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.

The full report is available as a pdf file from the Climate Council here and is warmly recommended.

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”

Extreme upcycling

We all know about recycling, re-using stuff which might otherwise have been thrown away (and we all know that there is no “away”, don’t we?) and “upcycling” is the next refinement of the idea. Many of my favourite examples are in the arts and crafts area – Waste to Wonder‘s inner-tube jewellery, for instance – but the National Gallery of Victoria’s Triennial (Dec 2017 – April 2018) had some extreme examples.

upcycling - cabinet
Computer cases become drawers

Dutch design studio Formafantasma exhibited several pieces of furniture created primarily from tech waste, such as the computer-case drawers at left.
Their design and construction was superlative, and I enjoyed their quirky decorative use of small items of tech junk.

The designers’ notes on the project point out that “by 2080 most remaining metals will have been extracted from the ground” and that, therefore, “the era of above-ground mining is upon us.” Continue reading “Extreme upcycling”

Energy-saving gadgets

While I was putting together my suggestions on Negotiating Christmas three weeks ago I came across a tech website advertising its “Top Five Energy Saving Gift Ideas Under $50” and an “Energy-efficient slow cooker.”

I didn’t include either of them on my pre-Christmas post (and I’m still not going to give them free publicity by linking to them here) because I found them somewhat problematic, but they are worth examining.

Energy-saving gadgets

Osram DOT-it Battery Operated LED Light
Know someone who is always cursing when they can’t find something in a dark cupboard or cabinet? This low-cost battery powered LED light could be the answer.

It’s a permanently installed strip light, so it’s ‘new’ only because the low power demands of LEDs will let batteries last long enough to be a sensible option. Continue reading “Energy-saving gadgets”