Saving our planet 2021

Saving our Planet!

OK, I admit it. That is a big title. But also a big topic. So what do I mean?

Australia was recently named the country lagging behind every other country in the world for climate action. In a review of the 193 United Nations countries, Australia was ranked country 193. If you didn’t catch it then here are some sources:

Code Red Climate Warning Australia

Code Red Climate Warning Australia

Following on from that ‘walk of shame’ moment, this week the United Nations passed down a pivotal report indicating the following:

  • The planet is getting hotter
  • It is due to human activities
  • the rise in the past 50 years is bigger than any variation in the past 100,000 years
  • we probably have at most 5 years to address this
  • all fossil fuel based power generation must be terminated before 2030

So what is Australia doing?

Nothing seems to be the answer. None of it makes sense. The arguments seem to be:

  • We can’t afford to do anything
  • China and other developing nations are worse than us so we won’t do anything until they fix their issues
  • Renewables alone can’t be the answer so we will stick with coal
  • And tax or otherwise financially penalise renewable energy sources for generating useful environmentally friendly power
  • And can we force them to not provide any power to the grid at all? What a great idea!
  • We licensed power generation to the private sector so it isn’t a government problem any more
  • Technology will save us. Please, someone else invent it and give it to us for free, or at least very cheap.
  • If in doubt, see any of the points above rather than take meaningful action

The answer to clean energy

Whether they like it or not, governments are in the position of providing direction. And they need to. Other wise without leadership or a vision for the future all you have is the past and that is not good enough. And if the government isn’t in the position of picking winners, then by default they are picking losers.

Or as Einstein once said, “The solution to a problem requires better thinking than that which created the problem”.

So more of the same is a recipe for disaster.

And even the likes of Elon Musk and Bill Gates don’t have the revenue and resources to do it on their own. Nor should we all sit back and just watch and hope they can. Tesla is aimed at taking petrol off the road. But petrol isn’t the only polluter so we also see Tesla tackling primary renewable energy problems like storage (big batteries). So this is not business just for profit, but profitable business for the good of the planet. And intentionally so. I hope to see a lot more of this.

So I choose to be part of the solution. The alternative is to be part of the problem. So what can I do?

  • run an ethical business that contributes to the greater good
  • reduce, reuse and recycle in my business and at home as much as I can
  • reduce power consumption, petrol consumption, pollution as much as I can
  • speak up about the need for positive and responsible action

The down side

The United Nations report shows that not taking action might already be a disaster. And for one I don’t mind the news outlets pushing a story because it makes a good headline. As raising attention is part of the process of moving toward a position of deciding to act. Here are a few examples:

So that is just the Australia centric version and from a wide range of media outlets.

We design electronics products and ambient temperature is a factor in things like battery life. So we are aware that Australia is a hotter than average environment and take that into account when predicting things like battery life. It also affected incandescent bulb life when those were still the main source for lighting. So Australia is already very close to the 1.5°C tipping point for disaster being at 1.4°C already. Least action on the Climate Crisis and closest to disaster. Maybe some correlation there?

The United Nations report shows that the warming is definitely our doing and not an extreme but natural aberration. The graph below shows the gap between the observed and the margin for errors now makes it clear we are doing this to ourselves.

Human Influence is causing Climate Crisis

Human Influence is causing Climate Crisis

The up side

However we also have options and could act if we had the will to do so. Things in our favour are:

  • large land mass that is not densely populated
  • so lots of areas available for solar farms, wind farms, hydrogen generation plants etc.
  • lots or natural raw materials for making batteries, renewable power generators, semiconductors
  • and as a geologically stable continent we would be an excellent place to make semiconductors which would also fit the sovereign capability argument
  • surrounded by sea so tidal and wave power are also options
  • modern cities with good sanitation and other amenities
  • we are rich by world standards so we also have financial resources ie. we can afford to. In fact, we can’t afford not to!

We don’t have a lot of water so hydroelectricity is not going to be the major contributor to the solution but can still be in the mix. And overseas we have seen gravity used as a source of potential energy storage by lifting weights up mountains or using old mine shafts. As the flattest continent on earth this is also limited but we should be using every good idea available.

From my perspective we should be considering:

  • making batteries here rather than shipping materials to China
  • making semiconductors and other critical items needed to do electronic controls for power generation and power management
  • researching new energy generation and storage technologies
  • taking the lead in solutions

And that is just in the energy side of the equation. There is also food production, packaging, transport and materials in general to consider so lots of room for invention, innovation, solutions and contribution across the board.

So while this is a big problem, we Aussies are adventurous and have shown we will take on challenges others might shrink back from. I for one, hope we take on the climate emergency and show the world we really are prepared to be part of the solution and not just part of the problem.

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development, focusing on products that are intended to be Made In AustraliaRay Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for more than 30 years.

You can also follow us on LinkedInFacebook and Twitter.

This post is Copyright © 2021 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd

Renewable Energy Cleans Up Coal


Renewable Energy On The Rise

Renewable Energy is having a big impact all over the world. I was particularly pleased to hear that a new deal on energy prices in the USA offered solar electricity generation at $0.0199 per kWh and electric energy from storage batteries at $0.013.

You can read the details for yourself at Coal Gas On Notice.

Los Angeles at night

So that is a big deal because at that price point PV Solar with storage is now cheaper than coal.


The Future of Solar

The Future of Solar is bright. Yes, pun intended. But there are a lot of projects running and 2019 is shaping up to be another record year for solar electric installations in Australia.

Solar electricity generation in Australia

And there are technical breakthroughs on the horizon as researchers look at stacking cells to harvest more energy from the same photons, and also increasing single solar cell efficiency by splitting photons before they hit the cell.

Solar Cell efficiency rises due to tetracene coatings that split the energy in photons


Electric Vehicles

Electric Vehicles continue development with plenty of offers now on the table or about to be released. A new move from Swedish firm Uniti is the release of a a 2 person all electric vehicle with a range of over 300Km and a proposal to build them in Adelaide for a sale price of $20,000. The Uniti One is expected to be on the market in 2020 with early adopters able to sign up now.

Uniti One all electric 2 seater vehicle

For more information about electric vehicles go to The Driven.

For more information on the environment and renewable energy go to Renew Economy.


Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development, focusing on products that are intended to be Made In AustraliaRay Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for more than 30 years.


You can also follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.


This post is Copyright © 2021 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

Electricity Grid 2.0

What if we could start again

In the days when DC converters didn’t exist, it made sense to base our electrical distribution system on transformers and AC voltage level shifting. It still makes sense to distribute at high voltage where resistive losses in the wires are a smaller issue than they are at lower voltages. But if we were starting again, what would that look like?

 

The Grid From The Ground Up

A new approach to electricity distribution

A new formula for electrical distribution

IEEE Spectrum have published the results of discussion on just this topic and it caught my eye. We develop products for high voltage distribution including switch gear and power factor correction controllers so I also have personal knowledge of what goes into those. The full article is at The Grid From The Ground Up – What If We Could Do It Again?

 

A summary of the core issues we could resolve are covered below.

 

High Voltage Direct Current Transmission

Use High Voltage Direct Current, or HVDC, as the transmission standard. This is now possible whereas 100 years ago it was not. As much as anything this is a legacy issue. The electricity link between Tasmania and Victoria that runs under Bass Straight uses this technology for instance.

 

High Voltage Direct Current Distribution

HVDC Distribution

Renewables at any level

And we would design it to cope with any level of Renewable Energy sources. This is one of the inhibiting factors for the use of fluctuating energy sources and traditionally it was considered that 8% was the maximum you could have. Germany recently showed this wasn’t the case with a German Renewable Power Contribution of 59%. There is still plenty of work to do but this is an example that some of the old paradigms are not absolute limits after all.

 

Sources of Renewable Energy

Renewable Energy Sources

Resilience

Another issue is the robustness or Resilience of the grid. This refers to the ability of the grid to recover from transients and faults. The Northeast Blackout of 2003 showed that a lack of Resilience is a major weakness. If you aren’t familiar with the incident then check out the following short video on what happened and wider implications for not having Resilience.

 

Regardless of the source of the issue, we have to be able to quickly isolate faults and not lose complete grid control. A Resilient grid is a must.

 

Communication

This is one of the things needed for Resilience. All generation and transmission facilities should be able to communicate so that the system can be coordinated. This is sometimes referred to as the Smart Grid and a lot of work has been done to create robust, widespread and secure communications to measure and control the operation of the Electricity Grid. One example is DNP3 which is widely used by Power Factor Correction Controllers, Reclosers, Sectionalisers, RTUs and control systems to monitor and manage the Electricity Grid.

 

An example of a DNP3 enabled device is the ABB CQ900R Power Factor Correction Controller which for which we received the Industrial Electronics Future Award in 2011.

 

ABB CQ900R Smart Controller

ABB CQ900R Smart Controller with DNP3

 

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development. Ray Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for nearly 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2014 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

Electronics Design for Green Manufacture?

Electronics Design for Green Manufacture

This is not as straight forward a topic as it might at first seem to be. And this is because there isn’t yet a unified agreement on exactly what Green Manufacture means. And like most Design Issues, you cannot do Electronics Design without clear requirements. So what are the requirements?

 

Here are some Green Manufacture requirements or targets:

  • reduce product Power Consumption
  • reduce manufacturing Power Consumption
  • add Renewable Energy options to the product
  • add Renewable Energy options to the manufacture process
  • reduce pollution or waste in the manufacture process
  • reduce energy involved in upstream or downstream processes
  • reduce pollution or waste in the upstream or downstream processes
  • increase product life
  • increase product utility
  • increase manufacturing plant utilisation

I guess you can see the dilemma. It can be hard to know which target to aim for. Am I doing the Electronics Design with the product, process, life cycle or ecosystem issues as the primary concern? And how do I balance these concerns.

 

Electronics Design can be Green

One major thing we can do is reduce the product Power Consumption. We are coming out of a phase where a mains plug pack power supply was considered an ideal way to avoid compliance costs when designing new products. This has led to a proliferation of low efficiency always on powered devices. A recent look under my desk reveals the problem we have as Product Developers where every device I use is either USB Powered or mains plug pack powered.

 

So a first step is to review this whole approach to supplying power to devices. We have made steady gains in the area of Power Consumption reduction for the devices themselves. Now it is time to do a similar thing on the Power Supply side.

 

Energy Harvesting

This is a new area that hasn’t yet reached mainstream development. The idea is that you can utilise the ambient environment to get power for free. Or at least you aren’t directly requiring extra Power Generation. Hence the name, Energy Harvesting.

 

How you do it and the Electronics Design and Electronics Technology required to make it work are still being defined but there has been some interesting new progress. Some key players are:

 

Linear Technology

 

Enocean

 

What is Energy Harvesting?

This is where we use Electronics Design and Electronics Devices to generate power from the Ambient Environment. The result is a product that doesn’t need to be plugged in and recharges itself automatically. Some of the Energy Sources that are used are:

  • Light
  • Thermal differentials
  • Vibration
  • Chemistry
  • Pressure differentials
  • Air Flow

One example of a product that does this is the Enocean Light Switch where you can just put it where you want it. And if you change your mind, just move it. Now wiring required.

 

Right now the technology is still more expensive and so take up is slow. But as it develops and the price comes down that will change.

 

We are in for some interesting times.

 

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.