Geothermal: a REAL Renewable Alternative

Birdsville Geothermal

Birdsville’s Peter Barnes considers the byproduct of their geothermal
power plant and can’t decide whether it’s time for tea or coffee.


STT is a huge fan of renewable energy – provided it can be delivered on demand (see our posts here and here).

Wind power – through the efforts of crooks and hucksters, like Enron and Babcock & Brown aka Infigen – who set the up the RET rort in the first place – stole the march on every other renewable generation source, including hydro.

The bulk of Australia’s hydro resources were in place prior to 1998. Hydro generators using capacity installed prior to that date do not receive Renewable Energy Certificates – which is precisely how wind weasels wanted it.  If you’re trying to sell a product that no one in their right mind would sign up to buy, why give your competitors any advantage?

Wind power – as STT followers know all too well – can only ever be delivered at crazy, random intervals and requires 100% of its capacity to be backed up 100% of the time when wind-watts go missing every day of the year and – on plenty of occasions – for days on end (see our posts here and here and here).

For some years now, geothermal power has promised to deliver truly clean, reliable base-load electricity – at a cost competitive with conventional generation sources.

Australia’s ancient geology has gifted it with plenty of subterranean geothermal potential (nicknamed “hot rocks”).  Tapping into Australia’s vast potential reserves of hot rocks is done using well-established oil and gas drilling and extraction techniques.

Geothermal power generation produces no CO2 emissions and – unlike wind power – because it’s base-load – is capable of real CO2 abatement.  Remember, that’s the entire objective of Australia’s Renewable Energy legislation and the fat pile of subsidies paid for by power consumers (see our post here).

The marginal cost of delivering a MW/h of geothermal power approaches zero (ie after producing the first MW/h the cost of producing another MW/h is virtually free) as the fuel source is free.  The infrastructure lasts for generations – unlike giant fans which are lucky to last more than 8 years – before blades, generators and bearings all need replacement.  Critically – because geothermal is truly base-load – unlike wind power – there is no need to provide backup from highly expensive peaking power generation sources like OCGTs and diesel generators – which means it avoids the insane cost of peaking power back-up.  Geothermal is a stand-alone power generation source.

Geothermal power in Australia is no pipedream.  Oh no, the outback town of Birdsville in far-west Queensland has been using geothermal power for over 20 years – supplying around 25% of the town’s needs.

birsdville hotel_5_lrg

The Birdsville Hotel – runs on free steam – the patrons run on XXXX.


The locals – fed up with rising cost of running diesel and gas generators – are keen to expand the capacity of their geothermal generator to cover all their needs and do away with diesel and gas generators altogether.  Here’s The Australian on Birdsville’s brewing geothermal bonanza.

Hot water sparks Birdsville debate
The Australian
Sarah Elks
4 February 2014

BIRDSVILLE mechanic Peter Barnes reckons the outback town could be Australia’s greenest if the clean power generated by scalding, surging water deep beneath its soil was used to run the entire place.

The town is already home to the nation’s only geothermal power station, built in the early 1990s, which meets one-quarter of its 100 residents’ electricity needs. Expensive and less energy-efficient diesel and gas-fired generators pick up the slack.

Mr Barnes, the operator of the town’s power station for a decade until 1996, voices the ire of many residents when he questions why the Ergon-owned geothermal plant hasn’t been upgraded to cater for all of the town’s electricity demands.

“It’s frustrating nothing has been done,” said Mr Barnes, owner of the Birdsville Roadhouse.

“They are always talking about solar power over here, wind power over there, all I hear in the news is alternative energy sources. And this is sitting here doing a quarter of the job. Birdsville could be the greenest town in Australia.”

It may be a small town, but airconditioning is crucial in Birdsville, on the edge of the Simpson Desert in far southwest Queensland. Temperatures regularly push past 45C and some locals liken a breeze to being inside a fan-forced oven.

Birdsville’s geothermal power station was built by Alice Springs-based company Enreco in the early 1990s and harnesses power generated by 98C water gushing to earth from a bore drilled more than 1km deep into the Great Artesian Basin.

Bob Collins, of Enreco, which still maintains the plant for Queensland government-owned electricity supplier Ergon, said the project was a source of pride for the company.

“The beauty of geothermal is it’s baseload,” Mr Collins said. “It runs 24 hours a day, it’s not dependent on the wind or sun. When it was built it powered the whole town, but now the town’s grown.

“The daily maximum consumption has gone up by probably a factor of four since 1990, and outstripped our engine.”

Mr Collins said he would also like to see the geothermal plant again running the entire town.

An Ergon spokesman said that the company was applying to the federal government for funding to make it happen by the end of 2016.
The Australian

STT hears that – with the implementation of the Coalition’s Direct Action policy just around the corner – Coalition members – from the Head Boy down – are all set to re-write Australia’s renewable story.

The new rules will be based around proven CO2 abatement – which means that base-load renewables like geothermal and hydro – will rise to the top of the pack.  Whereas wind power – which cannot and will never abate CO2 – will fade into pitiful obscurity.  And rightly so.

Nick Xenophon

SA’s favourite Greek is keen to get Australia running on its own steam.


Geothermal also has huge support from South Australia’s favourite Greek, Senator Nick Xenophon – who twigged early to the importance of renewable generation sources being available on-demand.  Expect to hear more from Nick on the topic as the Federal political season kicks off this week. And the Coalition will be listening carefully to everything Nick has to say – as the STT Champion is highly likely to hold the balance of power in the Senate, come July.

With the only byproduct from geothermal a lot of hot water – we doubt neighbours are likely to complain about the opportunity to fill their billys for free.  Anyone for a brew?


Put the billy on – there’s always time for a nice hot cuppa tea.
And at Birdsville the boiling water is always free.

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.


  1. Guy Takamatsu says:

    I shared your article on Facebook and got this response. I guess one has to ask what constitutes “geothermal.” Note the person is not against all geothermal.

    Dean Sorg
    True geothermal generation is quite different than how the term has been hijacked by the marketers of ground source heat pumps in the United States. The “crooks and hucksters” who have secured tax credit status for “geothermal” continue to misrepresent its true mechanics. Using terms like “renewable” and “solar heat from the ground of your back yard” have been successful to secure tax benefits for generally more expensive mechanical systems that are no more efficient than traditional high efficiency air-to-air heat pumps (getting their heat from the air in your back yard heated by the sun, so air-to-air heat pumps must be “solar” as well?). They are simply heat pumps who use the ground instead of air as a heat exchange media. Annually, heat pumps of comparable efficiency ratings will use comparable amounts of energy, whether ground-coupled or air- coupled. The only advantage the utilities have discovered is that ground-coupled heat pumps (mis-named “geothermal”) will shave their peak demand, which is attractive for them not to have to increase facilities or production at limited, but select peak times of the season for both heating and cooling. So on the back of more expensive installations for the consumers, residential, commercial, and industrial, the idea of the inaccurately named “geothermal” is promoted like many of the other lies of those who will benefit while raising the costs to the end consumers. In the 1970’s, true geothermal meant tax credits were available for systems tapped into ground water in excess of 180 F.

  2. Let’s get rid of the wind weasel, greentard goons and their fans, so the real men and women can get those truly green geothermal generators up and running – and at a cost that we can afford and with no or very little C02.

  3. Warm (!) thanks to STT for this utterly clear description of what geothermal energy is all about.

    Geothermal is available all over the world – sometimes rather close to the surface, (such as here – 1 km) sometimes a bit deeper (2 – 4 km) but still within reach with our current drilling technology. It is stable, always predictable (in relation to the amount and water temperature), everlasting/eternal – even long after human beings are a forgotten story on the Earth. It is highly competitive economically compared to other alternatives for electricity production. It can also be directly used for warming purposes in more densely populated areas, providing district heating with modest supplementary development costs. It is totally useless as a speculation object on the stock exchanges.

    May I add that an example from Iceland and on other locations? The hot water, after being used for energy production, or district heating it is then pumped back down into the Earth’s depths for rewarming. Using its own energy.

    So – Good bye to the wind turbines and their disease-creating black and noisy madness and their ever-demanding fossil fuel backup.

    All the best,
    Mauri Johansson


  1. […] energy mixes in the world, with 82% of its power coming from Nuclear and Hydro – (apart from geo-thermal) the only base-load power generation sources that don’t emit CO2. In Ontario, coal makes up a […]

  2. […] and has, under the current RET policy, clearly been starved of the investment needed to develop it (see our post here). However, with respect, Alan overlooks hydro […]

  3. […] Make no mistake – just like STT – Nick Xenophon is all in favour of renewable energy – provided that it is available on demand (see our post here). […]

  4. […] distinction between it and on-demand renewables, like hydro and truly promising technologies like geothermal. Danny is also keen on using lower emissions from gas powered generation plant to achieve CO2 […]

  5. […] Thanks to the RET, wind power managed to horn its way to the head of the renewable queue at the expense of truly clean base-load generation sources like hydro and geothermal (see our post here). […]

  6. […] Geothermal: a REAL Renewable Alternative. […]

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