Thanks for your reply, David de Vries (Posted April 14, …

Comment on Too much sun power in Alice? by Bob Durnan.

Thanks for your reply, David de Vries (Posted April 14, 2016 at 7:45 pm). However, I am still puzzled by some aspects of your argument. I agree that we “need a real power supply, one that gets us through thick and thin”.
But what does such a system look like?
If creating a “storage system for the town would cost a billion in dollars and a billion in CO2 emission”, then surely we could retain elements of the existing fossil fuel system, modified for use in emergencies, along with smaller and less costly storage systems for some storage of solar-generated energy?
The thing is, it is difficult imagining the population of our region coping very well if there were to be periodic outages, even if they only lasted for just a few hours.
We would not be very happy if they effected all the complex machinery of our sophisticated society, including power-dependent sewerage and water and fuel pumps, traffic lights, railway signals, all types of communication systems, dialysis machines, oxygen machines, fridges and freezers, air-conditioning and lighting for schools, hospitals and other workplaces, power for workshops, and other such necessary day to day services and infrastructure, (and not least, devices for whiling away the hours writing letters to you via Erwin).
As you pointed out, some of these necessities could be sustained by using emergency generators and/or expensive home battery systems (if you are rich or upper middle class), but it would take thousands of diesel or petrol generators to cover them all, and, apart from not being very practical, wouldn’t that partly defeat the purpose of the project of reducing carbon emissions?
We might have recently “successfully survived a rickety irregular supply”; however, outages do produce fatalities, in the same ways that heat waves and cold snaps do. The aged, infirm and very young die at much greater rates than is normal when these events occur.
Twice recently we have had dialysis cancelled, water supplies failing, freezers defrosted and no air-conditioning because of outages during hot weather for over 10 hours at Hermannsburg. It is not all that rare that we get widespread cloud cover lasting two or three days, or more.
Australian climate change scientists have stated that an average increase of 1.5 degrees in Australia as a whole would likely produce an average increase in temperatures of around twice that amount in the centre of our continent.
A reduced population of residents and tourists over the Christmas / New Year holiday period is still likely to experience vast sheets of monsoonal cloud cover, and need reliable power, not least for fans, freezers, fridges and air-conditioners.
I think our best solutions may be a little more complicated than simply damning the consequences and going fully solar without providing due care regarding foreseeable complications. The most responsible way forward would seem to be a well-planned whole-system approach, which considers reliability, access and the social, environmental and economic cost-benefits of each element, and also factors social equity into the budgeting of such a plan, proceeding at a pace which doesn’t compromise important aspects of our services and systems.
And by the way: if gas is permissible for home heating in your scenario, then why is it not permissible for standby generation of electricity for the main system?

Bob Durnan Also Commented

Too much sun power in Alice?
KM (Posted April 26, 2016 at 8:51 pm): Do you mean that there are energy storage systems available to run the town’s public infrastructure in an emergency that don’t “cost a billion in dollars and a billion in CO2 emission” as alleged by David de Vries (Posted April 14, 2016 at 7:45 pm) below? If so, what do they consist of?

Too much sun power in Alice?
David de Vries (Posted April 13, 2016 at 5:59 pm) – interesting proposal, but what happens when we have prolonged cloud coverage over the whole of Central Australia?
For example, a succession of cyclonic systems in different parts of northern Australia led us to have pretty constant cloud cover (and very high humidity) over Hermannsburg, Santa Teresa and Alice (and many more communities) for nearly the whole of February in 1999 or 2000.
One cold July in the mid-80s there was rain and cloud cover for much of the month, and again this covered a very wide area.
In these situations, surely either quite long term storage or substantial standby systems would be very important issues?

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