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Meet the World's First Island Powered by an Off-Grid Renewable Energy System

A tiny, scenic island lying off Scotland's west coast is truly a model for sustainable, off-grid living. With no mainland electricity connection, the Isle of Eigg gets its electricity from the water, the wind and the sun.

After decades of using diesel generators, in February 2008 the residents of Eigg officially switched to their own renewable electricity supply, becoming the world's first community to launch an off-grid electric system.

The 12-square-mile island, with its small population of 105 residents, gets 'round-the-clock power via a combination of hydroelectric generators, wind turbines, a photovoltaic array and a bank of batteries. On days when renewable resources are low or during maintenance, two 80kW diesel generators provide backup.

"The set-up that we've got now will carry the island all day and put charge into the batteries for the evening," John Booth, the former director of the community-owned Eigg Electric company, told the BBC.

On days when there is a surplus of power—like when it's particularly windy or rainy—electric heaters automatically switch on in Eigg's church and community hall, which is ideal for keeping shared spaces warm throughout the winter.

This means "virtually no central heating in the system at all," Booth pointed out. "We don't charge for it because the whole community benefits."

As the BBC detailed, before making the transition to renewables, the island relied on noisy and expensive diesel generators that could only run for a few hours a day. But with the new power system, energy is available 24 hours a day.

Eigg residents are encouraged to use their power responsibly. Each house has a maximum use limit at any one time of 5kW, which is enough for an electric kettle and washing machine to run at the same time, or fifty 100w light bulbs. Businesses get 10kW. Residents are fined if they use too much power but meters help keep electricity use on track.

"The whole thing is run by and for the island," Booth said.

Researchers from all around the world—Brazil, Alaska and Malawi—have visited the isle to learn how the unique system can be adapted elsewhere.

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Photo credit: Lyon Group

World's Biggest Solar + Battery Farm Coming to Australia

A massive solar and battery farm is being built in South Australia's Riverland region.

If everything goes to plan, the plant will be running by the end of 2017 and will be the largest such system in the world, Brisbane-based renewable energy developer and investor Lyon Group announced.

The Riverland plant consists of 330MW of solar PV and a 100MW/400MWh battery storage system, or 3.4 million solar panels and 1.1 million batteries.

The new project couldn't come sooner. A major gas shortage is looming and the country's decades-old coal plants are shutting down, sparking potential price hikes and putting the nation's energy security at risk.

The $1 billion (US $767 million) project was announced amid South Australia's recent spate of blackouts.

Interestingly, the ball really seemed to roll after an intriguing tweet from none other than Elon Musk.

You may recall that earlier this month the Tesla CEO offered to build a 100MW battery storage farm for the Australian state. To up the ante, he said he would provide the system for free if it was not commissioned within 100 days. Musk's audacious bet led to an eventual conversation with Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Days later, the South Australian government announced an open, competitive tender for a 100MW battery storage project.

"The battery will modernize South Australia's energy grid and begin the transformation to the next generation of renewable-energy storage technologies," the government office stated.

According to Australia's ABC News, Lyon Group partner David Green said the company will build its new plant, along with a similar plant near the town of Roxby Downs, regardless of the outcome of the government's tender:

The Lyon Group has already signaled its intention to bid for a SA government tender to build a battery storage system with 100-megawatt output.

The tender arrangement would give the government the right to tap the battery storage at times of peak demand, but allow the project owner to sell energy and stability into the market at other times.

An expressions of interest process closes on Friday.

Other companies, including Carnegie, Zen Energy and Tesla, have all suggested they could be interested in bidding.

Green said the outcome of the tender would not determine whether or not Lyon's projects were built, but would influence the final storage configuration in terms of the balance between optimizing grid security and capturing trading revenue.

Green said the project was 100 percent equity financed and construction would begin within months, requiring 270 workers, ABC News reported.

"We see the inevitability of the need to have large-scale solar and integrated batteries as part of any move to decarbonize," Green added.

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Tesla Flips Switch on Gigafactory to Accelerate World's Transition to Renewable Energy

Elon Musk's Master Plan to accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy is becoming reality. Tesla and Panasonic have officially kicked off the mass production of lithium-ion battery cells at the massive Gigafactory outside Sparks, Nevada.

"Tesla's mission is to accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy through increasingly affordable electric vehicles in addition to renewable energy generation and storage," the company announced in a blog post on Wednesday. "At the heart of these products are batteries."

The high-performance cylindrical "2170 cell" was jointly developed by Tesla and Panasonic engineers. The cells will be used for Tesla's suite of battery storage products, the Powerwall 2 and Powerpack 2, as well as the company's mass-market electric car, the Model 3.

Tesla's highly vaunted Gigafactory is currently being built in phases so that the company and its partners can manufacture products while the building continues to expand. Construction is expected for completion by 2018, at which point the Gigafactory stands to claim the title of world's largest building by footprint.

According to Electrek, "Tesla aims for the Gigafactory to become the biggest building in the world by footprint at 5.8 million square feet and second largest building in the world by total square footage of over 13 million."

Tesla touts that its current structure already has a footprint of 1.9 million square feet, which houses 4.9 million square feet of operational space across several floors.

"And we are still less than 30 percent done," the firm adds.

Not only that, as EcoWatch reported in July, the enormous building will be powered 100 percent by renewables such as solar, wind and geothermal, and will feature energy-storage technology. The company also plans for the building to achieve net zero energy.

Once it reaches full capacity, the Gigafactory will produce 35 GWh/year of lithium-ion battery cells annually, which is "nearly as much as the rest of the entire world's battery production combined."

Tesla built the Gigafactory in order to fast-track a cleaner, more sustainable future.

"With the Gigafactory online and ramping up production, our cost of battery cells will significantly decline due to increasing automation and process design to enhance yield, lowered capital investment per Wh of production, the simple optimization of locating most manufacturing processes under one roof, and economies of scale," the company explained in the blog post.

"By bringing down the cost of batteries, we can make our products available to more and more people, allowing us to make the biggest possible impact on transitioning the world to sustainable energy."

Tesla said that bringing cell production to the U.S. will create thousands of American jobs.

"In 2017 alone, Tesla and Panasonic will hire several thousand local employees and at peak production, the Gigafactory will directly employ 6,500 people and indirectly create between 20,000 to 30,000 additional jobs in the surrounding regions," the company said.

World's First 'Tesla Town' Coming to Australia

Plans for the world's first "Tesla town" are underway. YarraBend, a suburb-to-be located just outside of Melbourne's city center, is under development by local property group Glenvill.

The world's first "Tesla town" is coming to Melbourne, Australia. Glenvill

The developers have already put the first 60 homes on the market. The eco-friendly abodes will have rooftop solar, Tesla's battery storage system, electric car recharging points and energy efficient lighting as standard design features.

"Tesla Powerwalls are being installed in Park Precinct premium homes at YarraBend as part of our sustainability plan. Powerwall is a home battery that charges using electricity generated from solar panels," Glevill wrote on an Instagram post. "Automated and safe, the Powerwall enables you to maximize household usage of solar power generation."

Elon Musk's game-changing suite of batteries for businesses, homes and utilities were designed to help wean the world off fossil fuels. The batteries store electricity generated from solar panels. (If everything goes to Musk's plan, the batteries will be charged with Tesla's own solar panels). Australia received its first shipment of Tesla Powerwalls roughly six months ago.

Living in this high-tech town, however, does come at a price. According to Australia renewable energy website One Step Off The Grid, the 16.46 hectare development will ultimately be home to 2,500 new residences, with three to five bedrooms houses, townhouses and apartments ranging from $1.48 million to $2.1 million in price.

It is not yet clear how many Powerwalls will be installed at YarraBend but based on the number of dwellings, it could number in the thousands, One Step Off The Grid reported.

The high price tag does include a number of amenities though. YarraBend's future residents will belong to a "Smartwired" community, Glenvill boasts on its website. The town will have high-speed internet and a "complimentary tech-concierge," a service that assists with tech-related tasks, from smart wiring to household WiFi set ups. Residents can also download the YarraBend app that provides community information such as public transport timetables, home delivery menus, carpooling arrangements and social events.

While the suburb is technologically advanced, it's also incredibly green. The landscape is surrounded by the tree-filled Darebin Parklands and Yarra Bend Park. The community will be home to a number of gardens, trails and parks, including an elevated park called The Paper Trail.

Public transportation is also encouraged, as the roads are inspired by Scandinavian bike-friendly cities. Bus stops and the Alphington train station are within walking distance.

"YarraBend will achieve the highest possible ESD (ecologically sustainable development) rating under the UDIA (Urban Development Institute of Australia) Envirodevelopment scheme, a first for an infill development site in Melbourne," Glenvill sales and marketing manager Nick Marinakis told the Heidelberg Leader.

UDIA's Victorian chief executive Danni Addison also told the Heidelberg Leader that YarraBend is one of the most environmentally sustainable developments in Australia with a water reduction of 43 percent, landfill reduced by 80 percent and the potential to reduce energy use by 34 percent.

"The Powerwalls, combined with solar panels (also standard), will mean that future residents will be able to benefit in a variety of ways, including dramatically smaller power bills and knowing that the majority of their energy usage is coming from a clean and renewable source," Addison said.

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