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pollution and energy poverty in the daintree

Renewable Energy re-defined

the reality of renewable energy
Plenty of lead acid batteries that have to be RENEWED

RENEWABLE ENERGY is a popular buzzword that is all around us these days as attempts are made to make this world more green and less polluting.
Its traditional meaning is unlimited cheap clean energy from sun, wind, water and other natural sources that will never stop.

While the principle of renewable energy is fantastic, let's take a realistic look at it.

How well does renewable energy work in the Daintree?

Solar power? Rainforests are cloudy or rainy more than half the year, and there are a lot of trees providing shade. Not a suitable option.

Hydro power? Some people have creeks suitable for hydro units on their property, but not many, and in the dry times they run short of power.
To power communities or businesses you would need to dam creeks and make a big impact on the fragile environment.

Wind power? Only along the beach would there be some wind, not inside the rainforest, but still not strong and constant enough for a wind turbine to pay for itself.
And our local council has written to State Government to ban wind turbines near World Heritage areas.

All options have been looked at, but the cleanest option for the Daintree was concluded to be a cable from the main grid so any pollution impact happens elsewhere and not in this fragile environment.

Not all that appears green is green.

For something to be truly green there are a few factors to consider:

Embodied energy in renewable energy equipment.

Energy and carbon payback time of renewable energy equipment.

Life cycle assessment of renewable energy equipment.

Solar panels in the past took more energy to make than they generated in their life span.
With improvements in efficiency the time came where they started to produce more energy in their life span than it cost to produce them. That was a study done in the UK, which only has 20% of the annual rainfall of the Daintree.
In the Daintree rainforest with its limited sunshine it takes a very long time for a solar panel to produce the electricity it cost to manufacture the panel, and then to produce extra.
While the companies that sell the panels talk about 25 year life spans, panels often have reduced output or stop working well before this time, and don't think that you will easily get new panels replaced then.

That means you have to buy fuel to run your generator to charge your battery bank.
When you run a 1800 Watt generator, you can power a battery charger which calls itself a 90 Amp charger, but in reality puts out about 50 Amp.
50 Amp x 12 Volt is 600 Watt. This means you only have a third of your generated power to put in to your batteries. You have lost 60% of the energy you produced, a terrible waste. But charging a battery to use power later is inefficient, it is not like putting water in a tank and later retrieving every drop of it, you need to charge a battery for longer than you can use it later. So you probably get to use only about 20% of the power you generated by burning fuel, and 80% has gone to waste.
Every hour this generator runs will cost you at least $2.- , if it puts 600 Watt or 0.6kw in your batteries for an hour of which you might get back 0.5 kW then this is a cost of $4 per kWh while the rest of the country pays 30 cents or less per kWh. And we are only counting fuel here and not the depriciation of your generator, batteries and other equipment.

It is an unfortunate fact that most of the renewable energy equipment is sold with ratings obtained under controlled optimal conditions.
A 90 Amp battery charger will usually give you only 50 Amp maximum charge.
Solar panels become less efficient when they get hot, which ironically is when the sun shines on them and they do their work.
Batteries can not be drained too low as this shortens their life span, you can only take out the top 15% so that means a battery bank of 4000Ah has in reality only an amount of 600Ah available to use.

All the equipment you need in your renewable energy system has cost a lot of energy to produce, usually supplied by traditional coal fired power stations and other standard sources.
This means that your inverter, your battery charger, your batteries, your solar panels, have all polluted the planet, used materials and metals that had to be mined and produced, and at the end of their life span will cause pollution again when discarded.
Not all that green, is it?

In 2015 everybody got excited about the Tesla Powerwall, lithium ion batteries became the rage, many ordered and paid for them before they were even manufactured.
But is this the solution? If everybody starts having big lithium ion batteries in their house? Where is all the lithium going to come from? A lot of lithium is mined in environmentally sensitive areas. In the future we can see greenies who love green energy protesting at the lithium mines.

A 2008 study concluded that "realistically achievable lithium carbonate production will be sufficient for only a small fraction of future PHEV and EV global market requirements", that "demand from the portable electronics sector will absorb much of the planned production increases in the next decade", and that "mass production of lithium carbonate is not environmentally sound, it will cause irreparable ecological damage to ecosystems that should be protected and that LiIon propulsion is incompatible with the notion of the 'Green Car'".

Renewable energy in the Daintree reality

Despite its romantic sound, what is the harsh reality of "Renewable Energy" to residents of the Daintree who live in a rainforest where solar panels don't work well and they are denied an electricity grid by their government?
Every six to eight years you have to RENEW your batterybank, depending on its size you are up for $4500 to even $20 000 and you can add a pile of lead and acid to the battery pile in the photo above.
From time to time you have to RENEW your generator, costs anywhere from $1000 to $50,000, and on a regular basis you have to RENEW the engine oil in your generator and discard of it.
You also need to frequently RENEW your petrol or diesel supply as you burn it in your generator.
Inverters need their capacitor bank RENEWED from time to time, cost $1000

Inverters have a limited life and need to be RENEWED when they wear out or blow up from events such as lightning strike.

Battery chargers the same story as above, need to be RENEWED from time to time.

Solar panels, despite promises of 25 year warranties and minimum life, have reduced output well before that or can be damaged in lightning strikes and then have to be RENEWED again.

The RENEWAL of any of these components can cost anywhere from $1000 to well over $20 000.- !!

To add further insult to injury subsidies and rebates on solar power installations are NOT AVAILABLE TO DAINTREE RESIDENTS but only to the rest of Queenslanders who are on the main electricity grid, who do not even need it!
Daintree residents have to pay every cent themselves.
All this RENEWING of expensive over-rated energy equipment keeps the community of the Daintree living in energy poverty.

renewable energy from renewed generators

Generators worn out, time to RENEW the generators and dump the old ones.

renweing the petrol supply

Time to RENEW the fuel supply after a rainy period surviving on generator power.


The batteries had to be RENEWED again...


Worn out generator in the forest

Cost of renewable energy

Renewable energy is not cheap energy, late 1990's ERGON quoted a kwh price of $2.50 per kwh for systems built by them (in 2012 people on a grid pay ERGON only about 25 cents per kwh), and when I calculated my true electricity costs in 2012 I came closer to $5.- !!!

And more recently in November 2014, despite all the new inventions and cheaper technology, this detailed electricity cost study on the Ergon website puts the cost of generating your own electricity versus grid supply at SIX TIMES THE COST!!

Hard enough for residents, but how can business compete with businesses in the rest of Queensland?

Renewable energy officially declared not economically viable

The Daintree is totally reliant on renewable energy, and generators where this falls short.

Energy Minister Mark McArdle came out with a media release commenting on reviewing the percentage of renewable energy in Queensland's electricity supply late December 2013 where he stated;

“If it isn’t commercially cost effective we are simply adding to electricity prices by mandating a level of green energy that must be used, regardless of how expensive it is,” he said.

“I welcome the Federal Government’s impending review of the Renewable Energy Target because it will allow Queenslanders to have the conversation about whether Australians are prepared to pay for energy sources that are not economically viable through their electricity bills.

Would you believe it, he has finally worked out what the Daintree community has known for the last 20 years; RENEWABLE ENERGY IS NOT ECONOMICALLY VIABLE!!!!!!

And it is declared not acceptable for Queenslanders to pay for a small part of renewable energy, while it appears totally acceptable for Daintree residents to pay for their renewable energy!

Media Release
Minister for Energy and Water Supply
The Honourable Mark McArdle

Renewable Energy Target must be reviewed


Queensland Minister for Energy Mark McArdle has reinforced the need for the Renewable Energy Target to be revised, to take pressure off electricity prices for Queenslanders.

Mr McArdle said recent commentary alleging that the Renewable Energy Target places significant downward pressure on electricity prices is incorrect.

“In determining the cost of making, producing and supplying electricity, the Queensland Competition Authority has confirmed the effect that the Renewable Energy Target has on pushing up the cost of supply of electricity to households and businesses,” he said.

“In a subsequent letter to me the Queensland Competition Authority estimated that the cost of the Renewable Energy Target equated to $81.24 on an average household electricity bill.

“This clearly demonstrates the effect that the Renewable Energy Target has in putting upward pressure on electricity prices.

“We’ve been working hard to deliver better infrastructure as we promised at the election, to put downward pressure on prices.

“Revising the Renewable Energy Target and axing the carbon tax are two ways that electricity used could get immediate relief.”

Mr McArdle said that the Queensland Government supported renewable energy but it must be commercially cost effective.

“If it isn’t commercially cost effective we are simply adding to electricity prices by mandating a level of green energy that must be used, regardless of how expensive it is,” he said.

“I welcome the Federal Government’s impending review of the Renewable Energy Target because it will allow Queenslanders to have the conversation about whether Australians are prepared to pay for energy sources that are not economically viable through their electricity bills.

“The Newman Government is doing what it to keep downward pressure on power costs but this can must be looked at in order to put a stop to the escalating cost-of-living for Queenslanders.”

[ENDS] 19 December 2013

Media Contact: Natalie Wynne 0437 334 183

discarded batteries in the daintree

Time to renew the batteries again!