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Pedal-powered innovation opens the mind to other possibilities

In my spare time, I’m a sailing enthusiast. I’m fascinated by the America’s Cup – particularly the disruptive innovations that have defined the regatta since Australia II’s winged keel captured the world’s imagination in 1983.

This year six syndicates will contest the Cup in the tiny archipelago of Bermuda, in 15m long carbon fibre catamarans that are powered by 25m high articulated wingsails and skim inches above the water on hydrofoils and daggerboards. The cats are one-design vessels but where the victor will have the edge is in the foil designs and control systems that generate continuous, stable flight around the race course.

The New Zealand challenger has attracted the most attention for eschewing a yacht’s traditional ‘coffee grinders’ for bicycle seats and pedals. The pedals mean the sailors will use their legs, not their arms, to create the hydraulic pressure for powering the boat’s sophisticated control systems. Theoretically, the legs are a stronger muscle group than the arms. Many of Team NZ’s rivals claim they’ve discounted a pedal-powered system, so it remains to be seen if it’s the stroke of genius that the winged keel was.

Nevertheless, with the recent controversy about our energy mix (ie have some states and territories, like South Australia, become too reliant on renewable energy over traditional sources of electricity?), pedal power exemplifies innovations/efficiencies that shouldn’t be discounted, even in the quarry industry.

While it seems unthinkable that a quarry operation could be entirely powered by the wind or the sun, Quarry has previously reported on a Scottish quarry that was powered by a commercial scale wind turbine, and a US quarry that powered its operations by pairing a solar installation with a battery system. This issue, we highlight a trial of one of the world’s first all-electric quarry sites – Volvo CE and Skanska Quarries in Sweden are testing concept hybrid vehicles with wheel-mounted electric drive motors that store electrical energy, a significantly smaller diesel engine and new machine architecture. While hybrid vehicles aren’t new, the Volvo CE/Skanska project aims to electrify the transport stage in a quarry – from excavation to primary crushing and transport to secondary crushing. This could potentially reduce both carbon emissions and the total costs of ownership.

Closer to home, Hanson’s Flagstaff Gully Quarry in Tasmania recently collected a CCAA award for using a downhill, power-generating 840m long conveyor to generate electricity for other plant and equipment on the site. This saves on energy costs while solving a logistical problem.

The construction materials industry may not seem innovative but as CCAA chairman Mark Campbell pointed out at CMIC16, it’s becoming more efficient by the year. This is reflected in the IQA’s and CCAA’s awards – and the projects that are proving efficient often have an environmental payback as well.

So, if you’ve implemented some sweeping, successful measures in your quarry that you believe could improve productivity in other operations, then throw your hat in the ring for the IQA Awards – or at least let me know at Quarry! You might think your idea doesn’t amount to much but surely it couldn’t be any more far-fetched than pedal-powered hydraulics on a racing yacht!


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