In the lands across the Tasman where possums are considered an invasive species and not a protected one, a new technology has been born. The brainchild of the New Zealand based Goodnature team, The “Henry” possum traps are lightweight units that fire automatically to quickly and humanely kill the problematic animals. In a land where over 30 million possums run rogue, decimating native flora and fauna, the traps have been well accepted.
The lightweight traps automatically fire and reset 12 times; reducing labour costs compared to regular single catch possum traps. This enables more money to be allocated to the purchasing of more traps. The traps are toxin free, and are placed in trees or off the ground where possums dwell. They work by shooting a compressed gas powered, polymer piston into the skull of the animal. This action kills the pest immediately and humanely; the instant the trap is triggered. Once the animal has been struck, the piston retracts and the carcass of the deceased possum drops to the ground. The traps then reset themselves ready to lure in their next victim.
The traps were first tested in 2011 as part of a $4 million pest control initiative announced by the Green Party and the Government in 2010. “These traps are effective at killing possums and helping protect the birds and forests that New Zealanders love,” said Green Party conservation spokesman Kevin Hague.
Since their inception a few years ago the team at Goodnature have expanded their trap range to work on other pests including rats and stoats, and there is much more potential for further expansion. If it’s possible to create traps that can specifically target other pests, while not attracting or harming native and protected species then the sky is the limit.
We spoke with a possum removal expert from Brisbane about the potential for the traps in Australia. “Possums are a protected species in Australia.” She said. “So these specific traps would be illegal to use here. However there is definitely scope to expand the same technology to control other pests. If Goodnature could work out a trap that could target rabbits, foxes or even the cane toad, then they would sell like hotcakes!”
Rabbits were originally introduced with the First Fleet, and became a problem after an outbreak caused by an 1859 release. Since then they have cause untold billions of dollars damage to crops and land across much of Australia’s arable regions. Foxes were also release after European settlement, in the 1870’s. The reason for this was as a target for recreational hunters. The spread of foxes closely followed the spread of rabbits and today foxes are thought to have spread across most of the mainland south of the tropics and even as far as Tasmania. These pests are a problem because they prey on native wildlife and also farm livestock including calves, lambs, poultry, and goats.
The cane toad problem in Australia needs no introduction, with the story of their invasion and expansion being infamous around the globe. A trap that targets these pests specifically might be a bit more difficult than one for other animals though because there are so many other small animals, reptiles and amphibians that might also be lured into the traps.
In their current form, the Goodnature traps have been used as far away as Hawaii, Puerto Rico and even Sweden. While the current model rat trap already offers significant benefit to Australians in need of respite from pests of that nature that plagues our shores, if their technology can be expanded there is a bright future for it’s usage here to aid our endangered wildlife and frustrated farmers.
We decided to base our case study in the typical everyday suburb of Klemzig, a suburb of Adelaide, South Australia, 8kms northeast of the Adelaide CBD. It’s located at the eastern end of the City of Port Adelaide Enfield, adjacent to the suburbs of Hampstead Gardens, Hillcrest and Windsor Gardens. This was chosen as our area of investigation as it is easy to replicate this study to other cities throughout Australia. The purpose of this study is to evaluate whether photovoltaic solar panels are worth investing in, considering their current social, economic and environmental aspects.
Klemzig’s profile is quite similar to other suburbs in the City of Port Adelaide. Klemzig has a total area of 2.5 km2, with a population of 5086 in 2006. Compared to its local council, there is a higher proportion of managers and professionals in Klemzig and a significantly lower proportion working in manufacturing, the median weekly household income is around $725.00.
Average Household size
Median Weekly Household Income
Government rebates are available for eligible households, giving assistance with the cost of installing a solar photovoltaic system through small-scale technology certificates, solar credits and the solar feed-in scheme.
At present, there are no direct federal rebates available for small-scale solar photovoltaic, wind power and micro-hydro systems. However, small-scale systems are eligible for support under the new enhanced Renewable Energy Target (RET).
The enhanced RET allows for the creation of Small Technology Certificates (STCs) for small-scale solar, small wind and micro-hydro systems. STCs are issued by the government for the generation of renewable energy, which electricity retailers and other ‘liable parties’ (such as large users of electricity) are then obliged to purchase in order to fulfil their mandatory commitments under the RET legislation. The RET seeks to ensure that 20% of Australia’s electricity supply come from renewable sources by 2020, as imposed by the federal government’s Mandatory Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act 2000.
The Solar Credits program is part of the enhanced RET. Solar Credits are available to households and businesses that install small-scale solar PV, small wind and micro-hydroelectricity systems. The scheme works by multiplying the number of tradeable STCs able to be created for eligible installations. If the system is installed between 9 June 2009 and 30 June 2011, the homeowner will receive five times as many STCs as under the deeming arrangements for the existing RET scheme. From 1 July 2011, the multiplier will reduce to three times, and will decrease by a factor of 1 each year until it reaches and stays at a multiplier of one from 1 July 2013.
Households, small businesses and community buildings that have solar panels installed may be eligible to receive payment for any electricity that is exported back to the grid. The scheme is open to electricity customers that consume less than 160MWh per annum. The average household uses less than 10MWh per annum. According to the Clean Energy Sector there were 105,520 solar power systems installed in Australia in the 10 months from January to October 2010, more than the 81,232 installed from 2001 to 2009.
Adelaide is Australia’s first solar city according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. It is one of seven regions in Australia to trial new approaches to producing and using energy as part of the Australian Government’s Solar Cities Program. From 2009 until 2013, Adelaide’s local governments, businesses and the community will support the uptake of 1700 solar panels for homes and business. Consumers installing solar systems are given and will be given financial help to do so. There will also be 7000 ‘smart meters’ installed in homes and business and a campaign to inform the community about energy efficiency and encourage the uptake of green power. The trial is expected to cut energy usage by 28GWh, representing an annual saving of $5 million in electricity costs and a minimum of 30,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions each year.
Figure 11 shows that there has not been any installed solar panels on households for more than two years. This is due to solar panels being more affordable and economical in the past years, also government rebates have been available for eligible households. More than half of the locals surveyed (54%) have had their solar panels installed for only1-2 years. None of the respondents have had their solar panels longer than 2 years.
Many households have been recently investing solar PV systems (figure 11) as rebates are becoming lesser and lesser because the solar industry have already been established. “It is becoming stronger and can now compete with other power suppliers such as gas and do not need any more government support”, said Verity Sanders, the Strategic Planner (Environment Policy) of Port Adelaide Council.“Solar panels reduce electricity bill costs as much as a third and also reduce the cost of running a home”, stated Verity Sanders.
There are some council restictions that households are need to be aware of when they are installing solar panels. There are requirements of adjacent dwelling to make sure they don’t overshadow a next door roof of solar collection panels. Solar panels should be mounted upright at least 10cm of the roof.
The number of complaints against solar power installers has increased over the last few months according to the Clean Energy Council. But the Klemzig area has received zero complaints.
Inspections carried out by the Clean Energy Council have have found systems installed in an unsafe way; increasing the risk of fire. In other instances, systems have been installed in such a way that performance is substantially decreased and complaints have also been lodged about exaggerated system performance information being provided by some companies.
A large percentage of respondents believe that having solar panels on their roof has made them more energy conscious. In Lochiel Park, where it is mandatory for households to have solar panels, the respondents believe that it has influenced them to become more energy conscious and 100% of the local residents surveyed believe that solar panels set a positive example for the community.
Verity Sanders, the Strategic Planner of the Port Adelaide Enfield was interviewed, her responses are shown below.
Response from Verity Sanders
Do you believe that the government should provide more funds to help low-income earners invest in solar panels?
“The State government is providing services to work with low income households (including through Housing SA) on reducing the actual energy consumption in households wherever possible, through audits or better use of appliances, which is actually the most important first action, and ultimately just as important (and much cheaper for the householder) than installing solar panels in most instances”,
Do you think that solar panels should be mandatory for new housing developments in the city of Klemzig?
I think that the State government could look at the option of requiring houses (and businesses) to have some solar or other renewable source as part of a new building – some houses however may not have the roof room – so the practicalities have to be considered in each case. It’s a regulation that would have to be put in place by the State Government, as Councils don’t have any legislative powers to mandate that requirement just in their own Council area.
The initial cost of investing solar panels depends on the kilowatt output of the system but generally it is expensive. Most respondents agree that the initial cost of investing solar panels cost a lot but it is worth the money.
The local residents surveyed agreed that the government should offer larger rebates and that the scheme should be extended. They also believed that the government should provide more funds to help low-income earners invest in solar panels.The table below shows the interview done with Verity Sanders regarding government rebates on solar PV systems. Households may be eligible to receive assistance with the cost of installing a solar system through the small-scale technology certificates (STC), solar credits and the solar feed-in scheme.
Response from Verity Sanders
What do you think about the government rebates and incentives? Do you think they should offer larger rebates?
I think that once the cost of solar panels becomes much cheaper ( which they certainly are now), then there will be a time when the public funds (government rebates) no longer need to support the industry, and they can stand on their own two feet, as other power sources are required to do.
Do you think the government should extend the scheme?
The current scheme seems to have been extremely successful, to the point where the industry is struggling to keep up with demand, so I think there’s a limit to how long the scheme needs to run for. As solar panels become cheaper ( as they are doing) they will become a standard option for any house, and particularly for new houses where the cost of installing panels becomes part of the overall cost of building the house, and can be absorbed into a home loan over a period of time.
None of the respondents have ever had any problems with their solar panels since they were installed, which is great news for prospective solar panel owners. From an environmental standing there have been no concerns from the respondents but rather a positive increase in their views towards living environmentally.
Solar panels have positive environmental implications resulting in reduced dependency on mains electricity, which means we will need less new major power stations to be built in the future – this is particularly important given that Adelaide will continue to grow in the next decades, so for that growth to be sustainable, we have to reduce our demand on the system in many ways as possible to allow for that increased growth. Solar panels reduce pressure on fossil fuel resource. It also reduces Australia’s carbon emissions thus reducing the impact of the enhanced greenhouse effect. Solar panels can also result in an increased environmental awareness and energy consciousness of citizens. On the negative side, the construction of solar systems consumes high amount of energy therefore there is high embodied energy put into solar panels.
Socially, solar panels set a positive example to the community and encourage adjacent streets to consider investing solar systems. Solar panel installations are quick and easy and don’t need much maintenance. It doesn’t cause any hazard to humans as it is manufactured without using toxic products. Solar panels may reduce base load demand during peak periods thus limiting black outs in communities. There are council restrictions to make sure that solar panels don’t overshadow a next door roof of solar collection. Solar panels are expensive to buy, but they pay off themselves over a period of time. Low income earners and eligible households are supported by the government through federal government support such as the small scale certificate and solar credits. State government supports are available as well through the solar feed-in scheme.
Economically, it helps create ‘economies of scale’ as there is enhanced investment in green renewable energies such as solar. It results to an increased revenue for solar retailers and provides employment therefore result to positive flowback to the community. Government rebates such as the small scale certificates, solar credits and solar feed-in tariff are available for eligible households. The running costs of houses with installed solar panels are low and are not greatly affected by the projected increase on the price of gas and electricity. On the negative side, solar panels are expensive to invest in therefore it can be difficult for low income earners to afford. Solar rebates for households are ending which will then result to an increase price of solar systems.
The government (Federal, State, and Local) should educate people, especially the working demography, on benefits of solar PV systems.
The government should invest more into large scale solar generators all over Australia.
Government departments should plan to install more solar PV system on their building chambers as it sets a positive example for the community.
Solar panels should be mandatory for new housing developments.
Government should continue to give incentives to house developers who choose to use renewable energy.
Government should continue to reward or give money back to individual households with installed solar panels (photovoltaic power cells).
The government should offer larger rebates and extend the scheme.
The cost of installing solar panels should become part of the overall cost of building the house and should be absorbed into home loan.
The government should continue to plan strategies on how they can support low income earners to invest in solar panels.
Improve the energy efficiency of house and business appliance
Do you have an opinion on the benefits or drawbacks of investing in solar? we’d love to hear from you! please leave us a comment or get in touch with us via social media. If you liked this article, support the author and share this post!
In 2011, the worldwide population exceeded 7 billion. This is well up on the earth’s population at the beginning of the last century when there were just 1.6 billion people. This rapid rise in human numbers is unprecedented and threatens the very well-being of the planetary systems on which all life depends. As population grows bigger and bigger, there is an increased demand for food, water, housing, and other resources including energy.
The bulk of energy we use comes from non-renewable fossil fuels such as coal, oil or natural gas. We burn these fuels in power stations to make electricity or in combustion engines as transport fuels. The combustion of fossil fuels results to an increased concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere which can then lead to global warming. Much of the easily accessible oil will be gone in 50 years (figure 3) and coal will be scarce in 200 years. As more and more fossil fuels are used those that are the easiest to find will be used up first. As time goes on it will be harder to find new reserves of fuels and the cost of extracting them will increase.
The use of renewable energy sources to provide electricity is rapidly increasing in popularity among proprietors and companies. The increasing use of natural and renewable energy sources is needed to help relieve us of our current dependency on fossil fuels. The significantly high level of fossil fuel products burnt each and every day is polluting of the air and surrounding environments and may also be contributing to climate change.
Renewable energy sources are those that can regenerate in a relatively short time such as solar, hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. All of which harness the earth’s power without the need to destroy it.
Wind energy, currently the cheapest renewable energy source, involves the generation of electricity from the naturally occurring force of the wind. Sites where there is strong, consistent wind, such as Southern Australia, are the most appropriate locations for wind farms. An excellent wind site is generally considered to deliver average wind speeds larger than 8 metres per second at sea level.
Australia has some of the world’s best wind resources. The total operating wind capacity at the beginning of 2011 was 1991 megawatts. The amount of installed capacity of wind power has increased by an average of 30 per cent a year over the past decade. Wind energy supplies over 5,100 gigawatt hours of electricity annually – around 2 per cent of Australia’s overall electricity needs.
Currently there are 53 operating wind farms in Australia, with a total of 1089 operating turbines. South Australia has the largest installed capacity with around 51 per cent of the nation’s total wind capacity. In 2010 estimated wind energy generation saved Australia 5,100,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide. That is equivalent to the removal of 1,133,000 cars from our roads. As an additional environmental benefit, no water is needed for wind farm operation.
The use of wind power continues to grow around the world. Global installed capacity at the end of 2010 was almost 194 gigawatts – a 22 per cent increase on 2009.
In 2010, around 36 gigawatts of new wind capacity was installed around the world with a value of around $US65 billion.
Wind farms have various societal, commercial, ecological and health implications. The most noticeable impact a wind turbine places upon the people in the surrounding environment is noise pollution. It also has the potential to lower property values within a varying radius of construction. Nina Pierpont, a paediatrician based in New York, conducted a research that suggests that people living close to wind turbines are vulnerable to what she calls Wind Turbine Syndrome (WTS), an illness with symptoms including sleep disorders, heart disease, panic attacks and headaches.
Another disadvantage regarding a wind turbine and its impact on the surrounding environment can be expressed with the term “visual impact” or “visual pollution”. Some people believe wind turbines actually look quite nice, yet many people disagree seeing turbines as a scare on the landscape.
Bird deaths are a cause for concern and a key biological issue related to wind turbines. The number of birds that perish at the arms of wind farm sites created an outcry from fishing and wildlife agencies and conservation groups like PETA. On the other hand, several large wind farms have functioned for years with only minor impacts on such wildlife. Also tied in with this matter is the construction of wind turbines. As with many other developments, wind turbines require deep bases, and this has the potential to abolish underground habitations, and disrupt surrounding ones.
Unlike most other generation technologies, wind turbines do not use combustion to generate electricity, and hence don’t produce air emissions. The only potentially toxic or hazardous materials are relatively small amounts of lubricating oils and hydraulic and insulating fluids. Therefore, contamination of surface or ground water or soils is highly unlikely. The primary health and safety considerations are related to the movement of the fan blades and the presence of industrial equipment in areas possibly accessible to the community. A supplementary concern associated with wind turbines is potential interference with radar and telecommunication facilities. And like all electrical generating facilities, wind generators produce electric and magnetic fields.
One of the limitations of wind power is that consistent wind is needed for continuous power generation. If wind speed decreases, the turbine lingers and less electricity is generated.
Even though wind power has minor disadvantages it is still an excellent alternative to fossil fuels. Wind power produces no pollution that can contaminate the environment, since no chemical processes take place, unlike in burning of fossil fuels, in wind power generation, there are no harmful by-product left over. Also, since wind power is a renewable source of energy, it will always be available for use and the world will never run out of it. Wind farms can also be built off-shore. Farming and grazing can still take place on land occupied by wind turbines which can help in the production of biofuels. By using renewable energy sources such as wind power we’re able to make the remaining oil, gas and coal supplies last longer.
The initial investment of wind turbines can be expensive, yet it is capable of paying for themselves over the years of operation. Government grants are also available to households and businesses switching to renewable energy system.
The current and prospective policy environments within which a wind farm is operating are central to the effectiveness and competitiveness with which it operates. Direct support through subsidisation or favourable tax policies or indirect support for renewables from costs imposed on greenhouse gas emissions will enhance the competitiveness of wind energy. In Australia growth of wind energy is favoured by the Renewable Energy Target, proposed reductions in carbon emissions and the new proposed carbon tax.
The Renewable Energy Target (RET) scheme was implemented by the Government in August 2009. RET is designed to deliver on the Government’s commitment to ensure that 20 per cent of Australia’s electricity supply will come from renewable resources by 2020. In ten years’ time the amount of electricity coming from sources like solar, wind and geothermal will be around the same as all of Australia’s current household electricity use.
The carbon tax has had an adverse effect on the growth of wind energy. The Carbon tax taxes sources which emit carbon dioxide. Carbon taxes address a negative externality. Externalities arise when an individual production or consumption activity imposes costs or benefits on others. By placing a cost on these negative externalities the underlying purpose of a carbon tax is to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and thereby slow global warming. It will be executed by taxing the burning of fossil fuels like coal, petroleum products such as petrol and aviation fuel, and natural gas like CSG—in proportion to how much carbon they add to the atmosphere.
Other current management policy of wind farms is identifying suitable locations for wind energy facilities, it should not lead to unacceptable impacts on critical environmental, cultural or landscape values.
Although wind farms have quite significant negative impacts on the surrounding environment, I would still support the increased use of wind power, as long as wind farms are sited, designed and managed so they do not harm birds and their habitats.
The wind industry and government agencies should sponsor research into collisions, relevant bird and bat behaviour, mitigation measures, and appropriate study design protocols. In addition, project developers should be required to collect data through monitoring efforts at existing and proposed wind energy sites. Careful site selection is needed to minimize fatalities and in some cases additional research may be needed to address bird and bat impact issues. Landscape and cultural heritage values of the land should be considered also when identifying suitable sites for wind energy. It is recommended that wind turbines should be built at least 2 kilometers (a little over a mile) away from people’s homes
Government agencies should also sponsor medical research into the illness called Wind Turbine Syndrome. Project developers should be required to collect data through monitoring people living at close proximity to wind turbines.
Other improvements can also be made to address issues concerning wind power generation/wind farms such as the government continuing to provide sponsorship in investing more into wind farms and continuing to provide incentives and rebates to encourage individual households to invest in wind energy and other renewable energy resource.
A new way to cater for the increased demand of energy can be ecologically sustainable, and that is generating renewable clean energy from the wind.
For a market that is often perceived to be demure, or even dull, the commercial tapware industry has seen a huge improvement in technology over the past few decades. Spurred on by industry, political, and environmental pressures to improve water efficiency, tap and sink designers have created products that deserve far more praise than they have received. This is mainly due to the fact that most people find commercial taps and tapware an uninteresting topic, but for those of us with an interest in fluid mechanics, technology, and contemporary design, recent advancements in water flow technologies can be described as nothing short of fascinating.
Upgrades from the traditional commercial tap units began in the ‘90s with simple mechanical on off switches that allowed users to control the flow of water with their foot, knee or hip as they washed their hands or performed whatever task they needed to in the sink. This step up from the standard turn on/off taps was hailed as a godsend for many industries where the use of a hand to turn the tap on or off was seen as a major inconvenience. As well as in commercial kitchens, these taps we’re also quickly adopted for usage in many higher end restaurants and bar bathrooms where they were seen as an ideal way to reduce the spread of germs.
Hands free taps also offered benefit through ease of use (once users had initially learned how to operate the unit), to prevent excessive water overflow, and to save water, which equated to saving money. Increasing prices of utilities like water have increased to demand for water saving devices and has been a continual driver of new technologies. After the success of hands-free commercial taps, many designers looked toward newer technologies for the next big thing in tapware design.
Like in so many other industries, the reduction in prices for chipsets and sensors allowed for the development of a new wave of tapware in the form of infrared sensor taps. This next generation of commercial tapware offered even more mobility for users while turning on the flow of water, allowing them free use of all limbs while workings. Electronic sensors also mean an even greater reduction in waste-water, with water only flowing when something is in the vicinity of the sensor ready to utilize the release of water.
While originally introduced for hand basins and commercial sink applications, electronic sensors have also shown to be quite popular for commercial toilet and urinal applications. Ongoing improvements have to sensor controlled fixtures have increase water efficiency and offered even greater cost savings. While sensor taps and toilets cost a slight premium over standard or traditional units, they offer many advantages and the cost savings can often be made back in as little as 3 months. Water savings are obviously greater in high use industries and cost savings can be phenomenal when used for the right applications.
Continual improvements by the leaders in commercial taps, sinks and kitchen design will reduce water consumption and wastage even further. While sensor taps have been a boon for cost saving there are still a plethora of potential improvements we can expect to see over the coming years that make this technology even more environmentally friendly. As the technology becomes even more mainstream, expect to see it being increasingly used for residential applications as well.