The bogan, the Bathurst 1000 and the bold vision

As a proud Goulburnian with a passion for all things high-powered, Joey Rowlands feels a blissful satisfaction with his current post: conducting research with the aeroacoustics team at UNSW. Using data from UNSW’s anechoic wind tunnel the team is working to design ultra-quiet airfoils for wind turbines, a job with personal significance to Rowlands given Goulburn’s wind-powered history.

I would definitely label myself a bogan. I’m not sure how many other people who grew up in Goulburn would try and claim otherwise. The family chariot was a 90s VN Commodore, Bathurst 1000 was a time to come together and most lunch time chat revolved around NRL, motorbikes and the latest deals at Fish n Shoot.

With an unmistakable love for all things high-powered (from rifles to Maloo Utes anyway), Goulburnians like myself were shocked as more and more of this green energy stuff popped up all around us. Wind turbines in the hundreds sprang up in almost perfect circles atop the hills surrounding the geographical hole that is Goulburn. Such has been the meteoric rise of renewable energy in the area that the local paper claimed that “Goulburn is also very likely to be actually mostly powered by renewable electricity” going on to suggest that it may be the greenest city in Australia. Bold claims.

Wind turbines are now synonymous with the region and, like any change, they were met at first with fierce opposition, but fast forward 10 years, adding the growing scientific consensus on human-caused climate change, and the Goulburn region seems like an innovation hub. It has the largest Tesla electric car charging facility in the country; it’s right next to seven massive wind farms; and the city may soon host the country's first community-owned solar farm. You might even go so far as to call it the Silicon Valley of the Southern Hemisphere*.

But no matter how I try to spin it, in reality I was very lucky to have such an early exposure to the debate on renewable energy. And more importantly, to experience its impact on day to day life.

Leading the different complaints that have been levelled at wind power is that the noise created by the turbines ranges from unpleasant - all the way to unbearable. A combination of knowing these affected people and understanding the importance of reducing carbon emissions has led me to where I am now: conducting research with the aeroacoustics team at UNSW. This research is focused on collecting and analysing flow data from the UNSW anechoic wind tunnel in order to design ultra-quiet airfoils. Such technology would not only improve the feasibility of wind turbines, but could also be used to improve the efficiency of aircraft and submarines.

I am very thankful for the opportunities that UNSW Engineering’s Taste of Research Scholarship has provided. For a Goulburn bogan to have the chance to be part of such an excellent team of academics, who work at the forefront of innovation, has been extremely rewarding. So, I guess if it were V8s that got me into Mechanical Engineering, Renewables have kept me here.  

*I wouldn’t

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