Two power generation companies in New South Wales, Australia are planning to set up two fossil fuel based power plants of capacity 1000 MW each. The developers do not see the state’s renewable energy potential as large enough to make any significant contribution to supply the growing power demands.
Delta Electricity and Macquarie Generation have claimed that New South Wales does not have the adequate solar or wind energy potential in order to reach the Mandatory Renewable Energy standard of 20% power from renewable sources by 2020, set by the Australian government. Therefore, they have proposed to set up two massive power plants preferably based on ‘clean coal’ technology.
According to the New South Wales government website, the state has tremendous wind energy potential with extensive power grid to support transmission.
NSW has an excellent wind resource. Background wind speeds in NSW are comparable to northern Europe, where a large portion of international wind generation is currently installed.
NSW has an estimated potential for over 3000 MW of wind energy. Currently, 150 MW has been installed or is under construction.
Many of the good sites in NSW are due to the hills and ridges of the Great Dividing Range interacting with the calmer background winds that blow from west to east across the vast NSW inland.
In addition, a large portion of Australia’s ideally suited region for Concentrated Solar Power is located in New South Wales. NASA estimates put solar reading in New South Wales at 6kw/m²/day which is equal to the solar radiation received in Southern California where the Solar Energy Generating Systems is located, the world’s largest solar energy facility.
Thus New South Wales is blessed with wind energy potential equivalent to that found in Northern Europe and solar energy potential equivalent to that found in the deserts of California and Spain.
The wind and solar energy potentials available in the state are supported by the government which provides financial incentives, in the form of feed-in tariffs, to home owners who wish to install solar PV systems.
New South Wales also has some of the largest geothermal reserves in Australia. Several years of studies and drilling in the Hunter Valley have showed that the area has tremendous potential for heat and power solutions.
A series of shallow (300 metre to 920 metre deep) boreholes were drilled over the anomaly and temperature measurements were made in each borehole. A larger 1946 metre deep hole was then drilled in the central region of the anomaly and more than 1km of continuous core samples were taken to identify the rocks present and their physical properties. Temperature logs were also run and these demonstrated that the temperature is at least 900C at the bottom of the borehole. This temperature is much higher than is normally expected in Australia at such depths, which confirms that this area in the Hunter Valley is highly prospective for geothermal energy.
Successful development of the Cooper Basin and Hunter Valley resources would constitute a major source of green energy base-load power for Australia. At an average temperature of 2500C, approximately 180 petajoules of usable heat for electricity production is available per cubic kilometre of rock.
Under the Geothermal Drilling Program the Australian government selects several companies to grant financial incentives for exploration of geothermal resources.
The only renewable energy projects operated by Delta Electricity are two 30 MW co-genration power plants using waste from sugar milling as the primary fuel, while Macquarie Generation is still ‘exploring renewable energy options‘. It is very disappointing that the leading power generation companies in Australia are simply ignoring the renewable energy potential and opt for fossil fuels like coal and gas. The National Electricity Market, wholesale electricity market controlling one of the longest interconnected power systems in the world, gets only 0.6% of the total power from renewable sources with coal contributing more than 80% (Munmorah Power Station – Environmental Assessment Report).
Australia has vast potential when it comes to wind, solar and geothermal energy resources and companies must respond to the incentives and initiatives offered and launched by the government and move to renewable energy instead of continuing with carbon intensive fossil fuel based power plants.
Image Credit: afloresm (Creative Commons|Flickr)
The views presented in the above article are author’s personal views and do not represent those of TERI/TERI University where the author is currently pursuing a Master’s degree.
Mridul Chadha currently works as Head-News & Data at Climate Connect Limited, a market research and analytics firm in the renewable energy and carbon markets domain. He earned his Master’s in Technology degree from The Energy & Resources Institute in Renewable Energy Engineering and Management. He also has a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Engineering. Mridul has a keen interest in renewable energy sector in India and emerging carbon markets like China and Australia.