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Byron Shire
May 9, 2021

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Hundreds of local surfers and water-lovers will paddle out at Clarke’s Beach over the weekend to protest against a massive oil and gas field proposed for the NSW coast.

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Charles MacFarland, Ewingsdale

Council just put a solar roof over 40 car spaces, and good on them, but it highlights the limitations of solar. The roof generates about 0.1 megawatts, at a cost of $380,000. We would need 10,000 such roofs to generate 1000 megawatts, which is about the size of a normal large power plant.

Australia needs about 30 of these.
Besides, solar and wind electricity are intermittent. There are many ideas about how to store electricity, but none are even close to being practical. No one has worked out a way to make the sun shine at night.

About 20 per cent of carbon emissions come from cars. Any change in driving habits is likely to cause problems. For example, every year a million or so people drive down from the Gold Coast to Byron just for the day, a huge source of carbon emissions. Even if we could stop them, imagine the outcry from the tourist businesses.

And what about commuting? Electric vehicles powered by solar are promising but expensive. Imagine the problems if everyone had to buy a new car and a solar facility as well.

The changes needed in our lifestyles are drastic, and very expensive. The reason politicians don’t act is that they suspect they would be voted out of office if they did.

Frankly, I don’t think anything significant will be done until there is a big calamity, like widespread famine, or several cities and islands lost to rising tides. Only then will there be major action. The question is, by then, will it be too late?


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1 COMMENT

  1. Charles, I appreciate your reluctance to commit to the energy transition while you also acknowledge its dire necessity, if I haven’t misread you.

    It’s still early days, still expensive, still suffering stalling and interference from the reactionary media and from most politicians, mostly from fear of electoral rejection, as you say.

    Of $380k, less than $100k could be the installed panels, when $10-14k now buys a standalone 10kW grid-connected system – so most of this cost must be for support structures, car chargers, inverter and such.

    In 2001 I installed 8 x 80W (0.64kW) panels for about $6000 (plus $4000 for ~9kWh lead acid batteries and off-grid inverter). Today a 6.4kW on-grid system is around the same price, in today’s cheaper dollars – mentioned only to show about 10 times more power for similar cost in less than 20 years, with prices dropping faster as ever more solar is installed.

    Australia now has 9.5GW of rooftop (less than 100kW) solar installed, at a rate approaching 2GW per year:

    https://reneweconomy.com.au/australia-rooftop-solar-installations-equal-record-180mw-in-september-79207/

    The main elements slowing the whole transition are now enough storage to cover windless nights – for now, gas ‘peaking’ generators – some redesign and rebuilding parts of national and local grids, and organising the just redeployment of workers dependent on old technologies.

    Apart from the existing lithium ion batteries useful for home, vehicle and grid-smoothing scales, many new technologies are rapidly developing: several different battery chemistries; hydrogen generation for energy storage, transport and as a direct replacement for petrochemical fuels; pumped hydro, from the massive (Snowy 2) to smaller decentralised, regional scales; and numerous other mechanisms for storing energy.

    Remember we’re talking about a ten year transition to 2030. By then, most if not all new vehicles will be electric – look at what’s happening in China, Europe and even the US – greatly reducing vehicle emissions.

    Of course this implies need for even more renewable energy, but at the same time enables massive banks of stored overnight energy; mostly a software problem whose solution is emerging from numerous players, not least by locally based Enova, in terms of pooled, decentralised power sharing systems, rather than the old hierarchical top-down distribution of power – both electrical and political.

    Yes, the changes needed to all our lives are drastic, expensive and revolutionary. That’s the price of having so greatly overspent our ecological budget that only drastic and rapid action can now hope to avert far greater catastrophes than we’re already seeing and feeling, if we open our minds and hearts to what is happening. That’s exactly what Extinction Rebellion is about, and it’s come none too soon.

    We’re already witnessing a ‘big calamity’ if only looking at recent massive wildfires around the planet, including unprecedented burning of Australian rainforests – this year fierce before it’s even mid-spring!

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