What do trade shows and museums have in common?  The answer - you'll find great examples of technology and innovation at both.

That's what came to mind recently at the official opening of the Queensland Energy Exhibition Centre at Highfields, north of Toowoomba.   

The event early in late May officially re-opens a  door to the history of electricity in Queensland, and the new exhibit,  aptly housed in a brand-new corrugated iron shed (with working solar panels) within the grounds of the tranquil and rustic Pioneer Village, is a reminder that change is an energetic constant in the world of electricity.  Displays at the exhibition The exhibition centre has more than 1000 items in its collection, including appliances such as refrigerators, washing machines and mix-masters.   There's a replica of an early Faraday generator and portions of the original cables known as the 'Edison Tubes' - the very first versions of underground cable used in the world and which initially supplied the government printing office in Brisbane in 1888.

Dominating one end of the exhibition is an impressive Parsons turbo generator, a large generator originally installed to supply Rockhampton, while the walls are adorned with parts of steam turbines and streetlights, electricity meters, tools and equipment, and protective clothing.

Perhaps the biggest 'back to the future' moment is the Daihatsu Charade electric vehicle (pictured).  This little car with its eight 43kg batteries, 75km range, eight-hour recharge time and 75kph top speed is one of the first EVs used in trials in Queensland. EVs have come a long way since the 1980s.

The display of home generation units used on many rural properties for many years "before the power came" is a reminder of how electricity has changed and shaped our lives. The documentary records of the cooking demonstrations seem quaint now but were popular incentives during the rapid expansion of the network in the 1960s and 70s. Displays at the exhibition 

The exhibition has come about thanks to the hard work of the Highfields Pioneer Village committee and its band of volunteers, as well as a small but dedicated group who have managed the previous Queensland Energy Museum; whose trustees included Energex, Powerlink and Ergon Energy. When the lease on the building housing the Queensland Energy Museum expired, this group had the foresight to create the Queensland Energy Exhibition Centre.

One day, in the distant future, there could be solar panels and perhaps an early network battery storage  unit on display in this very shed.  But in the meantime, visitors to Australia's only museum of its kind will realise that the contents on display were once the vanguard, the cutting edge of the safe and reliable electricity supply in Queensland.

Coincidentally, in the same month of the opening, over in New Orleans the US-based Edison Institute presented Ergon Energy with the International Edison Award for Innovation for its Roames technology, and in Brisbane a number of shipping containers bearing the first battery storage units to be deployed on a network in the country arrived. Three more significant milestones in the ongoing story of Queensland energy and all reached within weeks of each other.

More information is available from the Pioneer Heritage Village website or the informative Queensland Energy Exhibition Centre website. You can also read a press release about the exhibition opening: A New home for Queensland's Electricity history.
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