Last Call For Swimmers

We are set for the Brogo Dam swm this Saturday. I need to make one important correction. Last weeks description of how to get to the race start was incorrect. The quickest way to get there from Bega is to head north along the Princess Hwy, and turn left into Warrigal Range Rd at Brogo. From there, follow your nose to the Brogo Dam. Swimmers for the 7km swim should be at the Brogo Dam boat ramp at 0800hrs for an 0830hr start. Bring $30 and a donation. There is no entry fee for accompanying paddlers, but a donation would be appreciated.

Spare paddlers, and several spare canoes will be at the start.

Swimmers in the 1km swim need to turn up at 0900 for a 0930hr start. Swimmers in the 1 km swim will not need a paddler.

The NSW solar industry is in a state of disarray after the state government axed the solar feed-in-tariff last April without warning. Overnight, electricity generated by solar panels was regarded as worthless in NSW. Consequently thousands of jobs in the solar industry were lost, many of them in the Bega Valley. Almost twelve months later the solar industry remains in no-mans-land, waiting patiently for some leadership from NSW politicians. Since last April the solar industry has been calling for a fair and reasonable value for electricity generated by solar panels. All they ask is that solar electricity be given the same value as electricity generated from coal fired power stations. What could be more reasonable than that?

Two weeks ago the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) recommended that NSW solar panel owners be paid between 5.2 cents and 10.3 cents per kilowatt hour for excess electricity fed back into the grid. It sounds like the state government will take up those recommendations.

This will not be a death knell for solar, but it is hardly a fair and reasonable recommendation. The cost of solar panels continues to fall, and the price of electricity will steadily rise which will make solar panels more and more economically viable as time goes on. However, lack of government support means solar risks being reduced to a boutique industry. That can’t be allowed to happen!

To significantly reduce emissions, we need to support the solar energy industry. The strongest message we can send to our politicians is that we as a community stand behind solar. Come and help our Brogo Dam LifeSaving Energy Big Swim raise money for solar panels for the Upper Brogo fire shed this Saturday.
Matthew Nott

Dangerous Climate Change

It is difficult from a scientific point of view to quantify what constitutes dangerous climate change. Whilst the science can inform us about what a warming world will look like, danger is measured economically, politically and socially.

However the scientific consensus tells us we need to keep temperature rise below 2 degrees celcius to avoid the dangerous impacts of climate change. Scientists can give us a good picture of what a 2 degree warming will look like.

A planet that is 2 degrees warmer will see more drought in some regions, increased heavy rainfall and flooding in others. Rainfall patterns will become unpredictable, will put stress on food production. The oceans will be warmer and more acidic, putting pressure on fish stocks. Sea level will rise at an accelerating rate. The North Pole will be ice free in summer, and Greenland will rapidly shed ice.The intensity and frequency of extreme weather events will increase, and there will be significant loss of biodiversity. The science tells as these changes are inevitable without strong action to reduce emissions.

The last time the planet was 2 degrees warmer about 125,000 years ago, sea level was about 6m higher. Because there is significant thermal inertia in a large body of ice, a 6m sea level rise will take centuries, but a predicted sea level rise of up to a meter by the end of the century will have significant impact on coastal infrastructure.

If you look at global efforts to tackle climate change, emission reduction targets fall well short of restricting global warming to a 2 degree rise. Not only are targets well short of what is required, but most countries are failing to meet their inadequate targets.

The science demands that we make urgent changes now to reduce emissions significantly. That doesn’t look like its going to happen, which means we are far more likely to see global temperatures rise by 3 or 4 degrees, taking us into the realm of dangerous climate change. It is more difficult for the science to predict what a 4 degree warming will look like. The rate and scale of that magnitude of warming is unprecedented in recent geological time.

Dangerous climate change means economic, political and social upheaval. The cost of dangerous climate change will be incalculable. That is not alarmist. It is basic physics.
Matthew Nott

Brogo Dam Swim Update

The Brogo Dam LifeSaving Energy big swim on Saturday 31 March is a happening thing.

The Bega Valley has been through some tough times lately. Recent heavy rain and flooding, combined with the closure of the Snowy Mountains Highway at the Brown Mountain will place a significant economic burden on our part of the world. These factors will also place stress on the Brogo Dam swim, but we are going ahead regardless.

There is enough time after the flooding for the water in the Brogo Dam to clear up. The water is likely to be coolish, so I suggest that swimmers in the 7km event wear a wet-suit.

Don?t forget that swimmers in the 7km event will need to be competent, and accompanied by a paddler. There will be spare canoes at the start of the event, and a few spare paddlers if required, but it is preferred that you bring your own team. The 7km swim will start from the Brogo boat ramp at the south end of the dam, and there will be a single turn-around buoy at the north end of the dam, before swimmers start heading for home.

The Brogo Dam boat ramp is accessed from the Princess Hwy. As you head north from Bega, turn left at Blanchards Rd at Brogo. Continue from there onto Warrigal Range Rd and then turn right onto Brogo Dam Rd. The trip will take about 40 minutes from Bega.

The 7km swim will start at 0830 am on Saturday 31 March, and entry fee will be $30 plus donation.

The 1km swim will start at 0930 am at the boat ramp. The shorter swim will be around marked buoys on a triangular course, and wet-suits will not be required. Once again the entry fee will be $30 plus donations.

The Brogo swim will be the eleventh LifeSaving Energy Big swim. So far the swim series has raised almost $100,000 for renewable energy projects for community groups in SE NSW. The Brogo swim will be raising money for a stand-alone solar system for the upper Brogo fire shed.
Matthew Nott

100% Renewable For Australia

There are two studies that suggest that 100 per cent renewable electricity is technologically feasible for Australia.

In 2010 the ?Zero Carbon Australia (ZCA) Stationary Energy Plan’ found that 100 per cent renewable energy is technically possible for Australia. The core of this study is a single hour-by-hour computer simulation of Australian electricity demand in 2008 and 2009. The principal renewable energy sources chosen were concentrated solar thermal (CST) with thermal storage and wind power. While I take issue with ZCA’s claim that the transition could be made in a decade and several other assumptions, this ground-breaking work deserves to be acknowledged.

In early December 2011, UNSW researchers Ben Elliston, Iain MacGill and I published the first of a series of peer-reviewed papers on our independent simulations, which remove most of the assumptions constraining the ZCA study, making it unnecessarily expensive. However, we still have some assumptions of our own that will be progressively removed before we perform an economic analysis.

We ran a series of hour-by-hour computer simulations of 2010 electricity demand in the five Australian states and the one territory (ACT) covered by the National Electricity Market. To meet demand we chose a broad renewable energy mix: CST with thermal storage, wind, solar PV, biofuelled gas turbines and existing hydro. All are commercially available technologies.

Gas turbines are highly flexible generating plant ideally suited to supporting fluctuating wind and PV renewable generation. Some are already deployed in Australia as peaking plant fuelled on natural gas. However, they can also burn liquid and gaseous biofuels produced sustainably from the residues of existing crops. Jet aircraft on some overseas commercial flights are already flying with one or more of their engines burning biofuels.

Based on scores of simulations and extensive sensitivity analysis, our research finds that it would have been technically feasible to supply 2010 electricity demand by 100 per cent renewable energy with the same reliability as the existing fossil fuelled system. The key challenge is meeting demand on winter evenings. A large part of this demand is of course residential space heating. At sunset on overcast days, the thermal energy storages are not full and sometimes wind speeds are low as well. Initially we used biofuelled gas turbines to fill the gap. This is likely to be lower cost than ZCA?s solution of choosing a vast excess of CST power stations, many of which would not be operated in summer.

Our second peer-reviewed paper (Elliston, Diesendorf & MacGill, Energy Policy, in press) explores an even cheaper solution than lots of gas turbines or excess CST: namely a revitalised residential energy efficiency and smart grid program to reduce peak electricity demand on winter evenings.

Both the ZCA and UNSW simulations refute the notion that renewable energy cannot replace base-load coal-fired power. ZCA interprets its results by saying that CST with thermal storage is base-load. We interpret the simulation results differently, concluding that although CST can perform in a similar manner to base-load in summer, it cannot in winter. That doesn’t matter however. In a predominantly renewable energy supply mix, we find that the concept of ‘base-load power station’ is redundant. The important result is that renewable energy mixes can give the same reliability of the whole generating system in meeting demand as the existing polluting fossil-fuelled system. Similar results for the US were presented at the Solar 2011 conference by David Mills and Weili Cheng.
Mark Diesendorf