The Micro Renewables Battle

The Efficiency of Electric Motors-A Farmer’s Perspective

The advent of electrically driven motor vehicles is but the latest manifestation of the attraction of electric motors.

For example take developments in the Australian bush. The windmill, for years so much a ubiquitous emblem of inland Australia, is a dying image. Today no self respecting farmer would buy an old fashioned windmill for water movement needs with all its clanking parts and servicing requirements, where a neat, cheaper, solar panel driving a submersible pump would do the job. On a micro basis the use of solar panels is an ever increasing feature of western society. The advent of solar roof panels in urban Australia is a very obvious interface of micro and macro (think “the grid”)electricity supply.

In manufacturing terms the advent of automation/mechanisation makes the cost of energy a more important factor than the cost of labour. This factor alone introduces a real urgency in reducing the cost of energy.

Renewables have been around the bush for many years particularly in respect to wind. But given solar technological progress, the sun is winning that little competitive battle with wind. Hydro (water) is the ultimate renewable energy source because it can master the challenge of intermittency-the issue of consistent energy supply when the sun doesn’t shine (particularly at night) and when the wind doesn’t blow. The power of gravity allowing water to flow instantly when “the tap is turned on”, effectively solves the intermittency problem. In that sense elevated water plays the role of the battery; battery storage being the other option.

We need to face the reality that technological progress towards making large scale battery storage competitive has been disappointingly slow and our experts in this field don’t seem to be holding out much hope for rapid progress.

Since we privatised most of our electricity generation, “gold plated” the grid to make the asset values even higher for the Government take, at consumer’s ultimate expense and developed the increasingly dubious concern with global warming from human driven carbon dioxide emissions, our electricity costs have exploded. Government actions have caused us to go from having some of the cheapest electricity in the world to now having some of the dearest.

This has been a classic “stuff-up” for which both major political parties and dark green ideologues must take the blame. If we truly want to wind up our economy post the Covid 19 pandemic we must surely have a clear objective of significantly reducing the cost of electricity. If this involves the ongoing use of fossil fuels for the foreseeable future, so be it. That is not something that is causing our Indian and Asian competitors any sleepless nights as they continue to build modern coal (often ours) driven power stations.

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