Google+ Followers

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Under the sun: Australia's largest solar farm set to sprout in a Queensland field

Under the sun: Australia's largest solar farm set to sprout in a Queensland field

Under the sun: Australia's largest solar farm set to sprout in a Queensland field

A sea of glass panels may soon be sprawling across a paddock in
Queensland’s Darling Downs cranking out two gigawatts of energy – 100
times more than the largest solar farm in Australia today – and a former
top flight barrister is the unusual shining light behind its

A 20 mw solar farm constructed on land in California’s central valley – the array is built on former agricultural land made unusable by rising salinity.

A 20MW solar farm constructed on land in California’s central valley –
the Bulli Creek solar farm would be 100 times as large as this
installation. Photograph: Proehl Studios/Corbis

As a barrister acting in some Australia’s biggest defamation cases,
Angus Gemmell encountered power in various forms: political, military,

He killed off rumours bedevilling rising political stars in Canberra.
He acted for defence intelligence chief Frank Lewincamp against the
Bulletin over stories on Indonesia and the East Timor crisis, in a case
where generals Peter Cosgrove and Angus Houston gave evidence. He won
the largest damages ever awarded by a judge, $385,000, for rugby league
player Mark McGaw over false Today Tonight stories of domestic violence.

bulli creek

A map of the proposed Bulli Creek solar farm.

But after seven years as a barrister, Gemmell decided to leave the
intellectual challenges of “other people’s problems” behind, hang up his
wig and gown, and devote himself to power in a purer form.

Gemmell set up Solar Choice
– a solar project broker and consumer comparison service – while still
in his legal chambers and he is now the proponent of what stands to
become the largest solar farm in the country, perhaps the world.

Angus Gemmell

Angus Gemmell
Photograph: Supplied

A sea of glass panels, to be located at Bulli Creek on Queensland’s
Darling Downs, could be capable of cranking out two gigawatts of power
within eight years. That is equivalent to one fifth of the current total
renewable energy target for the entire country in a single power
station. It is also more power than any coal fired station in Queensland can currently muster.

“Excellent sunlight hours” are just one reason why Bulli Creek is ideal for a large-scale solar farm, Gemmell says.

It is also grazing land – meaning no prime cropping land need be sacrificed – and is flat, treeless and has no neighbours.

Crucially, Bulli Creek is close to a major transmission node in the
national electricity grid, a 330 kilovolt substation, perfectly located
to send power around the country.

“There’s a surprisingly small number of sites (in Australia) that have everything all aligning at once,” Gemmell says.

Factors seem to be likewise aligning in solar power’s favour more
broadly, although a few things still need to fall into place for the
likes of Gemmell.

Investment banks are leaning away from coal fired stations towards
large scale renewables, he says, while the electric car market is
driving rapid innovations in battery storage that are an automatic
fillip to the solar energy industry.

Those advances are essential in helping the solar industry “nullify
the argument principally raised against renewables as being
intermittent, and deliver smooth power throughout the day and night,”
Gemmell says.

Battery storage is what Bulli Creek will also need to reach full
capacity and most effectively integrate with the nearby substation.

The FRV Royalla solar farm near Canberra is currently Australia’s largest at 20mW. The farm is expected to generate an average 37,000 MWh of renewable energy each year for the next 20 years and will meet the needs of 4,500 Canberra households.


The FRV Royalla solar farm near
Canberra is currently Australia’s largest at 20MW. This farm is expected
to generate an average 37,000 MWh of renewable energy each year and
will meet the needs of 4,500 Canberra households.

Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP

A report this week by a German think tank Agora Energiewende predicted solar would be the cheapest form of energy in a decade.

Gemmell, citing deals for 260MW projects in Dubai and power purchase
agreements at US 5.84c a kilowatt hour, agrees. “It’s now foreseeable
that solar will in the next decade be able to outcompete a very old,
fully depreciated coal-fired generator that chugs along at 3 or 4 cents a

“Obviously once a project’s been constructed, the cost of fuel is
free, it’s sunlight, and Australia is wonderfully geared to some
visionary projects to harness those benefits of cheaper, bountiful,
reliable sources of power,” Gemmell says.

“We’ve got abundant space, modern infrastructure across the longest
continuous grid on the planet, from Cape York to Tassie, and amongst all
that space is plenty of sunshine.”

Big energy players like AGL, who are still buying coal-fired power
stations, are nevertheless also moving into solar farms and other
renewables, which Gemmell says will inevitably quicken.

“I think eventually they’ll realise you can’t hold back the forces of
economics forever and, even though we’re perhaps more so than any other
country on the planet heavily wedded to coal, the economics of large
scale solar is on the right side of history,” he says.

“It’s not a matter of if these projects will be built but when.”

In large-scale solar’s infancy, however, market signals from government matter, even more so in their absence.

Bulli Creek solar farm

A computer generated image of the proposed solar farm.

Investors have reviewed the Bulli Creek project but Gemmell says the
commitment to bring in “the big funds” still awaits clarity from the
Abbott government on the status of Australia’s renewable energy target
(RET), which has been under review for a year.

The RET is also a key driver of what kind of power purchase agreement
Bulli Creek can secure from a big Queensland electricity retailer like
Energex or Origin.

“Hopefully we won’t be the first country in the world to diminish our
renewable energy target. Most countries are increasing theirs,” Gemmell

“We would prefer as an industry no deal rather than a bad deal.

“But if there’s a reasonable compromise at least we know where the
goalposts are to kick the ball. At the moment we’ve got the ball ready
on the mark to kick it, we’ve just been waiting for some time now to
know where the goal posts are going to be.”

In the meantime, Solar Choice will spend the next six to nine months
working with the wholesale network owner Powerlink on the right way to
connect the solar farm to the grid.

After that, the contract with the energy retailer is the final milestone before construction, due to begin next year.

The solar farm gained formal planning approval from Toowoomba
regional council last month in what Gemmell said was “a wonderful
tangible milestone for the project”.

Asked if the urgency of responding to climate change meant that, as one commentator has suggested, someone has to get rich, Gemmell responds: “No one’s suggesting that we need to take a communist approach to this.”

“It’s a free market and those who are able to be the first to
innovate and embrace the change and to move with it should do well and
they shouldn’t be punished for doing so,” he says.

“Obviously there’s a great amount of opportunity out there but it
does take a fair bit of boldness as well to be able to participate in
this paradigm shift.”

Sunday, 22 February 2015

SA nuclear royal commission a farce

SA nuclear royal commission a farce

512 18

image courtesy Nuclear News Australia

The South Australian government’s royal commission into our nuclear future is a farce, and a dangerous farce, warns Noel Wauchope.

FIRST OF ALL, it is not the province of one State to determine by a
State royal commission that a nuclear industry should be introduced in
Australia. That is a protected issue as a 'A Matter of National Environmental Significance' under the National Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

Secondly, this royal commission
would be a mammoth waste of money for South Australia, The cost would
run into hundreds of $millions. The Royal Commission into Institutional
Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was allocated over $434 million in
2013 for its first four years of operation. Given that nuclear issues
are the province of national law, not South Australian, this is a
totally unnecessary expense.

Thirdly, the 'public involvement' in
the terms of reference for this royal commission is a farce in itself.
Just look at how this was dealt with by the South Australian government:

8 February: 

The announcement was made. Despite the fact that this whole
initiative is clearly of national importance, it has received minimal
publicity outside Adelaide. The Adelaide Advertiser ran a poll. The Adelaide Advertiser is pretty
much regarded as the nuclear lobby's free propaganda vehicle. No
surprise if their readership turns up the required positive result.

9 February: 

Consultations began on the Terms of Reference for the royal
commission. Premier Jay Weatherill touted nuclear power for climate
change action, though he said it was not economically viable. The better
options, he said, were importing and storing radioactive waste, and
uranium enrichment.

Pro-nuclear former governor, Kevin Scarce, was appointed as “independent” head of the inquiry. No mention of what scientists, etc. might be on the panel.

Premier Weatherill’s pro-nuclear conversion sides him with Liberals,
and against Labor’s national platform. National Labor leader, Bill
shorten, opposes the royal commission proposal. But South Australian Labor Senators are defying Labor policy. Former Labor Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, enthusiastically supports importing nuclear waste into Australia.

16 February:

(closing day for comments on the Terms of Reference for the royal commission) 

There is no need for a royal commission into the nuclear industry for
Australia. Nuclear proponent, Ziggy Switkowski, concluded in the 2006 Switkowski Report that the industry is not economically viable here. Nuclear reactors often far exceed their construction budgets. The last nuclear power plant built in Canada cost AUD$15.1 billion.

Mr. Switkowski predicted the capital cost at $4-6 billion for our first 1000MWe reactor.

However, we already know that, despite some pious statements by Jay
Weatherill about nuclear power’s ability to reduce greenhouse gas
emissions, action on climate change is not the motivator for this new

According to a report by The Australian on 10 February 2015:

‘He [Premier Jay Weatherill] said he was open to the
prospect of remote parts of the state hosting a nuclear waste deposit
but played down the prospect of a power plant being built.

"I think that's the least likely outcome of the royal commission," he told ABC radio on Monday.

"I think what's most likely is that it will be regarded as not viable for either the state or the nation." '

In the same interview on ABC's The World Today, Weatherill's enthusiasm for storing the world's nuclear waste is clear: 

"The threat of climate change, the fact that we're already in the
nuclear industry but we don't get full benefits from it because we just
send ore overseas in an unprocessed form and we don't accept the
by-products, the waste associated with the ore that we send away.

So all of those things represent opportunities.”

big emphasis on importing radioactive waste is a joke — a very
dangerous joke, and becoming more so. With climate change, extreme
weather events are already happening more often and are more severe. It
is probable, though not proven, that the loss of the Malaysian aircraft
over the Indian Ocean was caused by extreme weather.

The long-term danger of transporting
highly radioactive waste from the U.S., Europe, or wherever, for the
short term benefit of a few greedy entrepreneurs in this country is a
risk that Australia does not need to take.

Admittedly, Australia is contractually bound to take back a
relatively small amount of high-level nuclear waste from Lucas Heights
that was formerly stored in France. Common sense would indicate that this nuclear reactor should be closed, and no further waste created.

The Lucas Heights waste could be stored close to that site.

In the current climate of extreme lack of trust between the
Australian public and its politicians, Jay Weatherill's about-face on
nuclear issues will not help Labor and I doubt that the public will have
any faith in this rather secretly and hastily organised Royal

Some of us had time to put in a submission to the South Australian Government on the Terms Of Reference.

This is mine:

To the Attorney-General Department,

I request that you consider the following Terms of Reference to be
included for the Royal Commission into nuclear energy. The Royal
Commission will be undermined if it doesn’t include the following Terms
of Reference.

The environmental impacts of uranium mining in South
Australia. This would include especially the effects on South
Australia's water. South Australia is a water-scarce State, and nuclear
facilities require huge amounts of water — both for uranium mining and
nuclear power. Cooling water from nuclear power plants result in heat
pollution of water sources — rivers or sea areas nearby. 

Radioactive waste contaminates groundwater and would threaten Australia's precious Great Artesian Basin.

Foodstuffs from Australia are known to be clean and
radiation free. This status would be threatened by nuclear operations
and lose Australia's reputation for clean food exports. Nuclear
environmental damage also threatens our tourism industry.

Nuclear waste. The Royal Commission must look widely
at nuclear waste management in South Australia, including uranium
tailings. The Commission should examine proposals to host international
nuclear waste and status of the waste industry globally.

Safety. Though nuclear accidents are rare, their
consequences are catastrophic. Terrorism is a risk — nuclear facilities
and transport of radioactive materials are becoming an attractive target
for terrorist attacks. 

Climate change. Climate change is causing sea levels
to rise which, in turn, would threaten nuclear facilities near the
coast, such as at Port Adelaide. Risks of storm surges and even tsunamis
cannot be discounted. Climate change will increase droughts, adding to
the water shortage problems that already beset the nuclear industry.

Climate change brings extreme weather, with greater risk to
transport. The recent Malaysian airliner disappearance in the Indian
Ocean was almost certainly due to an unprecedented extreme weather
event. As we must expect more of these extreme events, this brings into
question the danger of transporting radioactive wastes over long

Australia is contracted to take back a relatively small amount of
radioactive waste that originated from Lucas Heights. That is hazard
enough, without contemplating an international waste repository as an
import business. 

Legacy sites. South Australia’s contaminated nuclear
sites including Maralinga, the Port Pirie Uranium Treatment Complex,
and Radium Hill. There are unresolved concerns over the status of these
sites (in relation to public health and environmental impacts) and the
Royal Commission provides an opportunity to finally resolve these

Insurance, financial risk, public liabilities and subsidies. A comprehensive examination of the potential liability of the SA Government in the case of an incident or accident is needed.

Exploration of alternative energy sources to address the challenge of climate change, including the potential for growth in renewables and other low carbon technologies

Yours sincerely,

Noel Wauchope

You can follow Noel on Twitter @ChristinaMac1.

Also read Sandi Keane’s investigation
into the Howard government's ‘cradle to the grave’ fantasy of turning
Australia into the world’s nuclear waste dump (including plutonium from
the U.S. weapons industry.

Creative Commons Licence

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia

Friday, 6 February 2015

Abbott's chief biz adviser says climate science is driven by money & power. But wait 'til you see HIS track-record...

Abbott's chief biz adviser says climate science is driven by money & power. But wait 'til you see HIS track-record...

Abbott’s chief biz adviser says climate science is driven by money & power. But wait ’til you see HIS track-record…

Maurice Newman image and quote

Maurice Newman isn’t a climate scientist. He’s not a meteorologist either. In fact, he’s not a scientist at all. Of any sort. He’s a stockbroker and investment banker. He was Managing Director of the Deutsche Bank Group in Australia and Chairman of the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX).

He’s also Tony Abbott’s chief business adviser, and he said this in The Australian today:

The climate change movement is rooted in power, money and
emotion — not science… In fact, it’s the people behind this movement
who pose the greatest threat to humanity, not the climate.”

Pot calling the kettle black

Newman’s quote reminds me of this insightful meme:

Plot idea

Here’s why…

In addition to being a celebrated climate scientist,
stockbroker and investment banker, Newman is a lifetime member of a club
of rich climate-science deniers and mining magnates. The Mont Pelerin
Society. (Although he doesn’t publicise it, it’s public domain
information. He’s listed as a member on Mont Pelerin’s own website.)

Maurice Newman Mont Pelerin member register

So what is the Mont Pelerin Society? It’s a club of just over
500 economic libertarians. People who want a free market, unfettered by
pesky government regulations. Because, you know, big corporations will
always do the right thing if the government would just give them the
chance to prove themselves. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more.
<cough Enron cough sub-prime-mortgage-crisis-coverup>.

Oil billionaire and renowned climate-science denier, Charles Koch, is a member too. He’s a key financier (and member) of the Heartland Institute, which says carbon dioxide isn’t a pollutant, and climate change is good for us! Australia’s own Institute of Public Affairs is another member. They’re sponsored by big mining and other corporations with a direct stake in the climate change debate, and they’ve have been lobbying the government
for years to repeal the carbon tax, abolish the Department of Climate
Change and the Clean Energy Fund, repeal the renewable energy target and
withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol.

That tells you the sort of people he hangs out with.

Perhaps more importantly, though, the Mont Pelerin Society is one of more than 100 groups that together received $118 million in secret payments from anonymous conservative billionaires to try to discredit climate science. According to The Guardian investigation:

The funds, doled out between 2002 and 2010, helped build a
vast network of thinktanks and activist groups working to a single
purpose: to redefine climate change from neutral scientific fact to a
highly polarising “wedge issue” for hardcore conservatives.”

So… tell me again who’s motivated by power and money?

Given Newman’s resume, associations and (one would assume) wealth,
it’s deliciously ironic that he would accuse climate scientists of being
driven by power and money.

What’s not so delicious is the mainstream media’s determination to
turn a blind eye to his hypocrisy and agenda. Worse, their eagerness to
allow him to broadcast his misinformation in newspapers that millions of
Australians still view as credible.

Perhaps worst of all, the fact that Abbott and the Australian government are directly influenced by him.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Jan 2015: Bluegum Plantation Logging and Koalas

Published on 2 Feb 2015
January 2015: Mother Koala and Baby in a bluegum plantation near
Bessiebelle in South West Victoria. The plantation is owned by
Australian Bluegum Plantations. The Contractors are C3 Australia. The
plantation is certified by Forest Stewardship Council. Hundreds of
koalas are reported to be living in plantations in the local area. How
many more will be injured or killed? See this report by Friends of the

Monday, 26 January 2015

Exposed WWF & Prince Philip The World Wildlife Fund

Exposed WWF & Prince Philip The World Wildlife Fund

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Time to Wake Up: American Corporations are Taking Climate Change Seriously

Published on 16 Jan 2014
15, 2014 - In this week's "Time to Wake Up" speech on the Senate floor,
Senator Whitehouse describes how many American companies are planning
for climate change. In the speech, Senator Whitehouse shares that
companies with internal prices for carbon include Microsoft,
Exxon-Mobil, Disney, and Google.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

The CSIRO and the missing climate change data - The AIM Network

The CSIRO and the missing climate change data - The AIM Network

The CSIRO and the missing climate change data

Kirsten Tona’s article on – Government ignoring climate change while the planet burns (and published on The AIMN as Canberra fiddles while Australia burns) – contained a number of links to the CSIRO website where climate change data and modelling were available to the public.

Within a week of her article
being published the links to the CSIRO website were taken down. These
were the following links (that no longer work):

The conspiracy theorist in me jumps on the idea that they may have
been removed by the wishes of a government famous for its climate change
denial. Perhaps the recent funding cuts to the CSIRO include cutting out information that provides evidence contrary to the government’s stance.

But I’m sure there is a simple explanation. I’ve asked for one:

Dear Sir/Madam.

I draw your attention to this article:

Since the publication of that article a number of the links to the
CSIRO’s data and models on the effects of climate change have been
removed. I refer to the following:

“Australia’s premier scientific body, the CSIRO, has been quietly
beavering away, using proven scientific methodologies to produce
realistic models of what climate change may look like in our country.

Global sea levels rose by about 17 centimetres during the twentieth century, and are projected to keep rising . . .

Climate Change In Australia
is an initiative of the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM), in
partnership with the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency,
through the Australian Climate Change Science Program”.

Clicking on those links will now give you the following announcement:

This site is currently unavailable
If you are the owner of this site, please contact us at 1-480-505-8855 at your earliest convenience.
As a citizen who is concerned about the effects of
climate change in Australia and who relies on the excellent work done by
the CSIRO in keeping concerned citizens informed, it was disappointing
to find that this information has been removed. Was there a valid reason
for this?
Yours sincerely,
Michael Taylor

One AIMN commenter noted that: “The people of Australia have an
absolute right to the results of taxpayer-funded scientific research”.
Let us see what they say (though I don’t expect a reply something along
the lines of “The people of Australia do not have access to the results
of taxpayer-funded scientific research because it interferes with the
government’s political agenda”).

I’ll keep you posted.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Canberra fiddles while Australia burns - The AIM Network

Canberra fiddles while Australia burns - The AIM Network

Canberra fiddles while Australia burns

Despite the overwhelming evidence
that the effects of climate change are having a devastating impact on
present and future Australia, Kirsten Tona reports that the Abbott Government continues to ignore the evidence.

By 2070, Australia’s average temperature will rise by anything up to
five degrees Celsius, our rainfall will be significantly lower and our
sea levels higher. This data comes from the CSIRO, not from
the-sky-is-falling conspiracy theorists, so …. why is the Australian
Government not preparing?

It is a sometimes uncomfortable paradox of democracy that while
governments—elected—come and go, much of the real work of the state is
done behind the scenes by unelected bureaucrats and institutions.

But, there are times we have reason to be grateful for that.

While the current Prime Minister of Australia is on record as saying that the arguments behind climate change are “absolute crap”,
Australia’s premier scientific body, the CSIRO, has been quietly
beavering away, using proven scientific methodologies to produce
realistic models of what climate change may look like in our country.

And the news is: hotter, and drier.

Temperatures will go up, rainfall down. Ocean acidity levels will rise, as will the incidence of certain extreme weather events.


Global sea levels rose by about 17 cm during the 20th century, and are projected to keep rising, as are ocean acidity levels.

Air and ocean temperatures across Australia are now, on average, almost a degree Celsius warmer than they were in 1910, with most of the warming occurring since 1950.
The Climate Change In Australia website use 24 of the world’s best
models to predict what Australia might look like in 2030, 2050 and 2070.

The best projections have average temperatures rising by 1-2.5°
within 50 years, if carbon emmissions are brought under control, soon.
The worst projections say average temperatures in Australia will rise by 5° within 50 years.

Climate change is real, and here to stay.

Climate Change in Australia is an initiative of the CSIRO and the
Bureau of Meteorology in partnership with the Department of Climate
Change and Energy Efficiency, through the Australian Climate Change
Science Program.

Governments come and go, and party policy is based on a wide range of
political factors, strong scientific research being merely one. Or,
should we say, occasionally one.

But the CSIRO and the BOM have to deal with the evidence. And they
have to try, current government & party policy notwithstanding, to
educate the public about their findings.

To this end, they have produced an unfeted, but extremely useful, set of reports, analyses, even posters.

But…who has been educated? Have you seen these projections? Where are the news stories?

How much public money was spent on this very important set of
projections, and why are the public not being given these posters, being
referred to this website? If you are planning where you and/or your
children/grandchildren are going to live in the future, wouldn’t you
want to see this?


Meanwhile Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is in Lima trying to defend her party’s policies on climate change.

Left: Australian Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop. Right: Tony Abbott’s Chief Of Staff, Peta Credlin.
Left: Australian Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop. Right: Tony Abbott’s Chief Of Staff, Peta Credlin.

There is some controversy around her attendance at this, a precursor
to a more important conference being held in Paris, at the end of 2015.
Reports say that when Bishop first proposed attending the Lima talks,
the “prime minister’s office” rejected her request. (“The prime
minister’s office” is often, in journalist-speak, used as code for “Peta

It is said that Julie Bishop was furious about this, and took it to a
full meeting of Cabinet, where her attendance was approved.

However, “the prime minister’s office” then insisted she only attend
the talks under the tutelage of known climate skeptic, Trade Minister
Andrew Robb.


Now it is being widely reported that Peta Credlin and Julie Bishop
have had a massive falling-out. (Although, it must be noted, Bishop
herself denies this).

But climate change, the melting of the icecaps, rising sea levels,
reduced rainfall and global warming are surely too important to be left
in the hands of those who would ignore the science in favour of
political grandstanding.

Or in the hands of their advisors, who frequently concentrate on the
sale of the message rather than the predicament of the people.

Or…in the hands of the Murdoch press, who are encouraging the populace to blame the alleged rift between Bishop and Credlin on Tony Abbott, no longer, it seems,’s blue-eyed boy.


In 2003, George W. Bush, then President of the USA, was advised by
notorious Newspeaker Frank Luntz to emphasise the notion that the
science of climate change was unsettled, uncertain. Not because it
really was uncertain, but because that was what the public already

In a quite shockingly cynical memo,
Luntz told Bush Snr: “The scientific debate is closing [against us] but
not yet closed. There is still a window of opportunity to challenge the
science … Voters believe that there is no consensus about global
warming within the scientific community.

He wrote: “Should the public come to believe that the scientific
issues are settled, their views about global warming will change
accordingly. Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of
scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate, and defer to
scientists and other experts in the field.”


The CSIRO do not think there is no consensus on the science of
climate change. The CSIRO think climate change is already happening. So
do the Bureau of Meteorology, the Department of Climate Change and
Energy Efficiency and the Australian Climate Change Science Program.

So too, it seems, does Julie Bishop.

But Peta Credlin doesn’t. And if she doesn’t, Tony Abbott doesn’t.
And so, our commitment to emission reduction and other important planks
in the platform of preparing for continuing climate change, is left in
the hands of people who are unelected, or who seem to care a lot more
about being elected, than about actually governing.

This article was first published on as Government ignoring climate change while the planet burns and has been reproduced with permission.