Conference puts renewables at forefront of energy revolution

Total Construction is a company that likes to stay at the top of the industries that it operates in. This is why when the general manager of its renewable energy and process engineering division, James Bolton, recently attended the PowerGen 2017 event in Las Vegas, United States.

PowerGen 2017 is the world’s largest power generation exhibition and conference. With around 1400 exhibitors, it dwarfs anything on offer in the Australian market. What better place to understand the current trends and technologies in this sector?

A feature at the conference was the acceptance that the use of coal is declining. Even with some glowing examples of life support for the sector, such as carbon capture storage, of which there were some prominent successes (the Petra Nova project, the world’s largest commissioned in 2016), it could be the end of an era.

“It was noted that natural gas was a transition fuel,” said Bolton. “But there was also a focus on decentralised energy and micro-grids. The integration of renewables into these networks requires energy storage. Needless to say, Australia did receive numerous mentions, specifically around the Tesla battery storage project in South Australia with many calling it world leading. It was also acknowledged that South Australia has the highest penetration of renewable energy in any grid system in the Western world.”

Some of the more intriguing discussions were around CO2 capture including doing so directly from the air. The production of renewable hydrogen and creating a 100 per cent hydrogen distribution network with underground storage in salt caverns, was certainly a unique idea. There was also underground compressed air storage, which was spruiked as a giant battery in competition with lithium batteries and hydrogen. The renewable energy project of the year was the Ningxia Haiyuan Xihua Mountain 300MW wind farm in China. What was even more impressive was that it was constructed, and now operates, in temperatures at -22˚C.

“The overall opinion was that Australia has a way to go to align with the fervent direction of the United States and China,” said Bolton. “Many attendees felt that Australia was blessed with renewable resources and a national electricity system, as opposed to the United States with its fragmented system. To some degree there was a sense that Australia might be squandering its opportunities.”

This is why if developers are considering renewable energy for their next construction project, Bolton and his team from Total Construction are a good starting point.
Not only with they provide guidance as to how best utilise a renewable system, but they can give examples of projects they have recently completed.