Friday, April 07, 2023

Concentrated solar power?

This idea has always been attractive and exciting but it has been around now for long enough for us to assess its practicality. And the one certain thing about it is that is trouble-prone and often fails. You can imagine how dicey anything is going to be that relies on moving molten salt round at at 550 degrees C. The one thing it is good at is eating up goverment subsidies

The best-known such project is the Ivanpah installation in California. See below for some history of it:

Concentrated solar power (CSP) uses mirrors to focus heat from the Sun to drive a steam turbine and generate electricity.

While CSP was once the great hope for replacing coal and gas-fired generation, it's now generally considered to have been eclipsed by cheaper forms of renewable generation, like solar panels and wind turbines.

Recently, however, it's been making a quiet comeback.

The reason for this boils down to three words that describe one of the major challenges of decarbonising the grid: overnight energy storage.

The CSIRO's Renewable Energy Storage Roadmap, released last week, predicts that by 2050, CSP will be the cheapest way to store energy for 8–24 hours.

Developing this "medium-duration" storage is a necessary step to switching off coal- and gas-fired generators that produce most of the power we use at night.

For this reason, CSP projects are starting to gather momentum.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) recently approved $65 million in funding for a Sydney-based company, Vast Solar, to build the country's first commercial-scale CSP plant in Port Augusta, South Australia.

So how does CSP work?

And what role will CSP play in a net-zero Australia?

A technology that once rivalled solar panels
The idea of CSP is so simple that the technology hasn't changed much in decades.

Italy built the first CSP plant in 1968, and California installed the first commercial-scale array in 1981.

At the time, solar panels were expensive and mostly used in consumer electronics, whereas CSP relied on familiar technologies, such as steam turbines.

CSP plants also looked impressive: The popular "power tower" design featured a circular field of thousands of mirrors, focusing their light on the crown of a central tower, which in some cases soared taller than 200 metres.

But then, more efficient panels and larger factories drove down the price of photovoltaics (PV), while CSP plants ran into problems with leaking fluids and dirty mirrors.

In 2019, South Australia scrapped a $650 million project to build Australia's first commercial-scale CSP after the company behind the project revealed it could not raise funding.

"It's been a bit of a tale of woe in Australia," said Keith Lovegrove, director of the Australian Solar Thermal Energy Association. "We've actually managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory a couple of times."

As of 2021, the global installed capacity of CSP was 6.8 gigawatts, which was many hundreds of times less than the figure for photovoltaics.

But CSP is not dead. Spain, Morocco, South Africa, Israel and other countries are using CSP in their grids, while China has dozens of projects underway.

"China is the most active place at this, at this very moment," Dr Lovegrove said.

CSP cannot generate daytime electricity as cheaply as solar PV, but it has one advantage: built-in storage.

The heat from the Sun is stored in a medium such as molten salt. When the Sun goes down, this stored heat can be tapped to drive the turbine and generate electricity.

This combination of generation and storage makes CSP "dispatchable", meaning the power can be sent to the grid when it's needed. "The whole point about CSP is that it's dispatchable renewable generation," Dr Lovegrove said.

"It's generation you can have when you need it at night, or peak periods. It comes at a higher price because it's got this added value and complexity."


Andrew and Nicola Forrest lose bid to build irrigation project that traditional owners fear could kill mythical sacred serpent

Valuable immigration project held up by primitive superstition

A pastoral company owned by West Australian billionaires Andrew and Nicola Forrest has lost an appeal to build an irrigation project in a Pilbara river sacred to traditional owners.

The State Administrative Tribunal (SAT) released a decision late on Thursday afternoon refusing an appeal by the Forrests of the controversial Section 18 provision of the Aboriginal Heritage Act.

The family's cattle company Forrest and Forrest Pty Ltd lodged an application in 2019 to build two granite quarries and 10 weirs along the Ashburton River, which runs through Minderoo Station, about 1,300 kilometres north of Perth.

Forrest and Forrest Pty Ltd needed a Section 18 approval, the same kind of permit which allowed Rio Tinto to destroy the 46,000-year-old Juukan Gorge rock shelters, to be able to build the weirs.

This was because the river from its mouth near Onslow to inland near Nanutarra is a registered Aboriginal heritage site where the Thalanyji people believe the water serpent Warnamankura lives. Warnamankura created the river, according to Thalanyji belief, and still travels up and down it to protect the country. Traditional owners feared the weirs could kill the water serpent spirit in the river.

Any activity like the extraction of minerals or construction of bridges and other infrastructure in the river requires Section 18 approval.

Former WA Aboriginal affairs minister Ben Wyatt refused the Section 18 application at the start of 2020 because of the area's significance to the Thalanyji and because he did not think the project had enough public benefit.

The Forrests wanted to build the weirs, which still allowed water to pass through them so the river flowed, so more water could be held back longer to drought-proof the station and allow for an expansion in cattle numbers.

One weir had already been built in 2010 in consultation with the Thalanyji.

The last tribunal hearing into the case was held nearly two years before Thursday's decision. In the decision, Justice Janine Pritchard and two other tribunal members found the entirety of the river was of spiritual significance to the Thalanyji.

"We have found that in the Thalanyji culture, the river is regarded with deep respect and reverence," they wrote. "From the Thalanyji people's perspective, the implementation of the ... project, which will affect the natural flow of the river, risks killing or harming the water snake, or causing the water snake to become angry. "And that that would have a significant adverse impact on the Thalaynji people."

Lawyers for the Forrests said the entire river was not a site under the Aboriginal Heritage Act.

The tribunal panel stated there was no way the weirs could be built in a way that minimised the impact on the river as a site of spiritual importance.

It also decided the primary benefit of the project would be a private one for the Forrests and generally did not have weight in benefiting the overall general interest of the community.

The tribunal panel did find, however, the increased beef production and creation of jobs would have community benefit.

The decision was made under the old Aboriginal Heritage Act which has since been replaced. But the outcome could still have greater ramifications as a test case for how the tribunal deals with the belief systems of Traditional Owners under the new Aboriginal Heritage Act.

The new law gives native title holders the ability to appeal government decisions allowing for sacred sites to be damaged or moved unlike the previous version, where the right was only held by proponents.

Native title group Buurabalayji Thalanyji Aboriginal Corporation (BTAC) released a statement saying it welcomed the SAT's decision.

"We are grateful the decision puts our spiritual connection and culture before private cattle interests," a BTAC spokesman said.

"The Thalanyji people have been custodians of the river for over 60,000 years, and damage to the river rightfully should not be allowed for the sole benefit of a local pastoralist."

The statement said the decision provided hope that "the lessons needed after the destruction of Juukan Gorge are being learnt".


Covid’s solar sacrifices

Rebecca Weisser

Human sacrifice was common in many parts of Mesoamerica, so it is unfortunate for the Aztecs that they are largely lumbered with its odious reputation. Yet it didn’t seem odious to Aztec priests. As they explained to the Franciscan missionaries who put an end to the practice, in ripping out a beating human heart they were liberating a fragment of the Sun so that it could rejoin the orb on a trail of blood. And as every Aztec knew, without a constant supply of hearts, the cosmos would not continue. Were there cosmos-powered-by-beating-hearts denialists? Who knows, but Aztecs who said the wrong thing slit their own tongues to avoid bringing down the wrath of the gods.

Disrespecting today’s pieties can also be costly. Outgoing NSW Liberal premier Dominic Perrottet couldn’t bring himself to speak ill of his state’s looming renewable energy disaster that will bring on blackouts and bankruptcy. As Yeats might have said, the best lack all conviction while the woke are full of passionate intensity.

Labor also created the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency which have locked federal governments into spending billions on unreliable energy and exorbitantly expensive batteries but still only provide 8 per cent of our energy. It will be no more possible for Australia to transition to net zero emissions with renewables than it will for the rest of the world.

Meanwhile, the need for batteries to store sunshine and wind is fuelling an insatiable demand for cobalt. It’s another bonanza for China which, along with producing most of the world’s solar panels, owns most of the world’s cobalt mines, located in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It has no qualms about sending children into toxic mines that make Dickensian London look like a worker’s paradise. Why should it worry when wealthy Westerners put fuel fetishes ahead of children’s rights?

China will be celebrating Prime Minister Albanese’s deal with the Greens this week to stymie dozens of new fossil fuel projects. The PM says not all 116 coal, oil and gas projects in the pipeline will be stopped. After all, some are owned by Chinese investors keen to ship coal to China. Why wouldn’t they when China is fast-tracking the construction of 106 GW of new coal power projects, four to five times more than Australia’s entire coal-fired power capacity.

But when it comes to green hypocrisy no one does it better than former US president Barack Obama who jetted into Australia this week on a private plane. He gadded around Sydney and Melbourne accompanied by swarms of vehicles and helicopters, while lecturing his adoring audiences on the need to cut carbon emissions in line with US President Biden who said last week, that the climate emergency was ‘Code Red’.

What are Obama’s carbon emissions each year? He’s unlikely to be counting but a report released in 2021 says that in one hour, a private jet emits two tonnes of carbon dioxide whereas the average person in the EU only emits 8.2 tonnes in a year. Apparently, one per cent of people generate 50 per cent of the aviation sector’s carbon dioxide but no one expects celebrity green preachers to give up their sins of emission any time soon.

Victorian Premier Dan Andrews headed off to China this week. He was tight-lipped about what he would discuss but we can be pretty sure that China’s ballooning carbon footprint or human rights abuses won’t be on the agenda.

Yet when it comes to ripping beating human hearts out of chests, Australia’s public health authorities make the Aztecs look like amateurs. Last Saturday, the Australian newspaper ran for the first time a front page story about a 24-year-old woman whose neurologist confirmed that she was profoundly injured by the vaccine, dying eight months later. The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) hasn’t bothered to contact her parents or investigate her case. It is waiting for the coroner’s report however long that takes.

An evaluation of the Pfizer vaccine produced in January 2021 has also just been released thanks to a persistent freedom of information request. It shows that the TGA knew that immunity waned rapidly after five weeks and that Pfizer had done almost no tests on whether the lipid nanoparticles (LNPs) or the mRNA damaged genes or caused cancer, or whether repeated exposure was toxic. To top it off the study of the LNPs showed that it did not stay in the muscle it was injected into, as people were told, but it travelled in the blood throughout the body including to the reproductive organs and the bone marrow. This barely tested product was injected into 97 per cent of Australians, largely due to government and corporate mandates. Coincidentally or not, the nation now has the greatest increase in excess mortality in the post-war period. Yet Australian health authorities continue to insist that Covid vaccines are safe and effective. Without the arrival of Franciscan friars, it seems the human sacrifices are set to continue. ?


Women work harder than men – phooey!

Bettina Arndt

‘Women work harder than men,’ so read a sexist headline for an article earlier this year. Hardly unusual, given that the overburdened woman is a favoured theme with a media intent on singing women’s praises and denigrating men at every conceivable opportunity.

But this anthropological study takes the cake. It involved two female anthropologists who, believe it or not, gave Fitbits to farming and herding groups in the Tibetan borderlands. Fitbits are activity trackers which were used by the herding groups to measure the steps taken by men and women in their working day. The anthropologists found that these Tibetan women walked on average just over 12,000 steps per day, while men walked just over 9,000 steps.

‘Women work much harder than men,’ proclaimed the elated anthropologists, claiming that this ‘sheds light on the gender division of work across many different kinds of society’. That makes the assumption that the number of steps matters more than other metrics for measuring work, such as effort in physical lifting, danger in jobs like the village blacksmith, let alone the value of the job, the skills required, and the income generated.

No matter. More grist to the mill celebrating women and putting down men…

The overworked women theme gets a run every time The Australian Bureau of Statistics publishes data on how Australians use their time. In the past whenever this data set was released, the Bureau pandered to the feminist narrative with press releases highlighting men’s failure to do as much housework and childcare as women, rarely even mentioning the hugely disproportional amount of paid work done by men.

There’s been complaints to the Bureau about this and finally the organisation responded with a more balanced headline last year when the latest results were published. ‘Females do more unpaid work, males do more paid work,’ said the ABS media release, but naturally this resulted in flurry of news reports highlighting women’s burden and not even mentioning the male contribution. Totally omitted from all media coverage was the fact that the amount of extra work done by men is huge – men work 46 per cent more paid hours than women.

The ABS does not make it easy to figure out who really works harder overall. We decided to take a look at total contributions to the household, including childcare, domestic activities, as well as time for education and employment-related activities. That gives a measure of how busy men and women are, but excluding personal activities like recreation, shopping, personal care, social interaction etc.

Looking at the data this way, we find all the previous surveys showed men were busier contributing to their households than women. But last year the results were from a survey taken during Covid lockdowns when there wasn’t so much paid work going on, and this showed women as fractionally busier, namely 15 minutes per day.

But here’s the truth about how men pulled their weight during Covid for their families and the response they should have received if we had a fairer media.

Fathers worked 70 per cent more hours than partnered males without children – an average of 5:33 per day vs 3:16. Thanks Dads for working so hard to provide for your families.

Partnered women without kids worked 27 per cent less time than unpartnered women – 2:34 vs 3:32. That’s so generous of you to support them, guys.

Male sole parents spent 170 per cent more time educating themselves than females. What a great example for your kids.

Male sole parents also coped much better than females – being much less likely to feel rushed or pressed for time. Good job, Dads.

Men spent 38 per cent more time helping out friends and neighbours. Your community appreciates that support.

Men also increased the amount of time spent on domestic activities by 34 per cent (women’s time didn’t change). You showed them that given a chance, men do their bit.

When child-care facilities closed down during Covid, it was mainly fathers who stepped up – increasing child-care time by 67 per cent compared to previous surveys (female increase was 10 per cent). Thanks, Dads. We know many of you loved that extra time with your kids.

All this talk about unpaid work provides a convenient smokescreen diverting attention from the central fact that men’s hugely greater paid working hours make male earnings absolutely critical to the family enterprise. It may be very unfashionable to talk about men as breadwinners but that’s still the yoke that most partnered men bear.

Many years ago, I wrote an article for the Fairfax newspapers’ Good Weekend magazine about who gets the better deal in marriage. It was a real struggle getting the article approved.

In it I told a story about a Victorian teacher, Mary, who had been planning to retire early from her job. But then her surveyor husband, John, accepted his company’s early retirement package to pursue his life-long dream to work as an artist. When I interviewed Mary, her husband was painting three days a week and spending the rest of his time on community work. He was as happy as Larry.

Mary loved her job but wasn’t keen on spending ten more years in a very demanding, stressful position. ‘I’d prefer to be part-time but then I think, “No, I can’t. I have no choice.”’

She envied John’s freedom. ‘Who did you have lunch with today?’ she’d ask him, through gritted teeth. ‘I ask about his day and feel like stabbing him to death!’ she said, with a good-natured chuckle. She admitted she can’t understand why men aren’t complaining more about their side of the deal. ‘I don’t understand why it doesn’t build up more resentment.’

Well, we live in a society that is so busy highlighting women’s drudgery that men simply aren’t allowed to complain about being forced to work full-time all their lives to pay the mortgage, often in jobs they hate, whilst many women still have choices. They often have the option of dropping out of the workforce to care for young children and then, returning to shorter working hours if at all, and retiring far earlier.

The result, of course, is far less superannuation. I wrote two years ago exposing feminist myths about older impoverished women and privileged men, pointing out that women’s lower super is a direct result of a lifetime spent working less than men. They get to spend their partners’ higher earnings – women control the purse strings in most relationships – and they are usually beneficiaries of their partners’ retirement benefits.

Naturally, in a civilised world, there wouldn’t be a competition about who works harder. Sensible folk realise men and women must work as a team to share the burdens and rewards of family life. But that reality doesn’t suit the feminist narrative promoting winners and losers in their endless gender war.

Finally, two funny little good news items.

The first emerged with the release of another survey from the ABS – this time the Personal Safety Survey, the source of Australia’s best data on domestic violence. The Australian reported the exciting news that despite all the alarmist reporting predicting a second ‘pandemic’ of domestic violence during lockdown, that violence actually fell during that period. This important news was ignored by all other media.

Back in August 2021, I wrote a blog about the feminists’ great Covid domestic violence fundraiser which revealed that all the proper evidence at that time was showing no increase in violence. But despite this, the feminist’s lobbying produced an astonishing 150 per cent increase in the domestic violence industry’s annual handout from the Feds – leaping from $100 to $250 million per annum at least until 2022-23.

Surely, we can find some parliamentarians to ask questions in Senate Estimates suggesting this money be paid back, now that official proof is in that it was based on a fraud?

Then there was delightful news from ANROWS, showing we may be winning the propaganda war. Their latest four-yearly survey shows almost half of Australians believe women and men equally commit domestic violence, more than 1/3rd believe that women going through custody battles make up or exaggerate claims of domestic violence, while a similar number believed it is common for sexual assault accusations to be used as a way of getting back at men.

The ABC naturally expressed much alarm at this development. But we were rejoicing. The truth is finally winning through. Hallelujah.


‘To call me a greedy landlord is far from the truth. I’d rather be a tenant‘

A survey of property investors has revealed many are struggling to keep up with their soaring mortgage repayments, and were concerned about government suggestions of a possible cap to rent increases.

Conducted last week by the Property Investors Council of Australia (PICA), the survey heard from “dozens of investors” who voiced concerns about their financial situation in the face of rising expenses and about any possible rent caps.

The survey was conducted after Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk made comments last Monday about “very seriously” considering how a rental cap could be put in place.

That comment caused a firestorm of backlash from the property sector and investors alike, with Deputy Premier Steven Miles hosing down the comments the following day. Dr Miles said there needed to be a “conversation” on whether a limit should be placed on the size and frequency of rent increases, accepting that investors needed to “see a return on their investment”.

24 hours later, Ms Palaszczuk fronted The Today Show, saying one “option” was to limit rent increases to “once a year, rather than twice a year”, reaffirming the state government would not implement a “rent freeze”.

But economists, including the Grattan Institute’s Brendan Coates, said interfering in the market by putting a cap on rents was bad policy and would make the “race for space even worse” by discouraging investment in rental housing and reducing supply.

PICA chair Ben Kingsley said the latest attack on investors was proving a bridge too far for many and showed the Queensland Government failed to understand the basics of supply and demand.

“Those tenancy groups, and now the State Government, who are lobbying for a rent cap, or freeze, are claiming some sort of market failure is the reason why, well, we want to know from them, how is reducing investor demand and rental housing supply going to improve the situation for Queenslanders?” Mr Kingsley said.

“New arrivals to Queensland try before they buy, meaning they rent, but if there are no rental properties — because no investors can trust the government to allow a free market to operate — these new arrivals won’t have anywhere to live, business won’t be able to employ staff, and the Queensland economy and its citizens will ultimately be the biggest losers.

“Another question that needs to be asked is: ‘What does the government believe is an ‘acceptable’ percentage of cost increases that a landlord should be able to pass on to tenants?’ Are they insinuating that costs can be uncapped but income must be capped?” The average monthly rental price in Brisbane has increased by $290 over the past year, but repayments on a $500,000 mortgage have increased by more than $800 per month over the same period, according to PIPA.

Among the survey respondents was investor Marcus, who said that the land tax alone on his investment properties had increased by 25 per cent in 2021/22, and his latest land tax assessments had gone up by between 18 and 35 per cent. “I’m very mindful of trying to keep the rent affordable for my tenants and I have only just put up the rent to one property by 10 per cent,” he said. “Some tenants are still paying the same rent from years ago. “To call me a greedy landlord is far from the truth. I’d rather be a tenant at the moment.”

Property Investment Professionals of Australia (PIPA) chair Nicola McDougall said it appeared that the State Government had learned nothing from its failed land tax regime less than six months ago. The Palaszczuk government was forced to scrap its controversial land tax after her fellow state and territory leaders slammed the plan. The tax would have applied to interstate investors who owned properties in Queensland, and would have required other states to share ownership records.

Ms McDougall said the kneejerk rent cap comments were likely in response to a damning Queensland Council of Social Service report that revealed 300,000 people across the state were experiencing housing insecurity amid soaring rental prices and inadequate social housing supply. The Blueprint to Tackle Queensland’s Housing Crisis report revealed the rate of homelessness surged 22 per cent since 2017 – nearly triple the national rate.

“PIPA research last year also showed 160,000 rental properties had been stripped from Queensland markets in just two years – with even more investors set to sell if rental caps are introduced,” she said.

“Without any meaningful solutions by the state government to increase rental supply in the Sunshine State – and therefore stabilise rents – the Premier will likely go down in history as the leader who forced more Queenslanders into homelessness than ever before.”

Many readers argued that if a rent cap was imposed, the State Government should also cap rates, water, electricity, insurances and other costs.




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