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The SA Premier has signalled to voters that Labor will continue its world-leading push into renewable energy, committing his government to a 75 per cent Renewable Energy Target by 2025 and, for the first time, a Renewable Storage Target.
The state is already close to eclipsing its current 50 per cent Renewable Energy Target, set by the Weatherill Governm
ent in 2014. Currently, about 48.9 per cent of the state's power comes from renewable sources, mainly wind and solar.
Labor's Renewable Storage Target would set an aspirational goal of 750 megawatts of energy storage capacity by 2025. This represents about a quarter of South Australia's average peak demand.
Premier Jay Weatherill said the target would ensure South Australia remained a world leader in renewable energy.
"We're sending really a market signal to the world to come to South Australia," he said.
"It's a massive contrast to our opponents who are talking about scrapping the Renewable Energy Target."
Unlike the Federal Government's Renewable Energy Target, which directly subsidises the production of renewable energy, both South Australia's renewable and storage targets feature no market mechanism to encourage new investment.
Instead the South Australian targets are purely aspirational. The Government said it would further subsidise renewables, with an additional $20 million to be poured into the state's $75 million Renewable Technology Fund, which is already oversubscribed.
South Australia already has significant renewable projects slated for development, including new wind, solar, battery and pumped hydro projects and a new solar thermal plant at Port Augusta.
Opposition Leader Steven Marshall indicated the Liberal Party would stick with its plan to scrap the state-based Renewable Energy Target.
He said the Weatherill Government's mismanagement of the transition to renewable energy had left the state with the nation's highest wholesale power prices.
"January's figures are out, February's figures are out. Who's the highest in the nation? South Australia," Mr Marshall said.
"After 16 years of Labor all they've got is a target and massively high prices for the people of South Australia."
Mr Marshall's criticisms were echoed by Federal Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg, who was visiting Adelaide to speak with business groups.
Surfers are becoming citizen scientists by attaching fins to their boards that collect data from the ocean.
The Smartfin is fitted with a GPS, a circuit board, a Bluetooth chip, a rechargeable battery, and sensors that measure multiple ocean parameters including temperature, location, motion, and wave characteristics.
The fin collects data from the sea while surfers are out riding their boards.
The data is then uploaded into a smartphone app and becomes accessible in near real-time to the international scientific community.
Surfer and Southern Cross University researcher Renaud Joannes-Boyau said constant ocean monitoring would help a wide range of scientists, but particularly climate change researchers.
"Using the data collected with Smartfin, we'll be able to better understand trends in ocean warming and acidification and mobilise communities to take action to combat these problems caused by climate change," Dr Joannes-Boyau said.
"The coastal range is very hard to monitor because there's a lot of currents, movement, and it's really hard to follow the entire coast.
"The good thing is surfers go out continuously in one area.
"We thought it was a great idea to use people who love the ocean, and use the ocean every day, to be part of helping scientists monitor the ocean."
Burning rubbish is being touted as a viable alternative to landfill for Victoria, under a waste-to-energy proposal put before the State Government.
The Andrews Government commissioned a series of public consultations on waste-to-energy technology after local councils took legal action against the expansion of Victoria's largest tip, at Ravenhall, last year.
The public consultation report urged the Government to support the creation of a $220 million waste-to-energy plant in Melbourne's western suburbs.
The technology involves burning rubbish to produce electricity, which could reduce the amount of waste going to landfill by around 90 per cent.
A report overseen by Labor Upper House MP Cesar Melhem found there was "broad support" for waste-to-energy technology over landfill.
The public consultation report found residents were concerned about how pollution from the proposed plants would be managed.
The incineration process produces fly ash containing toxic metals, which must be disposed of through hazardous waste landfill.
Around 3 tonnes of fly ash is produced for every 100 tonnes of rubbish burnt.
Standards around pollution control on waste-to-energy plants have improved in recent years, according to Deakin University's hazardous materials lecturer Trevor Thornton.
"Incinerators haven't had a good reputation or good name over the years because going back they were pretty dirty, not monitored — pollution control devices weren't great," he said.
"But nowadays, the controls on them and the way of managing the fly ash —where it gets disposed of, how it's managed — is a lot more sophisticated than it was.
"Certainly agencies such as the EPA have got fairly strict controls on how they are managed and where they can be disposed of."
The report included a proposed timeline to set up the state's first waste-to-energy plant within the next eight years.
Is burning garbage better or worse than burning coal?
A diver who filmed a huge "slick" of plastic floating in clear waters at a popular dive spot in Indonesia said he has "never seen anything like this scale" of ocean pollution before.
In a video uploaded to social media, diver Rich Horner is seen swimming through masses of floating plastic garbage at a dive spot usually frequented by manta rays which come to get cleaned.
Although the dive site lies off the coast of Nusa Penida — a small island with low population — there is a stretch of only 20 kilometres of water separating Nusa Penida from the island of Bali and its capital Denpasar.
"Plastic straws, plastic baskets, plastic bags, more plastic bags, plastic, plastic, so much plastic!" Mr Horner wrote on Facebook.
"Surprise, surprise there weren't many mantas there at the cleaning station today. They mostly decided not to bother."
Mr Horner said the level of plastic at that site varied throughout the year, and there was no plastic visible during the dry season but random clouds and slicks appear during the wet season.
He said this trash in the footage had cleared by the next day.
A new study by researchers from Australia, Italy and the US have found tiny plastic particles are a particular threat to "filter-feeding" animals like the manta rays near Bali, which can swallow up to 90 pieces every hour.
Murdoch University lead researcher Elitza Germanov said microplastics — particles smaller than five millimetres long — contain toxic chemicals that, if ingested, could alter biological processes in the animals, such as growth, development and reproduction.
It's easy to blame the Balinese, but I think the tourists have a lot to answer for.
Krill may be at the bottom of the food chain, but they are proving to be a secret weapon in the war against ocean plastics, one poo at a time.
The tiny crustaceans are ingesting micro-plastics unknowingly, and breaking them down into much smaller nano-plastics through their digestive system, research has found.
The study, published in Nature Communications, has formed part of the PhD research of Dr Amanda Dawson from Griffith University.
Dr Dawson said she was "extremely surprised" by the results.
"It took me a long time to believe my results actually, I went back and re-tested over again," she said.
"It was pretty mind-blowing when we found out krill could break up plastics into tiny pieces.
"The most significant thing for me is that we fed the krill plastics that are brand new, but the reality is micro-plastics in the environment are already degraded, so if krill can grind up brand new plastics what can they be doing with old plastics?"
However, Dr Dawson said it may be too early to thank the krill for their environmental work, as more studies were needed.
The experiment was conducted at the Australian Antarctic Division's (AAD) krill aquarium in Hobart.
Krill biologist Rob King said krill were able to eat creatures their own size, so it was understandable that they were ingesting micro-plastics — which are bits of plastics under 5 millimetres.
There's up to 500 million tonnes of krill in the Southern Ocean, with each creature filtering 86 litres of sea water a day.
"There's just so much krill in the Southern Ocean, every day billions of tonnes of Antarctic sea water is filtered effectively by the krill population," he said.
"That's an enormous filter breaking these plastics down."
Mr King said all plastics break down in the ocean eventually, but the krill were accelerating the process.
Leave it to the little guy to clean up the big guys' mess.
In the Atlantic is an area known as the Sargasso Sea. It is another concentration of floating junk.
I've long thought it might be a useful idea to convert surplus Navy LSTs or perhaps whaling ships so they can move through such floating disasters and scoop up the plastics. Perhaps the plastics could be melted on board the ship, cast into blocks, and stowed for return to land for further processing.
No, I haven't even tried to figure out the cost of such a project or whether specialty ships would be needed for the task, at the moment it's just a pie-in-the-sky fantasy. But perhaps it really needs to be seriously evaluated for practicality.
Is the Sargasso one of those areas of dead calm?
I agree that a fleet of trawlers could do this. I mean commercial fishing trawlers should just do it. It is in their best interest to have plenty of fish in the sea.
Even just one joint venture every six months is better than nothing.
Perhaps the EPA could subsidise them?
It's a gyre, and things from bottles to derelict ships have been found there. But I doubt the American EPA would be interested - - until the last election they were more into creating problems than actually fixing them, and now they're too much in flux to do much of anything so far-sighted. It's something that actually needs to be addressed by an international coalition - - I'd hope one where it's agreed that the nations participating would be required to keep whatever debris they collected, and properly recycle it. Everything from Styrofoam blocks to soft-drink cans to floating bottles to sea containers to abandoned ships. Pie-in-the-sky? Probably, but the job needs to be done on an ongoing basis.
Actually, it would not surprise me if the commercial industry took over the problem.
They seem to be acting on the big issues instead of waiting for politicians to pull their finger out.
If a commercial enterprise could figure out a way to make money on the operation, I suspect we'd already see such activities. But at present I don't think anyone sees a profit from the effort. One would have to amortize the vessels, pay the crews, do the maintenance, pay the various kinds of insurance - - - then process the retrieved material that nobody thought worth the effort to put in the trash to begin with.
Please pardon me if I doubt this could be a profit-making venture!
But that doesn't mean we shouldn't do the job.