To Efficiency and Beyond...

To Efficiency and Beyond...
Do you remember that TV show ‘Beyond 2000’? The show which would test-drive new and emerging technologies destined to change the horizon of how we go about our day to day activities? I always wondered what they were going to do when they actually reached the year 2000, surely they couldn’t keep calling the show ‘Beyond 2000’, cause that would be, now. Waiting for the answer to that was almost more exciting than anticipating the widespread destruction caused by the millennium bug - and almost as anticlimactic when it got canned by channel 10 prior to reaching that milestone. If memory serves, they tried to bring the show back in the mid-2000’s, but it fizzed.

One of the most memorable episodes for me was when the host was showcasing a very early concept for a Virtual Reality headset, rudimentary as it was - I mean, it was really just a whole bunch of polygons, a world without definition. Even so, the concept was mind-blowing – the ability to immerse yourself in a completely different world, manipulate things around you in a 3D environment. It sounded awesome, and exorbitantly expensive.

But like most things on that show, the technology’s early development phase largely went unnoticed by the general population. In fact, it wasn’t until many years later that I realised you could now purchase personal VR units for your home. Technology has almost become such a fast-moving beast that no one actually notices the pace that it changes any more - The VR headset I now have at home attached to my laptop makes the Beyond 2000 version seem like something my children would probably laugh at…

“But”, I will tell them in my ‘you’re about to learn something, so pay attention’ tone; “technology doesn’t just appear, we need these iterations, these early versions of the products to get to where we are now.” - My children love it when I explain things to them, it gives them a great opportunity to think of their next question and completely ignore what I’m saying.

Yet, even thinking about it now, I don’t know what the iterations of VR development were. For all I know VR went from Beyond 2000 polygon horrible to Virtual Kick-Ass Reality in one step - I didn’t see any of the stages between those two versions because, well, I wasn’t really paying attention. But again, I guess that’s just how technology goes, it changes so rapidly that if you don’t have your finger on the pulse you’re simply going to get left behind. These days I find it easier to walk around constantly looking like a cross between concerned and surprised, almost like the way Nicolas Cage acts in, well, every movie Nicolas Cage is in.
My experience with solar technology was quite similar; While growing up I was definitely aware of the concept of converting solar energy into electricity, but the technology was in its relative infancy at the time. Then the solar boom happened and the idea of having your own personal power station mounted on the roof of your home spread across the nation like Vegemite on a kid’s face. Over the next few years, solar panels increased in efficiency and decreased in price, to the point where solar energy generation now convincingly holds the mantle of being the cheapest form of energy production available.

But it didn’t change the fact that, unless you were specifically paying attention to the renewable energy sector, solar just came out of nowhere, with an uptake that was nothing short of incredible. It went from being a great - but expensive - idea that amazed people with its innovation and potential, to being installed on anything that had a roof within a matter of ten short years. The technology developed, and continues to develop at such a rate that no other renewable energy technology can come close for versatility and price.

I asked Mark Yates, the director of Yates Electrical Services how drastically he has seen prices change for solar installations, “The first system we installed with our own modules was on the Ozone building on the Renmark riverfront in 2010, at that time we payed approximately $2.20 per watt for the system, now we’re paying 31 cents per watt.” – The price to install a solar energy system just 8 years ago cost 733% more than it would today, and every day that cost reduces just a little bit more.
“Once the generous feed-in tariffs started reducing and it became clear that was the way it was going, we started looking at other entry points for the market. That’s when we started really seriously looking into solar farms.”
In 2016, Mark installed a prototype solar farm on the roof of the Renmark Self Storage building in Renmark. An old aircraft-hangar-style building which once served as a fruit cannery and now operates as a self-storage business, it seemed like the perfect location to test the viability of our solar farming model in a rural setting. The aim was to gather real world data on whether the model could act as an effective supplement to standard farming practices, providing local land-owners with an opportunity to reduce their reliance on primary production markets while providing them complementary income streams that were geared to retain generated wealth within local community centers.

The prototype site was far more successful than we had anticipated, providing approximately 44% more than our forecasted returns in the first year of operation, and giving us a solid baseline to now begin approaching potential land-owners with the concept. When our first Redmud Green Energy site launched in Renmark in late 2016, our business plan included the design, construction and energisation of 10 new sites by mid-2017, and 12 additional sites to be constructed the following financial year. Suffice to say, we didn’t anticipate the level of interest we would get for the project following our official launch.

The first year of Redmud Green Energy saw 16 new sites rolled out, followed by an additional 25 the following year and many more currently under development – in fact, we’re still now trying to get in touch with everyone who initially registered interest, with a backlog of over 60 potential sites for solar farms across South Australia.

It’s really quite incredible to witness the level of support a project like this is getting, particularly in our little rural towns. We’re thoroughly excited about the journey we still have before us with Redmud Green Energy, coupled with a bunch of new developments on the horizon, 2018 is shaping up to be one crazy year. We have some massive news coming later in the year, so watch this space.

Anything could happen in this game beyond tomorrow, but one thing is for sure; don’t blink, or you might just miss it.

About the Author

Patrick is the Marketing and Communications Manager at Yates Electrical Services. When he's not designing stuff and writing stories, he performs as an acoustic soloist and spends time with his beautiful little family.

Patrick also likes long walks on the beach, sewing, and photoshopping himself to look like an Avenger. He really wishes he was an Avenger.