Mobile tests for carbon
31 October 2011
An Australian-first mobile monitoring system for checking carbon levels has been launched at Wangaratta. The design, which features a 20-metre tower topped with sensors sitting on a trailer, was unveiled by Sydney University trio Professor Mark Adams, Robert Simpson and Michael Kemp at Wangaratta High School. Wangaratta's Lloyd's Trailers built the platform for the tower, with the technical equipment imported from Italy. Mr Kemp, who was involved in the design and construction, is from the King Valley.
Professor Adams said the project would allow companies, such as miner Rio Tinto, to measure their emissions as well as a device for farmers to check the success of carbon credit schemes. "Our focus here is in trying to quantify how efficient are our crops, grasslands and forests in taking up the carbon," Professor Adams said. "For example the carbon farming initiative, which is part of the carbon tax, is to pay farmers for the carbon they are storing in their soils. "The only way they are going to get carbon in their soils is by plants taking up the carbon from the atmosphere, and this is what we use to measure that. "Ultimately this is essential information for determining how much carbon storage the farmer is able to claim as being due to their practices."
Although the "flux" towers' have been in the country for the past 10 years, they have only existed as fixed structures that cannot be moved easily. Placed in areas prone to flood and bushfire, several have been destroyed in natural disasters. The mobile tower cost about $100,000 to make, less than half the cost of the fixed towers. It can be moved within about half an hour if threatened by fire or flood and will be heading to Pilbara in Western Australia in a deal with miner Rio Tinto early next year. Lloyd's Trailers have been asked to make another two more trailers fors to be used in-house by the university at its agricultural research stations. Although a mobile flux tower will never be found in every farmer's backyard to measure how much carbon their plants and crops take from the atmosphere, data from the new tower will help with the understanding of the levels of carbon in different environments. Professor Adams said the information gained from the technology would help in creating government policy. "Any environmental policies of any political party need to be underpinned by the knowledge that we gain from these sorts of technologies."
Contact: Professor Mark Adams
Phone: 02 8627 1010