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Mixed Greens: Tassie farm installs state’s first mini-hydro scheme

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As Tasmanians renewed calls for relief from power price increases expected to total 20 per cent this year, the state’s first mini hydro electricity generator began operation on a farm in the state’s north. ABC rural reported on Thursday last week that Tasmanian farmer Paul Bennett, whose family operate two dairies and a cheese factory near Elizabeth Town, has installed turbines at the base of an 11-metre high dam wall that holds back 700 megalitres of water, as part of efforts to minimise power costs. Bennett told the ABC in an interview that, with a river running through his property, “the idea of putting a turbine on the pipes that were going through exisiting dams, spinning that water round and gaining some power off it was an attraction.” He also described the mini-hydro system as more “tangible,” at this stage, than installing wind turbines. “It was also on a smaller scale. When you talk about building half a million dollar wind turbines, it is something that we are looking at for on our hills, but it was more tangible to invest in this hydro scheme with Degree C.”

Bennett said he and his family would still be getting the majority of their power off the grid. “This is only a small scheme. It is only one of many that we hope to develop across the farms so it will help our properties become more sustainable in the future.” But he added that even a small dairy farm, if it had the water assets, would benefit greatly from a generator of similar capacity. “Currently, on this farm we’re standing on, we’ll spend about $5,500 a quarter on dairy shed expenses – electricity, basically – and this (mini-hydro system) will generate about $2,500-$3,000 back of that expense.” According to ABC reporter Michael Cavanagh, around 130 farmers from around the district turned up for the cutting of the ribbon at the Ashgrove farm, suggesting there might be a bit of interest among them in alternative power generation. Mark Smith, DairyTas’s executive officer told Cavanagh that the organisation was currently conducting 20 energy assessment on various farms, around wind, solar and hydro.

Fed funds for Sydney trigen

The federal government has contributed $3.75 million towards the cost of an initial 4MW trigeneration system to be installed in Sydney’s Green Square, to help kick-start Mayor Clover Moore’s plan to roll out Australia’s first large-scale trigeneration network. The grant was announced by Infrastructure and Transport Anthony Albanese under the Liveable Cities program. The 4MW system will supply low carbon electricity, heating and cooling to 6,000 residents in 3,300 dwellings as well as shops and offices at the Green Square Town Centre. Trigeneration energy systems use natural gas and produce electricity, heating and cooling for surrounding buildings. They are more than twice as energy efficient as coal-fired electricity and will reduce greenhouse emissions for connected buildings by up to 60 per cent. The City’s interim trigeneration master plan estimates a total capacity of 360 MW by 2030 at a cost of $440 million, supplying 70 per cent of the local government area’s electricity requirements. It expects it will help avoid more than $1.5 billion in network costs.

Greenearth’s carbon conversion

Australian geothermal contender Greenearth Energy says its Israeli-based joint venture NewCO2Fuels Ltd, along with its laboratory proven CO2 to Fuel conversion technology could hold promise for reducing the emissions of fossil fuel power plants. Greenearth says the Israeli arm of the JV, a team headed up by Professor Jacbo Karni, have successfully developed a new method of using concentrated solar energy to “dissociate” carbon dioxide to carbon monoxide and oxygen, while at the same time dissociating water to hydrogen and oxygen – resulting in the creation of syngas, which can either be used as a gaseous fuel, or converted into a liquid fuel, for easier storage and transportation. Greenearth chairman Rob Annells says the technology has great potential to allow for increased use of heavy-emitting energy sources, with a special nod to the state of Victoria’s “vast brown coal” resource. “By way of our worldwide research and license with the Weitzman Institute of Science, we have a potential opportunity to work with Victorian brown coal export partners to adopt our technology in their countries and utilise our state’s brown coal reserves in a more environmentally friendly way,” Annells said. Annells also said the company hoped to deploy a modular technology pilot demonstration within the next two years.

Ceramic on the up and up

ASX-listed Ceramic Fuel Cells has released its quarterly results for the period ended March 31, revealing a total order book of 619 units, a 58 per cent increase in units installed at customer sites – up to 193 units at 23 April, receipts from customers of $2.7 million, an increase of 85 per cent from the December quarter, with 26 units delivered during the quarter. The company said its net operating cash outflow for the March quarter was $4.9 million, which was lower than last quarter mainly due to higher receipts. The group also received a government grant of $700,000 for work to be undertaken for the E.ON UK led JTI project. Ceramic attributed its largely upbeat results to an active marketing and sales agenda, with a focus on Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK – as well as strong and increasing policy support for fuel cell mCHP in Germany and the UK.

New CEO in Solco shake-out

WA-based solar company Solco has announced that Anthony Coles will be the new CEO of the company as part of a wider restructure that also sees the resignation of executive director Mark Norman and its CFO Anthony Missen. Norman will remain a director. Coles, a former head of sales and marketing at SolarShop, will be based in Adelaide and said in a statement that the company will focus on its wholesale products business, as well as the mid-large commercial solar energy business, and will also invest in Build-Own-Operate or Power-Purchase-Agreement driven businesses. Coles said the company was in talks with strategic partners to finalise a “renewable-energy- focussed investment vehicle,” which he said will enable Solco to complement the Clean Energy Finance Corporation’s plan to increase the number of renewable energy projects in the lead up to 2020.

Making waves in Gujarat

The western Indian state of Gujarat has approved plans to spend 250 million rupees ($US4.8 million) on the development of India’s first ocean tidal power project. The marine energy pilot project will be developed in the Gulf of Kutch by Atlantis Resources, an Australian tidal-turbine maker that’s based in Singapore (and backed by Morgan Stanley), along with the Gujarat Power Corp, and will have an initial capacity of 50 megawatts. “After we see how these pilot projects do, then we’ll take a look at developing a policy to attract more investment,” D.J. Pandian, the state’s principal energy secretary, said in an interview. Bloomberg reports that the project may also involve the International Finance Corp, the World Bank’s private-sector financing arm, which is said to be interested in supporting a tidal-energy project with a loan or equity investment.

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  • Beat Odermatt

    That is great! Many small steps are going to help us to move towards a low carbon economy. Small projects may not attract politicians to pop the corks of champagne bottles but they will help to increase and stabilise renewable energy as a part of “Australia’s power pack”. I often see how many good opportunities to produce renewable energy are often overlooked. I did mention before that the Mt. Bold Reservoir near Adelaide could provide hydro power at little cost, as the grid to the dam is already there. There are many dams, reliable rivers and channels suitable to provide a little bit extra to our clean power mix. I just hope that money from the carbon tax will be used to help such schemes to get off the ground instead of wasting funds on closing existing power stations to enrich a few companies.

  • Warwick

    I’m not sure why the ABC thinks it is the first mini-hydro in Tasmania. They need better proof-readers. See this ABC article 2 years ago…. http://www.abc.net.au/local/videos/2010/07/15/2954844.htm

    Go back 8 years and there were news articles highlighting new mini-hydro…

    http://www.electricity-week.com.au/erisk7/article/422180/hydro_tasmania_opens_new_mini_hydro_development_at_butlers_gorge_tasmania/

    In recent times, Hydro Tasmania’s Lake Margaret mini hydro has also been refurbished.

    http://www.hydro.com.au/about-us/news/2010-07/innovation-and-heritage-feature-lower-lake-margaret-redevelopment

    These are just some of Tasmania’s mini-hydro plants…

  • Derek B

    I do hope the CO2 to fuel process won’t be able to rort the clean energy legislation. It effectively rebrands emissions from power stations as emissions from transport, the latter being exempt for now.