Ex Australian Greens Leader Bob Brown misleading reply about solar power on national TV

Last night on the ABC (Australian Govt owned TV channel)- Q & A usual GreenLeft-fest – I saw Bob Brown say that the never built hydro dam on the Franklin River (thats Tasmania) – would have had a 184MW capacity. What knocked me out was his claim that this(184MW) was one fifth of a baseload solar power station. Viewers should have been made aware that Bob was speaking about “planned projects” or “hypothetical projects”.
According to Google the largest solar power station in the World is ANDASOL in Spain using CSP to heat molten salt – which comes in at 150MW.
There is the “planned” 1,000 MW Blythe solar power plant in the Mojave desert but that seems to be converting to strait PV – so no night-time power there – can hardly be termed “baseload”. Not to mention the fact that the owners have filed for bankruptcy according to the LA Times – 3 April 2012. So Bob Brown is quoting numbers of a “hypothetical” solar plant. Typical Green propaganda – pie-in-the-sky hopes.
Here is the question he was answering on Q & A.
“Sue Bastone asked via video: Good evening Senator Brown. As electricity prices continue to rise in Tasmania do you ever feel the slightest bit guilty about putting a river before people when you led the campaign against damming the Gordon below Franklin? Surely our environment would have been better off with hydro powered electricity than having to import power from dirty coal powered generation on the mainland and wouldn’t we be financially better off? Perhaps locking up huge areas of Tasmania’s forests is equally short sighted.”
I will try and get the script of Bob Brown’s reply later today from the Q & A webpages.

26 thoughts on “Ex Australian Greens Leader Bob Brown misleading reply about solar power on national TV”

  1. Andasol solar thermal power station, Spain.
    Units 1, 2 and 3
    Capacity = 50 MW (gross) each unit.
    Energy storage = 7.5 hours (generation at full power)
    Expected/planned annual generation: 158,000 MWh/yr from each unit
    Capacity factor = 36% (but mostly in summer, near useless in winter)
    Capital cost = about Eur900 million = $A1.1 billion
    Tariff = 27 Euro cents/kWh = A$340/MWh (c.f. about $30/MWh for Australia coal generation).


  2. I should also point out that Andasol is a hybrid plant. It uses gas for some of the generation (estimated at 12%). So some of the GWh generated per year are by gas. Therefore, the capacity factor from solar thermal is less than the 36% mentioned above.

  3. Here is Bob Brown’s reply on Q & A to the question from Sue Bastone. Full program transcript at my link.

    BOB BROWN: Well, that’s a great question because let me say first to Sue, saving the Franklin River saved Tasmania, which is the most indebted state in the country, an extra $2 billion in debt. It’s also got – it’s made the west coast one of the more vibrant parts of the Australian economy, with over 100,000 visitors a year wanting to see those wild rivers and it would have produced 184 megawatts of power, which is, you know, a fifth or a tenth of average solar base load power station – a big solar base load power station potential these days and certainly you can build solar base load power stations as big as that. But let me get to the other point about coal-fired power coming down from Victoria. It was the Greens who opposed Baslink. We wanted to use the renewable energy and that’s a huge amount of wind energy as well as the hydro base we have in Tasmania, but Labor and Liberal got together and put in that cable. It’s costing us $90 or $100 million flag fall each year in rental to the owners overseas. That’s putting the power prices up, Sue. If you voted Labor or Liberal, you voted to put the power prices up when you didn’t support the Greens in not having that Baslink put in.

    Even worse than I recall – he said a fifth or a tenth. Surreal.

  4. Further to my previous comments:

    There are no baseload solar power stations, anywhere in the world.

    Gemasolar, Spain, is 20 MW with 15 h storage. It has managed to generate for 24 h a few times in summer. It is next to useless in winter.

    The USA has approved construction of a 110 MW version with 10 h storage (Tonopah). But it will be even worse in winter.

  5. The “thinking” above shows Bob Brown as a talking head, ABC version.

    1. The Basslink cable delivers cheap coal fired power to Tasmania, because they can’t generate enough electricity themselves.
    2. He says that they have cheap hydro energy, but obviously not enough. Will he call for more dams to be built?
    3. Where would they put all the wind turbines necessary? The obvious place is the SW coast. Will BB call for those pesky trees to be chopped down to make way for the highways necessary to install turbines? And support clearing forests to give a smooth wind flow to those turbines?
    4. No mention of the cost of those turbines, nor that Taswegians will have to pay 3 times as much for that electricity as for coal fired.
    5. And has the idea that wind turbines don’t supply electricity at a steady rate, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, ever penetrated his head?
    6. Or that in REALITY the fluctuations in supply from more wind turbines would have to be smoothed by more hydro, and perhaps sending excess back through the Basslink (assuming the Victorians can be conned into buying it)?

    Peter Lang has commented on BB’s “knowledge” of solar power generation, but overlooks the possibility that Bob’s “facts” are the result of his communications with aliens.

    Bob’s opposition to gas fired generation blinds him to an alternative. Methane generated by anaerobic digestions of bullshit. Tasmania seems to have a surplus supply of that.

  6. Sorry,
    above a bit over the top. But the level of ignorance about “renewable” energy by someone who has supposedly been interested in the subject for 20+years would indicate that our politicians are shallow and might explain the belief in global warming expressed by many.

  7. A truly terrible answer from Brown.

    He has two items floating around in his brain as he is answering the question:

    – A typical baseload power station is 1 000 MW (true)
    – Solar power is great (highly debateable).

    He gets these muddled up straight away, coming out with the ridiculous idea that solar is baseload, and the equally ridiculous claim that there are solar plants generating – or he then says capable of generating – 1000 MW. He then dithers and seems to realise he has tripped up on the video (about 41.45), but decides to dig in instead of own up.

    The $2 billion in debt figure is also nonsense, as you might imagine. According to numerous press reports, the cost of the whole original three-dam scheme was $1 billion, and imagine the savings over 30 years if the thing had been built and Tasmania had not had to buy in power from Victoria for all this time.

    Brown’s resort to solar is also very interesting, especially for Tasmania where it would be even more useless than usual (its cold climate means you need 25% more power in winter than in summer – see Figure 3 here.

    So why solar, which is so obviously unsuitable? Only because Bob has run out of other distractions. He opposed the dams, can’t go for coal, and wind is on the nose because it wrecks wilderness.

    Brown’s opportunism on energy sources is marvellously exposed a little earlier in the same programme (around 38 minutes), when an audience member quotes from an old press article where Brown attacked the dams and instead advocated – wait for it:

    Dr Brown, on the subject of the polluting coal industry. During the Franklin River campaign you were asked what was the best alternative to damming the Franklin River and you said, and I quote, “A new coal fired power station is the manifestly best option built on Tasmanian coal fields…. This is from The Mercury, 20th of October, 1981.“

    After a bit of temporising, Brown wisely cuts his losses and admits “I was wrong.”

    Fact is, he has been wrong pretty much all the time, but has never been asked the hard questions that would have exposed this.

  8. Fair suck of the sauce bottle, David.

    Why shouldn’t Brown think Tasmania was suitable for solar power? It is closer to the Equator than Germany, where they have spent $90 billion on putting PV panels everywhere. And they get a whole 3.5% of their electricity from them, at some cost.

    Melbourne is about the same distance from the Equator as those solar heat plants in southern Spain (and those PV panels which work at night).
    There is every prospect that, given unlimited amounts of money, solar power could be generated in Tasmania. Minor matters like intermittency, unreliability, unpredictability and timing generation to the demand are best left to technicians who, unlike Brown, actually know something about the subject.

  9. True, Gra-Gra, since Brown is an idiot, he probably should think Tasmania is suitable for solar power. In fact, maybe he should stick a plant at the South Pole as well, since I hear the sun shines for six months running down there…

    Seriously, though, Brown appears to be retiring just as he has “run out of road” for all his you-beaut ideas, with the old ones now coming back to bite him. It won’t be long either before some neglected green genius works out that there is absolutely no method of generating power that eats more wilderness than solar. And it’s still five times the cost of wind, gas, coal, nuclear, or hydro – and less predictable than any of them except wind.

    I’ve got a suggestion for Bob and the Greens for what to promote when solar goes bung too. Something that produces efficient, reliable electricity, provides water supply, flood control and recreation benefits as well – how about a dam on the Gordon below Franklin?

    Too absurd for words? One comment of Brown’s shows he may be warming to hydro already:

    We wanted to use the renewable energy and that’s a huge amount of wind energy as well as the hydro base we have in Tasmania

  10. Graeme I, the Bass link powerlink was completed before the decision to go ahead with the Yolla gasfield. It was meant to be a two way power sharing. Surplus base load power from the brown coal power stations could be used for a)base load in Tasmania so that the oil fired power station at Bell Bay could be closed & b)to pump some lower dams/lakes to higher levels to allow peaking power when needed. Going the other way Tasmania could supply peaking power which at the time in Victoria was limited because of small availability of hydro and few gas turbines.
    The Bell Bay power station was put in mothballs but the drought in Tasmania changed things. In 2003 it was converted to gas firing with I think the gas initially coming from Bass Strait. Gas firing would be slightly less efficient than oil but of course cheaper.
    In 2009 the Tasmanian Government owned Aurora Energy Pty Ltd commissioned the new Tamar Valley Power Station which has 210MW combined cycle gas (ie base load) and four single pass gas turbines for peak power. I think this gas comes from the Yolla field. Aurora also retails some of this gas in Tasmania. The Bell Bay Power Station was then closed and later put up for sale. Not sure if it has been sold but with the likelyhood of the Bell Bay Aluminium works closing and the Gunns pulp plant not going ahead it would not be a good investment.

  11. Sorry this is OT, just saw ABC online news, Labor MP Craig Thomson has announced he will leave the party and sit on the crossbenches as an independent. Nothing really exceptional there.
    Well down the article Tony Windsor is quoted;
    Mr Windsor says the numbers in Parliament are “precarious” and there is always the chance of an early election.
    “There’s a lot of focus on these Craig Thomson, Peter Slipper things… there may be an early election,” he said.
    “I’ve been prepared for an early election since day one.”
    I think it is more likely the dustbin of history Tony; when your electorate gets a chance to vote.

  12. This was one of those big landmarks in politics – PM Gillard and her “…line had been crossed…” speech midday Sunday.
    I think the line that was crossed was that some union/factional heavies “tapped her on the shoulder” and suggested she alter tack on Thomson & Slipper.

    I was amazed to hear on Ten news that Slipper plans to be in the chair next week to “hand over” to Anna Burke. Surely not.
    Mind you the idiosyncratic AB might turn out to be an interesting choice as Acting Speaker.
    There must be some pressures on the Speaker as he spends his days standing aside – family pressures – he has had a long career – that super account must be huge – legal bills in prospect – and would he be less of a target if he resigned his seat and left politics.
    Any one of 30 or 40 Labor members could trigger a by-election if the pressure of it all got to them – they all have different financial circumstances – waiting until an election in 2013 means being on the scrapheap simultaneously with dozens of other ex Labor members – what would happen if an attractive job offer came in to one of them this year – would they feel an overwhelming loyalty to the current Govt ?

  13. After the NSW and QLD elections, the market place is flooded with Labor politicians. Of course a ex-MHR carries more cachet (sort of like the Luxury v the Standard version of a used car) but many of them look more like a standard model with dents and large cloth dice tied to the rear vision mirror. I feel that a lot of them are destined to spend time in the corner of the car lot, as even the average used car salesman will be reluctant to be seen near them.
    The obvious escape routes back into Union Official, Ministerial Advisors, Government Quangos etc. will be pretty much shut down. NGO’s e.g. WWF, Conservation Foundation, Save the Forests for Gay Whales etc. will be inundated with those willing to serve (for money).

    Of course anyone leaving would become a Labor outcast for bringing down the government. They would be pushing Julia into humiliation, either defeat at the polls or being dumped in desperation to try and moderate the coming catastrophe. They would need to be financially secure e.g. a rich wife and have to spend a little time overseas, say working for the UN. Now who do we know in Federal Labor ranks with strong connections there? Someone with high level experience and not terribly fond of Julia?

    Then there is still the medical reason. Each Parliament normally has 1 by-election to replace someone dead or dying.
    The Government is clearly in this state, so I think that an early election is desirable.

  14. In the 1980s, for several years, we explored south-west Tasmania from 2 Jan to Easter. This is south of Macquarie Harbour, in a region where there is one lonely road to service a lighthouse at Low Rocky Point. It is now inscribed on the World Heritage List.
    I would describe it as a cold, wet, barren desert. Much of it is barren grass plain, where you sometimes see a Tiger Snake or a seagull blown in on the Westerlies. However, there are narrow patches of dense, tough vegetation along many incised creeks, a hell of a crossing. It’s not forest until you get up in the ranges.
    Putting solar there? I think the new transmission lines would be too expensive. It’s more remote than Gordon-below-Franklin.
    Putting windmills there? Nope. Nobody except a masochist would stay there to service them.

    The whole scene is summed up for me by a remark in a visitors’ book installed soon after World Heritage was proclaimed. “Useless. No golf courses.”

  15. Well, if the wind is blowing tiger snakes around, then turbines might generate enough electricity to overcome the losses in the transmission lines.
    As for transmission lines being expensive…they can’t be, because all “costings” of wind power never mention them. It is strange because wind turbines have to be spread very widely if you want large amounts of power (about 2MW output to the square kilometre). Imagine a ‘power station’ 50km by 100km!

    Re the comment in the visitors book-obviously a scotsman. Your description of the terrain brings back thoughts of a golf course on the west coast of Scotland (back before we had global warming because it was noticeably absent).

  16. Peter Lang
    Thanks. My comment was directed at those who advocate wind turbines as a desirable source of electricity, not people who rely on reality.

    O/T but do you have any figures on the consumption of power by wind turbines? I am trying to work out their NET generation.
    So far, the only figure was that a 1.5MW turbine would consume 5-27kW from the grid while idle. And nothing while operating.
    It seems a little low, given the need to monitor the conditions, drive the yaw motor to maintain heading into the wind, operate the lubrication system etc. Don’t they slow rotate the drive shaft to keep it straight?
    I tried to come from the other end on fuel (or emission) savings due to turbines, and these seem to be a State Secret. There are brief figures from the Falklands that “on Sept. 20, 2007, they noted that the Sand Bay wind turbines were saving 800-1,000 liters of diesel fuel per day. Wind energy was providing 23% of the electricity at night and 13% during the day (an average of 18%).
    But 900 liters is only 8.2% of the previous annual daily fuel use of 11,000 liters. And it is only 4.3% of the daily winter fuel use.”
    Another comment is every 17kW produced by the turbines means a gallon of diesel is not burned, but on the figures above it seems to be 13.3 gallons.
    I have come across claims from Holland and Ireland that turbines actually increase fuel usage/CO2 emissions, but they leave me with doubts. The Danish farm Horns Rev1 is known to have been a net consumer over several days of fitful winds, but no figures given.

    For a modern turbine with a claimed efficiency of 50% (getting near the Betz limit) to lose 15% of that in the electrical system to the tower base seems a little glib. Any thoughts?

  17. Hi Graeme,

    I don’t have figures on how much energy a turbine consumes. However, if you look at the AEMO figures for periods when ther eis no wind generation you can see what they consume in total. There were perios in My 2010 for example, when all the wind farms in the NEM produced no power. there were 65 5-minute periods over a period of about a week with no power generated by all the NEM’s turbines. They drew up to a maximum of 4.5 MW of power during that time. You can download the data and see the charts on this excellent presentation here:

    Regarding the emissions avoided by wind generation, I’ve written several papers on that (I can list the links if you want them, or you can Google “Peter Lang wind”). There are also lots of others. You might find this interesting for background:

    Also see the English papers here:

  18. Thanks.
    I found Kent Hawkins very illuminating, especially his 4 parts on Denmark.
    If you’ve missed this www.masterresource.org/2010/10/denmark-part-iv-co2-emissions/

    So, the answer to my question isn’t important, it doesn’t matter how efficient a wind turbine is, as the fluctuating supply induces bigger losses from the necessary base load plants which exceed the gains from “free wind”.

    While on paper Denmark seems to have been able to use scandinavian hydro to reduce this and get emissions reductions, I notice in the comments (to above link) one little statistical fudge; in that the GDP is boosted by the contribution from Danish shipping, but the emissions from those ships aren’t included in the calculations. (as he points out 3 container ships are equivalent to the total Danish wind energy, while one company operates 550 of them). Hence Denmark hasn’t reduced its per capita emissions despite all those turbines.

    Should the zero emissions people turn up at the Stirling market this month, I will have more ammunition to deal with them, although I did get the impression that they were panicked a bit last time.

  19. Graeme,

    I forgot to mention that Kent Hawkins has ane excel calculator you can use to calculate the emissions avoided be wind generation. You can write to him and he’ll send it to you.

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