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Students at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT), supported by Vertiv (formerly Emerson Network Power), have designed a light, modern solar solution that enables mobile devices to be charged under the sun on campus.

“We challenged design students to propose a structure for a smart solar mobile charging station,” said Vishnu Kumar Arun, President of the QUT Electrical Engineering Student Society (QUT EESS). “The students went above and beyond and created something that is truly innovative and that embodies the Internet of Things (IoT) and electronics projects developed by our engineering team.”

The ‘Tower of Power’ is an off-grid kiosk built with lightweight but durable materials and fitted with solar panels positioned for optimum efficiency. The kiosk has eight seats in and around it to allow students to sit down and interact while their devices charge. It’s also connected to an application that allows students to see how many ports are available at any time.

“We wanted to design something innovative and aesthetically pleasing,” said Lydia Carlton, co-designer of the Tower of Power. “But we also felt it was important to make it an area where students could sit down and socialise while their devices charged; so we added seating to the inside and outside to cater for different weather.”

The winning students, chosen from four finalists in the competition, worked closely with QUT EESS engineering teams to modify the solution design for fabrication and real-world implementation and are now field testing it on campus. The hope is to expand on the project and get similar kiosks in place in other universities and organisations countrywide with a commercially viable solution.

Vertiv, which sponsored the competition and worked closely with the university to help secure the right batteries for the solution, has been inspired by the project and has ordered its own model of the kiosk to showcase to local government customers around the country as a potential tool for their IoT goals. The critical infrastructure company is also hoping to have a demonstration of the kiosk at Smart Cities Week in October.

“This simple yet innovative idea and execution of it has been a joy to be a part of,” said Alan Smith, Senior Solutions Architect at Vertiv ANZ. “This kind of idea is vital to the successful development of IoT and smart cities in Australia, and to make sure environmental efficiency is considered in line with infrastructure that makes sense for people.”

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Technology company ABB will supply a microgrid solution to the Energy Storage for Commercial Renewable Integration (ESCRI) project, which will provide a more secure power supply in an area that has high renewable penetration into the grid. The solution will connect an ABB Ability PowerStore 30 MW battery energy storage solution to the ElectraNet transmission system, enabling the value stacking of storage in a regulated energy market.

In Australia, the increase of intermittent renewables within the power grid is adding complexity for grid operators. In South Australia, wind farms generate the bulk of electricity consumption for the state. There is also an increasing deployment of solar, with both large-scale and rooftop panels installed in the state and across the country.

The ABB Ability PowerStore will be installed at the Dalrymple substation on the Yorke Peninsula in South Australia. Not only will the solution improve the overall reliability of power supplies, it will also make it possible to provide additional market services and fast-acting power response that helps to balance the network on a daily basis and also support the increased power transfer with the interconnectors to Victoria.

In the event of a transmission line outage, the islanded microgrid solution will work together with the existing 90 MW Wattle Point wind farm and distributed rooftop solar PVs to provide uninterrupted power supply until connection to the grid is restored. The solution will be able to deliver enough power to run about 400 homes for at least 24 hours without the input from renewable generators. ABB’s Microgrid Plus control solution will manage the sophisticated automation of the hybrid systems while ensuring secure and seamless power supplies with an optimal renewable energy contribution.

“Our modular and scalable ABB Ability PowerStore in combination with Microgrid Plus control and automation solution can be deployed in a fast and efficient way,” said Massimo Danieli, Head of ABB’s Grid Automation business within the company’s Power Grids division. “Our advanced technology meets up to complex requirements that are part of today’s energy revolution and microgrid solutions are playing an increasing role in the evolution of the grid.”

The project is part funded by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and is being delivered by Consolidated Power Projects (CPP) working jointly with ABB. South Australia’s principal transmission network service provider, ElectraNet, owns the installation, with the daily operations to be the responsibility of energy provider AGL.

ABB has also supplied a dry-type transformer and switchgear, which has been integrated into the microgrid solution as well as engineering services, operations and maintenance support.

Image courtesy of ABB.

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The University of Queensland (UQ) is set to become the first major university in the world to offset 100% of its electricity usage through its own renewable energy asset, with the establishment of a $125 million solar farm expected to enable energy neutrality by 2020.

“The 64 MW solar farm located just outside of Warwick, on Queensland’s Southern Downs, will provide research, teaching and engagement opportunities in addition to its environmental and financial benefits,” said UQ Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Peter Høj.

The proposed solar farm will generate about 154,000 MWh of clean energy each year — enough to power 27,000 average homes. This will more than offset UQ’s current and projected future annual electricity usage.

Construction is planned to start by the end of this year, directly creating more than 100 jobs, with an expected build time of 12 months. The cost of the project will be recouped within the life of the project through energy cost savings, with Professor Høj saying, “The solar farm will offset UQ’s current $22 million annual expenditure on grid electricity once it is fully operational in 2019.”

The project received development approval from Southern Downs Regional Council on 6 June and a formal connection agreement is now being finalised. UQ will take ownership of the project from renewable energy developer Terrain Solar once construction starts, and will own and operate the plant over its expected life.

Following construction, the site is expected to support six to seven ongoing full-time positions in operations and maintenance. The solar farm will also offer a range of further research and teaching opportunities, providing the potential to venture into emerging research and industry partnerships.

“Public engagement with the facility could be as varied as student field trips through to live data streaming that can be used for interactive market simulations,” said Professor Høj.

“In addition, UQ will install several electric vehicle ‘fast chargers’ and the site will include a visitors’ centre, helping to position the Southern Downs as a renewable energy hub.”

UQ already has more than seven years of experience managing large-scale solar PV assets of almost 50,000 solar panels at campuses in Brisbane and Gatton. This makes it the largest solar generator among Australian universities, according to Professor Høj.

Image caption: Artist’s impression of the Warwick Solar Farm.

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As a concept, it is disarmingly simple. Every day, across cities, airports and other public spaces, millions of people are performing the straightforward task of moving from A to B.

And these millions and millions of steps can do much more than just move pedestrians — they can also become valuable electricity and data. Harnessing this untapped resource is what the Pavegen system is designed for.

Pavegen CEO Laurence Kemball-Cook, who founded the company in 2009, said: “The Pavegen system converts the weight of your footsteps into electricity. All you have to do is walk and every step you make can be converted into energy. When we get the energy, we can store it in batteries and use it to power lights in our cities.”

Smart flooring could revolutionise urban environments - YouTube

A step change in design

The newest model of the technology — known as V3 — is made up of interlocking triangular tiles that are installed in areas with high pedestrian foot traffic. The tiles are able to produce 5 W of continuous power from footsteps, creating an off-grid, localised energy source.

As people step on the tiles, their weight presses them down. Steel-built electromagnetic induction generators at the point of each triangular tile convert this downward force into a rotary motion that generates electricity. Using this method, a single footstep can generate enough power to light an LED lightbulb for roughly 20 seconds.

Kemball-Cook said: “Pavegen works really well where there’s lots of people walking, so a city environment — subways, airports, even stadiums. We typically install the technology at the entrance to buildings, and at busy crossing points and places where people meet in the centre of cities.”

Pavegen founder and CEO Laurence Kemball-Cook.

The technology has been through a number of iterations since its initial inception, and V3 generates over 200 times more power than the first model.

The new triangular design maximises energy output and data capture, while its stainless steel corner finishes and hardened steel components make it highly durable. This toughness, combined with its ease of installation, means that Pavegen can offer a reliable and effective decentralised power source.

Material benefits

The unique requirements of the Pavegen system meant that careful decisions had to be made regarding the materials chosen to create it.

“It’s one of hardest engineering challenges in the world to put a product in the ground where there’s going to be significant environmental challenges, such as lots of water ingress,” said Kemball-Cook.

“Fatigue resistance is really challenging too, so we had to go through a process that involved lots of testing, lots of material selection, lots of different insights, to allow us to make the product as durable as possible.

“We try and save costs where possible, but where we need increased performance in the product those components may be steel or they may be stainless steel.

“Things like wear and durability and environmental performance are really key to our decisions around what material we use and what finishes we apply to those materials.”

A retail Pavegen installation in Bird Street, London.

A full life cycle

Pavegen aims for 100% of its product to be recyclable, allowing a fully integrated supply chain and fully re-usable system. Infinitely recyclable without any loss of quality, steel plays no small part in helping Pavegen reach this goal.

“Everything we’re doing on the engineering side allows us to build in the highest level of durability, and we’ve taken technologies from the automotive and aerospace sectors,” said Kemball-Cook.

“While a Pavegen tile will never get near the billions of cycles of an automotive application, what we can do is increase its life cycle within the technology’s limits, so we can get over 20 years of performance from our product.”

Data in every step

Another key aspect of the Pavegen system is its data collection. The tiles are fitted with wireless sensors that transmit data on pedestrian movement across installation sites. This information can be used to map foot traffic and peak pedestrian flows, allowing for a real-time understanding of movement.

When deployed in retail sites, shop customers and visitors can use an accompanying app to earn digital currency for every step that they take, redeemable against a purchase or charitable donation.

A Pavegen model installation on display at the World Expo in Astana, Kazakhstan.

Incentivising customers to contribute to the electric powering of shop systems is the kind of integrated thinking that Pavegen hopes will inform urban planning decisions and the development of smart cities.

“Smart cities are about seamless connectivity and mobility between people within that city. Sensor networks allow people to get a real-time insight into how a city is performing, and this feeds into tracks and transportation links that make it a lot easier for people to get around,” said Kemball-Cook.

“People are the heart of any city, and adding a decentralised power network really adds to this connectivity.”

Going global

Pavegen has already delivered more than 150 projects across the world.

In 2014, the technology was installed under a football pitch in Rio de Janeiro. The pitch’s six LED floodlights are now powered by players moving across the 200 Pavegen tiles installed under the playing surface.

A game of football is lit by player-powered LED floodlights.

A similar project has been lighting a football pitch in Lagos, Nigeria, while environments as diverse as festivals and marathons have been harnessing the power of their audiences and competitors.

Pavegen technology is now being used by the US government, Google, Cisco and some large real estate groups, including Westfield.

“It’s been deployed across Africa, Korea, Japan, Australia and also Europe. Our biggest growth market is in North America and the Middle East,” said Kemball-Cook. “We see a lot of interest in the transportation sector, particularly within airports.”

Power to the people

Anywhere there are people moving, there is an opportunity to harvest the untapped energy resources produced by that motion. A fundamental shift in the relationship between citizens and their cities will not happen overnight, but Pavegen could help usher in a new era of urban planning and living.

As Kemball-Cook stresses, “The Pavegen technology can work in any transport hub, office environment, airport, public realm; anywhere there’s lots of people walking.

“What we offer is a people power solution, a decentralised power solution and also a data hub that can help cities better understand how their people are moving and behaving in those urban environments.”

The journey towards smarter urban environments and more sustainable energy production could genuinely begin with a single step.

Images courtesy of Pavegen/Jon Angerson.

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Michell Instruments has launched a configurable sampling system for measuring trace moisture in hazardous areas. The ES70 simplifies specifying complex, multi-optioned sampling systems, not only ensuring the correct options are selected and but also reducing lead times.

To configure a system, users simply pick one option from each category to fit their application. Choices include hazardous area certification, enclosure type, whether the measurement will be for moisture in gases or liquids, and sample conditioning options such as filtration, cooling/heating and flow control.

The device is available with Michell’s Promet I.S., Liquidew I.S., Easidew PRO XP or Easidew PRO I.S. sensors. These options measure trace moisture in process gases down to -100°C dp and in hydrocarbon liquids down to 0.001 ppmW.

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With the global appetite for computing currently burning more than 5% of global electricity — a figure which is expected to double each decade — a new Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence is seeking new solutions to an ever-growing problem.

Opened yesterday at Monash University, the ARC Centre of Excellence in Future Low-Energy Electronics Technologies (FLEET) is a collaboration of more than 100 researchers at seven Australian universities and 13 Australian and international science organisations. The $33.4 million centre will use the emerging science of topological materials and atomically thin 2D materials to create ultralow-energy electronics that achieve zero, or near-zero, wasted dissipation of energy.

For the past 50 years, our ever increasing need for more computing was satisfied by improvements in computing technology, which produced ever smaller, ever more efficient chips — a phenomenon known as ‘Moore’s law’. However, as we hit limits of basic physics and economy, Moore’s law is winding down.

“When we exhaust further efficiencies in silicon technology and data-centre management, energy will become the limiting factor for any further computation growth,” said Professor Michael Fuhrer, director of the newly opened FLEET.

Professor Michael Fuhrer speaks at the launch of FLEET.

Already, information and communications technology is responsible for 5–8% of global electricity use, with most of that energy consumption ‘hidden’ out of sight in vast, factory-sized data centres (or server farms). In fact, each smartphone is now responsible for burning more electricity than a household fridge. Continuing the IT revolution means finding a new electronics technology that uses much less energy.

“FLEET places Australia at the forefront of exciting new scientific research — building capacity for advanced electronics research and training today’s workforce for the electronics industry of the future,” said Professor Fuhrer.

The centre of excellence was opened by ARC Chief Executive Officer Professor Sue Thomas with Monash Provost and Senior Vice President Professor Marc Parlange and Professor Fuhrer. Participating universities include Monash University, the University of New South Wales, the Australian National University, RMIT University, Swinburne University of Technology, The University of Queensland and the University of Wollongong.

Top image caption: Professor Sue Thomas, Professor Michael Fuhrer and Professor Marc Parlange at the launch of FLEET.

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The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has announced $2 million in funding to help an Australian oilseed crushing, refining and packaging company make the switch to bioenergy.

The project, totalling $5.38 million, involves installing a 4.88 MW biomass-fired boiler at MSM Milling’s facility in Manildra, regional NSW. Unlike its current LPG gas-fired boilers, the biomass boiler will be fuelled by locally sourced renewable wood chips, such as forestry thinnings, offcuts and sawmill by-products, to generate steam necessary for the canola processing operation.

MSM Milling’s change to bioenergy not only replaces the use of gas in the oilseed business, it involves using sustainably sourced wood chips in a move that increases economic return to the forestry industry. The project thus helps to grow the currently underdeveloped biomass industry in Australia, according to ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht.

“Bioenergy currently makes up only around 0.9% of Australia’s energy mix; however, the use of wood chips to displace gas is becoming attractive as consumers are increasingly demanding better environmental performance across product supply chains,” Frischknecht said.

“We hope MSM Milling’s innovation will lead to more industries turning to biomass, in a move which could increase renewable energy generation in NSW and Australia and create alternative value streams for wood materials currently considered as waste.”

MSM Milling Director Bob Mac Smith said the ARENA funding, combined with a significant company investment in the project, has helped cement MSM Milling’s future as a regionally based global food industry leader, secured the jobs of 70 employees and allowed the company to pioneer the way for other Australian manufacturers to adopt renewable energy technology.

“MSM Milling has spent a number of years researching to identify the optimal thermal energy solution for the plant to further secure our future and allow us to continue to provide sought-after trusted oil and value-added oilseed products to local and international markets,” said Mac Smith.

“The project will significantly reduce greenhouses emissions, fossil fuel energy use and depletion, while increasing renewable energy generation in NSW — all in line with our company’s commitment to operate with the lowest carbon footprint, the highest energy and water efficiency and the least overall environmental impact.

“We’ve partnered with experienced technology providers Justsen, Uniquip Engineering and carbon energy expert Ndevr Environmental for this project and will document and share the process of technology adoption to encourage further uptake within the Australian manufacturing sector.”

Pictured: The MSM Milling facility in Manildra.

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With over 250 STADLER turnkey sorting plants and over 800 standalone machines sold worldwide, STADLER is a leader in the recycling and waste disposal industry. Each plant is designed to work efficiently and is tailored to the user’s requirements.

Some of the applications of the sorting plants include: light packaging material, paper and cardboard, refuse-derived fuel, film, municipal solid waste, commingled waste, plastic bottles, industrial waste, construction waste/bulky waste and recycling woods for the chipboard industry.

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Two of Australia’s most pre-eminent built environment sustainability champions, both members of the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC), have been awarded an Order of Australia in the Queen’s Birthday 2018 Honours List.

ASBEC President Professor Ken Maher was been acknowledged for his distinguished service to architecture and landscape design, particularly through urban infrastructure projects, and to environmental sustainability in planning. ASBEC co-founder Jane Montgomery-Hribar has meanwhile been awarded for her distinguished service to the building and construction sector, particularly in the areas of project procurement and industry standards, through executive roles, and as a mentor of women.

Professor Maher is a past chairman and current Fellow of multidisciplinary architecture and design firm HASSELL. He is a recipient of the Australian Institute of Architecture’s highest accolade, the AIA Gold Medal, as well as the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects’ Australian Award for Landscape Architecture. He is a founding board member of the Green Building Council and board member of the Co-operative Research Centre for Low Carbon Living (CRCLCL).

Montgomery-Hribar is the former executive director of the Australasian Procurement and Construction Council (APCC) and a founding member of the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC). She facilitated the development of the National Code of Practice for the Construction Industry and developed the Government Framework for Sustainable Procurement. She was awarded the NAWIC Crystal Vision Award for her efforts to promote women in leadership.

“The Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council is very proud to be led by individuals like Ken and Jane, who embody the boldness, perseverance, intelligence and humility required to build a more livable, sustainable and resilient Australia,” said ASBEC Executive Director, Suzanne Toumbourou.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/pamela_d_mcadams

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For decades, intensive groundwater pumping has caused ground beneath California’s San Joaquin Valley to sink. Not only has this damaged infrastructure, it has also allowed arsenic to move into groundwater aquifers that supply drinking water for 1 million people and irrigation for crops — crops which happen to be growing in some of the country’s richest farmland. These revelations have been published in the journal Nature Communications.

Arsenic is naturally present in the Earth’s crust and a frequent concern in groundwater management because of its ubiquity and links to heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other illnesses. As noted by lead author Ryan Smith, “Arsenic in groundwater has been a problem for a really long time — but the idea that overpumping for irrigation could increase arsenic concentrations is new.”

Smith and his fellow researchers analysed arsenic data for hundreds of wells in two different drought periods alongside centimetre-level estimates of land subsidence, or sinking, captured by satellites. They found that when land in the San Joaquin Valley’s Tulare basin sinks faster than 3″ (7.6 cm) per year, the risk of finding hazardous arsenic levels in groundwater as much as triples.

The reason for this? Aquifers in the Tulare basin are made up of sand and gravel zones separated by thin layers of clay. The clay acts like a sponge, holding tight to water as well as arsenic soaked up from ancient river sediments. Unlike the sand and gravel layers, these clays contain relatively little oxygen, which creates conditions for arsenic to be in a form that dissolves easily in water.

When pumping draws too much water from the sand and gravel areas, the aquifer compresses and land sinks. As explained by study co-author Scott Fendorf, “Sands and gravels that were being propped apart by water pressure are now starting to squeeze down on that sponge.” Arsenic-rich water then starts to seep out and mix with water in the main aquifer.

The researchers said overpumping in other aquifers could produce the same contamination issues seen in the San Joaquin Valley if they have three attributes: alternating layers of clay and sand; a source of arsenic; and relatively low oxygen content, which is common in aquifers located beneath thick clays. And the threat may also be more widespread than once thought, as scientists have discovered in the last few years that otherwise well-aerated aquifers considered largely immune to arsenic problems can in fact be laced with clays that have the low oxygen levels necessary for arsenic to move into most groundwater.

“We’re just starting to recognise that this is a danger,” said Fendorf.

The good news is that the group found signs that aquifers contaminated as a result of overpumping can recover if withdrawals stop, as areas that showed slower sinking compared to 15 years earlier also had lower arsenic levels. They surmised that when water pumping slows enough to put the brakes on subsidence — and relieve the squeeze on trapped arsenic — clean water soaking in from streams, rain and natural runoff at the surface can gradually flush the system clean.

Study co-author Rosemary Knight does, however, warn against banking too much on a predictable recovery from overpumping. “How long it takes to recover is going to be highly variable and dependent upon so many factors,” she said.

The other upside is that the use of the satellite-derived measurements could offer an early warning system to prevent dangerous levels of arsenic contamination in aquifers worldwide, raising the alarm before human health is threatened and offering hope for better water monitoring.

“Instead of having to drill wells and take water samples back to the lab, we have a satellite getting the data we need,” said Knight. And while well data is important to validate and calibrate satellite data, she said, on-the-ground monitoring can never match the breadth and speed of remote sensing.

“You’re never sampling a well frequently enough to catch that arsenic the moment it’s in the well,” said Knight. “So how fantastic to have this remote-sensing early warning system to let people realise that they’re approaching a critical point in terms of water quality.”

The study builds on research led in 2013 by Laura Erban, then a doctoral student working in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, which was co-authored by Fendorf. As in the San Joaquin Valley, areas of the Mekong Delta where land was sinking more showed higher arsenic concentrations.

“Now we have two sites in totally different geographic regions where the same mechanisms appear to be operating,” said Fendorf. “That sends a trigger that we need to be thinking about managing groundwater and making sure that we’re not overdrafting the aquifers.”

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/adragan

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