There are many innovative projects seeking to enhance the sustainability of the country’s energy sector, but one of the main issues to making these innovations happen is money. As with most things, nothing can be made into reality without the starting capital or funding according to The Guardian.
With the Australian Renewable Agency set to lose $1.3 billion in unallocated funds, the agency has announced a raft of financial grants for green or renewable projects. This includes $17 million for 9 research and development projects that have possibilities of being fully commercial by way of industry partners. According to Ivor Frischknect, ARENA’s CEO, the 3-year projects all give focus on integrating more renewable or more energy into the industrial process or the grid in driving the balance of system costs while advancing sustainability.
Experts look at four of the multi-partner projects than can potentially make a big difference to make Australia’s economy greener.
1. Increasing the Promotion and Uptake of Solar PVs in Strata Projects
According to ARENA, more than 2 million households have solar power systems on their rooftops, but installing and using solar power installations on apartments that are run by strata agents is quite hard. To solve this issue, the agency has provided $900,000 to $2.6 million project aimed at creating a governance model for any shared solar installations. The project will commit around 50 units in three developments in Perth’s White Gum Valley suburb. It will also examine or check the shared advantages, costs and risks of having such a system, as well as any legal implications for dwelling purchases and leases.
2. Taking Advantage of Biogas in Sugarcane Milling and Transport
Australia’s $2 billion sugar industry may be energy self-sufficient on the processing side, but very little is done in utilising the waste sugar cane left over after harvesting. Ian O’Hara, associate professor of Queensland University of Technology – Centre for Tropical Crops and Biocommodities is leading a $5.7 million project with $2.1 million coming from ARENA in converting the industry’s crop wastes into biogas to be used as fuel for farming and transportation. According to O’Hara, the possible advantage of the technology is to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions in sugarcane production by up to 80kg of CO2/tonne of sugarcane produced.
There are four elements that will be exhibited at Sunshine Sugar’s factories in New South Wales.
- Finding an affordable way of collecting and transporting sugarcane trash to the factory
- Making the bio-waste responsive to anaerobic digestion
- Upgrading the biogas to a transport-grade fuel
- Upgrading the remaining digestate into bio-diesel.
If these elements are successfully demonstrated, the technology will not only be beneficial to the sugar industry, but also to other industries with crop wastes.
3. Consolidating Solar Thermal Energy into the Alumina Process
The country’s huge alumina market produces millions of dollars and thousands of jobs for the economy, but also, tonnes and tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions due to the burning of natural gas for heat in the refining process.
A new $1.5 project led by the University of Adelaide is hoping to greatly reduce the industry’s dependence on natural gas by having a cost-effective way to integrate low-temperature concentrated solar thermal or CST, solar reforming of natural fuels or gas and high temperature CST in the refining process. It will also hold involves technical support from the mining company ALCOA. The project is hoping to reduce the use of fossil fuels in the Bayer process by up to 45%. They also hope to expand the project into mining and mineral processing operations in Australia.
4. Using Robotic Vision Systems in Inspecting and Evaluating Solar Plants
Although a bit controversial in some parts of the world, drones are getting attention in the technology world today. Drones are being used for postal deliveries, pizza delivery and recreation. Now, these remote controlled flying machines are being considered for their ability to inspect solar farms.
A $3.1 million ANU-led projects with $875,000 coming from ARENA is looking for a way in which drones can be used in inspecting solar PV panels and mirrors used in CSP farms in an affordable manner and establish when the best time to clean the panels. The Canberra company 4D surveying will be supplying the drones. The drones will be fitted with optical sensors, thermal cameras, laser scanners and will be powered by intelligent computer vision solutions in measuring the accumulated dust on the mirrors and panels at solar farms. The software will also diagnose any faults and produce best route planning in establishing the most effective and affordable cleaning procedures for the solar plant.
Image credit: The Guardian