Cool roofs: beating the midday sun with a slap of white paint

From the Guardian, April 14, 2017 (Image: Alberto d’Argenio via Flickr)

There’s no shortage of measures that homeowners and businesses can take to lessen their environmental footprint – from better insulation and double glazing, to easing up on air-con usage and swapping in LED lights.

One part of the house that seems to be attracting more than its fair share of attention is the roof. Replacing a standard roof with a lovingly cultivated green roof of plants or adorning it with increasingly trendy solar panels can do wonders for reducing a building’s carbon footprint. Read more…

Salt, silicon or graphite: energy storage goes beyond lithium ion batteries

From The Guardian, April 6, 2017 (Image: Solar thermal plant in Spain, Beyond Zero Emissions via Flickr)

Between the political bickering following a spate of blackouts in South Australia and the billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk tweeting that he had a fix, and then the South Australian government announcing that it will build a grid-connected battery storage facility, interest in renewable energy storage has never been higher.

While lithium ion batteries sold by Tesla and others are perhaps the most widely known storage technology, several other energy storage options are either already on the market, or are fast making their way there.

All are hoping to claim a slice of what, by all indications, will be a very large pie. Read more…

How an Indigenous renewable energy alliance aims to cut power costs and disadvantage

From the Guardian, March 17, 2017 (Image: Rusty Stewart via Flickr)

Like so many of the Indigenous communities dotted across the Australian continent, the remote communities in north-west New South Wales are struggling. “These are not happy places,” says the Euahlayi elder Ghillar Michael Anderson.

Many of the 300 or so residents of Anderson’s hometown of Goodooga rely on welfare, he says. Exorbitant electricity bills – up to $3,000 a quarter for some households – further exacerbate the poverty. “We’re always at the end of the power line, so the service that is there is quite extraordinary in terms of cost.”

Many other communities rely on expensive, emissions-intensive diesel-powered generators to meet their electricity demands. “It’s a real problem and we need to make sure that we fix this,” Anderson says.

To that end, Anderson and 24 other Indigenous leaders have formed the First Nations Renewable Energy Alliance, which aims to tackle high power costs and entrenched disadvantage – along with climate change – by pushing for renewable energy in Indigenous communities. Read more…

While governments dither, companies step up with environmental targets

From The Guardian, March 10, 2017 (Image: reynermedia via Flickr)

Each year, Investa Office Management releases its corporate sustainability report. In 2016, it announced that electricity use was down by 43% since 2004, gas use had fallen 38% over the same time, and water use had also being curtailed.

This sounds impressive but how meaningful are those proclamations? And what difference do they make in the wider context? Now an international movement is urging businesses to take an evidence-based approach to their green strategies, by setting emissions reduction goals in line with climate science. The goal is to encourage the business sector to close the emissions gap left by shortfalls in country-level commitments to the Paris climate agreement. Read more…

Energy positive: how Denmark’s Samsø island switched to zero carbon

From The Guardian, February 24, 2017 (Image: Marcelo Medeiros via Flickr)

Anyone doubting the potential of renewable energy need look no further than the Danish island of Samsø. The 4,000-inhabitant island nestled in the Kattegat Sea has been energy-positive for the past decade, producing more energy from wind and biomass than it consumes.

Samsø’s transformation from a carbon-dependent importer of oil and coal-fuelled electricity to a paragon of renewables started in 1998. That year, the island won a competition sponsored by the Danish ministry of environment and energy that was looking for a showcase community – one that could prove the country’s freshly announced Kyoto target to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 21% was, in fact, achievable.

The contest didn’t bring with it funds to bankroll the energy transition. But it did pay for the salary of one person tasked with making the island’s 10-year renewables master plan a reality.

That person was Søren Hermansen, a Samsø native vegetable farmer–turned–environmental teacher. Hermansen has wielded his pragmatic, roll-up-your-sleeves attitude to great effect over the past two decades, turning his own rural community into a green powerhouse, and evangelising to communities around the world that they, too, can make the transition. Read more… 

Silverton windfarm’s output will be equal to taking 192,000 cars off the road

From The Guardian, February 10, 2017 (Image: @PaulDCocker via Flickr)

After years in planning, construction on the Silverton windfarm in western New South Wales is finally set to begin after the sale of the project from AGL to its Powering Australian Renewables Fund (PARF).

The deal will see AGL pay just $65 a megawatt hour for the first five years of the windfarm’s operation, effectively undercutting current prices for coal-generated electricity.

“It’s a very low price, which demonstrates the amazing innovation and cost curve that renewable energy is on,” says Alicia Webb, director of large-scale energy at the Clean Energy Council, the clean energy industry’s peak body. Read more…

Solar cooling systems take heat out of summer’s hottest days

solar-collector-allanjderFrom The Guardian, December 20, 2016. (Image: allanjder via Flickr)

As Australia settles in for another long hot summer, the demand for air-conditioning is set to surge. In fact, with the World Meteorological Organisation stating that 2016 is likely to be the hottest year on record, it’s no surprise an estimated 1.6bn new air conditioners are likely to be installed globally by 2050.

Powering all these units will be a challenge, especially on summer’s hottest days. In Australia, peak demand days can drive electricity usage to almost double and upgrading infrastructure to meet the increased demand can cost more than four times what each additional air-conditioning unit costs.

Yet an emerging sector of the solar industry is turning the searing heat of summer into cooling by using solar heat or electricity. Read more…