Australia Sustainable Food, Environment, & Social Systems 2017

Blog site for the 2017 MSU study abroad program.

12-Meredith J.

My name is Meredith Jonik I am a Junior at Michigan State University studying Mechanical Engineering. I want to visit/study Australia because the environment and sustainable practices have always been important to me and in my future career I want to be able to make in impact on the United States and it’s environmental struggles. I think being able to study in a culture that shares my values of the environment will be beneficial in my helping me learn more about this subject, not to mention the beautiful landscapes there! For my project, I would like to base my project off of Australia’s production of solar renewable energy vs. the United States, and in what ways the efficiency could be improved.

Clean Energy Australia Report. (n.d.). Retrieved April 02, 2017, from
How Australia can become a renewable energy superpower. (2015, October 19). Retrieved April 02, 2017, from
Department of the Environment and Energy. (2014, November 13). Renewable energy. Retrieved April 02, 2017, from

• Questions:
1. Cost of production of the solar and how much power does it provide?
2. Method of providing power, how is the energy harnessed and what type of efficiency does it have?
3. Where are the energy losses coming from? In what form of energy is it distributed as, is it stored and if so how?
4. Materials and maintenance, is it worth the investment?



Final Project Blog Update!

My in-country research focused on solar energy. I centered in on cost, efficiency, storage, and transport of electricity produced by solar panels and modules. With this information, I researched how the United States utilizes the sunlight and compared and contrasted the differences to discover the methods and materials that were the most sustainable.

Small-scale rooftop solar photovoltaic systems have grown rapidly in Australia. The result is falling costs for photovoltaic panels, making the panels increasingly economical for many household and off-grid installations. This is absolutely not a surprise, and undoubtedly the first thing I noticed after landing in Australia (besides the whole driving on the wrong side of the road thing, I guess). In 2016, solar energy accounted for 3.18% of Australia’s total energy generation. Speaking to locals, having a solar rooftop PV installed on your home was the move. Taking chunks off your energy bill and patting yourself on the back for saving the environment? Sign me up!

The main sight I gathered information from was a fairly recent business, which I literally think is the greatest business model I’ve ever seen. Redmud Green Energy is the most progressive method of using and producing solar energy. Not only is it environmentally sustainable, constantly offsetting carbon from the atmosphere, but it is economically sustainable. It allows a “local farmer’s market” idea apply to purchasing energy. This simulates a local economy, instead of big businesses. When it comes to storage of electricity, large-scale batteries are extremely expensive and not functional for other applications. In Redmud Green Energy’s investment video, they mention ‘once batteries are incorporated’ into their systems the payoff for investors will increase. I spoke to the owner, Mark Yates, about this subject and he said the cost of large scale batteries they would need to store the electricity produced from a single sight of solar panels would outweigh the benefit at this stage. 

In the United States, solar energy in 2016 only accounted for 0.9% of the total U.S. energy consumption. The main reasons for this shortage in solar energy in the states has to do with both the government, and Mr. Sunshine. The United States is not geographically blessed with 274 days of full sun, and unfortunately solar panels only produce 10-20% on a cloudy day of what they would produce if it were sunny. The Australian government places extreme priority and funding into solar projects which allow them to install these types of large-scale farms and start getting a payback on their investment.

With all this collected information, is solar energy the answer we have been waiting for to transition from fossil fuels? Without sounding cliche I can compile my experience in Australia into 1 word hyphenated word: eye-opening. While there are many non-technical barriers that prevent the solar industry from taking over the energy business, practicality is key. Humans prefer things to be practical, economical, convenient, and reliable. At it’s current stage, solar energy does not fill those shoes. While Australia is further ahead when it comes to solar implementation, their absurd days per year of full sun give them a major advantage over the United States. The technology to store and transport electricity is there, it is not yet affordable enough to be practical. This is one of the reasons the United States is falling being in terms of usage percentages.Transporting and storing energy will always result in losses, but minimizing these losses is how efficiency can be increased. Australia’s government focuses densely on renewable research directly because combating climate change is a priority, unlike in the United States.

Solar energy is not fully utilized to date, it accounts for a small share of the world’s primary energy consumption, but is projected to increase strongly.  Despite significant progress, a large amount of work, research and development must be done in order to obtain affordable solar energy as a conventional energy resource. Market barriers and grid integration challenges are the main hindrance to advancing and growing the solar energy market. Increased efficiency, cost reduction, and availability are needed for the world to rely on solar as a baseload power source.

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Solar Panels on a home in South Australia.

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Solar panels at a 100% Self-sufficient farm.

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Converter room by Redmud Green Energy located on a Solar farm sight in South Australia.


External Links:

Redmud Green Energy:

Suntellite (Redmud Supplier):

Clean Energy Council:

Solar Energy in Australia:

Government Incentives:



  1. Australian Energy Resource Assessment. Dept. of Resources, Energy and Tourism, Geoscience Australia, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics, 2010.
  2. “Solar & Alternative Energy.” Journal Article Traces Dramatic Advances in Solar Efficiency | SPIE Homepage: SPIE,
  3. “Solar Energy in the United States.” Department of Energy,
  4. “The Experts: What Renewable Energy Source Has the Most Promise?” The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones & Company, 17 Apr. 2013,
  5. “Solar.” IER,
  6. “Federal Income Tax Credits for Energy Efficiency.” Federal Tax Credits for Consumer Energy Efficiency | ENERGY STAR,
  7. Clean Energy Australia Report 2016
  8. 2017 US Energy and Employment Report. 2017, 2017 US Energy and Employment Report.
  9. 2017 Sustainable Energy in America Factbook. Bloomberg New Energy Finance, 2017, 2017 Sustainable Energy in America Factbook.
  10. Robert M. Simon and David J. Hayes. “America’s Clean Energy Success, by the Numbers.”Center for American Progress,





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