mm (21 inches). This is a massive 40% reduction on the long term average and 50% less than post war averages. To make things worse, our average rainfall over the critical autumn months from March to May has halved, dropping from 240mm to only 120mm. April is now usually our driest month.

On the Dept of Water chart hanging on the wall at Bega Ag, that details flood peaks and frequency in Bega from 1840 until 1995, there is a distinctively wet period over the 40 or 50 years following the Second World War. This period, 1945 to 1995, incorporates the living memory of most people farming today and corresponds to 40 years of wetter than average weather that meteorologists have documented right across Australia. So have we now returned to the drier climate that prevailed for the 100 plus years prior to 1945?
I don’t doubt we will have wet years again and hopefully even floods, but after 14 years we probably should be getting the hint and starting to think how we can adapt farming practices to conditions that are significantly drier than the previous 40 or 50.
Changes in the valley are already evident. We have seen a real shift to pasture weeds that colonise bare soils because “normal” stocking rates have bared off paddocks through overgrazing under the prolonged drier than “normal” conditions. I visited a farmer in Boorowa recently who is now grazing paddocks for only 4 days and then resting them for over 9 months to try and build a diverse base of perennial native species and maintain soil cover. This involves a lot of temporary fencing but is producing very promising signs after only two or three years. Some farmers in the Bega valley now fallow their paddocks over summer when establishing new perennial, dryland pastures; in the same way that cropping farmers in drier regions out west have always fallowed to preserve moisture for sowing crops.
I’m sure there will be different solutions for different farmers in the Bega valley, but I’m also sure that Bega farmers will provide many of the answers themselves, as they have to previous challenges and will for future ones.

Peter Abramowski B.Agr.Sc

Bottled water ban ‘saves town $2.5m’

ABC July 29, 2009, 1:13 pm

The New South Wales town which recently banned bottled water is set to save $2.5 million a year because of the move, an environmental campaigner says.

Earlier this month the southern highlands town of Bundanoon became the first community in the world to ban bottled water.

In an opinion piece for ABC News Online, Clean Up Australia chairman Ian Kiernan says government stalling on environmental issues is forcing communities to take action.

“Bundanoon’s move is a sign of things to come … communities are going to start taking matters into their own hands,” he said.

Clean Up’s analysis says people can save themselves up to $1,000 a year by using tap water instead of bottled water.

And Mr Kiernan says Australia uses more than 300,000 barrels of oil in polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottle production per year.

“The manufacture of every tonne of PET produces around three tonnes of carbon dioxide,” he said.

Besides the cost of transporting bottled water around the globe, Australia’s thirst for bottled water is driving a dramatic rise in plastic rubbish, Mr Kiernan says.

“Australians purchase about 118,000 tonnes of plastic drink bottles a year but only recycle 35 per cent of them,” he said.

“The 76,700 tonnes left behind either goes to landfill or ends up in our environment as rubbish.”

But Australasian Bottled Water Institute chairman Geoff Parker says plastic water bottles are recycled at the same rate as glass bottles, and the focus should really be on increasing recycling rates.

“It’s not the product’s fault that it might end up not being recycled – a PET bottle is 100 per cent recyclable,” he said.

“The industry acknolwedges that it’s got a role to play.

“Government certainly know that they’ve got a role to play and the consumer has a role to play.

“We have just this week written to all government ministers at the federal and state level to open dialogue as to how we can all work together to increase the recycling rate.”
Water on tap?

On 8/7/09, the town of Bundanoon in the highlands of NSW voted overwhelmingly in favor of banning the sale of bottled water in their town. Bundanoon is the first town in Australia, and possibly the world, to pass such a ruling, albeit a voluntary one. A ‘Bundy on tap” campaign has been started where reusable plastic bottles are sold then filled up for free at water stations throughout the town. This move has been strongly supported by local businesses.

It will be interesting to see if local councils will consider following Bundanoon’s lead.
There are pros and cons when it comes to bottled water. When it comes to the environment, there is not much that is good about selling water in plastic bottles. When you look at this issue on a global level, there are some surprisingly big numbers involved. Around 200 billion bottles of water are sold each year. If you laid those bottles end on end, it would get you to the moon and back 56 times! It takes about 1.5 million barrels of oil to produce that much plastic, and that doesn’t include the CO2 produced to transport bottled water around the world. That’s a lot of greenhouse gasses going into the atmosphere at a time when we need to be reducing emissions. 90% of plastic water bottles end up in landfill or on the side of the road after a single use. Banning plastic bottles of sugared soft drink is more difficult, as the stuff doesn’t come out of a tap at next to no cost.

Bottled water costs the consumer several thousand times more than tap water, and tap water has more stringent quality control. So why would anyone want to buy a bottle of water?

The obvious answer is convenience, taste and marketing.

When you are busy and thirsty in the main street of Merimbula or Cooma, nothing could be easier than ducking into a store to buy a quick drink of bottled water. It will only cost a dollar or so, so what’s the big deal? It will taste better than tap water, or at least you are told that it will. There have been several published blinded taste studies of bottled versus tap water, and tap water usually wins! I bet you won’t get that information from soft drink web sites!
One real advantage of bottled water is that it allows the consumer to buy something healthier than a sugared soft drink. It gives people choice, and choice is something that consumers in the 21st century expect and demand. However, the people of Bundanoon have a choice. They have the ability to drink water without contributing to the profits of a multinational company. They are able to drink water without the environmental cost of bottled water, both in terms of the emissions involved with making plastic, and the rubbish they create. Surely in a country like Australia, if I walk down the main street of a town in Eden-Monaro, I should be able to access the most basic commodity of life without contributing to the profits of a soft drink company. Will councils in Eden-Monaro consider free water stations, like the ‘Bundy on tap’ campaign?
Matthew Nott

CEFE and Australia’s First Community Solar Farm Project

Saving water in the city and generating solar power in the country..

Australia has some of the best solar resource (sunshine) in the world, yet solar energy currently only contributes a tiny percentage of our national electricity consumption. Clean Energy for Eternity is keen to act as a catalyst and get solar energy up to scale in this country.

CEFE’s Community Solar Farm project is an innovative rural-urban partnership between CEFE chapters in Bega and Mosman, strongly supported by both local Councils. However, since it develops a replicable model for building medium scale community solar farms, the project outcomes will be relevant right across Eden-Monaro with communities already interested in Cooma, Jindabyne and Bombala.

Two major milestones were achieved before Easter, with the delivery of our completed Feasibility Study and an application for Green Precincts funding to the Federal Government. The Green Precincts bid links renewable energy generation in Bega with a unique water conservation project developed by Mosman Council to capture and efficiently re-use stormwater to irrigate the foreshores of Balmoral Beach at night. We are still waiting to hear whether our funding application has been successful, but remain on track to become Australia’s first community owned solar farm project.

The Feasibility Study (providing a solid business case backed up by a strategic overview and technical detail), showed that it is indeed highly possible build a solar farm in the Bega Valley Shire. The proposed model provides options for householders living in flats or rented accommodation to own solar panels located in paddocks or on rooftops, run by an independent company responsible for maintaining the panels and managing the distribution of the renewable energy and the financial returns generated.

The return on investment for individual solar panel owners will vary depending on the value of renewable energy certificates (RECs) and the relative prices of renewable electricity. While the Federal Government Solar Credit scheme is delayed (now tied to the passage of the much disputed Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme), the long-awaited announcement of the NSW Feed-in Tariff scheme has given the solar farm project a real boost. Discussion are still underway with Carmel Tebbutt’s office on how the new NSW FiT policy, due to come into force in 2010, will accommodate and support community solar farm concepts such as ours.

Support of the solar farm project from the local community is evident with over ten offers of possible sites for the solar farm, across the full range of private and public land and rooftops. We’re all keen to move into the development and construction phase once funding is arranged. In addition to the Green Precincts bid, CEFE has several other irons in the fire investigating the possibilities of accessing State and philanthropic funding.

Community power stations operating in other countries have shown beneficial secondary flow-on effects for local economies, building skills for a sustainable future and creating new jobs in rural areas.

Watch this space – a community solar farm is coming your way!

Philippa Rowland ([email protected])