There is no doubt that Australia and Japan are two different countries in many ways, for instance from the point of view of their climate, resources, landscape. Such differences are important when considering which renewable energy sources are appropriate to invest into.
Despite the differences, one fundamental and common issue for the increased penetration of renewable energy sources in the world's economy is the development of adequate energy storage systems. The field is still at its infancy and there are tremendous opportunities to develop innovative solutions.
Few demonstration facilities are in the developmental stage or have been implemented in the world. I just came back from three weeks trip to Australia and Japan where it has been fantastic to visit some of them!
Solar powered research
One stop has been the Sir Samuel Griffith Centre in Brisbane, a research and education facility that incorporates 1,000 solar photovoltaic panels to power the whole building, and is equipped with metal hydride tanks to store the excess electricity for a later use.
Even if it sounds an easy concept, building a system of such scale is not an easy task. The planning and construction process have taken several years - with some bumps on the road, and will finally see the end in May, when the system will be tested for the first time!
Another stop has been the Fukushima Renewable Energy Institute (FREA) in Japan.
In one of my previous posts of 2017, I mentioned the substantial efforts done by the Japanese government to show the world the country's green ambitions. More so after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident. The new institute FREA was built at a stunning speed, already in 2014, to stimulate the reconstruction of the area and promote Japan technologies for a sustainable economy.
FREA is really impressive, with activities spanning from renewable energy generation and conversion, to energy management, and hydrogen energy carrier production and utilization. As in the true Japanese spirit I have been welcomed by a committee of several scientists and engineers. All of them were very proud, with reason, of this state-of-the-art institute.
While I was there I could com across many visitors, like international students on a study trip, and industrial partners testing their equipment. It is clear that collaboration with local industries and public outreach plays here a double role: that of revitalizing the economy of an affected area, as well as promoting environment-conscious technologies among the large public and young generation.
This has been a long trip that helped me gain a lot of valuable information. It has been filled with inspiring talks, animated discussions, and new collaborations. They will be precious for our coming new master program in Renewable Energy Systems!