Australian renewable energy companies are developing technology and supplying equipment. Some projects may fail, but the successes will contribute to Australia’s prosperity and security in a low-carbon world.
The work of these companies shows that Australia has the smarts and will benefit from the energy transition.
Here are some examples.
- Electricity export to Singapore: Sun Cable
- Electrolyser manufacturing: Fortescue
- Zero-emissions mining equipment: Fortescue
- Low emissions recycled steel: Laverton
- Solar panel development: SunDrive
- Pre-assembled solar farms: 5B
- Silicon heat storage: 1414 Degrees
- Hot block energy storage: MGA Thermal
- Zinc-bromide flow batteries: Redflow
- Zinc-bromide gel batteries: Gelion
- Battery prime movers: Janus Electric
- Electric all-terrain vehicles: EVolution
- Low-carbon lithium processing: Novalith
- Concentrating solar & energy storage: RayGen
- Biochar & heat engine: Capricorn Power
- Transparent solar panels: ClearVue
- Hydrogen electrolyser technology: Hysata
- Making Buses: BusTech
- Robust agriculture: Sundrop Farms
- Successful Oz companies setting up overseas
- Exporting electric vehicle chargers: Tritium
- Electric Planes & MagniX
- Electric Rubbish Trucks: SEA Electric
- Australia is ready to prosper in a low-carbon world
Electricity export to Singapore: Sun Cable
Australian company Sun Cable is building a submarine transmission line from Darwin to supply Singapore with electricity. This project will use tried and tested technology, but on such a large scale that it could revolutionise world thinking on energy movement.
(Sun Cable, the world’s biggest solar and battery project, expands again and gets Indonesian approval: Renew Economy: 23 Sep 2021)
Electrolyser manufacturing: Fortescue
Fortescue has started building an enormous Green Energy Manufacturing centre to make electrolysers, wind turbines, solar panels, and batteries. Andrew Forrest has bought the Clark Creek wind and solar farm to power this manufacturing.
(Fortescue starts building a hydrogen electrolyser plant that will double global production: Renew Economy: 27 Feb 2022)
Zero-emissions mining equipment: Fortescue
Fortescue is developing zero-emissions heavy mining equipment. They have:
- set up a research and testing centre
- designed and built a demonstration hydrogen-powered haul-truck
- started testing a hydrogen-powered rig for drilling blast holes
- started designing a 240-tonne battery haul truck
- started testing batteries for the planned battery haul truck
(Fortescue begins testing of hydrogen-powered mining truck and blast hole drill rig: International Mining: 30 Aug 2021)
Low emissions recycled steel: Laverton
The Laverton steelworks in Victoria recycles steel using an electric arc furnace and electric rolling mills. They make low-emissions steel products as they use (1) renewable electricity contracted from the Numurkah solar farm, and (2) electricity from the Victorian grid which is 26% renewable.
Solar panel development: SunDrive
Australian company “SunDrive” is developing solar panel technology using copper instead of silver and claims a world record for panel efficiency.
(Hugh moment as Australia’s SunDrive claims new collar efficiency milestone: Renew Economy: 18 March 2022)
Pre-assembled solar farms: 5B
The Australian company “5B” pre-assembles solar farms in its Adelaide factory. This process enables rapid installation.
Sun Cable plans to build another factory in Darwin to make these Maverick solar array systems for the massive Sun Cable project and other projects.
The move to renewables is generating new industries.
(Sun Cable submits plans for a gigawatt-scale solar manufacturing plant in Darwin: Renew Economy: 31 March 2021)
Silicon heat storage: 1414 Degrees
The Australian company “1414 Degrees” is developing heat storage technology. They use renewable electricity to melt silicon at 1,414 centigrade and then store this heat for use as needed. This technology is close to commercialisation and could replace industrial use of gas and coal to decarbonise high-temperature industries, e.g., the metal and glass industries.
Hot block energy storage: MGA Thermal
Miscibility Gap Alloy (MGA) blocks can store energy cheaply for a week. These blocks could replace coal in coal generators. Renewable energy could heat the blocks and later produce steam to generate electricity.
- (Aussie invention could save old coal generators by powering them with zero emissions heat storage blocks: The Conversation: 8 Sep 2020)
- (MGA Thermal storage website)
Zinc-bromide flow batteries: Redflow
Redflow is an Australian company that has developed a zinc bromide flow battery, marketed it, and now makes it in Thailand.
(Redflow secures a California order for its biggest battery installation yet: 6-megawatt hours: Renew Economy: 17 Mar 2022)
Zinc-bromide gel batteries: Gelion
The company Gelion grew out of Redflow to develop a zinc-bromide gel battery. This battery’s electrolytic gel is a fire-retardant ideal for high-temperature operation. You can fully discharge the battery without damaging its performance. They are about to set up a pilot production line.
- (Gelion battery manufacturing: Solar Quotes: 4 Oct 2021)
- (Gelion strikes a Sydney manufacturing deal for safe and durable zinc-bromide batteries: Renew economy: 10 Sep 2021)
Battery prime movers: Janus Electric
Janus makes electric trucks and has just shown the first battery prime-mover suitable for their planned battery swap stations on the east coast.
(Janus unveils the first electric truck for the Australian east coast battery swap route: The Driven: 10 Feb 2022)
Electric all-terrain vehicles: EVolution
Melbourne based company EVolution Australia converts vehicles to electric power: an all-terrain vehicle for the army.
(The first look at an electric all-terrain vehicle built for the Australian Defence Force: The Driven: 20 April 2021)
Low-carbon lithium processing: Novalith
Novalith is developing a low-carbon way of processing lithium and has raised capital to set up a pilot plant in Sydney.
(Australian low-carbon lithium processing tech company aims for the sustainable battery market: Renew Economy: 25 Oct 2021)
Concentrating solar & energy storage: RayGen
RayGen is commercialising a fascinating type of concentrating solar and energy storage technology. Mirrors concentrate sunlight to generate electricity and heat. The heat warms a hot-water reservoir while the electricity chills a cold-water reservoir. Then, the temperature difference between the reservoirs powers a heat engine to generate electricity on demand.
- (RayGen to build a dispatchable solar-hydro-plant at Liddell in NSW: Renew Economy: 8 June 2021)
- (RayGen Website)
Biochar & heat engine: Capricorn Power
Melbourne based Capricorn Power is building its first commercial heat engine. This engine can use various waste heat sources to drive pistons and generate electricity. It fits into a 20-foot shipping container, does not use water or chemicals, and produces no emissions.
Capricorn will combine a heat engine with a biochar-maker. The biochar-maker will supply heat by decomposing clean organic waste in a low-oxygen environment, producing biochar and heat. The heat engine will then use the heat to generate electricity.
Organisations like councils will be interested in using organic wastes like waste food or wood offcuts to:
- generate electricity and cut power costs.
- produce biochar to make soils more productive and increase the carbon stored in soils, and
- avoid organic waste becoming landfill and producing methane as it decomposes.
Transparent solar panels: ClearVue
Australian company ClearVue Technologies has developed a transparent solar panel suitable for constructing greenhouses. The panels generate electricity from light that can harm plants: ultraviolet and infrared light.
(ClearVue completes a world-first solar glass greenhouse in Perth: Renew Economy: 20 April 2021)
Hydrogen electrolyser technology: Hysata
Hysata is a start-up developing a super-efficient electrolyser to make hydrogen.
(Australian electrolyser promises the world’s cheapest green hydrogen: Renew Economy: 16 March 2022)
Making Buses: BusTech
BusTech Group is making electric buses and hybrid diesel/electric buses.
Robust agriculture: Sundrop Farms
Renewable energy has enabled productive agriculture on this near-desert land, near Port Augusta in South Australia. Sundrop Farms has been growing tomatoes in these greenhouses since 2016. The company supplies Coles and grows about 15% of Australia’s tomatoes. Most Australians would have eaten some.
On the left, there are 20 hectares of greenhouses. They grow tomatoes in water, not in soil. The water is desalinated ocean water stored in the ponds in the foreground. On the right, there are over 23,000 mirrors that focus the sun’s rays on the tower to heat molten salts. The hot molten salts are kept in the storage tanks and used to generate electricity on demand. This generator is a concentrating solar thermal generator. Solar electricity is available 24 hours to power the place, including desalinating seawater.
Sundrop Farms has renewable technology know-how. This successful greenhouse is progress towards the superpower vision.
Drought proof agriculture using renewable energy
Successful Oz companies setting up overseas
Three renewable energy companies have started up here but moved to the US.
One factor behind these moves would be that the Federal Coalition continues to subsidise fossil fuel projects and oppose renewable energy.
Exporting electric vehicle chargers: Tritium
Tritium started in Brisbane, making and selling world-leading high-powered chargers. In this photo, the chargers are in a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) car park in California. Tritium has sold chargers across 33 countries. This Australian company found a niche in the global renewable economy and has now set up in the US.
- (NASA plugs into Australian electric vehicle chargers: Renew Economy: August 2018)
- (President Biden and Tritium CEO announce a Tennessee charger factory: Reuters: 8 Feb 2022)
Electric Planes & MagniX
MagniX electric propulsion systems
The company MagniX has made and installed its electric propulsion system in a range of planes – the birthplace of this technology was the MagniX engineering centre on the Australian Gold Coast in Queensland.
(The MagniX Story: MagniX)
Beaver Seaplane test flight
This photo shows an electric-powered Beaver seaplane during its first test flight on 10 December 2019. The plane has a range of 160 km and can carry six passengers. Harbour Air in Vancouver, Canada, owns this seaplane and plans to convert all of its 42 seaplanes. The company carries half a million passengers a year.
(Successful flight of the world’s first commercial electric aeroplane: Harbour Air: 10 Dec 2019)
(Harbour Air, MagniX, and H55 partner aiming for the world’s first certified all-electric commercial aeroplane: Harbour Air: April 2021)
(Image credit: Clermont Group: MagniX)
Cessna Caravan test flight
A converted Cessna Caravan, powered by a MagniX electric engine, had its first test flight in May 2020. On the half-hour test flight, carrying only the pilot, the aircraft covered 160 km. This plane can carry nine passengers.
The fuel costs of the electric test flight were low, US$6. The flight would have used petrol worth about US$350.
(Electric aircraft could take to the skies over Australia: PV Magazine: 1 June 2020)
Australian Cessna Caravan Seaplane plans
Sydney Seaplanes plans to work with MagniX to convert a Cessna Caravan for carrying passengers the 50 km between Rose Bay in Sydney and Palm Beach. Sydney Seaplanes is Australia’s largest passenger seaplane carrier and expects to have regulatory approval early in 2023.
(Sydney Seaplanes News)
(Sydney Seaplanes goes electric to convert a Cessna in an Australian first: Renew Economy: 10 Dec 2020)
MagniX will provide Eviation with propulsion systems for “Alice”, a 9-seater electric plane with a range of 1000 km. It’s a beautiful plane, due for its first test flight in early 2022.
(Regional airline commits to a world-first commercial electric plane: Aerospace News: Nov 2019)
(How this electric aeroplane [Alice] could reshape regional air travel: The Driven: 12 Nov 2018)
Electric commercial flight is about to takeoff
People thought that electric passenger planes were only a dream. That’s because batteries are heavy: jet fuel carries more energy per kilogram than batteries, about 100 times more. So, it’s surprising that these battery planes have already flown and could be carrying passengers in 2023.
Energy density: I have taken the energy density of aviation fuel as 45 MJ/kg (Megajoule per kilogram) and the density of Lithium-ion batteries as 0.45 MJ/kg. Note that battery technology is developing rapidly, e.g., researchers have developed a lithium-air battery with four times greater density, 1.8 MJ/kg.
Electric Rubbish Trucks: SEA Electric
Here’s a fully electric rubbish truck that started work in 2019 in the City of Casey, in Melbourne. There is a similar rubbish truck working in Adelaide too. The trucks are designed & made in Australia. Superior-Pak makes the trucks, while SEA Electric supplies the electric drives.
SEA has a factory in Dandenong where they electrify commercial vehicles: trucks, buses, and vans. SEA has won orders in the US – and has moved to Los Angeles, USA.
(Australian electric truck company SEA powers into the USA market: The Driven: 5 Feb 2020)
(SEA Electric is mass-making electric trucks: An Australian first: The Driven: 24 March 2021)
(Australia’s electric truck success SEA is now based in the US: The Driven: 8 July 2021)
Australia is ready to prosper in a low-carbon world
These Australian companies developing technology and supplying equipment show that Australia is ready to prosper in a low-carbon world.
- The main page on Australia’s progress to becoming a renewable energy superpower
Updated 21 March 2022