Thursday 31 March 2022

Making fuel at "home"


Hydrogen fuel station with its own electrolyser, Canberra, Australia

Wether it be solar panels, batteries, wind turbines, pumped hydro, geothermal power, biofuels or green hydrogen, this renewable energy can be in your own country and some in your own community or home. What this does is reduce the extraction and transport of oil and gas from a few energy rich countries and makes your home/community/country more energy secure and independent.

Renewable electricity supply can now be made at home, can come from microgrids in remote locations, can be portable to natural disaster locations, can be large scale and can be stored thus making a country, community or home independent of imported fuel. An electric vehicle can be powered from a standard power point and a variety of local or remote chargers.

Green hydrogen can be produced from electrolysers which use water (and soon seawater) and renewable electricity. This can be large scale or small scale. Hydrogen can be used in a number of industries from transport fuel, heating and cooking fuel to large industries such as aluminium and steel making. By making its own hydrogen, a country can reduce the importation of fossil fuels.

In the example above, the public hydrogen fuel station makes its own hydrogen on site with a small electrolyser, water and renewable electricity. Canberra sources all its electricity from renewable energy and here it makes its own hydrogen. This reduces the sometimes dangerous transport of petrol, diesel or gas to Canberra. 

Further Reading:  

Saturday 26 March 2022

Making EV charging stations safer for users


Photo by Julie May

I drive an electric vehicle (EV) in Australia and am concerned that many charging stations here are in out of the way places that are sometimes difficult to find because they are not easily seen from the road. In addition, many are in locations that are not well-lit and are therefore unsafe; sometimes the chargers are not working; and most do not provide shelter from sun or rain.

Apparently this is also common in other parts of the world as Kate Tyrrell found out while on an EV road trip for work in the UK. She always had around 30 miles of spare battery charge for a trip to the next EV charger. But on one occasion, at night, she went from unsafe charging locations to chargers that were not working and finally crawled to a suitable charger with the battery charge reading zero miles!

Kate works in the energy industry so when she attended the Glasgow Climate Change Conference (COP26) she aired her concerns with colleagues and came up with the plan to start ChargeSafe. 

ChargeSafe will physically inspect and rate UKs charging stations for their location, environment, facilities and accessibility. EV charging site users will also be able to share their own views and rate on how safe the charging stations are. These two ratings will enable ChargeSafe to give an overall definitive rating. The plan is to roll this system out to other countries. For more information please read: ChargeSafe: how one horror story led to safer EV charging. (CleanTechnica).

In addition, many charging stations are out in the open and exposed to the elements. Why not follow Electrify America's initiative to create charging stations with their own solar panel roofs that can provide green energy, lighting, shelter and amenities. For more information please read: Electrify America to build "human-centered" charging plazas. (CleanTechnica).

Wednesday 24 February 2021

Northern Territory to trial off-grid system making hydrogen from 'water from air'

Aqua Aerem water capture (Source: Aqua Aerem)

In many arid areas, such as in the Northern Territory (NT) of Australia, there can be lots of sunshine but a scarcity of water. So at Tennant Creek, NT, there is to be a trial to test the making of hydrogen from water coming from the atmosphere. 

The patented Aqua Aerem system will extract water (H2O) from the atmosphere. Then 'green hydrogen' is made by using solar-powered electrolysis to split this water into hydrogen and oxygen. 

Green hydrogen can be made onsite anywhere in the world using small or larger-scale electrolysers but needs a good supply of water. Green hydrogen made with solar energy can be stored and used when needed including at night and on cloudy days.

After the 12-week trial, it is intended that the hydrogen be used to power the Tennant Creek Power Station which is currently powered by gas with diesel back up (both of which have to be trucked in for 200 kilometres). All going well, this town, in a low rainfall area, will have its own source of power. This off-grid system of local power could be very useful in many isolated desert communities and industries, such as mining, and could also provide power for hydrogen vehicles.

Further reading: 

- Northern Territory to trial hydrogen made with 'water from air'. RenewEconomy, February 24, 2021. 

- Aqua Aerem: water from air technology

Wednesday 10 February 2021

U.S., UK and EU to end public finance for fossil fuels

Coal-fired power plant (Source:

In late January, President Biden put out an executive order which directs federal agencies to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies, including coal, and to spur "innovation, commercialisation, and deployment of clean energy technologies and infrastructure" (CleanTechnica). Biden has signalled that part of his administration's focus will be cutting off international public finance for new fossil fuel projects (Coal Wire).

This announcement from the United States (U.S.) comes on the heels of similar commitments from the United Kingdom (UK) and the European Union (EU). For example, it is estimated that the U.S. directs fossil fuel subsidies of around $20 billion per year of which 20% goes to coal and 80% to natural gas and crude oil. The EU fossil fuel subsidies are estimated to be around 55 billion euros annually (CleanTechnica).

If the US, UK and EU join forces to end the tens of billions of dollars per year in public finance for fossil fuels internationally they can work together to make this a reality by the UN Climate Summit in Glasgow this November (Oil Change International). This is huge!


- CleanTechnica: Biden orders end to fossil fuel subsidies, promotes equity for underserved communities, January 28, 2021 

- Coal Wire Editorial, 354, January 29, 2021 

- Oil Change International:

- Biden's climate agenda: is this the beginning of the end for fossil fuels? BBC News, January 31, 2021.

Tuesday 26 January 2021

Plants accumulating valuable metals, like nickel, can be farmed

This shrub oozes a green sap rich in nickel (Source: New Scientist)

Mining for metals is very destructive and expensive. For example, New Caledonia in the Pacific has rich deposits of nickel and its land has been ravaged by strip mining of the metal. However, some plants accumulate high concentrations of metals, such as nickel, possibly as a defence against pests. These plants are called hyperaccumulators and can be used to produce metals, perhaps reducing the need for mining. 

Nickel is an important metal for the making of steel and is used in many lithium-ion batteries in electric vehicles, phones and other consumer items. Demand for nickel and other metallic elements is expected to surge as they are needed for electric vehicles, wind turbines, magnets, lasers and other crucial technologies.

Hyperaccumlators have been found in areas where volcanic eruptions have brought the softened Earth's mantle, rich in metals, to the surface as ultramafic rock. The resulting soils have produced plants that accumulate metals such as cobalt, arsenic, manganese, zinc, nickel and other rare earth elements. 

As a result of finding these plants, farming has commenced and it is called agromining. Metal farms are now springing up in China, Europe and Malaysia. The ultramafic soils are poor for other crops, so are now given a more profitable use. In Europe, the nickel hyperaccumulator plant is related to kale. It is harvested, baled and burnt to release a nickel rich ash. The heat from burning is used to heat surrounding homes. The return per hectare is much greater than that for wheat.

Hyperaccumulator plants can also be used to rehabilitate old mining sites, such as in New Caledonia, as it is difficult to grow other plants there. Also field trials have been set up to test agromining production on old mining sites in China.

For more information see: How to grow metal. New Scientist, January 9, 2021, No3316, pp42-5.