David Bidstrup: Living in the madhouse.

On 10 January “The Advertiser” reported that the solar-thermal plant to replace the now demolished coal plant at Port Augusta has been given development approval. The proponents still need to organise finance and get their hands on the federal government $100 million “concessional equity loan” otherwise known as free money from us. I thought I would do some numbers to see whether the project is worth the hype, even though it is probably inevitable.

 The promotional blurb for the “Aurora” project states a generating capacity of 150 MW and output of 500 GWh per year. If “Aurora” was a conventional generator its theoretical annual output would be 1,314 GWh so the capacity factor for the project is 38%. This is not much better than wind farms which average capacity factors of 30-35%. As a comparison, the now demolished Port Augusta power station had a capacity of 520MW and a capacity factor of around 90% so could produce about 4,100 GWh annually. This is around 8 times more than the solar-thermal project will provide.

 The solar-thermal plant is quoted at $650 million, with $100 million coming directly from our pockets. The construction time is 2 ½ years from whenever they get the money finalised.

 Over a proposed life span of 40 years it will produce 20,000 GWh – about 5 years’ worth of Port Augusta output – and will have a capital cost per MWh produced of $32.50 plus financing and operating costs.

 There is much hype about the “storage” capacity and how this will make the plant “dispatchable”, (a term the famous “pet shop parrot” now uses whenever electricity is being discussed). Looking at data from plants already in existence in Nevada, the solar-thermal plants suffer the same issue as ordinary solar PV in that their output drops off in winter months. Plots show capacity factors dropping to 10% so output is around one quarter of summer output. There might not be sufficient “excess” power to store in winter months.

 The coal fired station provided employment for 500 or so people in the Leigh Creek mine and Port Augusta power station and many others who made their livings supporting the power station or providing services for the families of these people. Leigh Creek is now a ghost town and Port Augusta has businesses closed and people out of work. They are also facing pollution from the overenthusiastic explosive demolition of the power station and the dust from the drying flyash lagoon.

 The solar-thermal project is touted as employing 650 people over 2 ½ years for construction – most of whom will come from places other than Port Augusta – and an ongoing workforce of 50 people to operate it. Not much of a deal for those who now see no future.

 Towards the end of the article Mr Kevin Smith, CEO of “Solar Reserve” is quoted as saying it is “a remarkable story of the transition of Port Augusta from coal to renewable energy – which won a competitive tender against fossil fuel”. I would imagine Alinta, owners of the Port Augusta power station, were not asked to “tender”, (if there ever was a tender process), because it used “dirty coal”. How can you “win” a tender against something that is excluded from the tender for “ideological” reasons?

 Alinta were going broke because they had to get off the grid every time the wind blew but be ready to pick up the slack when it did not. This meant they continued to burn coal and employ people but their revenue base was severely reduced. They offered a deal to keep the plant going for $8 million per year but this was turned down by a government that has a fanatical fixation about “climate change” and “emissions reductions”. As a consequence the plant was blown up and sent to China as scrap metal.

 4,100,000 MWh for $8 million is $1.95 per MWh, slightly less than a capital cost of $32.50 plus $80 for the RET subsidy, (it is “renewable” after all), and probably $20 for operations and maintenance giving $132.50 per MWh, without financing costs. This is 68 times the incremental cost for keeping Port Augusta open and produces 5 years’ worth of “equivalent” power over a 40 year life span.

 I find it very hard to get excited by deals such as this and I suspect if others had access to the numbers they might get out on the streets with pitchforks and chase the perpetrators of this fiasco down the street.

 It gets worse. When the penny finally dropped that our power system was imperilled the same government did deals for a battery, which has limited use and which we do not know the price of and some diesel fired gas turbines that use 80,000 litres of fuel per hour. The total cost, excluding the solar thermal plant is said to be $550 million of the SA taxpayers’ dollars. It will be added to the state credit card which we are ultimately responsible for.

 Not only do the federal government think it is a good idea, Mr Xenophon, who is on a quest to “save” us, thinks so too and “struck a deal” when he was a senator in order to get the “concessional equity loan”. This does not bode well for us in regard to sane energy policy going forwards but the same can be said for the Liberals who seem clueless.

 Meanwhile the good people of Port Augusta and Leigh Creek comb through the garbage cans trying to survive, wondering why their lives have been destroyed for absolutely no reason by a government that is supposed to do the right thing by its citizens. The rest of us deal with eye-watering power bills and the ever present threat of blackouts. Businesses shed staff or close up shop because their power bills increase past the affordable limit.

 The pity of it is that all Australian politicians have become captive to the fantasy of the “greenhouse effect” even though it is just a theory, has not been proved and has been refuted by many scientists we never hear about. There is strong motivation for vested interests in “renewables” to hype their product while dining off subsidies that all consumers pay for in their power bills and no one dares stick their head up above the trenches point out that it is all pain and no gain.

 It is insane. We are living in the madhouse.

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55 Responses to David Bidstrup: Living in the madhouse.

  1. AH

    So yeah, about that pitchfork thing. Where do I sign up?

  2. nilk

    As a consequence the plant was blown up and sent to China as scrap metal.

    What. The. Fuck?

    Who blows up power plants? They’re determined to send mainland Tasmania back to the stone age.

  3. Louis Hissink

    They’re determined to send mainland Tasmania back to the stone age.

    What do you mean “back”? They never left it.

  4. v_maet

    Ivanpah solar thermal plant uses so much gas to get the boilers going that it is double the cap and trade threshold: https://www.pe.com/2015/10/19/solar-power-desert-plant-has-pollution-problem/

  5. Dr Fred Lenin

    Dont \\knock Gaia’s warming theory ,thousand s of years ago during the last ice age ,the cave persons fires caused global warming ,wiping out many species ,in their sefish desire to survive . Gaia fell out of favour as other heathen religions replaced her or him or it ,no one is sure which of the many genders Gaia is . The advent of the gangrene communusts revived the old beliefs ,as gangrene prophets flew around the world in jets ,drove their 4wheel drive tanks and used their computers in the electric light and air conditioners powered by the evil coal,the desires to destroy the evil anti Gaia energy cartel was paramount . Knowing that they have priority when energy poverty strikes ,as it will,the poor can die of heat or cold as long as they pay taxes to keep the gangrene communists safe secure and in control ,I think this great plan is somewhat flawed ,can you pick the reasons for my conclusion ?]

  6. DM of WA

    Weep for yourselves and for your children.

  7. SA will be the first place in the world with real climate (action) refugees.

  8. Robbo

    David it serves you right for living there. You probably voted Labor, or Greens or Xenophon so you and all the other nitwits that put Labor back into government are getting what you deserve. Don’t come whining to me about the insanity of the halfwits running your State. I have enough problems of my own living next door trying not to be assaulted, robbed or murdered by young Sudanese thugs who lead a charmed life in Victoria’s courts courtesy of a bunch of moronic judicial appointments made by ex Labor AG Rob Hulls.

  9. Habib

    Shithouse more like. Don’t let this vermin hide behind the excuse of mental impairment, they know exactly what they are doing, and have declared open warfare on their employers.

    SA has plenty of large, hungry noahs hanging around Aldinga and Port Lincoln, why not put those responsible to a useful purpose for once in their worthless lives, although even a famished fish would probably draw the line at scoffing one of those misanthropic lampreys. Smear with plenty of berley. Also seize every asset they’ve got squirreled away, and loot their party coffers to offset some of the losses they’ve inflicted on others.

  10. It is insane. We are living in the madhouse.

    Second that.

  11. herodotus

    This, or used to be, the stuff that revolutions against the “powers that be” were built upon.

    Now, we have compliant media, celebs, snouts-in-trough scientists, walked-through BOM and CSIRO, alarmists appointed as chief scientists to advise governments, and worst of all we have politicians who carry on against all reason when the case for warming is almost totally destroyed.

  12. Sydney Boy

    Hmmm.

    So the Port Augusta power station produced 4,100 GWh annually with 440 jobs (according to the Paywalian). This represents 9.3 GWh per employee. I’m only counting direct employees.

    Aurora will generate 500 GWh with 50 employees – 10 GWh per employee. About the same. So where are all the “green jobs” that will be created? 1/8 of the power generated with 1/8 of the employment.

    And another thing – where is the EIS? And how did the Tesla battery manage to get the through the EIS process in just months when it takes any conventional power station years to get through the approvals?

  13. Whalehunt Fun

    Whilesoever there is not a death penalty there is no appropriate respinse available for thise who have lied and scammed us into this position. The first step is not the reversal of energy policy. It is the introduction of star chambers and immediate in chamber executions. Onelce these begin, the energy industry will right itself within days.

  14. Bruce of Newcastle

    Presumably when the death penalty is legislated for those people refusing to believe in Gaia the new plant can do dual duty. Just hoist heretics into the focus zone and poof!

    Meanwhile the peons will have to clean all the mirrors every time the wind blows dust all over them, which will be often. I wonder if the flyash from the lagoon will stuff up the mirrors? That would be poetic justice.

  15. Confused Old Misfit

    “We don’t believe that in a small economy like SA, in a competitive international market place, just sitting back and letting the free market dictate terms is going to get us anywhere,” Mr Weatherill said.

    “So it will be a matter of stepping up and the Government investing and taking action to create the industries of the future. All of these things that seem futuristic; they’re just around the corner and they’ll only be advanced by governments prepared to strike out and take steps.”

    Sounds like a planned economy. We all know how well those work.
    How, in the name of all that is good and Holy, do you get through to these people? You know, that when is all comes to a grinding halt, as we all know it will, they will blame someone or something other than their policies.
    Angel and Ministers of Grace Defend Us, for The Night is Dark and Full of Terrors!

  16. manalive

    It’s worser than that, the Crescent Dunes CSP in Nevada cited by Aurora as the ‘flagship’ CSP project with “10 hours of storage” was shut down for 6 months due to a molten salt leak.
    Roger Andrews @ Energy Matters has calculated that from Jan 15 – Dec 16 the five US CSPs studied generated “less than 1% of the electricity consumed” in sunny Southern California, Arizona and Nevada.
    Weeping? … I think it’s farcically funny.

  17. Norman Church

    If the people of SA vote for this shade of government, they vote for these idiotic policies. It’s not hard to see what is wrong with left wing climate change policies. People get what they deserve. Good and hard.

  18. Eddystone

    It’s true that the SA Libs are complete numpties, but the electorate voted for them 53:47, but still got a Labor govt in 2014.

  19. Dr Fred Lenin

    What happened to the huge solar thingys in Spain?I remember reading about one at the time Hazelwood was starting to end its usefull life it would only have taken 23 or so of the Spanish plants to replace Hazelwood at $300 million each a bargain to the Gaia gangrenes. .

  20. manalive

    Incidentally (slightly O.T.) Tesla Inc. must be a monstrous practical joke, the company was named after a Serbian-American inventor Nikola Tesla whose principal talent was extracting vast sums of money from gullible investors for his crazy schemes.

  21. herodotus

    Tesla has become a touchstone, a magic name that people who have not done their research use to conjure up all manner of things, from conspiracy theories to outlandish lists of his accomplishments. Some insist he invented longwave radio, shortwave radio, FM radio, and TV, while others are even more enthusiastic and think he invented just about everything electrical.

  22. herodotus

    There are politicians state and federal who show all the signs of having about as much practical scientific knowledge as a Tesla conspiracy theorist. Way too many of them.

  23. overburdened

    The only issue of importance is if there is a chance of fixing this monstrous fuck up, or if the die is cast. Going by the continuous cheerleading and wilful ignorance of demonstrable truth re most everything that is being foisted on the masses- poofterism, gender fluidity, global something, rejection of past traditions eg Oz Day, the fact that indigs never had their art, culture and spiritualism until it was marketed, shipping in shit heads from places that apparently not shit holes…I could go on… one can only assume that there will never be a return to a time when reliable and cheap power was seen as a right of the people and the responsibility of Government. The tipping point has been reached.
    1- Who is going to grow, manufacture and distribute that old fashioned idea of food in Jay’s new world when everyone sits in front of a flat screen for a living?
    2- How will his brave new world be financed without antiquated concepts such as the value of money, product and labour to generate a value based product?
    3 Why isn’t the Australian population screaming, ‘remember ENRON’ at these clowns?

  24. overburdened

    it’s probably due to the accumulated Arsenic levels from the water supply in South Oz.
    Fence it off. Tasbludgermania as well. And, in a little while, Victoriastan and the south-east of QLD.
    Moment of insight- the whole place is generally rooted.

  25. egg_

    Ivanpah solar thermal plant uses so much gas to get the boilers going that it is double the cap and trade threshold: https://www.pe.com/2015/10/19/solar-power-desert-plant-has-pollution-problem/

    Da ironing!
    Who did the Financials on that one?

  26. Wayneofperth

    Can someone tell me what exactly are the future industries that are just around the corner due to Australia committing economic suicide.

  27. Rabz

    Seriously, this indescribable insanity needs to stop. As of yesterday.

    #shippingcontainersofpeace

  28. Tel

    Aurora will generate 500 GWh with 50 employees – 10 GWh per employee. About the same.

    I believe that’s only at peak production, not the long term average. It won’t generate as much at night, nor on cloudy days, etc.

  29. Tel

    Sorry, you are right, they claim that does take into account night time, cloudy days and all the other stuff… if it works.

  30. Delta

    The only issue of importance is if there is a chance of fixing this monstrous fuck up, or if the die is cast.

    My take on it is that the die is cast. Ian Plimer in a recent interview for the Global Warming Policy Foundation titled The Climate Change Delusion and the Great Electricity Ripoff tracks how Australia got to this mess and sadly his prognosis of how it can be fixed is not reassuring. I think he is correct in his analysis.

  31. Rob MW

    Over a proposed life span of 40 years………..

    Is it ok to say bullshit ? Replacing the solar panels every 7 to 10 years might give a little longevity until they, or consumers, get sick of the never-ending panel replacement costs and life’s stupid experiences.

  32. cynical1

    Why isn’t the Australian population screaming, ‘remember ENRON’ at these clowns?

    Boiling frogs.

    The welfare hasn’t stopped yet.

  33. H B Bear

    Can someone tell me what exactly are the future industries that are just around the corner due to Australia committing economic suicide.

    NDIS bedpan emptying and lawn care.

  34. John Constantine

    Their yarragrad is going to spend a billion dollars to build a massive windfarm to power a massive battery to supply a refugee plantation to grow lettuce.

    renewable refugee lettuce, this is the industry for Australias future.

    Poor fella my country.

  35. a reader

    If the people of SA vote for this shade of government, they vote for these idiotic policies. It’s not hard to see what is wrong with left wing climate change policies. People get what they deserve. Good and hard.

    Norman they didn’t vote for these twats. They voted 53:47 for the lieberals but because SA is dictated to by the two powerful Irishmen (Gerry Mander & Mal Apportionment) they still bloody got Weatherdill

  36. overburdened

    My contempt for Weatherill and his minions knows no bounds

  37. Norman Church

    I can understand that a 53/47 split in the popular vote at the last SA state election suggests that there is gerrymandering. Yet, ultimately my point remains good. SA is a parliamentary democracy with electoral seats not a mandate to govern based on a popular vote. The required majority in the required number of SA state seats still voted for Weatherdill and his inane policies. Unbelievable stuff.

  38. RobK

    Concentrated solar with salt storage is a poor approximation of dispatchable power. When all is going well it can ride through some short term cloudiness and continue for a period after sunset but as mentioned up thread it will struggle to perform in winter and when there are consecutive cloudy days. It has no secure reserves. It cannot perform beyond call in an emergency. It is a costly boy sent on a man’s errand. A confidence trick.

  39. amortiser

    The pity of it is that all Australian politicians have become captive to the fantasy of the “greenhouse effect” even though it is just a theory, has not been proved and has been refuted by many scientists we never hear about.

    It is not even a theory, it is an hypothesis. The hypothesis goes that increasing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere will result in accelerated global warming causing environmental catastrophe.

    This hypothesis gained currency in the 1980s now over 30 years.

    Like any hypothesis it has to be testable. Indeed this one has and has been found to be wanting. The levels of CO2 in the atmosphere have risen even faster than the proponents envisaged yet temperatures have failed to respond according to predictions. Any scientist wedded to the scientific method would class this result as a failure of the hypothesis and seek another explanation for the driver/drivers of global climate.

    The proponents of this hypothesis, however, are not scientists they are zealots.

  40. areff

    Why isn’t the Australian population screaming, ‘remember ENRON’ at these clowns?

    Always worth remembering is that Enron kicked off the first carbon-trading desk.

    Skilling et al new suckers when they saw them.

  41. Rabz

    Well said, amortisor. I’ve noted here before that gerbil worming is an utterly discredited hypothesis. As soon as you hear anyone referring to gerbil worming as a theory, you can safely assume they are utterly ignorant of the scientific method, at the very least.

  42. Dr Faustus

    There is a certain elegance in that the voters who empower these arseclowns are now mooing sadly as they foot the bill for the damage that was always an obvious part of the deal.

    Australia has gone well past the point where dim surprise and disappointment at the looming outcome can turn things around. The spiv promise of cheap renewable energy has crystallised into a firm, unavoidable commitment to an unaffordable economic reality. Citizens, you are strapped into the ride and the brakes are off – but it was your choice to get on board.

    Eventually the political bill will be presented. At which point our elected representatives will scatter like index-pensioned cockroaches from under a lifted log. The precautionary principle will get a new workout, but this time as a post hoc justification for stupidity, credulity and gross negligence.

    The carpetbaggers will be long gone however, chortling over the bags full of lovely money gifted to them by the servants of the zombie economy.

  43. David Bidstrup

    Thanks to Catallaxy for posting my article, and thanks also to those who bothered to read it and comment.

    This solar-thermal project, like all “renewables” is driven by ideology, not by any rational economic/financial/technical analysis. It is in the same boat as Snowy 2.0, the fanciful “pumped hydro” schemes proposed by ANU, wind farms, solar and the promise of batteries that will “fix” everything.

    I am fortunate to know some people who were involved in power generation in SA in the days when it was done properly so have some advantage in “fact checking”. One comment was that we got the “Blue Ribbon” for stupidity in allowing the PA power station to close and then be demolished.

    PA could supply 4,100 GWh of electricity per year day and night. That is around 1/3 of our annual consumption. The farcical NEM, the RET and other market distortions made it unprofitable, plus it ran on “dirty coal”. If it had been kept we could have had a secure 4,100 GWh per year for an incremental cost of $1.98/MWh. ($8 million/4.1 million).

    In our 2016 “state blackout” Olympic dam and Prominent Hill mines and the entire Eyre Peninsula would have had electricity if the PA station was running. It was closed in March 2016 and the blackout was September 2016. BHPB would not have lost around $150 million and god knows what other losses would have been avoided.

    It is unfortunate that the facts are always suppressed in the quest to make the narrative fit the ideology which is now driving the decisions of all political parties state and federal.

    I appreciate the comments made by various people about my home of SA, but need to make the point that we are not the only “stupid state” when we compare ourselves with Victoria and Queensland. The take home message is that there is always danger when people with very little “experience” and technical know-how are given the keys to the big house and left to run amok while we look on in horror. Unfortunately we are about to do this again in SA.

  44. Rockdoctor

    “BHPB would not have lost around $150 million and god knows what other losses would have been avoided.”

    Yet BHPB has now jumped into bed with the same virtue signalling SJW morons and is busy bullying any industry based dissenters into line. Go figure…

  45. yarpos

    Weatherill “……….So it will be a matter of stepping up and the Government investing and taking action to create the industries of the future” The government ? did someone ask for an expensive, dysfunctional and late industry? oh yeah, renewables.

  46. yarpos

    “Why isn’t the Australian population screaming, ‘remember ENRON’ at these clowns?”

    Maybe because 95%+ Australians would have no clue what ENRON was or the story surrounding it

  47. Tezza

    A good piece, but you are much too kind to the dispatchability of solar thermal in your 2nd and 5th para. I’m with RobK, who makes all the right points.
    I can understand why the loony SA government is so hot for solar thermal, though. The liquid sodium storage idea at Nevada was the centrepiece of perhaps the silliest 4Corners program ever, “Power to the People”, screened on 7 July 2014. Check the transcript at http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/power-to-the-people/5580878#transcript for a rehearsal of pretty much every misconception about renewable energy ever expressed. Every key proposition it advanced could be dismissed with 10 minutes study on Wikipedia.
    When account of the collapse of the dangerous anthropogenic global warming scam finally is written, there will be a full chapter on the ABC’s pernicious role in destroying Australia’s power affordability and reliability through grossly misleading the public.

  48. Mr Black

    Jobs are a cost to business and increase the cost to the end user: us. “More Jobs” is a code for more money wasted. You can pretend that more jobs “created” with government money is a good thing to a stupid public but in a place like this, some demonstration of honesty and education would be more appreciated.

  49. Winston

    Gravity is also only a theory, as is the atomic model, relativity etc. Interesting that some people are happy to believe in some scientific consensus theories but not others. I believe this is what’s known as cognitive dissonance.

  50. Michael Spencer

    An excellent article David! (As are your letters I read in “The Australian” – but not, [surprise! surprise!] in the Fairfax Press on via “Their ABC”!)

    Folks! Here’s a complete game-changer that is about to become commercially available this year with the first production-line units likely rolling out from – guess where? China! (Surprise! Surprise!) And where did the Chinese get their information to get started? From frustrated Americans, thanks to the greenocracy of the Obama regime.

    So, try this: Completely different nuclear power with several side-benefits, quite apart from clean and cheap electricity. Check it out here: http://galileomovement.com.au/media/ShouldYouReallyBeAlarmed.pdf via links on pages 4 to 6 (I’ve tried to sort these out into a logical order so that people can wrap their minds around the subject without getting their brains blown – most important when trying to communicate with the general public, especially a public exposed to continual propaganda!)

    So, if you look on page 4 you will be introduced to a few of the “game-changers”; just by way of an example one of the links is to a very short little video entitled: “Carbon Neutral Gasoline“. And guess where this stuff comes from? Cracking water (say, sea water – and I don’t think we are likely to run out this very soon!) and harvesting CO2 (that oh-so-evil ‘carbon pollution’ that is destroying the climate, you know!). Now compare what this means with expensive electricity from so-called ‘renewables’. And then there’s the ‘small’ problem of having the electricity to power your electric car when you drive from the Eastern States to Western Australia, or North to South. You get the picture …..

    Unfortunately, we have a large number of propagandised and misinformed people who have been – and are being – ‘conned’ by charlatans waxing fat on the public purse, including from their enjoyment of lovely subsidies provided by the long-suffering taxpayers. (But then, I don’t think I’m telling most of Catallaxy files readers anything new!)

  51. Tezza;

    When account of the collapse of the dangerous anthropogenic global warming scam finally is written, there will be a full chapter on the ABC’s pernicious role in destroying Australia’s power affordability and reliability through grossly misleading the public.

    Not on Their ABC, there won’t.

  52. David Bidstrup

    My response to Rob K and Tezza:

    Thanks. I agree that any solar system is not “dispatchable” as is case with wind. Winds average capacity factor is 30%, solar thermal is not much better at 39%.

    The average load in SA is 1,300 MW so we consume 1,300 MWh per hour. “Aurora” is quoted as having 1,100 MWh storage – less than 1 hour load and contingent on there being enough “sun” to “fill” the heat storage system.

    Just did some numbers for my brother who has been approached to “fix his power bill problems” by buying a 6 kW solar system for $180 per month over 5 years – $10,800.00 investment. For this he will get twice his annual consumption but nothing at night.

    He can “sell” the excess at 11 cents per kWh.

    They omitted to tell him that in January the system will provide him 1,099 kWh but only 440 in June. (Look on “pvwatts.nrel.gov/pvwatts.php” for the calculator that will give annual output for any solar system anywhere in the world.)

    Of course he could fork out another $20,000.00 for a battery.

    As RobK said “It is a costly boy sent on a man’s errand. A confidence trick”.

    Thanks to all who read and commented

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