17 November 2005
They don't always work
Generally, I tend to look favorably upon "renewable" energy sources; while fossil fuels dominate for reasons of cost and simplicity, the cost advantages are gradually eroding away, and some of the alternatives are a bit cleaner in use. (For instance, buying from a wind farm through OG&E is now a smidgen cheaper than buying from their gas-fueled plant, thanks to way-high prices for natural gas.) But sometimes these schemes fall flat, as did this one in Queensland, Australia:
The troubled Rocky Point co-generation plant in the Woongoolba-Jacobs Well area south of Brisbane is expected to be sold at a fraction of its cost.
The power plant which uses sugarcane and timber waste to produce electricity has cost its government-owned operator Stanwell Corp tens of millions of dollars since it was commissioned three years ago. It was worth $60 million when it opened in 2002 but is now valued at $7.5 million.
The plant had been forced to write down nearly $48 million, or about 80 per cent of its original value, as Stanwell Corp struggles against operating issues not planned for in the original design.
The Australian dollar, at this writing, is worth $0.734 US.
The technology worked well enough, but it had some unexpected drawbacks:
Stanwell chief executive Gary Humphrys yesterday issued a statement saying the plant's operational problems had to do with the processing of fuel and the disposal of waste water and ash. He said the requirement to store waste water and ash were "not planned in the original project design".
The fuel is obtained largely from a nearby sugar-cane mill; in a nice, symmetrical bit of synergy, the plant supplies the mill with power.
And that waste water?
Rocky Point also faced legal action by environmental authorities over its alleged role in allowing contaminated water to flow into the Logan River, leading to the death of a substantial amount of fish.
Mark this one down as Not Ready For Prime Time. Yet.Posted at 6:09 PM to Family Joules