Are rainwater tanks useful in Townsville?

Townsville’s ongoing drought has encouraged many of us, especially the keen gardeners, to think seriously about bores, grey water systems and rainwater tanks. This post attempts to arrive at a credible answer to the first question we must ask about tanks: are they even useful?

We have been hearing from two schools of thought on the question for as long as we have been in Townsville, more than 25 years: “Yes, of course!” and “No! The dry season is so long and so dry that no tank will last through it.” One group must be wrong, Continue reading “Are rainwater tanks useful in Townsville?”

Renewable energy update

Green Path tries to keep up with what’s happening in the renewable energy sphere, since it’s so important to our battle against global warming, but so much is happening that we don’t often pause to take stock. Fortunately, the Climate Council has done that for us, producing a report, Fully Charged: Renewables and Storage Powering Australia. 

Its key points are:

  • The cost of lithium-ion batteries has fallen by 80% since 2010. Costs are expected to halve again by 2025 (under 7 years).
  • 6,750 new household batteries were installed in 2016. The market is predicted to have tripled in size in 2017, with over 20,000 new installations.
  • Renewable energy now represents 16% of Australia’s electricity generation.
  • VIC, QLD and the NT are also investing in grid scale battery storage technology.
  • Federal, QLD and TAS governments are also considering developing pumped hydro projects.
  • The Australian electricity grid (NEM) and old fossil fuelled power stations are increasingly vulnerable to worsening extreme weather events, particularly as these power stations age.
  • More than 50% of Australia’s coal fleet will be over 40 years old by 2030.
  • Australia could reach 50% renewables by 2030 without significant new energy storage.

That is (nearly) all very good news, of course, but we need to keep it in perspective: 50% by 2030 is good but, globally, we need to reach zero carbon emissions before 2050 to avoid the worst of climate change, so there is still much more to be done. Continue reading “Renewable energy update”

Renewable energy – all the good news

Most of us know by now that we need to decarbonise the global economy – fast – if we are to have any hope of avoiding catastrophic climate change. Fortunately, the technology to do just that is booming, charging ahead so quickly that merely keeping up with the news is difficult.

Solar and wind power are demonstrating astonishing growth rates, with or without government incentives, now that their costs have dropped below the costs of new coal and (in many cases) gas; some time last year we even began hearing of cases in which it was cheaper to build and run new wind and solar power plants than just to run old coal plants.

Last year, for most of us, was the Year of the Battery. Tesla’s big South Australian battery did something its many little Powerwalls couldn’t, i.e., make battery storage seem like a serious option for the real world rather than just a cool idea. Bloomberg’s 2018 outlook report sees this continuing and allowing electric vehicles to undercut conventional, internal combustion engine cars on both lifetime and upfront cost by the mid-to-late 2020s.

The Green Path facebook page does its best to keep up with all this news but anyone wanting it all, and unfiltered, should bookmark or follow these sites:

RenewEconomy

Launched in 2012, RenewEconomy.com.au is an Australian website focusing on clean energy news Continue reading “Renewable energy – all the good news”

Townsville’s 2017 rainfall: no relief from dry conditions

As most of us have been expecting for a while now, Townsville’s 2017 rainfall total was on the low side. The BOM’s raw figures show that we had 791 mm for the year, well below our nominal average of 1135 mm.

I say “nominal” average because, as I said here almost two years ago, an average year is not normal: we get dry years (and 2017 is one of them) or wet years (e.g. 2007 – 2012) but rarely get a total resembling the average. Our 2016 total was 951 mm, which is close to average but still on the low side; adding these two years on to the end of the list of rainfall totals shows that we haven’t yet broken out of the succession of dry years which began in 2013.

What this has meant for our water supply is an ongoing crisis, with Ross Dam hovering around 15% of capacity most of the year, water restrictions at Level 3, and pumping from the Burdekin Dam always imminent even if not always under way. Our weak 2016-17 Wet hardly lifted the dam levels at all but an unseasonal May downpour (167 mm)  pushed the dam above 20% for the first time since August 2016.

Playing with the data so freely available online is fun, if sobering, and will show what’s going on better than another hundred words of text, so here’s the link to Townsville City Council’s dam levels page.

What the historical data can’t show, of course, is whether we’re going to get any decent rain in the coming months. Digging into the BOM climate outlook pages shows that they give us a 75% change of 300-400 mm in the next three months (which isn’t as much as we would like) but haven’t got a great deal of confidence in the accuracy of their prediction. “Wait and see” is all we can do.

Charlie Veron: A Life Underwater

veron life underwater coverCharlie Veron: A Life Underwater

Penguin Viking, 2017

As has happened with other books, particularly where I have some personal connection to their authors, I have come across a published review which says what I would have said (and says it at least as well as I could have said it) and decided that it was better for me to quote excerpts than to write my own review. The quotations below are drawn from the extended review by Tim Elliott for the SMH (you can read it in full here).

… Equal parts memoir, coral reef primer and requiem to a planet, [A Life Underwater] charts a career that could scarcely be imagined today, a love affair with science birthed from childhood wonderment, free-range academia and happy accidents.

… Veron’s achievements are, quite literally, unprecedented. He was the first to compile a global taxonomy of corals – a monumental task that effectively became the cornerstone for all later learning. He was the first to show that, contrary to received wisdom, the Indo-Philippines archipelago has the world’s greatest diversity of coral, not the Great Barrier Reef.

A Life Underwater is a very approachable introduction to reef science since it allows us to learn the science sequentially through Veron’s own journey of discovery. Continue reading “Charlie Veron: A Life Underwater”