If Australia is to mitigate climate change, we will need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from electricity and transport fuels by finding ways to harness our clean, renewable resources like the sun and wind.
CSIRO (Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) is developing the next generation of technologies that produce energy from renewables including solar, wind, ocean and geothermal resources. We are also mapping ocean energy and researching its potential and finding new ways to integrate renewable technology into existing electricity grids or for use immediately in the home.
DEVELOPMENTS IN RENEWABLE ENERGY TECHNOLOGIES
Energy from solar power is a proven technology found throughout society, from the abundant photovoltaic solar panels on neighbourhood roof tops to the emerging concentrated solar power industry changing the landscape of desert areas around the world.
Solar technology is everywhere and it works. The challenge is to make it work better, more reliably, and to be comparable in cost to fossil fuels.
CSIRO conducts large scale, world-class solar research and development – specialising in next generation photovoltaic cells and concentrated solar power. The National Solar Energy Centre in Newcastle, NSW, is home to one of the largest high concentration solar array in the Southern Hemisphere, with another solar field currently under construction. Extensive research into organic photovoltaic and dye-sensitized solar cells is also well underway.
CSIRO’s wind research is focusing on improving the forecasting of wind energy, especially in severe weather conditions where production can change rapidly, as well as developing ways to store wind energy for use when the wind isn’t blowing…
CSIRO-developed UltraBattery technology is being trialled to help ‘smooth-out’ the highly variable output from wind farms, increasing average powerline carrying capacity and reducing the need for alternative fast-response back-up services.
Through the Western Australian Geothermal Centre of Excellence, CSIRO is investigating ways to use hot sedimentary aquifers to provide energy for applications such as desalination, air conditioning and power. We are also examining the chemical and mechanical factors that contribute to the management of aquifers in geothermal systems. The research will broaden the use and commercial-scale application of geothermal energy.
In addition to this form of geothermal energy, Australia has some of the richest sources of hot rocks in the world, in the form of high heat-producing granites. To harness this energy we will need to develop cost-effective technologies to access deep hot rock reservoirs, as well as manage geothermal sources to enhance production and be able to transport this energy to the market.
Scientists at CSIRO are investigating the potential for wave energy generation in Australia and mapping Australia’s ocean resources.
As part of this work, researchers have identified Australia’s priority regions for harnessing ocean energy and will further refine details of the most suitable locations for commercialisation of wave energy converters, of interest to the wave and current energy industry. Much still needs to be done to address the economic and engineering feasibility of ocean energy generation systems, but the mapping work conducted to date shows the potential of this important renewable resource.
FUTURE OPPORTUNITIES FOR BUSINESSES
As well as renewable energy generation, businesses can make dramatic emissions and cost reductions through energy efficiency measures. Whilst “first step” measures such as changing light fittings can bring significant advantages, even more dramatic savings are possible through smarter control systems. Such systems are relatively inexpensive (they don’t require large pieces of infrastructure), yet they can realise quite dramatic energy savings, whilst allowing business as usual.
CSIRO is working on a number of exciting projects that will be available to businesses in the future, including:
• Optimal air-conditioning control using weather data, energy market pricing and feedback from building occupants to intelligently alter the operation of a building’s air-conditioning system to save energy, money and greenhouse gas emissions.
• Solar cooling using heat from the sun as an energy source which can be used to generate cool air for use in buildings.
• The Virtual Power Station intelligently aggregates renewable energy generators – such as solar panels – and energy storage into a cost-effective and reliable electricity supply network.
• Smart fridges can plan ahead and coordinate when they consume energy in order to smooth the intermittent power output from renewable generators such as wind and solar farms, while keeping within usual temperature limits.