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Published: 5 September 2011

Research initiative to foster sustainable manufacturing future

Manufacturing makes a significant contribution to Australia's economy, accounting for 8.7 per cent of gross domestic product, 36 per cent of exports and over one million Australian jobs. It is also a major employer of scientists and engineers, accounting for about 40 per cent of Australia's corporate research and development, aimed at developing innovative technologies that help us compete in a global market.

CSIRO’s new Sustainable Manufacturing Initiative aims to realise the goal of creating $2 billion of additional annual value for Australia's manufacturing industry by 2025.
Credit: Mark Fergus/ScienceImage

Yet Australian manufacturing faces challenges on many fronts:

  1. a high Australian dollar

  2. competition from low wage countries

  3. a heightened awareness and expectation that industry acts responsibly to improve resource efficiency and minimise pollution generated from their products.

Director of CSIRO’s Future Manufacturing Flagship, Dr Swee Mak, believes researchers can help sustain a manufacturing future for Australia by partnering with industry ‘to develop cleaner, advanced materials and manufacturing technologies to enable companies to grow Australia's productivity and prosperity'.

Dr Mak recently announced a new Sustainable Manufacturing Initiative (SMI), established to realise the Flagship’s goal of ‘creating $2 billion of additional annual value for Australia's manufacturing industry by 2025 through the development and application of resource-efficient, clean and transformative technologies’.

'Benchmarking global manufacturing trends and their relevance to Australia will be a key objective,’ he said.

'The initiative will incubate new concepts and lead discussion on the role innovation plays to prepare manufacturers to capture opportunity and establish long term competitive advantage.'

Emerging technologies like additive manufacturing provide exciting opportunities for the efficient, clean and cost effective production of personalised products that clearly differentiate themselves from commodity driven imports. 1

Future access to export markets and global supply chains will require Australian manufacturers to minimise the whole-of-life footprint of their products to meet emerging legislative requirements and consumer driven preferences. This is another focus area for the SMI.

The SMI team is already partnering with CSIRO's Health, Safety and Environment team to initiate the forthcoming Get Wasted workshop, to be held on 9 November. The workshop will explore the application of industrial ecology to Australia’s manufacturing sector.

Source: CSIRO

1 Additive manufacturing is the process of joining materials to make objects from 3D model data, usually layer upon layer, as opposed to ‘subtractive’ manufacturing methodologies, such as traditional machining, where material is removed from a block of material.

Published: 26 September 2011

Renewable energy sector to benefit from wind-speed research

Craig Macaulay

While some recent international studies have shown a decrease in wind speeds in several parts of the globe, including Australia, more recent results from CSIRO show that Australia’s average wind speed is actually increasing.

The ability to accurately quantify long-term variations in wind speeds is essential to the viability of Australia’s wind power sector.
The ability to accurately quantify long-term variations in wind speeds is essential to the viability of Australia’s wind power sector.
Credit: Gregory Heath

CSIRO scientists have analysed wind speed observations to understand the causes of variations in near-ground-level wind and explore long-term wind speed trends.

Accurate estimates of long-term trends provide a useful indicator for circulation changes in the atmosphere and are invaluable for the planning and financing of sectors such as wind energy, which need to map risk management under a changing climate.

‘We have a good picture of wind energy availability across Australia from previous CSIRO wind mapping and, with the growth of wind farms, there is an emerging need to understand how climate change can affect the wind resource,’ says Dr Alberto Troccoli, lead author of a recent paper published in Journal of Climate. 1

‘Wind power production is expected to increase greatly over the coming years and the associated electricity system will be subject to variations of several hundred megawatts – depending on wind availability.

‘The ability to quantify with accuracy these long-term variations is essential to the sector from an economic point of view.’

Dr Troccoli said that, averaged across Australia over 1989–2006, wind speeds measured at a height of 10 metres had increased by 0.69 per cent per annum, compared to a decline of 0.36 per cent per annum for wind speeds measured at 2m height.

‘The potential for increasing the efficiency of energy operations by using quality weather and climate information is therefore apparent and one of the first steps is the standardisation of wind recording stations.

‘Wind observations, like other meteorological variables, are sensitive to the conditions in which they are observed – for example, where the instrumentation sits relative to topographical features, vegetation and urban developments.’

The team found that the wind speed trends over Australia are sensitive to the height of the station, with winds measured at 10m displaying an opposite and positive trend to those reported by a previous study, which analysed only winds measured at 2m.

Light winds measured at 10m, a height that represents better the free atmospheric flow, tend to increase more rapidly than the average, whereas strong winds increase less rapidly than the average winds. Light and strong wind measured at a height of 2m tend to vary in line with the average winds.

‘Our work shows a number of challenges with the consistency of the observations during their period of operation and between sites across Australia,’ adds Dr Troccoli.

‘The quality of future wind observational datasets will depend on having consistency between sites, particularly with respect to measurement procedure, maintenance of instrumentation, and detailed records of the site history.’

He said the work has implications for a variety of sectors beyond wind energy including building construction, coastal erosion, and evaporation rates.

The conjunction of energy and meteorology is the central theme of the International Conference Energy & Meteorology on the Gold Coast in November.

Read Dr Troccoli’s thoughts on What’s the energy forecast? Bringing meteorology and generation together in the online forum, The Conversation.

1 A. Troccoli, K. Muller, P. Coppin, R. Davy, C. Russell and A. Hirsch (2011) Long-term wind speed trends over Australia. Journal of Climate, doi: 10.1175/2011JCLI4198.1

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