Tag Archives: renewable energy

solar energy entrepreneur

Solar energy entrepreneur gets her start in university science

Residential rooftop photovoltaics (PV) remains one of Australia’s hottest energy options, with the Clean Energy Council reporting, in December 2018, that two million Australian households had installed solar panels on their homes. 

The energy market is a complex sector, which needs to be dynamic to meet fast-changing consumer requirements and global pressures. In Australia, energy is also a politically delicate area, ripe for disruption.

Solar entrepreneur Emma Jenkin, co-founder of DC Power Co, is uniquely qualified to be part of a revolutionary change in Australia’s energy sector thanks to her strong insight into data analytics and her merged commerce/science background.      

Jenkin completed a Bachelor of Science at the University of Melbourne then worked in industry before co-founding DC Power Co, an Australian solar energy retail start-up that has completed the world’s most popular equity crowdfunding campaign to date — raising $2.5 million from more than 17,500 investors.

Jenkin is a self-confessed ‘maths geek’ who completed first-year university maths while still in high school, then started an engineering degree before moving to a combined Bachelor of Science and Commerce degree, where she majored in maths and statistics.

“Our research revealed an appetite across Australia to have more energy independence in the face of distrust around the electricity sector,” she says.

“PV solar is driven by people’s desire to take on renewables for cost savings, for self-sufficiency and for the environment.”

Jenkin’s co-founders — Nic Frances Gilley, Monique Conheady and Nick Brass — have all worked in environmental, energy or carbon trading markets, she says. Their aim is to drive mass efficiency and buying power for member households. Research shows that nearly

20 per cent of rooftop solar systems don’t function properly, and DC Power Co uses analytics to identify non-performance and is the only company that alerts customers when their systems don’t work. 

“We spotted a need for an energy company that focused on solar households,” she explains.

Brendan Fitzpatrick

PATH

>Bachelor of Science/Commerce, University of Melbourne

>Executive Director, UBS commodity index training

> Project Manager, Carbon Bridge Ltd

> Executive, Cool nrg International

>Director, FIIG Securities

> Co-Founder and CFO, DC Power Co

This article appears in Australian University Science Issue 1.


energy trading

CRC energy trading research leads to career success

The inspiration for Power Ledger stemmed from co-founder Jemma Green’s PhD on electricity market democratisation. Funded by the CRC for Low Carbon Living (CRCLCL), Dr Green designed a solar and battery system for apartments (the first of its kind in Australia) and an energy trading platform to allow peer-to-peer trading using blockchain.

This foray into destructive innovation led Dr Green to co-found Power Ledger, a platform designed to ease the global transition to low-carbon energy by decentralising energy and allowing ordinary people to become investors in renewable energy assets.

“Our technology uses blockchain to enable energy trading, energy asset financing and carbon markets,” explains Dr Green. “Our corporate mission is the democratisation of power and the delivery of low cost and low carbon energy markets.”


Main image: Chair & co-founder Dr Jemma Green in the PowerLedger office in Perth.

Power Ledger allows consumers to sell and trade electricity from a residential energy generation system using a blockchain environment. Renewable energy assets are tokenized so they become tradeable on the secondary market. “Everyday people can invest in and co-own these assets, whereas previously it had been the domain of institutional investors,” says Dr Green. 

This year, Power Ledger will launch their energy product: a grid connected battery and commercial solar farm. The company is also involved in issuing and trading on carbon credit and is currently working across four countries to tokenize carbon credit so it can be traded on the exchange.

Last year, Power Ledger was the winner of the Extreme Tech Challenge, and the team travelled to Las Vegas and Richard Branson’s Necker Island to pitch their business concept. Dr Green says the original CRC funding was a life-changing opportunity. “I’m enormously grateful for the risk the CRCLCL took investing in me. We’re a group of passionate experts in blockchain and technology at Power Ledger and with scaling and commercialisation, we hope to make a big difference to achieving the Paris climate goals.”

– Larissa Fedunik

hydrogen

Boosting renewable hydrogen research

On behalf of the Australian Government, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) announced on 6 September it has awarded $22.1 million in funding to 16 research projects to propel innovation in exporting renewable hydrogen to the world.
 
The funding has been offered to research teams from nine Australian universities and research organisations including the Australian National University, Macquarie University, Monash University, Queensland University of Technology, RMIT University, The University of Melbourne, University of New South Wales, The University of Western Australia and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).
 
In December 2017, ARENA announced the funding round into hydrogen R&D. It is the first time ARENA had sought to fund research into the hydrogen energy supply chain. 
 
The early stage research projects cover a diverse range of renewable solutions, with at least one project from each point in the supply chain – production, hydrogen carrier and end use. The projects include the development of a wide range of hydrogen-related technologies including concentrating solar thermal, electrolysis, biotechnology, carrier synthesis, thermochemical processes, fuel cell development and energy generation. 
 
Hydrogen – or carriers like ammonia – are potentially ways for Australia to export renewable energy. Electrical energy can readily be converted into hydrogen via electrolysis. Renewable or green hydrogen involves producing hydrogen from renewable sources for example via electrolysers powered by solar and wind. 
 
Hydrogen is poised to play a larger role, as the world moves to a low carbon economy. Hydrogen can potentially be used as a way for Australia to export renewable energy to other countries, particularly in Asia with demand expected to increase. 
 
Earlier this month, ARENA also released a report that identified opportunities for Australia to export hydrogen as global demand for hydrogen increases in the next decade. 
 
The report, prepared by ACIL Allen Consulting for ARENA, found there could be a significant increase in demand globally for hydrogen exports as other countries – such as Japan and the Republic of Korea – looked to transition to renewable energy. With the right conditions, hydrogen exports could be worth $1.7 billion annually and could generate 2,800 jobs in Australia by 2030. 
 
ARENA is also part of the Hydrogen Strategy Group, led by Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel AO, which prepared a briefing paper on hydrogen for the COAG Energy Council.
 
ARENA CEO Darren Miller said the $22.1 million funding boost would help to maximise Australia’s opportunities in developing a cost-effective hydrogen export supply chain.
 
“Exporting renewable energy, such as by the use of hydrogen, involves developing and integrating emerging technologies. This funding will help bolster the research efforts of Australian scientists to drive innovation for what could become the next big export industry.
 
“Hydrogen is poised to play a big role in the world’s low carbon economy. Already, Japan and South Korea have committed to becoming major import markets for renewable hydrogen but as yet there are no exporters,” Mr Miller said.
 
“With its abundance of sun and wind, and experience as one of the world’s largest LNG exporters, Australia is ideally placed to become a global superpower in exporting renewable energy, and this work will help position us as leaders in this field,” he said.
Media release from ARENA. For more information, head to https://bit.ly/2M0juka.
CSIRO energise banner

CSIRO Energise app to map Australian energy usage

Users of the CSIRO Energise app (available on Google Play and on the Apple App Store) share their energy costs and usage patterns through a range of ‘micro-surveys’, which will be used by the CSIRO to understand changing energy demands. The data will be shared with consumers, government and industry and could lead to improvements in the Australian energy network.

The app is a key component of CSIRO’s Energy Use Data Model project, which is collating and centralising various streams of energy data. “It’s designed to help us understand the changing world of energy”, explains Project Leader Dr Adam Berry. “Over the past years, we’ve seen huge changes in the energy sector, such as an increased uptake of renewables. This app aims to find out what this means for the average consumer.”

The micro-surveys cover topics such as household characteristics, power costs, energy-usage patterns, appliances and uptake of renewables, such as solar PV. CSIRO Energise has been designed as a two-way communication channel, so users will receive insights including tips for improving household energy efficiency and cutting-edge research updates as the energy data is analysed.

Dr Berry says that there is a current lack of data on how Australian households interact with energy. “We need to get better at forecasting energy demand if we want to create a more reliable and cheaper energy system. The app will help answer the big energy questions, such as who is paying the most for electricity and what’s driving peak demand.”

CSIRO Energise is the first of its kind. Unlike paper surveys, the app is able to follow users’ responses over time. It can ask questions in response to specific events, such as how heating is used on cold days, improving our understanding and management of peak energy consumption. “It’s the first time we’ve had the opportunity for longitudinal, long-term data collection”, says Dr Berry.

Dr Berry believes that this data collection platform will benefit researchers, government, industry and consumers.  “The results of the data analysis will be shared publicly and the plan is to work with industry and other bodies. This will be really valuable for the residential sector and will go a long way to lowering energy bills. It could also help certain sectors, such as city councils, find out how effective their energy policies are.”

Dr Berry is working hard to spread the word about CSIRO Energise to maximise the number of engaged users. “I genuinely believe that this will help us build an understanding of what modern energy use looks like across Australia.”

“That understanding is critical for developing the right research to deliver the most value possible to real Australian households.”

CSIRO Energise is available for download for free on Google Play and on the Apple App Store.

Source: CSIRO

renewable energy

Renewable energy is getting cheaper

The stars are aligning for Australia to transition to 100% renewable energy. Our fossil fuel infrastructure is ageing, which means we will soon need to invest in new power generators. New technologies such as battery storage could revolutionise long-standing business models. With care, the transitions away from fossil fuels could offer greater job opportunities.

Our latest research, which corroborates previous work, shows the technology already exists to solve many of the remaining questions around technological capability. For instance, the fact that wind and solar don’t generate electricity when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining can be dealt with by installing a network of diverse generators across a wide area, or by increasing our use of energy storage.

One of the biggest remaining barriers to transition is cost. But this is also rapidly changing. Much work is going into reducing the cost of renewable energy, including the latest funding announcement from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) of A$92 million for 12 solar projects.

The cost of building renewable energy

The cost of renewable energy is highly variable across the world and even within Australia. The picture is not simple, but it does help to start by looking at the big picture.

Average capital costs of constructing new wind, solar PV and ocean/tidal generators are already lower than equivalent coal generation infrastructure.

Research suggests that, overall, the cost of moving to 100% renewable energy is not significantly higher than the cost of hitting a lower target.

The capital cost of investment in renewable energy generation technologies is also falling rapidly. In its 2014 report on global renewable power generation costs, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) showed that the total cost of installation and operation over a lifetime of small-scale residential PV systems in Australia has fallen from US$0.35 to US$0.17 per kilowatt-hour between 2010 and 2014.

In part this has been because of reduced installation costs, together with our exceptional abundance of sunshine.

As a result, Australian new residential solar installation has soared to the fifth highest in the world. Installed capacity accounts for 9% of national electricity generation capacity and 2.8% of electrical energy generation.

The historical reductions in installation costs for wind energy are similar globally and in Australia. Recent 2016 reverse auctions in the Australian Capital Territory have received Australia’s lowest known contract price for renewables with bids at A$77 per megawatt-hour.

Beyond building

But the capital cost of building generation infrastructure is not the whole story. Once the generator is built, operations and maintenance costs also become important. For most renewables (biomass excluded) the fuel costs are zero because nature itself provides the fuel for free.

Other costs that we must consider are variable and fixed costs. Fixed costs, such as annual preventative maintenance or insurance, don’t change with the amount of electricity produced. Variable costs, such as casual labour or generator repairs, may increase when more electricity is produced.

The variable costs for some renewables (biomass, hydropower and large-scale solar PV) are lower than coal. For other renewable technologies they are only slightly higher. Fixed costs for almost all renewable technologies are lower than for coal.

We also need to think about costs beyond individual generators. The vastness of our Australian continent is a bonus and a challenge for building 100% renewable energy.

It can be used strategically to give a 100% renewables supply reliability by using an interconnected network of generators. For instance, it may be very sunny or windy in one region. Excess electricity produced in this region can fill a gap in electricity demand in less sunny or windy places elsewhere.

But this also poses challenges. To take advantage of the reliability that a highly distributed renewable electricity system can provide, we must also consider the costs associated with expanding the transmission network.

For example, in our research we investigated one possible 100% renewables electricity scenario. This was conservatively based on current technology and demand (conservative because technology is likely to change, and electricity demand has been unexpectedly falling). The scenario required a transmission grid two-and-a-half times larger than our current grid, including new cross-continental linkages between Western Australia and the Northern Territory, which currently stand alone from the well-integrated eastern Australian networks.

The challenges of transitioning to a renewable electricity sector are no doubt great, but our ageing generator infrastructure means that an overhaul will soon be due. Even though the price of electricity from old coal power plants is currently cheaper than that from many new renewable plants (because the former are already paid off), cost reductions mean a strong business case now exists for renewable technologies investment.

In a recent article on The Conversation, John Hewson wrote that “renewable energy is one of our most ‘shovel ready’ business opportunities”.

Now is the time to pre-empt the looming deadline for infrastructure overhaul to ensure future economic resilience for Australia.

– Bonnie McBain

This article was first published by The Conversation on September 8 2016. Read the original article here.

microgrid

Disruptive microgrid clusters

Microgrids are independently managed, locally-generated energy grids that allow communities to supply and manage their own power supply.

A prime example of a microgrid is WA’s Alkimos Beach project, which will use lithium-ion batteries and rooftop solar to power a new housing development.

“Microgrids are becoming more of a reality than ever before, and not only for remote communities, but also on an urban and utility scale,” Curtin University’s Professor Arindam Ghosh says.

“They’re reliable, energy-diverse and environmentally friendly, and these advantages are driving microgrid research and development.”

Because urban microgrids can connect or disconnect from the main grid as required, they can also provide backup when the main grid goes down, Ghosh says.

For example, when Japan’s 2011 tsunami knocked out Sendai City’s power grid for weeks, the microgrid at its local university didn’t blink, using fuel cells, solar panels and natural gas turbines to power its way through the entire disaster.

But any grid can be knocked out when demand exceeds supply.

Cooperative resource sharing

“The main problem with microgrids is that you have limited resources,” Ghosh says.

“You might not have sufficient backup to cope with peak energy loads, which means there’s the possibility that your grid will go down.”

The answer is to create microgrid clusters, Ghosh says.

His research indicates that connecting independently managed microgrids enables mutual support during peak demand periods.

“Say you know you’re able to supply your microgrid with four generators, but for some reason—maintenance or failure—you lose one generator, you might have a shortfall of twenty or thirty kilowatts, and that’s enough for your microgrid to collapse,” he says.

“That’s when you need to ask your neighbour for help.”

If your microgrid is connected with a neighbour’s microgrid, you could fill your shortfall with their excess supply, but managing this sharing can become complicated, especially where grids are connected using a simple switch.

Ghosh’s simulations employed the more sophisticated option of connecting with a back-to-back converter.

“With a back-to-back converter, I have control over how much power I can take from my neighbour, and how much power I can send…it allows me to give you ‘X’ amount of power, but to keep the rest for myself,” he says.

Ghosh says reducing power demand during peak times is also essential.

– Cris Burne

This article was first published by ScienceNetwork WA on23 April 2016. Read the original article here.

Engineering solution

Engineering solutions

From a purely engineering perspective, all real world problems are solvable. Nobody would choose to be a design engineer unless they deeply believed in their own ability to solve problems through creativity and a deliberate methodology – identify the problem, analyse it, build a prototype, test it, iterate, deliver the solution.

In the real world, of course, the challenges are much more difficult. Social, political and economic considerations prevail, often ruling out the elegant solutions that an engineering approach would suggest.

Let me give you an example: climate change. The problem is clear: global temperatures are rising, ice sheets are melting and oceans are acidifying. The analysis is clear: human activities, including the burning of fossil fuels for energy, are leading to rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and are driving the problem. The imperative is clear: cut emissions – and do it quickly.

The pure engineering solution would involve massive installations of solar and wind, backed up by natural gas turbines, hydrogen storage, pumped hydro storage and battery storage to handle the intermittency, and investment in new hydroelectric and nuclear electricity generation.


“The challenge for engineers when it comes to these large-scale, socially complex issues is to work closely with colleagues across the humanities and social sciences to build solutions that communities can and will take forward.”


Once the existing electricity supply is decarbonised, the amount of low emissions electricity generated would be doubled or tripled so that liquid fossil fuels for transport and natural gas for heating could be rapidly replaced by low emissions electricity.

If only human affairs were so straightforward!

The challenge for engineers when it comes to these large-scale, socially complex issues is to work closely with colleagues across the humanities and social sciences to build solutions that communities can and will take forward.

But not all challenges are as wicked as climate change. The engineering method delivers handsomely in the corporate world, most often in collaboration with marketing, psychology and customer support systems. Smartphones, automobiles, improved building technologies and advanced materials are just some of the myriad examples.

The engineering method is also very applicable to organisational management. The evidence based, non-ideological problem solving approach of engineering can serve leaders from the shop floor to the corporate board.

When it comes to politics, in some countries (such as Germany) engineers are highly valued. But in Australia, they’re far less visible. I don’t know why that is so, but perhaps we need to be teaching charisma as a graduate attribute in Australian engineering faculties.

At the very least, we should be making crystal clear to our engineering students their opportunity to contribute to society outside of their profession.

Dr Alan Finkel AO

Australia’s Chief Scientist

Read next: Dr Anna Lavelle, CEO and Executive Director of AusBiotech on Innovation in Australian life sciences.

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Smart home design gets AccuRate

Smart home design gets AccuRate

There is a growing demand for energy efficient houses. Featured image © CSIRO, CT Image Technology. 

Smart home design gets AccuRate

Today, more than ever before, home owners are demanding cost-effective, sustainable comfort – and that means finding smarter ways to make home heating and cooling affordable.

Despite the rising cost of housing, Australians have remained undeterred from their dream of home ownership. But if committing to a mortgage and a home build isn’t scary enough these days, the costs of heating and cooling it certainly might be!

Yes, we are creatures of comfort, and although we love our sunburnt country – droughts and flooding rains and all – the many climate variables in this beautiful land can pose a challenge when it comes to maximising energy efficiency in the design of our homes.

So our clever energy scientists asked: What if we could find a way of to model how particular house designs respond to certain climates, and then, at minimum cost, tweak their energy efficiencies to suite?

And they did it!

Drawing on the decades of experience and research in house energy modelling upon which the Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme (NatHERS) is based, the team came up with AccuRate – a smart software tool that can calculate a home’s annual heating and cooling energy requirements down to an hourly rate.

The benchmark simulation software can assess a home’s energy requirements in up to 69 different climatic zones in Australia and rate its comfort level based on its annual energy requirements for heating and cooling. Homes are rated according to a ‘0–10 stars’ system – the higher the stars the more comfortable and energy efficient the homes are.

AccuRate can model up to 50 living spaces and 99 zones within a home, and takes into consideration the impact of variables such as insulation, natural ventilation, air leakage, thermal mass, roof spaces, sub-floor spaces, skylights, horizontal reflective air gaps, windows and external shading structures like trees, fences and the neighbour’s house.

AccuRate compares well to similar programs in Europe and the US and is available commercially from Energy Inspection. It is the benchmark software set by the Australian Government DCCEE for compliance to the building code. By flipping or rotating buildings and apartments, the software allows a designer to explore how different orientations might maximise energy and comfort. Additional AccuRate modules test sustainability parameters outside of energy efficiency ratings like lighting and water usage.

AccuRate is just one of the way we are supporting Australia’s transition to a prosperous, secure and lower emissions energy future.


Want to learn more?

During November, thousands of Australians will experience the power of renewable energy when they they hop on our Infinity Swing – a giant eight-person swing that generates real renewable energy to power a stunning light and sound show. Find out about the Infinity Swing and our other top energy innovations here.

– Ali Green

This story was first published by CSIRO on 6 November 2015 as part of their energy focused Infinity Campaign. Read the original story here.