Dec 10, 2014

Small bumps on the road to 100% renewable energy

Two small Australian towns want to become 100% powered by renewable energy. Crikey intern Diana Hodgetts looks at some overseas examples and finds 100% renewable is nice, but not always 100% reliable.

Last month the town of Uralla, New South Wales, population of 2754, won a tender to be used as a model for Australia’s first Zero Net Energy Town Project. ZNET will work with the town to investigate opportunities to switch to 100% renewable energy. Some 1300 kilometres south-west, the smaller Victorian town of Newstead plans to switch to 100% solar power by 2017, a pledge backed by the Victorian Labor Party. But is 100% renewable an achievable goal for larger populations, or is it a gimmick for tiny towns that has no real-world impact?

Professor Anthony Vassallo, director of the Centre for Sustainable Energy Development at the University of Sydney, says the towns’ ambitions are achievable — with proper planning. “For towns the size of Uralla, you could envisage having enough storage to ride through the night or days of low sun.”

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6 thoughts on “Small bumps on the road to 100% renewable energy

  1. d.dangle

    ‘Real electricity’ is the crux of it. If we can’t run our gadgets (efficiency improvements granted) then 100% renewable won’t get the traction it needs. The thing is, it’s entirely doable. Grid disconnection is a distraction; the grid is actually crucial to manage the variable output from renewable distributed generation sources. Utility-scale solar cell farms coupled to off-river pumped hydro for storage and load-smoothing is an off-the-shelf configuration that’s rearing to go.

  2. GF50

    Great p0ssitive article.
    d.d Thanks: Makes my heart sing.

  3. MJPC

    Diana, thank you for an article that gives a world view of alternate energy in action and addressed the issue rationally.
    Just one question, Isle of Eigg you state 50 x 100w bulbs, would that be 250 x 20w CFL’s, (number of LED’s ?)in which case, as a house does not have need for so many bulbs, additional energy using devices would be used? The days of the 100w globes are gone. Again highlights alternate energy is not only solar and wind, not just generation of power but also using less.
    This is early days of this energy revolution.

  4. AR

    I wonder how much of modern life needs 240V – think of how many items, from radios to computers to digital TV have adapters to step down to the 12V they use.
    Anyone who uses electricity for heat – cooking or hot water – might as well burn $50 notes.

  5. Stuart Coyle

    Any approach to independence from fossil fuel must come from both ends, supply and demand. Sky rocketing energy prices and development of more efficient devices is doing a great deal to reduce the demand for power. We can surely do better than 19.5kWh per day in an average home.

    On the supply side there are issues, especially when you go ‘off grid’, but these are purely engineering problems ( and political problems! ) that can be overcome given time. There are no fundamental physical principles that stop us from using 100% renewable power sources. Energy storage is the main issue to contend with, essentially we have been using mostly stored energy for the past century, it is time to start storing energy ourselves.

  6. Mark Duffett

    …the true reality of so-called “community renewables”…An essentially urban society cannot be powered by local, community energy. It is hard physical reality, and no amount of wishful thinking can result in the laws of physics being cast aside.

    And we must ask what kind of society the various promoters of community renewables think we live in. A Google image search of “community renewables” is revealing. Pictures of wind turbines and flowing green fields. Everyone is white, happy and appearing to live a traditional British life. One must ask why, if these images are accurate, Ukip dislike wind farms so much.

    And I have news for these people. We stopped living in villages more than a century ago, and there are no signs we are going to start moving back. The city is here to stay and it is time to make that work. London, Manchester, Glasgow, Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool; these are the communities we now live in, not the villages of community renewables enthusiasts imaginations.

    Powering humanity, then, means powering cities. This will require big scale things. Big wind farms, big nuclear power plants, big carbon capture and storage facilities. Big scale things may be out of fashion, but necessity and fashion are separate things.

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