Renewables outgun gas and coal energy: letter
IN HIS letter (Monday, March 13) Stewart Harvey of Pialba writes that "The Greens blamed the recent blackout on storm damage to transmission towers and not lack of solar and wind generation”.
Firstly, it's not "the Greens” who are casting blame, they're simply reading from the Australian Energy Market Operator's own report on the outage on September 28, 2016.
If Mr Harvey were to read that report, he'd also find there was no lack of wind and solar power generation that day, but all generators statewide - both renewable and gas-fired generators - disconnected themselves from the grid when the transmission towers blew over.
Mr Harvey then suggests that Elon Musk's offer to install grid-scale batteries is evidence that renewables were somehow to blame; what Mr Harvey is forgetting here is that, even if there were no renewables on South Australia's grid, and all South Australia's power was coal or gas fired, then without Mr Musk's batteries the network is just as susceptible to blackouts if the transmission towers are blown over than at present. Mr Harvey comments that higher power prices will result from more renewables, which is demonstrably mistaken; in South Australia, renewables are outcompeting gas and coal to supply low-cost power to the grid, because all the costs of renewables are upfront, but coal and gas stations have to keep paying for fuel.
Mr Harvey then discusses rare earth metals, apparently without understanding that rare earth metals aren't "earth metals” that happen to be rare, but that there is a class of metals to which chemists and metallurgists refer as "rare earths”.
It's also worth noting that these "rare earth” metals aren't just used in batteries, they're also used in the permanent magnets that are in coal and gas-fired generators; in fact, permanent magnets are their major use. Just as Mr Harvey worries about how batteries and solar installations are dealt with at the end of their useful lives, I worry about how generator magnets are dealt with at the end of their useful lives. Perhaps Mr Harvey would join me in expecting that all these materials are recycled? It's not as if chemists and metallurgists wouldn't know how to recycle them.