Listening to the debate on renewable energy in Australia, one could be mistaken for thinking that the idea of integrating wind and solar into our existing electrical infrastructure is pure lunacy. “When the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine, well the power doesn’t flow,” Prime Minister Tony Abbott has notoriously but rather misleadingly observed. The insinuation in his statement is that, while wind and solar might be nice, they certainly can’t be reliable.
While technically true in a narrow way, his statement reveals a lack of imagination and a certain complacency: why bother rising to a worthy challenge? Furthermore, it indicates that he hasn’t done his homework. In fact, right here in the country he currently leads, a government body – the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) – has funded a study that details no less than 176 instances of the integration of renewables into the grid.
The report, undertaken by Marchment Hill Consulting and released last August, is called “Integrating Renewables Into the Grid: Stocktake Project“, details 116 studies, trial and demo projects involving renewables from around Australia plus another 60 from abroad. Each one is analysed to determine its potential relevance for informing future decision-making for other renewable energy projects in Australia.
Marchment Hill admits off the bat that there is ‘no easy road’ for transitioning to 100% renewable or mostly renewable energy sources. The challenges that stand in the way are not only technical but also economic. But if there’s anything to take away from the sheer number, it’s that there is learning going on.
An article by Marchment Hill examines three of the more interesting and relevant projects in detail from the report, looking at what makes each one special and what Australia could learn from it. They are: the eTelligence program in the Cuxhaven region of Germany (which was already generating 50% of its electricity from renewables by 2008), the Jeju Island Smart Renewable Project in Korea (where a ‘smart renewables’ pilot program is underway with the aim of reducing carbon emissions), and the Orkney Island Smart Grid in Scottland (where locals found innovative ways to hook more wind power up to their local grid).
© 2015 Solar Choice Pty Ltd