w00t! Solar Thermal in Port Augusta

w00t!

5+ years of campaigning and we finally have some great news. Solar Thermal is going to be build in Port Augusta!

Key Points

  • 150MW CST (Concentrating Solar Thermal) plant.
  • The South Australian state government is buying the power from it at a maximum of $78 per megawatt hour.
  • It’ll be build close to Port Augusta
  • Will cost $650 Million to create
  • Will be build by Solar Reserve
  • Starting construction in 2018, to be completed by 2020.
  • Will have 8-10 hours of storage (so about 10x the storage of the big Tesla battery)

 


Announcements

 

 

Today, we are taking another massive step forward in delivering our plan for reliable, affordable and clean power for all South Australians.

My Government is backing a world-leading renewable energy project – a solar thermal plant in Port Augusta – delivered by SolarReserve.

This 150MW plant, the biggest of its kind in the world, will supply the Government with its electricity needs and provide more competition to the energy market – delivering lower prices to households.

Construction of the $650 million project will begin in 2018, and is estimated to be completed in 2020.

Importantly, this project will deliver more than 700 jobs, with requirements for local workers, supporting our State’s regions.

The Port Augusta story is a shining example of the transition of the South Australian economy.

We’ve seen the closure of a dirty coal-fired power station. We’re now seeing the commissioning of this world-leading renewable energy project.

This shows just how far renewable technologies have come. Renewables have always been cleaner. Renewables are now cheaper. And importantly, renewables are providing certainty and stability to the market.

This, in addition to our State-owned gas plant, and the world’s largest lithium ion battery, will help to make our energy grid more secure.

It’s another key part of our energy plan, delivering South Australian power for South Australians.

 

 

Repower Port Augusta streamed some of the press release live:

BREAKING: Jay Weatherill announces the world's biggest solar thermal power plant to be built in Port Augusta! This is a huge win for our community, South Australia, and the whole country! #solar4ptaugusta

Posted by Repower Port Augusta on Sunday, 13 August 2017

 

The main reason the Repower Pt Augusta campaign exists is because of the group Beyond Zero Emissions.

They created the Stationary Energy plan, explaining how Australia can get to 100% renewables within 10 years. As part of that it explained how Solar Thermal with storage is needed to help counter the variability of wind. It also showed how Pt Augusta is a prime spot, has lots of power lines, is basically at the start of the desert so has lots of sun. As such they created a small publication about the specifics of Pt Augusta

http://bze.org.au/repowering-port-augusta/

The group CLEANSA (who I was actively a part of at the time) helped organise BZE to give presentations in Adelaide and Pt Augusta. This helped setup the Repower Pt Augusta community. AYCC, the Australian Youth Climate Coalition then got on board and especially with the help of Daniel Spencer the Pt Augusta community did a vote between gas and Solar Thermal, they overwhelmingly chose Solar Thermal.

Then came the big Walk for Solar. 100+ people (including myself who filmed most of it) walking from Pt Augusta to Adelaide over the course of 2 weeks, with a massive rally at the end. That was a really epic experience and very bonding. Many of the people involved have gone on to do amazing things.

With community support came political support. A Senate select committee was formed to investigate it. The commercial interest was there from very early on. However at the start Alinta energy was the owner of the Northern power station, the large coal power station that was due to be closed down. This however ended up being closed down early after a fire.

During the 5+ years there was an ever increasing amount of SA’s power being generated from wind, to the point that we were having days almost completely powered by wind, with over 30% of the generation on average.

Alinta had pulled out, the gas power plants weren’t being used much due to the gas contracts being on the International energy market and in September of 2016 there was a massive blackout in Adelaide which rattled everyone. A large Tesla battery was announced as part of the work to help counter such issues. But that’s mainly for stabilising the power with millisecond response times in case of an outage, it isn’t enough to help counter the variable wind and solar to smooth out issues over a larger time frame.

On the 14th of August the SA Government had announced it’s tender for 75% of the government’s long-term power supply. A power purchase agreement with Solar Reserve to supply the next 20 years of power, powered by Solar Thermal with molten salt storage. Success! Nearly 10x the storage of the Tesla battery. SA is on track to become mostly powered by renewables.

There’s a lot LOT more to the story, many actions, events, discussions, politics and technical points which I’ve glossed over.

 

News and Articles

  1. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-08-14/solar-thermal-power-plant-announcement-for-port-augusta/8804628 – Looks like Solar Reserve is the bidder they went with. Awesome :D
  2. http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/opinion/daniel-spencer-port-augusta-solar-power-plant-sends-a-message-that-renewable-energy-is-the-future/news-story/21166f3efa2a7373749861ca924b30c9 – A great article by Daniel Spencer, one of the most important, continous activists on this campaign.
  3. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/sas-big-new-solar-plant-everything-you-need-know-ketan-joshi – Ketan Joshi shows some great stats and info.

 

Fixing SA’s power network

There’s a lot of buzz at the moment about a Twitter conversation between Elon Musk and Mike Cannon-Brookes about fixing South Australia’s power issues.

Elon says he can fix the issue in 100 days by providing 100+MW of battery storage. Mike Cannon-Brookes says he can find the money and deal with the politics.

As a member of both the Repower Pt Augusta alliance and also an avid Entrepreneur I’m torn.

The short of it is that battery storage is a decent but reasonably expensive short term fix, although Solar Thermal is a cheaper better long term option.

Backstory :
I was a part of the group who got Beyond Zero Emissions to come out to SA and helped with the historic meeting where we (well Mark Ogge who was the director of BZE) explained how Australia can get to 100% renewable energy within 10 years using a combination of Solar Thermal and wind power.

Solar Thermal being a large power plant that uses mirrors to concentrate the suns energy at a tower where it heats a molten salt to about 560°C the hot liquid is stored in an insulated tank and when you need power you put the molten salt near water, the water turns to steam and the steam turns turbines, just like a standard coal or gas power plant. What’s great is it’s renewable but also because of the storage it can work at night or ramp up/down do deal with the changes in demand and variable energy supply from wind and solar pv.

This was all many years ago. We did a big Walk for Solar back in 2012 and I filmed most of it. That’s over half a decade ago now that we’ve known that the Nothern power station was going to close down, that the domestic gas contracts were going to be linked to the International energy market and the blackout issues we are seeing today would come about if nothing was done.

5+ years of campaigning. The community is behind the idea and why shouldn’t they be, the creation of Solar Thermal power plant also means the creation of a new manufacturing industry and lots of jobs, plus stable electricity prices as well as stable power.

We wouldn’t be in this mess if even just 2 or so years ago the Government or energy companies took up the call and we’d started building. Solar Reserve and other such solar thermal companies have had people willing to provide the investment for years, but they need a buyer of the energy.
Unfortunately a lack of long term thinking and I suspect some wilful ignorance has lead us to the point that there’s been some very disruptive blackouts.

The entrepreneur in me wants to see Tesla battery storage happen here. even just the chance that Elon might visit SA gives me tingles and I remember walking past Atlassian and going to some startup drinks events in Sydney hoping to see Mike Cannon-Brookes who’s definitely the Aussie Entrepreneurial superstar. But I also recognise that there’s other options here in Australia like Zen Energy or RedFlow which has Simon Hackett behind it and even just the reduced transport would probably make it worth it.

I should note that CORENA, the Citizens Own Renewable Energy Network Australia, of which I’m a board member currently doesn’t fund battery storage, only Solar PV installations and energy efficiency measures as those are what reduce CO2 emissions the most effectively.

Of course any of the battery options is going to be a better short term fix then one suggested option of building yet another Gas plant. South Australia already has enough gas generation to power all of SA but as I mentioned over the last few years the commercial gas contracts have been linked to the International energy market, especially Japan. As such the gas companies find it more profitable to sell the gas to Japan then burn it here and sell the Electricity.

If you follow the scent the gas option has the smell of lobbying from the fossil fuel industry. They are trying to get fracking to happen here in SA so they can sell even more gas, but will destroy large areas of land, especially farmland, in doing so.

To me it comes down to this :

  • We have enough variable wind and solar that we need storage.
  • Solar Thermal is awesome as the price of renewables goes down over time whilst also providing both energy generation and storage.
  • Batteries are a bit of a zero sum game. They help smooth things out, but don’t help us transition to cheaper, renewable energy. They can however be installed fairly fast.
  • Gas is a negative sum game. The prices go up over time as it’s harder to extract finite fossil fuels and the prices wildly fluctuate in the mean time.

This means that batteries could create a great one, two punch when followed up with Solar Thermal.

As a side note there’s another option that could be done with the battery storage. Microgrids. Instead of connecting the 100MW of power to a couple of substations you could setup a shipping container sized setup in each block or so that can have the energy of that block or even suburb connect to it, you’d have storage, but in a distributed way that would allow more community connection. SolarPV owners could be charging their local microgrid which with enough Solar PV could make it self-sufficient. But in our privatised energy market this seems like a pipe dream.

For more information check out :
http://www.repowerportaugusta.org/ – Repower Port Augusta. The campaign to get Solar Thermal built in South Australia.

http://corenafund.org.au/ – CORENA A revolving funding model applied to Solar PV and other renewables and energy efficiency. I’m on the board.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-03-10/tesla-boss-elon-musk-pledges-to-fix-sas-electricity-woes/8344084 – The first article I read about this.

Disclaimer: These are my own thoughts and are not necessarily representative of the organisations that I’m associated with.

Australia, the prissy boy

Australia is a prissy boy. It’s both sensitive to climate change and vulnerable to it.

Ohh and it just decided to get rid of it’s own bodyguards (despite the pleading of friends), walk into the lair of the mafia gang and call the boss a dickhead.
This prissy boy is in a fantasy land and is about to get the lights punched out of him and it is GOING TO HURT.

At least, that’s my interpretation of this article plus some of the recent events.

 

If the Renew Economy website is down the article is also available here as a PDF.

Rally for Solar – 30th Sept 2012, Adelaide, South Australia

Rally for Solar - 30th Sept 2012, Adelaide, South Australia
Rally for Solar – 30th Sept 2012, Adelaide, South Australia

If you live in South Australia, then I hope to see you at the rally for solar!

The rally is at Rundle Park, which is where the Garden of Unearthly Delights is usually setup.
The rally will be MC’d by Dr Karl, the ABC science guy and it will be some awesome fun!

Myself and nearly 100 other people will have done the Walk for Solar, a 325km, 2 week trek from Port Augusta to Adelaide to be there. I’ve already spent thousands and donated hundreds towards the cause and have helped with a number of trips to Pt Augusta as a part of the Repower Port Augusta campaign.

If we are to have cheaper, cleaner electricity then we need the community support which comes from people like yourself showing that we want Solar Thermal electricity for South Australia.

See you there!

 

Update :
I’ve put some photos from the walk on a Dropbox Gallery (anyone can access and download high res versions) and my Facebook Gallery.

South Australian Energy minister Tom Koutsantonis talking with the walkers for solar
South Australian Energy minister Tom Koutsantonis talking with the walkers for solar


Michael Kubler

Walk for Solar

I’m joining a walk from Port Augusta to Adelaide to promote Solar Thermal. The 300km+ walk will start on the 16th of Sept and take until the 30th. We will arrive in the city on the Sunday hopefully to a large group of supporters with the votes from the community vote which shows that Port Augusta wants to replace their old coal fire power stations (which are being shut down) with Solar Thermal.

Whilst I’ll be putting up $500 myself to support the event and my walk I’m looking for people to donate some money (doesn’t have to be much but most people have been donating $25-$50). My fundraising profile is at http://www.repowerportaugusta.org/michael.kubler

Michael’s fundraising profile

 

Lizard’s Revenge Fever 2012

I have the Lizard’s Revenge camp fever.

Symptoms include but are not limited to :

  • A deep sense of connectedness with the Earth and all life on the planet.
  • An increased caring for the environment
  • A desensitisation to first world problems
  • A strong aversion against politics and blatant profit making
  • A longing to create a better world
  • A loathing of consumerism and wastefull excess
  • A strong urge to hug people and fill them with happiness

Treatment generally consists of a hot shower which can help remove the dirt from under one’s fingernails.

Cure : There is no cure, just a hunger for saving mother nature from the growth for growths sake mentality of humanity. Whilst unfortunately not contagious enough to spread to the whole population, it has been shown that long term contact with infected people may increase your susceptibility…. Note, this is not a bad thing, it is similar to being infected with love.

 

Creepers Advert

Motor Accident Commission-Stop Creeping over the Speed Limit
Motor Accident Commission – Stop Creeping over the Speed Limit

This advert against going a little bit faster has been playing in South Australia for a little while now. I basically never watch TV and yet I’ve seen it my share of times. But is it really effective?

This post isn’t likely to have any good stats, because it isn’t about that it’s about how our society is trying to patch the symptom instead of cure the problem(s).

So the concept of creeping over the speed limit is that it’s then harder to stop and if you were going to only just hit someone when driving your car and barely give them a bruise because you have been doing 5-10kms faster than the sign posted speed limit you are now going to break their leg or snap their neck or kill the baby they were carrying. Scary stuff.

But the advert doesn’t seem to work to me. It doesn’t work because the campaign just asks people to stop and tries to associate it with creepiness. I can almost imagine a room full of marketers being told that the latest crash figures indicate that the current biggest issue is people going a little bit faster, they were then given 3mins to come up with a campaign and the person who could talk the most passionately won.

But what was needed is to work out WHY people are creeping over the speed limit and how to solve the problem at the core, not to just add more social fear and pressure and try to scare people.

Here’s some reasons why I myself have creeped over the speedlimit or I think others might :

  1. You are running late.
  2. You are going down a hill and the car naturally speeds up.
  3. You don’t know what the speed limit is. Which is especially bad when there’s no other cars around and you are driving somewhere new to you.
  4. The traffic is bad.
  5. The other cars around you are creeping over the speed limit and you are just following them (herd mentality).
  6. It is safer or easier to briefly speed up (e.g to make room for the bus which wants to cross 3 lanes of traffic).
  7. The music is blaring and making your heart race and maybe even causing your to adrenaline pump.
  8. You are distracted e.g by a phone
  9. You are distracted e.g rubber necking. Although most people slow down to perve on the girls, they might not notice the traffic lights and that they should be stopping.

 

So, looking at the above suggestions which are off the top of my head so probably somewhat inaccurate and very likely to be missing a whole heap of other reasons, lets target a couple of the reasons and work out how we would tackle them.

Running Late : This is usually a time management skill. You could probably subsidise the cost of smart phones with a calendar built-in and provide training on how to configure and use it properly and you would probably stop some of the lateness issues. The rest of people, like myself would probably need to go to some subsidised courses on time management. This would probably have a great net economic productivity increase and would be worth doing anyway, but YMMV.

 

Going Down a Hill : This is a law of physics, deal with it. Put up some signs along the footpath letting pedestrians know of the danger, although most who live near the bottom of a hill will likely know the problems. I shouldn’t need to say but putting a busy intersection at the bottom of a steep hill is probably a bad idea, what if someone’s brakes fail on the way down?
The other issue is speed cameras. Here in South Australia at least they don’t seem to put speed cameras where it is DANGEROUS to speed, instead they put them were you are LIKELY to speed. Two mostly different places, but the government gets a nice bundle of money through speeding fines so the bean counters are going to set higher and higher targets that the police have to reach. To get that many speeding fines in less and less time where are they going to have to spend their time? Certainly not where it does the public any good, but where it fills the coffers. NB : Please correct me if I’m wrong, I’d love to see some decent stats and analysis of this.


You Don’t Know what the Speed Limit Is
 :  A number of years ago the state government changed the default speed limit from 60km/hr to 50km/hr. The idea is that people will be travelling slower so there will be less speeding. I’d love to see some stats to see if this made an improvement that was worth the investment. Those people who do 80km/hr in the suburbs are going to do that no matter what the speed limit is. Like DRM and excessive computer game/application protection the main people it hurts is the general consumer (or in this case, driver).
But one of the biggest issues for me is trying to determine what the speed limit is. Most main roads are 60km/hr but aren’t sign posted with the speed very well and I can easily turn a corner onto a road which feels even safer but I forget is actually 50km/hr but there’s rarely any 50km/hr signs. However as you get into the city they sign post the change from 60km/hr to 50km/hr.

Here’s how I would have done it to save all the confusion :

One way = 40km/hr

1 lane = 50km/hr

2 lanes = 60km/hr

3 lanes = 70km/hr

This makes it much much easier to determine what the speed limit should be. If there is a single lane for your way of traffic and a lane on the right for traffic going the other way then that’s 1 lane (one lane for you) and you can go 50km/hr.
When you look at it, 90% of the speed changes and signs follow this basic principle and it is very easy to sign post the changes when this isn’t the case. e.g when it’s 2 lanes but on the highway and you can do 110km/hr.

50km/hr
50km/hr

The Traffic is Bad : If you go through bumper to bumper traffic because of bad traffic signals which prioritise an empty lane then you are probably going to speed when you get to the other side to make up the time. You’ll also be incredibly frustrated. You left home when you should have, Google Maps told you how long it expected to take but instead of being 2mins early you are now going to be 15mins late. *RAGE*
One great option to help with this could be to get more data about traffic. Most people have a smart phone in their car. A phone capable of tracking your position and speed using GPS (and other location services), capable of transmitting to servers online and those servers could aggregate the data and help the traffic services tweak the light sequences and also let your route be adjusted as you are driving to bypass the bottlenecks. Also, EVERY bus should have such a system which lets you track their position whilst they are on-route so I know if the bus is going to leave in 3mins or is broken down and the next bus is 45mins away.

 

Other Cars : I’m not sure what to do about this, but I do know of studies where peer pressure can cause this to happen, but if just one other person shows the correct answer then you are much more likely to also do the correct thing. But it could also be that you just aren’t paying too much attention to your speed and are thinking of other things, that’s what usually happens to me.

 

Safer to speed up : Changing lanes can be dangerous, especially if you need to either change lanes to go around a parked car or slam on the breaks. Imagine this scenario, which happens quite a lot for me. You are driving along on the right hand lane (this is Australia so we drive on the left side of the road). There is is plenty of space in front of you (e.g 4 car lengths), to your left and a little behind you is a car who’s front bumper bar is about level with your rear wheels. About 0.9 car lengths behind you (in your lane) is another car.
The car on your left is in a pickle, it turns out there’s a car parked in his lane and he starts indicating right. He now either has to shove his foot on the break, or you can speed up slightly and the car behind you can slow down a tiny bit and he can nicely slot in.
Note : Because of the other cars which will also have to merge from the left lane into the right the car behind you can’t slow down too much to get the most efficient traffic flow. This is probably something that should be taught when you get your drivers license, but I don’t think it ever will because the thought of letting people go above the speed limit for any reason seems too scary for the powers that be.

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Got any other ideas/solutions? Comment below!

4 Paradigm Changes

There’s 4 main things that I’d like to help usher paradigm changes in :

  • Entertainment – Using the Multipath, interactive online video concept.
  • Education – Using a combination of the flipped classroom model and child-driven self education.
  • Energy – From centralised Fossil Fuels, to decentralised renewables (although I’m helping push some large scale centralised renewable projects as a transition).
  • Economics – From our current Capitalist monetary system to the Resource Based Economy model, which is based on science, sustainability and automation.
Michael Kubler
Michael Kubler

They are all somewhat linked. The energy change requires a change in Economics because the price of renewable energy goes down over time, which directly affects the GDP of the country and also removes power from the oil monopolies. To change Energy and Economics you need to change the education and culture (entertainment).

The reason I came to these aims is because I realised I didn’t have a good enough direction in life, I knew that my long term aim is that I want to be remembered for my contributions to humanity and the environment, but I didn’t have enough details on how or what specific contributions. The 4 paradigms are ones that I’m passionate about and feel that I can actually help with, using the skills I have and the knowledge that I am often seeking.

I will also be making sure that if I do something I will  do it smart and with passion and purpose.

The paradigm changes may occur with 10 years, with my life time, or might take a few generations to occur, but given my understanding of current trends, these are things which need to occur, but certainly aren’t the only changes.

I’m not interesting in getting rich (unless that is an unfortunate requirement to making some of the changes required), my passion is around making the world a better place for everyone.
I want to see a world where we can provide food, water, electricity, transport, entertainment, education and all the necessities of life, for free to everyone on the planet.

Update : I’m 108% busy

In the theme of openness and transparency and just generally updating my blog :

  • I’m currently working 9-5 at the Adelaide Festival and the very busy Festival period is starting.
  • I’m developing a web platform for an education startup called Teacher Time.
  • I’m the founder of the South Australian Zeitgeist Movement chapter and would like more time to help organise ZDay and work on a presentation for it (but send an amazing amount of thanks to Kari and David for doing most of the work so far!)
  • I’m an active member of Occupy Adelaide and pretty much run the website.
  • I have recently started helping the Climate Emergency Action Network of South Australia (CLEANSA) run a campaign to convert some coal fired power stations to Concentrating Solar Thermal, which would be the first installed in Australia. An amazing opportunity. I’ll also need to help fix their website.
  • I occasionally do photography and a little film work for a local non-profit news media outfit called Our World Today which is helping re-define journalism.
  • As such I’m pretty much running at 108% capacity, at least until the 18th of March.
  • I’m also in about $9,500 Credit Card debt as I tried getting Films on the Fly off the ground last year and went to Sydney for about 10 weeks. Unfortunately I’m a social programmer, I need to bounce ideas off people and by the time I built the networks which could help me I ended up running out of money (hence the debt).
  • I worked at 2moro mobile when I got back to Adelaide. Was doing web development and Linux system admin, but they unexpectedly got liquidated and I lost $4k in wages I was owed.
  • My general aim for the future is to get out of debt, and when there is enough traction with Teacher Time (and hopefully some investment), go work full time with Michael Imsteph, Jesse Black, Silvio and the others on a full time basis to help scale the service up and out and add new features and pivot and everything else required.

Occupy Movement Proposal – Be Solutions Based

After a discussion after the GA there was a great idea. Be solutions focused.

This is my proposal to the Occupy Movement

Proposal : Occupy should not talk so much about what we are against. We should primarily talk about viable solutions which we support and why.
We should be solutions focused.

If there is an issue or range of interconnected issues without a viable solution then we can help help facilitate the discussions and education required to then come up with solutions.

Examples

  1. As an example instead of saying we are against the 1%, it would be that we are for Income equality, power equality, and democracy.
  2. Another example : We support the Beyond Zero Emissions stationary energy plan. A proposal by a group of volunteer engineers which aims to convert Australia to 100% renewable energy.
    Why? Because it means our electricity will be cheaper in the long run. It means we can replace the ageing, dirty coal fired power plants with Concentrated Solar Thermal Power stations. We can use wind farms and keep people in jobs (compared to transitioning to a gas power station) and won’t require environmentally destructive industrial processes such as Coal Seam Gas extraction which put our ground water at risk of being permanently destroyed.
    We can have our power outlets running off 100% renewable, carbon free energy allowing for a new wave of electric vehicles.
  3. In regards to income equality and the major issues with the economic and political systems, we are still discussing, debating and educating ourselves regarding the root causes and the alternatives available. We can attempt to make changes the current capitalist system or attempt to change to a new system such as  Communism and Socialism or some of the newer options like  Steady State Economics, True Cost Economics, Participatory Economics and Resource Based Economics.

We hope the public will take part in the discussions, bring their perspectives and help augment and enhance the final proposed solution.
We would like to hear and discuss proposals regarding everything from environmental to social to energy, economic, political to health, food and more.

Note : We don’t need to be locked into a single solution, in many cases it may be better to support/test/advocate a number of them.