Map of proposed Toolara forest wind farm
Map of proposed Toolara forest wind farm

Electricity storage for Toolara wind farm next priority

Opinion piece by councillor Dan Stewart


WHEN I grew up it was common for cars to leak oil, have radiators overheat, require servicing every three months and have a one year warranty.

Now cars rarely leak oil, require servicing only every six to 12 months, have 5 year warranties and fuel consumption.

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While cars have improved, renewable power generation has improved far more. Solar panels are cheaper, last longer and produce more power. Wind turbines are quieter and more efficient. Films of wind turbines burning are likely old news, they are now much safer.

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It is only two years ago I had solar panels put on our roof. Fewer cheaper panels were needed to provide the same amount of power, even more so now.

One reason to buy a solar system was because of air conditioning, solar panels tend to produce electricity when air conditioners run. Then I changed when the pool filter runs, and tend to use the dish washer and clothes washer during the day to take advantage of when the solar panels produce power.

It would be nice if the feed-in tariff when we produce surplus power is higher. However, given the cost of poles and wires, and of balancing power production and use, the feed-in tariff should be much lower than the retail cost of power. And power costs are now coming down due to the reducing cost of renewable energy.

Gympie councillors Dan Stewart, Jess Milne, Dolly Jensen and Warren Polley.
Gympie councillors Dan Stewart, Jess Milne, Dolly Jensen and Warren Polley.

Balancing the production and consumption of power is a major drawback of renewable energy. Solar power is produced only when the sun shines, and wind power only when the breeze blows.There is more control over when hydropower is produced. However, Australia being a dry and flat continent has limited opportunities for hydro power (except for Tasmania which gets its electricity from hydro power).

The proponents of the Forest Wind project in Toolara Forest claim their wind turbines will generate the most power in the afternoon and evening, when electricity production usually increases and solar power production decreases. It is true that generally it is windier in the afternoon and evening. Nevertheless, electricity storage is something that will need to be developed further to ensure the electricity we produce can be used, and used when we want it.

Some people think wind farms and solar farms are ugly. In part beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Having lived in a coal mining town I can attest to the ugliness of coal mines and power stations. I much prefer the look of windmills.

Map of proposed Toolara forest wind farm
Map of proposed Toolara forest wind farm

Of course, coal mines and power stations employ people. So does the construction and maintenance of solar and wind farms and electricity storage projects. Even if all coal power stations are closed Queensland coal will still be mined to make steel.

Ah, I hear my clothes washer finishing. Now to hang out the clothes on the line in the sun and wind. We have been using renewable energy for Millenia!

Gympie Regional councillor Dan Stewart