Australian news, and some related international items

Victoria, unlike USA, may slash solar tariff, rather than promote home solar


For intense, apart from avoided, line losses, there is no credit for network benefits, or environmental benefits. The contrast with some US states, where pricing regulators put the “fair” solar tariff at close to the retail price, is striking.

Regulator wants to slash Victoria solar tariff by 20 per cent By  on 2 July 2015 Victorian energy regulator the Essential Services Commission has recommended that the minimum feed-in-tariff paid for surplus rooftop solar output fed back into the grid be cut to 5c/kWh from the current level of 6.2c/kWh in 2016.

The recommendation, included in a report released this week, suggest that the falling cost of wholesale electricity prices – coincidentally the result of reduced demand and increased renewable energy – justifies the cut. [good graph here on original]  Continue reading

July 2, 2015 Posted by | solar, Victoria | Leave a comment

Local community funds Repower Shoalhaven renewable energy investment scheme

Repower Shoalhaven renewable energy investment scheme funded by locals, SMH, June 29, 2015 Kieran Gair First, it was the local bowling club. Then the churches. In the Shoalhaven, community solar power is on the rise.

Renewable energy is expected to supply almost 60 per cent of Australian electricity by 2040, according to research by  Bloomberg New Energy Finance, which found the fall in renewable energy prices  would drive a shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

One community in NSW has already reaped the benefits of an early move to community-owned renewable energy. Non-profit Repower Shoalhaven installed Australia’s first investor-owned community solar project on the roof of the Shoalhaven Heads Bowling Club last year.

solar Shoalhaven Heads Bowling Club

Repower raised $145,000 for the project in just two weeks, with 80 per cent of the cost coming from “mum and dad” investors.

The company has just completed its second community solar investment project in the Illawarra region on Figtree Anglican Church and Nowra City Church.

Head of Repower Shoalhaven Chris Cooper said demand for renewable energy is growing as it becomes cheaper. “People want clean energy and they want secure investments and previously there was no real opportunity to do that so we created a system where the community pays for the solar power system and the business repays community investors via a power purchase agreement.

The Repower solar financing model allows local businesses to purchase community-owned renewable energy at a cheaper rate than grid power.

Figtree Anglican Church member and University of Wollongong Sustainable Building Research Centre masters student Daniel Jones said community owned solar had significantly reduced the overall electricity costs associated with running the church…….

July 1, 2015 Posted by | New South Wales, solar | 1 Comment

All year round vegetable production from huge solar glasshouse in New South Wales

solar glasshouseMassive solar-powered glasshouse in NSW Hunter Valley to employ refugees, migrants , ABC News, By Jackson Vernon  21 June 15 Construction is underway on Australia’s biggest glasshouse, in the New South Wales Hunter Valley, which is solar powered and already providing employment opportunities for new migrants and refugees.

Excavators have started the groundwork on the vegetable growing facility at Fullerton Cove, about 40 minutes outside of Newcastle. At more than 16 hectares, it will cover the size of 20 rugby fields.Dutch investor Cor Disselkoen has developed glasshouses throughout the Netherlands and has brought in materials and labour for construction here.

highly-recommendedOnce operating, the facility will produce 15,000 tonnes of tomatoes, cucumbers and capsicums every year. “We are producing 14 times more per square metre so we have a huge production compared to open field growing,” Mr Disselkoen said.

“It’s year-round, reliable, independent from whatever climactic circumstances so we can guarantee year around delivery to our clients.” Continue reading

June 21, 2015 Posted by | New South Wales, solar | Leave a comment

Rooftop solar taking over in South Australia – the test State for Renewable Energy

Parkinson-Report-Rooftop solar to cut total grid demand to zero in South Australia, text-relevantREneweconomy  By  on 18 June 2015 See also Rooftop solar to overtake coal capacity before 2030

The Australian Energy Market Operator predicts that the growing uptake of rooftop solar by homes and businesses will reduce grid demand in South Australia on certain occasions to zero by 2023, highlighting the rapid change in the nature of energy markets, and the growing shift from centralised baseload generation.

The predictions from AEMO came in its 2015 National Electricity Forecasting Report, released on map solar south-australiaThursday. It says that the near 575MW of rooftop solar is already accounting for one-third of total grid demand on certain days in the state.

But within a decade this total could treble, pushing minimum demand required from the grid in the whole state to below 0MW (zero) on some occasions in 2023-24, and for several hours at a time by 2024/25 – when AEMO expects 1864MW of rooftop solar.

It says zero demand from the grid could last from 11.30am to 2.30pm local time on some days………..

South Australia will be a test case for Australia, and indeed the world, because of its high level of “variable renewables” such as wind and solar in its energy mix.  Continue reading

June 20, 2015 Posted by | solar, South Australia | 1 Comment

Solar panels with battery storage: Western Australia’s White Gum Valley project

solar White Gum Valley WAGreen energy for White Gum Valley development ‘an Australian first’, to benefit residents and investors, ABC News By Kathryn Diss, 19 June 15 A new residential complex south of Perth will feature solar panels and battery storage technology, providing financial benefits for tenants and investors.

Landcorp’s White Gum Valley project will include apartments, townhouses, maisonettes and single home sites, housing more than 150 people on the former Kim Beazley school site.

The WA Government said the use of renewable energy technology would cut energy and water bills by about $1,200 a year for tenants in the complex, which will feature a demonstration housing project managed as a strata development………

Overcoming barriers to solar technology Ms Green said the new business model overcomes several barriers which have prevented solar technology from taking off on strata developments.
“Barriers include getting approvals from Western Power, designing the system so that it is compliant with strata laws is really important, and also designing a system which is going to charge no more than what [residents] would pay from Synergy,” she said.

What has been designed here is something that should be affordable to the Gen Y marketplace
Ms Green said the project would be the focus of a four-year study at Curtin University into low carbon living, and is confident it will succeed.

“People are willing to buy apartments that perhaps cost a bit more, but the pay-off is they don’t pay the electricity bill,” Ms Green said………

June 20, 2015 Posted by | solar, Western Australia | Leave a comment

Port Augusta the right place for concentrated solar power

concentrated-photovoltaicsIngo Weber: After Alinta, here’s a new future for Port Augusta, Adelaide Advertiser, 15 June 15  IN Australia air pollution kills more than double the number of people who die in road deaths. We need to change our dependency on coal, and Port Augusta is the place to start.

There are at least two large international companies currently building concentrated solar thermal power plants (in Spain and the US) keen to build CST right here and now in Port Augusta. We just need political vision.(subscribers only)

June 17, 2015 Posted by | solar, South Australia | Leave a comment

AGL’s Utility-scale Solar Photovoltaic plants in New South Wales

Utility-scale PV in Australia: AGL’s 102 MW Nyngan solar plant achieves full generation Solar Server 15 June 15 AGL Energy Limited (AGL, St Leonards, North Sydney Council, Australia) on June 9th, 2015 confirmed that the Nyngan solar photovoltaic (PV) plant in western New South Wales (NSW) has achieved full generation, sending 102 MW of solar power into the National Electricity Market.

The 250 hectare Nyngan PV plant together with its sister solar plant in Broken Hill, will have a combined capacity of 155 MW, bolstering AGL’s credentials as the largest ASX-listed owner, operator and developer of renewable energy generation in Australia. In the last decade AGL has invested more than USD 3 billion in renewable energy projects.

AGL Project Manager for both the Nyngan and Broken Hill Solar Plants, Adam Mackett, said the team has been working very closely with the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) and local distributor Essential Energy (EE) to make sure testing and commissioning was satisfactory to enable 100 percent generation. Largest utility-scale solar PV plant ever built in Australia

solar PV nyngan NSW

AGL’s 140 hectare Broken Hill plant has also reached a significant construction milestone, with 35 percent of the 650,000 solar PV modules installed……..

“This new Australian record sends a strong signal to the energy industry that utility-scale solar PV plants can be constructed on time and on budget,” said Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) CEO Ivor Frischknecht, adding, “ARENA is pleased to support this landmark project, which will greatly increase market confidence in future solar PV projects, bringing down the cost of planning, construction and finance.”……

Nyngan and Broken Hill PV plants to produce 360,000 megawatt hours of solar power annually……..AGL will deliver the solar plants in partnership with local councils and communities, project partner First Solar, as well ARENA and the NSW Government.

June 17, 2015 Posted by | New South Wales, solar | Leave a comment

Electricity utilities scramble now to embrace domestic solar and storage systems

solar-on-houseEnergy companies embracing domestic solar and storage systems in scramble to protect profits, ABC News 14 June By business reporter Stephen Letts The battle lines in the fight to power the nation are rapidly being redrawn as the emergence of domestic solar and storage systems have forced the big utilities to scramble to protect their shrinking fiefdoms.

Six months ago, the big three power companies – AGL, Origin and EnergyAustralia – were spending considerable time and resources fighting to have both large and small scale Renewable Energy Targets (LRET and SRES) either cut or abolished.

In the past few weeks the rhetoric has been all about the lucrative growth opportunities for their small residential solar businesses.

Both the big listed Australian utilities – AGL and Origin – have told their recent investor briefings that their traditional businesses in the National Electricity Market (NEM) do not exactly have bright prospects.

Coal fired generation in decline; demand and prices hit Continue reading

June 17, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, solar | Leave a comment

Mount Alexander Shire, Victoria, launches MASH (Mount Alexander Solar Homes)

Further information on MASH 2 can be viewed here.

Victoria-sunny.psdSunEdison Australia Powering MASH 2 Solar Initiativ June 9, 2015Castlemaine-based non profit group Hub Foundation has sparked a second solar revolution in Mount Alexander Shire in Victoria, Australia; in partnership with SunEdison.

Hub Foundation’s largest project so far has been MASH (Mount Alexander Solar Homes). The community solar bulk-buy program has already achieved 225 new solar PV rooftops in the area – half of all solar power systems installed in Mount Alexander Shire last year.

During the first stage of MASH, 3,000 panels were installed in total. 24% of homes in the Shire are now saving on power costs with a solar rooftop; making it equal second among Victoria’s shires. But perhaps the Shire may boost its ranking very soon, while helping even more residents to save on energy bills and reduce their CO2 emissions.

For those who missed out on the first stage of MASH, MASH 2 was launched on the 4th of June by Mayor of Mount Alexander Shire, Cr Christine Henderson. Continue reading

June 10, 2015 Posted by | solar, Victoria | Leave a comment

Power from sunshine and seawater – applicable to Australia

sundrop-farms-David-PrattThe Sundrop Farms project is moving ahead, and has won substantial financial support from the global venture capital firm KKR in addition to its earlier support from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, as well as a contract to supply fresh produce to supermarket chain Coles over the next ten years.

The Abu Dhabi project is even more ambitious and is called “seawater farming”.

Could Australia do the same? Australia is a country with vast arid areas, copious quantities of seawater and sunshine – all the ingredients needed for a similar solar biofuel and food project.

It has a national air carrier in Qantas that has already experimented with various kinds of aviation biofuels. It has a national R&D organization in CSIRO that could organize such a project.

Desert farms could power flight with sunshine and seawater, The Conversation, John Mathews Professor of Strategic Management, Macquarie Graduate School of Management at Macquarie University, 9 June 15  “…….what if you could grow biofuels on land nobody wants, using just seawater and sunlight, and produce food at the same time?

That’s just what a new project in Abu Dhabi is seeking to do. TheIntegrated Seawater Energy and Agriculture System, or ISEAS, will grow sustainable food and aviation fuel in the desert, using seawater and sunshine, in a way that is eminently transferable to similar arid regions around the world.

The project was announced in January 2015 and is now under construction……..

Energy, water and food problems frequently compound each other, each making the others more difficult to resolve.

Examples abound: think of wasteful irrigation coming up against water limits and threatening reductions in food production. But there are some projects that turn the issue around and bring water, energy and food issues into positive relations, each strengthening the others. Continue reading

June 10, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, energy, solar | 1 Comment

Cut price loans by NAB for solar and energy efficiency program s

piggy-ban-renewablesNAB to offer discounted energy efficiency, solar loans, Climate Spectator JOHN CONROY  9 JUN, The National Australia Bank will offer cut-price equipment loans to small and medium-sized businesses investing in energy efficiency and renewable power equipment as part of a $120m funding program backed by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

The agreement to fund energy-saving equipment or renewables generation will see NAB offer a rate 70 basis points below its standard equipment finance rate.

Finance will be offered through NAB, and will be across a diverse range of pre-approved assets including cars, irrigation systems, solar PV, building upgrades, lighting upgrades, processing line improvements and refrigeration……..

June 10, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, efficiency, solar | Leave a comment

Bundaberg – Queensland’s solar capital.

map-solar-QueenslandSolar power: Queensland city Bundaberg has more solar energy systems installed than any other place DARYL PASSMORE THE SUNDAY MAIL (QLD) JUNE 07, 2015 

Bundaberg now has a new claim to fame — as Queensland’s solar capital. The subtropical city has more rooftop photovoltaic solar energy systems installed than any other city or town in the state.

Data from the Clean Energy Regulator reveals that 9400 houses with the postcode 4670 — which includes Bundaberg and Bargara — now have solar systems with a combined output capacity of more than 28 megawatts. “There’s huge demand,’’ Bundaberg Solar managing director Ashley Clark said.

More than 330 days of sunshine a year makes the central Queensland city a perfect place for solar power. “I would put it down to the fact that this is an area with a lot more retirees who are a bit more cautious about where their money goes,’’ Mr Clark said.

It is a trait Bundaberg shares with Hervey Bay and Caloundra, which fill the second and third spots on the list. Mr Clark said demand was now so strong that residents were having trouble getting approval from Ergon to connect to the electricity network….

      The regional feed-in tariff is now 6.5¢ , while householders in the Energex area have to negotiate a rate with power companies. The Palaszczuk Government says a new Queensland Productivity Commission will set a fair feed-in rate……

Australian Greens Senator for Queensland Larissa Waters said the state’s residents were collectively saving $214 million on electricity bills a year by embracing solar.

Queensland leads the country with 433,770 of the 1,393,526 solar installations nationwide. A quarter of houses in the state now have rooftop solar panels. Queensland Energy Minister Mark Bailey says the state has a target of one million homes having rooftop solar panels by 2020.

June 8, 2015 Posted by | Queensland, solar | Leave a comment

Yackandandah – small Victorian town with a big renewable energy future

Yackandandah’s small steps to a big renewable future, Michael Green The old brick-veneer community centre in Yackandandah has been transformed.

“We’ve had some really cold days this week,” says Ali Pockley, the centre’s manager. “But you come in here and it’s just toasty. It was hopelessly inefficient up until the retrofit, no doubt about that.”

With the help of a state government grant, local tradies installed a large solar photovoltaic system, insulation, double-glazing, shading and efficient air conditioners for heating and cooling. Electricity bills have plunged by three-quarters.

Yackandandah 1

Pockley launched the retrofit of the community centre together with an even bigger initiative: Totally Renewable Yackandandah. A group of residents are aiming for the north-eastern Victorian town to produce more electricity than it uses, by 2022. They began working on their scheme twelve months ago, and already the number of solar households in the town has jumped. Now, one in every three houses has solar power, more than double the national average.

Matthew Charles-Jones, from Totally Renewable Yackandandah, says they’re surveying residents and working on their grand plan, with the help of a local council grant. In the meantime, new solar panels, like those on the Men’s Shed, will make it easier to reach the target.

Yackandandah is one of four Australian towns plotting to become 100 per cent renewable, along with Newstead, in central Victoria, and Byron Bay and Uralla in northern NSW. Newstead was recently awarded a $200,000 grant from the state government to develop its plan. Continue reading

June 6, 2015 Posted by | solar, Victoria | Leave a comment

Queensland’s Millmerran solar farm to go ahead – biggest in Australia?

map-solar-QueenslandMillmerran solar farm plans move ahead despite disappointment over lower Renewable Energy Target By Fidelis Rego, 4 June 15  A solar company says it is disappointing the Federal Government wants to reduce the Renewable Energy Target (RET) but it is still forging ahead with plans for a solar farm on the Darling Downs in southern Queensland.

The Government and Opposition have agreed to reduce the amount of power produced from renewable energy sources to 33,000 gigawatt hours by 2020.

Angus Gemmel from Solar Choice said it had not jeopardised its plans to build what could be the country’s biggest solar farm at Millmerran.

He said construction was expected to begin later next year.

“It’ll certainly have an impact, it is sad to see Australia is the first country to go backwards on a renewable energy target rather than forwards, so I guess it’s with a mixture of disappointment but also relief that we can finally get some first major stages underway,” he said.

“We’re still very confident that even in the medium to longer term this project will be built.

“We’re at an excellent site with optimal conditions for large-scale solar farming long-term and once our first stage is in the ground that’s going to make it so much easier and cost-effective to make stages two and three and subsequent away as well.”

June 6, 2015 Posted by | Queensland, solar | Leave a comment

Offgrid solar power an economic winner for Western Australian farming family

cockies-Coober-PedyWA farming family opts for solar power battery system over costly grid connection, ABC News By Kathryn Diss 3 June 15 When Katherine Naughton’s family moved to a farm in Northam, north-east of Perth, it was going to cost them up to $60,000 to connect their house to the power grid.

But for just two thirds of that cost they have been able to install a solar power storage system, harnessing all of their electrical needs from the sun.”Not having that $400 bill every three months is just fantastic,” Ms Naughton said.

Perth-based company Solar Balance designed the system with Chinese battery manufacturer BYD.The batteries charge from rooftop solar panels during the day and store the energy for use when the sun goes down.

And unlike connecting to the grid, it is an investment that pays for itself. “With the cost of power going up, it’s quite scary how much it keeps going up by every single year, and you don’t know how much it’s going to be in the next five years,” Ms Naughton said. “So if we can go solar then we don’t have to worry about that bill.”

Battery storage an affordable option

With the entry of new players it will put downward pressure on battery costs which is going to be good for everyone over time because it will become more and more affordable. – Rod Hayes

The power revolution may be taking place slowly, just one household at a time, but the industry believes that is set to change………..

Curtin University’s Sustainability Policy Institute’s Jemma Green said the power grid will become less relevant.

“The grid will have a place but it will become more of a back up system as electricity prices go up even further and the price of solar and batteries decline further, the economics of grid defection are going to stack up sooner.

“This is going to have an impact on the utilisation of the grid and therefore the revenue that the government currently derives from using it.

“I think the grid and the business models of the utilities, that is the generators and the poles and wires will need to evolve to deal with this changing energy system which is effectively a centralised and decentralised energy model,” Ms Green said.

Bosche, LG and Samsung have also indicated they plan to enter the market.

June 4, 2015 Posted by | solar, Western Australia | Leave a comment


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