Climate change

October 7, 2010

Challicum Hills wind farm and the wettest September on record

Filed under: Emissions Reduction, Renewable Energy — buildeco @ 6:14 pm

I was recently on annual leave and spent a few days on a motoring tour (with my parents and my two boys, Billy and Eddy, aged 11 and 8) around western Victoria — Castlemaine, Ararat, Lake Fyans, the spectacular Grampians National Park. I was touring around Hamilton and surrounds (Merino, Tahara, Branxholme), where I lived 25 years ago, for a few years. Not much has changed! It’s still the beautiful, rolling green country of Australia Felix that I remember from my boyhood.

We were in Ararat on Friday 1 Oct and took the opportunity to visit the 53 MWe (peak) Challicum Hills wind farm. Here is a picture of me out the front of it.

Barry Brook at the edge of the 53 MWe (peak) Challicum Hills wind farm in western Victoria, 1 October 2010

The turbines were spinning gently (well, most of them), but the breeze was very light and that was reflected in the low capacity factor on that day, as reported on Andrew Miskelly’s “Wind Farm Performance” website (which graphically depicts performance of wind farms connected to the electricity grid in south-eastern Australia over a 24-hour period, showing output as a percentage of installed capacity and actual output in megawatts):

I was there at about 10:30 am, during one of those little humps in output. The wind farm, snaking along a ridge line, consists of 35 NEG NM 64 wind turbines, each with a 64 m rotor diameter, 68 m hub height, and a peak output of 1.5 MWe. The CHWF was completed in 2003 at a cost of $76 million. It fun to see WF sites up close that have only previously been names on an analysis data frame! [hint: The Broome to Cooktown Challenge is still looking for input over on]

On a climate note, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology has released a new Special Climate Statement. From BoM’s Dr. Karl Braganza (Manager Climate Monitoring, National Climate Centre), it…

details recent high rainfall across Australia in 2010, including record rainfall in northern Australia, and reviews the prolonged dry conditions experienced in south-east Australia and in the south-west of Western Australia.

The end of September 2010 marks 14 years since the start of a very long meteorological drought1 in south-east Australia. In the south-west of Western Australia, similarly dry conditions have been in place over the past 14 years, while a longer term drying trend has been observed since the 1970s.

The prolonged dry spell has been characterised by a combination of recurrent meteorological drought (short-term dry “spells”), less autumn and winter rainfall in most years, and an absence of very wet periods.

Recent, widespread, above-average rainfall across much of Australia has alleviated short-term (month to seasonal) dry conditions. This rainfall has been associated with the breakdown of the 2009 El Niño and the development of a moderate to strong La Niña event in 2010.

The recent rainfall has not ended the long-term rainfall deficiencies still affecting large parts of southern Australia. While some parts received well above-average rainfall, most notably in the Murray-Darling Basin, drought-affected regions in the far south-east of the continent have experienced near-normal conditions. The south-west has continued its run of very much below-average rainfall, adding further to the long-term drying trend in this region.

You can download the PDF of the full statement here.

Billy, Barry and Eddy, bush walking in the Grampians National Park

This is an interesting addition for me, coming on the back of the recent blog post I wrote, “Do the recent floods prove man-made climate change is real?“.

Whilst offline, I’ve been tinkering further with the SNE2060 modelling and background work (on the assumptions and outcomes), and will put a couple more posts up on this topic during this week.

But for now, I’m back to my holidays. We visited the recently extinct crater lake of Mt Eccles (Australia’s most recent mainland volcano — last eruption was approximately 8,000 years ago), then down to the Great Ocean Road, on the winding way back to Melbourne.

After all, I had to get back to Adelaide in time for Wednesday, where I spoke at the RiAus event “Thinking Critically About Sustainable Energy #4: A Nuclear Future“:

With an urgent need to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and the global demand for energy rising exponentially, might nuclear energy be the only non-carbon-emitting technology capable of meeting the world’s requirements?

The nuclear industry’s image has been compromised by the threat of nuclear proliferation, reactor malfunctions and the storage of radioactive waste. However, today’s proponents argue that improvements in reactor design have made them safer as well as more fuel-efficient and cost-competitive to build, compared with coal plants.

With renewable energy sources still unable to provide enough baseload power, is nuclear energy our best option for reducing carbon emissions? Will the next generation of reactors make nuclear the clean, green option?

This event is the fourth of six public forums aimed at providing a comprehensive examination of sustainable energy technologies and a critical evaluation of their potential for reducing carbon emissions.

Presented in association with the Centre for Energy Technology, the University of Adelaide’s Environment Institute and the Institute for Mineral and Energy Resources.


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