Green future for Alice: how much wishful thinking?

The local environmental lobby’s draft “road map to a desert smart town” can be seen a wish list for the Federal elections, it but goes well beyond that focus – and could do with a robust reality check.

 

“In 2033 Alice Springs runs on 100% renewable energy from a mix of sources.” That would be in just 20 years, up from 3% today.

 

“By 2033 Alice Springs … residential areas are increasingly high density in nature.” Would a town with more space available than almost any other around the world cram itself into even pokier suburbs?

 

“By 2033, Alice Springs has a thriving local horticultural industry which supplies 50% of local fresh produce needs.” And all that whilst not increasing water use beyond the current level?

 

“By 2033, Alice Springs has infrastructure to support 100% sustainable transport around Alice Springs (foot, bicycle, greenhouse friendly public transport and electric cars).”

 

It’s one thing to come up with bold ambit claims to get discussion going. But it’s quite another to make propositions that, on all reasonable indicators, don’t have a chance in hell.

 

Report author, CoolMob’s Alex McClean disagrees: “We’ve interviewed over 45 experts and key stakeholders and have an advisory committee made up of government, council reps, business and the community sector.

 

“Before a final version goes to print, they will sign off on each of the recommendations, indicating whether they think it is realistic or not, within the context of an aspirational document.”

 

The Arid Lands Environment Centre’s Jimmy Cocking (pictured at right with environmentalist and science journalist Tanya Ha at Friday’s CoolMob gala dinner) and Mr McClean spoke with Alice Springs News Online editor ERWIN CHLANDA.

 

NEWS: Do you think the power to allocate water should be taken away from the government and given to a citizens committee? If so, who would elect it and how?

 

COCKING: I think some power should be taken away. Every other state has catchment management authorities, we don’t.

 

NEWS: We have an advisory committee.

 

COCKING: But it’s only advisory.

 

NEWS: So are the catchment authorities. The Ministers make the final decisions. Do you want that to change?

 

COCKING: It could be very much better than it is at the moment. Whether or not government will cede any power over water allocation is yet to be seen.

 

NEWS: Should it?

 

COCKING: There should be more community involvement, more education of the public.

 

NEWS: Should the government have the final say or not?

 

COCKING: I can’t see it being anyone else than the government at the moment in the NT. There could be a government appointed panel but there needs to be somewhere the buck stops.

 

NEWS: And where should that be?

 

COCKING: Ultimately it’s going to come from the people. I don’t know. Government appointed committees seem to be heavily stacked for political favour. There are some great concerns. In 10 years’ time the government may say, ‘we’re going down to 150 years of water for Alice Springs’. Or ‘we’re going down to 100 years’.

 

Mr Cocking is referring to the recent controversy about reducing the policy of assured water supply, based on the current knowledge of available reserves. Until recently the policy has been 300 years which has now been reduced to 200 years. This allegedly happened against the advice of the local water planner, who has resigned.

 

NEWS: Is it reasonable to assume, on present knowledge, that electricity generation in Alice Springs can be wholly from renewable sources, such as solar, in 20 years’ time? Despite a comparatively huge roll-out in this Solar City, we’ve managed only 3% so far.

 

COCKING: That’s largely because of a government funded program. The market conditions now, compared to five years ago, are much more favourable for photovoltaics. All the same, Lyndon Frearson says there is a big gap between 80% and 100%.

 

Mr Frearson, from CAT Projects, was part of a panel discussion during the Desert Smart Eco Fair just before our interview with Mr Cocking on Sunday.

 

McCLEAN: This is seen as a realistic aspirational target from our sources within the energy sector. Lyndon Frearson’s comment is also valid here though it’s a complicated picture.

 

NEWS: He suggested this is because the sun doesn’t shine at night and storage is expensive and inadequate so far.

 

COCKING: We can aim for 80% we’d like to be known as a solar city powered by 100% renewable energy.

 

NEWS: Mr Frearson suggested there should be a shift of power usage, for example, do the bulk of the cooking at midday. Do you think many employers would give people three hours off in the middle of the day to get lunch, dinner and tomorrow’s breakfast ready?

 

McCLEAN: That may not be necessary. I think Lyndon’s suggestion should be taken as such, it’s one of a number of possible solutions to the problem. As you point out, the trick is to find the one that fits best for Alice Springs and our lifestyle.

 

COCKING: It’s up to people’s will. Look at places like Spain, where it’s not as hot as here. Why can’t we have siestas here, a two or three hour break in the middle of the day? We need cultural changes so we can have a sustainable culture in Alice Springs, rather than a ‘use it up quick, mate’ approach.

 

NEWS: We just had a five year, taxpayer funded trial in Alice Springs, involving more than 300 families, Solar Cities and the Town Council. It was called Cost Reflective Tariff trial. It did what Mr Frearson suggested, except in reverse, as we’re still using non-renewable energy, namely enticing people to use electricity at night, when the overall demand is lower. It seems nothing has come of this trial. The program was stopped. Lee Morgan, from the Power Water Corporation (PWC), who was sitting right next to Mr Frearson at the panel discussion, did not feel motivated to give an explanation. All the Alice Springs News Online has received from PWC so far is this: “PWC learned that customer response to these pricing signals was quite variable with some customers being unable to change behaviour. Any shifts that did occur were quite modest. Further trials in this area would require a thorough review of the design and methodology, incorporating current knowledge and best practice at the time.” All that seems to suggest is that the trial was a bit of a dog’s breakfast and a waste of time.

 

COCKING: A lot of data came out of that.

 

NEWS: How are we benefiting from that data?

 

COCKING: The data set needs analysis. It’s the same with Alice Water Smart. There is a whole bunch of data sitting there that hasn’t yet been assessed properly, allowing us to make stronger decisions in the future. We need the resources to analyse the data.

 

NEWS: On the one hand you are suggesting that in 20 years’ time, renewable energy will be advanced enough to provide all the electricity for Alice Springs. Yet you are suggesting that we will not be able to find solutions within 10 times that time span, namely 200 years, to deal with any water supply problems.

 

COCKING: The renewable energy technology is available now, it’s ready to roll out now. We can do this, given the money is available. It’s different with water. We’re not there yet in terms of the technology needed, pumping from greater depth, for example. Are we going to be able to make water? Or find it? We have the Mereenie aquifer and Rocky Hill, scheduled to come on stream in 19 years’ time. Today it takes one kWh of power to pump 1000 litres of water.

 

NEWS: How much would it cost with today’s technology to switch Alice to 100% electricity generation?

 

COCKING: I don’t know. This draft road map is about pathways forward, with a lot of ideas. It’s a visionary document attempting to start suggesting ways forward in the next five years. The next step is to get partners on board to push them forward, then costing it out and look for funding opportunities. This draft was put together on a $10,000 grant. We have a feasibility study done for a community solar farm. The rates of return of that are significant.

 

NEWS: What are they?

 

COCKING: That’s commercial in confidence. We’re setting up a business. That’s where we are going. We are going forward with this, regardless. People can come with us or not.

 

NEWS: People will come with you is they see it is commercially feasible.

 

COCKING: It would cost $50,000 to $100,000 to do the feasibility studies for small aspects of this [roadmap].

 

NEWS: The problem with the current document is, it is unspecific. You talk about recycling. There is a lot of discussion about recycling sewage now treated in open ponds, wasting massive amounts of water. There is no mention of this, neither of costs.

 

COCKING: This is a draft summary. We would love your input on this. If it doesn’t hit the mark, please tell us. This is for everyone. If it’s not speaking to you, then tell us what it needs.

 

McCLEAN: We refer directly to expanding PWC’s existing water recycling capacity, which I understand uses water from the sewerage ponds. I agree, this is a key resource which could be exploited much more. About costs – we don’t have the capacity to cost this.

 

NEWS: Residential areas will be increasingly high density in nature. With all the space we have, how come?

 

COCKING: The further we go out the further we have to drive, the more fossil fuels we use, the less sustainable it is. There are issues with cultural sustainability in terms of the impact we have on sacred sites. The more land we take up the more damage we do, the more impact we have on natural systems. More infill development is a good thing.

 

McCLEAN: Increased urban density is widely seen as a very effective way of reducing a town’s environment footprint, while opening up opportunities for increased public amenity, for example, being more pedestrian friendly. Alice Springs has bigger block to house size ratio than the national average – so our suburbs couldn’t be considered pokie compared to elsewhere.

 

NEWS: By 2033 we’ll be growing 50% of local fresh produce needs. Isn’t that in contradiction to using less water?

 

COCKING: Aspiration. We’d like that to happen. [Saving water and growing food] potentially go together. The water being used should be for people living here, not for some multi national company to make profits and take these profits away. If Alice Water Smart is on target and we save 15% of what we currently use, that 15% saving should go straight to horticulture.

 

McCLEAN: Yes, there is a real issue to be resolved here, but it is not at all insurmountable. Especially when you consider that the interest for a horticultural industry within the town area has long been linked to use of recycled water from the sewerage ponds. Other horticulture enterprises could also be established further afield, not accessing town potable water. Also water efficient agriculture appropriate to our climate has been shown to be very productive in places like Israel, Arizona, and closer to home at Max Emery’s farm at Rainbow Valley.

 

NEWS: With no increase in total consumption?

 

COCKING: We need to aim for these sorts of things, be more efficient with our resources.

 

McCLEAN: Overall annual water consumption data is very hard to draw conclusions from as it depends a lot on how much rainfall we receive. So 2011 was a very low year because we had high rainfall. Last year came up again, but not as high as previous averages. You need a long term view to see where the trends are heading. I do think it is possible to have a horticulture industry without an increasing demand on the town water supply if we look to other water sources, and manage them appropriately.

 

NEWS: Just to be clear, you are saying we can grow 50% of our produce requirement with 15% of the current water consumption?

 

McCLEAN: No we are not. We don’t have access to the kind of data or analysis needed to draw any conclusions in this area. Again, I would think that looking to use water other than our potable town water supply for horticulture would be a priority, for example, recycled water.

 

PHOTOS (from top): Tom Falzon at his family’s Earth Centre in Col Rose Drive; Lyndon Frearson from CAT; Lee Morgan from PWC; CoolMob’s Alex McClean and the rudimentary sewerage recycling facility at the proposed  Kilgariff subdivision.

 

FOOTNOTE:

Mr Cocking says the Arid Lands Environment Centre’s election wish list includes “but is not limited to”:–

• A ‘national parks trigger’ as part of the EPBC Act to ensure that any development slated to be located within a national park has Federal oversight.

• ‘Water trigger’ for shale gas activities as part of the EPBC Act.

• Removal of fossil fuel subsidies.

• Investment in large-scale solar in Central Australia.

• Solar energy and ‘smart grid’ research centre in Alice Springs.

• No nuclear waste dump at Muckaty.

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32 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. Paul Parker
    Posted August 20, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    Until resolved the technical difficulties restricting coverage and speeds of ADSL or wireless internet, our needs for fibre-optic to link sub-exchanges to exchanges remain essential.
    ADSL limit is approx 4km from sub-exchanges (fibre linked to other exchanges).
    Greater distances between community sub-exchanges and their exchanges is is why many, particularly in rural areas, support the fibre-optic NBN plan.
    This why WA government funds links for rural community sub-exchanges by fibre-optic to main exchanges.
    NT government needs do the same.
    Such fibre optic sub-exchange connections also enable wider mobile coverage along these roads.
    With less than minimum ADSL/2 coverage people remain disadvantaged, denied the numerous opportunities in business, education, health and other areas.
    These particularly advantage rural areas with ADSL, which previously required moving to serviced areas.
    These advantages being adopted around world, so to not provide them severely disadvantages our children, our grandchildren, almost as well as the Taliban disadvantage women by obstructing their access to basic education.
    Doubt anyone disagrees that governments mislead and deceive us all the time, the issue then is what is needed to change this?

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  2. Janet Brown
    Posted August 19, 2013 at 3:57 pm

    @Leigh Child. What do we pay taxes on and what for. Next you will be informing us we need to pay for the air we breath. We live in a world of technology. To use it we need power (electricity would not want to confuse you).
    We have huge amount of spending on the NBN. All needing power to drive it. And for your ill informed comment we do not necessarily have to dam rivers. And governments mislead and deceive us all the time.
    What I have found with the green supporters is they hate it when the truth finally comes out over their propaganda.

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  3. Interested
    Posted August 19, 2013 at 2:35 pm

    Leigh, the main recharge is the collection of water which comes from the north.
    As for Janet and her husband comments esp Janet does not have a clue. The information they so called research is on google or on the governments website which they clearly have problems with. Alice Water Smart was a great program which I have heard saved lots of water. It’s still people like the Browns who don’t understand that water should be used wisely. If you do compare water prices to the rest of the country we still have it pretty good even with the large increase. One day Steven’s suggestion will be to pipe water up from Adelaide because we might not have much left.

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  4. Leigh Childs
    Posted August 19, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    As for Janet’s proposition that governments have “allowed” population growth over dam construction is, as usual, laughable. They should have been telling us: “Don’t make love go out and build a dam!”
    Australia is the driest continent on earth and not all rivers are suitable for damming and water storage. The best rivers have already been dammed and damming just any river would have major affects on the agriculture and usage of that already populated river system.
    Janet, it comes down to WHAT we do with our water and sustainable usage is not a bad way to go.
    But, I do say that governments have been at fault, over many years, by not telling us that we do not need to pay the real cost of supplying (power)and water to our homes in Alice Springs.

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  5. Leigh Childs
    Posted August 19, 2013 at 11:52 am

    I want to ask one question … does the rain that falls in our local area of Alice Springs … that is the rain that falls ON TOP of our aquifers, actually recharge those aquifers?

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  6. Janet Brown
    Posted August 18, 2013 at 8:56 pm

    @interested. Let me say in more clearly. What I said was visual pollution. Truth is other states have water rules for no other reason but the they failed to keep up supply of infrastructure to cater to the population.
    Example: a dam could supply water for 200,000 people comfortably for x amount of years even during 10 years of drought.
    But they increased the population by double and no extra dams. So the governments penalise the population. Governments increase charges, all due to the fact they fail in their responsibly.

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  7. Steve Brown
    Posted August 18, 2013 at 4:49 pm

    @ Interested No one would ever have guessed your association with so called environmental Sciences. LOL. Pssst, let you in on a secret: The signs of indoctrination as opposed to an open educated and inquiring mind are very much in evidence in your not so learned comments.
    I suggest you spend a little time doing some real open minded research into evaporation here as opposed to anywhere else. You might want also to look at stream flows throughout a big rain fall event. Do some calculations on the amount of water that can evaporates over a period of a flooding event as opposed to the total and we are talking about running water, not rainfall. Be prepared to be embarrassed. I haven’t got time today to do the maths for you although I guess I’m going to have to at some point because maths or anything requiring logic really aren’t the strong point of an Environmental Scientist, are they.

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  8. Interested
    Posted August 18, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    Janet, firstly my interests are in the overall aspect of the environment. I have had 7 years experience in environmental science. Using solar panels does not damage the environment at all. This is a good way of using less power. I’m not sure why you brought up dumping sewage. Recycled water is a great way of conserving water. We can use that on areas which do not need to be pure drinking water. For example ovals and parks.
    Steve, we have high evaporation here in Central Australia. So I’m not sure where you found the information that says there is a high percentage soaking through this is not true.
    Alice Springs people are the highest water users in Australia per household. It’s people like yourself who think there is plenty of water and I will use as much as I want. We have many people visiting Alice and people I talk to (well educated) people from other states who think this is a shocking attitude.
    I am talking about using our water wisely we need to educate people. Someone in your position will be able to help. Think about the future!!

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  9. Russell Guy
    Posted August 18, 2013 at 11:11 am

    I went for a walk in the bush this morning, along cattle and vehicle tracks that have made a mile around here since the 1930s.
    I picked up a small piece of copper pipe, a length of twisted steel cable and an ancient piece of fencing wire laying in the dust.
    When you compare these things, you become aware of discoveries which have been made over the centuries to help in taming the land and which most of us take for granted in this so-called modern era.
    I was reminded me of the old saying:

    “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread
    Till you return to the ground,
    For out of it was taken;
    The dust that you are,
    And to dust you shall return.”

    I thought about the Aboriginal tradition of smoke signals to attract attention or send a message. Aboriginal people made spear tips from the Overland Telegraph Wire, most likely without much of an idea of what it was for – strung out through their land.
    Some international tourists asked me about the pair of painted sticks I was carrying.
    “Music,” I replied. “Aboriginal people busk with them.”
    I banged two together, softly. “Sing to the sun.” I sang. “They dance with them.” I danced. “You have a complete orchestra in two bits of wood.”
    “Where do they do that?”
    “In the street. Sometimes, you see them.”
    “All the Aborigines we’ve seen are drunk.”
    We once thought the sun revolved around the earth.

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  10. Steve Brown
    Posted August 18, 2013 at 11:06 am

    @ Interested Observer: Whenever you pump water from an aquifer you get what is known as draw down. This occurs because only so much water can move through the aquifer to a single point at a time. So if your pumping more from an area than can move to that area you end up with a cone shaped draw down of the water table in that area. The longer you pump the deeper and wider that draw down cone goes. This can be counteracted to a large degree by spreading your bore-field over a larger area and pumping less from each location.
    When you have over-pumped from a single location for many years you are faced with a very deep draw down which is best dealt with by ceasing to pump at that location and allowing recovery.
    This is something that you obviously can’t do if you haven’t invested sufficiently elsewhere so that you can allow resting.
    I just didn’t hear about this stuff Observer, I have first hand real life experience in every aspect of harvesting underground water from operating the drilling rigs, both percussion and rotary, to equipping, maintaining, monitoring and when necessary finding new locations.
    As a child I sat at the top of the well one of many my father dug by hand, while he deepened it during the great drought.
    In monitoring water levels in those holes you very quickly become aware of recharge and the amount of it with every river flow.
    In the well to which I refer water levels would begin to rise within hours of a river flow and with nearly every flow, no matter how small.
    Don’t let the bureaucratic propaganda dazzle you, the arguments around recharge at Mereenie are about avoiding further investment in seriously and urgently required infrastructure.
    It’s convenient for some to argue against recharge because that stays many obligations, including those to protect the aquifer.
    As for the amount of water available from our rainfall, in a single large rainfall event the quantities of water that actually flows in the rivers that drain over the Amadeus Basin of which a very large percentage soaks into the many aquifers, is quite simply enormous.
    It is many, many times the quantities we a presently using. Ask yourself if water can flow through an aquifer to a bore site at a particular rate why cant it flow from the top down to that level at the same rate? Food for thought, hey?

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  11. Janet Brown
    Posted August 18, 2013 at 9:26 am

    @interested. Your comment about the rainfall and the current only pumping spot. Environmentally the position of PAWA can only be referred to as environment vandalism. Dumping raw sewage in the swamp from the sewage ponds get independent testing of the soil there to a and you find the pollution is extreme. So on environmental protection you are for it or against it? Rest the water aquifer it does not need rain here the rain can be many klms away. I am concerned that those who scream we care for the environment can ignore the deliberate environment damage that continues to be done by PAWA. The visual environmental pollution of the solar panels at the airport. Environmental pollution is visual and deliberate. Don’t pick and choose your battles. It is the environment or not.

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  12. Interested
    Posted August 17, 2013 at 9:32 am

    Steve going back to one of your comments before about water, the best idea you have come up with is using solar energy to help extract the water. As for moving where they collect the water from is stupid. You mention that this will help recharge the aquifer.
    For this we need a high rainfall for the next hundred years and then another 50 years for it to go through the levels before it can be extracted.
    This means that potentially your grand children’s children may not have any if the rainfall is low which happens here.
    So the best way is to conserve and be wise about how much you use. Maybe compare Alice springs to a few other places in similar cases and learn how much they use.

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  13. Russell Guy
    Posted August 16, 2013 at 6:44 pm

    @ Steve Brown posted 16 August. 4: 47PM.
    Since January last year, well before the NTG election, the ‘Great Alcohol Debate’ has raged in these posts and I well remember you saying that it had reached “ridiculous” levels, but my post earlier today suggests that the debate nowhere near reaches the ridiculous level of dysfunction in Territory life (perhaps that’s one big reason why your town planner threw in the towel).
    Since 10am, I have watched and worked among alcoholics disrupting workers and tourists as they carry out their addiction.
    A senior citizen from down south just said to me “what are they doing to themselves?” I merely replied, “how long have you got”, but you make many points about what needs to be done to fix the Territory.
    The NT government and the people can’t fix the alcohol problem because they are aligned with the alcohol industry and would rather easy access to grog than have to present an ID.
    There have been numerous ways presented since January last in which this may be done, with evidence-based arguments, but we are another twenty months down the track.
    Even the late 1990’s ‘Thirsty Thursday’ trial in TC looks better from here and of course, the Banned Drinker’s Register looked good to me about 8pm last night when I saw a familiar chap stomping around looking for more grog after first toting a rum and coca-cola six pack early in the day.
    He used to be on the BDR, but he, like many others I saw today, are far too cunning to be picked up under the AMT regulations.
    A floor price to mediate the glut of cheap wine produced by Australian vineyards over the past 10 years and a productivity enhancing one day a week ban on take-away alcohol, preferably tied to welfare payments day are other options that will look increasingly good as time wears on, all the while funded by the same taxpayers you invoke in your arguments.
    Numerous commentators from Bob Beadmen to Prof Gerritsen, Menzies School of Health and AMSANT, actively researching these issues from the coal face for decades, have come to the same conclusions that I present here, yet you don’t appear to have tried to do anything about it.
    It’s a terrible cliche, but you may be the one to have to turn off the light on your way out.

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  14. Steve Brown
    Posted August 16, 2013 at 4:47 pm

    What have I got against the Road Map, or perhaps a more appropriate title would be “Road Block”?
    The answer is not much, if it were written by individuals at their own expense and its cases argued before Government by legitimate political means, but that is not the case!
    This document along with many similar over past years was funded by us, the tax payers! This is a bureaucratic policy document!
    What do I have against that, apart from the obvious waste of funds? Let’s say that my issues go to the general functionality of the NT and its administration.
    Over the past dozen years of government our bureaucracy given no leadership, was basically left to its own devices.
    It has become commonplace for bureaucrats to pass political judgement, push personnel agendas, and worst of all write policy and regulation, endless reams of it!
    That has led us to become a place, where it is extremely difficult to do business. A town planner we bought in from Adelaide to design a development project, who designs and implements developments all over the country was gob-smacked!
    He eventually left in disgust describing the Territory as the hardest place in the country to do business. We are an undeveloped frontier! “How can this be”?
    At this stage in our development we should be offering incentives and welcoming development with open arms, freeing up our economy! We should be offering cheap affordable housing, purchasable bank and deposit free after five years. But where are we?
    We are, what are known as confounded, that’s so deep in our own bureaucratic garbage that we can’t move without swallowing!
    We find funds to further confound ourselves with further bureaucratic and thinly disguised leftist propaganda but we can’t seem to get anything at all practical happening! We found a beautiful flat, flood free piece of land upon which to construct our affordable housing, and its sits there years later, vacant, undeveloped! Why?
    Because of ridiculous bureaucratic regulation, that has left our Minister and his bureaucracy sitting looking at each other neither sure how to climb over the enormous pile of confounding crap that’s holding it all up!
    If they were to comply with all the regulatory requirements the blocks would be so expensive nobody could afford one although the government owns the land! This is what happens when you let every little group with a concern about energy or water use or paint colour or orientation surreptitiously add their view to the ever growing pile of regulation.
    Put all bureaucrats back in the shed remind them that their role is simply to fill in and implement policies that are developed not by them but by the elected members of the government of the day, along with their parties.
    Put out to pasture any individual or group particularly NGOs that don’t wish to comply.

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  15. Interested
    Posted August 16, 2013 at 2:11 pm

    I think it is time that we should not listen to a person who does not have any experience in these areas. The road map comes up with some great suggestions which hopefully one or two will be seriously looked at. Look a bit more opened minded, Steve, and see that the environment is a serious issue (water, land management, sustainable development). Good luck to Jimmy and the other crew in constructing this document, and remember that Steve is only one or two people out there who say this is a waste of money.

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  16. Steve Brown
    Posted August 16, 2013 at 1:56 pm

    @ Paul Parker, Thought you might be interested to know that Tellus Salt proposes just such a plant to be developed, apparently fairly earlier on in their development of the world’s oldest and best quality salt, near Maryvale Stn 120kms south of Alice.
    I’m not sure if the initial plant is going to be big enough to connect to the local grid but the possibilities are there.

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  17. Paul Parker
    Posted August 16, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    IMHO most agree the Red Centre needs resource development, the obvious resource – and related technology to develop is sunlight.
    Molten salt is also used in the chemical and metals industries to transport heat, with considerable industry experience.
    The molten salt is used as a liquid at atmospheric pressure, to provide low-cost medium to storage of thermal energy, with operating temperatures compatible with today’s steam turbines, it is also non-flammable and nontoxic.
    Solar power generation using molten salt is becoming mainstream.
    In Spain the 19.9 MW Torresol solar plant in 2011 achieved uninterrupted 24 hours generation of electricity using molten salt heat storage.
    The Torresol smaller 19.9 MW power tower plant was expected to generate about 110 GWh per year, compared to the 21.2 MW Photovoltaic Solarpark at Calaveron in Spain which generates about 40 GWh a year.
    Power and Water Corporation uses the 33 MegaWatt Owen Springs Power Station to supply electricity to Alice Springs.
    Solar alternate generation expects to be cost effective compared to diesel and gas as it meets needs for electricity generation for rural townships outside transmission grids.

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  18. Neil Rilatt
    Posted August 16, 2013 at 12:39 pm

    Steve, your implication that I am a fool for not convincing you of my local knowledge is quite something. Character attacks are clearly easier for you than arguing substance. I am well aware of the regional context of this document – having actually read it – and my mining comments were in reference to the fact that, excepting a few small pockets, pretty much the whole of the NT is open for mining exploration and this appears to be the pinnacle of the vision for our region’s future coming out of state government right now.
    This is shortsighted and ignores a whole raft of issues that are festering unaddressed in the background, which are only likely to get worse if we keep ignoring them.
    Why you take such umbrage at other people taking the initiative to propose an alternative way forward and identifying a heap of positive opportunities for our town is beyond me.
    Nobody is proposing anything with the aim of damaging our town or economy, and if you would get over your misconception that anyone expressing environmental concern is some raging, listless feral who wants to destroy things for everyone else, you may actually be able to contribute positively to the debate instead of battling your imaginary green boogeymen.

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  19. Russell Guy
    Posted August 16, 2013 at 10:01 am

    The future? It was “pension day” yesterday, including the payment of welfare cheques. Last night was a wild night of intoxicated people showing up at the counter, trying to get more grog. I’ve seen much worse than this over the years, but I could’ve counted a thousand VB cans around the bush this morning. If I could’ve been bothered.
    That’s 50 cartons at 24 cans equalling 1200 cans multiplied by $5 per can to arrive at $6000. A reasonable average would times this by three to make approximately $20,000 per week from one roadhouse. If there are twenty roadhouses in the NT, we have $400,000 per week at 50 weeks per year to make $20m on welfare oriented funds from remote roadhouses. That doesn’t include the pubs in the towns.
    But what’s $20m in the scheme of things when the Road Map to a Desert Smart Town was funded at $15,000?
    This is all just a thumbnail sketch based on one night and one morning in the bush. Thought somebody might be interested. If I can draw one conclusion, the day that the welfare cheques are paid could be take-away alcohol banned, just like Thirsty Thursday in TC, but the usual critics of that have no alternative, except to talk about the future.

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  20. Nimby
    Posted August 15, 2013 at 9:00 pm

    Never ever let the Greens get power. All they have is ideology and their ideology is ruinous, not just economically, but socially.
    Look at our borders and our national debt now. Somebody pays for those pink batts, solar panels and wind farms and it is YOU at a much greater price than you would buy retail and that is because the GREENS are a political entity, with their own interests at heart, not yours!
    It is your money.
    The Red Centre needs resource development, not a bunch of unwashed leftist pansies with a toilet paper BA in politics taking your money off you.
    Very disturbing to see them here. Bugger them off, ASAP!

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  21. Robbie Henderson
    Posted August 15, 2013 at 5:26 pm

    I found Steve Brown’s negative comments on the visionary Roadmap to a Desert Smart Town to be just a little bit humorous and to be honest they probably go a fair way in provoking more support for a sensible and participatory approach to planning than do it damage.
    You have to love it when someone’s comments are so profoundly ridiculous and small minded that they surely just provoke the opposite reaction and thoughts to what the writer intended.
    Perhaps Steve should be thanked by the community – unwittingly he persuades readers to consider the sensible alternatives to his conspiracy theories and wild assertions, and in the process lowering any credibility that he still has.
    So rest easy, Jimmy and the broad, and diverse group of people who came together to put this highly important document together (on a shoestring budget) – I’m sure most readers can’t be judged by Steve’s intellectual capacity and would come to their own conclusions.
    It should be noted that a quick review of the previous roadmap and its predecessor ’70 Actions’ shows that around 40 of the aspiration targets have seen considerable progress.
    This includes some big ticket items such as having a Solar City Program (who would of dreamed of that?), having a holistic water efficiency program (another pie in the sky realised?) and having an NT climate change policy – this was actually delivered by the previous Government – what the?
    The observation that aspects of the current plan are repeated in other sources is also very significant – e.g. government planning documents.
    The reality is that aspirations for desertsmart development driven by the community in past plans have been adopted as realistic and sensible solutions in mainstream government policy and plans.

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  22. Steve Brown
    Posted August 15, 2013 at 4:23 pm

    Somewhat amusing comment Neil, gave us a good chuckle if you were to read it as applying to yourself rather than myself I think it would be pretty accurate especially that bit about not liking your “World View Challenged”. LOL, as for the 45 local experts, how could anyone argue with that!
    Were you one of them, I wonder? Kinda strange that in your rant about “mining the shit out the NT” you didn’t realise firstly that we are discussing the Alice Springs region and secondly and fairly importantly you didn’t realise that there is virtually no mining here!
    We would very much like some! Not too much, but enough that when put together with our potential farm development, that we end up with a nice balance of industry to maintain employment in the area.
    No, you don’t get to be an expert by living for a long time in an area but you absolutely get to be a fool by mouthing off without knowing anything about your local area! Which one are you, Neil?

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  23. Interested
    Posted August 15, 2013 at 4:12 pm

    I just wanted to say Steve that it seems like you know a lot about everything and it is great that we have you here so we can learn something. I would like to know one thing and that is what you are qualified in. You seem to know everything.
    Once you let us know that we might take your advice but until then maybe run for prime minster. Everyone has a right to say what they think only if they know what they are talking about.

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  24. Neil Rilatt
    Posted August 15, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    Wow. Someone doesn’t like their worldview challenged! I’m astounded at the gutter level of personal insults that Councillor Brown will stoop to when he’s sitting behind the comfort of a keyboard.
    How in the world is this about Jimmy Cocking all of a sudden? Jimmy is merely a spokesperson for a larger movement who share a vision of greater environmental resilience, a healthy and vibrant community and sustainable development for our Alice Springs region.
    There are a few of us around. Contrary to your assertion that the Roadmap is about tearing things down, most of the document refers to development opportunities, new industries, and growing the local economy.
    You should give it a read rather than battling straw-man arguments, and give substance a go rather than hurling playground insults.
    Imported, big city agenda? Enviro Nazi?
    How trite and simplistic is this bubble that you live in, Steve?
    Are all those multinational mining companies with their rampant capitalism, offshoring of profits and externalising environmental and social costs for our community to bear, acting on a small town community agenda? I don’t think so.
    Your “mining and development at all costs and hang everything else” approach is the imported big city agenda if ever there was one.
    The idea that we could live in better harmony with our desert environment, grow local, sustainable industries and use our resources wisely is much more a product of community than your short-sighted vision.
    And really, the Roadmap has none of the local knowledge and know-how behind it?
    Did you read the part where 45 local experts were consulted as part of the process?
    Maybe you think you become an expert in all issues merely by living somewhere a long time, through some kind of mental osmosis.
    Like Sarah Palin knowing about affairs in Russia because she can see it from her house.

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  25. Steve Brown
    Posted August 15, 2013 at 8:11 am

    Democracy not good enough for you Jimmy? You’ve come up with a better system called Enviro Nazi Rule have you?
    Rather than fresh ideas as suggested by one comment, the so-called Road Map appears to be a grab bag of various ideas for future development that have been put forward by many over a number of years, many lifted directly from the pages of this publication.
    However in this case they have none of the local knowledge or practical nohow behind them, they appear to be floating aspirational goals waiting for someone else to come along and fill in the details.
    Kind of makes you wonder how anybody justified the grant money that funded the creation of the “Road Map”. The lack of local knowledge and no how, covered up by waffling bureau speak clearly evident in this article.
    Suggestions such as moving National Parks into our Territory Parks should be immediately and vigorously rejected, given the shear disaster National Parks have inflicted on Tourist Numbers at the Rock, any move in that direction would spell disaster for Local Tourism Development!
    It’s more about what you can shut down than what you can build up! As is often the case when Jimmy Cocking is involved the mindset and political agenda behind it are “imported”, a “big city boy in the bush” who hasn’t quite been able to grasp that out here the issue is not over development or even bad development, it’s about absolutely no bloody development!
    All possibility of that has been stifled by waffling bureaucracy and red tape! This bureaucracy has in spite of the enormous opportunity that surrounds us, only succeeded in bringing our economy to its knees and condemning many to a lifetime of welfare dependency and misery.
    I am continually staggered that we continue to fund fluffy feel good concepts documents without any practical application.
    Surely it’s about time this kind of funding was made available to Desert Knowledge for instance, and used for research with a practical outcome, possibly by forming partnerships with world Leading expertise such as some Israeli hydrology, irrigation and controlled environment specialists who have expertise in conditions far more severe than ours.
    These people are growing oranges by the Dead Sea! The saltiest place on earth! Yet here we sit with great soils, enormous water supplies huge unemployment, growing practically nothing at all!
    Mr Cocking expresses concerns about pumping costs for our water becoming more expensive, as if somehow that is a inevitability, one which can only be staved off by lessening our water use! Nothing is further from the truth!
    Our water is getting deeper and deeper and consequently more expensive to pump because we are pumping it from one small location!
    This occurs because we have failed to invest in further necessary infrastructure. That infrastructure, if it were there, would allow the Mereenie Field to be rested for a period of time allowing it to return to pre-pumping levels.
    Why aren’t we funding research into the further development possibilities of our water supply rather than drawing up useless aspirational magazines?
    Why instead of pumping deep water from one area, aren’t we looking at spreading our water harvest over a wide area of shallow bores, possibly powered by solar units? Another something useful DK could be researching that has a practical outcome!
    Don’t forget we presently harvest our water from an area of less than 50 sq kilometres; the Amadeus Basin covers an area of nearly two hundred thousand sq kilometres! Plenty of room for research don’t you think?
    And as for farm development, all that has to happen is for our government to kick aside the bureaucratic crap and allow the subdivision of farmable land with sufficient water supply, such as that at Rocky Hill.
    We don’t need aspirational goals here we just require the government to get of its backside, allow the subdivision and get out of the way.
    This area could be producing much of the town’s needs within a very short time.
    Might be another useful occupation for DK to fish out all the Ag Dept and CSIRO notes researched over many years on agricultural production in this area and update them. Alice is way overdue for action! No more Glossy Aspirational Publications Please!

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  26. Posted August 14, 2013 at 6:58 pm

    Announced 11 July 2013 in the scientific journal “Nature” was the paper by Professor Michael Graetzel (aka the ‘Father of DSC’) describing new deposition process creating light harvesting pigments for solid-state dye solar cells.
    Cells fabricated using this technique incorporating Dyesol’s key DSC input materials and specially formulated 18NR-T Titania Paste have established a new world record efficiency of 15% for a solid-state Dye Solar Cell (DSC).
    Link http://www.dyesol.com/posts/new-record-efficiency-for-dye-solar-cells/
    Dyesol headquartered in Queanbeyan, NSW is working with partners around the world to bring DSC products to the market.

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  27. Richard Bentley
    Posted August 13, 2013 at 10:29 pm

    @Robinoz Try http://www.cleantechnica.com You might find we are nearer to the “Goldilocks solution” than you think.

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  28. Domenico Pecorari
    Posted August 13, 2013 at 9:48 pm

    While I appreciate your probing, investigational style, Erwin, I must say I was impressed by the DesertSmart Roadmap unveiled at the recent EcoFair.
    Its visionary goals are to be commended and I too support ALEC and CoolMob in being “bold”.
    Whether the goals are achieved, or not, within the time frame is not as important as knowing we are heading in the right direction.
    I was particularly pleased to see the issues of urban planning, transport and local food production included in the latest document, and hope to see social, cultural and economic issues incorporated into future versions.

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  29. Grant
    Posted August 13, 2013 at 9:33 pm

    @1 Robinoz: The figure of efficiency with photovoltaic cells is of little significance. In approximate terms, the energy from the sun reaching the ground is 1kW per square metre. Thus, a solar panel 1mx1m and of 10% efficiency will produce 100W.
    What matters is the cost per watt and modern panels are around $1/W (a typical 200W panel costs $200). Ten years ago, it was $20/W. So long as you have a place to put them like the vast outback, the efficiency does not matter at all.
    Storage of this energy for use at night or during cloudy weather remains the most challenging problem by far.

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  30. Posted August 13, 2013 at 4:04 pm

    I sure hope the solar experiment turns into a high energy-generating option some time soon, but I have my doubts.
    Today I visited the Desert Knowledge Precinct to view the solar arrays with a group of OLSH students and at two of the arrays I noticed there were information plates stating they have 13.3% and 23% efficiency respectively.
    That means the conversion rate from the amount of solar energy to electricity generated is very low. My research suggests that this year the highest conversion efficiency attained in the USA was 43.5% apparently under very ideal conditions (HREF: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_cell_efficiency)
    Clearly, there is much more work to be done on what promises to be an excellent system if we can move the efficiency closer to 100%.
    Those with the skills need to be supported in their research and efforts to provide the “Goldilocks solution” we are all seeking.
    In the meantime, nuclear reactors (although unpopular with many) running on thorium could keep us well serviced with electricity until we get our renewable energy options efficient and effective.

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  31. Hal Duell
    Posted August 13, 2013 at 1:07 pm

    Well said Neil Rilatt.
    I suggest that a change in our basic assumptions regarding water and power and how much of each we need and where and how we will get them is of fundamental importance in how we deal with a future that is coming upon us at an ever faster rate.
    Such new thinking needs a change that amounts to a cultural shift, and ALEC under the stewardship of Jimmy Cocking, COOLmob and the now terminated WaterSmart and Solar Cities programs have all done an immense amount of good in advancing that change.
    That the document discussed in this article is aspirational and quite possibly unattainable doesn’t really matter. What matters is that by putting big goals out there and insisting on a conversation, ALEC and the others are encouraging us to think about where we can – not necessarily will, but can – go from here.
    Didn’t someone once point out that our reach must exceed our grasp, or what’s a heaven for? Keep reaching. In time, who knows what will come within our grasp.

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  32. Neil Rilatt
    Posted August 13, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    It’s wishful thinking to believe we can sit on our hands, keep mining the shit out of the NT and somehow that will make everyone’s lives better, and that we can do this to our heart’s content with no detrimental environmental or social consequences for our region. Or that we can just keep doing what we’re doing with our finite resources, and simply hope that someone develops a solution down the road somewhere. THAT is wishful thinking.
    Whether parts of this document are wishful thinking or not, from where else in town are we seeing the vision and aspiration that we are seeing from the local environmental community? Certainly not from government – federal, state, or local – and not from the business community either. This is a bold document, yes, but who can argue the necessity of being bold, with all we know about how unsustainable the status quo is?
    I understand that the old guard of this town is afraid of change – no doubt the challenge to their blinkered worldview is too much to bear.
    Thankfully, there’s new blood and ideas in this town, and the resolve to see a better future come to pass than our current course of action is leading us to. Well done to ALEC and COOLmob for daring to be bold.

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