Tesla's Massive Virtual Power Plant in South Australia Roars Back to Life
The $800 million (US $634 million) project—struck in February by Tesla CEO Elon Musk and former South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill—involves installing solar panels and batteries on 50,000 homes to function as an interconnected power plant.
But the plan was nearly scrapped under the new state government headed by Liberal leader Steven Marshall, who was elected in March. Marshall's government had their own plan to offer discounts on battery storage for 40,000 homes.
In a happy twist, Energy Minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan announced at the Australian Energy Conference this week the newly elected government would proceed with both plans.
"It's very important to be clear about this—we are honoring the existing commitments around the Tesla virtual power plant (VPP)," he said, as quoted by Australia's ABC News.
Van Holst Pellekaan, who met with Tesla soon after he was sworn in, added that he wants South Australia to become a world leader in home battery installation.
By doubling down, the state will eventually emerge with some 100,000 household batteries, or more than one in ten homes, Renew Economy noted.
"We'll show the world how the mass adoption of home batteries can and will work," he said. "This is a complicated task—I don't think that anyone has attempted to do what we're about to do at this scale relative to population and market size."
The virtual power plant involves installing a 5-kilowatt solar system and a Powerwall 2 battery on roughly 50,000 low-income and social housing units across the state over the next four years. The setup would be installed at no charge to the households and financed through the sale of electricity. Participants would save an estimated 30 percent on their power bills.
"My government has already delivered the world's biggest battery, now we will deliver the world's largest virtual power plant," Weatherill said then. "We will use people's homes as a way to generate energy for the South Australian grid, with participating households benefiting with significant savings in their energy bills.
Tesla told AFP that the virtual power plant would have 250 megawatts of solar energy and 650 megawatt hours of battery storage.
"At key moments, the virtual power plant could provide as much capacity as a large gas turbine or coal power plant," the company added.
Van Holst Pellekaan also said at the Australian Energy Conference that the trial phase, which starts with installing home energy systems on 1,100 public housing properties, is currently proceeding.
Tesla's Giant Australian Battery Saved Consumers $35 Million in Four Months https://t.co/0sgrLy8vaF @Tesla… https://t.co/1XIeb68OZp— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1526309066.0
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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