back to article Wind now cheaper than coal in Oz: Bloomberg

Bloomberg has sparked a brand-new debate about clean energy in Australia, releasing a report that suggests finance for new coal-fired power is going to be scarce because wind energy is now cheaper than constructing new fossil-fuel plants – even without subsidy. The analysis, announced here, says Australia's major banks “are …

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  1. G R Goslin

    Here we go again

    Sigh. Here we go again, comparing taxed oranges with untaxed lemons. And how much does wind power cost when the wind isn't blowing?

    1. Robert Masters

      Re: Here we go again

      On average, 50% of a full-time gas-fired turbine plant of the same capacity.

      You asked...

    2. PyLETS

      Re: Here we go again

      The wind not blowing is always a local issue. Australia is a big continent, mostly connected by grid. You may want to find out a little bit about how weather works in relation to the transfer of energy from tropical to polar regions, and when you do, you'll find there's no shortage of energy in this driver to be harvested, at least somewhere if your grid connected collection region is large enough. Besides which, anywhere with water dams generating power can adjust the hydro output to match regional temporary dips in wind availability.

      1. archaeopteryx

        Re: Here we go again

        that assumes free interconnections (perhaps superconducting to eliminate losses -- designed for peak loads which exist ...what... 10%- 20% of the time?) and free extra turbines; how rich do you feel?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Time is overdue for a separate green grid. All wind and solar pv is connected to it along with all the green consumers. The dirty grid carries fossil, nuclear and hydro generation. The consumer is then given a choice of which grid to use. No subsidies, no cross connection. If the wind doesn't blow, or the sun doesn't shine your lights go out. I'd give the greens a week before they came bleating to be connected to a reliable power source. Fortunately they would be tied into a very very long term contract for green energy :)

    1. Invidious Aardvark

      I think you'll find that nuclear should be on that green grid too, as should hydro. Both are clean; nuclear has waste issues which need addressing and hydro can have environmental issues, but other than that they are pretty much clean and green from the "carbon price" (remember, it's not a tax!) perspective.

      The obvious thing for Australia to do is go nuclear and solar, use hydro where feasible, and tidal if it becomes viable (most major urban areas are fairly close to the coast). We're actually pretty well suited to going "green" for our energy needs, we just need to bite the bullet and build some nuclear plants.

      1. Alan Newbury
        Devil

        While I agree with the thrust of your comment, it must be pointed out that greens in general believe

        1) Nuclear power is much too dangerous and the waste problem will kill us all. Therefore it has no place on a green grid

        2) Hydro requires dams which will (a) flood wilderness areas inhabited by endangered species and (b) regulate the downstream flow, removing the 'natural' flooding and drought, again endangering the ecology.

        So, while it makes sense to use nuclear and hydro, all the while the Australian government is in the pocket of the Watermelon party (green on the outside, red in the middle) it will never happen.

        1. Thought About IT
          Thumb Down

          Watermelons

          @Alan Newbury: " all the while the Australian government is in the pocket of the Watermelon party"

          And all the time you are in thrall to Delingpole, there's no point in trying to debate your straw men.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Watermelons

            It's a much older joke than that.

        2. dwieske

          Policy based on beliefs is shit (sharia etc)...how about we look at it scientifically.....when looking at the reality of the situation there is no denying nuclear is the SAFEST form of energy, and the waste problem got solved decades ago, yet the anti-nuke jihadi still propagate the lie that it hasn't...

      2. Serge 2

        Everyone should go nuclear unless there are plenty of hydro resources or maybe, just maybe solar.

        Nuclear to energy industry is what air travel in the transport industry. Safest yet people are have unjustified fears...

        One day intelligence will win... I hope...

        1. dwieske

          people will never get it....coal costs 100000+ lives each year, and most of the very very vocal but very poorly informed public still thinks that it's nuclear that kills......doing an honest evaluation (deaths per produced quantity of power eg. per TWH) nuclear is the safest form of electricity BY FAR, this is perfectly illustrated in many countries eg. belgium where 4 decades of nuclear has not made a single victim, while coal/oil/biomass kills several each year, and the placing of PV has already cost 3 lives in the past 5 years...

          if you are ideologically blind like most so called environmental organisations/parties then dead people only count if their death is caused by something you object too.....this completely disrespect for the fact that EACH human life counts by greenpeace and other scum is scandalous....

          1. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
            Childcatcher

            Quand en Belique/Wanneer in België

            ...[B]elgium where 4 decades of nuclear has not made a single victim...

            dwieske, if memory (and a quick internet search) serve, the 1958 Worlds Fair Expo was powered by BR3, Belgium's third nuclear reactor. Add a few more years to your tally.

            Every form of power production has risks. Every one has associated costs and benefits. Yes, there are some very direct measures that can be applied, but the validity of these are often disputed by people who have differing agendas, opinions, fears, and perceptions. These can all have real world consequences.

            For example, if a nuclear power plant goes in near me and property values drop due to entire neighborhoods leaving because the general population has an irrational fear of nuclear power, and crime rates soar in the area because of the change in population, it is not the "hard facts" about the technology that matter to me. Rather, it is the perception that has produced a very real result.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            100000+ ? Citation, please. And one that doesn't come from activists is preferable.

            1. dwieske

              http://nextbigfuture.com/2011/03/deaths-per-twh-by-energy-source.html

              Data from the W.H.O. was used

              but how about you stop being lazy and start doing your own research? any time you voice you uniformed oppinion, or criticise some else's informed oppinion could be used to increase your knowledge...

              Anyone with a high school education understands why coal is deadly and is smart enough to realise amount of victims is huge, as coal is widely deployed...

              One of the issues that pisses me off most is the fact that people who don't even have an elementary school level of scientific knowledge never let this stop them from voicing their "oppinion" which is usually just a regurgitation of some moronic group like greenpeace

      3. Lord Voldemortgage

        @Invidious Aardvark

        "The obvious thing for Australia to do is go nuclear ... we just need to bite the bullet and build some nuclear plants."

        Would it be correct to say Oz is also best placed to deal with nuclear waste disposal issues which would make it an even more attractive solution? - lots of mines a long way from populated areas (many of which the uranium was hauled out of in the first place).

        With enough cheap energy around desalination becomes less of a drag too.

        Until someone works out an economic way of burning cane toads and poisonous spiders, nuclear looks like a good fit down under.

        1. dwieske

          Re: @Invidious Aardvark

          there are no nuclear waste dispocal issues as nuclear waste from GEN I and II plants is fuel for GEN III/IV, the stuff that comes out of GEN IV needs to be stored for appr. a century before it's safe......the toxins from eg. making PV cells however do stay toxic forever....

      4. dwieske

        There is no "nuclear waste problem" it was solved in the 70's!!!!!!!

        there is no nuclear waste issue, providig we finally start building new plants....A lot of the new design RUN on waste (eg. the GE PRISM, the Myrrha reactor being built in belgium).....people lobbying AGAINST new plants being built are actually lobbying to be stuck with nuclear waste forever (like greenpeace and other scummy orgs)

      5. Alan Brown Silver badge

        hydro and "clean"

        While I''m a fan of hydro, it has a number of downsides.

        1: forcing populations to move/innundation

        2: It's a substantial methane generator

        there are a bunch of others but I think the upsides outweigh 'em.

    2. Terry Barnes
      WTF?

      Crikey, if only someone could find a way of storing energy. Maybe via a hydro-electric solution or maybe even something future scientists might invent called "batteries".

      Just think, you could even make computers or telephones portable if it were feasible to store energy and use it even when not connected to a generation source.

      1. dwieske

        you think you sound smart, but you miserably fail to consider the scale of using storage for mass energy production.....unless you have no issue running depopulation programs to create room for storage...

    3. Charles Manning

      No need for a separate physical grid

      This could be achieved with smart meters etc . The green gridders get monitored and when they draw more power than the green generators are pumping out, they start to brown out.

    4. Mme.Mynkoff
      Happy

      "The consumer is then given a choice of which grid to use. No subsidies, no cross connection."

      A good idea.

      Currently 18 Reg readers have downvoted your post and think giving consumers a choice that reflects true cost and reliability is a BAD THING.

      I wonder why?

  3. Tom Reg

    Bloomberg "new energy financing" Press Release

    A press release full of lies, but perhaps the largest is comparing the cost of on - demand power with intermittent, low quality, power, as if the two had some what equal values in the market place.

    The market value for wind power is about 1/4 that of on demand power, experience has shown.

    Wind power scales as wind speed to the power 2.5, which means that its either at full blast or almost nothing. Then when it gets really windy, the backup power has to be hot and ready, incase the wind turbines switch off into self protection mode.

    1. Mark 65 Silver badge

      Re: Bloomberg "new energy financing" Press Release

      Oooo, another sane comment with a downvote. Appears the windtards are out in force today.

      1. Marketing Hack Silver badge
        Meh

        Re: Bloomberg "new energy financing" Press Release

        Yes, I agree that this press release would be more credible without the big, fat "New Energy Financing" banner it appears under.

        May be true, may be a bunch of hooey. It would be great if wind power was reliable except for occasional maintenance or breakdown outages, but it isn't.

  4. Troy Shanahan
    Thumb Up

    Well...

    I live in a tiny rural town on the tip of the Fleurieu peninsula in South Australia, and wind turbines have been a constant companion for us. Since their installation, power outages in Cape Jervis have halved in frequency and duration.

    The problem for the turbines here is never lack of wind, it's that there's occasionally too much, as the turbines are locked down when the wind approaches gale force.

    Everyone bitches and moans about wind power, but which would you RATHER have? An ancient soot-belching coal plant, or an elegant looking wind farm? Sure, much of the grid's power is still from non-renewable power, but supplementing that with renewable sources can only help.

    Personally I'd rather see Australia using nuclear power, we're sitting on a good amount of fissionable uranium after all....

    1. Rattus Rattus

      Re: Well...

      You're joking, surely? Use our uranium ourselves? When we could dig it up and sell it overseas? We have never done the sensible thing with any of our natural resources (ie, refine and use them ourselves, and maybe sell on the value-added products) when we could just dig them up and sell the raw ores for a pittance to overseas buyers.

    2. Steven Roper
      WTF?

      ELEGANT looking wind farm?!?

      Huge, noisy, towering, monstrous eyesores, stretching to the horizon, that blight the landscape for miles around, is your idea of elegant? Mate, I want some of whatever you're smoking! Anything that makes those vile things look good has got to be some awesome weed...

      I'd prefer solar farms myself. Round here (Adelaide guy BTW, so right next door to you in terms of Reg demographics ;) ) the sun shines a lot more than the wind blows, plus a solar farm doesn't tower into the sky, visible from miles away, the way a wind farm does. And a solar farm doesn't need to be shut down if the sun shines too brightly either. Nor would it take up as much space to produce the same amount of power, and consider that wind power is basically converted solar energy in the first place.

    3. PlacidCasual

      @ Troy Shanahan

      You may be conflating two issues when discussing the installation of your local wind turbines.

      You may be getting less power outages in your area because they have strengthened the regional/local power grid to accomodate the new wind power generators. This probably has the side benefit of improving the stability of the domestic supply in your area.

      I can make no comment about the reliability of wind power in South Australia but in the UK a wildlife organisation did some research showing it wasn't that useful when you actually needed it.

      http://www.jmt.org/news.asp?s=2&nid=JMT-N10561

      I'm all for nuclear though it has many of the attributes we require in our opower generation and could easily help the transition away from fossil fuels as their availability dwindles in the future.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: @ Troy Shanahan

        Nuclear is a lot more useful when you do something with the 2/3 heat that isn't converted into electricity other than venting it.

        Greenhouses, steel plants, etc etc. A lot of places can do with high and low grade heat (including driving cooling systems, look up solarfrost.com )

        Gotta get away from the old magnavox boiling water systems though. They were designed for submarines, not for long-term 5-9's reliability on an industrial scale.

    4. dwieske

      Re: Well...

      I would prefer a pollution free gen IV plant like a GE prism, running on nuclear waste or retired warheads...wind power does not solve the issue of medical isotopes or the problem of our current stockpile of waste and warheads....GEN IV's do, and they are FAR less lethal and far more environmentally friendly than wind (than anything actually)

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Give me modern fossil or nuclear generation at 10% of the true cost of wind leaving the rest of the country with clear and uninterrupted vistas.

    Wind energy and its proponents are one of the biggest threats to life in a western democracy. I'd. rank it level with terrorism.

    1. Martin Budden

      As far as threats to life go in Australia, I would also rank wind power level with terrorism: extremely low risk.

    2. Terry Barnes

      Are you sure you've factored in the cost of storing nuclear waste safely so that we don't kill people as far away in the future as we are to the people in the bible? I think that makes wind cheaper than nuclear.

      1. dwieske

        why even post this kind of nonsense

        why store nuclear waste when you can use it to generate power from it in new plants... oppinions based on ignorance are pretty useless...how about you catch up on stuff....like the fact that the nuclear waste issue was solved decades ago....

  6. Robert Masters
    Boffin

    Nuclear has other problems...

    One the things often overlooked in the "what is the best power source for Australia?" debate is the matter of distance.

    Whilst our major cities are the principal sinks for power generation, we also have a large number of high-drain regional sites, many of them beyond the reach of conventional transmission techniques. This has spawned a large number of regional power generation plants. The combined output of these smaller and less efficient plants at least equal the combined output of the major cities, due to the presence of high-drain industries in many of these regional centres.

    It would not be economically feasible to build nuclear plants for each of these sites (conventional ones, anyway - get back to me when the replaceable single-core units start working), so what to do?

    To give the example of Esperance, they have a four gas turbine plant, supplemented by unsubsidised wind-farms capable of providing up to 50% of the output of the gas-fired plant. This means that at any one time, there are two turbines running, one of hot standby (heated and spun by exhaust gasses from the other two), and a third in cold standby.

    This has cut power costs in the town by over 50%, through a combination of reduced fuel costs and reduced maintenance costs. And reduced their fossil fuel use, not only for the power for for the shipping of the fuel to the town to make the power.

    Similar stories exist throughout that region, and continue north of Perth up into the mining regions.

    But.

    It is not for everyone. W.A. has abundant and relatively predictable winds. But when considering Australia as a whole, the correct solution is a diversified power generation plan. Should nuclear be a part of that? Maybe, if we can build the right sort of plant. But don't forget that nuclear plants have a lifetime, just like wind-farms and coal plants, and they can (if built wrong) fail catastrophically.

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Nuclear has other problems...

      It seems none of the UK developers think its worth investing in - even at these fantastically low interest rates we have at the moment. I'm not sure why foreign investors seem to think its a goodish bet - perhaps there’s some off-shore finance shenanigans or the hope that the government here will pay through the nose in the end for there promise of cheap power.

      Nuclear is always the cheap option until you ask those who are to profit to pay for it, then they walk away muttering.

      1. Why Not?

        Re: Nuclear has other problems...

        They aren't actually interested because they are currently being subsidised to build wind farms.

        Even if it isn't cost effective its free capacity for them and great advertising.

        Wind farms may be a wise addition to the power mix but currently I suspect they are more about subsidies.

        I expect that in a few years when the government matches subsidies to sensible generation targets the construction of expensive coal stations will commence.

  7. Rattus Rattus

    Bloomberg predicts widespread PV?

    Why? Australia is a great place for solar-based power generation, certainly, but why relatively inefficient photovoltaics? We already have a couple of experimental solar thermal plants which are working extremely well, we should be building commercial scale versions of those. They will output more power per watt of insolation, and are cheaper in the first place.

  8. Paul J Turner

    I have a proof of concept solution

    Let the Wind Power people build a small wind-farm at tax-payer cost, then cut them loose to run their own iron and aluminium etc smelters to build more windmills to prove their viability.

    We can buy their spare power to finance then and when they can cover Australia's power needs we'll change over.

    That should keep them quiet for a century or two.

    1. Tim Parker

      Re: I have a proof of concept solution

      "That should keep them quiet for a century or two."

      Wow - is it really getting to you that wind might actually be a viable part of the solution to some people in certain circumstances ? If it works for them, that's good isn't it ? It doesn't have to be a universal answer to power generation of all types to have benefits - neither should it be hyped as such by it's more vocal, and often blinkered, proponents... but that doesn't make it any less useful where appropriate to use.

  9. asdf Silver badge

    amazing

    Someone should get a bunch of screen scrapes of El Reg climate article forum posts so they can post them in a decade or two and laugh at one side or the other. I have a feeling the fossil fuel nut huggers might come off looking like George Wallace does today on race relations looking back. Don't get me wrong of course a lot of the green energy is not cost effective if you look solely at generation costs but the costs of fossil fuel are going to start hitting hard very soon and if your head is buried in the sand that only means you will drown in the floods or storm surge sooner. I am well aware we need to be very careful cost wise because its poor people that get screwed by expensive energy but it seems like half the people on here want us to burn the dirtiest coal possible just to show the greenies.

    1. asdf Silver badge

      Re: amazing

      Actually I take that back. Only one side would be able to laugh. If the other side is right nobody is going to be laughing except in very pyrrhic sort of way.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A known fact.

    It is known that Aussies are full of wind, so it must be cheaper !

  11. Nick Galloway
    Thumb Down

    Other impacts !?

    Wind power can never address base load supply as the wind doesn't blow everywhere and all the time. Wind power also has a dark side in the generation of low frequency sound waves. These have caused the degradation of arable land due to worm populations in the soil diminishing/migrating and has had siginifcant health impacts on farmers, not to mention bird strike issues. If alternate sources of power are to be used then nuclear (including both Uranium and Thorium generation) coal seam gas and geothermal sources need to be prioritised above and beyond this fashionable infatuation with windmills.

    I seem to recall a study that pointed out a wind turbine power source will never create enough green energy to offset the carbon emissions required for its production. Geothermal would win on that count.

    1. Robert Masters
      Flame

      Re: Other impacts !?

      OK, now I'm angry.

      The ELF sound issue was proven false. The health impacts on farmers were proven to be psychosomantic. The birdstrike issue was likewise proven so limited as to be negligible compared to city buildings. The carbon payback finding applied to micro-generators on suburban roofs.

      The only thing you've got at all right is base load issue, and you will see (above) that there are already ways to deal with it.

      1. It wasnt me

        Re: Other impacts !?

        You are also right. There are other ways to deal with the base load issue. Every single one of which involves having enough conventional plant to ciover the entire load when the wind isn't blowing. Thus rendering wind power a massively expensive vanity project.

        I personally agree with the other commenters. If wind is really a solution then put it on the market and let the market decide. Dont bloody subsidise it with a levy on my energy bill. Ive go nothing against wind turbines, I think they look pretty and often enhance a landscape or least add interest. But thats all theyre good for. Fucking expensive sculptures, which apparently arent to everyones taste.

        1. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: Other impacts !?

          "Fucking expensive sculptures, which apparently aren’t to everyone's taste." That would be why all nuclear is as far away from where the power is needed so the line loss is a large as possible I guess - fashion sense.

      2. GitMeMyShootinIrons

        Re: Other impacts !?

        Bird strikes are negligible? I suppose it depends on your perspective. Check this out http://www.spectator.co.uk/features/8807761/wind-farms-vs-wildlife/

        1. Robert Masters
          Thumb Down

          Re: Other impacts !?

          Bird strikes are negligible compared to most city buildings. It was a relative statement, not absolute.

          (mutters about out-of-context quotes, slaps head as remembers that this is the Internet, which lives on them)

    2. Thought About IT
      Thumb Down

      Re: Other impacts !?

      Nick Galloway, you say "Wind power also has a dark side in the generation of low frequency sound waves. These have caused the degradation of arable land due to worm populations in the soil diminishing/migrating" and "I seem to recall a study that pointed out a wind turbine power source will never create enough green energy to offset the carbon emissions required for its production.".

      Where's your proof? Put up, or shut up!

  12. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    A few notes on green energy in Australia

    So in some place (where the wind is constant ) wind turbines have reduced outage and improved supply but for others, where sunlight is more constant some kind of solar would be better.

    But both need some kind of backup to cover when they are not working (and because power storage is very difficult).

    Who'd have thunk it?

    As for selling off natural resources instead of processing them in country mining companies mine stuff. They don't really do manufacturing. Besides if you set up local processing in Aus, that might get the locals in other countries becoming uppity and needing a coup to restore "order," which is expensive.

    And of course the ultimate expression of that would be nuclear power from locally mined uranium. Potentially a complete energy infrastructure capable of running for centuries. And not forgetting the Austrian bomb (Australia would then be like Japan, capable of becoming a nuclear power, but choosing not to).

    I'll note Australia has a huge coastline and could build a lot of tidal/wave capacity out of all proportion to it's own needs for sale to its neighbours (which is how neighbours become good friends :-) )

    Just a thought.

  13. dwieske

    This is plain wrong as it’s obvious they did not take into account the increased network cost, NOR the required storage/backup for wind (backup would be fossil). Also this kind of data tends to be manipulated as well by “playing” with the cost factors of coal….it’s a big difference if you take the cost of plain coal vs coal +css vs coal +css + carbon certs…

    Also just looking at eg. The Danish situation, it’s blatantly obvious wind does not even come close to coal…. Nuclear does however and it’s still the “greenest” tech we have in the long run (meaning lowest amount of carbon + fine dust pollution) also there is no WASTE PROBLEM, not since the waste issue was solved in the 70's ....that doesn't stop greens extremists from lobbying to stop the implementation of the solutions...while simultanously continue to harp on the non-existant "waste problem"

    You guys aren’t stupid, take your fact checking a bit more serious please…

  14. Cherry321

    Utility Engineer Perspective

    Before I add my comments I will share my background. I work for a large electric utility in the USA. My utility owns nuclear, coal, gas, hydro, and wind generation facilities. We even dabble a little in solar. I have worked here 19 years, have an electrical engineering BS, and my current position is project manager. Most of my projects involve transmission substation construction projects. I have managed three projects in the last 4 years to tie wind generation facilities into our transmission system.

    On our system the cost of generation is ranked (from low to high) as follows: Hydro, coal, nuclear, gas, wind. This includes the current subsidies wind receives. In fairness our coal and nuclear facilities have been on-line for many years and benefit from the lower construction costs when built. I will point out one glaring omission from the Bloomberg report. The expected life of a wind facility versus a coal/gas/nuclear facility is less than half. Wind facilites on our system are designed for a 20 year life. Other base load generation is designed for 40-50 year life (and can usually be extended beyond that). So you need to take into account that you will have to replace that wind farm 1-2 times over the same life of another plant. This may double the comparable lifetime costs of the wind facility.

    Other negatives to wind turbines is the high maintenance costs. It is very difficult to work 300 feet in the air. You can't work on them when the wind is blowing. It is very difficult to get the required cranes on site for the maintenance. In short, when a turbine fails it can take many months before you can get it back in service.

    Now I will try to explain some of the operational issues that arise with large amounts of wind generation. All transmission systems must balance generation (from all sources) with the load on the system within a fairly tight tolarence. When a plant trips off or wind stops blowing there is a very short window when that generation must be replaced or load must be dropped (i.e. power outages). While it is relatively rare for wind to stop blowing in large areas at once, it has happened in Texas which caused widespread power outages. The wind lobby does not like this information widely publisized (nor does Texas). The only way a utility can manage the ever changing wind generation and load demand changes is by using coal or gas facilities to load follow. It is impossible to load follow with wind. You can drop wind generation but that is it.

    The above information just scrapes the surface of all the issues a utility faces balancing the different generation types. While it may seem I am anti-wind, that is not the case. It has a place in any transmission system. I just get tired of the lazy media who don't report all the facts and the pro-wind crowd who mislead the ill-informed public on purpose. One thing that is not in doubt is that wind genaration CAN NOT 100% replace all other generation on a transmission system. Maybe someday if an economical way to store power is developed but not now. Unless of course you all agree to sit in the dark when the wind isn't blowing....

    1. Robert Masters
      Thumb Up

      Re: Utility Engineer Perspective

      You cover off a good amount of this - but I will (again) point out that it is horses for courses. In some regions, wind makes sense (particularly where there is extensive consistent wind and high fuel transport costs). In others it does not (where you have short transmission runs and/or low basic wind levels and/or low fuel transport costs).

      Also, the maintenance issue depends on the tower/nacelle design. The ones here in Oz are designed to be non-crane serviced, with ground-level access to the nacelle via a staircase inside the tower, and a hoist hatch within the nacelle for replacement equipment. The only thing that requires a crane or an extended outage is blade replacement.

    2. ian 22

      Re: Utility Engineer Perspective

      Excellent post.

      As a engineer, what do you think of either PV or solar thermal? Also, what is your opinion of using solar across multiple time zones to expand the hours of solar-supplied energy (I.E. west coast power supplied to the east coast for hours after sunset on the east coast)? Such schemes would work in both Australia and the USA.

      1. Robert Masters
        Unhappy

        Re: Utility Engineer Perspective

        Alas, cross-TZ solar just is not going to cut it in OZ. The transmission losses would make it hideously expensive. Heck, we don't even have a fully integrated grid on the West Coast! No so sure about the barbarian East, but I think they have it integrated in the southern half, due to higher settlement density.

  15. archaeopteryx

    this is a bogus argument. Even if it were FREE, wind and coal are not comparable. Wind is variable and intermittent and neither wind nor wind power can be stored. Non-dispatchable. OK if you can live with you TV running only when it blows. Coal is not free. But coal can be stored and burned on demand within the limits of coal's relative inability to follow large load variations. But it is there all the time, as base load power. The two cannot be compared because wind can neither coexist with coal (it NEEDS gas) nor can wind really substitute coal. So, yes, wind may be cheaper, but it is like saying ONE hiking boot is cheaper than a Land Rover. The single boot may be free, but it won't get you far.

    1. Robert Masters
      WTF?

      I get the gist of your argument ... but wind and coal can co-exist, just not very well. On the other hand, wind and gas co-exist very nicely indeed. Wind, PV, and tidal/wave systems also co-exist and make for a very sweet combination - but still do not complete the picture. To complete it you need to add one or more of fossil fuel, geothermal, nuclear, and/or hydroelectric. A broad mixed-mode supply provides the lowest carbon footprint, and the greatest flexibility.

      As for the argument that wind-power cannot be stored, it depends. "What?" I hear you ask. Wind power, or more specifically, the potential energy of wind power can be stored, and quite economically - if you have the right geographical conditions.

      Here in West Oz, we do not, as a rule, have those conditions, but in Tasmania and in the Snowy Mountains we do.

      How? You take your excess wind generation capacity, and use it to pump water back up into catchment areas to power hydro systems. The Swiss and Japanese have been doing this for some years.

  16. Ben M

    "Let the market decide"? Really? Tut tut, Mr Chirgwin

    I thought free-marketers were also climate change "deniers". Weren't you the one who passed on those very "scientific findings" without a shadow of disblief, doubt or outright incredulity?

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/09/07/recursive_denail_fury/

    The ink has barely dried on your report, but now you're all for using free markets to decide between renewables and fossil fuels. How quickly you forget.

    You do realise that your (new?) support of free markets is a predictor that you hold other anti-science attitudes. I wonder which ones though? If I had to guess, I'd say you'd deny the link between HIV and Aids. Yes? If that's wrong, then you'd deny that smoking causes lung cancer. Which is it? You can be honest and tell us.

    From the abstract of the Lewandowsky paper you reported on so gloatingly in September 2012:

    "... we find that endorsement of a laissez-faire conception of free-market economics predicts rejection of climate science (r @ .80 between latent constructs). Endorsement of the free market also predicted the rejection of other established scientific findings, such as the facts that HIV causes AIDS and that smoking causes lung cancer."

    Oh - and by the way - where is that paper? Psychological Science hasn't published it.

    Perhaps now you'll admit the paper was rubbish to begin with, should never have been submitted for publication, should never have been sent out for peer review (no evidence that it passed - thank god), and never ever ever should've been reported on El Reg by anyone except the "You just can't make this stuff up" desk.

  17. General Pance

    Mightn't hurt Bloomberg to double check these figures.

  18. AisForApple

    I work at one of the 4 coal fired plants (as a contractor) that was talked about for the contract for closure payment, they currently produce power at $40/MWh

    Not only is wind not a viable solution for base load power, but the figures in this are plain rubbish, the 'cheaper' power is 2x what the 'expensive' power is _CURRENTLY_ being produced for. Not pie in the sky 'might be' numbers.

    This is typical of debate on this topic.

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