Renewable energy is 'green' energy that is sourced from natural processes and not created by expending non-renewable fossil fuels. It is a virtually unlimited resource.
Renewable energy can come from the sun, wind, water or other natural processes and producing it generally doesn't cause environmental harm.
While some renewable energy sources have been tapped for a long time, others are still being investigated and City of Gold Coast is taking part in several renewable energy projects.
You can play your part by purchasing renewable 'green' energy from your electricity provider.
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We are involved in the following renewable energy projects:
- cogeneration plant at Elanora Wastewater Treatment Plant
- landfill gas generators at several landfill sites
- green landfill waste is sent to Rocky Point Cogeneration Plant
- photovoltaic (solar electricity) cells located on roof of Commonwealth Games venues and Southport's Broadwater Parklands
- micro-hydro turbine generator is located downstream of the Hinze Dam
- hybrid vehicles are part of the City's fleet.
The most practical way for the average household to contribute to the reduction in greenhouse gases created during the production of electricity is to purchase 'green energy' from your electricity provider. For a few extra dollars per bill, your electricity provider will purchase energy produced from a renewable source on your behalf. This energy does not necessarily power your own home, but it does mean that more energy from a renewable source is being used, so less fossil fuels are being used and therefore less greenhouse gases are being released into the atmosphere.
Drying your clothes on a clothes line is a practical example of using solar energy. The sun has more than enough power to sustain our needs. There are two ways solar 'power' can be used: solar thermal and solar electricity. The use of solar hot water systems is an example of thermal solar energy. Solar electricity uses photovoltaic (PV) cells convert the sun's rays into electricity for use in the home. Excess energy is often sold back to the electricity grid. The Federal Government offers rebates for those wanting to install PV cells. Contact your local PV supplier for more information.
A windmill is a practical way to capture wind power. The wind is caught by a bladed wheel called a turbine. Wind driven turbines are now used around Australia to drive generators that produce electricity. This technology can be used on a small or large scale. The energy from the wind is free but for a wind turbine to produce enough electricity to power homes, it must be located where the winds are strong and the site is not intrusive, so finding the appropriate location is important.
The Gold Coast wind resource potential has been investigated and mapped and further research will continue.
Biomass is another term for plant or animal matter. Energy from biomass is produced when the biomass is burnt, in an acceleration of a natural decaying process. For example, heat is produced when burning wood, which can then be used for cooking or heating. Large amounts of biomass are used by industry. It is common for sugar cane processing facilities to burn the sugar cane waste product (bagasse) to create steam to turn turbines that create electricity.
Biomass also releases gas when organic matter rots without oxygen. It can be collected from sewage treatment plants and from landfill sites. Burning this gas turns turbines which produce electricity for distribution via the network.
Hydro energy For centuries water has been used to spin a wheel to grind grain. More recently, these turbines have improved efficiency and are used to produce electricity. No fuel is required to run a hydroelectric plant and very few staff are needed for ongoing running or maintenance, however the construction of dams for hydroelectricity can have significant environmental impacts.
The largest hydroelectricity plant in Australia is the Snowy Mountains Scheme which generates almost 50 per cent of Australia's total hydroelectric power. Hydroelectricity is not a practical source of energy for the average household, however it may be useful for rural or isolated communities that have access to a constantly flowing river.
Geothermal energy is energy from the heat of the earth, similar to that seen within volcanoes. It has been used for thousands of years in some countries for hot water, cooking and heating. It can also generate electricity using steam produced from heat found beneath the surface of the earth. Several large sources of geothermal energy are currently under investigation in western Queensland and central Australia. No suitable sites are located within the Gold Coast region.
Ocean waves are caused by the wind as it blows across the sea. Waves are a powerful source of energy. At a wave power station, the waves arriving cause the water in the chamber to rise and fall, which means that air is forced in and out of the hole in the top of the chamber. A turbine is placed in this hole, which is turned by the air rushing in and out. The turbine turns a generator. Tidal power is captured due to the diurnal flux of the tides. The flow of water turns turbines which generate electricity.
All processes, especially mechanical ones, have inherent inefficiencies. Losses of energy within systems are commonly in the form of heat, light or sound. These losses can be recaptured and stored as useful energy to be used again. One recent example of this is hybrid vehicles, which supplement some energy by converting the heat produced in the brakes to electrical energy and storing it in batteries.