Griffith Hack Clean & Sustainable Technologies

LA to ditch Coal by Justin Blows
November 26, 2009, 8:19 am
Filed under: Feature

The mayor of Los Angeles plans to stop LA using electricity from coal by 2020.

Here is a link to short video on the story:

Justin Blows


Costs of solar drops by half by Justin Blows
November 25, 2009, 7:56 am
Filed under: Feature

According to this report, the cost of solar energy will halve by the end of 2009.

Justin Blows

Australian biofuel centre opens by Justin Blows
November 23, 2009, 3:37 pm
Filed under: Feature | Tags: ,

A Photobioreactor Facility has opened at West Beach, Adelaide. The $5 million facility will be used to foster R&D into microalgal biofuels and will be available to researchers on a national and international basis.

More details here.

Justin Blows

Clean coal to triumph over renewables? by Justin Blows
November 23, 2009, 12:25 pm
Filed under: Feature | Tags: ,

A secret report written for the NSW government and leaked to the press argues that renewables are unlikely to be able to compete with clean coal, even at a carbon price of $100 / tonne.

The report does not state what sort of clean coal technology is considered, however, the author of the report, Richard Hunwick, has presented on the permanent disposal of carbon dioxide using silicate minerals.

The report advocates the building of a new coal fired power station in NSW.

The report finds that in 2015, with a $50 per tonne carbon tax, electricity produced from a state-of-the-art coal-fired power station in NSW would, at about $80 per megawatt hour, still be cheaper than wind ($115 per MWh) or solar ($130 per MWh).

The report states that:

With the application of modern technology and with suitable encouragement, stick as well as carrot, coal can continue to maintain its competitive advantage as a fuel for power generation for several decades to come, and do so in an essentially sustainable manner

Recently, Dr Paul Golby, chief executive of E.ON UK was reported as insisting that clean coal was a “critical, crucial technology”, but raised doubts about its current viability.

The energy giant E.ON recently delayed its flagship Kingsnorth trial carbon capture and storage plant for two to three years.

TheFederal Opposition’s emissions trading spokesman, Ian Macfarlane, has been reported as saying that clean coal technology has passed Australia by and will probably never work.

The question is, will governments provide the incentives to make clean coal viable?

Justin Blows

Policy dithering stifling investment in Cleantech by Justin Blows
November 19, 2009, 8:33 am
Filed under: Feature

According to this report, there is a danger that nations like Australia will be locked into dirty technologies because the signals for investing in clean technologies are weak.

Achim Steiner, the head of the UN environment programme, said: “Far more worrying [than formally ratifying a climate treaty] is that every month we delay we send a ambiguous signal into the world economy, the markets, investors and R&D.”

Justin Blows

29 patent applications filed for Li-ion battery that does not explode by Justin Blows
November 16, 2009, 7:30 am
Filed under: Feature | Tags: , , ,

According to this report, the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), Taiwan’s national research organization has applied for 29 patents in the United States, Taiwan, Korea, China and Japan for a new technology to prevent lithium-ion batteries from catching fire or exploding.

This problem is seen by many a reason not to use the technology in electric vehicles, for example.

Apparently, from 2003 to 2005 more than 300 incidents occurred involving lithium-ion laptop and cell-phone batteries overheating or catching fire. Many of the incidents involved personal injury.

This potential problem with lithium-ion batteries is multiplied by the thousands in vehicles. In the case of Tesla Motors’ car, for example, almost 7,000 batteries are packed behind the passenger compartment to power the car.

When lithium-ion batteries develop internal shorts they can quickly heat up to as much as 500 degrees centigrade (932 degrees Fahrenheit) and catch fire or explode.

The invention sits between the positive and negative sides of the battery and when the battery hits 130 degrees centigrade (266 degrees Fahrenheit), it transforms from a porous material to a film and shuts down the reaction.

Justin Blows

Wind power innovation and patents in Australia – blown away by imported technology? by Griffith Hack
November 12, 2009, 1:35 pm
Filed under: Feature

Wind power is frequently touted being able to contribute to green power production in Australia, and a $2.2 billion wind farm is being planned for near Broken Hill in New South Wales.  This privately funded wind farm could include up 598 wind turbines.  There is also potential for offshore wind farms that might for example take advantage of the strong winds in the Bass Strait.

But does Australia have the capability to develop key technologies in this area, or will imported technologies dominate?  One means of answering this question is to look at overall trends for Australian patents filed for wind power related technologies in recent years, Figure 1.

Figure 1 - Wind Power Patents Filed in Australia 2003-2008

The results show that:

  • The overall number of wind power patents appears to be falling.  This suggests a mature technology.  This is not surprising – wind power has been around for a while, and many of the key technical issues have been resolved.
  • A relatively low proportion (8%) of these patents are filed by Australian applicants.  This is less than the 14% of Australian patents filed for all types of technology over the same period.  In other words, Australia is underperforming in wind power innovation.

But which countries and companies are performing well?  This is answered by Figures 2 and 3, which show that:

  • Germany, Denmark and the US are the leading countries.
  • Aloys Wobben, Vestas and General Electric are the leading companies.

Figure 2 - Source of Australian Windpower Patents 2003-2008 (Leading Countries)

Figure 3 - Leading Windpower Patent Applications in Australia 2003-2008

So is all over for Australian wind innovation?  Possibly.  However the next generation of technologies for wind power appear to relate to the installation of wind turbines in deep offshore sites, where the wind is generally stronger and more consistent.  Such as the Bass Strait for example, which besides being windy, is not too far from the existing extensive energy infrastructure in Victoria’s La Trobe valley.  Placing wind turbines offshore creates significant maintenance and other engineering issues which will require new innovations to overcome.  This may create an opportunity for Australian companies to carve their own niche in this wind technology.  Only time will tell how successful Australian companies will be at this – but if Australian companies are able to take advantage of this opportunity, this will likely show up in patent filing data.

– Mike Lloyd