Mixed Greens: Sod turned at Snowtown II wind farm

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Construction begins at South Australia’s biggest wind farm. Plus: Australia under pressure on Kyoto; Iberdrola slows up on wind; and carbon neutral Aussie pigs.

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Construction of South Australia’s largest wind farm kicked off today with the turning of the sod at the site for Snowtown Stage 11 – a 90-turbine expansion of the existing Snowtown wind farm which, once completed by the end of 2014, will add another 270MW of wind-generated electricity for the state. New Zealand-listed TrustPower, owner of both Snowtown I and II, said the larger wind farm would be capable of generating more than 10 per cent of SA’s annual electricity supply – and of powering about 180,000 South Australian homes. About 200 people will be employed during the wind farm’s construction and operational phases.

Snowtown II is also notable for its use of cutting edge gearless drive turbines from German engineering giant Siemens – marking the first time these particular turbines have been used in Australia. Siemens Energy head David Pryke said in August that the lack of a gearbox reduced moving parts in the turbine by almost 50 per cent, thus reducing maintenance costs. “We will also include highly efficient 108 m rotor blades allowing us to maximise the amount of wind captured, enabling more electricity production,” Pryke said.

TrustPower CEO Vince Hawksworth has also ventured to point out that the Siemens turbines could be quieter than older ones. “To be fair, all of the ones we’ve installed we’ve been very careful about the noise issue, because we know it’s a big thing for the community,” he said in an ABC News interview today. “But these wind turbines will be quiet and will certainly be well within all of the noise requirements that our development application requires us to achieve.”

In other news…

UN climate chief Christina Figueres has called on Australia to sign up to a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, arguing the country already has significant clean energy policies in place. “From a national perspective it wouldn’t change that much what Australia is already doing,” the UNFCCC head was quoted as saying in the SMH. “It would send a very clear message internationally that what Australia is doing …is actually contributing to global interests.”

EU greenhouse gas emissions fell 2.5 per cent last year, despite recording overall economic growth of 1.5 per cent, according to the latest figures from the European Environment Agency (EEA). The drop is being attributed to the combination of a relatively warm winter and sluggish economy, as well as investments and policies designed to curb overall emissions.

Spanish multinational electric utility Iberdrola has announced plans to slow down its investments in renewable energy as it seeks to shore-up its balance sheet, and focus on growth in its UK and Latin American markets. RECharge News reports comments from Iberdrola chairman Ignacio Galán that all the group’s onshore wind assets in newly-designated “non-core” countries could be sold as part of a major divestment program.

The World Bank has called for an end to gas flaring, with new figures showing that such flares – a by-product of oil drilling – in 20 of the world’s leading oil-producing countries contributes as much to climate change as a major economy like Italy. Although flaring has been cut by 30% since 2005, $50 billion-worth of gas is still wasted annually, the World Bank said on Wednesday.

Australia’s first carbon farming piggery has been registered and will be launched today at Blantyre Farms in Young, NSW. The farm’s 22,000 pigs are reportedly generating “more than enough” clean energy to power the entire property and the farm’s owners say they no longer pay a cent for electricity.

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