Surprisingly, Australia’s renewables revolution has made some remarkable progress. This shows that the tide is turning. There is cause for hope and celebration as these successes are breeding further successes.
The time has come for achieving climate action by promoting an inspiring vision, well-researched plans, and our progress. Exclusively promoting climate dangers can generate grief and inhibit climate action. Here are some examples of our progress.
Progress: Cost of renewables is low & plummeting
Over 40 years, the price of solar panels has dropped from 101.05 to 0.61 $/watt. That is a price drop of 99.4%. The revolution we are now seeing is because the cost of renewable energy is now low and continues to plummet.
Graph source: Tree Hugger: 15 April 2015
*** Supplying equipment and solutions
Australia is making and supplying renewable energy equipment and solutions.
Progress: Tritium: EV Charging
We’re Making & Exporting
Electric Vehicle Chargers
Renewables = New Jobs
Tritium is a Brisbane-based company that makes electric vehicle chargers. A German company is installing 600 of the Tritium chargers across Europe. NASA has installed 8 of the chargers at a base in California.
NASA plugs into Australian electric vehicle chargers: Renew Economy: August 2018.
Progress: SEA Electric: Electric Trucks
SEA Electric is an Australian company that turns a range of trucks and vans into all-electric vehicles. They have orders for their vehicles in the US and plan to be producing up to 2,400 vehicles a year in the Latrobe Valley by 2021.
The first all-electric rubbish trucks are working in Casey, designed and made in Australia by Superior Pak and SEA Electric.
Australia’s first fully-electric rubbish trucks in Casey, Melbourne: Casey website: 20 Jan 2020.
Progress: Electric Planes
Renewables Flying is Taking Off
MagniX provides and installs electric aeroplane propulsion systems. The birthplace of this technology was the MagniX engineering centre on the Gold Coast, Queensland.
MagniX will provide propulsion systems for “Alice”, a 9-seater electric plane with a range of 1000 km and made by Eviation.
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.
Magnix has installed an electric propulsion system into a Beaver sea-plane owned by Harbour Air. The first test flight was in Dec 2019. Harbour Air is in Vancouver Canada. It has 53 planes and carries half a million passengers a year.
Successful flight of the world’s first commercial electric aeroplane confirmed: Harbour Air: 10 Dec 2019.
Progress: Sonnen: Battery manufacturing
We’re Making Batteries. Renewables = New Jobs.
Sonnen is producing lithium-ion home batteries in what was the Holden factory in Adelaide.
Sonnen begins exports to NZ: Australian Manufacturing: 16 May 2019.
Progress: Safescape: Electric vehicles for mining
Safescape is an Australian company is producing an all-electric vehicle for use in mines. It’s based on a diesel Brazilian military vehicle.
Australian company unveils an electric vehicle for the mining industry: The Driven: 7 May 2019.
*** Attracting energy-intensive industries
Australia’s potential to provide cheap renewable electricity can attract industries that use a lot of energy.
Progress: The Whyalla Steelworks rescued
Whyalla: A Green Industrial Hub. Renewables = New Jobs.
In 2017, Sanjeev Gupta rescued the collapsed Arrium steel and mining business in Whyalla, South Australia. He has plans to:
- Power the steelworks with renewable electricity
- Modernize the existing steel plant
- Expand the steelworks into a world-scale plant, the biggest in the Western world
- Build the Cultana solar farm
- Build pumped hydro in an old iron ore mine in the Middleback Ranges
- Build the Playford battery 100MW/100MWh
Gupta doubles down on green industrial plans for Whyalla, powered by cheap renewables: Renew Economy: 10 Dec 2018.
*** Exporting energy
A key part of the renewables revolution in Australia will be the export of this clean electricity. We could:
- export electricity via undersea cable to Asia,
- use the electricity to produce aluminium and then export it, or
- similarly, make and export steel, hydrogen or ammonia.
Australian electricity generation
To put some of the following electrical generation projects in context, the largest coal generator in Australia is Eraring in NSW with a capacity of 2,880 MW.
Plan: The Asian Renewable Energy Hub: 15,000 MW
In 2017, an international consortium proposed:
- The Asian Renewable Energy Hub:
- A giant wind and solar power plant: 15,000 MW
- Making green hydrogen for domestic and export markets
- In the Pilbara region of Western Australia.
- Investing of $30 billion
Pilbara green hydrogen project grows to 15 GW wind and solar: Renew Economy: 12 July 2019.
The Asian Renewable Energy Hub.
Plan: Sun Cable Project: 10,000 MW
We can Power Singapore
- Build an undersea cable from the Northern Territory to Singapore: 3,000 km
- Invest $25 billion
- Build the world’s largest solar farm 10,000 MW and storage
- Near Tenant Creek:
Cannon-Brookes confirms investment in the world’s biggest solar project: Renew Economy: 25 Sep 2019.
Plan: Kalbarri: Green Hydrogen: 5,000 MW
- Murchison Station near Kalbarri
- Combined wind and solar generation of 5,000MW
- Produce green hydrogen
Massive 5,000 MW solar and wind project to fuel hydrogen expansion: Renew Economy: 8 Oct 2019.
Progress: Hornsdale Tesla Battery
The South Australian Hornsdale battery is kicking goals
- It was built in under 100 days in 2017
- Cost $91 million
- Grid/consumer savings: $40-50 million in the first year
- Stabilises the whole grid, e.g. responded in a tenth of a second to the loss of a coal unit in Queensland avoiding load shedding.
- Still the biggest lithium-ion battery in the world (Nov 2019)
- Capacity 100MW/129 MWh
- Making money for the owners: 20% a year
- The battery will be expanded by 50%
- The success of this battery was a lesson for the world. There are now many other batteries either operating or planned.
Deep dive into the first year of Tesla big battery at Hornsdale: Renew Economy: 7 Dec 2018.
*** Progress: Agriculture: Sundrop farms
- This is Sundrop Farms near Port Augusta in South Australia
- They have been growing tomatoes on this near-desert land since 2016
- They grow about 15% of Oz tomatoes: 17,000 tonnes of truss tomatoes a year for Coles
- On the left, there are 20 hectares of greenhouses
- The tomatoes are grown in water, not in soil.
- The water is desalinated ocean water that comes from the ponds in the foreground
- On the right, you see where they get electricity to run the farm, including the desalination.
- There are 23,000 mirrors that focus the sun’s rays on the tower, heating molten salts.
- The hot molten salts can be stored in the storage tanks and used to generate electricity as needed. This solar power is available 24 hours a day
- Here in near-desert, we have productive, reliable agriculture.
Drought proof agriculture using renewable energy
Port Augusta new tomato growing capital: Energy Source & Distribution: 6 Oct 2016.
World-first solar tower powered tomato farm opens in Port Augusta: Renew Economy: 7 Oct 2016.
*** Progress: Companies go for 100% renewables
The big 5 banks are going 100% renewable.
Federal government still in denial.
Macquarie Group commits to 100% renewable electricity by 2025: Renew Economy: 27 Nov 2019.
*** Progress: Mining industry using renewables
In 2017, Alinta installed a 35 MW / 129 MWh battery at Newman in WA. This supplies the large Roy Hill iron-ore mine operated by Gina Rinehart. The battery has increased the reliability of electricity and will pay back the investment in 5 years.
Alinta sees sub-5-year payback for unsubsidised big battery at Newman: Renew Economy: 12 August 2019.
Is Gina Rinehart finally ready to switch to green energy: Renew Economy: 25 Nov 2019.
Progress: The ACT is now 100% renewables
The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) is has contracted to buy renewable electricity to cover 100% of its demand. This has saved Canberra households $4.3 million in 3 months in 2019. They are now moving to electrify transport and buildings.
ACT hits 100% renewables &
Saves households millions
Australian Capital Territory Reaches 100% Renewables: Renew Economy: 1 Oct 2019.
Go All Electric at Home
100% Renewables Is Coming
Progress: South Australian Liberal government
South Australia is on track to reach 75% renewables by 2025, and 100% well before 2030. There are so many renewables projects happening in South Australia, e.g. more renewables, Whyalla Steelworks, the Tesla big battery, the Sundrop Farm and proposed green hydrogen and pumped-hydro storage.
South Australia’s stunning aim to be net 100% renewables by 2030: Renew Economy: 17 June 2019.
South Australia’s stunning renewable energy transition and what comes next: Renew Economy: 5 Nov 2019.
The SA Liberal government recognises the value of renewable energy to their state and supports the expansion of renewables. This is so different from their colleagues in the federal Liberal Party.
Progress: NSW Liberal government
NSW Energy Minister says that climate change is a risk to our way of life and that responding is prudent management for government and business.
NSW energy minister says renewables and storage will replace old coal generators: Renew Economy: 14 Oct 2019.
Sydney’s 8,000 buses to go electric
NSW unveils plan to switch Sydney’s 8,000 buses to all-electric: The Driven: 28 Oct 2019.
Yet to be included
I am sure there are many significant examples of progress that I still need to add. This is work in progress. Do let me know of examples. Some that occur to me follow.
- Pumped hydro storage of electrical power
- Fantastic homes that produce rather than use power
- Brisbane designed and manufactured batteries – red-earth
- Ray-Gen electricity generation