Australia’s strong sun

Australia could become a renewable energy superpower.  One factor behind this is that Australia gets stronger sun than most developed countries.

Two world maps superimposed

Here is a strange map that demonstrates this.

It is two maps superimposed on one-another. The first is a normal map of the world.  The second map shows, for each point on the first map, where you would be if you drilled straight down through the centre of the Earth to the other side.

The closer a place is to the equator: (1) the more the sun is directly overhead, (2) the more sunshine it gets, (3) the more electricity is generated from each solar panel, and (4) the cheaper it is for that place to generate electricity from the sun.  This is ignoring other factors like how cloudy a place is.

From the map you can see that:

  • Australia is closer to the equator than the developed countries in northern Europe, northern Asia and northern America.
  • Northern Greenland, Canada, Alaska and Russia are as far from the equator as northern Antarctica
  • Melbourne is as far from the equator as southern Spain, so most of Australia gets stronger sun than Spain and most of Europe.
  • Northern Australia is as far from the equator as the border between the Sudan and Egypt.
  • The southern border of the USA is about the same distance from the equator as Port Macquarie (half way between Sydney and Brisbane). So northern Australia gets more sun than the south of the USA.

Manchester in England is as far north as Macquarie island is south

Here is another way of understanding how strong Australian sun is, compared to Europe.  People often think of Macquarie Island, which lies far south of New Zealand, as being in the Antarctic.  Well Manchester in England is as far north (latitude 54 degrees north) as Macquarie island is south (latitude 55 degrees south).  Northern Europe gets very weak sun and if it were not for the Gulf Stream, much of Europe would be very cold.

Australia has quality solar resources

So, considering only the factor of sun strength (closeness to the equator), Australia has better solar resources than most developed countries – and we have other advantages too, which mean that Australia could become a renewable energy superpower.

Climate Newsletter 28 April 2018

Newsletter from Jenny Goldie
President Climate Action Monaro

The great climate activist Bill McKibben  will be in Canberra on Wednesday 2 May and you can book here if you wish to go. I have included two articles by him below.

While the federal government assumes that the National Energy Guarantee (NEG) will be passed by COAG in August, nevertheless, on Monday, the Smart Energy Council (SEC) launched a $500,000 campaign to fight it. The SEC is concerned about NEG’s totally inadequate emission reduction targets. It believes NEG is essentially anti-renewables and could be worse than doing nothing at all as it still allows for the use of coal long past the point it should be kept in the ground.

French President Emmanuel Macron has been in the US and made an impressive speech to Congress on the need for action on climate change. His speech was interrupted frequently by standing ovations. He hopes the US will rejoin the Paris Agreement. Macron will be in Australia shortly.

With the support of Climate Action Monaro, the regional conference of the Nature Conservation Council of NSW is happening in Queanbeyan, on the 26 and 27 of May 2018 with the twin subjects of renewable energy and forests.

The Climate Council has issued yet another report, this time on land-clearing in Queensland and the implications for climate change. The Queensland government is hoping to curb the excessive land-clearing with legislation, but is meeting with stiff opposition, not least from the federal government who is concerned about its effect on farmers (but clearly not concerned about climate change).

I commend the long two-part article by one of Australia’s leading climate activists, Ian Dunlop, below. He argues that our federal politicians and bureaucracy, by failing to act on climate change, are not fulfilling their fiduciary duties to the public.

There’s another article below about social scientist Mayer Hillman who claims that, because of climate change, we’re all doomed. Because it’s a bit grim, the remaining articles are essentially good news stories so you don’t get too depressed.

Climate Change: The fiduciary responsibility of politicians & bureaucrats
Ian Dunlop
After three decades of global inaction, none more so than in Australia, human-induced climate change is now an existential risk to humanity.

Hiroshima, Kyoto, and the bombs of climate change
Bill McKibben
The Japanese cities are symbols of the greatest threats that humanity has ever faced: nuclear weapons and global warming. What makes those threats different?

Pay up fossil fuel industry – your free ride to pollute is over
Bill McKibben
One of the largest environmental campaigns in history is unfolding in Australia.

‘We’re doomed’: Mayer Hillman on the climate reality no one else will dare mention
The 86-year-old social scientist says accepting the impending end of most life on Earth might be the very thing needed to help us prolong it

The world needs to store billions of tons of carbon. It could start in a surprising place.
The ethanol industry is environmentally controversial, but now it may have a big opportunity to cut its emissions.

How windmills as wide as jumbo jets are making clean energy mainstream
The global wind turbine industry has transformed from a collection of small companies in Denmark to corporations pulling off enormous feats of engineering.

Michael Bloomberg pledges $4.5m to cover US Paris climate commitment
Former NYC mayor criticises Trump for pulling out of deal

Grassland plants react unexpectedly to high levels of carbon dioxide
Plants are responding in unexpected ways to increased carbon dioxide in the air, according to a 20-year study conducted by researchers at the University of Minnesota.

As United States looks to coal, China invests in renewable energy
At least one country is rising to the occasion.

The world needs to store billions of tons of carbon. It could start in a surprising place.
The ethanol industry is environmentally controversial, but now it may have a big opportunity to cut its emissions.

Climate Newsletter 16 April 2018

Newsletter from Jenny Goldie

President Climate Action Monaro

A massive bushfire to the south-west of Sydney with a 60km front should be concentrating the minds of everyone on climate change. While it may have been deliberately lit, its size is a function of Sydney experiencing its hottest April ever with little rain, which in turn is most likely related to climate change.

The #StopAdani campaign reports that Turnbull’s government is still considering giving Adani up to $1 billion of taxpayer money from Efic (provides finance for Australian exporters). Labor still supports Adani’s dirty coal mine ‘if it stacks up’. So from 30 April  to 13 May local politicians will be confronted with #StopAdani materials everywhere they go. And from 14-27 May there will be posters saying No Money for Adani Actions at Liberal National MP offices. And in Labor electorates (such as ours), watch for Politics in the Pub events.

As you know, COAG meets this week to discuss the National Energy Guarantee. There have been some concessions made, and South Australia under the new Liberal government is weakening in its opposition, so unfortunately it may go through. Fortunately, though, Victoria and Queensland are insisting on strong renewable targets being included. Meanwhile, the ever-splendid Climate Council has released a new briefing paper, “What are Stakeholders Saying About the National Energy Guarantee?”

Don’t forget the great climate activist Bill McKibben will be speaking in Canberra on 2 May at 6pm at the QT Hotel, 1 London Circuit. It costs $28/$20 and you can book here.

The Victorian and federal governments have promised to pump $50 million each into a near $496 million project to gassify brown coal in Victoria and produce just three tonnes of hydrogen. While hydrogen has some virtues as an alternative fuel, ReNew Economy’s Giles Parkinson rightly asks “Has the world gone completely mad

Some of us went to an excellent talk at ANU last week by climate scientist Dr Joëlle Gergis who spoke to her new book “Sunburnt Country” which is about the history and future of climate change in Australia. I commend it to you.

On the international scene, it appears that the Gulf Stream is weakening significantly, probably caused by the intrusion of cold fresh water from melting Greenland glaciers. This weakening will have a cooling effect on western Europe, though the cooling ultimately may be balanced out by overall global warming.

Out-of-control bushfire still threatening homes in Sydney as inferno changes direction

Firefighters have been working frantically to protect properties in Sydney’s south-west, where an out-of-control blaze has burnt through the Holsworthy army base and left a 500-hectare trail of destruction.

Voters split on whether Coalition should build new coal plants or stop closures

Poll shows strong support for energy efficiency measures despite divide on generators

Energy guarantee talks in ACT this week

The federal government’s National Energy Guarantee may meet resistance from states and territories which are investing in cutting their carbon emissions.

States threaten to call off energy deal if renewables undermined

Queensland and Victoria hedge bets about national energy guarantee, saying they won’t compromise on keeping strong renewables targets

Victoria renewables auction attracts 3,500MW of bids, as state warns on NEG

Victoria says its renewables auction six-times over-subscribed, and warns it won’t accept NEG in current form.

At some point, climate change must be injected into the energy debate

Peter Hannam
It is past time the state of the climate actually got a look-in when it comes to debating what path our energy system should take.

Reality check on a half-billion-dollar brown coal hydrogen project

Is the brown coal to hydrogen plant a carbon-emitting white elephant, or can it make Australia a new energy world leader?

Turnbull’s brown coal hydrogen horror show: $500m for 3 tonnes

Giles Parkinson
Turnbull hails half a billion dollar, year long project that will turn Victoria brown coal into just three tonnes of hydrogen fuel. Has the world gone completely mad?

Climate change and extreme weather: Science is proving the link

Pinning down blame for complex weather events isn’t straightforward. But cutting-edge science is rapidly shrinking the space to argue that the crazy weather we’re experiencing isn’t due to greenhouse gas emissions.

Gulf Stream current at its weakest in 1,600 years

Warm current that has historically caused dramatic changes in climate is experiencing an unprecedented slowdown and may be less stable than thought – with potentially severe consequences

Climate Newsletter 7 April 2018

Newsletter from Jenny Goldie
President Climate Action Monaro

As if it wasn’t bad enough to have a lump of coal brought into parliament a few months ago, 20 or so Parliamentarians led by Tony Abbott, Eric Abetz, Barnaby Joyce, Kevin Andrews and Craig Kelly, have formed the Monash Group to push for a new coal-fired power station. To his credit, Treasurer Scott Morrison (a wielder of coal in the earlier stunt), declared it was not economic and rejected the idea. The next day, the descendants of General Sir John Monash, who was a civil engineer and an Australian military commander of the First World War, complained about the group using the name Monash for their “anti-science, anti-intellectual” proposal.

Despite Morrison’s rejecting the idea of a new coal power station, the Prime Minister clearly thought a sop to the backbench was in order. He is pushing Alinta to buy the ageing Liddell coal-fired power station from AGL so that base-load power can continue after its planned closure in 2022. PM Turnbull wants  another three years or so of it so it coincides with the opening of Snowy 2.0 (pumped hydro). Fortunately, the heroic Andy Vesey of AGL is standing firm and not selling, and using it as a base to develop renewables.

Someone needs to tell the PM that base-load power is not what is required any more, rather dispatchable power is, and old power plants like Liddell do not deliver dispatchable power. And he needs to know that coal-fired power stations caused a surge in airborne mercury pollution, according to a study done in Victoria’s Latrobe valley.

David Spratt, from Climate Code Red, released a report two days ago that finds we will reach 1.5oC warming within a decade, based on a number of recent scientific papers. This of course, was the more ambitious limit of warming (as against 2oC) set by the Paris Agreement. You can read the report here.

One of the world’s leading climate activists, Bill McKibben, is coming to Australia soon. He will speak in Canberra on May 2 on accelerating climate action. He’s always worthwhile but you have to pay.

Good to see our federal MP, Mike Kelly, standing firm against a nuclear power plant for the South Coast. While nuclear power does deliver carbon-free power once built, building the plants uses a lot of energy as well as the decommissioning.  And as he says, the waste and risk issues have still not been resolved.

Meanwhile, it’s been a hot, dry start to the year. Rather than being a source of pleasure as some news readers would have us believe, for anyone who worries about climate change, it simply provokes anxiety.

 Deadheads of coal wars aren’t worthy of a giant like John Monash

Tony Wright
Would Sir John Monash, an innovator as both a military man and a civil engineer, want his name associated with propping up a creaking industry?

 Solar PV and wind are on track to replace all coal, oil and gas within two decades

Andrew Blakers and Matthew Stocks, Australian National University
Solar photovoltaics and wind power are on track to supplant fossil-fuel-based electricity generation by the 2030s. The only thing holding back the renewable revolution is politics.

AGL chief determined to turn Liddell into renewables hub

Andy Vesey says plant remains an extremely valuable piece of AGL’s portfolio until its closure

Coal hypocrisy all round

Ben Oquist
It is hard to know what is worse – the hypocrisy of an energy company claiming to be green yet trying to prevent coal stations closing, or a Federal Government that preaches the need for reliability and business confidence as it drives investor uncertainty to new heights. But that’s energy policy in Australia today.

Antarctica retreating across the sea floor

Antarctica’s great ice sheet is losing ground as it is eroded by warm ocean water circulating beneath its floating edge, a new study has found. Scientists have tracked the movement of Antarctica’s grounding line using European Space Agency’s CryoSat-2 across 16,000 km of the coastline.

The Guardian view on Antarctica: The worrying retreat of the ice

Guardian editorial
The only thing more frightening than an advancing glacier may be one that is shrinking and raising sea levels round the world.

Australian rooftop solar boom rolls on – 351MW in first quarter

Rooftop solar installation boom continues in March, and total for first quarter is more than one third more than the previous record as households and …

Coalition still kidding itself about price of coal generation

Giles Parkinson
Scott Morrison is right to dismiss new coal generation as uneconomic, but his estimates of existing coal costs is half what NSW back coal generators charged for off-peak baseload this past winter. It is time the Coalition stopped kidding itself.

Portugal generated 100% of its energy from renewable sources in March

It aims to run only on renewable energy year-round by 2040.

 Hot, dry start to 2018

Hot dry start set to continue for Sydney, much of NSW
The state – and Australia as a whole – is off to one of its warmest starts to any year.