Using other people’s to offload personal guilt is hardly virtuous, but the wind and solar scam has attracted plenty of guilt-laden oligarchs looking to atone for their (often obscene) wealth doing just that – and using taxpayer-backed subsidies to conjure up all manner of new ‘green’ scams, like ‘green’ hydrogen.
Australia’s Twiggy Forrest, is just another blowhard billionaire eager to squander taxpayer’s money. Forrest made his $billions digging up large parts of Western Australia and shipping it to the Chinese, among others.
Wallowing in a mountain of cash from iron ore sales – at record prices – he’s been targeting the renewable energy scam, with over-the-top plans for the mass production of what eager rent-seekers call ‘green’ hydrogen.
Like every well-connected rent-seeking spiv, he recoils at the thought of staking of his cash on his grand green hydrogen fantasy, instead he’s demanding untold $billions in subsidies for something that he, quite evidently, appreciates will never make a buck on its own.
With that object in mind, Forrest set up Fortescue Future Industries (FFI) a first-rate rent-seeking operation designed to gouge whatever it can from gullible governments, on the (hazy) premise that it will use wind or solar power and turn it into hydrogen gas, something that has never been done at scale and is completely uneconomic, thanks to the laws of physics, especially the immutable rules of thermodynamics.
STT has already pointed out Twiggy’s Condor killing exploits in Argentina’s southern Patagonia region, where FFI plans to spear thousands of wind turbines to, you guessed it, produce so-called ‘green’ hydrogen, all heavily subsidised by Argentina’s taxpayers, of course.
Closer to home, Forrest’s plans include wiping out thousands of hectares of virgin rainforest and eucalypt woodland in Far North Queensland for exactly the same purpose.
The Australian’s Nick Cater reports on yet another woke-washing scandal.
Twiggy Forrest, Chris Bowen caught in green hydrogen fantasy
10 April 2023
Whatever plagues Chris Bowen’s mind it is clearly not self-doubt. So it is not unreasonable to assume he stands by his prediction that Australia will be a renewable energy superpower in seven years’ time.
Bowen told the National Press Club in December 2021 that by 2030 thousands of Australians will be employed exporting renewable energy to Asia, via submarine cables and shipping deep-frozen green hydrogen offshore.
Green hydrogen is to renewable energy enthusiasts what gold was to ancient alchemists: the universal panacea that frees the human soul from disease and corruptibility and transports it to a perfect and everlasting state. They believe it holds the key to turning dilute, fickle sources of energy, such as solar and wind, into something vaguely useful.
That is the view of Andrew Forrest, a miner turned born-again renewable energy entrepreneur. Forrest’s company, Squadron Energy, is Australia’s biggest player in weather-dependent renewable energy. He is on record as predicting that renewables could squeeze coal out of the market by the end of the decade. But the real breakthrough will come with the development of green hydrogen, which, he claims, is Australia’s greatest resource.
“To make it, all you need to do is run electricity through water,” he told a Clean Energy Council summit in 2021. Water is the easy part. Generating the eye-watering quantity of electricity needed is a more formidable challenge.
Let’s assume global demand for hydrogen reaches 300Mt by 2050 and that the green energy superpower Australia is going to become produces one-15th of that total, as an influential Deloitte report suggests is possible. That would require about 900TW of electricity, which is roughly 3½ times Australia’s current annual output. The absurdity of the numbers sends green hydrogen into dreamy land even before we confront Forrest’s insistence that we do it with two hands tied behind our back.
For Forrest, the only genuinely green electricity is generated by weather-dependent renewable energy. The Minerals Council canvasses carbon capture and storage as an option but Forrest reckons that would be cheating.
Small modular nuclear reactors are out of the question too. “I just don’t think it’s necessary,” Forrest told Sky News last year. “When you’ve looked at all the renewable energy that we in Australia and the world (have), we have so many thousands of times more energy, which is fully renewable, which uranium isn’t.”
Yet no amount of Forrest’s spin can overcome the iron law of energy density. Coal requires 25 square metres to generate a megawatt of electricity. A modern small modular nuclear reactor requires less than one square metre. A wind turbine plant typically requires more than 2000 square metres per megawatt, which means that even in a country as vast as Australia, the supply of available land is quickly exhausted.
In Queensland, where Squadron Energy is investing billions of dollars, wind and solar developments are being pushed beyond the boundaries of farmland into native scrub. In a rational world, Apple’s announcement last week that it was pulling out of a deal to purchase energy from Squadron’s proposed wind plant in the Upper Burdekin would be the beginning of the end for unreliable renewables.
An environmental assessment, released in December, found that 769 hectares of koala habit would be destroyed if the development goes ahead. It would involve the clearance of 662ha of Sharman’s rock wallaby habitat, 709ha of greater glider habitat and 754ha of habit that provides sanctuary for the red goshawk.
That a wind turbine development should even be considered on such a sensitive site shows how desperate the sector has become. Pushing renewables in such far-flung territory adds considerably to the cost. It requires wide roads to be cut through hillsides and the bulldozing of native tree, plus extra transmission lines.
The sheer weight of minerals needed for the construction of wind and solar plants brings other challenges, as Siemens Energy chief executive Christian Bruch acknowledged. “Never forget, renewables like wind roughly need 10 times the material (compared to) what conventional technologies need,” he said. “If you have problems on the supply chain, it hits wind extremely hard.”
Squadron’s Upper Burdekin development was already looking less profitable after it was forced to reduce the number of turbines from 139 to 80. Add to that the opprobrium foisted upon it by Apple’s withdrawal and the project looks to be in trouble. The kind of hydrogen Forrest is proposing is only green in the sense that it is technologically unripe.
Current international demand is so low as to be effectively non-existent compared to our exports of natural gas and coal. If international demand starts to accelerate, what’s to stop others cornering the market? The competitive advantage will belong to the jurisdiction with the cheapest electricity, and that’s not going to be Australia.
It’s little wonder that many with an eye on the capital markets are wondering if green hydrogen will ever get off the ground. In February, a meeting of federal, state and territory industry ministers called for the 2019 green hydrogen strategy to be “revised and refreshed” in the light of international developments.
President Joe Biden’s absurdly misnamed Inflation Reduction Act offers $US580bn of incentives for green innovation. Guy Debelle, a former Reserve Bank deputy governor, warned that Australia is at risk of being left behind by countries with generous subsidies, lower renewable energy costs and closer access to major industrial markets. He said the government would have to devote at least $15bn in public funds to counter a global hydrogen “subsidy arms race”.
A head somewhat cooler than the one sitting on the shoulders of the federal Energy Minister might conclude that this isn’t a fight Australia needs to be in. It would be better to focus our attention on the green economy games we can win; lithium, for example, where we are the world’s largest exporter; rare earths, where we’re the world’s second-largest producer; or cobalt, where we rank third.
Arriving at that conclusion, however, requires clear strategic thinking, indifferent to headlines and uncontaminated by hype. Policy formation in the 24-hour media cycle rarely happens that way.
The Greens’ hypocrisy on energy is laid bare by their silence on Twiggy Forrest’s not-so-green wind farm plans
8 April 2023
Talking the talk on climate change is easy.
Walking the walk is somewhat harder, as Apple has discovered since it embarked on its journey to make its products carbon neutral by 2030.
Last August, Apple struck a deal with Twiggy Forrest’s Squadron Energy to buy 500MW of electricity annually from the yet-to-be-built Upper Burdekin Wind Farm in far north Queensland.
“It’s actually really cool to be able to do it in Australia,” Apple’s vice president of environment, Lisa Jackson, told a Fairfax newspaper.
“Because the country is sort of facing this climate challenge head-on recently. We feel like it’s perfect timing.”
This week we learned that the timing wasn’t so perfect and the deal wasn’t so cool after all when Apple announced it was pulling out.
The supposed clean energy project turns out to be dirtier and meaner to nature than Forrest might have hoped.
The environmental statement for the project paints a devastating picture of the bloodbath that might result from the construction and operation of 80 giant wind turbines in a remote area rich in biodiversity.
The statement released quietly before Christmas warned there would be an “unavoidable significant residual impact” on four endangered species.
It would require the clearance of 662 ha of Sharman’s rock-wallaby habitat, 709 ha of greater glider habitat, and 754 ha of habitat that offers sanctuary to the red goshawk, the most endangered bird of prey in Australia.
And then there is the koala.
The construction of the wind turbine plant would bulldoze 769 hectares of koala habitat, an area three times larger than the Brisbane CBD. No wonder Apple decided to pull out.
It was only a matter of time before the headlong rush for wind and solar collided with the iron law of energy density.
There is no getting around the physics: dilute sources of energy like wind and solar require huge amounts of land.
A modern nuclear small modular reactor requires less than one square metre to produce a megawatt of energy.
Coal-fired generation requires 25 square metres per megawatt. A wind turbine plant typically requires more than 2,000 square metres per megawatt.
Even in a country as vast as Australia, the land bank starts to run low.
Which is why the Victorian government is pushing ahead with offshore wind turbines despite the technical challenges and the estimated $29 billion cost.
It is why the Queensland government is spending $5 billion on a new transmission line to turn remote areas of the state into renewable energy zones.
Upper Burdekin is just one part of a chain of approximately 550 turbines which would stretch for hundreds of kilometres along the Great Dividing Range from the Barron River west of Cairns to Lotus Creek south of Mackay.
Three of the 14 wind plants are already operating and one is under construction. All of them will create significant environmental damage, some within areas of outstanding national beauty.
Of the many well-funded environmental lobby groups in Australia, only one, WWF Australia, has been courageous enough to challenge the green energy mantra and recognise the permanent damage being caused to native wildlife and natural landscapes.
WWF-Australia’s energy transition manager, Cam Crawford, told The Guardian: “We called for the project to be substantially downscaled or relocated to already cleared land with good wind resources. We welcome Apple’s decision this week. It shows leadership and a commitment to renewables that are good for climate and nature.”
There has been silence from the Greens, which seems odd for a party that more than any other has exploited the koala for political ends.
In October last year, Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young introduced a Save the Koala Bill into Federal Parliament which would place a moratorium on the destruction of critical koala habitat.
Hanson-Young blamed the villainy of the Morrison government and coal mining companies for the koala’s plight.
Together with the effects of climate change, she claimed, the koala faced extinction within decades.
Hanson-Young said the threat was reason enough to stop the expansion of BHP’s Peak Downs coal mine in Queensland and MACH Energy’s Mount Pleasant coal mine expansion in the upper Hunter Valley once owned by Rio Tinto.
“Stand strong, stand up for the koala,” she urged the Senate in a rousing second reading speech. “Stand up for your conviction and ensure that big companies like BHP cannot continue to make profits off the destruction of koala homes.”
As it happened, neither project carries anything more than a hypothetical risk to koala habitats.
The original EIS for Mount Pleasant recorded no koala sightings nor any sign of koala scats or scratches.
At Upper Burdekin, by contrast, the environmental report sighted several populations whose foraging grounds and shelter face a real and concrete threat from the development of an industrial wind plant.
We need a word far stronger than hypocrisy to describe the Greens’ double standards towards koala protection.
If they were genuinely committed to reducing human impact on the environment, they would denounce the sins of big wind and big solar as loudly as they condemn big coal.
Today’s preening, morally arrogant Greens possess neither the courage nor intellectual honesty of their founding leader Bob Brown who led objections to Tasmania’s giant Robbins Island wind turbine development.
“We have alternatives for renewable energy,” he told the ABC four years ago. “We don’t have alternatives for extinct species of birds.”
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April 15, 2023 at 02:30AM
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