February 3, 2023


Quality news, views and analysis of issues that affect and inform us in the Douglas Shire.

DAINTREE POWER / Scheme Requires Major Clearing

Power scheme proposes to clear World Heritage Daintree Rainforest
daintree blockade


📍 Power scheme proposes to clear World Heritage Daintree Rainforest

📍The millions of dollars this will cost is better spent on standalone solar and battery systems

The proposed power grid for north of the Daintree intends to run the cable underground on an unformed Douglas Shire Council road reserve. This road reserve is covered with kilometres of high-value rainforest along its route. Laying the underground cable will require clearing the World Heritage-listed rainforest along this reserve as well as requiring extensive earthworks due to the very steep terrain so the cable laying machinery can get access.

The road reserve was created around 1899 however was never used. In 1954 the Douglas Shire Council started the construction of the current road over the Alexandra Range to Baileys Creek. They had use a different route as the road reserve was too steep and impractical to use. Consequently the road reserve has remained as lines on a map.

The road on the left is the current road over the Alexandra Range. The line on the right is the road reserve that has never been used.

As can seen from the image above, this proposed route goes through kilometres of high value World Heritage-listed rainforest that would need to be cleared. The steep terrain will require extensive earthworks so that machinery can be operated safely without tipping over. This clearing of irreplaceable high conservation value biodiversity will leave a massive scar through the Daintree Rainforest.

The road reserve (left of the Alexandra Range road) runs through kilometres of World Heritage-listed National Park. The dark green areas on this map denote National Park. Light green areas denote freehold blocks.

The cost of the clearing, massive earthworks and laying kilometres of cable will be millions of dollars. This prohibitive cost of clearing and earthworks would need to be budgeted for in the ‘business plan’ for the project. That cost in itself, even without the environmental destruction being taken into consideration, is entirely unsustainable. The money would be better used as Federal Government grants to assist the existing residents to upgrade their standalone solar and battery systems. This would ensure that the overwhelming majority of residents would be able to meet their power needs all year without using back-up generators.

[FEATURED IMAGE credit Google Images]

Image: Hugh Spencer

Some of the comments by the pro-development brigade are a gross misrepresentation of the truth. They are not direct drilling the cable for kilometres under the Alexandra Range. The proposed direct drilling is only for the 300 metres Wet Tropics World Heritage section in the map above. Kilometres of road reserve through the high diversity Daintree rainforest in the National Park leading up to this section will need to be cleared and have extensive earthworks for machinery to lay the cable underground along the reserve and to get the drilling machinery up the very steep slopes to the Wet Tropics World Heritage section to bore the hole under it.

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2 years ago

Hugh, unfortunately has no idea of how business or design and engineering companies work in the financial world. This project will qualify under the rules set out by the ATO as a R&D (research and development) project. That is a 38c in every dollar in non refundable tax offsets to the private companies that are involved. Add that to the massive federal rebates and grants that will be available under the proposed new and pre-existing legislation for renewables and this project will be well under 50% true cost of what media and know-all no nothing pessimistic locals are sprouting off about. This doesn’t even take into account the social and skills benefits to our region through employment and upskilling of members in our community to construct and maintain this infrastructure. Private enterprise doesn’t get involved in something that doesn’t add up financially. It’s only projects like Wangetti trail fully funded by government that end up as a negative return on investment. There will need to be significant private investment in the Daintree power project. How much private investment has been put into the $100m Wangetti trail…. $0. What will be the ongoing cost to the tax and rate payers for the maintenance of the Wangetti trail? Lots! What will be the cost to the tax and rate payers of maintaining the Daintree micro grid…. $0. If you are concerned about government spending Hugh then get on the attack of what is an issue in the region. I don’t believe you really care about government spending or it’s viability, so stop telling lies and explain your true reasons and beliefs behind the constant attack, on what is a great proposal for protecting our environment in the long term for future generations.

FACT check. Wilderness lodge what’s 7 rooms. It’s a boutique micro business. With minimal employees. So yes it is viable to operate that type of business on a RAPS system.

Hugh Spencer
2 years ago

Lawrence, to quote a colleague of mine – “if it’s big and new and shiny” you are for it. Quoting the Party Line. I know you have a degree in Commerce, but maybe not in basic science. Maybe I’ll leave it at that.
(For the un-initiated – Lawrence has the largest areas of cleared land in Cape Trib). It would be wonderful for a solar array – but no – Wilderness Lodge has managed to install a significant solar array – so why can’t you? Would be great for your environmental message.

Lawrence Mason
2 years ago

Hugh, once again, I will go with the young up and comers, the ones who will deliver this new tech not only to us but to the world. Not with yours or my smokey generator, or with some cloud cuckoo scheme to subsidise raps (again) and kick the can down the road for our children. Lets solve the problem for everyone for once and for all, and especially for businesses in the forest who can’t run raps unless they clear.
Every premises should already have complaint wiring, and use an electrician for all work with 240V, as we do. Raps 240v kills you the same dead as grid 240v, or genny 240v. Anyone who wants valid insurance better have wiring to code.
Like phones, most will connect after a suitable period of whinging. In ten years we will all be at Cow Bay Hotel yelling if power is off more than an hour. Sound familiar?
Those who remain with gennies won’t get a subsidy, and nor should they, why give a subsidy when non polluting power is available at market rates?
The night/backup will be a combination of Hydrogen and battery. Once again, I will leave it to the experts to decide what is most efficient. With all due respect, you power system is hardly innovative or efficient, so why bag something much better?

Lawrence Mason
2 years ago

Once again Hugh, Richard spoke for some time at the meeting to this issue, and explained that he had 25 years of cloud cover data for the area, and that they had designed the system with that in mind. Not to mention that you and others have correctly advised that solar panels are WAY better than they were; anecdotally I have heard of small amounts of electricity being produced by modern panels under moonlight!
The real question is why you and others are desperately grasping at straws (not to mention building strawmen) to stop something that will reduce pollution of all types and is restricted by the town plan. Your real motives are becoming obvious, not just to me but the wider community.

Hugh Spencer
2 years ago
Reply to  Lawrence Mason

Lawrence, I was hoping that someone else might have responded. However, I shall try to clarify things –
We are not desperately grasping at straws – the sad reality is, that as the proposed system (presumably to be completely renewable) will be based on hydrogen as a storage mechanism, there are a number of issues (grounded in physics) that, for this area, render that impossible.

Firstly, we appear to no longer be able to plan on the level of available sunshine that might have been available in the past. Sure, 20 years of records, in the changing climatic situation we are seeing, (and yes I realise you are an AGW denialist), are misleading, as we can no longer extrapolate from past, things are changing too fast. Here at Cape Trib – we’ve had 6 months of mostly overcast weather. Things won’t be that much different in Diwan or Cow Bay. Solar panels can only generate power in response to adequate sunshine. Sure they can produce a couple of milliamps in full moonlight – but so what?

Secondly – the hydrogen storage/power generation cycle is horrendously inefficient (compared to battery storage as with RAPS). Think about it – efficiencies multiply – so 20% of 100% is still 20%. – so the conversion of electricity to hydrogen (using PEM technology – most likely) is 60% currently. The hydrogen has to be stored, that requires compression (unlikely to use liquifaction) – and that has an efficiency of about 80-85%, (compression takes energy which has to come from the supply). Conversion back to electricity, using a similar PEM technology is about 60%. Then we have the energy costs of conversion to AC and line losses – say 85%. Doing the sums. 60%x85%x60%x 85% – 26% efficiency!
You CAN’T argue with the figures. No way!

Battery storage – let’s say 85% – 3x better.

Which is why direct storage as RAPS systems if not only far more efficient, it is far cheaper and far less destructive than a central grid.

Given the future unreliability of full sunshine in the area, it makes no sense – and will require lots of fossil fuel to make up the deficit. Renewable?? Nah.

Plus, there has NEVER been a proper and complete survey of resident’s and commercial needs and expectations for the Daintree Coast, nor have there been any real efforts to educate people on how to get more electric bang for their buck here. There is so much mis-information. Also, we have no idea of the costs of connection, the costs of upgrading house wiring for compliance, so we have no idea of the number who will connect. No reputable business would tackle a multimillion dollar project like this without having this essential information.

If this is going to be Warren’s swan song – I’d prefer he got a gilded statue in Mareeba. Cheaper, too.

Hugh Spencer
2 years ago

Oh dear – I’m sure that with modern directional drilling (as used in fracking) – you could probably bore a figure of eight channel under the Alexandra range – the technology is amazing. However, that is absolutely NOT the issue. The issue is the viability of the entire project. If you hadn’t noticed, the degree of cloudiness on the Daintree Coast has increased over the past years. The probability of a solar field being able to supply the power demands (without having to resort to fossil fuel backup) is reducing – I guess that most commenters so far still have issues with accepting the concept of anthropogenic warming. Whether we like it or not, the laws of physics prevail.

Lawrence Mason
2 years ago

I will go with Mark; the guy with experience with cabling, over Hugh, the guy with no knowledge of cabling and an axe to grind, thanks.

2 years ago

It is frustrating reading these comments from people with zero experience or knowledge of underground MV or HV cabling or anything to do with the power infrastructure of this kind. Have any of these people seen what a horizontal directional drill rig does and seen a large scale cable winch in operation? I’d say not. Fools comment and form opinions on things they have no knowledge of. The educated ask questions of those with knowledge to form an opinion. These comments and articles that are being published are only helping in dismissing the credibility of those that are opposed to the proposal. I would suggest if those opposed want to gain credibility they start with FACT checking what they write or publish as this well known group of individuals have no credibility on the subject matter. Most people of sound mind have no issue with individuals or organisations of a different view. What most individuals and organisations with a moral compass do however is ensure the opinions and publications are somewhat factual and not deliberately misleading. This spreads further confusion and conflict within communities. Successful organisations and special interests groups that gain ground and credibility in achieving compromise do it with collaboration. All I see is a future with more pressure put on the Daintree region as this will end up a very public debate to broader Australia and put the Daintree on the map once again and be the must go place to see. This is what started the land subdivision and pressure on the Daintree to start with back in the 80’s. Create the same circus and it will happen again!!

Lawrence Mason
2 years ago

Absolute nonsense. Hugh was at the meeting and knows that the lines will be directionally drilled and be well under the WHA. Fake news a la Trump.

Hugh Spencer
2 years ago
Reply to  Lawrence Mason

Yes Lawrence, Sure there are only 300 m of WH property, but you have to get up there to do the drilling and bring the conduit for the cables up that uncleared road reserve (and down the other side).
Andre is completely correct. It won’t be clean and neat.

Hugh Spencer
2 years ago

Thanks Andre, I think the attached map may make things clearer to folks who don’t know the area. This whole project is a disaster – and yes, support for stand-alone (alia RAPS) systems would be vastly cheaper and 3x as efficient, and have almost no environmental impact… but never let reality displace dreams.