The Tasmanian-based geothermal aspirant Kuth Energy has added Saipan to its growing portfolio of Pacific Island projects, winning a $1 million grant for a drilling program to unlock some of the volcanic geothermal resources. Saipan, part of the self governing US territory of the Northern Marianas, has baseload requirements of 30MW and peak load requirements of around 45MW that are met entirely through diesel.
Kuth managing director David McDonald said the island spends $60 million a year on diesel imports – and charges up to 50c/kWh or more to commercial users. Geothermal would be able to deliver clean energy at a significant discount. Kuth has implemented a strategy of “diesel replacement” on remote and island grids and is building a portfolio that includes Vanuatu, Fiji and PNG. Kuth will drill a well around 600m deep, and will access further funding if it is successful.
McDonald says that if geothermal can be discovered it will be a big boost to the economy delivering stability in pricing and energy security from the development of indigenous resources. “As a small geothermal explorer it is essential that we target resource plays which we believe have compelling market economics to justify the initial exploration works. In the case of Saipan, the company identified the island as meeting the criteria of having geothermal resource potential but just as important, a substantial diesel electricity market that is crying out for renewable energy alternatives.”
Kuth also has two geothermal prospects in Tasmania, but given the lack of funding for the more expensive deep wells in Australia, and its competition with the low cost of coal, the hurdle remains too high. “In remote grid locations where diesel generated energy is the benchmark, the economics for geothermal energy are significantly more compelling,” he said.
Wind turbines may increase crop yields
A new study being undertaken in the US is investigating if wind turbines might contribute to increase crop yields, which might help counter claims made elsewhere that turbines can make sheep nervous and their wool coarser than usual. According to a report in National Geographic, the Iowa State University s undertaking research into the impact of wind turbines on the corn crops they tower over, and initial results are encouraging.
According to the report, the turbulence created by turbines can increase concentrations of CO2 in an area, which would help the crops grow, limit the amount of dew, which reduce crop disease (a rising problem given that the air has become more moist in the state due to climate change), while turbulence would also result in cooler days and warmer nights, reducing the incidence of frosts and extremely hot days.
It’s not all upside, because that same turbulence may impact the way plants respire at night, potentially limiting their growth. But researchers at the university say while complicated, the overall effect would be positive. That’s good news for the corn-belt state of Iowa, which has the second highest penetration of wind turbines in the US, after Texas.