The best 2 advances that could solve Australia’s Green Building energy deficits
This week is World Green Building Week. According to the CEO of the Green Building Council of Australia, Rommily Madew, Australia has made giant leaps in green building and sustainability, but there remains an energy deficit in commercial and mixed-use multi-story buildings. The CEO’s comments below highlight the need for adopting innovative ideas to address the energy problem. There are two outstanding developments in technology that can be applied to buildings that could very effectively reverse the deficit.
For the fifth year in a row, Australia is the world’s leading sustainable real estate industry. That’s the headline finding from the latest GRESB survey, which scored the Australian and New Zealand property market 69 out of 100 for its sustainability efforts – significantly more than the global average of 56. This result recognises how far our industry has come. But it also serves as a reminder that we can’t afford complacency. GRESB, the global real estate sustainability benchmark, reveals some exceptional achievements. Ninety three per cent of our region’s companies and funds now disclose their sustainability performance annually, compared with 85 per cent globally. Three Australian companies – Stockland, The GPT Group and Lendlease – were named ‘regional sector leaders’. Lendlease was also named ‘global sector leader’, ranking top of the table of 707 property companies and private equity real estate funds representing 61,000 assets and AUD$3.2 trillion in asset value. Hot on the heels of the GRESB announcement came the latest Dow Jones Sustainability Index which also ranked Stockland (for real estate) and Westpac (for banking) among its 24 leaders. Also noted were GPT, Lendlease, Dexus and Mirvac. The GRESB report, however, also sounds some alarm bells. Renewable energy generation in our commercial buildings remains perilously low when compared with other regions, and despite our best efforts, energy consumption has still increased by 1.9 per cent over the last year. Source: Romilly Madew, Chief Executive, Green Building Council of Australia www.gbca.org.au
There are two innovative technological advances in the energy field that could easily answer Australia’s energy consumption deficit.
One such technology is the Tesla Powerwall battery, one of the Tesla Energy series of batteries designed for use by businesses, homes and utilities. It seems that founder and entrepreneur Elon Musk hopes the technology will help change the “entire energy infrastructure of the world”.This is big news for those businesses with large energy demands occurring out of peak sunlight hours. Cheaper, more powerful batteries will make it possible to store the amounts of electricity needed for large jobs that run during the night. Elon Musk is the man who brought us Paypal, and the Tesla electric car. So if what we’re being told is to be believed then it seems pretty exciting. So how will Tesla’s new batteries change the game for solar in Australia’s energy problem? Firstly, the new batteries can store solar energy for use overnight and are designed to capture and store up to 10kWh of energy from solar panels. This means you will be able to draw on solar energy whenever you need it, 24 hours a day, instead of only during sunshine hours. Secondly, it looks as though it will be ridiculously cheap. A 10kWh battery unit sells for US$3,500, making it cheaper, with better capacity, than current competitors. With conventional batteries costing $1,000/kWh in Australia at the moment, Tesla’s offer to consumers of $250/kWh per battery looks like a very good deal. The price doesn’t include installation but Tesla says it will be a simple process that will take between 30 minutes and an hour to complete. This price would transform the business case for solar to power energy-intensive buildings, business processes and night time tasks like lighting and cleaning that need energy outside daylight hours.
The second technology is an innovation from SolarWindow Technologies, who announce that their new cells can produce 50 times the energy of panels commonly in use today. What that means is a faster return on the investment required for a solar set up. CEO John Conklin called it “the most innovative breakthrough in powering the half-billion square feet of windows installed on commercial buildings in the US, annually.” Here’s how the windows supposedly work. Glass panels are first treated with a photovoltaic coating made up of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, and a few secret ingredients that SolarWindow is keeping under wraps. The “active layer” absorbs light, while the transparent conductors make energy extraction possible. For transparency, the coatings are applied in liquid form at ambient pressures and dried at low temps. The result is clear solar paneling, and the coatings can be added to any conventional glass or plastic.
An additional and very appealing advantage is that the technology has a much shorter payback period. In comparison, traditional solar systems need around 5-10 years to show an investment return, and that’s in addition to requiring a lot of space. SolarWindows claim that they can use natural, shaded, or even artificial light to produce energy, unlike conventional solar, which means they’re good for use on all four sides of a building instead of just on the roof. Read the article here on Flipboard Magazine.