From building materials to large-scale energy generation plants, the thrust towards a clean energy revolution is taking many forms. Here are just some of the projects that are making a big impact:
Solar panels aren’t the only way to turn your roof into a power-generating station. Researchers in?ETH Zurich, Switzerland?have devised a concrete roof that can generate solar energy.?The self-supporting roof contains a thin layer of photovoltaic cells. It also contains a layer of insulation and temperature-regulating coils. All this combines to allow the roof to generate and store solar energy.
Solar power is fine when the weather is good, but what happens on rainy days? A newly designed form of hybrid solar cell is seeking to generate energy not only from the sun, but also from raindrops. Research published in?ACS Nano?in March of this year revealed that triboelectric nanogenerators (or TENG) could be the answer we’ve been looking for. TENGs can utilize the kinetic energy of raindrops hitting the surface of the panels to generate energy, even when the sun isn’t out. This could pave the way for widespread use of hybrid cells in the future.
Powering your home with roof-mounted solar panels is one thing, but what if the exterior walls of your home could generate electricity? Scientists from?RMIT in Australia?have devised a solar paint that can convert water and sunlight into usable hydrogen, which can be used to generate power. The paint contains titanium dioxide, which absorbs solar energy and moisture. It then breaks down the moisture into hydrogen and oxygen. Once a structure is painted with the paint, it effectively becomes a hydrogen energy plant. The paint is expected to be available commercially in the next 5 years.
Every day we’re wasting energy without even realizing it. When your laptop becomes warm, or when your phone heats up during a charge, that heat is an indication of wasted energy. With this in mind, engineers at the?University of California, Berkeley, devised a device that could convert this wasted energy back into usable power. The device is a thin film that can harvest the energy from heat and make it usable again. It’s a stunning breakthrough, that has the potential to make our devices more energy-efficient.
In November of last year, scientists at?Imperial College London?devised a wallpaper that could generate and store energy. The innovative interior decorating material was made using circuitry and cytobacteria, which were printed using a standard inkjet printer. The cytobacteria in the ink perform photosynthesis, which generates the energy in the wallpaper. Though the energy generated from photosynthesis is relatively low in volume, the scientists behind the project feel that there’s a lot of potential for projects like this and other examples of bio-solar energy.
In April of this year,?CalTech scientists?developed bacteria that could create energy-packed carbon structures. These carbon structures could then provide the foundations for other materials. What makes this breakthrough exciting is its potential in cleaning up the chemical manufacturing process. Scientists believe that we could soon have the ability to “program” bacteria to create chemical compounds, without the need to build chemical plants that are harmful to the environment.
Scientists at?Washington State University?have found a way to convert the heat from car exhausts into usable energy. This represents a huge breakthrough in the field of thermoelectrics, which seeks to convert different heat sources into electricity. While storage is still an issue, this opens the door for a whole new avenue of clean energy production.
Last year saw the official launch of Scotland’s?Hywind Project, the first floating windfarm to successfully generate energy. The project hopes to power 20,000 homes and is part of a broader Statoil initiative in the UK to power as many as 650,000 homes total. The turbines are held in place with chains, submerged under the water. Floating installations like Hywind provide the possibility of wind farms to areas where fixed bottom installations aren’t possible. This means that wind farms and wind energy can become more accessible and readily available across the globe.
Not such positive news:
An international research project has revealed the highest levels of microplastic ever recorded on the seafloor, with up to 1.9 million pieces in a thin layer covering just 1 square metre.
Over 10 million tons of plastic waste enters the oceans each year. FLOATING PLASTIC WASTE at sea has caught the public’s interest thanks to the ‘Blue Planet Effect’ seeing moves to discourage the use of plastic drinking straws and carrier bags. Yet such accumulations account for less than 1% of the plastic that enters the world’s oceans.
The missing 99% is instead thought to occur in the deep ocean, but until now it has been unclear where it actually ended up. Deep-sea currents act as conveyor belts, transporting tiny plastic fragments and fibres across the seafloor. These currents can concentrate microplastics within huge sediment accumulations, which they termed ‘microplastic hotspots’. These hotspots appear to be the deep-sea equivalents of the so-called ‘garbage patches’ formed by currents on the ocean surface.
Microplastics on the seafloor are mainly comprised of fibres from textiles and clothing. These are not effectively filtered out in domestic wastewater treatment plants, and easily enter rivers and oceans. In the ocean they either settle out slowly or can be transported rapidly by episodic turbidity currents (powerful underwater avalanches) that travel down submarine canyons to the deep seafloor. Once in the deep sea, microplastics are readily picked up and carried by continuously flowing seafloor currents (‘bottom currents’) that can preferentially concentrate fibres and fragments within large drifts of sediment.
The first round of payments under the Morrison government?s $130 billion JobKeeker scheme is set to start flowing this week, a little over a month after the program was first announced.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg issued a legislative instrument last Friday giving effect to several changes to wage subsidy rules announced late last month, while the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has continued to publish guidance for firms enrolling.
A timeline of so-called ?JobKeeper fortnights? is now available on the ATO?s website, including a list of key dates for employers over the life of the program.
Meanwhile, the ATO has also published new guidance on how firms accepted into JobKeeper can make their mandatory monthly declarations (https://www.ato.gov.au/general/jobkeeper-payment/).
Eco-tip for the day ? Heating tips
- Flued gas heaters and reverse-cycle single/multi splits are cheaper to run than electric heaters, producing less greenhouse gases. Unflued gas heaters cause indoor air pollution in your home!
- Ducted central gas heating systems use gas as the energy source.
- Reverse-cycle air conditioners (for cooling and heating) are the most energy efficient type of electric heater.
- Transfer fans to direct air to untreated parts of your home. They can be cost-effective to install and low-cost to run.
- Electric portable heaters are cheap to buy but expensive to run.
- In-slab floor heating (electric), are the most expensive to run.
- Some units are noisy in operation. Split systems (where the compressor is outside) are quieter inside but consider your neighbours when using
- Reverse cycle models can be used for heating. Units that use electric heating elements (in places like the Blue Mountains or Canberra) cost more to run and produce more greenhouse gases
- Adjust louvers to point hot air down towards the floor
- On ducted systems, install zones so only rooms requiring heating are warmed.
- Make sure the systems have features such as thermostat and timer control.
- Never set the thermostat at a temperature higher than required. Aim to set the thermostat as low as possible.
- Do not leave the heating system on overnight or when you are out. If you must, ensure you have a timer and turn your system on about 15 – 30 minutes prior to your return.
- Locate thermostats in the most used rooms and away from sources of cold.
- Maintain your heating system. Clean filters regularly.
- Close windows and doors in areas where a heater or air conditioner is on unless ventilation is required for un-flued gas appliances.
- Close drapes and blinds, ?NO IFS OR BUTS?.
- Each degree of extra heating in winter will increase energy consumption by 5 to 10 per cent. Set the thermostat to 21?C in winter.
- Dress appropriately for the weather. Putting on a sweater is better than turning the heater up.
Share watch ? Hexagon Resources (HXG:ASX)
In 2019 Hexagon Resources joint ventured with private Canadian company, Innovation Metals Corp (IMC) to commercialise its RapidSXTM?approach to REE separation.? IMC is the developer of the Rapid SX??process, which is faster, cheaper and less capital intensive than traditional Solvent Extraction (SX) technology used in China and responsible for over 95% of global REE separation.?On 25 April 2020, Hexagon acquired IMC for US million.
Rapid SX??has the potential to ensure more diversity of global REE supply, to make previously uneconomic energy materials projects more commercially viable and create greater market transparency for global energy materials customers.
Hexagon?s business strategy is to develop a North American-based business, through IMC, focusing on commercialising the Rapid SX???technology to generate a fast-track to cash flow.
The first step is to complete the development of the Commercial Demonstration Plant (CDP) in North America so that it is available for potential clients to test on their REE materials.? The CDP is planned to be available in Q3 2020.
With China processing over 85% of the global supply of REE and controlling 100% of global graphite battery anode production, there is a clear and strategic need to create greater supply chain diversity and transparency in the global energy materials processing sector.? This has become an issue of strategic significance to the United States government.
Hexagon Resources other activities include graphite mining (with projected downstream processing) and base metal exploration (gold and base metals). Its McIntosh Project is a large-scale, high quality flake graphite deposit located in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. JORC Mineral Resources for the project currently stand at 23.8 million tonnes (Mt) grading 4.5 per cent total graphite carbon (TGC) for 1.1 million contained tonnes.
Whilst the one-year graph shows a 45.39% decline in share price, the company has sound prospects, particularly with the coronavirus political fallout. The five-year graph shows the share high spots towards the 30-cent region, contrasting with the closing price of $0.71 yesterday.
Share watch update
Australian energy storage company Redflow says the third generation of its zinc-bromine flow battery is expected to deliver at least 30% in production cost reductions compared to the current model. In its quarterly results update this week, Redflow said it was making the most of Covid-19 enforced down-time to focus on developing ?Gen 3? of the 10kWh ZMB battery, including a new stack design, new electronics board and an updated tank design.
Managing director Tim Harris said the changes in engineering and design were expected to result in higher quality, lower cost batteries, and pave the way for volume manufacturing at a competitive price point.
?Gen 3 is all about putting Redflow on the pathway towards a sustainable, vibrant volume manufacturing business,? Harris said in a video presentation.
?We do expect this engineering work to deliver at least 30% cost reductions versus our current model at reasonable volumes.?
Harris said the key changes included moving to a single stack design that required fewer materials and parts than the current two-stack model, and to a more ?robust? tank design that would also reduce costs and boost ease of manufacturing.
He said the company?s current goal was to initiate customer trials with the Gen 3 battery solution by the end of the year. On the company?s results for the quarter, he continued that Redlfow?s sales were up 166% to $1.73 million for the nine months to 31 March 2020 (9 months to 31 March 2019: $0.65 million), reflecting conversion of existing orders and new sales.
Harris said the quarter had included some ?great customer wins,? including the off-grid solution the company had?installed at a farming property in Western Australia. ?We continue to explore opportunities for rural deployments and mini grids while actively supporting our key partners in Australia and other markets,? a company statement said.
?Redflow retains healthy levels of battery inventory for immediate delivery from its Thailand manufacturing facility as well as in our main markets of South Africa and Australia to mitigate potential impacts from COVID-19,? he said.
The VIX fear gauge is up 1.72 points since Friday EST to 35.97.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average has had a net fall since last Friday EST of 595.96 points or 2.45% to 23,749.76, the STOXX 600 down 11.59 points or 3.41% to 328.44 and the Shanghai Composite index unchanged by coincidence at 2,860.08.
Gold down to 1,692.30. US 10-year Treasury Bonds on 0.641 and oil up to 21.18. Cryptos climbing again as a perceived safe-haven, with Bitcoin up 151.91 since Friday or 1.73% to 8.940.95.
ASX 200 down 202.60 points or 3.68% from Tuesday to 5,522.40. The Aussie dollar down slightly to 64.26 US cents.
Eco Market Spot Prices
Sources:?RenewEconomy, demandmanager,? Reuters, SMH, Market Watch, greenglobaltravel