What's next for Renewables?

What's next for Renewables?

In his final chapter of his three part series, 'Renewables – A Step by Step Guide', Robert Saunders shares his thoughts on the innovations in the sector.

Solar technology has made significant inroads in recent years. It is no longer limited to fixed (and rather unattractive) black panels on rooftops. Solar – even the ‘fixed ones’ are now a lot more versatile. Solar panels can be used for carpark roofs, retaining walls and facades. Flexible solar panel technology is rapidly improving and a viable option for a plethora of applications, especially in remote locations.  Moreover solar glass can be used in almost any application where traditional glass would be used. The latest iteration of the material can even generate energy when it is overcast.  

The General on High Apartments in Melbourne’s Northcote, was home to Australia’s first application of solar glass used as balustrading.

Residential apartments in Melbourne using solar glass on balconies.
Residential apartments in Melbourne using solar glass on balconies

When designing their new science centre, Melbourne’s Scotch College invested in a solar glass walkway/rooftop, which now generates power for the building. 

Scotch College solar glass walkway structure, Melbourne, VIC
Scotch College solar glass walkway structure, Melbourne, VIC

Solar is not the only option.

A new build has many advantages over retrofitting. There is a lot more choice. Consider geothermal, hydrogen, hydro or wind. There are options which would work both economically and geographically. The best option will depend on the location, size and requirements of each facility.  Solar could be in the mix, but a practical and proven option is also geothermal.


Geothermal isn’t used to generate electricity like solar, rather it uses constant temperatures of the earth to transfer heat, resulting in reliable performance. It can be used to both heat and cool. Not only is it highly efficient and a low cost option, its application has moved from alternative and expensive, to mainstream and economically viable.

Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, in a funding partnership with Brisbane City Council are establishing a koala research centre. 

According to Robert Saunders, who acted as Senior Mechanical Engineer for the project, as a new build there were a number of energy options considered, with geo-thermal selected given its ability to achieve stable year round temperatures.

“The Geothermal Air Conditioning System provides higher efficiencies than traditional cooling, as the amount of electrical energy required it is far less,” said Mr Saunders. “The running costs and carbon footprint is lower than conventional electricity options.”

Geothermal Cooling is different for traditional cooling as it uses the Earth’s energy to reject heat, rather than air (as conventional air conditions do). The stable year round temperatures in the Earth provide increased efficiency.

The research centre is currently under construction and is due for completion in mid-2018. 

Geothermal air-conditioning concept design, Lone Pine Facility.
Geothermal air-conditioning concept design, Lone Pine Facility, Brisbane

Where to next?

In short, renewable energy is good sense for the bottom line, economic growth and environmental conservation. 

If you'd like to know more, read article one, 'Renewables - Where do you start?' and article two, 'Renewables sounds nice, but how do you pay for it?'. 

Capital is (currently) cheap, energy is expensive and financing incentives are currently available from Clean Energy Funding sources.

Step one. Talk to a specialist energy and renewables engineering consultant about your options. Free (or rather, cash flow positive) energy might just be possible. 

About Robert Saunders:

Robert is a Building Services and Energy Engineer with experience in all fields of heating, ventilation and air-conditioning for commercial and industrial applications. Robert’s passion is renewables. He combines technical expertise with proven skills in project management, problem-solving and system design solutions to ensure the best possible outcome for his clients. Robert holds a Bachelor of Engineering (Hons), Energy Engineering from London South Bank University, a BTEC National Certificate, Building Services Engineering; a BTEC National Diploma, Business and Finance. Robert is also a member of the Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) – UK, a Member of the Australian Institute of Refrigeration, Air Conditioning and Heating (AIRAH); an RPEQ in Queensland; a Registered Engineer Practitioner in the Northern Territory and a Member of Engineers Australia.

Robert is married with two beautiful girls aged 13 and 10. In his spare time, he collects signatures of the famous and infamous. His most prized signature is that of Edmond Becquerel (1820 – 1891), the pioneer of the photovoltaic effect.

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