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N.T. appoints wind, solar experts to 50% renewables panel

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The Northern Territory has appointed some of the country’s leading experts in renewable energy and associated technologies to the expert panel commissioned to deliver an expert report to the new Labor’s government’s 50 per cent renewable energy target.

The newly elected Labor government has promised to reach that target by 2030, and wants the panel to frame a strategic options paper next year. The target will require around 440MW of renewable energy capacity, not far short of the ACT’s needs for its 100 per cent target, but over a longer time frame.

ARENA's Greg Bourne

Greg Bourne

The panel includes former Australian Renewable Energy Agency chair Greg Bourne, Climate Council CEO Amanda McKenzie, and Lyndon Frearson, the head of CAT Projects and a leading expert in solar and battery storage technologies.

The panel will be chaired by Alan Langworthy, a specialist in remote area power systems and renewable energy systems, and also includes Katherine Howard, a partner Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, who has advised the ACT on its solar and wind auctions process, and advised on the creation of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

Chief minister Michael Gunner said the 50 per cent renewable energy target will “put us in line with the rest of the country”, a reference to the same target being pursued by Queensland, the 45 per cent by 2025 pursued by Victoria, ACT’s 100 per cent renewable target by 2020, and South Australia, which will likely reach 50 per cent this year.

This is despite efforts by the federal Coalition government and the fossil fuel industry to try and force the states to abandon their state-based targets in favour of a national scheme.

However, the states have made clear that they will not do that because the Coalition target is not ambitious, and does not look past 2020.

“It is important we do our part to act on climate change,” Gunner said. “Continued increases in temperature will have major impacts on not just our natural environment, but our economy, lifestyle and quality of life.

“Major economies around the world are increasing the use of renewable energy sources to avoid the economic, social and environmental implications association with the use of fossil fuels.

“Smart communities realise that investing in renewable energy is good for the environment and great for jobs. It’s also the long term key to cheaper and more secure energy supply for all Territorians.

Uterne Alice Springs

The comments are in sharp contrast to the NT’s conservative government, which sought to demonise renewables and came up with some pretty ridiculous costings for solar technology in Alice Springs.

Gunner said the NT had produced world leading research and researchers in renewable energy through the Charles Darwin University and the Centre for Appropriate Technology.

“We need to continue this tradition but also do a better job at ensuring these breakthroughs create jobs right here in the Territory. It is imperative this research plays an integral role in the plan top reach the 50 per cent target by 2030,” he said.

The government has allocated $700,000 towards the development of a plan for its renewable target.  

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  • Ian

    Good news, I hope they move swiftly whilst they are still in office, because the political pendulum swings very quickly.

    The main driver for change for renewables has been the uptake of rooftop solar and now battery storage has become viable. Why not encourage that? One of the biggest energy demands in the NT would be cooling – air conditioning. This needs to addressed. There are ways to reduce air conditioning load using Passiv Haus principles. Namely, shading and insulation. Air conditioning with ice storage has real potential where solar is abundant.

  • neroden

    They should move as fast as possible. The NT is the perfect place for microgrids and distributed generation. This is how I’d set up the plan:

    (1) Offer “buyouts” to anyone on the “grid edge” who wants to leave the grid with a solar and battery system. Get the price right. Keep pulling the grid back.
    (2) Set up a specific utility scale solar + battery + wind plan for each town’s microgrid, with local consulation on the balance between wind and solar. Coastal areas may consider tidal as well. Each location should slowly phase out its natural gas (or coal) generator.

  • Ray Miller

    Yes well done, depth and practical knowledge, but this brings stark contrast to the feds appointments and reports.
    This also points out the major issues and costs Australia has in providing energy services to anyone outside of the area of major transmission lines, WA, NT, QLD,SA, NSW all have significant numbers remote (from Grid) customers. This seems like an opportunity to use all the collective leanings and for major cooperation at COAG level to use the economies of scale to not only reduce the cost of remote energy services but improve resilience.
    May I also point out that at present a significant number of these remote customers are very dependent on diesel generators, and since Australia only has something like 30 days reserve supply, if for any reason our international supply lines are cut, the people living in many remote communities are particularly exposed.

  • Kohn

    The use of contracted gas is the white elephant in the room. The government owned corporation/s (GOC’s) responsible for providing gas generation do so facilitated by a take or pay contract. If they don’t take the gas they have to pay for it anyway. Any reduction (via increased renewable generation) in the burn of gas creates a huge financial liability. Ultimately, these GOC’s are the NT Govt. The NT Govt would be financially irresponsible to not use or sell the gas. They have to sell the gas at a reasonable price or generate electricity and recoup costs through electricity tariffs or they’ll be cutting they’re own throat with increased renewables.

    There is already an oversupply of generation fleet/capacity in the NT > stranded assets.

    I hate to say it, but the NT Govt. needs to create and sell more gas fired electricity or gas.

    Note: The wind resource in the NT is not economic. Geothermal and Tidal development need to be done on a utility scale basis to be economic, needs to be proximate to transmission and needs a significant load center. The load centers and transmission just aren’t there.

    Solve these dilemmas and you can go bananas in a jurisdiction with one of the best solar resources in the world and I hope they do.

    • Alastair Leith

      Export it then. Until theres global carbon controls that measure and price the fugitives in various forms of fossil gas extraction.

      • Alex

        Exporting it would result in overall higher global emissions due to the additional energy and losses associated with liquefying and transportation. From a CO2 point of view, you would be better off leaving it in the ground and taking the financial hit or doing what the ACT did and investing in renewable energy projects interstate that will result in fossil fuel (coal) generation sources being displaced and surrendering the LGCs.

        • Kohn

          Take the financial hit!? Has anyone done the numbers? They are not insubstantial! The gas has to be sold or NTG Treasury is going to give everyone a bit of a reality check.

    • disqus_gF5uXVTUbL

      Gas is a valuable resource for backing up the country’s renewable energy and will be needed for decades and decades. In the NT it could be used to backup local renewable energy through maintaining a network of “thin links” to rural and moderately remote areas. This would assist in the maintenance and longevity of battery banks. Each technology needs to find its appropriate place in the overall mix.

  • Tomfoolery

    Great news. Hoping to see some large scale solar farms being developed over the next few years. I imagine the capacity factor would be quite high in regional NT. Also a huge opportunity in weening some of the rura communities of noisy, unpredictable and dirty diesel generators onto cheap solar and storage with cloud tracking.

    • disqus_gF5uXVTUbL

      I don’t want to see any more large scale solar in this country. The cost of distribution is infinitely more than the cost of generation. It’s is financially reckless to use auctions to bid large scale solar down a few cents/MW when it would be more prudent to begin sizing solar for local communities. Those people thinking of large scale solar are not thinking of integrated design. Large scale solar is part of a centralised ideologically driven thinking and its old paradigm. The new paradigm is a distributed grid and that means RE/storage designed for people not grids. Lets get our heads out of the centralised paradigm of just add green energy to the existing grid. Saving a few cents with large scale solar will set our country up for energy poverty with an inefficient grid due to the distribution costs.

  • Alastair Leith

    I hope Amanda McKenzie makes it very clear as they get started on deployment that 50% by 2030 is a relatively unambitious target and NT could easily do better — the climate we want is depending on that kind of leadership at all levels of government.

    Not sure what the ratio of grid electricity emissions to energy emissions in NT Is, but in WA it’s about 1:4, so taking till 2030 to get to the relatively easy first 50% of a 100% RE target will mean other energy sectors may be left unexamined for too long.

  • Nassim7

    “creating jobs” is great with renewables. However, productivity is the inverse of job-creation. Peoples’ standard of living depends on productivity.

    Employing lots of people to produce electricity which could otherwise be produced non-intermittently by traditional methods leads to a lower standard of living.

    I guess you have to make a choice between having dependable and cheap electricity or undependable and expensive electricity. Of course, intermittency can be offset by very expensive batteries or cheaper fossil fuels.

    • Brian

      Solar and wind are available cheaper, it will raise people standard of living. Unemployed people don’t buy much, so employing people raises the standard of living. Baseload needs reserve generators for load following and peak. and even needs pumped hydro since baseload hates to throttle. Fossils are changing the climate and create toxic pollution, so eliminating them will raise the standard of living.

    • Calamity_Jean

      “…very expensive batteries….”

      Battery costs are falling and expected to continue to fall for at least the next five to ten years. Already in some locations batteries are less expensive than gas single cycle “peaker” generators.

      • Nassim7

        And how much do you need to invest in batteries to carry you over for the 4 months of the year when there is little sun in the northern hemisphere?

        There is no such thing as cheap batteries and there never will be in our lifetimes. Dream on.

        • Calamity_Jean

          Nobody, not even people living off-grid, has or needs batteries enough for four months storage of power. The sun still shines on many winter days, and solar photovoltaic (PV) panels work more efficiently in cold weather. Off-gridders have a lot of PV, enough so that they only need two to four days, not months of batteries.

          The general electrical grid has less of a problem because it transmits power over hundreds of miles. In the winter when it’s less sunny there is often a lot of wind, so electricity can be sent from wind farms in rural areas. Even if it’s not sunny AND not windy where you happen to be on a particular day, a few hundred miles away it’s very likely to be sunny, windy, or both, and the power can be shared via the grid. People who have studied this issue for years now think that no more than 24 hours worth of battery power will be needed.

          In addition, battery prices are falling and if that continues batteries are likely to be quite cheap in twenty years.

          “Predictions of the future are fraught with peril. That said, if the current trajectory of energy storage prices holds, within a decade or two mass energy storage of a significant fraction of civilization’s needs will be economically viable.”

          Source: http://rameznaam.com/2015/10/14/how-cheap-can-energy-storage-get/

          • Nassim7

            You are a lucky person who has never heard of intermittency and its devastating effects on the grid. Clearly, engineering realities play little role in your universe.

            Here is a link for those who want to learn more:

            “The Difficulties Of Powering The Modern World With Renewables”

            http://euanmearns.com/the-difficulties-of-powering-the-modern-world-with-renewables/

          • Brian Tehan

            Written by a consultant to the oil industry. Might be a bit of self interest there. The Europeans seem to be going full steam ahead on renewables, even though they have the most difficult path. I’m pretty confident that they know what they’re doing.
            As it happens, this article is about the NT which has a huge amount of potential in renewables, including solar thermal with storage. Not sure why the subject was changed to Europe.

          • Calamity_Jean

            “Not sure why the subject was changed to Europe.”

            Probably because Europe has the most difficult path.

          • Calamity_Jean

            To start with, the article you link to was written in 2015 using data from 2013. Wind turbines have been improved since 2013, specifically by being made taller with longer blades so that they can catch higher-level wind that is more consistent, and extract more energy from wind that even those few years ago would not have been strong enough to be significant.

            In addition, Mr. Mearns dissed Demand-Side Management by saying about it:

            “The best that could be hoped for is an incremental improvement, maybe a flattening of the daily demand curve and/or a reduction in total demand….”

            Actually, one thing that DSM does is look for sources of interuptable demand that can be used to “soak up” excess electric supply productively.

            Finally, Mr. Mearns makes the entirely unjustified assumption that how things were in 2013 is the way things will be forever. The renewable energy world is changing rapidly as it becomes more obvious that it’s worth overcoming “The Difficulties Of Powering The Modern World With Renewables”. http://www.energytrendsinsider.com/2015/05/21/the-imf-just-destroyed-the-best-argument-against-clean-energy/

          • Nassim7

            Actually, no fewer than 4 German wind turbines crashed in December. Quite unprecedented.

            http://notrickszone.com/2017/01/01/wind-turbines-crashing-down-in-germany-amid-brisk-opposition-and-even-sabotage

            In Ireland, people successfully sued a wind-turbine company for noise-pollution.

            https://stopthesethings.com/2016/12/17/irish-high-court-finds-wind-turbine-maker-liable-for-noise-nuisance-7-irish-families-to-get-millions-in-punitive-damages

            Please tell us how you are proposing to master the wind so that it blows when the electricity is in high-demand?

            No amount of “technology” or “science” is going to make things work the way you wish them to.

          • Calamity_Jean

            “Please tell us how you are proposing to master the wind so that it blows when the electricity is in high-demand?”

            I don’t know what the ultimate solution will be, but a lot of very smart people are working on it.

            “No amount of “technology” or “science” is going to make things work the way you wish them to.”

            So what’s YOUR preference for how to supply electricity?

          • Calamity_Jean

            Still waiting for your answer.

            “No amount of “technology” or “science” is going to make things work the way you wish them to.”

            So what’s YOUR preference for how to supply electricity?

          • Pedro

            Calamity, there is now a very exciting Hybrid inverter on the Australian market that can supply 240Vac power to the load without batteries provided the load is smaller than the PV output. There are obviously limitations as you do not have unlimited power on tap all the time. As a seller of this product we anticipate there will be quite a demand for this in locations where the loads are non critical and people are happy to use power when its available, rather than using fuel for a genset. I also anticipate that battery bank can be sized just to run lights and a few electronic devices at night.

          • Calamity_Jean

            I think I read about that in “Home Power” magazine. Pretty cool.

        • Calamity_Jean

          “There is no such thing as cheap batteries and there never will be in our lifetimes.”

          You might find this and its links to be helpful:
          https://www.lazard.com/perspective/levelized-cost-of-storage-analysis-20/