Solar energy designer, Marjan Van Aubel amazes in solarpunk fashion. Australia’s Wattwatchers & Clean Energy Innovation Fund, plus Tasmania’s Sea Forest.
Solar Energy Designer Marjan Van Aubel Amazes, Australia’s Wattwatchers & Clean Energy Innovation Fund, Tasmania’s Sea Forest
SOLAR (PUNK?) ENERGY DESIGNER, MARJAN VAN AUBEL
Marjan van Aubel is a solar designer from the Netherlands who takes solar cells and integrates them into everyday life. She says, “When people think of solar energy they think of solar panels. But it’s not just things you see on a roof. Solar energy can be more relevant and emotional to become accessible to more people.”
In fact, Marjan’s mission is to integrate solar into everything, so everything can harvest energy efficiently. She imagines a world where energy is generated at every location on its own. For her, every surface that sunlight hits is an opportunity to turn that surface into a solar energy producer. That means windows and walls, even curtains and tables.
“I think that if we add design on top of the science, we can use the energy of the sun in many aesthetically pleasing ways.” That’s what makes Marjan’s approach so unique. She takes science and combines it with design. “We take measurable results and combine them with aesthetics.”
Her designs are phenomenal and award winning. One example is Ra (named for the Egyptian sun god). Strips of colorful photovoltaic cells are arranged into a geometric pattern to form this artwork. the see-through solar tapestry is less than one millimetre thick and was designed to be hung in a window, so that it can cast vivid shadows on the surrounding walls as the light changes throughout the day. When the sun goes down, a ring of electroluminescent paper embedded in the window hanging starts to glow, powered by the energy that was captured by the photovoltaic (PV) cells throughout the day.
She’s most famous for creating “stained glass” windows homes and apartments. The stained glass is actually different colored photovoltaic cells arranged in geometric patterns. Just too many examples to mention here. Check out the links in the deeper dive section of this episode at TCD.org/episodes. Says, Marjan van Awbel, “I would like solar to become so integrated that we don’t even see it. Let’s stop using exhaustible resources. Use sunlight!”
AUSTRALIA’S WATTWATCHERS–CUTTING HOME EMISSIONS
The Australian company Wattwatchers, founded in 2007, monitors energy usage across appliances and serves up data to help households and businesses operate as energy efficiently as possible. The cleantech company launched in part through a grant from the Clean Energy Innovation Fund which invests in innovators in Australia’s cleantech industry.
Co-founded by Chris Bean and Jon Keeble, Wattwatch’s goal is to cut carbon emissions at the home level. To measure home watt USAGE, they created an ultra-compact, super-smart device which is called the Auditor. The Auditor monitors multiple circuits at the same time, communicates via its mobile network to the internet, and delivers a wealth of actionable energy data in real-time.
Wattwatchers says its device saves on average at least one tonne of carbon emissions over its operating life. According to CEO Gavin Dietz, “The typical three-bedroom freestanding home can save hundreds of dollars each year just by shifting their energy use and energy waste through the use of data.” Currently, there are 50,000 devices deployed commercially worldwide; home devices are installed and cutting users’ carbon emissions in 20 countries.
Why does Wattwatchers matter to us? This company is driven by a common cause: how to do its bit to reduce harmful and wasteful energy consumption on our planet.
AUSTRALIA’S CLEAN ENERGY INNOVATION FUND
Maude just talked about the Clean Energy Innovation Fund providing resources to Wattwatchers So what is The Clean Energy Innovation Fund anyway? Only Australia’s largest cleantech investor. It was created in 2012 by the Australian Government under the Clean Energy Finance Corporation Act, the objective of which is “to facilitate increased flows of finance into the clean energy sector.
In plain English, what the Clean Energy Innovation Fund does is marry investors versed in the clean energy space and incubators who provide industry knowledge and financial backing, with innovators and entrepreneurs who have the vision and skill to create new solutions geared at solving Australia’s cleantech issues, but who aren’t business savvy.
The Fund targets technologies and businesses that are considered “early stage,” that is beyond the R&D development stage but not mature. Why does the Clean Energy Innovation Fund matter to us? Three ways. First, in 2015, an analysis found Australia emitted 5.34 tonnes of carbon dioxide per person each year. That made it one of CO2 emitters world wide. So second, a major goal of the Clean Energy Innovation Fund is to help Australia reduce its GHG emissions by 26% to 28% by 2030. And third, it’s a good model that other countries could adopt to boost economic development of cleantech within their borders.
TASMANIA’S SEA FOREST
Sea Forest, launched in 2018, is an environmental organization whose mission is to play ITS part to use science to address climate change issues. The company cultivates a seaweed native to Tasmania called asparagopsis. Sam Elsom, Sea Forest co-founder and CEO says “We’re just at the tipping point of really understanding what we could essentially do with our native seaweeds.”
Asparagopsis has been shown to cut methane emission in the form of burps and farts from cattle and sheep when added in small amounts to feed rations. Sea Forest plants 7,000 metric tons of seaweed per year from its stage 1 farm in Tasmania, which it says is enough to supplement the diets of 150,000 cattle and decrease emissions by 400,000 metric tons yearly.
In addition,there’s a second benefit to asparagopsis. The wild seaweed grows much faster than land-based plants, therefore sequestering more carbon dioxide in the ocean through photosynthesis. Recent studies suggest it sequesters 173 million metric tons annually. The average square kilometer of seaweed can sequester more than a thousand metric tons.
Why does the Sea Forest project matter to us? Its website says, The Sea Forest team is dedicated to fighting climate change by being the first in the world to cultivate Asparagopsis at a commercial scale” by using and developing science to address emissions reduction and drawdown solutions we can have a hugely positive impact on our planet.”