June 5th Blog –
While reading my pre-departure blog, it amazes me how much has happened from that time less than a month ago. As our days wind down on this trip, we look forward to all the people of whom we have missed, but also know we will miss each other as we jump back into our separate lives. Even with these thoughts, there is still time in Australia to enjoy.
To start off our day, we woke up to see the beautiful landscape of the Tyrconnell property and enjoyed a good breakfast of eggs, toast, and bacon. It is difficult to describe how happy a breakfast of eggs and bacon made our breakfast lovers, including myself. After breakfast, it was time to learn.
Before leaving the Tyrconnell Gold Mine, there was a lot to learn about sustainability in the Outback. When the mines were open between 1876 and 1942, the site wasn’t very sustainable. Mining takes away masses of resources and uses great amounts of energy, usually from fossil fuels, to do so. As the mining is no longer active, these problems don’t occur. Before being claimed as a historic site, large amounts of metal machinery was taken from the site. This was somewhat sustainable as it recycled resources that weren’t being utilized. The current technology on the site is even more sustainable as the electricity is generated on site by 3 kWh solar panels and the site is self-sufficient on rain water. Even with these sustainable factors, the Tyrconnell Outback Experience isn’t certified due to the high costs of the certification.
Our next stop was at the Jaques Coffee Plantation for a tour. Luke Anderson drove us around a short tour to see the 25 acre plantation and the processing machinery.
The plantation is currently preparing to expand to 85 acres. To make coffee, the “cherries” must be picked off the coffee plant. This is usually done by hand, but as Australia has high labor costs, a berry picker was modified to pick the cherries. This machine has a hydraulic leveling system to pass over the steep slopes needed for the coffee plants and to heighten the machine to trim the plants properly. There are also setting for the force exerted on the plant to only release ripe cherries. The harvested cherries are then processed by removal of all the cherry exterior layers and the dried in a propane powered heater. The access pulp from the processing is then used as fertilizer.
The Jaques Coffee Plantation was also working on sustainable methods. All of their electricity comes from their 80 kWh solar panel system and they utilize diesel trees for some of the coffee processing. The plants are fungicide and insecticide free as well as watered during night hours to reduce water loss. After the very informative tour, each person received a coffee beverage of their choice. That made for an energetic bus ride back into Cairns.
Our last stop was in Cairns at Hush Energy. There, we received an informative presentation on solar energy recovery and Australia’s energy situation. With Australia being comparable in size to the United States, and having a fraction of the population, energy costs are high in Australia. Where it costs about 11 cents per kWh in the United States, Australia would costs about 25 cents per kWh. This would seem logical as Australia would have fewer people and thus less tax money to develop an electrical grid to cover a similar amount of land. One solution is solar energy.
The advancement is alternative energy research is growing quickly, including solar power. This technology has made solar power adaptable for all of Australia including Australia’s wettest town where 75% of one households energy costs are met even with about 12 feet of annual rainfall. Maybe solar power could work in Michigan. These systems are made to withstand cyclones and warranted to have at least 80% of the optimum output after 25 years. As these systems pay for themselves in around five years, it is easy to see why so many households in Australia have turned to solar power. One last addition is that the adapters to the grid are capable of feeding any unused energy into the electrical grid to reduce the homeowners utility bill or even reverse enough electricity for homeowners to receive compensation. These systems use a common resource in Australia and help to reduce the need for other energy sources.
Australia was able to teach us many things that will change the way we view the world each day. I will miss the diverse land and water of Australia as well as many of the people I met there. Thank you to everyone on the trip for the fun experiences we had, everyone we met for all your time and knowledge, and all the friends and family that supported our trip in many ways. I hope to see you all again and hear about the experiences you have had after we left the “Land Down Under.”
http://www.tyrconnell.com.au/ – Learn about and see the amazing property of the Tyrconnell Outback Experience.
http://www.aworldawaytravels.com/austyrc.htm – Learn more of the Tyrconnell history.
http://www.ecotourism.org.au/eco_certification.asp – See the advantages or possible disadvantages of ecotourism.
http://www.jaquescoffee.com.au/ – Learn about or purchase coffee from the Jaques Plantation.
Jaques Coffee Video – Experience how the Jaques Plantation came to be in this quick video.
http://www.hushenergy.net.au/ – Learn about the products of Hush Energy and the facts behind them here.
http://www.energymatters.com.au/ – Keep up to date with the science behind solar panels with this link.