The Water of Life: Can the Fans and Upgrade the Dams

STT has made it pretty clear what we think about the wind industry, but hasn’t spelled out what replaces it.  Oh yes, we’re all in favour of renewable energy – provided it is base-load and truly clean.

Well, this is it.  Here’s a more detailed Press Release for those that need it.

The RET/REC policy has resulted in billions of dollars of power consumers’ money being re-directed to wind farm operators through the REC Tax.

Meanwhile, Australia’s hydro power resources have been either allowed to slowly deteriorate by reason of underinvestment or simply allowed to lay idle, because their operators can’t compete with wind power generators who receive RECs.

That’s right, notwithstanding the fact that hydro power does not generate any greenhouse gases, the vast majority of hydro operators are not entitled to RECs.

This means that they simply cannot compete in the wholesale market when the wind is blowing.

There are hundreds of hydro generation systems all along the Great Dividing Range of all shapes and sizes.

These systems are not being fully utilised and/or are not being managed properly because of the RET/REC policy which, perversely, favours intermittent and unreliable wind power.

Our previously valuable hydro resources are languishing through under investment or poor management – both arising because the incentives have been directed to wind farm developers.

warragamba dam
Warragamba Dam – 50 MW (or more) of clean energy simply wasted.


In just one example, the Warragamba Dam on the Warragamba River south of Penrith was completed in 1959 and once produced 50 MW of clean, reliable base-load power.  It is currently disconnected from the Grid.

You might think 50 MW isn’t much, but Infigen went to war in VCAT over its plan to install 48 MW of unreliable and intermittent wind power on the Cherry Tree Range near Seymour, Victoria.  It doesn’t have approval, but if it did, building that wind farm would cost more than $40 million.  Hooking the Warragamba Dam back up to the grid has got to cost a whole lot less than that, we think.

In another woeful example of waste and mismanagement, only a fraction of the Burrinjuck Dam’s hydro generation capacity was used last year – the majority of the water that could have generated power was sent downstream without generating a watt – and simply wasted.

STT has learned from one of the power industry’s big players, that upgrading existing dams with better generating systems would increase power output from those dams by around 15-20%, and all for a fraction of the cost of building a single wind farm.

And better still, the money spent on upgrading and constructing dams will stay in Australia – rather than being sucked up by Danish, Spanish, Indian and Chinese wind turbine makers. Remember the big ticket item in a wind farm is the turbine, which costs around $2.5 million a pop.

STT readers are well aware of the ridiculous costs of wind power due to the impact of the REC on retail prices, coupled up with the cost of having a duplicated transmission network; the need to have almost 100% backup from fossil fuel generation systems available at all times; and the exorbitant cost of providing “peaking power” when the wind stops blowing, as it inevitably does.

STT readers recently learned that – this week – power consumers in SA have been paying $2,100 per MW/h – and up to $12,199 per MW/h – for power that normally costs less than $40 per MW/h.

The only reason for these insane prices is that fossil fuel generators were called on to make up for the fact that SA’s wind farms were producing no power at all – over 1,200 MW of wind power capacity went “missing” as the wind stopped blowing – a scenario that is a natural function of the weather and occurs around 100 times a year.

None of these problems arise with hydro power which is base-load and pollution free.  Hydro power output is smoothed to match demand, on an instantaneous consumer driven basis.  It’s there when we need it.  It is used to provide “peaking power” to meet spikes in demand, which is as simple as turning on the “tap”.

Where the wind is and has always been intermittent, at least since Isaac Newton picked up on its almost magical properties around 1690, gravity has been reasonably constant.

We sent STT’s physics department to the archive and the boys reckoned they couldn’t find a single case when gravity hasn’t been hard at it, since that apple took a tumble over 320 years ago.  So, we’re pretty confident that it should keep water running down hill for a little while longer.

Adapting to climate change requires sensible, cost-effective policies which provide food and water security for generations to come.

Mitigating climate change requires base-load, pollution free electricity.

Hydro power is a known and proven technology which does both.

STT is sorry to disappoint the eco-fascists and greentards, but we are not “climate change deniers”.

We don’t deny that the climate is changing, because we are a group of people who live in and “die” by the climate – the weather can make or break us and we are trained to adapt to it.  Between us we’ve planted millions of trees; repaired eroded creeks and gullies; regenerated saline land and generally look after the country – our lives depend upon it.

We grow stuff, and whether its food or fibre, it all needs water.  Making sure that water is available to support agriculture and horticulture in the dry years, means ensuring that it is stored during the wet years – this is critical to our businesses, and our communities.

Not only are there hundreds of poorly managed and under-utilised hydro generation systems in Australia, there are dozens of planned hydro systems ready to roll from Far North Queensland and numerous points South along the Great Dividing Range.  And, no Bob – we’re not planning to dam the Franklin any time soon, so calm down.

bob brown
Bob in his younger days.


Instead of wasting $50 billion subsidising intermittent and wholly unreliable wind power through the REC Tax, for a fraction of that, Australia can have cheap and abundant pollution free hydro power which brings with it:

  • water security:
    • drought proofing cities and farms
    • doing away with the need for electricity powered desalination plants that sit idle for years at an end (eg South Australia’s $1.5 billion White Elephant)
  • food security:
    • better control of water means less reliance on imported food
    • cheaper food in times of drought
    • the ability to grow fodder in times of drought
  • improved and increased irrigation opportunities:
    • more employment in agriculture and horticulture
    • increased agricultural output to satisfy increasing Asian demand for Australian food and fibre
  • flood mitigation:
    • safer cities and towns
    • lower insurance premiums
  • freshwater aquaculture opportunities:
    • opportunities for small businesses
    • rural and regional employment.

These matters must be addressed in order for Australia to adapt to climate change: storing water during the wet years to support us during the dry years.  Remember, this is a land of “droughts and flooding rains” – as Dorothea Mackellar wrote over a Century ago.

By directing our resources to hydro power we will create real employment as we upgrade and improve existing hydro systems and construct those systems which have been planned, but starved of capital, because the wind industry has managed to snaffle the REC Tax and every other subsidy, including interest-free loans being bucketed out by the CEFC.

To STT it’s a “no brainer” – can the fans and upgrade the dams.

So, Australia what are we waiting for?  C’mon in boys – the water is fine.

25 thoughts on “The Water of Life: Can the Fans and Upgrade the Dams

  1. The hydro unit at warragamba dam is still in operation but only during discharge of large volumes of water ie when flood waters are released. the dam in previous years has been at to low a level to run the turbine at its peak performance hence why it hasn’t been contributing to the grid.

  2. We have spoken about Hydro Electricity for years but that dumb red head can’t see it as renewable energy and wasn’t even handing REC’s out for it. Our household have always thought it the best way to go so thank you STT for bringing it to the forefront. Perhaps we have not been complaining loud enough to the right people with regard to Hydro.

  3. The problem is that “Politics ” and “Greed’ get in the way of common sense.
    Hasta la vista.

  4. As the pollies say ‘ere ‘ere. Well done again STT. Yet again demonstating how common sense doesn’t seem to come into the equation.

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