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The Forum > Article Comments > Rock power: Australia's future? > Comments

Rock power: Australia's future? : Comments

By Mike Pope, published 5/8/2009

It is likely that clean coal technology will prove so expensive that it is uncompetitive with renewables.

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Mike Pope states:

"Nuclear power stations can produce electricity at a similar price to geothermal"

Where do you get this drivel? There has not been a viable geothermal station built (of the form they are proposing for Australia) in the world, yet every green loony is proclaiming it as the future of renewable power.

There are many test sites in the world, and no one has yet pulled the rabbit out of the hat.

Nuclear works Now. The question is what is worse global warming or nuclear, you can have one or the other.
Posted by Shadow Minister, Wednesday, 5 August 2009 8:52:39 AM
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I predict dry rock geothermal will go nowhere. The reasons are firstly the low working temperature 250C vs 500C for most boilers though allegedly the use of an ammonia-water mixture will overcome this. Secondly there is little control over the way deep underground granite will provide optimum passage for the water. Third is the energy debt from drilling and the need to drill fresh holes not too far from the generator. This will be needed as the granite cools. So don't rely on dry rock geothermal for anything resembling baseload power.

Another problem with CO2 capture apart from cost and energy penalty is there is simply not enough underground space in Australia to safely bury half a million cubic metres every day for decades. Rudd is either gullible or complicit in delaying tactics by talking it up. Studies suggest that overbuilding wind farms with extra transmission could cost over twice as much as nuclear for comparable output. Solar thermal with molten salt storage will need frequent backup from gas fired generators. Other ideas like storing irregular renewable power in electric cars may never happen on a relevant scale. I think the choice is nukes or CO2 spewing coal power. I prefer the former.
Posted by Taswegian, Wednesday, 5 August 2009 8:56:29 AM
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Shadow Minister: "Nuclear works Now."

It depends on how your define "works". Yes we have nuclear technology that produces power now. But this current technology uses so much Uranium that there is only in the ground about to produce a few decades (20-30 years?) worth of the world electricity consumption. Worse, it produces waste that costs enormous amounts to dispose of. When Sweden, the only country I am aware of that hiked its electricity price to account for this added 18c per kW hour - which is more than we pay now for coal base electricity.

This may fit your definition of "works" Shadow, but it sure as hell doesn't fit mine.

Now there are solutions for nuclear powers problems the wings. Fast Breeder reactors change that 20-30 years to centuries or millennium, and they produce short lived waste that only takes a few decades to become relatively safe. Fast Breeder reactors would be a wonderful solution for our future power needs.

However, just like hot rocks - they don't exist. No one has ever built a commercial Fast Breeder reactor. Sure there are experimental ones, but then there is experimental hot rock stuff out there now. And hot rocks, if they worked, would be even more wonderful than nuclear.

The bottom line is no one has working replacement for coal fired power plants. No one. The noise from hot rocks, wind, nuclear is all just sales hype from lobbyists trying to garner a bigger share of the government renewable energy tit. It is amusing to watch people like you Shadow be seduced by the marketing of one side over the other.
Posted by rstuart, Wednesday, 5 August 2009 10:05:36 AM
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"In Australia, geothermal energy is either volcanic in origin or produced from decay of radio-active materials such as uranium, thorium and potassium contained in hot granite rocks 3.5-5km beneath the surface..."
Tell me. why is the safe diposing of waste from nuclear power plants such an apparently insurmountable problem (used as argument against its use) if our Earth has an abundance of such radio active stuff already at an accessible depth beneath the surface?
Nucler Base Load Electricity does appear to be the only sensible, sustainable solution for the foreseable future. To alleviate public concern (no one wants one in their neighbouhood) such plants may have to be built in the outback, with overland powerlines as suggested for the geothermal installations in Australia.
Posted by Alfred, Wednesday, 5 August 2009 10:06:40 AM
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"Australia has the highest per-capita CO2 emissions in the world"

This statement is repeated, variously as per-capita CO2 or Greenhouse Gas emissions, ad-nauseam by the global warming lobby. I'm not sure how this bullsh!t has become conventional wisdom, except perhaps as an exercise in self-flagellation*, but if anyone bothers to do something as simple as a Google, it's easy enough to fact-check that it just ain't so.

Depending on which indicator you use, Australia is ranked variously as 2nd or 3rd to about 11. And that's just on a per-capita basis. In terms of total emissions, Australia barely counts at all.

And can we, for once, have a discussion of climate change that doesn't indulge in ridiculous alarmist statements about flooded cities, ruined economies and millions of lives lost? One can acknowledge the veracity of climate change without resorting to that sort of nonsense.

*Actually, I think I smell the rat here: this notion appears to have been promulgated by Clive Hamilton's Australia Institute, and like so many dubious "reports" ("Australia world's fattest nation!", "Immunisation causes autism!"), picked up unquestioningly by the media, and thus passed into conventional wisdom (I use the term in Galbraith's original, unflattering, context).
Posted by Clownfish, Wednesday, 5 August 2009 11:15:31 AM
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Other posts notes that the author is optimistic about geothermal. He is also very optimistic about wind energy. Amasingly he gives a cost per metgawatt for wind that is similar to that of coal. Nonsense! A report produced by the UKs Royal Academy of Engineering last year entitled The Cost of Generating Electricity gives quite different figures, and that is before they were adjusted for the cost of shadow generation. Wind energy is so variable that the genrators have to back it up by keeping conventional plants operating ready to step in at a moment's notice.. Typically that shadow generating output is kept at 70-80 per cent of a wind farm's output.. (the standard ratio overseas). In other words, wind farms are an expensive and nearly useless way not to offset emissions.
As geothermal is totally unproven anywhere - the costs per MWh quoted are simply fantasy - about the only realistic way to reduce emissions in the short term, assuming that's what we want to do, is to build gas powered plants. Nuclear would be better, I agree, but probably is not politically possible in Australia - not yet, anyway.
Posted by Curmudgeon, Wednesday, 5 August 2009 11:20:39 AM
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