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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.