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Renewable energy

Blue Sky thinking transforms small and isolated communities

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Many isolated communities now drive their own innovative and sustainable energy solutions. Residents of communities that are small and isolated often have to depend on each other for the help they need. This brings about a tight-knit community that can get things done more efficiently than a larger one.  Innovative thinking bears fruit where everyone gets together and discusses possible answers to problems. This can be seen in Lord Howe Island, where the costs of living are really high.

Lord Howe Island is a small community of around 350 residents. There often be more people there though, due to the place being popular as a tourist attraction. However, visitor numbers are restricted to 400 per day to protect this World Heritage listed paradise from harm.

The expenses of island living

While Lord Howe Island may seem a paradise, there are certain difficulties in living in such an isolated spot. Diesel has to be brought in on a regular basis to power the generators that provide electricity for everyone. It is not only diesel that is shipped in.  Whatever is needed – food, clothing, medical supplies – that can’t be provided by the island has to be shipped or flown in. This increases the cost of these things dramatically. And since some of the residents own charter boats that run on fuel, it means their costs are higher than a similar business would incur on the mainland.

Other tourist businesses, such as those that provide accommodation, would also find the cost of flying in food for their guests is also expensive. Of course, being surrounded by ocean, there is a great deal of fresh seafood right on the doorstep, so that would bring costs down.

Expensive fuel for transport

What about fuel for cars? The number of cars on the island is increasing slowly, with five or six rentals included. The fuel for all of these has to be shipped in as well, so the price is much higher than mainland prices.

Many people use bicycles as a means of transport.  There is one electric car – affectionately dubbed the pope-mobile – that is as much of a tourist attraction as all those provided by Mother Nature.

Blue sky thinking

The so-called blue sky thinking takes advantage of the islands natural resources. The island is also often buffeted by wind due to its location 600 kilometres or so east of Port Macquarie. One place on it is even called Windy Point. So residents got together and drew up a plan to make their island paradise 80% wind and solar powered by 2019.

This plan will fit in nicely with the island’s World Heritage status, by helping to keep noxious fumes and other such waste away from the area. There is, after all, the possibility of an oil spill when diesel is constantly being brought in. That would be a total disaster in such a beautiful area.

Government grants have helped

The problem with becoming sustainable has been that such a small community had fewer funds to spare than a larger one might have. This is what has prevented anything being done about it in the past. However, with two grants totalling around $10 million from the Commonwealth and NSW Governments, the island can go ahead with its plan to become more sustainable. This includes installing two wind turbines with battery storage and diesel backup, as well as an integrated system of solar panels. Many of the residents also have their own solar panels.

One big advantage of having the extra power provided by the wind and sun is that there will be enough to provide power for more electric cars, thus increasing the green living aims.

A model for other small communities

Once Lord Howe Island has paved the way to sustainability, other small communities may be able to copy them, rather than thinking that there is not much they can do in this area. It is usually large cities that have the funding to put sustainable ideas into practice. What Lord Howe Island is set to accomplish gives inspiration to other smaller communities who aspire to achieve sustainable living.

However, even now there are other small communities that are looking to do similar. It helps the local energy companies in that they don’t then have to make expensive repairs and upgrades for places that may not use a great deal of power, and that are often right out at the boundaries of their reach.

Tyalgum NSW considers going off the grid

Tosh Szatow at Energy for the People, states that it is not the technology that is the problem because that is already available. What is needed is: –

  • People that work together in getting behind such a project
  • A specific structure of the grid must be in place for the best results
  • The network operator and pricing is also critical for financial viability.
  • Some legislative change in government

Going off the grid does not always cost the $10 million that Lord Howe Island is spending. A study done for Tyalgum, NSW has found that they could go mainly off grid for about $4 million. However, to be 90 -95 per cent sustainable would cost more – around $9 million. Much seems to depend on the tariffs charged by Essential Energy, the electricity company for the region.

The people of Tyalgum favour sustainability due to the constant blackouts they experience during storms. With the power supply already unreliable, they look forward to 2020 when the change will hopefully be in place. They are not the only ones.

Western Australia envisages a different model

The model of sustainability envisaged by Western Power, WA’s government owned power corporation, is slightly different. Rather than choosing whole communities isolated by distance, they suggest that smaller groups of people within or around those towns could band together to use a small, stand-alone off-grid power system. Again, this would save Western Power making expensive upgrades and extensions. They will begin with several pilot programmes of five to ten residences in the Ravensthorpe – Jerramungup area.

Ravensthorpe is a small town of about 500 people close to Esperance than Perth. The whole area is prone to many blackouts due to storms, bushfires and fallen trees and the cost of repair is very high.  Jerramungup is about halfway between Esperance and Albany and has the same problems with blackouts. Western Power wants to trial several different sized systems to see which is the most cost-effective.

Other towns and communities in Queensland and South Australia are also being considered for off-grid applications.  So while Lord Howe Island is not the only one, it may be the first to have everything up and running.

Renewable energy

Attractive renewable energy projects

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Alternative energy sources are necessary to reduce our carbon footprint, and some forward thinking people are making renewable energy projects attractive by using art, design and innovation.

While some people seem to think renewable energy projects are intrusive or ugly and not everyone likes the look of black solar panels sitting on their rooftop. Still others consider wind farms to be a blot on the landscape. However, these innovative resources don’t have to be ugly. Thanks to the Climate Council.

How art changes things

Most of us have seen attractive murals transform plain walls into works of art. So why not apply this idea to the bland, white expanse of a wind turbine tower? A community-owned wind-farm project in Daylesford, Victoria – which has around 1900 participants, many of whom are from the area – paid an artist to paint a mural representing nature. Mountain peaks surround the bottom part, while a giant female figure soars up the main part of the wind tower, as an eye-catching picture that graces the landscape. Better still, the money from the power it generates is given to charities.

Other colourful wind turbines can be found in Germany, painted by artist Horst Glasker in a variety of beautiful hues and designs. The brightest one is reminiscent of an old time barber’s pole, but with many glowing colours for the stripes instead of just red and white.

The cost of theme parks

While everyone loves theme parks, the cost of power for rides and other attractions is enormous. In the US – theme park heaven – Disneyworld in Florida realised they can save on the cost of the power needed to run their many attractions by installing a near-by solar plant with 48,000 solar panels. This could get really ugly, except for Mickey Mouse coming to the rescue. The plan for this solar farm reportedly goes in circles – three of them, in fact. These represent the famous mouse head and ears, thus fitting in aptly to the Disneyland setting. Disney has signed a 15 year lease to purchase the energy from it for their theme park.

Since a project completed way back in 1998 saved them 46 million kwh in power, it’s obvious that they use a great deal of this commodity.  In fact, theme parks the world over could surely follow their lead and save on their costs as well as reducing their carbon footprint.

Innovative design in shape

It’s not only colour that transforms drab objects, but shape. Solar panels don’t have to be rectangular shapes on the roof of the house. In Dubai, innovative design means that solar installations look rather like palm trees. Not only can visitors enjoy the shade while resting on the bench below, they can also charge their phone or get a Wi-Fi connection from these truly ‘smart’ trees. Since it is claimed that mobile phones will charge much more quickly when plugged into the smart trees, no one should be able to complain about their devices’ batteries running out of juice. Visitors to Dubai who have not heard about this innovation may be forgiven for staring at locals who plug their devices into a man-made tree.

Another amazing design in wind power technology is the wind turbine designed to look like a street tree. Instead of a windmill type attachment with three long blades at the top, each branch of the tree contains a smallish green device meant to represent the leaves of the tree. These ‘leaves’ have tiny blades that can turn no matter what direction the wind comes from and can take advantage of even a small breath of wind. And being so small, the blades turn silently. This approximately 9 metre high, wind turbine tree is found in north-west France but will soon be installed in Paris. Even though it isn’t very shady for a street tree, it’s successful for its intended purpose; to generate power.

Innovation doesn’t stop there

Another design innovation of a different type is the solar powered garage built especially for the owners of an electric car. It makes enough electricity to power the car and contains the charging station, thus saves using power generated by fossil fuels to recharge. Who knew a garage could be so clever, as well as looking good to boot?

Solar design innovation hasn’t stopped at cars. A solar plane recently proved it could fly both day and night on solar power, without using a drop of other fuel! While it can only carry one person – and the wings are longer than a Boeing 747 – it’s a jumping off point for further research and improvement. As far as looks are concerned, its design is slender and graceful due to a long wingspan. Those wings contain 17,000 solar cells, which are used not only to power the motors, but also to charge the lithium batteries that provide power during the night hours.

Go to sea on solar

Similarly, sea-going vessels can also use solar power to reach their destinations. The largest solar powered catamaran ever built has circumnavigated the world using only solar power generated from the 512 square metres of solar panels installed on its deck, which give it a wing-like appearance that is far from unattractive. These panels also power the two batteries below deck that weigh almost 10 tonne each.

People have used wind power for many years to power sea-going craft of various kinds.  When the wind stops, however, so do the boats – unless the tide carries them forward. It’s important to have another source of energy that can be used once the wind is no longer a viable source and that’s when solar power comes into its own.

These amazingly innovative designs are the forerunners of what is sure to come in solar and wind power. Every invention has a starting point. The ordinary car could never have come to fruition without the invention of the wheel – not to mention all those other small components that are so essential to keep it running. So it is with alternative sources of energy.  The good news is it’s the ordinary person, as well as designers and artists who think outside the box, that are working to save our world from the often ugly inventions that are nevertheless so very useful.

Renewable energy

Solar power and the clouds

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The solar PV (photovoltaic) revolution has made solar energy an increasingly powerful force in the energy arena. Solar PV panels help us harvest radiant energy from the sun and convert it into electrical energy, which can be used immediately, stored in batteries for later use, or fed back into the electricity grid.

Do solar PV panels still work in cloudy or cooler weather?

While solar PV panels don’t generate as much electricity in cloudy conditions as during bright, sunny days, they still do their job, just at a reduced rate. Depending on your specific panels and the amount of cloud cover, solar panels can still produce 10-25% of their rated capacity.

Many people wrongly assume that solar PV panels don’t work in cold or cloudy places, but solar still excels, even in some of the world’s least sunny places. Germany, which ranks relatively low on the sunny scale, is recognised as a world leader in solar energy generation, with solar accounting for an estimated 7 per cent of the country’s net electricity generation in 2014.

Solar panels have been proven to operate more efficiently in lower temperatures because when solar panels are colder, they are able to better conduct electricity.

The reason that summer is still the best overall season for solar output is because the months of December, January and February tend to have more sunny days and fewer cloudy days, and have longer daylight hours.

Saving money with rooftop solar PV panels in Australia

If you are interested in using solar power to save money on your electricity bill, you need to consider the amount of sunshine you get over an entire year, rather than on any particular day.

When you feed solar power back into the electricity grid, your electricity company will look at what you’ve produced over a full year to calculate how much to pay you.

Even if you aren’t generating enough energy to feed back into the grid, harnessing solar energy to power your own home or business will still reduce your electricity bill.

Estimate your potential annual savings on your electricity bill with this solar savings calculator or find out how to go solar with Momentum Energy.

Renewable energy

Printable solar cells

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Paper thin solar cells on paper can now be produced with inkjet printing. This will allow solar cells to be much cheaper and be placed almost anywhere.

It may still seem far fetched to imagine our houses powered by solar cells in curtains, blinds and windows. But some scientists say it will eventually be possible to print photovoltaic elements on a huge range of surfaces and materials – creating cheap, printable solar cells in place of more costly silicon panels.

Printable solar cells offer exciting potential for generating electricity more flexibly and at a lower cost, wherever the sun shines. In the traditional silicon solar PV we see on people’s rooftops, the most costly component is the silicon material that holds the photovoltaic elements. Silicon is abundant and non-toxic, but it is expensive to process into wafers for traditional rooftop solar PV panels.

New developments in printed solar cells could allow solar energy to be cheaply and easily converted into electricity almost anywhere, including walls, windows, roller blinds, shade umbrellas, and even tents.

The idea of using your tent to harvest power on trips to the beach or a camping weekend could really propel glamping (glamorous camping) to the next level, with free on-site electricity powering life’s little luxuries!

towards commercially viable printable solar cells

Currently, printable solar cells have only reached about 10 per cent efficiency, whereas traditional silicon solar PV cells are closer to 25% efficient. The life span of the printed solar cells is also only six months. So researchers are working to increase their efficiency, weather-resistance and life span to reach commercial viability.

In late 2014, a consortium from Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), the University of Melbourne and Monash University announced that their printable solar cells were on the verge of commercialisation.

A team of 50 chemists, physicists and engineers – working together since 2007 – hope to see printed solar panels used in low-power applications within the next few years.

CSIRO photovoltaic expert Dr Fiona Scholes explained the team hoped they could achieve a similar power delivery at a significantly reduced cost.

“Silicon is falling in price, but think about how cheap plastic is. The ink is a negligible cost, so the raw materials are very cost effective. This is a big step forward because you can put these cells anywhere you can think of. Also the consistency is better than silicon – they work well in cloudy conditions,” said Dr Scholes.

The CSIRO’s Scholes said although silicon cells are still on top of the market, she predicts printed solar cells will be “a key part of the renewable energy mix”. While the team can’t produce the cells commercially itself, a number of manufacturing companies are stepping forward.

How are printable solar cells made?

At the moment, printable solar cells are made by printing a specially developed ‘solar ink’ onto plastic film, similar to the way plastic bank notes are printed.

Whatever the method or the materials used, the solar principles remain the same:

  • Incoming photons free electrons and send them scattering through the solar cell’s material before being channelled into an electrical circuit.
  • The efficiency of the solar cell depends both on how well the material captures light to set these electrons free, as well as how effortlessly the electrons travel through the material.

Researchers such as the Victorian Organic Solar Cell Consortium are developing processes for printing solar cells onto all manner of surfaces using various printing, dyeing and spraying techniques. The solar cells can be printed straight onto paper-thin, flexible plastic, as well as onto steel, and can be made semi-transparent for building cladding and windows.

Renewable energy

Geelong Cats under lights!

Flashback! The Geelong Cats are now under lights powered by Momentum Energy

With the AFL football season almost upon us, it’s definitely time to revisit this awesome video of the new stand, lights and super screen at Simonds Stadium, the home of the Geelong Cats.

Momentum Energy are proud partners of the Geelong Cats.

Renewable energy

Renewable energy for renewable times

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As entrepreneur Richard Branson recently said, “We need to stop treating Earth like we have a Planet B. To do this we must support companies and individuals who seek innovative solutions to our most challenging problems, and in turn use business as a force for good.”

In the past, burning fossil fuels was often considered the best and cheapest way to create electricity, but such fuels are finite and when all things are considered, may not be the most economical. Most people these days realise the range of reasons why we should explore and develop alternative sources of energy.

Renewable energies such as hydro, wind and solar power use resources that are constantly replenished, and are far less damaging to human health and to the environment than using fossil fuels to create electricity. Using alternative, cleaner sources of power will provide significant health benefits for generations to come, and because renewables release far less greenhouse gases, they play an important role in limiting climate change.

Even though coal is still being used worldwide, other resources such as hydro, solar and wind power are rapidly becoming more popular as the technology improves and becomes more efficient. As these alternative energy sources become more established and widespread, they also become cheaper.

Solar power

According a report by The International Energy Agency in 2014, “since 2010, the world has added more solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity than in the previous four decades. Total global capacity overtook 150 gigawatts (GW) in early 2014.” This growth is driven by a number of factors, including solar power becoming become more cost-effective and efficient.

According to US analyst Ray Kurzweil, solar power will be able to supply global energy needs on its own in just two decades or less.

Naturally, solar panels produce electricity while the sun is shining and therefore rely on energy storage in other systems to be able to continue to provide electricity at other times. The development of simpler and larger home-storage battery systems, like the Tesla Powerwall can further help the uptake of solar power systems.

Wind power

Likewise, energy from the wind is also becoming more popular worldwide and is estimated to generate up to 18% of global power by 2050. In July 2014, Denmark produced enough electricity from wind to meet its domestic needs, as well as to export its excess energy to neighbouring countries. Australia has a number of wind farms built in Tasmania in the prevailing westerly winds, the roaring 40s, which are a world class wind asset.

Bluff Point Wind Farm
Bluff Point Wind Farm

How is Australia Using Wind and Solar Energy?

The notion that renewable energy will one day replace fossil-fuelled energy production is an idea that’s gaining momentum.

In Australia, wind power is currently the “cheapest source of large-scale renewable energy”. As of July 2015, Australian Government figures showed that wind energy in Australia generated around almost 4% of total primary energy consumption.

Additionally, according to ARENA “Australia has the highest average solar radiation per square metre of any continent in the world.” More than 2 million Australian households have solar hot water systems or rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) systems.

According to the Clean Energy Council, approximately 40% of South Australia’s power came from renewable energy during 2014 and South Australia was completely powered by renewable energy between 9.30am and 6pm on 30 September in 2014.

King Island Clean Energy Milestone

Momentum Energy is proudly owned by Australia’s largest generator of clean energy, Hydro Tasmania. Hydro Tasmania embarked on a clean energy journey more than 100 years ago. It is now Australia’s leading producer of renewable energy.

Hydro Tasmania’s record as a leader in clean energy continues with the King Island Renewable Energy Integration Project (KIREIP). KIREIP’s main goal is to increase renewable energy generation and reduce dependence on fossil fuels on King Island. KIREIP uses a range of renewable and conventional technologies to reduce diesel consumption for power generation on the island. The hybrid power system is comprised of wind, solar, battery storage, flywheels, dynamic resistor technology, dynamic load control and the use of biofuels.

This combination of technologies means KIRIEP can securely and reliably generate power for King Island, even during lulls in the wind or when the sun isn’t shining. When conditions are right, KIREIP delivers 100 per cent of King Island’s power from renewable sources, reducing the cost of providing electricity to the island.

This project gives a glimpse of the possible future of renewable energy – where renewable energy can work with enabling and storage technologies in a hybrid off-grid power system.

If you’re interested in learning more about this project, you can read more about the King Island Renewable Energy Integration Project here.

 

Renewable energy

Denmark – a producer and exporter of wind power

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Proactive wind power generation

Through clever planning, Denmark produces enough electricity to meet its domestic needs, as well as to export its excess energy to neighbouring countries. The Guardian reported that on over the course of just one day – July 9, 2015 – Denmark produced 116% of its national electricity demands through wind power.

As another plus, it was able to export  the excess electricity to Norway, Germany and Sweden. Once domestic consumption had reduced during the early hours of the morning, Denmark’s wind power was producing 140% of its national electricity demands.

While this was an unusually windy day in Denmark, it demonstrates that a country powered by renewable energy is a possibility. According to the Danish Energy Agency, Denmark produces renewable energy through solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, biomass and biogas.  Denmark’s official website, Denmark.dk reports that wind power contributes 28% of the country’s electricity on average, and that this figure is expected to grow.

Proactive renewable energy focus

Denmark has long had a strong proactive focus on renewable energy in recent years, supported by both the country’s voters and its politicians. The Guardian also reports that Denmark has a strong new builds program with new onshore and offshore wind farms planned that will more than double the country’s current renewable energy capacity. Denmark aims to satisfy 70% of its energy requirements with renewables by the year 2020. By 2050, Denmark plans to meet 100% of its energy needs with renewable energy.

How has this public support come about?

To assist public support and acceptance of onshore wind farms, the government introduced requirements on wind farm operators in 2008. These requirements included compensation from the wind farm operators to home owners if the value of their house decreases after a wind turbine is erected nearby. The community also receives an allocation of electricity directly from the local wind farms and at least 20% of the project’s shares are required to be offered to local residents, giving them the possibility to be financially invested in the project.

The Danes have also chosen to give subsidies to companies that use renewable energy and increase their energy efficiency. This policy is different from other countries that employ surcharges and aims to encourage energy efficiency creativity and monetary savings.

A more renewable future

Momentum Energy is part of the Hydro Tasmania group, Australia’s largest generator of renewable energy. We believe in a more sustainable future for Australia and are pleased to see how this can work in practice.

Renewable energyTechnology

Free Power: Harness Electricity From a River

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Free Power: Harness Electricity From a River

Going off-grid has never been easier, especially if you live near a river. Just throw a Mobile Hydro Rotor into the water, and you can run a refrigerator, water pumps, a small computer or appliance 24 hours a day. What’s more, the benefits to third world countries could be huge.

The Mobile Hydro, a simple, floating rubber ring made from recycled materials, with three rotors inside, is moored to a river bank and uses the natural swirling of the water to turn its blades. A generator captures the energy and transfers power back to the bank, where a battery and transformer kit awaits.

However, it’s not just a great idea for camping trips to keep the drinks cool and the food fresh. The International Energy Agency (IEA) reports that 1.3 billion people worldwide have no access to electricity – and this major energy poverty crisis within the global energy system has its epicentre in sub-Saharan Africa.

In a special World Energy Outlook report last year, Maria van der Hoeven, Executive Director, IEA, said more than 620 million people in sub-Saharan Africa – around two-thirds of the total population – live without electricity.

“Only one country in the region – South Africa – consumes even as much electricity as London,” she said. “In addition, nearly 730 million people in sub-Saharan Africa rely on hazardous, inefficient forms of cooking – using wood, charcoal, dung or agricultural residues as fuel in polluting cook stoves, and causing huge numbers of premature deaths each year.”

Empowering people as well as their appliances

So the German team of engineers who invented the Rotor, Andreas Zeiselmair and his colleagues Markus Heinsdorff and Christoph Helf of the Social Entrepreneurship Initiative, Mobile Hydro, have bigger plans for their creation – empowering people as well as their appliances.

Electrical supply plays an important role in improving the living conditions and economic growth of developing communities. For lighting, supply of small loads, such as refrigerators and water pumps or charging of mobile phones, there is a very real basic need in all remote, rural areas of the world. Yet existing solutions to these problems are very expensive, due to high running costs and complicated high-tech machinery.

The German team says harnessing hydro energy has potential for these remote, low income communities in poorer parts of the world where on-grid energy is either not available or costs are too high. They estimate about one fourth of the 1.3 billion people living without electricity live near rivers, and even though small hydro, wave or tidal energy sources are still too expensive as a mainstream supply of power, these people could invest in a small Rotor, rather than importing fossil fuel from distant places for their generators.

The Rotor was developed, analysed and tested by Zeiselmair at the Hydromechanics-Laboratory under the supervision of Dr.-Ing. Christoph Rapp in 2011. The design was originally used for wind turbines and driven by lift force but also runs underwater. This vertical axis water wheel can produce electricity with an integrated dynamo/generator up to 2 kW, depending on flow velocity produced by the river.

Portable, continuous power for isolated areas

Although it doesn’t offer huge energy potential, the Mobile Hydro is portable and provides continuous power, 24 hours a day, unlike some renewable energy sources that don’t generate energy when the wind isn’t blowing or the sun isn’t shining. Without 24-hour power, daily life  in remote communities in poorer areas like Sub Saharan Africa and Latin America is restricted and  daily productive work just ends with sunset, Andreas Zeiselmair told a Falling Walls Conference last year in Berlin.

“It’s (the Rotor) put in a river, fixed at the embankment on both sides or even only on one, and through the flowing water, the rotor turns in the middle and drives the generator which finally produces electricity,” he told the Falling Walls Conference.

“We can feed it into a simple car battery; the whole system is kept really simple, and use it for different appliances, which can be light bulbs, charging mobile phones, TVs or small computers,” he said. “Our goal is to set up a certain business, and to promote also local businesses which can use our product to give services…our goal in total is to empower people and to replace the diesel generators in use now.”

Depending on the river flow, it takes about two and a half hours to recharge the battery.

“The main target is isolated areas without grid connections. In a few steps, local energy providers, small business holders, farmers, and households can produce electricity at minimum costs,” Zeiselmair said.

This year, the team is carrying out pilot projects in Latin America, East Africa, and India. Their initiative was founded in 2013, and, based on the successful Empowering People Award of Siemens Foundation the team further developed their idea with the vision to substitute diesel generators through eco-friendly alternatives and the ambition to supply electricity to rural areas.

An award-winning initiative

Mobile Hydro was a national winner in the 2014 James Dyson Award. The design is not yet commercialised, but intellectual property was secured through registration of the design and technical concept. Market entry, including series production, is envisioned for this year, 2015.

In 2013, the Mobile Hydro won the German Recycling Design Award and successfully reached the awards stage of the finalists of the Empowering People Award of the Siemens Foundation in Nairobi, Kenya. In May 2014 the technology was successfully presented and awarded with the Innovation Award of the European Small Hydropower Association (ESHA) in Istanbul, Turkey.

Renewable energy

Quick facts about wind power

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When was the first wind turbine built?

Windmills have been used around the world for hundreds of years. The first recorded examples of wind energy being harnessed to make electricity include James Blyth’s 1887 invention to light his Scottish holiday home, and Charles F. Brush’s automatically operated wind turbine built in 1888 in Cleveland, Ohio. Brush’s turbine, with its 17-metre rotor, provided his home with power for twenty years. Wind power has since emerged as one of the fastest growing renewable energy sources in the world.

How does wind power work?

Many places around the world experience windy weather regularly.

Electricity is generated when the wind spins the blades of a wind turbine, which in turn spins a magnet inside a coil of conductor (called a generator). A collection of wind turbines is known as a wind farm. The wind turbines are connected by underground cables to a power substation, where the low-voltage electricity produced by the turbines is converted to high-voltage electricity for distribution into the electricity grid.

The European Wind Energy Association has a good interactive tool for learning more about how a wind turbine works.

Is wind power a viable source for electricity demand?

Today, many highly successful on-shore and off-shore wind energy projects exist around the globe.

Countries around the world that are currently considered leaders in wind include the UK, China, Denmark, Spain and Portugal.

When talking about being a “leader in wind”, there are a number of different statistics that are important, such as total installed capacity or percentage of growth, and penetration as proportion of the country’s energy supply. Due to these different measures, it is difficult to say that any one country or state leads the world in wind power.

For example, over the course of just one day, Denmark’s wind power produced 116% of its national electricity demands, with excess electricity exported to neighbouring countries.

Additionally, according to figures published by WWF Scotland, wind turbines in Scotland generated enough electricity in October 2014 to give 3,045,000 homes in the UK all the power they needed – and much more than Scottish homes would have required.

Read more key statistics of world wind energy from 2014 and the Global Wind Energy Council’s Global Wind Report 2014.

What about wind power in Australia?

Bluff Point Wind Farm
Bluff Point Wind Farm

In rural areas Australia-wide, windmills have been used for many decades to pump bore water or even river water for various uses on farms, so harnessing the power of wind is not new.

Many parts of Australia, particularly southern regions, are quite windy, making them suitable for hosting wind turbines. Momentum Energy is proudly owned by Australia’s largest generator of clean energy, Hydro Tasmania. Hydro Tasmania’s operational wind farms are built in the prevailing westerly winds, the roaring 40s, which are a world class wind asset. Read more about Momentum Energy’s renewable energy.

The Clean Energy Council reports that wind power is currently the cheapest source of large-scale renewable energy. Wind power currently accounts for almost 4% of the total Australian primary energy consumption, but contributes more than 30% of Australia’s total renewable energy production.

More than 70 on-shore wind farms are operating in Australia and more are planned or under construction.

How big are wind turbines?

As of September 2015, the wind turbine with the largest capacity in the world is the offshore Vestas V164 8MW turbine installed at the National Test Centre for Large Wind Turbines in Østerild, Denmark. This video (courtesy of Bloomberg TV) gives an idea of the view from the turbine and stunning behind-the-scenes footage.

The 10 biggest turbines in the world

While some wind turbines can indeed get very large, the wind farms in Australia have wind turbines with an average 2MW capacity.