1 / contrary to Aaron's assertion above, cloud does not stop a solar panel from generating power, it just generates less power, not no power at all . The reason for this is power is generated by light , so while cloud cover will reduce the solar panel's output , it is only darkness that stops it generating power .
2 / a coal fired power station, from dead cold , takes around four hours to generate steam for the turbines, this compares to approximately 20 minutes for a gas turbine , which by the way , is a land based aero jet engine type of gas turbine , similar in size to those used on jumbo and wide body jets.
If the coal fired power station boilers are warm, then around two hours is required before sufficient steam is generated.
Whilst coal fired power stations do provide a base load , it can be appreciated that there is a significant time lag, and fuel burn , before the steam turbines can generate a reliable stream of electricity.
This explains why many 19th and early 20th century power companies also ran a Tram network , to ensure that the excess power that was generated could earn revenue.
3 / (europes-leading-eco-centre-centre-alternative-technology-wales
) The Centre for Alternative Technology, Dyfed Valley, nr Machynlleth ,
( 3 miles north east of Machynlleth xGWR railway station ) Wales, UK, which opened in 1973 and was featured by Robyn Williams on the ABC Radio 3LO Science Show, Saturday 1230 -1330 at that time. This new village is located in a former quarry , and has been off grid, relying on alternative energy since 1974. West Wales has near constant rain , cloud cover most of the time, yet still generates electricity from solar panels and wind power . As it has been off grid for 44 years in a wet and cloudy location , I suggest that does demonstrate that off grid renewables for domestic and small scale commerce and industry is feasible in Australia.
Additionally, these days with the rapid advances in battery storage technology ( providing the battery pack is in a building away from the house , [ batteries can potentially explode ] ) , renewables for domestic off grid is a viable alternative .
4 / I agree that there are some industries that would require a heavy power supply , in which case power from the grid is still required, but a mix of renewables, storage technology, and gas turbine booster sets can collectively meet that demand , and the need for coal fired power stations is no longer as crucial as it once was. Add to this the continual development of low power appliances and low energy lighting , and there is even less need for a traditional coal fired power station. A bit like coal gas / town gas , now replaced by higher BTU and cleaner Natural Gas.
5 / I also fail to see why large outback solar farms are such a problem. They will still use the National Grid , their environmental impact compared to coal fired power stations is significantly less , and as demonstrated above will generate power whilst there is light , and large parts of outback Australia are not renowned for lacking in sunlight !
6 / For many steels, especially specialty steels , coking or metallurgical ( the fancy name ! ) coal will still be needed , but I suspect that while short term demand for steaming coal over the next decade will increase , I would anticipate that demand for steaming coal will then decline as alternative energy supplies increase.
7 / Despite the claims of the proponents of nuclear energy , the cost of building, reprocessing, storing , decommissioning and demolishing, and more storage , of the total nuclear fuel and power cycle is both prohibitively expensive and has long construction and long decommissioning times.
) Dounreay Nuclear Reactor , west of Thurso ( Highland Railway ) was in service from 1955 to 1994 , and decommissioning will extend from 1998 to 2336 ( yes, 338 years compared to a life of 40 years ). Assuming the average lifespan to be 80 years , that is 4.225 life spans ! Or to put it another way, decommissioning will take 8.45 times the lifespan.
The reality of nuclear power stations is that for most countries ( not all ) who have built them , the real purpose was a nuclear weapons and nuclear powered submarine programmes . It should also be pointed out that when Britain denationalised the CEGB / Central Electricity Generating Board , nuclear power proved to be unsellable due to its higher operating costs than either the coal powered or hydro electric powered plants. Nuclear Power was eventually privatized by contract management and then a subsidised sale process. So much for the cheap nuclear power argument !