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

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”

Eco-Fiesta 2017

This year’s Eco-Fiesta, a few days ago, was much like those of previous years: a lovely day in the park with all sorts of loosely ‘greenie’ and ‘alternative’ people and organisations.  I wrote enough about the 2014 and 2013 events that I shouldn’t need to present an overview this time, so I will dive straight in to the things which caught my attention.

Wildlife Queensland had a well-staffed stall featuring a great gallery of flying fox photos. These animals get a bad press and need all the support they can get.

North Queensland Regional Plan had a very boring stall (I’m sorry, but it’s true!) which tried to engage visitors in planning for our region, the local government areas of Charters Towers, Burdekin Shire, Hinchinbrook Shire and Townsville. It’s a state government initiative and welcomes online input here. I told them about our declining rainfall. What’s your concern?

The Beekeepers had their usual displays of honey and hives, Continue reading “Eco-Fiesta 2017”

What happens to a solar power microgrid in a hurricane

A news bulletin from Kiva:

As you may know, Hurricane Matthew, a category 4 storm, made landfall in Les Anglais [Haiti] at the beginning of October [2016].* In the run up to the storm, our staff members told the community that they should charge their electronics soon as they would have to turn off the grid. They then secured the generation site with sandbags and found safe spaces for staff.

After the storm hit, the community was devastated. As most of the houses in Les Anglais are made with straw or sheet metal, virtually all of those houses lost their roofs. About 30% of the community completely lost their homes and some have left the area to stay with family elsewhere. Even worse, about 90 people in the entire commune of about 30,000 people lost their lives.

Within a few days of the hurricane, humanitarian relief was able to arrive by barge and a week later the roads were opened up to allow relief by trucks. People are slowly starting to rebuild. Aside from re-building homes, much work will have to be done to restore agriculture in the area as many crops have been destroyed.

The microgrid fared comparatively well. About 40% of the panels were lost, but the battery bank, inverters and generator were left unscathed. The worst damage was to the distribution system and home installations. When roofs were torn off due to the winds, most of the wires, light sockets and outlets that comprised the home installations were blown away as well.

The community is eager for the grid to be up and running again and we are putting in place a plan to rebuild as the community is able to rebuild their homes. We anticipate this taking about 6-9 months to finish.

Kiva, if you don’t know it, is an international microfinance charity lending to small borrowers in (mostly) developing nations. They do good work – read more here – but my interest in this bulletin was how the solar power facility fared in the hurricane. The short answer: not too badly at all. In fact, it sounds like it could have been operational again, albeit with fewer panels and a severely limited distribution network, a couple of days after the storm passed.

That kind of resilience will be needed everywhere, and especially in developing nations, to cope with extreme weather events increasing because of climate change.

* More on Hurricane Matthew in Haiti: wikipedia