In ‘Upfront’ Category
A hotter, drier Australia
In late October, the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) and CSIRO launched their biannual report, State of the Climate 2016. It revealed that Australia’s average surface air temperature and surrounding sea temperature have both increased by around 1 °C since 1910. Extreme heat events and fires have increased, while rainfall has decreased in the south and increased in the north. Our oceans have warmed and become more acidic. These trends are all set to continue, bringing increased drought and very hot days, and fewer very cool days.READ MORE »
Another report just published by Australian researchers in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society has also predicted that the extreme global temperatures of 2015 will become normal by 2030. And as for Australia, that record-breaking summer in 2013 will just be the average come 2035.
Australia’s independent Climate Council emphasised that climate change was the key driver behind many of the trends in the BoM/CSIRO report, and Climate Councillor Professor Lesley Hughes said, “Australia’s emissions reduction target of 26% to 28% on 2005 levels by 2030 is not sufficient to protect Australians from worsening heatwaves, bushfires and other extreme weather events.”
Independent battery testing project
In a world-first trial (supported by $450,000 of ARENA funding) at a purpose-built facility in Canberra, IT Power is about to commence a three-year project that will give consumers and industry stakeholders information on lithium-ion battery performance, independent of manufacturer claims. The project will analyse the performance, simulating real-world applications under Australian conditions, of six major lithiumion battery brands, comparing them to existing and advanced lead-acid batteries, to demonstrate how they could operate in large and small electricity grids. Given recent reductions in the cost of lithium-ion batteries and their potential performance advantages over conventional storage options, this timely trial will help people make informed investment decisions. The trial is due to commence in July 2016 and real-time outputs of the eight batteries in the trial will be able to be viewed at www.batterytestcentre.com.au
Floating solar first
Australia’s first floating solar system powers a wastewater treatment plant.
Australia’s first floating solar system was launched in late April and powers a wastewater treatment plant in the small town of Jamestown, 200 km north of Adelaide. The 4000 kW system is by Infratech Industries.READ MORE »
By having the panels sited on the wastewater ponds, Infratech director Felicia Whiting says the project has the potential to both reduce evaporation by up to 90% and lift the quality of treated wastewater.
“Blue-green algae is a major concern for wastewater treatment plants, and the shade produced by the floating solar panels combats this problem by limiting the photosynthesis process,” she notes.
Infratech estimates the plant will generate 57% more power than a similarly sized land-based system. The placement of the system on the water counteracts the gradual loss of output caused by overheating solar panels, creating a better-performing and more efficient system. The panels are able to track the placement of the sun, while the high concentration of panels allows light to be reflected back onto other panels and increase the amount of energy captured.
Fifteen Australian engineers and research scientists from Flinders University’s Nano Science and Technology Department were involved in the project’s development. The team will continue to gather data and research the possibility of integrated water and phosphorous treatment systems, and energy storage. Whiting says they are currently working on “on-site battery storage to be able to present a completely integrated solution.”
The privately funded installation is the first in a large-scale $12 million project that will cover five basins of water around Jamestown and Gladstone.
Choice solar survey reveals PV ownership facts
A recently-released Choice survey report (based on 700 members around Australia) has uncovered the following interesting facts about solar PV ownership in Australia:READ MORE »
• on average, owners paid just under $9000 for their system (after discounts and STCs/ RECs), and 15% reported that their system had paid for itself, on average, within 3 years and 2 months
• most systems were below 3 kW, but there has been an increase in ownership of larger systems, with 50% of installations in the last year being over 4.1 kW
• owners of German-manufactured panels and inverters reported fewer issues and greater satisfaction than owners of Chinese manufactured components; however, overall, the average satisfaction rate for both was high, at 84%, and Chinese systems were cheaper
• 25% of owners reported having had problems with their system, with the most common being with the inverter (10% have had to replace theirs)
• a third of owners reported having had issues with their installer, with Origin—the most popular installer—receiving the lowest satisfaction rating.
Read the full report on the Choice solar survey: www.choice.com.au
Illawarra Flame under construction
The University of Wollongong is busy working on the Illawarra Flame, its entry in this year’s Solar Decathlon China in August. They are the first Australian team to enter the international competition that sees student teams from around the world competing to design and build energy efficient houses that make more power than they use.READ MORE »
The team is retrofitting an iconic 1950s/60s fibro house, adding technology and design to bring it into an energy efficient future. They want to show industry and the community the possibilities of retrofitting for sustainability.
The design and build is a collaboration between the University of Wollongong, TAFE Illawarra and local industry and support organisations. The project is student-led and includes students from across the university’s faculties including engineering and graphic design.
We wish them luck and will be following the build and the competition in China later this year. They will be displaying the house to the public, fully furnished, in the week beginning the 22 April, 2013 before they ship it to China.
King Island to host big battery storage system
An Australian energy storage company Ecoult has been awarded the Hydro Tasmania contract to supply King Island with the largest battery-based renewable energy storage system in Australia.READ MORE »
The 3 MW/1.6 MWh UltraBattery storage system will complement other elements of Hydro Tasmania’s King Island Renewable Energy Integration Project (KIREIP). This projects aims to significantly reduce the island’s reliance on diesel fuel to supply its energy needs. The storage system will have the capacity to power the entire island for up to 45 minutes.
Ecoult CEO John Wood said the UltraBattery storage system, a CSIRO invention, would shift and smooth renewable energy generated on King Island and will help maintain stability of the power grid. An UltraBattery is a supercapacitor integrated with a lead–acid battery.
Clean Energy Council says an increase in energy storage likely
A report commissioned by the Clean Energy Council (CEC) on energy storage has found that Australia might store up to 3000 megawatt-hours by 2030. This increased demand for storage will come from the reduction in the price of storage, such as batteries, and an increased use of renewables.READ MORE »
“If this happens on a large scale it will force a change in the business model of how we fund the poles and wires network, unlock the full potential of Australia’s enormous renewable energy resources and accelerate the shift to a clean energy economy. So while there are obvious benefits to electricity storage, there will also be major challenges to integrate storage into our electricity supply,” says CEC Strategic Policy Manager, Tim Sonnreich.
Mr Sonnreich said storage technology could be built and operated as an add-on to a power station, installed by people in their homes as part of a large and flexible smart grid system, or set up as a stand-alone storage facility, like the data processing centres used by IT companies.
“But should storage be owned and operated by network businesses, retailers, generators, individuals or all of the above? Storage interacts with the market in a very different way to other technologies and it will take policy makers time to consider these and many more issues that will arise as it becomes more common in our electricity system,” he said.
Some common types of energy storage that are in current use include batteries, solar hot water systems, pumped hydro and flywheel storage.
Targeting ghostnet hotspots to save turtles
Tonnes of fishing nets lost at sea are a threat to marine life, including turtles, as they continue to catch sea life.READ MORE »
These nets are a particular problem in the Gulf of Carpentaria where there can be as many as three tonnes of net per kilometre washed up on beaches.
During a recent cleanup of ghostnets on beaches in the gulf, 80% of animals recorded in nets were marine turtles, including olive ridley, hawksbill, green and flatback turtles.
Working with Ghostnets Australia, CSIRO researchers are combining knowledge of where turtles are found, ocean currents and where the nets wash up onshore to find the best places to direct clean-up operations. Ghostnets Australia is an alliance of over 22 Indigenous communities from coastal northern Australia.
Most of the fishing debris to enter the Gulf of Carpentaria comes from South-East Asia and arrives in the monsoonal season from November to March. These nets then get swept to the western side of the gulf during the southeast trade winds in May to September.
Ghostnets Australia forms clean-up plans where volunteers manually collect discarded nets from beaches and the ocean. These nets are then placed in landfill, made into sculptures or used in other reuse projects.
Earthworker cooperates for solar hot water
A workers’ cooperative plans to start a worker-run solar hot water system factory in Morwell, Victoria. Called Earthworker, they have set out to raise funds for this cooperative by finding 100,000 members.READ MORE »
Earthworker aims to boost local employment in sustainable manufacturing training and jobs in Australia as well as providing further support to workers by assisting with education, housing, childcare and other social services.
Income from Earthworker will be used to encourage enterprise bargaining agreements benefitting workers and to invest in research, grow the business and fund social justice initiatives.
Tokelau is the first island territory to be 100% solar powered
In 2012, the Pacific island territory of Tokelau succeeded in generating all its energy from solar power, a world first.READ MORE »
Aided by a $7 million grant from New Zealand, approximately 4000 solar panels (close to 1 MW) have been installed providing solar energy to a population of around 1500 residents over three islands. Batteries store energy for use at night.
Previously energy was provided by diesel generators, providing an unreliable supply and an expense of up to $1 million each year for diesel imports.
Local residents have received training to operate and maintain the system, and Powersmart Solar, the company that installed the system, is temporarily assisting with monitoring.
Dean Parchomchuck, the director of Powersmart Solar, commented that other islands in the Pacific are enthusiastic about solar power but that it may not be practical for larger islands to become 100% solar powered.
Canute – the sea level calculator
The Canute online calculator maps the future sea-level rise for coastal Australia. It uses the latest scientific models and information in its prediction of the effects of future sea-level rise, tides and storm surges.READ MORE »
Sea-level rise has increased from 1.6 mm/year last century to the current 3 mm/year. The most recent report from the IPCC predicts a sea-level rise of 0.2 to 0.8 metres this century, although recent research suggests that it might be much higher than this.
The Canute website states that “Sea-level rise will be experienced mainly as an increase in the frequency or likelihood of flooding events, rather than simply as a steady increase in an otherwise constant level.”
The calculator gives the probability that an area will be flooded and the expected number of flooding events over a projected period, and generates a map of areas vulnerable to flooding. With a sea-level rise of 0.5 m, the calculator predicts a 300-fold increase in flooding events.
The main causes for this sea-level rise will be thermal expansion of seawater as the global temperature increases and the addition of water from melted land ice.
The calculator is named after the 11th century English king who showed that you cannot stop the oceans.
Don’t blame renewables for electricity price increases
In a report titled 2013 Economic and Political Overview, written for CEDA (Committee for Economic Development Australia), AGL economists Paul Simshauser and Tim Nelson have named distribution as the main cause of increasing electricity costs. They found that the main drivers of increased energy prices were increases in network costs due to higher capital costs and an increasing peak demand.READ MORE »
Also responsible are increases in coal and gas costs and electricity generation costs using these fuels. Renewable energy costs have increased from 2008 (including costs incurred by FiTs, the small-scale renewable energy scheme and the large-scale renewable energy target), but still remain minor when compared to other distribution and generation costs.
What will happen if we scrap the Clean Energy Finance Corporation?
The Coalition has committed to scrapping the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) if elected in this year’s federal election. The CEFC was established to drive innovation through commercial investments in clean energy through loans, loan guarantees and equity investments.READ MORE »
Dylan McConnell from the University of Melbourne, says in an article on The Conversation, “From 2015, the CEFC will have $10 billion to invest in renewable energy, energy efficiency, enabling infrastructure and ‘low emissions’ technology. Half of the fund is quarantined for renewable energy.”
He also adds “scrapping (or even threatening to scrap) the CEFC—currently the main renewable energy deployment policy— would stifle the development of the emerging renewable energy industry in Australia at a decisive point in its development”.
Can we halve the cost of solar thermal by 2020?
The new director of CSIRO’s Australian Solar Thermal Research Initiative (ASTRI), Dr Blanco, has claimed that his research team can halve the cost of solar thermal in just seven years.READ MORE »
“We will reduce the cost of solar thermal to just 12 cents a kilowatt hour by 2020 and provide zero-emission energy to people when they need it. It’s a technological leap but we will do it. We are working with the best in the world,” said Dr Blanco.
Solar thermal technology uses mirrors that concentrate the heat of the sun onto a central point. This heat can then be used to power a turbine to create electricity. It can also be used to drive chemical reactions that can result in products such as fuel.
The Australian research centre ASTRI is an A$87 million, eight-year international collaboration that aims to transform the energy industry in Australia by bringing down the cost of solar thermal.
Gujarat Solar Park switched on
On the 19th of April 2012, the world’s largest solar energy producing park was switched on. With phase one having a capacity of 214MW of photovoltaic panels, the Gujarat Solar Park, in the northern state of India, became Asia’s largest solar PV power plant, beating China’s 200MW Golmud Solar Park. When phases two and three of the park are completed, total generating capacity will be 500MW.READ MORE »
The project was made possible with investment from 21 different companies, including several key investors from the USA. Together they have helped to contribute to India’s long-term goal of increasing overall energy use that comes from renewable energy sources from 6% to 15% by 2020.
Although the Gujarat Solar Park will have a final cost of 105 billion Indian rupees ($US2.3 billion), a further $400 million is being reserved for the increasing of this region’s solar power production capacity, which includes funding for residential support in terms of household solar power production.
In total, it covers approximately 1200 hectares of land which borders the Rann of Kutch (salt marshes found in eastern India). The land on which the solar farm is built is sparse, desert land which would be scarcely of use for anything else (such as farming, comfortably living or raising livestock). The Gujarat land is exposed to abundant strong sunlight, making it ideal for India’s leading solar energy park.
While the activation of the Gujarat Solar Park means big things for global solar energy production, there is talk of an even bigger plant soon to be under way in Tunisia. Known as the TuNur scheme, it will involve a 2000MW (2GW) concentrated solar power (CSP) plant to be operational by 2016.
However, amid all this exciting talk of solar energy projects and production from our neighbouring and not-so neighbouring countries, Australia’s solar energy schemes seem to be significantly dormant. Australia is absent from the list of leading solar energy producers and seems to be falling behind with innovative solar energy projects.
Yet, much of our landscape in central and western states reflects the kind of land that the Gujarat scheme has been built on. It is strange that in a country traditionally famous for its sunshine, our deserts—where the Australian sun is harshest—aren’t being used for solar energy parks.
The extent of India’s solar energy dedication is inspiring, and bodes well for the future of renewable energy plant construction. The Gujarat park makes Australia’s solar energy efforts seem unevolved to say the least.
28MW in just seven weeks
While the Indians are doing it on a large scale, the Germans are doing it fast.READ MORE »
The 28MW solar park in Amsdorf, central Germany, was built on 55 hectares of former opencast mines and slag heaps, and took less than seven weeks to finish from the time construction commenced, with energy first being generated on 20 April 2012.
The €50 million solar park, owned by GERO Solarpark GmbH, was planned and developed by joint partners Getec Green Energy AG and the Romonta Group, with Q.CELLS as the system integrator.
The park is the latest in a series of multi-megawatt solar parks installed by Q.CELLS, which has now installed over 548 megawatts of photovoltaics in numerous solar parks.
And Australia’s largest
Sadly, even this relatively modest plant dwarfs anything existing in Australia, the largest being the currently under construction 80-hectare Greenough River Solar Farm near Geraldton in Western Australia.READ MORE »
When completed, this $50 million farm will have a capacity of 10MW, making it by far the largest PV installation in Australia. It will consist of more than 150,000 thin film PV modules from First Solar.
And solar ones too
If you want to charge your EV with clean energy then you might want to head to the new solar-powered EV charging point at CERES environment park in Lee St, East Brunswick, Victoria.READ MORE »
The level 2 station (which can supply up to 7.2kW to a suitably capable EV) is fitted with a 2.7kW grid-interactive photovoltaic array on the station’s roof, which offsets some of the electricity used by charging EVs. The array was donated by Q.CELLS Australia and the inverter by Delta Energy Systems. The filling system is a standard ChargePoint unit. EV drivers will be able to locate and navigate themselves to the station with an iPhone or Android app.
The project has been realised through a Green Precincts Grant from the Federal Department of Sustainability and is a collaboration between the Victorian Department of Transport, Delta Energy Systems and Q.CELLS Australia.
Other renewably powered ChargePoint stations include a level 1 station powered with a solar shade in Queensland and a solar PV and ceramic fuel cell powered level 1 unit in Adelaide.
EV charging stations popping up
With more electric vehicles entering the Australian market there is a need for public charging points. ChargePoint has created a publicly available network of over 30 EV charging points that can handle any EV currently or soon to be on the Australian market.READ MORE »
At the moment, charging is free, although this may change in the future. Some stations require that you book in advance. Charging points can be accessed either using a ChargePass RFID card or by calling the number on each ChargePoint station.
‘Slash and burn’ agricultural techniques have led to widespread deforestation and soil erosion in East Timor.READ MORE »
A new agricultural sustainability initiative called Carbonxchange aims to rectify the damage by supporting farmers in remote communities and assisting them to become effectively self-sufficient in the cultivation of their land.
The Carbonxchange program also aims to help build resilient and productive communities in places that may not otherwise have the resources to improve. Carbonxchange does this through awareness schemes which encourage Australians and Australian businesses to offset their carbon emissions by donating to the funds that provide key materials to these remote communities.
Carbonxchange projects focus on the benefits of agroforestry—the practice of integrating crops and trees and/or livestock in the same space. This practice improves soil quality and can increase groundwater stores. It provides a strong base to build successful subsistence farming that will provide for a community into the future.
The primary project is the Bagina Community Tree Trust, which funds a schools-based propagation nursery supplying plants to farmers. Farmers then plant the trees (mahogany, teak and sandalwood varieties) amongst crops and where livestock sometimes graze. The farmers, many of whom are women and children, are given an annual fee for the upkeep of their trees. Trees are mapped and monitored to audit their influence on their local landscape.
The germination, upkeep and auditing of the trees is supported by the Carbonxchange Tree Trust Fund which is funded by the Carbon Emissions Scheme. The Emissions Scheme collects support and donations from the school and business sectors and from the government as part of its bid to inspire people to reduce their carbon footprint.