IF ever a coal-fired power station should have been a good news story it’s the Redbank station, at Warkworth, near Singleton.
Instead, it’s been the object of controversy from start to finish. Designed to burn otherwise useless coal tailings with a supposedly “clean” new “fluidised bed” combustion technology, Redbank was approved in 1994 and soon won a 30-year contract to supply the grid.
At 151 megawatts, it was a small power station: Bayswater has four 660-megawatt turbines giving it an overall capacity of 2460 megawatts.
Objectors, however, were quick to raise concerns about Redbank’s environmental credentials. Greenpeace Australia appealed its approval in the Land and Environment Court, citing sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions, but while it lost the case, the Redbank die was cast.
Later, Redbank was caught up in some of the financial manoeuvring that preceded the global financial crisis, becoming part of the Babcock and Brown group. In 2013, noted financial journalist Ian Verrender said Redbank Energy was “the corporate version of the Neverending Story except that this is no fairytale”. The company was eventually delisted from the stock exchange in 2016.
Now, Redbank may be on the way back, and this time in conjunction with one of the most controversial innovations to hit modern financing, the “blockchain” revolution.
Described by supporters as a game-changing disruptor of centralised banking, blockchain currencies such as BitCoin look at this stage to be the fashionable playthings of speculative investors, and little more.
One of their main problems is the immense amount of electricity that is said to be needed to run the computing programs that verify the blockchain transactions.
Which brings us to plans by a technology minnow, IoT Group – IoT standing for “internet of things” – to use Redbank electricity to run blockchain applications.
Even allowing for the mysteries of blockchain, IoT Group’s statement to the stock exchange on Monday contains a lot of uncertainties.
IoT Group says it has signed an agreement with the station’s present owner, Hunter Energy, to build a “blockchain application complex” on the Redbank grounds, should Hunter Energy be able to restart the station, as planned, early next year.
Clearly, these are early days, but as IoT Group has announced its intentions to the market, we will watch the latest twist in the Redbank tale with some interest.