Early morning sunrise photography
Environment

Solar Energy in Australia

When visiting Germany in 2010, I was staggered to see solar panels on so many roofs and farms across the country, especially in the rural areas. It put my own country, Australia, to shame. Why?

sunrise photography

With plenty of strong sunlight year-round, Australia would presumably be at the forefront of engaging with solar technology early on, right? Especially when the solar cell was invented on these very shores.

Sadly, the answer was no. It wasn’t.

Coal Fired Power Generation in Australia

With its vast swathes of coal and fossil fuels, historically it has been far cheaper and easier for Australia, to mine coal and export surplus abroad, than to explore alternative energy sources.

In fact, around half the Australian economy depends on coal mining. This mammoth industry menas whole towns and cities are built around the economies of coal production and consequently, coal-fired power has been the electrical generation system of choice in Australia.

Yet it comes at a heavy price for the environment and our planet, as most of us already know.

Coal is becoming far less desirable as an energy source and has become a four-letter word in environmental circles. China, our biggest importer, no longer wants coal, as it turns its attention to the free energy source, the sun.

Solar Systems for the Home

At the Home by the Sea, we’ve just installed 17 new-tech Hyundai Solar panels – a 6.6 kW Solar system with a 5kw inverter. Our second home solar system.

solar panels on houses with sunrise

Previously, we had 14 panels producing 3.6 kW. Solar system technology has advanced to almost doubled the capacity and efficiency in ten years. When we first installed solar in 2011, it would take 3-5 years to pay back the installation price. Now we will pay it back through savings after the first 18 months!

Saving Trees and Reducing Coal and Carbon Dioxide Emissions

Today, a few weeks after installation, the “you-beaut” app, which is installed with our new solar energy system, tells us we have saved not only 40 trees but have also saved 280 kgs of coal and thus 280 kgs of carbon dioxide from being emitted into the atmosphere.

Solar power app

Amazing. Yay to that!

Rise in Solar Systems Installations in Australia

I do have a reason to celebrate, because last year, more than 1/4 of Australia’s total power generation came from solar power generation, much of it from small-scale homeowners, investing in solar systems to power their houses.

1 in 5 Australian homes now produce energy from solar systems. Yay!

And why not?

When our climate is conducive to solar power generation, almost 365 days a year.

In addition, 76 large-scale wind and solar projects are under construction, “representing more than 8 GW of new capacity and employing over 9000 Australian workers.”[source: cleanenergycouncil.org.au]

This surge in uptake has been boosted by Government rebates and ridiculous hikes in electricity bills for consumers making alternative technology more viable. Ironically, the coal and fossil fuel generation industry is clanging its death knell by trying to maintain its competitive edge by lobbying politicians and raising prices.

new houses with solar panels
Twelve more houses in the street have solar systems compared to last year

Looking around this year in my new suburb, it seems that the figure for home-based solar systems, in Australia, is more likely to be 1 in 2 or 3.

Australia’s home solar power revolution has been nothing short of phenomenal..in 2009, there were just 85,000 solar systems connected to the mains grid in Australia – and Australia’s first solar farm was yet to be built.

Fast forward to 2021 and more than 2.65 million solar panel systems have been installed on rooftops throughout the nation and gigawatts of large scale solar energy projects are in place, being developed or in the pipeline.

In fact, more solar panels have been installed on rooftops of homes in this country than there are people in Australia.

http://www.solarquotes.com.au/australia/

In 2019, the solar industry created over 13,000 new jobs. There is really no reason why certain politicians don’t get fully on board. It is the future energy source.

The table below has a few years of aberrant figures where exponential growth slowed. It correlates with some political decisions of a pro-fossil fuels and anti-renewables leader in Government trying hard to destroy the Solar industry and the renewable targets.

Source: http://www.solarquotes.com.au/australia/

YearSystems InstalledRunning Total
2001118 
2002251369
20036641,033
200410892,122
200514063,528
200611154,643
200734808,123
200814,06422,187
200962,91685,103
2010198,208283,311
2011360,745644,056
2012343,320987,376
2013200,4071,187,783
2014180,1391,367,922
2015141,4901,509,412
2016132,6771,642,089
2017174,7611,816,850
2018224,8382,0416,88
2019283,9522,325,861
2020333,9782,659,839

This repressed environmentalist is smiling a little more now.

#Weekly Smile

More about Solar Energy

snowy mountains
History & Traditions, Travel

Mirror Mirror on the Mountain

Norwegians are obsessed with sunlight. They talk about it endlessly and watch and wait in the New Year, for the light to come a little earlier each day heralding the onset of an early spring.

Obsessed?

Quite possibly. Most of us are familiar with the winter blues, associated lack of sunlight and how it can alter our bodily processes, mood, energy and appetite. Some of us might even know how our thyroid gland, melatonin and serotonin levels change in winter, explaining the physiological reason for tiredness and low mood.

According to Daniel Kripke, an emeritus professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, when melatonin strikes a region of the brain called the hypothalamus, this alters the synthesis of another hormone – active thyroid hormone – that regulates all sorts of behaviours and bodily processes.

Bright light – particularly in the early morning appears to reverse these symptoms.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

The winter darkness is harsh in the town of Rjukan, situated in one of Norway’s steepest valleys. More famous for heavy water production in World War II, for half a year, Ryukan is the town where the sun didn’t shine. That is, until something changed.

When the factory workers began to suffer from a lack of sun, Norsk Hydropower constructed a cable car to take them to the top of neighbouring Gaustatoppen, a mountain with a sheer 1,800-metre peak, so that workers could bathe in the sunlight!

Royalty free image

Imagine an employer taking such an action anywhere else in the world?

This was big.

Yet, this wasn’t enough for the town’s people.

I felt it very physically; I didn’t want to be in the shade.

Martin Andersen, Ryukan resident https://www.highbrowmagazine.com/10920-how-town-norway-copes-winter-depression

An idea was floated to use large rotatable mirrors on the northern side of the valley above Rjukan, to collect the sunlight and direct it down over the town.

It seemed crazy.

Martin Andersen thought differently.

He applied for and obtained a grant to develop a mirror that turns with the Sun while continually reflecting light into Rjukan town square.

Sunlight reflects off the three giant mirrors.
Photograph: The Guardian

Whilst only directing light into the town, for a maximum of two hours, in the darkest month of January, it has been well received by residents and Ryukan has a new tourist attraction.

Rjukan's market square basks in the light beamed down by the three mirrors.

“It’s the sun!” grins Ingrid Sparbo, disbelievingly, lifting her face to the light and closing her eyes against the glare. A retired secretary, Sparbo has lived all her life in Rjukan and says people “do sort of get used to the shade. You end up not thinking about it, really. But this … This is so warming. Not just physically, but mentally. It’s mentally warming.”

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/06/rjukan-sun-norway-town-mirrors

Overcoming Depression without the Sun

Tromso lies 400km north of the Arctic Circle. Many Norwegians take extra Vitamin D tablets but some Northern dwellers seem to have an edge without the need for tablets.

Winter in Tromso is dark – the Sun doesn’t even rise above the horizon between 21 November and 21 January. Yet strangely, despite its high latitude, studies have found no difference between rates of mental distress in winter and summer. One suggestion is that this apparent resistance to winter depression is genetic. Iceland similarly seems to buck the trend for SAD: it has a reported prevalence of 3.8%, which is lower than that of many countries farther south. And among Canadians of Icelandic descent living in the Canadian province Manitoba, the prevalence of SAD is approximately half that of non-Icelandic Canadians living in the same place.

“It sounds dismissively simple, but a more positive attitude really might help to ward off the winter blues.”

A Stanford University Researcher found that the farther north they went, the more positive people’s mindsets towards winter were. People there might rephrasing attitudes like, ‘I hate winter’ to ‘I prefer summer to winter’, or ‘I can’t do anything in winter’ to ‘It’s harder for me to do things in winter, but if I plan and put in the effort I can’.

In this regard, a person feels they exert some control over how they respond to the colder weather.

Have you ever suffered with the winter blues? What helped you overcome it?

Is the winter blues exacerbated by Covid-related lockdowns?

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beach
Environment

Can We Defeat Climate Change?

Our parents and grandparents say,

“Why blame us for global warming?”

They point out they never had all our cars, air conditioning, computers and devices.

That is true.

Ron Mueck
Ron Mueck Sculptures

However, it is not the damage of past generations so much as the story of the last thirty years and the speed of increase is concerning, as David Wallace-Wells points out:

Half of the all the emissions that have ever been produced from the burning of fossil fuels, in the entire history of humanity, have been produced in just the last thirty years.

More than in all the centuries and millennia before.

D.Wallace Wells

Wallace-Wells believes we are on the brink of catastrophe. He states this is not the work of our ancestors, it is more so the work of a single generation – his. [Despite this we are all responsible for the future.]

He also points out that it is a reflection of how much power we wield over this planet, so we can do something to help.

The obstacles may be enormous, but the main driver of global warming is human action and how much carbon we put into the atmosphere. And we can do something about that!

Because –

We will be writing the climate change story whether we like it or not.

Inaction is not a choice. I prefer alternatives and solutions.

Environmental Emissions Problems and Solutions

Photo by American Public Power Association on Unsplash

Problem: 2/3 of the carbon emissions can be attributed to the burning of fossil fuels!

Solution: Employ solar arrays or increase uptake of renewable energy sources. A sliver of Sahara Desert can absorb enough solar energy to power the world’s energy needs.

Problem: 2/3 of power generation is lost to waste heat so a new electric grid is needed.

Solution: Renewable energy the cheaper default for energy needs and are now cheaper than fossil fuels

350.org/why-a-managed-shift-away-from-fossil-fuels-is-essential-and-urgent-including-for-petrostates/

Problem: The fuel companies have political and lobbying power ans influence over policy and stocks and shares are invested heavily in coal and fossil fuel companies.

Solution: – Divest from fossil fuels eg. Was Macht Mein.De

Problem: Methane and Carbon emissions from agriculture.

Solution:Turn cattle producing farms into carbon sinks and feed cattle seaweed which will gives a 90% reduction of methane

Problem: Rising sea levels from Global warming melting polar ice caps

Solution: Build seawalls and levies to protect coastal areas

Problem: An alternative type of air travel that doesn’t produce carbon is needed.

Solution: ? Unknown

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

We hold the future of planet in our hands.

We won’t beat climate change – but we can modulate and live with it. The only obstacles to that are human ones.

Do YOU believe you can make a difference?

stpa logo
Community, Environment

The Future of Australia


Recently I had a discussion with another blogger and it highlighted to me how the bulk of Australian public opinion appears to differ greatly from the rest of the First World in the North.

Coal and Renewable Energy Sources

Australia could, and should be, a solar energy powerhouse of the world with our almost constant sunlight and extreme lack of rainfall, right?

It is not.

As India and China, the major markets for purchasing Australian coal, move towards solar and renewable energy sources, it makes good economic sense in the long term to utilize a raw material is FREE and infinite.

Early morning sunrise photography

Surely there must be a tipping point at which the Australia coal industry no longer becomes viable, yet some companies and politicians still support expansion of coal fired power generation. Will we see subsidized fossil fuel generation as a way to prop up employment?

Why? When there are alternatives.

The baseload power needed to support solar energy argument doesn’t make sense when it is solar that is putting more energy into the grid at times of peak demand. I am happy to hear otherwise along with hard evidence. Enlighten me.

For decades the coal industry has supplied power to Australian homes and so many jobs, towns and industry are heavily reliant on it. Past and present governments have been reluctant to invest in solar, due to vested interests who benefit from coal making large political donations.

Is it such a good idea to penalise those folk who choose to invest money in solar by making them pay for infrastructure? Infrastructure that actual makes power companies money by tax relief?

photo editing

I would love to see coal industries leading the charge to investing and promoting/converting to solar. Why not? Currently, we import solar cells from countries like – wait for it – Canada, Italy China and Germany! Canada and Germany are not exactly renowned as warm weather countries are they?

What madness is this?

Prior to moving to our Home by the Sea, we had a wonderful solar system with German solar panels, and Italian inverter and expertly installed by an Australian small business – providing jobs to Australia.

Original colour photo

Five years later, that same company had to close its doors and sack workers because the government initiated moves that caused extreme business uncertainty for companies in the Solar and Renewable energy sector, by reducing the incentives to Australian solar energy customers, thereby assisting the coal industry to further entrench reliance on itself by the energy grid and the monopoly they have enjoyed for years.

monochrome

Pariochial Thinking and Media Control

Foreigners often direct criticism at Americans for having “blinkers” and closed thinking. Meaning that they seem to have a lack of awareness of external issues, due to their media focus on internal matters. However Australians may also be guilty of inward thinking and thus, are far removed from the levels of environmental awareness and action found in the many parts of Europe, where using dirty coal is regarded with much derision. For example: Finland

Yet our Prime Minister seems certain burning coal is still kosher!

Be a leader!

Be Bold, Mr Morrison, P.M of Australia.

Have a vision for your country moving forward for the sake of your children!

Stand up to the Media Moghuls and radio shock jocks who claim they dictate Australian public policy and public opinion!

“We are striking because we have done our homework, and they have not.” – Greta Thunberg

Climate protest in Hamburg, Germany, 1 March 2019

I hear vehement criticism of Greta Thunberg in the hair salons and in the cafes and even by Australians, at backyard barbeques. It utterly shocks me that many Australians think she is some kind of spoilt child throwing an environmentally themed tantrum.

What has happened to my countrymen that they can be so narrow-minded as to criticize and poke fun at a child with a wish for a better future?

Time magazine didn’t think she was a climate brat; they nominated her as their person of the year for 2019.

Australians who deride Greta Thunberg, a child with a vision and the guts to speak out, disgust me, but then I think perhaps they have not had an opportunity to hear another opinion and don’t have the smarts to listen to information sources that are not mainstream.

bank climate change

How does one get through to this sector of the population if the media is so regulated by powerful self-serving interests?

The ageing population here is a hard line conservative group who favour stoic right wing governing with a touch of xenophobia. Compounding this and disappointingly, there seems to be a political swing away from the green movement by the middle income, middle aged voting cohorts. And this is happening when the young folk are much more environmentally aware than any of my peers.

Employment

Is it uncertainty over job security that drives this? Australia has always been so reliant on exporting its raw materials, that is has no manufacturing base to speak of. Research and the IT industry was beginning to develop until it was all but destroyed by government cutbacks.

computer
CC0 Creative Commons

I am unsure why.

On our final day of this decade, open your minds to new possibilities and new solutions, and cast away the hard line thinking of the past.

Happy New Year World.

A New Dawn is approaching.