Australian news, and some related international items

A Labor win in Queensland will be a win for solar energy

ballot-boxsunQueensland Labor Promises Solar Support January 26, 2015 Queensland Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk has committed Labor to boosting the state’s renewable energy sector if it wins the election.

“In office Labor will call for proposals to generate 40-megawatts of base-load renewable energy including solar power. This will be used as a trial for more renewable power plants,” said Ms. Palaszczuk.

Labor would also investigate introducing competition in the power sector by enabling remote area councils to generate electricity from renewables to be sold at a lower cost to consumers.

“We will also initiate a renewable energy study to investigate measures to create an export-orientated renewable energy economy here in Queensland,” said Ms. Palaszczuk; who additionally promised an independent review to determine a fair price for a solar feed-in tariff based on all the benefits it provides, “rather than the requirements of large companies.”

Ms. Palaszczuk accused the LNP of being stuck in the past and pointed out after the last election Campbell Newman reneged on promises on renewable energy; cutting $660 million in related programs.

Clean Energy Council Chief Executive Kane Thornton said while Queensland has seen a huge number of households install solar power systems, the state trails behind others when it comes to new large-scale renewable energy developments.

“The Queensland Opposition’s plan to generate 40 megawatts of power from solar and other renewable sources is a welcome move, particularly in light of the ongoing review of the federal Renewable Energy Target – which has caused investment in the sector to collapse,” said Mr Thornton.

The Australian Solar Council also welcomed Labor’s announcement.

“Labor has released a solar plan for the Sunshine State, which is responsible and affordable and will restore confidence in a battered solar industry,” said Australian Solar Council CEO John Grimes.

“Labor’s solar policy stands in stark contrast to the contempt shown by the Newman and Abbott Governments towards solar families and workers.”

If the Council’s Save Solar Community Forum in Townsville last week is anything to go by, the LNP should be very worried – it was a standing room only event. The next forum is at Springwood on Thursday, January 29.

Last week the Greens also unveiled their solar policy, which would ensure all Queensland solar households are paid a fair price for their electricity exports. The policy would also provide 100,000 extra households the opportunity to control their power bills by installing solar.

January 26, 2015 Posted by | politics, Queensland, solar | Leave a comment

Rooftop solar to become the most cost competitive primary source of energy in Australia.

falling manufacturing costs are driving this trend, in turn driven by improving manufacturing techniques. By 2019 it’s likely that manufacturing costs for solar panels will reduce by 30-50% again.
recent study has shown that in five years a solar panel will produce enough energy in six months to pay back all the energy used in manufacturing it. That means after six months the panels will be a net source of energy.
current and future developments will leave solar power from rooftops and grount-mounted plants as likely the most cost competitive primary source of energy in Australia.
 There’s a sunny future ahead for rooftop solar power: here’s why  The Conversation, Bernhard Mitchell, 26 January 2015, Research fellow in Photovoltaics at UNSW Australia Over the past five years the world has seen a dramatic fall in the cost of solar energy, particularly rooftop solar panels or solar photovoltaic power. It is now a real alternative and considerable player in the power markets.

In Australia more than 4 gigawatts (peak generation capacity) of solar panels are mounted on more than a million Australian roofs to date, adding up to about 7% of Australia’s electricity generation capacity.


As solar panels do not always produce all the electricity they possibly can, rooftop solar today contributes around 2% of Australia’s total electricity generation. But in some states during the day, solar’s contribution already reaches double digits. You can watch solar generation live here.

But what’s next for rooftop solar? It’s likely that costs will continue to fall, eventually making solar the dominant source of electricity in many parts of the world including Australia. Here’s the evidence. (graphs) ……… Continue reading

January 26, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, solar | 1 Comment

Clean Energy Finance Corporation boosts commercial Solar Energy with Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs)

Aust-sunCEFC Provides $20 Million For Solar PPA Programs  January 22, 2015 Australia’s Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) has announced it will provide up to $20 million to accelerate the uptake of commercial solar power systems.

The senior debt finance will be provided to ET Solar Australia to go towards a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) program. A solar PPA is a long term contract to purchase electricity generated by a solar power system installed at a company’s facilities.

There is huge scope to expand and deepen the solar PV market in the commercial sector,” said CEFC CEO Oliver Yates. “We see the PPA finance model as a way to remove the barrier of the upfront capital requirement which should enable many more Australian businesses to benefit from solar, reducing energy costs and lowering emissions.”

The CEFC backed program, already underway with a shopping center solar carport pilot project in Queensland, will see the installation of systems ranging between 30KW and 2MW. The program has an emphasis on major energy users; including shopping centers, mining and manufacturing businesses.

PPA’s provide long-term peace of mind on the price companies pay for the solar component of the power they use – and that electricity is significantly cheaper than the cost of mains grid supplied power. If grid electricity prices increase, overall savings will increase.

The PPA model overcomes the barrier of significant payback periods, enabling customers to achieve immediate savings on their energy bills.

The program isn’t the first time the CEFC has backed a solar leasing type initiative. Last year, the CEFC announced it will provide finance of up to $70 million for SunEdison programs offering long-term leasing and power purchase agreements for commercial and residential solar installations.

The CEFC says the PPA model has proven highly successful elsewhere and more than 75 per cent of new home solar power systems in California are installed under lease financing.

By the end of June last year, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation had contracted investments of over $900 million in projects with a total value of over $3 billion. Its 40 direct investments and 25 projects co-financed under aggregation programs are expected to achieve a positive net benefit Australian taxpayers.

January 26, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, solar | Leave a comment

Australia’s wonderful achievements in renewable energy, despite the Abbott government

The federal government’s decision to abolish the Renewable Energy Target (RET) is not only a planned demise of a potentially thriving industry but, to use the words of environmentalist David Suzuki, criminal negligence against future generations.

This is especially so in Australia’s rural communities, where renewable energy has always been a means of providing electricity when connecting to the grid is not viable. It is important now in times of prolonged drought that farmers can use some of their land to invest in solar and wind farms to subsidise their income.

Renewable energy rises to power, January 24, 2015  By Lisa Hinde Despite the brutal cuts to leading renewable energy bodies by the Coalition government last year, incredible benchmarks in the field have been achieved.

Last month, a team operating out of the University of NSW recorded the highest level of efficiency for a photovoltaic solar panel, converting 40% of the light into electricity. The average efficiency of rooftop solar panels is about 15-18% so exciting possibilities exist with this huge leap in conversion. As the technology develops, the industry will experience an influx of more compact units capable of using even more of the sun’s energy with less space and equipment required.


September 30 marked the day that South Australia exceeded 100% of their required power using only wind and rooftop solar. This is bad news for fossil fuels in SA, which are effectively priced out of the market by renewables that are able to go as low as necessary to sell their power as it occurs.

The ACT showcased its entrepreneurial talent by securing the development of Australia’s largest solar farm by reverse auction. Switched on late last year, the solar farm generates 20 megawatts with the capacity to power 4500 homes, helping the ACT to achieve its target of 90% renewables by 2020.

On December 23 it was quietly announced that the second year of the carbon tax’s operation led to a 1.4% drop in total emissions (including a 4% drop in electricity). To somehow justify being the only country to abolish a carbon tax, Environment minister Greg Hunt campaigned relentlessly as to its ineffectiveness. Continue reading

January 26, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, solar | Leave a comment

Queensland: McKinlay Shire plans solar panels for business and Council buildings

sunMcKinlay Shire solar levy to help businesses cut power bills ABC News, By Kate Stephens 22 Jan 2015,  A north-west Queensland council says it is moving ahead with an innovate plan to help local businesses reduce their power bills.

The McKinlay Shire has put out an expression of interest for a renewable energy company to install solar panels on 14 local businesses and some council building…..

January 23, 2015 Posted by | Queensland, solar | Leave a comment

Gunnedah Shire Council takes the solar power plunge

Australia-solar-plugGunnedah moves to solar power ABC News  19 Jan 2015, Gunnedah Shire Council is the latest in a string of local governments across the region to join a movement embracing solar energy to power public buildings.

The council is in the process of installing solar systems across a number of public buildings, including Council’s administration building, Gunnedah Shire Library and the works depot.

Mayor Owen Hasler said the buildings are historically high energy users and transitioning to solar is expected to save council thousands of dollars annually.

“We want to be seen as being proactive in reducing council’s carbon footprint, and secondly of course there’s also the financial implications,” he said.

“It reduces our operational costs and effectively makes savings for our ratepayers.

“For example in the depot, we’re expecting to save over $6,000 per annum and the administration building about $5,500.”……..

January 20, 2015 Posted by | New South Wales, solar | Leave a comment

Australia’s unstoppable solar energy revolution

If you look at what the mainstream analysts are saying now, they are talking about the solar Parkinson-Report-revolution,” said Parkinson. “Even the energy distributors in Australia, they are talking about the end of centralisation and the rise of the micro-grid.” According to Parkinson, solar is now at “grid parity” with traditional sources of electricity.

Milne,-Christine-1“You can’t address climate change using heavily centralised, obsolete, hideously risky fission reactors,” Milne told Al Jazeera. “It’s a humiliating stance. Australia needs to phase out fossil fuels and move to 100 percent renewable energy for the climate – and for our economy.”

Australia’s rising solar power ‘revolution‘, Aljazeera,  After record-breaking solar project, scientists question why coal-dominated nation ignores renewable innovation13 Jan 2015 Adelaide, Australia Australian researchers broke the world’s solar power efficiency record last month with their design of a novel commercial energy system, raising hopes the fossil-fuel dominated country may someday switch off its reliance on coal.

Led by Professor Martin Green, the University of New South Wales team worked with a local company to create a highly efficient solar energy system that uses mirrors to concentrate sunlight onto a central solar panel to generate electricity.

concentrated-photovoltaicsThe method is known as concentrator photovoltaics (CPV), and the end product is a system with an efficiency of 40 percent – meaning 40 percent of the sunlight hitting the solar panels is converted into energy, the highest such level ever achieved.

Most importantly, the design uses readily available materials that makes putting the system into operation easier – and cheaper – than trying to commercialise more experimental designs.

Green, who is also the director for the Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics, has a history of this kind of innovation.In 2011, he and his team built a solar cell that operated with 19.3 percent efficiency and soon after pushed this to 19.4 percent, edging out the previous record holder with 18.9 percent efficiency.

Off the grid 

This kind of innovation has become the hallmark of the solar energy industry, and it is only going to grow, according to Green. Continue reading

January 19, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, solar | Leave a comment

Canberra’s Majura Valley solar farm will use advanced sun-tracking technology

solar array GerladtonMajura Valley solar farm system tracks sun January 4, 2015   Reporter for The Canberra TimesSun-tracking technology for solar panels will be deployed for the first time in Australia at a new solar farm in the Majura Valley on Canberra’s eastern fringe.

Solar Choice is developing and will operate the $6.5 million solar farm, which will feature a QBotix robotic tracking system, developed in California in 2012. The system is used in the United States, Japan and Europe.

Self-charging, track-mounted robots adjust the tilt and orientation of individual solar arrays throughout the day to gain maximum exposure to the sun.

Solar Choice, a brokerage firm which develops and manages solar projects throughout Australia and Britain, is finalising details for the 2MW first stage of its Canberra venture, which will generate about 3 million kWh of clean energy………

January 5, 2015 Posted by | ACT, solar | Leave a comment

South Australia scaling back feed -in solar payments to householders

solar-feed-inPayments slashed for solar homes that feed into grid in SA CAMERON ENGLAND CHIEF BUSINESS REPORTER, 23 Dec 14  THE once-generous payments householders received for their solar power will be scaled back to a 5.3c per kilowatt hour from the start of next year.This equates to a return of about $540 per year from a 6kW system which is large enough to power most homes.

But if you installed the same sized system before October 2011 you would potentially be pulling in $4836 per year.

Those payments will continue until June 30, 2028.

The retailer feed-in tariff, which must be paid by your energy provider, was set at 7.6c/kWh last year but fell to 6c once the carbon price was removed.

The Essential Services Commission of South Australia has further reduced it to 5.3c/kWh because it “reflects the forecast wholesale market value of photovoltaic (solar) electricity in the coming year’’.

“The proposed value is lower than the 2014 retailer feed-in tariff of 6.0 cents/kWh, due to the lower forecast wholesale market price of electricity,’’ ESCOSA says.

Individual energy retailers can elect to pay householders more for their power.

The original 44c/kWh feed-in tariff was taken up by more than 100,000 householders before it was closed by the Government in September 2011, and reduced to 16c/kWh. Householders who receive these payments are also eligible for the 5.3c payment which is paid by energy retailers.

Those who signed up before the cut-off receive the higher tariff until the scheme expires in 2028, costing an estimated $1.425 billion — an amount recovered through fees charged to all electricity customers.

The initially generous scheme was designed to foster the growth of the solar industry.

Solar panel prices have plummeted since then, with larger systems much more affordable now.

December 24, 2014 Posted by | solar, South Australia | 1 Comment

New technology will double savings for solar panel owners in Canberra

“Unlike traditional generators, consumers who become prosumers can can flip, so when electricity prices are low they will be consumers, when prices are high they will be generators. 


Reposit Power’s GridCredit technology a game changer for energy market, Canberra Times, December 14, 2014 –  Solar panel owners will more than double their savings with new technology being launched today. Owners of solar panels in Canberra will be offered new technology from Monday, which will more than double their savings on electricity prices.

A group of investors and electricity industry specialists are investing almost $100,000 to commercial the system, which they believe will be a game changer for the energy market.

Our goal is to get their bill as low as possible.  Luke Osborne

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency will announce $445,000 funding for Canberra technology company Reposit Power to trial the solar storage and trading system, ahead of a national roll-out next year.

Reposit director Luke Osborne says for the first time solar customers can store their renewable energy and sell it back to the grid for a profit. Continue reading

December 14, 2014 Posted by | ACT, solar | Leave a comment

Perth council wants renewable energy to be a requirement in home building plans

text-people-power-solarPerth council to seek mandate on renewable energy for new homes, ABC News, 10 Dec 14 720 ABC Perth  By Emma Wynne A Perth council is hoping to radically alter its planning scheme to require new homes to have their own energy supply.

Nedlands council, which covers some of Perth’s wealthiest suburbs, will apply to the WA Planning Commission to alter their planning scheme to require installation of onsite power generations, such as solar panels or wind power, in all new home building…….

December 13, 2014 Posted by | solar, Western Australia | Leave a comment

World first – Australian breakthrough in solar energy efficiency

Solar energy world first in Australia December 8, 2014 Peter Hannam

solar-farmingAustralian solar power researchers have achieved world-beating levels of efficiency, potentially making large solar plants more competitive with other energy sources such as coal.

A team from the Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics (PV) at the University of NSW has achieved 40.4 per cent “conversion efficiency” by using commercially available solar cells combined with a mirror and filters that reduce wasted energy.

Martin Green, the centre’s director, said the independently verified breakthrough eclipsed previous records without resorting to special laboratory PV cells that “you’ve got no chance of buying commercially”. Other top-performing solar panels convert about 36 per cent of the sunlight that falls on them into electricity.

The advance involved two steps. Three solar panels were stacked to capture energy from different wave lengths of sunlight, and then excess light from the stacked panels was directed by a mirror and filters to a fourth PV cell, making use of energy previously discarded.

“This is our first re-emergence into the focused-sunlight area,” said Professor Green, who pioneered 20 per cent-efficiency levels in similar technology in 1989.

The institute was prompted to revisit the technology in part because of Australian companies’ efforts to develop large-scale solar towers using arrays of mirrors to focus sunlight on PV cells.

One of those firms, Melbourne-based RayGen, collaborated with UNSW on the project. It is building a plant in China with an solar conversion rate of about 28 per cent. “We’d take them to the mid-30s” for future projects with the technology jump, Professor Green said.

Professor Green was critical of the federal government’s efforts to scrap the Australian Renewable Energy Agency – which chipped in $550,000 to the $1.3 million Power Cube project – and for its ongoing attempts to reduce the Renewable Energy Target set for 2020.

“A positive attitude to renewables would boost all these initiatives, a negative attitude will suppress them,” he said. “Clamping down on deployment of renewables will make it more difficult for developments like this to see the light of day.”

The next goal is to raise efficiency levels to 42 per cent next year, about half way to the theoretical maximum level of 86 per cent.

“It’s horse and buggy days as far as solar is concerned at the moment. There’s just this enormous potential for improvement in efficiency,” Professor Green said.

“To turn your back on those types of developments doesn’t seem to me to be a very sensible strategy.”

The university’s Mark Keevers led the engineering work on the so-called high efficiency spectrum splitting prototype, and its results were confirmed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) at its outdoor test facility in the US.

December 8, 2014 Posted by | New South Wales, solar | Leave a comment

Need to be alert on solar panel safety, too

Solar panel safety warning December 6, 2014 The state’s energy safety watchdog has issued a warning about solar panels installed during the past year.

The Director of Energy Safety, Ken Bowron, said some of the systems had used dangerous power switches.

“The switches are used to disconnect the current produced by solar panels so electricians can work safely on a home or business,” he said. The defective switches are NHP dc Solar Isolator Swtiches KDA-432 and KDM-432. The supplier of the switches has issued a product recall.

“The defective switches were sold between July 2013 and October 2014. It is important that anyone who had a solar system installed between these dates checks if any of the defective switches have been fitted to the installation,” Mr Bowron said.

December 8, 2014 Posted by | solar, Western Australia | Leave a comment

City of Sydney’s Renewable Energy Master Plan has won the European Solar Prize 2014 award

sunSydney gets international recognition for renewable energy plan 2 December 2014

The City of Sydney’s Renewable Energy Master Plan has won the European Solar Prize 2014 award for excellence and innovation.

The award from not-for-profit organisation EUROSOLAR recognises outstanding commitment and contributions to the renewable energy sector.

“Our Renewable Energy Master Plan will help us transform Sydney into a city run entirely on renewable energy by 2030,” Lord Mayor Clover Moore said.

“The City is Australia’s first carbon-neutral government with ambitious targets to reduce emissions by 70 per cent by 2030. We are delighted that our renewable energy master plan has received this prestigious recognition on a global scale.”

The City’s renewable energy master plan was nominated by renewable expert and president of EUROSOLAR Peter Droege.

“The City of Sydney’s renewable energy master plan demonstrates civic vision, technological leadership and political courage,” Mr Droege said.

“The plan demonstrates a commitment to a fully renewable energy based community and is a stellar model for other communities around the world to aspire to.”

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

South Australia’s innovative solar powered farm Sundrop goes from strength to strength

Sundrop gets $100m injection from KKR to grow tomatoes in SA desert December 4, 2014  Simon Evans


Sundrop Farms has received a capital injection from private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts to aggressively expand its operations, which grow tomatoes on desert land north of Port Augusta in South Australia using solar thermal energy and desalination. Continue reading

December 5, 2014 Posted by | solar, South Australia | Leave a comment


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 652 other followers