Tag Archives: renewables

Which has the Best Sound: Formula E or Formula 1? Judge for Yourself…

I can still recall a ‘discussion’ I had 20 years ago with someone who insisted that F1 car racing was good for the environment ‘because the advances in technology make all cars more efficient’. To me that was a bit like telling the Neanderthals that perhaps if they just ate a little bit less they might not go extinct so quickly.

Jump to the present day and we are finally in the midst of a step change – Formula E racing… ‘E’ = Electric.

I got drawn into a conversation last week about some new electric McLaren model that was being tested – and believe me it’s a challenge to draw me into discussions about cars. But I thought ‘wouldn’t it be cool if there was a global Grand Prix circuit for Electric F1?’. Would be great to promote innovation in zero emissions vehicles.

So like all of my good ideas I Googled it and discovered that someone’s already thought of it, and indeed the inaugural Formula E starts this year in Beijing, touring 10 of the world’s cities. Sadly Australia isn’t on the circuit (lost opportunity?).

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And like all good innovations in technology there comes a time when our culture is tested. For this one it’s the ‘grunt’, the sheer thrilling sound of an F1 engine. How could a Formula-e possibly equate and will it sell tickets? Well, apparently the rules for F1 engines changed this year, making them quieter [hybrid petrol-electric engine]. And from recent test drives of the F-e cars the power is still there and the torque even better. But the sound… well, difficult to describe but I came across a quote from Gizmodo that fits;

The combination of tyre road noise, electric motor whine and aerodynamics package produces a sound that’s definitely futuristic — it’s somewhere between a jet aircraft, Star Wars podracer and supercharged hair dryer. We love it.

But don’t let me try to convince you… check out this test drive video from the FIA Formula-e site: I think it rocks and can imagine the sound of a race being something else again. This is the start of a new wave of innovation, and this time the racing tech really will transfer into something useful for other cars. Judge for yourself – click on the car to make it go : )

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Solar Seed Funding – Will Your Next Client Pay it Forward?

Have you seen the movie Pay it Forward? I bet you’ve always wondered how we could do that and help drive economies of scale in our rooftop solar industry, right?

I wrote about this one over a year ago and re-visited recently thanks to a now constant flow of queries around solar leasing options in Australia. This particular model works like this;

  1. The original investor [think of them as ‘your project or client’] installs a solar system on a recipient’s roof;
  2. The recipient leases the solar panels on their roof from the investor;
  3. The recipient enjoys reduced energy costs overall, compared to grid-price electricity, so they start saving money;
  4. The investor, rather than paying down their original investment as quickly as they can, reinvests the income back into the seed fund, helping to set up the next recipient with another solar system.
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Check out http://www.solarseedfund.org for more detail on how it works

So the investor has put up the cost of the first system. Sound unfair? Well, clients are already willing to pay for Green Power [a renewable energy product in Australia], carbon offset credits or other ‘licence to operate’ costs. So if they’re committed to spending the money, why not spend it where it creates the most community uplift?

It’s not too difficult to visualise a way in which development projects could roll out extensive community solar schemes using a version of this model. Even if the lease payments help in part to pay down the install costs, it’s still a great way to make solar energy more accessible to entire neighbourhoods.

Anyone interested in setting up a crowd fund to kick-start one of these in a needy community?

Remember, if you’d like to help me get the message out there, vote for Green Futures this month. Thanks!

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“Imagine immensities, don’t compromise, and don’t waste time.”

A beautiful piece around the psychology of hope…

It’s easy at present to succumb to the temptation of criticising the intentions of Australia’s government – they want to repeal our carbon pricing scheme, lower our emissions reduction targets and generally commit to being a bench-warmer in global affairs.

But if you’ve read this blog you’ll likely know that Newton is a mate of mine, and I often refer to his Third Law – the one about ‘equal and opposite reactions’. So for all the head-in-the-sand hyperbole that we’re seeing at the moment, there must be (by definition) an equal measure of positivity and vision and hope out there somewhere.

And I know where it is.

It’s you.

Hope is that feathered thing perched on your soul (Emily Dickinson)

When doing some reading about place-making I came across this short but intense piece about the psychology of hope, about ordinary dreamers dreaming big and acting on that lump in the throat or tear in the eye… about acting now.

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Shared on Brain Pickings by Maria Popova

This is a moving piece about the decisions we make in life, about living with compromises and their long term effects, and about course corrections. I have a lot of friends who are around the 20-year mark in their careers, and I know at least some who might be feeling exactly this way right now.

If you do want a prosperous future, if you do want a clean future for us and our kids, if you do want to be an Aussie and keep punching above your weight in the global ring, then let that feathered thing take flight. Dare to ‘imagine immensities’ and set about making them come true… you are surrounded by like minds, those who are creating the equal but opposite force.

Have a read of this short piece about hope, then get to work. Now.

Weekend Warrior – Have you got Wind?

This isn’t a story about beer and pizza so if the title mis-led you I do apologise. But read on, because there might be something just as cool at the end…

Ever since I was a kid I’ve loved maps. Countless days spent as a child simply exploring the world through one of those huge atlases… maybe it’s a thing about exercising the imagination or something to do with wanderlust, but either way it’s now even more fun to explore the world through online maps.

For reasons I can no longer recall I found myself getting lost in an online map this week that shows all of the world’s current and proposed wind farms. I think I was trying to get a handle on how Australia stacked up against the rest of the world.. and WOW are we a long way behind.

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[this only marks each country with wind power – drill down to see each country map, which show a lot more detail]

This site is packed with statistics, graphs and interactive maps that can take you right into the detail, from the global map right down to individual installations, their capacity and often who the owner is – good stuff if you’re researching for renewables investments and shares.

This weekend’s challenge, should you choose to accept it, is simply to delve into this data and see where your country sits on the world chart. And perhaps more importantly which countries are investing the most in new installations? (there’s a function on the site to filter for ‘proposed projects’) For the Aussies you can also have a look at the Feds’ site which overlays all of Australia’s renewable power plants (wind, solar, hydro etc.)… interesting to see the balance of solar in the desert and wind on the coasts.

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Weekend Warrior #19 – Making the Jevons Paradox Work For Us

How often have you caught yourself buying 2 of something when they’re on special? Or more of something simply because it’s in season and cheaper? No doubt we all have because to us it’s good micro-economics. And this is the Jevons Paradox at work.

William Jevons was an economist who in 1865 suggested that when we make a process or resource more efficient we’ll simply use more of it, rather than less. For example, when coal becomes cheaper due to improved mining efficiencies we’ll just use more, or when energy becomes cheaper we won’t be as vigilant in managing our consumption.

Jevons Paradox is often used to argue against the drive for more efficient buildings and cleaner energy, i.e. ‘why bother when we’re just going to consume more as a result’. I wan to turn this around.

Having spent my career in the sustainable development game it’s obvious that the Paradox isn’t always true. The owner of a newly energy-efficient building is not going ignore good energy management just because the building is leaner – that owner is going to pocket the returns instead.

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Depends how far you drive them. Good article on Jevons Paradox via the image [Joseph Tainter, Our Energy Futures]

And the Paradox can work for us rather than against us; data has shown that as the cost of rooftop solar systems has dropped around the world, home owners buy more, i.e. they’re spending the same on a system that they always were, but getting more for their buck.

So in effect we can help amplify the benefits of Jevons Paradox towards our cleaner future;

  1. Continue to drive efficiencies in energy performance in cities – the pure economics are making this a relatively easy path to travel; and
  2. Support the resources and materials that we want to become cheaper – sustainable timber, clean tech, healthy materials, clean transport and so forth.

It’s the second one that’s the challenge. It’s a question of us helping the desirable industries reach commercial scale, as we are witnessing right now with solar. So we need to continue to ask for the products, order them and invest in them, even if at times it means some short-term pain for a long-term gain. And many of these industries are keen, lean and green – they are hungry for success. The natural economic process of demand and supply will take care of the rest.

So this weekend’s challenge, should you choose to accept it, is [on the assumption that you buy anything at all] to purchase one clean, organic, ethical or renewable product [hopefully all of the above!] that you wouldn’t normally because of the price.

Give it a go – the way we spend our money shapes our world.

[good Wiki background on Jevons Paradox here]

Something for the Sun Catchers

In case you haven’t heard, there’s a race on towards the Sun. The Australian story has been fascinating to watch, with rapid uptake of roof-top solar, the rise in solar jobs [the Sun Catchers], and the unsettling influence on the major coal-based utilities. But looking at the following global stats I can’t help the rising sense of competitiveness coming out in me. Hopefully with the recent massive arrays approved in NSW we’re going to start nudging our stats upwards.

This great infographic series is directly from Solar Business Services, courtesy of director Nigel Morris who issues a regular newsletter sharing some pretty valuable intel about the industry in Australia. Naturally I’m sharing this without consent but it’s un-altered and copied directly from the newsletter. Thought it’s worth sharing – you can get the full spread by clicking the above links to get to SBS site.

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The Top 5 Green Collar Jobs of 2025

How safe do you feel in your current profession or occupation? Are you certain that your field will even be relevant in the near future or that it won’t be managed by ever-smarter computers? 

There are plenty of these ‘jobs growth’ lists around, but most of them still seem to do a simple extrapolation of current trends without looking at the fundamental shifts that are taking place around the world. So my list, focussing on the built environment, has a futures bent to it in that I’m predicting the boom jobs of the future based on emerging trends in today’s economy.

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Image from Green Talent, RSA. Click image for link.

In no particular order, here they are;

  • Sun Catcher [Solar Power Installer]: We’ll see massive automated solar panel factories teeming with robots, churning out solar panels night and day. This will include printed PVs [on paper, film and plastic], glazing integrated, building fabric-integrated and plug’n’play systems. Car assembly plants are already being re-geared to produce components. But it will be a bit longer before we don’t need humans to install the stuff because the installation sites will be so incredibly varied. Sun Catchers will be busy retro-fitting our homes and existing buildings for years to come. They’ll also have sidelines in other energy-reducing retrofits such as insulation, shading, ventilation etc.
  • Woodsmith [Carpenters and Joiners]: in the property game we’re at the early stages of a timber revolution. We’ll soon need teams of skilled carpenters to build our new buildings, renovate existing, and even help design and program the automated pre-fabrication factories that are already starting to reach scale. Wood, in my view the ultimate carbon sink, will become stylish again.
  • Forester [Ecologist or Conservation Biologist]: double-demand – to protect and understand our remaining biodiversity and also to restore what we’ve lost. Nature’s health is inextricably entwined with our agricultural production, fresh water supply, food supply and even our community health and wellbeing. These skills will even scale down to our cities and buildings, contributing to occupant health and healing, and urban agricultural production.
  • Integrator [Resilience Planner or Urban Planner]: We’re only at the starting point of grappling with climate change, adaptation and disaster planning. As we gain momentum we’ll see rocketing demand for those who can see the systems-basis of our world and can orchestrate the synthesis of ideas. Integrators are big thinkers and will require high-end people and change management skills. In this respect Integrators will also be great Communicators.
  • Sparkitecht [Systems Programmer]: we are still experiencing exponential growth in computing power and speed [Moore’s Law]. The Internet of Things; networked devices, appliances, cars and buildings; smart dust and the ubiquitous ‘net; networked and smart wind and solar farms will all require increasing levels of integration with our physical and then physiological world. Maybe the geeks will still inherit the Earth.

Whether or not these 5 jobs are indeed the highest growth areas [only time will tell] I hope they are amongst the growth areas because they’ll all be doing positive things towards a greener future.

Do any of these sounds like a good step for your next career move? 

[Notes: a couple of ideas were sparked by Mother Nature Network. Go here for the article. If you really want to have your imagination stretched check out Thomas Frey’s ‘future jobs that don’t exist today’. Not necessarily green collar but maybe a sign of how different our future could be?]