Feb 7, 2016: Renewable Energy Prepares For Take Off

Full house as Transport for NSW calls for Renewable Energy tenders

Full house as Transport for NSW calls for Renewable Energy tenders

Last week I attended an informational session hosted by Transport for NSW (TfNSW) who are calling for expressions of interest to supply 137GWh per year of Renewable Energy to power the Sydney Metro Northwest electric train system which is currently under construction. Trains are due to start running in 2019 and the intention is for the entire line to be run on 100% renewable energy. This will require a LOT of electricity, in fact it will take a solar farm with a capacity of about 70MW to supply that much power.

I went to the meeting as a representative of Community Renewable Energy Wingecarribee (CREW). This is a small group of local citizens who have formed a company to try to build solar farms in our district. It’s very early days for CREW but all indications are that this is a good time to be getting into the renewable energy business. The word at the TfNSW meeting was that their current project to supply power for trains is just the first of many renewable energy projects to be undertaken by the NSW government in the near future. We’re hoping to be able to offer opportunities for members of our local community to invest in renewable energy projects that offer a decent return on investment, generate jobs and income for our local area and help reduce our carbon emissions. I will keep you posted as things develop.

Desalinating Flow Battery

Meanwhile huge amounts of research and development continue around the world to improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of renewable energy production and storage technologies. One of the main goals is to develop a cheap battery that is made from safe and common materials. One promising development in this direction is outlined in this Gizmag article. University of Illinois scientists have come up with a Sodium-ion battery that can run on sea-water AND desalinate the water during the process of storing energy. There are many places in the world that have ready access to seawater and are in need of fresh water as well as energy storage. If they can make this technology cost effective it would appear to have massive market potential.

This is just one of thousands of promising developments in renewable energy production and storage, all of which will help to bring the cost of renewables down and raise the ability of renewable energy to eventually replace fossil fuels. This is a trend that President Obama is keen to accelerate.

Obama proposes a $10 per barrel tax on oil

In what is clearly a farewell swipe at the Republican Party President Obama is set to unveil a $300 Billion plan for the greening of America’s transportation system to be paid for by a $10 per barrel tax on oil. Since the Republicans control the Congress there is absolutely no chance that this proposal will pass. After 8 years of being hamstrung by the Republicans Obama is obviously not naive enough to to think that this will be his legacy. Instead it seems like his goal is to put the cat amongst the pidgeons in both the Republican and the Democratic Parties. If nothing else it will stimulate a lively debate about what sort of future America wants to aim for. To me it seems like this is the perfect time to be taxing fossil fuels in order to fund the transition to a low-carbon world. With oil and coal prices so low there would seem to be room to raise the cost without causing too much hardship. And if we don’t raise the current low price of fossil fuels it is likely to stimulate massive increases in global carbon emissions which is something the world’s leaders have just declared (in Paris) that they are firmly against. Obama’s plan will put the Democratic Party hopefuls in the hot seat. Are they willing to raise taxes  in order to do something about carbon emissions? It will be interesting to see what happens. Meanwhile President Obama is in the fortunate position of having nothing to lose by making this announcement.

PHEV Pheedback

Those who have been following our adventures with the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV might find the following reader feedback interesting…it’s from another PHEV owner and enthusiast…

….that’s why I bought the PHEV in the first place, I am fascinated by the technology that went into this cars. It is very un-appreciated.

Even the motoring journos don’t seem to quite get it. The main game for this car is the fact that it can have ZERO emissions for much of its life, especially when you charge it off your own solar system.

The car is the best there is for 99% of soccer mums and school taxis… no ifs or buts (if they can afford an SUV, as a lot seem to).

We live right by a public school and it does seem like we see a lot of mums and dads dropping their kids off in SUV’s. And I think our reader is spot on that this car would be perfect for parents who need a bit of extra room but do most of their driving close to home dropping the kids to school or sporting events, etc. I also think he’s right that it is greatly unappreciated, at least here in Australia. It’s the best selling SUV in Europe but I don’t even think that Mitsubishi Australia appreciates how good this car is. They certainly are not doing a very good job of marketing it. The good thing for me is this meant I was able to pick up a dealer demo with only 7000k’s on it for a very good price. I love the car and I think I got a great deal.

Catalyst Covers Home Energy Storage

For those who missed the Catalyst show last week on ABC about home energy storage, here is the link to where you can watch it on iView… http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/4398364.htm

I thought they did a pretty good job of outlining the current status of battery technology for homes in Australia. However they didn’t really touch on the major problem which is that, for most people who are already connected to the grid, home energy storage doesn’t even come close to making economic sense.  In a best-case-scenario, a battery system that costs around $10,000 might offer a payback period of about 20 years. Unfortunately, lithium-ion batteries only last for about 10 years. In our case at the Greeny Flat, our entire energy bill for the first year was only about $250 so, even if a $10,000 battery system could reduce our bill down to nothing, it would take 40 years to recoup the cost.

Don’t get me wrong, I think there is a great future ahead for home energy storage, especially for people who are connected to, and able to trade energy back and forth on, the grid… selling energy when it is expensive and storing it when it is cheap. The Catalyst show talks about Reposit Power and the software that they have developed to enable homeowners to do just that. But the problem still comes down to the cost of the batteries. I think we will see the situation change rapidly as better technology comes along and as soon as it gets to the point where it makes economic sense we will be looking to add batteries to our solar system at the Greeny Flat. Meanwhile we will keep a close eye on developments.

Maasai Cricketers

The touring Maasai Cricket Team at Bradman Oval

The touring Maasai Cricket Team at Bradman Oval

Today I had the privilege of seeing a team of Maasai Warriors performing their traditional jumping dance at Australia’s ‘Spiritual Home of Cricket’, Bradman Oval. After the singing of the national anthems and their dance performance they proceeded to have a game of 20/20 against an Aussie side, dressed in the their full ceremonial garb (the Maasai, not the Aussies). Now that’s not something we don’t see every day around here.


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