Politics and activism

Hazelwood lives!

Windfarm, Norfolk, UKSo, Hazelwood, the state’s dirtiest power station, and the nation’s heaviest polluter, is likely to keep churning along for another 26 years, happily burning filthy brown coal for electricity.

Surely it must be time to not just research, but actively build alternative, sustainable electricity generators. The irony is some people are vehemently opposed to wind farms, on aesthetic grounds. They probably think of themselves as greenies, but ultimately we have to decide if we’re going to preserve every single bit of landscape as-is, or if we’re going to stop digging dirty coal out of the ground and burning it off.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

7 replies on “Hazelwood lives!”

I saw the 3 big power plants a few weeks ago driving through Gippsland and they scared me, particularly Hazelwood as the technology was so old. Those 3 towers look so menacing.
Incidentally, I was talking about them to a few environmental engineers where I’m working and was told that recent surveying of the area showed that the La Trobe valley has sunk 7 metres since they started mining coal there. It’s not visible to the naked eye, but it’s falling quickly. *That* really feels serious.

Oh – and travelling through Northern Germany and Denmark last year I passed hundreds of wind farms (the land is very flat around there) and rather than blighting the landscape I was taken with the elegance of them and the obvious way those countries were making use of this alternative power source. I was told that up to 25% of Germany’s energy comes from wind power.

People bitching about wind farms piss me off. Personally, forgetting about the environmental benefits, I think they look not only gorgeous but futuristically awesome.

In Manitoba they’ve just started up turbines at a wind farm. We have to think about future generations indeed! I know I’m preaching to the converted here but what about the earth when our kids are our age? Do any of these cretins think in more than 3 year increments?

While I’m all for emissions reductions, wind power just doesn’t do much of a job in that area. Due to the intermittent nature of the beast, they need to provide standby power to cut in at a moment’s notice for a percentage of the power up to around 100% when wind makes up 20-25% of your power mix, and not far short of 100% at lower wind mixes.

Guess what provides that standby power? Yep, coal plants on steam bypass. In other words, it’s almost as polluting as just using the coal outright, and there’s no need for fleets of diesel trucks going out to install and maintain the turbines.

Now, if we could go ahead and build a second power grid for unimportant supply (eg electric hot water, refrigerators etc, stuff that can have power cut off for a few hours a day with little ill effect), and used renewables to power that grid, then we might get around that problem. Unfortunately, the infrastructure required to make it happen would be immense. It may also encourage people to go buy inefficient and counterproductive plug in cars.

What I can’t understand is why solar energy is not thought of more often. We have all this sunlight, and very little rain. Why don’t people consider solar energy as often as they do wind farms?

Solar will become viable when it becomes more efficient. The big issue is when. They can do it, it just hasn’t happened yet. The current technology is simply far too expensive and enviromentally unfriendly (huge acerages of land would need to be covered for solar to make a significant difference) to be viable.

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