The hands, they wash each other

I cannot sleep. A Xhosa saying has been playing on loop in my mind. iZandla ziyahlambana. The hands wash each other.

In some ways I suppose this could be interpreted as ‘you look out for me and I’ll look out for you’ but there’s so much more meaning when you interpret it as ‘we cannot be what we need to be without each other.’

It’s a fitting and timely image too. Never before have we washed our hands this often. And it with such care that we teach our children how to wash their hands. Patiently counting, gently but firmly. Diligently, thoroughly. The hands that we use to work, to love, to comfort. Hands that may be sitting idle while we wait for work to restart or we wait for permission to touch each other again. Idle but for the washing.

And so it is with our communities, with the people around us. We cannot be what we need to be without each other.

I don’t stand alone here watching with bewilderment at what is happening in America. The indignation at the inconvenience of wearing a mask is baffling, in the face of a crisis of health. Although not baffling given the crisis of leadership. But perhaps they have been living with another saying driving their response – you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. The art of the deal. I will act when I see that there is something in it for me.

The last few months have been incredibly tough. The near violent clash of work life and family life has sent me and so many others reeling. It has been so difficult trying to reconcile the overwhelming stress of it all with the feeling of survivor’s guilt – I have a job, be grateful. My recent response to this is that I have been meditating quite a bit. In some sense it’s self-preservation, as I get to carve out some time for myself. But in another way it has helped me to find perspective and clarity and has helped me to reflect on our situation more objectively. Solid chunks of meditation have also helped me to be better at embracing moments of micro-meditation. A quiet few breaths here and there to reset.

The washing of hands presents a beautiful opportunity for this. iZandla zam ziyahlambana (my hands are washing each other). I watch them. I focus in on them now. Right now they are caring for each other, doing what needs to be done. This simple act is helping me to care for those around me.

What other act could I do to be a hand to someone who may be lost or may be struggling? In what way could I show compassion and empathy?

Floating solar PV

I’m a bit late to the party on this one I know. Everyone is out there talking about hydrogen, but I’m thinking about floating solar PV installations.

There are some beautifully impressive images of floating PV systems floating around. They range from looking like really expensive helipads to an undeveloped commercial zone in an old version of Simcity.

One of these gives me flashbacks to how bad I was at Simcity. The other is a floating PV installation.

Floating PV systems both make sense to me and seem completely bonkers. There are a number of benefits:

  • They can make use of previously un- or under-utilised land
  • In water-stressed areas they can help to reduce evaporation on important bodies of water. They can also help to limit algae growth, by providing shade.
  • At the same time, the cooling effect of water evaporation can help the modules to perform better (as there’s an inverse relationship between temperature and PV performance)
  • If installed on water bodies forming part of hydropower installations, there is likely to be electrical transmission/distribution infrastructure already established.

There are a number of challenges though:

  • If the body of water is tidal or the system will be subjected to waves, it will need to be factored into the design. The system has to be anchored down, so the anchoring system will need to accomodate this too. And inverter stations/platforms need to be able to designed accordingly.
  • The cooling effect above can be lost if the system is compact, not allowing for adequate ventilation.
  • Cables. Modules are joined up in series and if you’ve ever been to a solar farm on land you will know that the connection between modules is often not done very neatly. Slack cables looping down low, just begging for an errant sheep to feel peckish. You obviously can’t have this on a floating PV installation. Poor cabling can result in leakage, loss of insulation, corrosion, and snapped and damaged cables. Not to mention safety concerns from live, corroded cables. There needs to be some give though, because cables can’t be too taught in a system that will need to be flexible to move as the water does.
  • The system may be visited by different animals too. Anyone who has lived near any large body of water will know that aquatic birds can drop gigantic poos, covering and coating anything or anyone in their way. This can lead to reduced performance of course, but also the development of hotspots on the modules, resulting in accelerated module degradation.
  • In general, in wetter conditions there tends to be more corrosion, which could require increased operations & maintenance over time. The system design and material selection would need to take this into account.

This is an interesting document which talks through some of the learnings from a floating PV test bed in Singapore, done by the Solar energy Research Institute of Singapore.

Large-scale reference installations around the world:

  • 17MW installation in Piolenc, France. Completed October 2019.
  • Singapore is in the process of developing a 60MW project on the Tengeh reservoir.
  • 70MW system completed in the Anhui province, China, built on an old coal mining area. Completed end 2018.
  • 4.4. MW floating solar array in Sayreville, New Jersey, USA (video below). Completed mid 2019

An impromptu tour of Substations

To say that I barely scraped through my electrical engineering classes in university is a bit harsh. But it’s not all that far off the truth. I have memories of sitting in sunny afternoon lectures really struggling to focus (or to put it less euphemistically, really struggling to stay awake.)

In general electricity intimidates me. I think a lot of that is to do with it being so dangerous, with so much that can go wrong if you don’t understand everything that needs to be understood. And at the end of the day I really don’t think I should be allowed to hold that kind of power in my hands (pun intended.) So I’m not sure why I’m drawn to substations.

I think it may have to do with them being so brutally human. They are angular and structured. Angry looking. There is nothing about them that looks organic or gentle. The closest that I think they come to having any parallel in nature is the elephant graveyard in the Lion King. But they are also compact and neat, providing such a clear purpose, without sprawling all over the landscape.

I also cannot help but think about a robot dancing whenever I hear the term step-up transformer. This helps my generous view of them, I think.

In my experience on solar farm construction projects, they are also often the aspect of work that gets built with the fewest quality issues. Or rather, the fewest number of quality issues at completion. Perhaps it’s because the Powerlinks/ Transgrids/ Electranets/ Eskoms of the world have so much say in the end product. And contractors find it very hard to wriggle out of commitments when they need a big red rubber stamp on the substation to complete any of their other works.

I remember the solar farm I worked on in De Aar, South Africa, where everything that could go wrong went wrong, and the Contractor barely knew their upside from their downside. The substation was this beacon of light. They knew that they couldn’t get away with using self tapping screws THERE. Or housing important equipment in rusty second hand containers full of holes. The substation was the only part of the project that looked as you’d imagine it should.

Last week work took me out to the Western Downs region in Queensland. On my way back I took a wrong turn and found myself going down a beautiful gravel road in my attempt to get back on track. Then I happened upon the sweetest little substation. And so I jumped out to take a pic so I could remember it. So sweet sitting in such a beautiful setting.

Ergon’s Kaimkillenbun 33/11kV substation
If you ever feel the need to take a wrong turn, I recommend finding yourself around here

Once back on the right road it was all about getting home. But by then I had my substation spotting eyes in and I drove by two more. One in Kilcoy and another in Beerwah.

Energex’s Kilcoy Substation. Perched on top of a hill.
Beerwah Substation. Not quite as pretty a setting.

They do so much for us, and you can hear it when you walk close to them. A hummmmmm. They are everywhere once you start looking for them.

If you’d like to read more about substations – what they do and what different types they are, have a look here.

MacIntyre Wind Farm

I am relatively new to Queensland, but I am married to a central Queenslander who has shown me areas of this state that many may not have seen. Some places stark and featureless and others full of surprising quirks and charms.

Near Roadvale. A town that is a road.

In 2015, during our nomadic adventure, we took a trip to Warwick. My husband had spent some of his childhood there. We visited in winter, and it was around the time when it started snowing in Stanthorpe and the whole of Southern Queensland decided that this must be witnessed. We were single minded however, and drove over the range, our attention focused on Warwick.

The view from Box Forest Track off Cunningham Highway at the top of the Range

Warwick was lovely. We walked the town and found the house where he spent some happy years of his early childhood. We saw Thomas Byrnes rugged up, watching over the town, while they were clearly watching out for him.

Thomas Joseph Byrnes all cosy and warm

And so how does this all link to an enormous wind farm. Well the MacIntyre Wind Farm will be built about 50km South West of Warwick. ACCIONA Australia has their eyes on a total precinct wind development of over 1GW.

CleanCo has partnered with ACCIONA for 500MW of this wind farm. CleanCo will build, own and operate a facility of 18 turbines, totalling nearly 103MW, and will then invest in a further 400MW through power purchase agreements.

ACCIONA’s plans for the region include a further ~500MW of capacity. The entire MacIntyre Wind Farm Precinct is proposed to include 180 wind turbines across 36,000 hectares of leased land. I won’t regurgitate the information that can very easily be found on the ACCIONA or CleanCo websites. Well not all of it.

My takeaway is this: the turbines are BIG – 5.7MW each and they will be distributed over a vast stretch of land. ACCIONA expects to create around 400 jobs over the construction phase. The wind farm will change the landscape and impact the local economy. Money for farmers, employment in the community. Construction works naturally result in an influx of project stakeholders. People and business offering accommodation in the region, who have no doubt been hit by the COVID shutdowns may see some reprieve. And on the flip side, maybe an increase in COVID cases for the region. It remains to be seen.

And more people will be driving the route we took over the range. Not for a sleepy meander, but to deliver enormous turbine blades. Maybe some of them will also stop on the top of the range and take a walk. Look at the view.

ACCIONA has created a video explaining a bit more about the overall precinct plans.

Grid Connecting Generation – Is it still a challenge?

Originally posted in October 2019 on LinkedIn by Winodh Jayewardene. Winodh is the Technical Executive – Network Connections and Performance at WSP Australia and contributor for Energy Ramblings.  Re-posted with permission.


It is interesting talking to people in the industry to get their view on the grid connection process and how it compares to say a couple of years ago. My initial thinking before talking to others was that there weren’t any more surprises and overall a much smoother process could be expected, however this does not seem to be the case (this article was started before the recent events in North West Victoria / South West NSW).

The industry has learnt a lot over the last three to four years but it seems that the grid connection process experience is far from smooth and each project has its particular set of challenges.

As an industry it is important to also acknowledge how far we have come and that we are viewed internationally as world leading (this was echoed in my observations during the CIGRE Paris session last year where we seem to have the answers to a lot of the problems others were facing).

Coming back to the challenges, it seems that this time around we are mostly aware of what the issues are, however the process to work through to overcome these issues seems to differ from project to project as well as across NEM regions.

Some initial thoughts on what causes these pains during the grid connection process are noted below.

Consistency of process and requirements

One of the biggest challenges is that of understanding the requirements as they apply within different NEM regions. These specific requirements are often unwritten and it is the reliance on experience that helps to smooth out the bumps along the way.

Some of the challenges that projects face include:

  • the requirement for Continuous Uninterrupted Operation or CUO. Despite it being something that plagued the industry circa 2015, the requirements for this are not yet captured in the recent Generator Technical Performance Standards rule change, even though it was raised by stakeholders
  • approach to technical assessment for projects connecting into weak networks (different NSP’s have different approaches to the FIA process)
  • How to deal with committed and proposed projects, both during the connection application as well as prior to the the registration phase of a project
  • Process for undertaking harmonic studies and the extent of information provided / available.

Experience provides a bit of forewarning about what to expect and how to plan for it, but what if you are new to the market and don’t have the benefit of experience? One way to address this would be to have the expectations set at the start (if you know the right questions to ask), the other way is for consistency through standardisation.

By standardising the process, it forces this process to be documented, and by documenting the process, it ensures expectations are clear. With clear expectations, all parties have a frame of reference and know what the other party wants. After all, how can you successfully negotiate an outcome if you do not know what the other party wants? Some say it is not possible to standardise on requirements, but I don’t believe we have a choice. If we even get half of the inverters on the CEC accredited inverter list connected to the NEM, we will need to standardise on their performance.

Model and design information – How ‘correct’ should it be?

Traditional generation constituted rotating machines where their performance was largely dictated by their electro-mechanical characteristics. However modern Power Electronics (PE) interfaced generation such as Type IV wind turbine generators, Solar PV inverters, HVDC links and battery energy storage are PE interfaced and effectively decouple the energy source from the electricity network.

Hence performance of the generating system is essentially dictated by the switching controls of the converters and the performance can be ‘whatever you want it to be’ (within some reason of course such as current limits of power electronics and DC bus voltage considerations). How the PE connected generator performs is then essentially determined by the control code that is in the converter, hence the importance of ensuring the models are an accurate reflection of the actual code in the converter. Given the high switching frequency of these converters (and the fact that they are asynchronous devices) means the type of instability that could occur is at shorter time-step than what we are used to with synchronous machines (one of the reasons to move to EMT modelling tools such as PSCAD).

PSSE_PSCAD

Take for example the figure above which shows the comparison between an RMS assessment tool (PSS/E) and an EMT tool (PSCAD). The higher frequency oscillations are due to fast acting converter controls which would not be evident in an RMS tool (RMS tools were never designed to assess such phenomenon).

Getting access to information

The National Electricity Market (NEM) is one of the largest interconnected power systems in the world (constituting over 40,000 km of transmission lines/cables and 200 terawatt hours of electricity delivered to ~9 million customers). It could be argued that connecting a ‘small’ generator to a large power system may not have a material impact on either generator or network, hence some small inaccuracies in information may not have a significant impact on the outcome of any technical studies or the network in general. However ‘larger’ generator connections can present their own challenges. What is ‘small’ vs ‘large’ depends not just on the MW size of the generator, but also the network it is connecting into and there is not a simple formula you can apply to quantify ‘small’ versus ‘large’.

That said, to assess the impact of one generator (in particular a ‘large’ generator) connecting to the network, requires a lot of information about not just only the network, but also how the network is operated. Without this information, it is not possible to fully assess the impact of a generator connection (both in terms of impact of the network as well as determining the Generator Technical Performance Standards (GTPS) for the generator). With over 50 GW of new generation proposed to connect to the NEM, often connecting to parts of the network that were never design to accommodate generation, obtaining information required to undertake GTPS studies in a timely manner is often a challenge (both for the generator as well as the NSP).

However this information is crucial for both the generator and the NSP and the latter does have obligations under the NER to provide such information to proponents. Some of the information that is often difficult to obtain includes:

  • PSS/E and / or PSCAD models of network reactive plant (SVCs and STATCOMs) – these either never existed in the first place or are not robust enough to include in power system studies and can impact schedules
  • PSS/E and / or PSCAD models of nearby committed generators (PSS/E models are typically available as projects are committed and availability of PSCAD models has been somewhat addressed under the System Strength Impact Assessment Guidelines)
  • Network frequency dependent impedance for the purposes of undertaking harmonic studies (without this information it is not possible to undertake a harmonic study, some have tried by making ‘assumptions’ and suffered the repercussions come commissioning). The adage of ‘rubbish in’ / ‘rubbish out’ couldn’t be more relevant in this context.
  • Operational information related to the network (eg normally open lines, operating patterns of other generators that can have an impact on voltage control or system strength)

In some cases this information is not available to be provided by the NSP and the only options are to either wait until such time that this information is available, or develop this information yourself (the connecting party in the case of a new generator). This is likely the reason some projects make assumptions on inputs to keep things moving (careful what you assume!). Eventually the risk that a lack of or incorrect information this presents will catch up to the project, hence requires careful management (this is where experience and sound engineering judgement comes into play to understand the extent of missing information and the risk it presents).

Resources and skills

We have an unprecedented amount of new generation connecting and a fundamental transformation of our power system. We don’t know exactly what the generation mix will look like, however one thing is for certain, and that is that there will be a major impact on how we plan, operate and maintain the power system as a whole.

To assess this requires sound power systems knowledge and experience. Power systems are a bit like large jigsaw puzzles where each piece has a role to play. Unfortunately those without good power systems knowledge get too focused on the one piece and expect that one piece to solve all the problems of the ‘puzzle’.

This presents some challenges such as:

  • Resourcing the sheer volume of projects – the growth in new connection volumes has taken place quite rapidly over the last three to four years. We are still playing catchup in terms of having experienced power systems engineers who are able to separate the ‘little detail’ from the detail that matters. There are some young clever minds coming into the industry, but we have a long way to go still to fill the gap in good overall power systems knowledge. This is crucial to ensure we efficiently plan for and integrate new generation into the network.
  • Technology change – this presents a challenge in terms of new problems to solve, but also an opportunity in terms of the speed of implementation for new technologies. The challenge is to not only keep up with technological changes but also embrace it with a careful eye.

Responsibility and Risk allocation

Grid connection risk is a big topic at the moment, probably because this presents the single largest risk which could delay first generation. Who takes on this responsibility depends on the contracting method but under EPC wrap arrangements, this has traditionally been taken on by the EPC contractor. Like any risk, not fully understanding the nature of the risk and its consequences can result in some pretty dire consequences (as was the case for RCR). However we are seeing a re-allocation of grid risk and this shifting from the EPC back to the owner in the context of fully wrapped EPC contracts. Under multi-contract or supply only contracts it is a different story of course and hence further care required as to roles and responsibilities around grid connection risk.

A typical fully wrapped EPC contract may look like this:

If you have not already picked it, the NSP/Operator and EPC interface is a crucial aspect in order to get projects connected, however there are no contractual obligations between the NSP/Operator and the EPC (these are typically discharged from the Owner (via a project and/or connection agreement to the EPC). The consequence of delays would then sit with either the EPC or owner but not with the NSP/Operator (noting that the NSP/Operator and project both have obligations under the NER to ensure a secure, stable, reliable and safe power system). This is probably another topic on its own, however system security and stability take precedence above all else and there is a relatively large imbalance of ‘power’ between NSPs and proponents which can further complicate the grid connection process.

Summary

It seems as though the grid connection process is still a major challenge and although we are moving in the right direction, there is a lot more to do until we can get to a position where the grid connection process isn’t one of the biggest challenges for connecting new generation.

Addressing this challenge and is extremely important in order to ensure we have sufficient supply coming online to meet demand and do so in the most efficient way such that we have a reliable, secure and stable power system.

A test ride of Brisbane’s Lime Scooters

The Last Mile problem (not to be confused with the Three-Body Problem, but possibly as hard to solve) is the struggle that transport planners have in getting commuters to use public transport if they have to walk the first or last stretch.  Transport infrastructure may be fantastic for the most part, but if a passenger needs to walk for twenty minutes after hopping off their train, they may look to take a car instead.

Bicycles make a lot of sense, as they can chew up the distance from the station to home or the office, but they are mostly cumbersome to have on the train, especially during rush hour.  In Melbourne, I’d often get passed by people on skateboards while walking from Flinders Street station to the South Bank.  This is not a bad option, as skateboards can be popped onto the back of a backpack and carry pretty well, but they’re not for everyone.  The few times in my life that I’ve been on a skateboard I’ve feared for my knees, elbows and life.

So this weekend, my little family tried out the Lime scooters which are being rolled out (pun intended) in Brisbane.  These surprisingly tall and heavy electric scooters are found scattered around the CBD, and along the side of the river.

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They cost AUD1 to unlock, then AUD0.30 per minute to ride.  We had a fun time up and down the river’s edge, dropping a smooth AUD11 for our little half hour adventure.  You download the app, locate a nearby scooter and scan its QR code.  Then it’s unlocked and you can take it for a ride.  The app will show how much distance is left in the scooter’s battery.

It’s hard to say how many scooters are dotted around Brisbane, but the app shows that they are fairly ubiquitous in the CBD.  And people are using them.  Everywhere you walk people pass you on them.  They are quiet, very quick and easily accessible.

Lime_app

One of the problems with bike rentals is finding a drop off point, which can make them inconvenient.  When you’re finished with the scooters you just tap out, and leave them on the side of the road.  Ready for the next eager scooterer to hop on.

And when they start getting low on juice?

“Our Lime-S electric scooters are monitored remotely by both local staff and an independent team of Lime Juicers. When a scooter is running low on power, our Juicers will pick it up, charge the battery and then redeploy the Lime-S out in the community.” – Lime

Many of the scooters have helmets hanging off of them, but there are many people cruising around without one.  My conscientious husband asked a passing policeman if they were mandatory (apparently they are).  It was also pointed out that only one person was allowed on at a time.  Pictures below reflect compliance…

Our son enjoyed it and I was surprised at the oomph provided by the little motor.  A great overall experience.

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Photos: Parkes Solar Farm, NSW, Australia

It feels like just yesterday, but five months ago I moved from Melbourne to the Sunshine Coast.  On the way up decided we’d take a leisurely drive up through central New South Wales.  The main aim was to visit the Parkes radio telescope and Dubbo zoo. But at the back of my mind I knew that there were a few solar farms in the region, and while it was a bit of a whistle stop tour, we did manage to swing past Parkes Solar Farm.

Parkes is a lovely town – bigger than we expected.  We had spent the evening before watching The Dish so we were ready for the telescope itself.  It’s really impressive.  An incredible piece of engineering, a significant part of astronomical history and just a generally interesting place to visit.

Parkes_Dish

I have a bit of background knowledge on the Parkes facility, having been aware of some of the comings and goings during construction, through work, and it was good to see it in person.  The developer of the project is a French owned company called Neoen.  Some takeaway stats from the project’s site:

  • Installed capacity: 66MW
  • Expected annual generation: 138,000MWh
  • Land size: 210 Hectares
  • Commencement of full operation reached March 2018

General layout:

Source: Parkes Solar Farm
Source: Parkes Solar Farm

All of these nuggets of info are out there in the public domain, so the main point of this post is to show off pics from a drone that was sent up outside the site.  Behold, Parkes Solar Farm.

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Neoen has a few other projects in NSW, and I have worked briefly on some of these in various capacities.  I’d done a site visit to Griffith Solar Farm before at the end of construction, and had a hand in Coleambally Solar Farm in the lead up to Financial Close and during construction (the project reached commercial operation recently, which was impressive, given the short construction timeframe and the ambitious size of the project).  Neoen also have Dubbo Solar Hub in NSW, made up of Dubbo and Narromine Solar Farms.  I was within spitting distance of the Narromine farm, but we just didn’t have time to get there.

While Neoen has extensive experience in NSW, they have also been making inroads into other states.  I had been involved on Numurkah Solar Farm prior to Financial Close – this VRET project is currently under construction in Victoria.  They also have development approvals in Queensland, and I know that they are actively pursuing various other options.

The complex world of Japanese waste management

I recently got back from a two week holiday in Japan.  The first week was spent snowboarding up north and the second week was in the madness that is Tokyo.  In both, I encountered confusing, and strangely strict, recycling rules that were difficult to follow and seemed to change from region to region.

Ueno_park

In the house that a big group of us had rented at the snow, we were asked to separate our recycling into cans, bottles, food waste and other.  Simple enough.  Around the ski resort bins were separated into ‘combustible’ and ‘other’.  And then when we got down to Tokyo, we had four pages of instructions in the AirBnB welcome pack about what needs to be separated and how to do it.  Rubbish was collected on our street every day, but I couldn’t see any difference in the trucks driving around and they all seemed to lump rubbish bags together without any apparent distinction between bags.  Other than crates of cans and bottles that were loaded up separately.  Who knows where those crates came from.  It was incredibly confusing.

There are a lot of articles out there which go into the complicated nature of recycling in Japan in much more depth than I would be able to having been there for just one week.  I found this one interesting.

But it’s an important topic.  Because there are vending machines dotted (spray-painted) all around the streets of Tokyo.  Everything comes in plastic.  Individually wrapped goodies are ubiquitous, and when you buy a single plasticked thing, it gets placed in a plastic bag.  And having seen what I’ve seen in the Philippines, this was naturally a bit distressing.

The Rockefeller Foundation has two Japanese cities within its 100 Resilient Cities programme; Kyoto and Toyama.  I didn’t visit either, but the Toyama Resilience Strategy is probably reflective of other Japanese city priorities.  They celebrate their existing waste management practices, and point out that individuals take ownership of their role in keeping the city clean.  But from a municipal level they also discuss grander plans and highlight the importance of the development of the city’s waste to energy industry.   “With city incentives, seven different companies now turn “waste” into usable products at the EcoTown Industrial Park, started in 2002. An extensive waste recycling education center increases citizen awareness of the methods and importance of waste recycling.” [Source] . They also point out the importance of incorporating waste reduction and recycling principles into education programmes and messaging.

Layout of Toyama Eco-Town [Source: Toyama Resilience Strategy]
Layout of Toyama Eco-Town [Source: Toyama Resilience Strategy]
What they don’t seem to do is look at reducing the amount of waste generated in the first place.  It all seems to focus on waste management, recycling, combustion, landfill.  There doesn’t seem to be any emphasis on rethinking packaging of products in Japan.  Talking to manufacturers.  Rethinking the need for wrapping up Pocky chocolate sticks (yum) into two separate packets within one single box.

We felt plastic sick by the time we got home.  And considering how much work each individual is expected to do in their day to day household recycling, and the social pressure that seems to be experienced at this domestic level, it’s not clear if any of that pressure is being directed upwards.  Both at the regulators and at the suppliers.

Asia has a lot to answer for with plastic consumption.  And Japan has enough resources to find a suitable response.

Back in the business – the Australian energy business

GDay

I am coming up for air after a crazy and intense year of maternity leave.  Thanks to all who have kept in touch and apologies to those who were expecting the newsletters to continue.

My big news is that four months ago I started working for an engineering firm in Melbourne, in their renewable energy team.  I am back in the world of consulting, working as technical advisor on a number of solar projects around Australia.  It’s very similar to the work I was doing back in South Africa so it’s familiar ground.

This market is booming at the moment, and there are a lot of little interesting topics floating around that could use a bit of discussion.  What’s of clear interest to me is the number of South Africans moving over here with experience in renewables.  The slow down of the REIPPP programme in SA has had many people looking further afield for work.  Not including myself I can think of five people who were consulting in Cape Town while I was there, who are now based in Australia.  And that’s just within consulting.  There will be a whole heap more working for the other project players.

I’m slowly getting my head around the grid connection space.  It’s complicated, with uncertainties that seem to be driving developers around the bend.  Marginal and Distributed Loss Factors deserve their own youtube channel, and the Generator Performance Standards are tying people in knots.

Each state has its own planning rules.  The country is enormous with long tentacled electrical infrastructure.  The politics is political and the leaders love to leave.

It’s a big mish mash and a bit wishy washy.  And it’s a lot to get your head around.

So watch this space.  Perhaps all that I can promise is that you learn along the way with me.

Melaka – one of Rockefeller’s 100 Resilient Cities

In August 2016 we left Singapore by bus and landed in Johor Bahru, a city that seems to exist solely for the purpose of supplying Singapore with goods by truck.  We spent one night there before heading to Melaka (also sometimes referred to as Malacca.)  Here we found a small city rich in history, diversity, personality, beauty and with a lot of character.

Part of its history is that it was under Dutch occupation or control for a long time, and there is evidence of this throughout the city.  In the architecture and the way things are named (like the Stadthuys or city hall in the middle of town.)   I found myself wondering if this is the part of the world that so many Cape Malay people in South Africa can trace their heritage back to.  And it turns out that there were slaves sent from Melaka to Cape Town.  I found the experience that much more personal to think on it; that there was such a distant and yet very real link between this city that I had stumbled upon, and my home town.

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The 100 Resilient Cities initiative lists the following as Melaka’s resilience challenges:

  • Coastal flooding
  • Cyber attack
  • Declining or ageing population
  • Disease outbreak
  • Landslide
  • Overtaxed/ under developed/unreliable transportation system
  • Poor air quality/pollution
  • Rainfall flooding
  • Rising sea level and coastal erosion

Coastal flooding/Rising sea level and coastal erosion/Rainfall flooding

These concerns are easy to understand.  The city is centred around the Melaka river, which winds its way around the city and flows out to the ocean.  It flows right through the heart of the touristy section of the city, and buildings and infrastructure are built right up to the water’s edge.

There is clearly a lot of history connected to the river.  A beautiful water wheel, ship exhibition, and tourist attractions and activities are set up around the river.  It is therefore not hard to imagine that the city is vulnerable to the effects of flood and sea level rise.

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Overtaxed/ under developed/unreliable transportation system

We stayed in the city centre.  We had arrived by bus from Johor Bahru and had used a bus to get from the main bus terminal to the hotel where we were staying.  This worked well and was very cheap.  But that is as far as our experience of the public transportation system went.  For the rest of our time, we walked around the city.  We didn’t brave the brightly coloured and adorned tourist tricycles.  But it’s not hard to imagine that the transport system is stretched and stressed.

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Disease outbreak

I’m not really sure what diseases they are referring to with this, but this was one of my favourite signs in Melaka.  My guess is that they’re more worried about non-STD related diseases, but still, play safe folks.

Melaka