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Biomass Wind farm in rural Australia

Published on December 31st, 2013 | by Nicholas Brown

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All New Australian Power Plants Will Be Renewable Through 2020



According to the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), all new electricity generation capacity in Australia will be from renewable energy. It will mostly be from wind energy, while 13% of that is expected to be from large-scale solar PV, and 3% from biomass.

After years of hearing very little about Australia’s transition from fossil fuels, there has been Sydney’s plan to go 100% renewable by 2030 and a lot of big news in 2013. But the next several years will be even bigger.

According to an IEEE article about the coming growth of renewables in Australia: ”There are nearly 15 800 megawatts of proposed wind generation projects, according to the AEMO. More than 780 MW of the wind power is expected to come online in 2014-2015.”

Image Credit: IEEE.

This massive progress is partially caused by a nationwide carbon tax, which was instated in 2012. According to the IEEE article: ”By 2020, there could be 3700 MW less coal-fired generation, about 13 percent of the country’s total coal power production.”

Wind farm in rural Australia. Image Credit: kwest via Shutterstock.

A wind farm in rural Australia via Shutterstock.

The dominance of wind generation in this forecast (compared to solar) is largely due to the fact that wind power is cheaper than solar. It is good to see a decent mix of biomass as a part of this. Power plants fueled by biomass can back up solar arrays and wind farms while preventing methane from entering the atmosphere.

Methane is 21 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and biomass power plants usually burn methane, resulting in the emission of the more benign carbon dioxide. This replacement of methane with CO2 has a positive environmental effect.

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About the Author

writes on CleanTechnica, Gas2, Kleef&Co, and Green Building Elements. He has a keen interest in physics-intensive topics such as electricity generation, refrigeration and air conditioning technology, energy storage, and geography. His website is: Kompulsa.com.



  • Stan Hlegeris

    An uplifting story and useful comments so far–thank you.

    But remember that the commonwealth government and the state governments are fighting as hard as they can to extend the use of filthy coal-fired electricity as far into the future as possible.

    It’s nice to think that part of our electricity is coming from cleaner sources, but as long as ANY of it comes from coal we need to behave as if it ALL comes from coal. It remains important to continue reducing demand for grid electricity. Use less electricity; generate your own wherever possible. Let’s bring the end of the coal era a few years closer.

  • Micke

    Biomass plants burning methane? I’ve never heard of that before… where do they do that? And why? I’m used to the methane from biomass being used for vehicles… especially in buses for public transportation.

    • Ronald Brakels

      In Europe they produce a lot of biogas and it contributes to electrical generation. They have it mainly because natural gas is expensive over there and as a hedge against supply disruptions. In Australia, in the short term at least, biogas is only likely to be used on a small scale at feedlots, piggeries, and other places where suitable biomass can conveniently be found and hopefully will reduce the total amount of methane entering the atmosphere as left to its own devices poop will often make methane by itself.

  • Ronald Brakels

    Australia will never build another coal power plant. This is because coal currently can’t compete with wind and solar and both of them will continue to decline in price. Utility scale solar is more expensive than wind but point of use solar, or rooftop solar, is the cheapest source of electricity available to households in Australia. While utility scale solar might now be competitive in places like the Northern Territory it faces the problem that it competes with rooftop solar which is currently pushing down the wholesale price of electricity during the day. Given Australia’s low wholesale electricity prices and high retail prices and how point of use solar saves on transmission infrastructure costs, building utility scale solar is kind of nuts. It’s just way less nuts than building new fossil fuel capacity.

    • bd see

      It’s not nuts as long as you can build it close to a town, for instance those regional cities that get lots of sunshine could each have a nice solar power plant that provides the majority or all of their power.

      • Ronald Brakels

        Perhaps I should have instead said the way we price electricity here is kind of nuts. Our high retail electricity prices mean that rooftop solar outcompetes utility scale solar and so rather than a power company spending money putting solar panels in a field we’d be better off if the power company spent the same money putting the panels on roofs as it would bring a higher return on the money invested. And it would also have the benefit of reducing transmission costs. It would also slightly reduce air conditioner demand by stopping some sunlight before it reaches roofs. We have a lot of roofspace and a lot of sunshine in Australia so it is technically possible for a city here to get all or most of its daytime electricity use from rooftop solar.

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