Australian news, and some related international items

Despite Tony Abbott, Solar Power is shining in Alice Springs

Red Centre keeps shining as solar technology hub  ABC Rural  By Lauren Fitzgerald Central Australia is continuing to attract international investment from the solar industry, despite the Alice Solar City initiative wrapping up more than a year ago. In its five-year history, the program helped hundreds of homes and businesses install solar panels and solar hot water systems.

The general manager of the Centre for Appropriate Technology (CAT), Lyndon Frearson, says Alice Springs now also has a reputation as a hub for developing technology.


He says companies from China, Japan, Taiwan, Germany, Switzerland and America are all installing different solar PV modules at the CAT site. “The range of their investment varies depending on the size of the facility that they want to put in,” he said.

“Some of them are putting in little five-kilowatt systems as a test site, where they might be putting a number of small test sites around the world, through to a Swiss-based company which only has three R & D [research and development] facilities in the world, and they chose to build one of them here.

“And certainly those investments are in the order of hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Mr Frearson says local businesses like the Alice Springs Airport are also demonstrating an ongoing commitment to solar. “They received a subsidy to do their original project, but they’ve just [installed] 320 kilowatts off their own bat, completely their own investment. “And that’s both a maturing of the economics, that the solar panels are cheaper and the energy prices have changed.

“But it also shows a degree of confidence that they as an organisation and their board have in the technology to better run their business. “And there are a number of examples within Alice and broader afield throughout central Australia where different entities are making those decisions.

“So I think the legacy of Alice Solar City in central Australia is strong. “Certainly it’s something we see people talking about with pride, and we still see people outside of Alice focus very heavily on and see Alice Springs as a leader in this space.”

July 23, 2014 Posted by | Northern Territory, solar | Leave a comment

In Australia rooftop solar is starving profits from coal power

Australia-solar-plugGame-changing rooftop solar boom is squeezing the profits out of coal power in Australia Michael Graham Richard (@Michael_GR)  14 July 14

Solar power briefly turned electricity prices negative in Queensland Australia is known for its coal, which provides over 80% of its electricity and is a big export, but someday soon it might be known for its solar power. Thanks to rapidly falling solar PV prices, there’s been a rooftop solar boom in Australia. It’s now reaching a point where few coal generators made money last year, and even fewer will make profits this year… Wholesale energy pricing even briefly went negative in the middle of the day (see graph below) recently in the middle of the day in Queensland where there is 1.1 gigawatt of solar spread over more than 350,000 buildings.

Australia as a whole has about 3.4GW on 1.2 million buildings! Eventually, coal won’t be able to compete with solar at any price:

let’s imagine that the wholesale price of electricity fell to zero and stayed there, and that the benefits were passed on to consumers. In effect, that coal-fired energy suddenly became free. Could it then compete with rooftop solar?

The answer is no. Just the network charges and the retailer charges alone add up to more than 19c/kWh, according to estimates by the Australian energy market commissioner. According to industry estimates, solar ranges from 12c/kWh to 18c/kWh, depending on solar resources of the area, Those costs are forecast to come down even further, to around 10c/kWh and lower. (source)

The next step will be for people to get some storage and go off the grid to avoid having to pay these network charges. Australian solar installers are already reporting that “between 15 and 20 per cent of solar customers are asking about storage, and that rate is increasing each month.”

With companies like Tesla having ambitious goals to cut battery prices down over the next few years with gigafactories, the combo of cheap solar PV + cheap battery storage will be hard to beat. Dirty power sources will simply stop being competitive. Australia has lots of sun and high network costs, so it’s at the forefront of this movement. But most other countries will follow at their own pace. The best things we can do to accelerate the switch over to clean energy is to stop subsidizing fossil fuels, create regulation that is more friendly to rooftop solar (net-metering, for example), and put a price on carbon emissions.

July 21, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, solar | Leave a comment

Solar battery hybrid storage system for Muswellbrook, New South Wales

Parkinson-Report-Photon to build solar plus storage unit for NSW broadcast tower REneweconmy, By  on 15 July 2014  German-based solar group Photon Energy is to install a large scale solar plus battery storage hybrid power system at a telecommunications tower in New South Wales that it says could be the fore-runner of thousands of such installations across the country.

The system, to be installed at a broadcast tower operated by BAI near Muswellbrook, will provide 24/7 power through a 39kW solar array and a 215kWh battery storage installation. An 8kW diesel generator will provide standby in emergencies.

Photon Energy says once successfully tested the concept could be implemented on thousands of sites across Australia.

Michael Gartner, the head of Photon Energy‘s Australian operations, said the project was a great step forward“ for solar power to provide clean and economically viable power supply for remote sites.

“The potential for solar PV in the replacement of conventional energy sources is substantial and will bring cost benefits and emissions savings for Australia in the coming years and decades.“

“… We can show how to incorporate solar PV into any given energy system and prove that using abundant sunlight for your own power consumption is the way forward.”……..

July 21, 2014 Posted by | New South Wales, solar | Leave a comment

South Australia now punishing domestic solar generators?

solar-feed-inDennis Matthews 18 July 14 Electricity retailers in SA are required by law to pay domestic solar electricity generators only 7.6c a kWh (the minimum retailer payment) and this will automatically decrease to 6c/kWh now that the carbon pricing legislation has been repealed by the Abbott government. Yes, no ifs or buts, automatically!

Given the grossly unequal lobbying and market power of electricity retailers versus domestic solar generators then this can only be described as a travesty. And things are only going to get worse for the household consumer with price increases already flagged by retailers and the monopoly network provider.

Whilst we wait with bated breath to see what happens to what retailers are going to charge us, thanks to Essential Services Commission (ESCOSA), retailers already know that they will pay 20% less to domestic solar generators.

July 19, 2014 Posted by | solar, South Australia | Leave a comment

Sydney gets world’s first solar integrated house

sunWorld’s first building-integrated solar system built in Australia July 8, 2014 –  Many people looking to go (at least partially) off the grid install rooftop solar panels, but a house purpose-built for solar power is another matter entirely.

The first building-integrated solar energy system was recently installed in a house in suburban Sydney, Australia, CleanTechnica reports.

The house’s rooftop array thin-film photovoltaic panels with a solar-thermal duct system that warms and cools the air. While the top layer produces electricity like any other solar panel, heat trapped between the layers is also used by the house.

Australian steel manufacturer Bluescope produced the $5 million system with government assistance in the form of a $3.2 million loan grant from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA). Government money is often an important factor in getting projects like this off the ground (no pun intended).

Whether integrated solar catches on remains to be seen, but at least the public will now get a chance to see what this technology can do. This post appeared first on

July 9, 2014 Posted by | New South Wales, solar | Leave a comment

Australia’s solar energy revolution is underway

Australia’s solar boom has only just begun  Echo Net Daily Giles Parkinson, RenewEconomy 6 July 14 Australia is expected to spend some $55 billion on new electricity generation over the next decade and a half, but two thirds of this will be in the form of solar technology, and nearly half in rooftop solar PV.

These forecasts are included in Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s Market 2030 outlook, which includes detailed forecasts for Australia and Asia, both of which have major implications for the coal industry – exporters and local generators.

The most striking prediction is that for solar PV, which BNEF says will dominate capacity and investment over the next decade and a half. It expects 15.8GW of rooftop solar to be built in Australia out to 2030 – mostly on the basis of fundamental economics.

It suggests the payback for rooftop solar will halve to just three years by 2030. That is based on no subsidies and no carbon price, but it argues that it is still a compelling proposition to households.


“Australia, like Japan, has high retail electricity prices which, combined with continuously reducing technology costs, are the main reasons for the small-scale PV adoption rate,” it writes.

“The favourable economics of the small-scale PV technology – ie, the reduction in payback period – will drive the sixfold increase in small-scale PV capacity and the technology’s contribution to total capacity additions between 2013 and 2030.”

BNEF expects households and businesses will invest another $24 billion on rooftop solar.

While the speed and breadth of the rooftop solar deployment will be influenced slightly by policy changes, the deployment of large-scale renewables is almost entirely dependent on the state of policies such as the renewable energy target…….

July 7, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, solar | Leave a comment

Solar energy a winner for homes in Caloundra and Iswich, Queensland

solar-rooftopCaloundra and Ipswich tops for solar: Energex   BRISBANETIMES.COM.AU  SENIOR REPORTER, 13 June 14  The retirees, holiday makers and young families of Caloundra and the working class city of Ipswich have Southeast Queensland’s highest proportion of solar systems according to a breakdown of Energex data.

The breakdown from Energex figures shows some remarkable variations from conventional thinking.

There are fewer solar systems in West End (295), Highgate Hill (210) and South Brisbane (70), than in Inala (982) or Durack (645).

There are more in Carindale (1523)  and Rochedale South (1465) than in Premier Campbell Newman’s home suburb of Ashgrove (691).

Queensland Treasurer Tim Nicholls sparked a massive outcry last week when he described some solar energy users as part of the “champagne sippers and the latte set.”

Jeremy Rich, from one of Australia’s longest-running solar energy companies, Energy Matters, said Mr Nicholls’ comments were simply wrong. “It is obvious those statements are emotional statements, without looking at the data,” Mr Rich said. “Because when you look at the data it shows that it is totally the opposite,” he said. “It is the low to middle income areas of Australia that are hurting the most.”

Their company data is similar to the Energex breakdown, showing a major interest in solar energy in Ipswich, Capalaba, Browns Plains and Cleveland in four of the top five spots.

Central Ipswich – home to Swanbank power station – has 50 per cent solar energy penetration, Mr Rich said.

Ipswich homes under the postcode of 4305 – including the suburbs from Raceview through to Brassall – have 5197 solar installations.

Caloundra’s postcode of 4551 – including Caloundra, Caloundra West, Currimundi and Dickey Beach –  has 6311 solar installations up to May 2014………

A quick top 10 of Energex’s solar hot spots and their postcodes are:

1: Caloundra 4551: 6311 solar installations

2: Ipswich central east 4305: 5197 solar installations from Raceview to Brassall

3: Advancetown/Gold Coast hinterland  4211: solar 4941 installations

4:  Buderim 4556: 4379 solar installations

5: Beenleigh 4207: 4363  solar installations

6: Bray Park 4500: 3931 solar installations

7: Ipswich south-west 4300: Goodna/Camira to Springfield: 3930 solar installations

8: Amberley, Barellan Point and Blacksoil 4306: 3910 solar installations

9:  Mt Cotton and Redland Bay 4165: 3810 solar installations

10:  Gympie and its surrounds 4570: 3678 solar installations.

June 14, 2014 Posted by | Queensland, solar | Leave a comment

CSIRO’s breakthrough Solar Steam technology

sunSupercritical Solar Steam Could Rival Fossil Fuels 10 June 14 A breakthrough by CSIRO scientists could see solar energy replace fossil fuels in the most advanced power stations in the world.  A research program at the CSIRO Energy Centre in Newcastle focused on using solar power to create supercritical steam – super-hot, pressurised steam – to drive electric turbines in large-scale power plant.

The CSIRO team broke a world record for heating and pressurising steam using only solar thermal power in May. The work has been hailed as a coup for the renewable energy industry. Previously, only coal or gas-fired plants could achieve temperatures high enough generate supercritical steam.

Conventional solar thermal power plants currently generate subcritical steam – but CSIRO believes if these plants could be converted to supercritical steam power, the overall cost of solar electricity would be significantly lowered.  “It’s like breaking the sound barrier; this step change proves solar has the potential to compete with the peak performance capabilities of fossil fuel sources,” said CSIRO Energy Director, Dr Alex Wonhas.

“Instead of relying on burning fossil fuels to produce supercritical steam, this breakthrough demonstrates that the power plants of the future could instead be using the free, zero emission energy of the sun to achieve the same result.”
Researchers used CSIRO’s test solar thermal plant in Newcastle to break the world record for solar steam, reaching temperatures of 570 degrees Celsius, at a pressure of 23.5 megapascals (a measure of force per unit area). It is this combination of enormous pressure and heat that makes the breakthrough such an important milestone for solar technology.

The CSIRO says the breakthrough was made possible through a $5.68 million research program supported by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and collaboration with researchers from solar thermal giant, Abengoa Solar.
ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said that while work remained before supercritical solar steam technology would rival fossil fuels, “This breakthrough brings solar thermal energy a step closer to cost competitiveness with fossil fuel generated power.”

June 10, 2014 Posted by | New South Wales, solar | Leave a comment

Coalition Ministers say that Moree solar energy plant funding is assured

westmill-solar-park-cooperaMoree solar on track for Commonwealth funding By Tim Lamacraft 4 Jun 2014,The Federal Coalition is confident the Moree Solar Farm will secure Commonwealth funding despite plans to axe its finance source.

The Government is looking to axe the Australian Renewable Energy Association, which has expressed interest in providing finance to the Moree Solar Farm, a joint initiative of Pacific Hydro and Fotowatio.

The two companies are nervous that tens-of-millions of dollars in funding is in jeopardy.

But Federal Parkes MP Mark Coulton recently met with Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane on the issue.

He says the Moree Solar Farm is on track to meet Commonwealth funding approvals.

“I’ve been reassured by the Minister and his Department that there’s nothing with this project that’s ringing alarm bells and they’re very happy with it the way it is,” he said.

“Certainly the Moree Solar Farm has no reason at this stage to be fearful that the ARENA funding wont be there.”

It’s not yet clear when the Coalition will approach the Senate in an attempt to repeal the Arena Act, but projects that do not already have agreements in place will not be funded.

June 5, 2014 Posted by | New South Wales, solar | Leave a comment

Solar thermal energy a step closer with CSIRO breakthrough

CSIRO Newcastle solar breakthrough for supercritical steam ABC News 3 June 14 The CSIRO is describing research at its Newcastle energy centre as a game-changer for the renewable energy industry. The CSIRO is describing research at its Newcastle energy centre as a game-changer for the renewable energy industry.

Researchers have used solar energy to generate hot and pressurised ‘supercritical’ steam at the highest temperatures ever achieved outside of fossil sources.

Supercritical solar steam is water pressurised at enormous force and heated using solar radiation.

Around 90 per cent of Australia’s electricity is generated using fossil fuel, but only a small number of power stations are based on the more advanced supercritical steam.

The world record set at the CSIRO’s Energy Centre in Newcastle this month, was at a pressure of 23.5 megapascals and temperatures up to 570 degrees Celsius.

Project leader, Robbie McNaughton says it is the combination of pressure and temperature demonstrated at scale, that makes it such a breakthrough for solar power…… CSIRO’s Energy Director, Dr Alex Wonhas says the milestone is a game-changer for the industry.

“It’s like breaking the sound barrier,” he said.

“This step change proves solar has the potential to compete with the peak performance capabilities of fossil fuel sources.”

The $9.7 million research program is supported by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht says although more work is needed before the technology is ready for commercialisation, it is an important breakthrough and demonstrates the importance of research and development.

Mr Frischknecht says it brings solar thermal energy a step closer to cost competitiveness with fossil fuel generated power.

June 3, 2014 Posted by | New South Wales, solar | Leave a comment

Solar power proving a good investment for Western Australians

map-WA-solarSolar Helps Delay New Power Station In Western Australia 26 May 14,  WA’s solar households and businesses are collectively generating as much power as a major traditional power station.    According to The West Australian’s Daniel Mercer, given forecasts from Synergy of a continuing increase in solar uptake, the State Government now says a new power station would not need to be constructed in the state until 2029.

    Synergy predicts there could be as much as 1500MW of solar capacity feeding into Western Australia’s electricity grid by 2020.
The rate that Western Australians have embraced solar is quite stunning. The numbers of solar power systems connected to the grid has grown from just three in June 2007 to 135,419 (Synergy customers) as of March 2014.
According to solar provider Energy Matters, a 5kW solar panel system installed in Perth can return a financial benefit of between $1,577 and $2,196 annually. In some cases, a system of this size can basically blow away an average household’s power bills.
Energy Matters’ Australian Solar Index estimates the internal rate of return of a system installed in Perth to be 17.8%; making it one of the best investments around.
However, as is the case in the rest of Australia, clouds are gathering on the horizon for WA’s solar industry and potential new solar households.  The Renewable Energy Target review is currently under way and concerns have been expressed regarding possible outcomes; including a gutting of subsidies.
Current support for acquiring systems can translate to thousands of dollars off the cost of going solar. The uncertainty surrounding the review means the best time to go solar in Western Australia could be right now.
Going solar in WA doesn’t necessarily mean a significant up-front financial outlay. Energy Matters offers a zero-deposit “Save As You Go” arrangement to eligible customers where monthly repayments can be less than what would otherwise be spent on mains-grid supplied electricity.

May 26, 2014 Posted by | solar, Western Australia | 1 Comment

Rio Tinto finds that solar is the best way to power Queensland off-grid mine

Parkinson-Report-Rio Tinto to deploy 6.7MW solar PV + storage at off-grid mine
REneweconomy By Giles Parkinson on 22 May 2014 A ground-breaking, $23.4 million project to cut out daytime diesel consumption at Rio Tinto bauxite mine at Weipa could unlock billions of dollars of similar investments in the mining industry – which is weighed down by soaring energy costs.

Mining giant Rio Tinto is to host a $23.4 million solar PV plus storage facility at its Weipa bauxite mine, that is the first of its type and scale in the world and could unleash billions of dollars of similar investment. Rio Tinto Alcan – with the help of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency – is to install a 1.7MW solar PV array at its Weipa bauxite mine later this year, and then add a further 5MW of solar PV and battery storage.

The Weipa mine  is located on the Cape York Peninsula at the very northern tip of eastern Australia, and relies on expensive diesel that has to be shipped in.

The first phase of the solar project – to be built with First Solar thin-film modules and constructed by Australian solar firm Ingenero – is expected to reduce daytime diesel demand from the mine’s 26MW diesel generator by up to 20 per cent.

However, the addition of more solar and storage to balance out intermittency could reduce daytime diesel consumption altogether at certain times.

The Weipa project was the first of around 70 submissions  – worth several billion dollars of investment – from mining operators in Australia for funding for such ground breaking projects under ARENA’s $400 million remote energy program.

The ending of the commodities boom has made miners more focused on energy costs. Continue reading

May 23, 2014 Posted by | Queensland, solar | Leave a comment

Weipa solar project brings cheap energy to remote Queensland community

Hear-This-wayAUDIO: Cheaper electricity from Weipa solar project final act of axed renewable energy agency Many remote communities around Australia are totally reliant on costly diesel fuel to provide the electricity that most take for granted. But the far north Queensland mining town of Weipa is adding solar energy to the mix in what’s being called an Australian first. It could be the final act for an agency that’s facing the axe after last week’s savage federal budget.

May 22, 2014 Posted by | Audiovisual, Queensland, solar | Leave a comment

Australia’s energy utilities fight to stop rooftop solar

solar-on-houseSolar Industry Battle — Australian Energy Utilities Pushing For End To Rooftop Solar Subsidies, Clean Technica 21 May 14 Australia’s major energy utilities are now united in pushing for an end to rooftop solar subsidies – pitching the incumbent utilities into a major battle with the solar industry and consumer groups over the treatment of household solar.

AGL Energy became the last of the major utilities to throw its hat into the anti-solar ring, declaring on Friday in its submission to the renewable energy target review that rooftop solar subsidies were no longer needed.

AGL Energy also said the large scale renewable energy target would be impossible to meet – earning an extraordinary rebuke from PowerShop, the Australian offshoot of New Zealand energy giant Meridian Energy, its joint venture partner in Australia’s largest renewable energy project, the 420MW Macarthur wind farm – of joining other utilities on the “dark side”.

The issue around support for solar, however, is now the major flash point for the industry. Given the stoppage in large scale developments because of uncertainty around the LRET, rooftop solar is currently accounting for the bulk of renewable energy investment in the country. It supports an industry that provides more than 11,000 jobs, and nearly $3 billion in investment in 2013, as well as supporting ongoing world-leading research.

Those jobs and investment are now under threat. Continue reading

May 22, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, solar | Leave a comment

Solar power – floating panels a benefit for water short South Australia

Floating solar power plant would reduce evaporation, proponent says ABC News By Matthew Doran 12 May 2014 A solar power plant which is planned for South Australia would float on a wastewater treatment basin.

Geits ANZ is proposing the venture and director Felicia Whiting thinks it would prove at least 50 per cent more efficient than a land-based solar power system.”It’s very much like a traditional solar array with the exception that it’s designed to float on the water,” she said. (Below, Solar floating panels in France)


“The mass of water has a cooling effect on the panels and we also include a cooling system utilising the water body itself to be able to keep the water panels … at a constant temperature. “When that happens, you get a longer life of the photovoltaic panels and you get a greater efficiency.” In actual design, Ms Whiting says the floating solar plant would not differ greatly from a traditional one.”The system is designed from a HDP (high-density polyethylene) pipe, which is the buoyancy, and it has a structural steel pontoon sitting abreast that and then the PV (photovoltaic) panels slot into the structural system,” she said. “It’s like a racking system with buoyancy.”

She says having the wastewater largely covered by a floating plant brings other benefits. “We’re at about 90 per cent water evaporation prevention for the surface area that we cover,” she said. “In a dry climate like South Australia that’s about 2.5 metres of water evaporation depth annually that you’re saving.

“It’s a world-first for putting a system of this nature on a treated wastewater plant basin.”

Other evaporation savers in the planning

Geits has floating plants operating in France, Italy and Korea………

Geits has applied to the Essential Services Commission for an electricity generation licence.

Ms Whiting hopes construction on the ponds of the Northern Areas Council waste treatment plant can start in the second half of this year.

“Because it’s a prefabricated system we’re looking at a commissioning date of around September, October,” she said.

May 13, 2014 Posted by | solar, South Australia | Leave a comment


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