Renewable energy

Attractive renewable energy projects

dubai-smart-palm.jpg?fit=600%2C400
 

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.

Sustainable design

Ecocapsules off the grid

self-sustaining-house-ecocapsule-nice-architects-slovakia-21
self-sustaining-house-ecocapsule-nice-architects-slovakia-111
self-sustaining-house-ecocapsule-nice-architects-slovakia-91
self-sustaining-house-ecocapsule-nice-architects-slovakia-71
self-sustaining-house-ecocapsule-nice-architects-slovakia-51
self-sustaining-house-ecocapsule-nice-architects-slovakia-41
self-sustaining-house-ecocapsule-nice-architects-slovakia-31
self-sustaining-house-ecocapsule-nice-architects-slovakia-81

Ecocapsules allow off the grid living in comfort and convenience, with in-built solar power and wind power generation facilities.

Not everyone likes camping out due to the discomfort, hassle and plain inconvenience that is inherent in living in a tent, cooking over an open fire and having to pack and unpack every time you move. Ecocapsules may change their minds. These tiny homes away from home have everything you could need for comfort and convenience; a kitchenette, dining facilities, a shower, a toilet and a double bed. They even have room for storage.

Living off the grid

Better still, you can live off the grid due to built-in solar panels with a 2.6m2 power rating and a wind turbine that generates 750 watts and feeds a 4200 Wh battery bank.

The capsules have also been designed to catch and store rainwater which is then filtered so it’s suitable for human consumption. The grey water – from the shower and washing up – is recycled to flush the toilet in those models that don’t have a composting toilet.

Uses for the ecocapsule

These amazing capsules of technology allow people to live off the grid for up to a year. They weren’t originally made just for campers. In fact, they may be too expensive for that, seeing many people go camping as a way to take a cheap holiday. However, the capsule is so handy and even (dare we say it) cute, that many people may just want one for leisure and pleasure. They have many other uses though.

  • They can be used in remote locations for research facility accommodation to save building housing. Instant good accommodation means that essential research can go ahead without delay in waiting for accommodation.
  • They can be used for emergency housing, whether the emergency springs from a tornado, flood or other causes.
  • They can be used for a humanitarian action unit, offering clean and comfortable accommodation to those who need it.
  • Tourist lodge accommodation in eco-sensitive areas. Using this type of accommodation means there is no need to disturb wildlife or flora by taking electricity into the area. And no need for plumbing or other buildings to go up.

Where the ecocapsule can be used

The ecocapsule has been well-designed with insulated walls, making it suitable for use in very hot or very cold climates. It can be used in remote locations where there is no access to power, as it generates its own with the wind turbine and solar panels.

However, rainfall is needed to keep up the water supply, so perhaps in the middle of the desert would not be the best place to live in it. With that being said, the latest water-saving and recycling techniques have been put into place. The units now use a composting toilet instead of the flushing one. Nice architects based in Bratislava are still looking for another solution since composting toilets do have a few disadvantages.

This miniature caravan look-alike that is full of modern technology can sit on top of a high-rise building just as comfortably as on the top of a mountain, or on the beach. It can be installed in the jungle, by a river or on the side of a road, in a park or on private property. This ecocapsule can be used just about anywhere accommodation is required. Speaking of eco-technology, passive cooling is also used by having a window that opens in each side so the breezes can waft through, right across the double bed.

Just how big is an ecocapsule?

It looks tiny, but that is partly due to the design.  In fact, it offers 8 square metres of living space, with half of the double bed folding to create a walkway, or a place to sit at the table. There is storage at each end, with one being accessible from outside. Even more storage space is utilised by the netting shelf above the bed, ideal for clothing and bedding. Windows and the door lift up, also saving room, just in case space at its destination is at a premium.

So how does it get to its destination?

The ecocapsules will fit into a container for shipping, should they need to be deployed overseas, or they can be towed in a trailer to their destination. As yet, there are none with wheels that can be towed like a caravan, but these are in the planning stages. The addition of wheels is sure to increase their applications as they can then be towed behind the family car. It may be just the thing to fit into a tiny, suburban backyard when Nan and Pop visit the kids for the holidays if they don’t have a spare room available. With everything you could possibly need for a nice, long stay, why waste money booking into holiday accommodation? All you will need is sun, wind and water to manage very nicely in this tiny home for two.

Renewable energy

Renewable energy for renewable times

MIFGS-bee-in-flower2.jpg?fit=320%2C432
 

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

denmark-offshore-wind-farm-thumb.jpg?fit=600%2C400
 

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 energy

Quick facts about wind power

wind-turbine-from-1888-thumb.jpg?fit=320%2C432
 

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.

 

Renewable energy

Musselroe Wind Farm – Tasmanian renewable energy

Musselroe-Wind-Farm-thumb.jpg?fit=600%2C400
 

Hydro Tasmania’s operational wind farms are built in the prevailing westerly winds, the roaring 40s, which are a world class wind asset. The Musselroe Wind Farm has 56 wind turbines with a generating capacity of 168 MW – Tasmania’s largest wind farm. A new transmission connects the wind farm to the electricity grid at Derby. View the short story of the Musselroe Wind Farm below, or go here for the Musselroe Wind Farm full story.

What makes power FROM wind FARMS renewable?

Wind is generated from the heat of the sun, therefore it is not ‘used up’ after it has blown past a turbine, it continues to blow around the world. It is renewable because it can be used again and again.

Tasmania has a world-class wind energy resource – the island lies directly in the path of the roaring 40s, the prevailing westerly winds that circle the Earth’s high southern latitudes. When these winds reach the west coast of Tasmania, they have blown across the cooling Southern Ocean for thousands of kms since last touching warm land on the tip of South America.

Learn more about wind power, what wind is and how wind makes energy, at the Hydro Tasmania About Wind Power page.