Alternative Energy Manufacturing Opportunities in Australia

This post is a summary of an article I wrote for the  AMTIL Australian Manufacturing Technology magazine.


And here is a picture taken of a Solar Systems concentrated Solar Power Dish. We were involved in software upgrades to the dish controller. It produced 114KWhr of power on an August day at Fosterville, near Bendigo and this picture was taken on that day.

Solar Systems Dish on sun at Fosterville

Energy Storage

The biggest issue with electricity is that it is hard to store. The Electrical Grid delivers power on demand and manages the generators to maintain the frequency and voltage while delivering the required power to satisfy the demand. Quite a juggling act. And while there are schemes like the Snowy Mountains Hydro where we can pump water uphill to consume power then let it flow downhills and run turbines to produce power, most power is managed at the generator directly.


Wind Power, Solar Photo Voltaic and Solar Concentrated are the primary renewable energy sources we will look at here, and they all provide a fluctuating supply. You can’t easily crank them up or down with the demand. So we still need a base supply to do the balancing act. Depending on our approach, it is estimated that the limit for these fluctuating supply types is between 8% and 30% of the total grid capacity.



Carbon Footprint

This represents how much carbon is releases into the atmosphere for a particular activity. The top emitters of carbon are:

  • livestock, principally sheep and cattle
  • power generation
  • transport (road, rail, air, sea)
  • industrial processes
  • land clearing, deforestation and agriculture

In Australia, 50% of our emissions come from power generation as we use a lot of brown coal which also happens to be one of the most polluting ways to generate power on mass. This is followed closely by transport. So you can see why power generation and transport are primary focuses for improving our carbon footprint.


There are only a few ways to improve this. These are:

  1. use less power – which creates the opportunity for more energy efficient devices to be created or alternative ways of doing things such as the use of smarter appliances that conserve energy use or even cooperate with the grid to use power at the best possible time
  2. reuse existing energy – heat exchangers in air conditioning systems are an example of this
  3. create energy in more efficient ways – new generator technologies or moving from dirtier sources to cleaner sources
  4. create energy in ways that does not use carbon, or uses a lot less of it

Because in Australia the creation of electricity is our primary source of greenhouse emissions we will focus on this area for the rest of the article.


Australia is ranked 5th in overall greenhouse gas emissions per capita and we are the highest per capita emitter of the industrialised nations so it is in our interest to develop alternatives to our current high emitting energy infrastructure. This is also where some major manufacturing opportunities arise for Australian industries.



Australian Manufacturing Opportunities

One of the leading contributors to greenhouse gas emissions is sea freight. So the classic Australian model of digging it up, shipping it overseas and shipping value added goods or materials back is a poor strategy when you consider the greenhouse gases produced. There will be an increasing advantage of doing the value add locally when reducing the total carbon footprint becomes important.


Here are some examples of successful local manufacture of alternative energy products in Australia today. This is a very cursory list:

  • Australian Solar Manufacturing is importing silicon cells and manufacturing complete TUV approved panels in Hallam, Victoria.
  • Solar Systems are world leaders in concentrated solar silicon photovoltaics and are putting together the world’s largest concentrated solar electric facility in Mildura.
  • Latronics and Solar Energy Australia both locally manufacture grid tied central inverters

Here are some opportunities to consider in the near future. This is just scratching the surface:

  • BP Solar are working with the CSIRO on deep discharge lead acid batteries for use in energy storage for remote solar installations. This will lead to new battery technology and new manufacturing opportunities.
  • CSIRO are world leaders in organic photovoltaics and organic semiconductors. VICOSC is established to commercial the organic photovoltaics and there will be many opportunities that come from this initiative.
  • Existing mounting and installation hardware for photovoltaics is labour intensive to use. There are opportunities for smarter and more elegant systems to make installation more modular and straight forward. This can work with local or imported panels.
  • Most grid connected inverters are imported but there are concerns about both build quality and whether they are all compliant with Australian Standards. The world market for inverters is set to grow by a factor of 10 over the next 5 years so there are also export opportunities.
  • Biofuels will become increasingly more important and there will be many opportunities related to this at both the production and consumption end of the process.

As you can see from the list, there are opportunities in both the core technology manufacture and also in the supporting systems and hardware.


Ray Keefe has been developing high quality and market leading electronics products in Australia for nearly 30 years. For more information go to his LinkedIn profile at Ray Keefe. This post is Copyright © 2011 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

Green Electronics Strategies – Reducing Power Consumption

What is so good about Low Power Electronics?


If you read my last post, you would have noticed that this has the potential to reduce overall Power Requirements. Up until now, only Battery Operated Devices have really cared about Power Consumption. If you could plug it into a wall outlet then all was OK unless you were consuming more power than a standard circuit allowed.


Today, things are different. Climate Change is a global concern and reducing the Carbon Footprint for a product is important, regardless of what sort of power it consumes.


If we can reduce the Power Consumption of an appliance by 50%, then provided its Electronics Manufacture does not add that back again, we have a net Carbon Footprint gain. In fact, if we can do this across all products then we will meet our Global Carbon Reduction target of 50% by 2050 with this strategy alone.



How to reduce Electronics Power Consumption

This is not a new topic, and much of what I present here represents the combined experience of the Electronics and Embedded Software industry. Here is the short list:

  • reduce the Supply Voltage for Microcontrollers, Microprocessors and CMOS Circuits in general
  • use Sleep Modes and keep the Wake Periods as short as possible
  • replace High Power Consumption Devices with Low Power Consumption Devices
  • replace high utilisation Digital Filters with Analogue Electronics equivalents
  • replace Polled Operating Modes with Event Driven Operating Modes
  • use Low Power Smart Peripherals that Wake the rest of the System only when required
  • reduce the Time To Wake and the Time To Sleep
  • optimise the Software Execution Flow
  • use Energy Harvesting
  • Remove power from sections of Electronics Circuitry when not in use

There is overlap and interdependency between these but that is a good starting point.


Next I will start look at specific examples.


Ray Keefe has been developing high quality and market leading electronics products in Australia for nearly 30 years. For more information go to his LinkedIn profile. This post is Copyright © Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.



Low Power Electronics

Low Power Electronics is a Green Strategy

There are 2 ways to reduce your Carbon Footprint. The first is to get the same power from a Green Power Source that reduces the Carbon Footprint at the power generation phase. This is where Wind Power, PV PhotoVoltaics, Wave Power, Geothermal Power and other such technologies come in.


Wind Power Generator

Wind Power Generator

The second way is to use less power from the same source, which is a Power Reduction Strategy. This is a bit different to the concept outlined in Unlimited Wealth by Paul Zane Pilzer where he shows that we keep finding ways to meet the expansion needs of the future. That is also happening. The ‘use less power’ approach is about getting more from the existing. The great thing about this is that you can effect a reduction in you Carbon Footprint independent of the Power Generators and so this strategy can run ahead of large scale system changes.


First you have to have a baseline to measure from. This will become critical for businesses that must show Carbon Footprint reductions once legislation in this area is brought in around the world. The issue isn’t if, but when this happens, and what the specific details are. Carbon Trading is an interim measure that allows money to be made off the problem while not actually ensuring there is real progress. Eventually significant net reductions must happen.


Carbon Footprint Reduction

So reducing the Electronic Power Requirements for Electronic Devices is a primary Green Strategy for reducing your Carbon Footprint. For a complete system the calculation is of course much more complicated. The survey above is aimed at households but the principle is the same. A true Carbon Reduction Strategy requires you to consider not only your own operation but upstream and downstream operations as well.


This is of course only one strategy and we will look at others in the near future. But for my next post I’ll concentrate on design techniques for Reducing Power Consumption in Electronic Appliances so that they become Low Power Electronics Appliances and help to reduce the overall Carbon Footprint.


Ray Keefe has been developing high quality and market leading electronics products in Australia for nearly 30 years. For more information go to his LinkedIn profile. This post is Copyright © Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.