IT WAS a rare grey morning yesterday, but the sun is definitely shining on Tathra.
With solar panels now installed on the iconic ‘Green Shed’, the small seaside town can now lay claim to having every community building powered by the sun – all through the efforts of a region determined to make a difference.
Founder of Clean Energy For Eternity Matthew Nott celebrated the achievement yesterday with similarly elated members of the community.
“What this demonstrates is that Tathra is a community that wants to show leadership on climate change,” Dr Nott said yesterday.
“What we want to achieve is to show other regional towns that a community working together can achieve community-based solution to climate change. We want to inspire other communities and towns around Australia to get off their bums and do something.
“People can get frustrated with the politics of it all, so we are getting on with doing it. We’re not sitting around waiting for politicians to do it for us,” he said.
The campaign for a clean energy future began in Tathra in 2006 when more than 3000 people took part in a human sign spelling out Clean Energy For Eternity on the beach.
A year later, solar panels and a wind turbine were installed on the Tathra Surf Life Saving Club in the first of the organisation’s community projects.
Now due to a partnership between CEFE and the Tathra Mountain Bike Club, all eight community buildings in the town will benefit from both reduced power bills and the knowledge users will be doing their bit against climate change.
Along with the Green Shed, solar installations now adorn the surf club, Tathra Pre-school, Rural Fire Service shed, Tathra Hall, Uniting Church, Star of the Sea Catholic Church and St Martin By The Sea Anglican Church.
Funds for the installations have come predominantly through the major annual fundraiser the Tathra Enduro, hosted by the Tathra MTB Club.
Support from throughout the community has been ongoing, including at yesterday’s announcement.
“Pyramid Power has been great, doing all the installations for us,” Dr Nott said.
“NGH Environmental has been very supportive of the campaign right from the start as well.
“We’ve also had great support from Energy Options, who have been sponsors of the Enduro, as well as the Tathra caravan parks, Beach House Apartments and local businesses.”
Dr Nott said the cost of installing solar is becoming more affordable by the day.
The Tathra SLSC installation six years ago cost in the order of $20,000; the Green Shed’s less than $4000.
“We were hoping the overly generous feed-in tariffs on our first projects would help generate funds for further installations,” Dr Nott said.
“Now with no feed-in tariffs it reduces the benefits, but it also reduces the power bills for all these community groups for their daytime usage of the buildings.
“Solar is so cheap you can’t afford not to have it,” he said.
The next big project for Dr Nott and CEFE is a plan to build the biggest solar farm in the South-East – potentially the biggest community solar farm in the country.
More details will come to light if and when council approval is gained.
David and Goliath
The story of David and Goliath is a familiar one.
In the second half of the 11th century BC the battle-tested and dangerous Philistines started moving East with the aim of capturing a mountain ridge near Bethlehem. The Israelites squared off against the approaching army across the Elah Valley. With a deep ravine separating the two armies, a stalemate was reached. To resolve the deadlock, the Philistines sent their best warrior Goliath to challenge the Isrealite’s best, hoping to resolve the conflict with minimal bloodshed.
Goliath was huge. Wearing heavy armour and a bronze helmet, he carried a javelin, spear and a massive sword. It’s estimated that he was weighed down by2 100 pounds of weaponry and armour. He shouted out: “Choose you a man and let him come down to me! If he prevail in battle against me and strike me down, we shall be slaves to you.”
On the Israelite’s side a shepherd boy named David stepped forward and volunteered. He had faced more ferocious opponents than this protecting his sheep from lions and bears, he argued.
Thus began one of history’s most famous battles. David picked up 5 smooth stones and descended to the valley floor.
A ballistics except with the Israeli Defence Forces recently did a series of calculations showing that a typical-sized stone hurled by an expert slinger at a distance of 35 meters would have hit Goliath’s head with a velocity of 34 meters per second. In terms of stopping power that is equivalent to a fair-sized modern handgun. Poor old Goliath never had a chance.
Giants are not always what we think they are!
In the battle to preserve our climate and the future of our planet, many giants stand in our way.
The public are apathetic. Who cares about a sea level rising 3mm per year? How can anyone be concerned about something that is beyond individual perception? We must depend on science to inform us that the planet is warming, that the oceans are rising, that the ice caps are melting and our oceans are becoming more acidic. But hardly a week goes by without a letter to the editor warning readers about evil scientists striving for world domination. Public apathy and distrust of scientists gives politicians the confidence to ignore the problem.
Apathy is our Goliath. For Clean Energy For Eternity, David’s smooth pebbles are the humble solar panel. Being small does not equate to being weak.
When it comes to climate change, science is very much the underdog. Throughout history it is surprising how often the underdog prevails.
Australia is now right up there with the rest of the world in terms of the proportion of houses with solar PV. The next big step in the solar revolution is getting solar PV onto the roofs of commercial and government owned properties. Commercial properties have the advantage of having bigger roof spaces which gives economies of scale and provided all the electricity can be generated on site the system pay-back time is now less than five years. Once paid for the system goes on generating free power for a further 20 years.
It might seem a no-brainer for any business to install solar under these circumstances but for a business long term benefits don’t count nearly as much as this year’s bottom line.
The Northern Beaches Chapter of Clean Energy for Eternity has just established a not-for-profit company that overcomes this obstacle. Capital will be raised from community investors to install the system. The business will pay the investors for the electricity generated at the price they are currently paying their utility. Then, after seven years the business is given the installation.
ClearSky Solar Investments was launched in Narrabeen in Sydney last week – the culmination of a lot of hard work by the CEFE team with funding from the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage. The NSW Minister with responsibility for renewable energy Rob Stokes spoke at the launch and was warm in his praise for the initiative. Dr Mark Diesendorf from UNSW set the scheme in the wider perspective of Australia’s inevitable transition to 100% renewable energy. CEFE Northern Beaches convener Dr Christina Kirsch pointed out that similar schemes has been operating in Germany for many years and now it is hard to find a commercial roof without solar PV, despite Germany’s reduced sunshine. CEFE Secretary Prue Kelly and CEFE Public Officer Warren Yates attended the launch.
At this stage the locations which give the best return to investors are in Western NSW, but as panel prices fall South Coast properties will come into play. ClearSky’s proof of concept project is the Royal Hotel Boggabri. It is proving a win for everyone with investors getting an 8% return and the hotel proprietor getting a 15 kW solar system after 7 years, while paying less for their electricity between now and then.
The Corporations Act prohibits Investment opportunities of this type being advertised to the general public. However if you have a long term commitment to seeing Australia make the transition to renewable energy you can sign-in to the website www.clearskysolar.com.au. As projects come up they will be announced in the members area of the website.
Dire Prediction for Australian Ski Resorts
The future of the alpine ski industry is on shaky ground, according to a government commissioned report, with ski seasons predicted to be up to 10 weeks shorter and snow depths considerably diminished.
The report predicts that by 2050 the maximum snow depth could decrease by up to 80 centimetres and the ski season might shorten by more than two months.
Dr Jonas Bhend from the CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research was one of the authors of the report.
‘The maximum snow depth [could] decrease by around 50 percent by 2050 in the higher elevation sites. Although in the lower elevation sites by 2050, the strongest emission scenario suggests the snow might be gone by then,’ said Dr Bhend.
‘The worst scenario is in 2020 the reduction is 30-40 per cent for the higher sites and by 2050 it’s 70-80 per cent.
‘It depends on what emissions reduction we decide on. At the moment we look like tracking the higher emissions scenarios.’
The snow industry in Australia is worth 1.8 billion dollars and employs 18,000 people.
Global Push For Carbon Pricing Grows
The global push in favour of carbon markets is getting stronger. This week the IMF, the World Bank and the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) all stressed the need for carbon pricing to address climate change. And a new survey has found that there are high expectations that China will have a carbon trading scheme and a carbon tax in place by the end of the decade.
The head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, has a two-pronged message for the world’s finance ministers on climate policy: put a price on carbon and get rid of fuel subsidies.
Her counterpart at the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, agrees. He concedes pricing carbon and cutting subsidies is politically difficult, but says there’s a growing urgency about the need to act in key countries.
Expectations are high that China will move quickly to an Emission Trading Scheme. China has seven regional pilot emissions trading schemes planned, which will cover 250 million people. It’s committed to a national scheme but the timing on when that will begin isn’t clear. The ANU’s Centre for Climate Economics and Policy, in conjunction with the China-based NGO, the China Carbon Forum, has surveyed 86 China-based analysts, including from industry and research institutes. The ANU’s Frank Jotzo led the survey and says almost all respondents expect China to have a national ETS (Emissions Trading Scheme) and a carbon tax in place by the end of the decade. “When you talk to policy makers here, they’ve really understood that market mechanisms for pollution control are much more efficient in general than the sort of command and control and direct regulatory interventions that they’ve tended to use so far”.
Last week the OECD secretary-general, Angel Gurria, said a price on carbon should be a cornerstone of climate policy and he released a report showing emissions trading systems are the lowest-cost way of reducing emissions.
In repealing a carbon price, Australia will be moving in the wrong direction.
Sea Level is Rising
There has been a lot of discussion about sea-level rise lately, which is a very good thing. Rising sea-levels will potentially have an enormous impact in SE NSW.
The discussion was precipitated by our local member Mr Andrew Constance when he described the NSW Chief Scientist’s sea-level rise benchmarks as “based on very questionable science”.
Is sea-level rising and will it continue to do so? They are vitally important questions.
The CSIRO is in no doubt that sea level is rising saying “around the world, rising sea levels, as a result of human induced climate change, are already having an impact.
In Australia the consequences of sea level rise will include increased flooding of low-lying coastal, including tidal, areas and are likely to result in coastal erosion, loss of beaches, and higher storm surges that will affect coastal communities, infrastructure, industries and the environment. Coastal inundation and more frequent storms are likely to impact on the built environment through damage to structures, or disruption of the services they provide.”
Information about the CSIRO’s position on sea level rise can be found at www.csiro.au/science/coastal-inundation
For readers who are interested, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology’s National Tidal Centre has been monitoring sea level for several decades. Their results are publicly available at www.bom.gov.au/oceanography/projects/ntc/ntc.shtml, and demonstrate significant sea level rise at each of their 14 SEAFRAME sea level monitoring stations.
Further support for sea level rise can be found on the web site of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It is freely available on the internet. They say “there is strong evidence that global sea level is now rising at an increased rate and will continue to rise during this century. Records and research show that sea level has been steadily rising at a rate of 1 to 2.5 millimeters per year since 1900. This rate may be increasing. Since 1992, new methods of satellite altimetry indicate a rate of rise of 3 millimeters per year.”
At NASA, the Jason-1 and Topex-Poseidon satellites have been monitoring sea level rise since 1994, and since that time have demonstrated a steady sea level rise of 3.17mm per year. There results are freely available at climate.nasa.gov/keyIndicators/
Don’t take my word for it. It is such an important issue that I suggest readers do some quick research of their own. I respectfully suggest that Mr Andrew Constance should also take a look at the science.