Australian news, and some related international items

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

Success of solar energy plus storage in remote and rural Australia

sunSolar plus storage becoming “new normal” in rural and remote Australia, pv magazine, 03. DECEMBER 2014 |  BY:  JONATHAN GIFFORD

PV arrays coupled with battery storage systems are becoming the “new normal” in Australia’s wide-open spaces. The number of installations continue to increase as governments and businesses begin to realize the new reality of off or edge-of-grid solar+storage affordability.

Rapidly falling costs in solar and battery storage technology, coupled with an increasing familiarity with the technology is driving these solutions into the mainstream in remote areas of Australia. In Western Australia a growing number of innovative solutions are providing proof of the technological solution and its economic advantages.

In a demonstration of the shift in thinking that is taking place, the state’s Minister of Energy Mike Nahan has acknowledged the strong economic case for solar+storage and has called for the state’s rural and remote utility to accelerate its uptake. Nahan has previously expressed doubts about renewable energy and, as a strong advocate of free-market principals, is not a supporter of subsidies for renewable deployment.

In response to questions raised in the WA parliament last week about the poor level electricity supply to the remote mining town of Ravensthorpe, Nahan said that the local utility Horizon is investigating a number of solutions including a micro-grid with decentralized solar component.

“I am not a technologist,” Nahan initially cautioned. “[However] we could tell everybody in Ravensthorpe to put in solar and have a wind–diesel–solar combination. They already have a micro-grid. These are the things that Horizon is supposed to look at, and we will go down and discuss it.”

Nahan continued that he had “entrusted” the utility to come up with alternative electricity solutions for supplies to remote towns such as Ravensthorpe. He has also appointed a renewable energy expert, Ray Wills, to the board of the utility. Wills is the former head of the now-defunct Sustainable Energy Association.

The parliamentary exchange was reported by the leading Australian cleantech site RenewEconomy.

This shift in thinking comes after a UBS report last month that solar+storage is already economic in some parts of Australia.

Real-world applications

While the apparent about-face of the WA Energy Minister is impressive, solar+storage arrays are going into remote Australian communities on an increasingly regular basis.

In the mid-west region of Western Australia, the Meta Maya Regional Aboriginal Corporation has announced that it will install a 100 kW solar+storage system at its headquarters in Wedgefield, Port Hedland. The array will be coupled with a 76 kWh lithium ion battery bank and backed up by a 40 kW diesel generator………….

December 5, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, solar | Leave a comment

Casltlemaine’s remarkable launch of a solar energy revolution

text-community-energyRenewable energy: power to the people, SMH, November 3, 2014 Michael Green Chewton’s primary school, student population 40, perches on a hill above the houses of the small central Victorian town, which borders Castlemaine. Before the year is out, its red tin roof will be home to solar panels facing east and west, positioned to best offset its demand. The school is crowdfunding for a renewable energy system, by way of a new scheme called the People’s Solar.

“Our savings won’t go back into the big bucket,” says principal Julie Holden. “They won’t be used for staffing and books.” She’s promising to fund environmental initiatives by students around the town instead, as well as more energy efficiency improvements for the buildings.

Modest though its goal sounds, Chewton Primary is one front in a revolution. Continue reading

November 4, 2014 Posted by | solar, Victoria | Leave a comment

Queensland’s solar industry, jobs, on North Coast threatened by changes to Renewable Energy Target

map-solar-QueenslandNorth Coast solar industry worried by changes to Renewable Energy Target ABC News 23 Oct 2014, The North Coast solar industry says it will be impacted by changes to the Federal Government’s changes to the renewable energy target (RET).

The target is currently set at 41,000 kilowatts of renewable energy by 2020, but the Government wants to reduce that to 26,000 to reflect falling demand for power.

The changes would only impact large-scale RET projects directly, with the small-scale scheme excluded………

Geoff Tosio from Bellingen Solar Depot said the even with the small-scale target excluded, his business will still suffer if the target is lowered.

“In regards to the renewable energy target being chopped down to a “real” 20 percent, if that’s going to happen, then how is that going to happen?” he asked.

“To say that’s not going to affect household solar is quite disingenuous.”

Mr Tosio said a particular concern is that large-scale contracts will be impacted.

“We would see a dramatic reduction in the medium size, commercial size, systems that we sell,” he said.

“So while I think it’s better than the previous position, we’ll probably still see a quarter of the industry go very, very quiet.

“And that will definitely have an impact on employment.”

October 25, 2014 Posted by | Queensland, solar | Leave a comment

Northern Rivers Energy (NRE)’s comprehensive Community Renewable Energy plan

highly-recommendedEnergy company plans for region to go renewable Simeon Michaels  8 Oct 14 Northern Rivers Energy (NRE), Australia’s first community-based renewable energy retailer in the northern rivers, plans for the region to become fossil free within years.

Mark Byrne of the Total Environment Centre, which teamed with the Office of Environment and Heritage to provide the grant, told The Echo, ‘We had several excellent tenders, but the NRE tender won because they had the most sophisticated and thorough understanding of the ways that the northern rivers community could be involved in the company.’

As reported in Echonetdaily last week, this is the first Australian attempt to adopt the community energy company model that has had dramatic effects in Hamburg (Germany) and Colorado (USA).

community solarNRE company will focus on encouraging the wider take-up of solar energy, selling power at lower tarrifs and paying customers a fair price for their rooftop-generated electricity.

‘The potential is enormous,’ says NRE spokesperson Alison Crook. ‘The northern rivers already has a high level of take-up of solar PV.

‘We have a community that really understands what it means to support each other.

‘We are aware of the reality of climate change and want to do something constructive about it.

‘We can work with existing generators and there is plenty of scope for new projects.

Model for Australia

‘Our aim is to generate sufficient renewable energy to cover our use within the region – a long-term goal and a moving target, but a model for Australia.’ The $54,000 grant will assist NRE to develop its business plan, which is expected to focus on providing renewable energy at competitive rates while purchasing solar and other renewable energy at a fair price from existing residential, commercial and government system owners. Continue reading

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

US Solar company hopes for an RET deal that will specifically benefit them

US solar company hopes RET compromise will allow projects to go ahead, SMH  October 3, 2014 Angela Macdonald-Smith US solar power company First Solar is optimistic a compromise will be hammered out on the Renewable Energy Target that will allow it to press ahead with up to $150 million of proposed projects in Australia, although other projects would still be delayed.

Jack Curtis, regional manager for Asia Pacific, said that 2-3 months ago the outlook for the RET legislation that supports the sector looked “more dire”, likely forcing an exit from Australia for the Arizona-based company.

But now he was more confident the legislation that supports the renewable industry would largely survive after the Coalition government distanced itself from the recommendations of the Warburton review into the RET…….

Government and Opposition spokespeople on energy and the environment met in Canberra on Wednesday for talks on the RET.

Opposition resources spokesman Gary Gray, who took part in the talks, signalled a compromise could be on the cards.

“There is a long-standing tradition of the government of the day and the opposition of the day finding common ground on renewable energy,” Mr Gray said on Thursday……

Both the Nyngan and Broken Hill plants being developed by First Solar and AGL are under construction and should come into operation next year.

First Solar is also planning a solar plant at Rio Tinto’s remote Weipa bauxite mine in Queensland, and it has similar ventures with a mining company and with a utility planned but not yet made public.

Read more:

October 6, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics, solar | Leave a comment

Melbourne and Moree get new solar businesses and employment openings

Spanish renewable energy firm sets up Melbourne-based subsidiary, THE FIFTH ESTATE 23 September 2014 Spain’s Elecnor Group has ignored the current political climate in Australia’s renewable energy sector and launched an infrastructure subsidiary based in Melbourne. ……..

Elecnor Australia’s first project is the $164 million solar photovoltaic farm in Moree, New South Wales for the Moree Solar Farm Company Pty Ltd, part of Fotowatio Renewables Venture. The joint venture originally included Pacific Hydro, which announced in August it was withdrawing from the project due to the policy-driven uncertainties impacting the renewable energy industry.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency has contributed $101.7 million towards construction and operation of the project, and $47 million has been provided by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

Covering 191 hectares, the farm will comprise 232,960 panels with a forecast annual output of 150 gigawatt-hours direct into the main energy grid, enough to power about 15,000 homes. It is expected to be complete and commissioned by the second quarter of 2015.


In a media statement, Elecnor said Australia will be a base for it to expand operations in the Asia-Pacific region, focusing on developing business infrastructure and renewable energies………

The Moree project has already created a number of positions to be based at the town, with the firm earlier this month advertising for an assistant project manager (engineer), a construction manager, six technical engineers as sub-contract supervisors, mechanical and electrical engineers, a civil engineer, two draftpersons, accounts and administration, purchasing and logistics.

September 27, 2014 Posted by | business, employment, New South Wales, solar, Victoria | Leave a comment

Citigroup predicts a good future for the Australian solar market

solar-panels-and-moneyOutlook for Australian Solar Market is Positive, says Citigroup Kevin Smead 26 Sept 14

In a surprisingly optimistic forecast, Citigroup predicted that the Australian solar market would reach 14 GW by 2020. This would require a growth of 2.2 GW per year—with current capacity at 3.5 GW—to reach the predicted goal. This prediction includes both rooftop and utility-scale solar.

The biggest question mark for the prediction remains Australia’s Renewable Energy Target and how its potential scaling back could dramatically affect the solar market, though that ultimately remains to be seen.

“There is no commentary directly linked to the Australian forecasts—which are part of a global solar demand forecast—so it is unclear whether this takes into account any changes to the renewable energy targets,” CleanTechnica’s Giles Parkinson notes. “If the large scale RET stays in place, a large amount of utility-scale solar could be built in Australia—as Bloomberg New Energy Finance has predicted. Certainly, many companies such as US-based Recurrent Energy, Spain’s FRV and others have large pipelines of projects.”

The Australian market is certainly an attractive one due to its high-value natural resources. However, the scaling back of the RET could pull the rug out from under the rooftop solar industry, as subsidies and any form of aid would effectively vanish.

Still, some parts of Australia are fighting for renewable energy. South Australia has committed to a lofty goal of using 50% renewable energy by 2025. This, and other smaller state initiatives, could help drive an industry that the federal government looks to scale back—and ultimately help make Citigroup’s prediction come true.

September 27, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, solar | Leave a comment

CSIRO breakthrough in solar thermal research

SUPERCRITICAL SOLAR: CSIRO’S SOLAR BREAKTHROUGH OFFERS NEW OPPORTUNITIES, Techly, by Bianca Wright  Thursday 25 September 2014 “…….In June, the CSIRO announced that it had managed to generate supercritical steam using solar energy. The CSIRO’s Energy Director Dr Alex Wonhas called it a game-changer.

“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.”

According to the CSIRO, supercritical solar steam is “water pressurised at enormous force and heated using solar radiation”. Wonhas noted, “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.”

Sarah Miller of CSIRO Energy Technology explained that thermal power stations produce steam that spins a turbine, which converts the steam’s thermal energy into mechanical energy to drive an electrical generator that ultimately produces electricity………

The CSIRO leads the Australian Solar Thermal Research Initiative (ASTRI) which believes the cost of generating concentrating solar thermal power could be reduced from 26.5 cents per kilowatt hour to around 12 cents by 2020.


“This reduction in costs would mean that concentrating solar thermal power station would be cost competitive with traditional power plants and will be able to provide near-zero emissions electricity without destabilising the grid,” Miller said. “Concentrating solar thermal power technologies have advantages over many other renewable energy technologies because thermal energy can be stored and converted to electricity when needed, allowing dispatchable power generation.

“Concentrating solar thermal technologies can also be used to produce high quality process heat and drive chemical reactions. A future concentrating solar thermal world achievement will be 24 hour production of supercritical steam from storage.”

But, Hoogesteger said, it’s also important to recognise that one of the advantages of solar power is that solar often works best by decentralising power generation………

“Solar means that we need to think differently. As a result of the kind of ongoing, gradual innovation that doesn’t always get the headlines, businesses and homes can be their own power plants right now. So it would be wrong to seize on this one innovation and overlook what solar is already doing for business, government and households.”

Despite this, the CSIRO’s breakthrough represents a step forward in terms of solar as a viable option at a larger scale than previously envisaged…….

September 26, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, solar | Leave a comment

CSIRO prints solar panels!

solar-panel-printer-CSIROThe Power Of The Press: CSIRO Installs Solar Panel Printer By Amy McQuire  Solar technology In Australia took a step forward recently, with the installation of a machine that can print solar panels. Amy McQuire reports.

Printable solar panels could power our laptops and rooftops – even our skyscrapers – sooner than we think after a new solar-cell printer, the nation’s largest, was recently installed at the CSIRO.

The printer, worth $200,000 and funded by the Victorian Organic Solar Cell Consortium (VOSCC), is able to print organic solar cells ten times the size of what was previously possible, and straight onto paper-thin plastic or steel.

It’s a faster and more cost-effective method than solar panels using traditional silicon cells (used to power objects like our calculators) because it uses organic polymers (a bonding of different materials) that absorb sunlight , generate charges and produce electricity.

Because these organic solar panels are more related to materials like cling wrap they are thin, flexible and printable.

The cells produce 10-50 watts of power per square metre (50 watts is enough to power a small laptop computer) and they can be printed fast, at speeds of up to ten metres per minute.

But the printer is not entirely new technology, the CSIRO says. It’s similar to what you would use to screen-print T-shirts. CSIRO materials scientist Dr Scott Watkins said the aim was to make the technology as accessible as possible.

“We’re developing the technologies to work with existing printing processes, so the printers that we’ve got are the same sort of printers that you could use for paper, or even things like t-shirts, and we’re developing our processes to be able to use these existing printing technologies so that the barrier to entry for manufacturing these new printed solar cells is as low as possible,” Dr Watkins said.

The printer represents a significant step forward for the VOSCC team, which is made up of a consortium of the CSIRO and the Melbourne and Monash Universities, who have been working on printing solar cells since 2007.

The size of the solar cells were increased to an A3 size sheet of paper from the size of a coin in only three years.

The CSIRO says the possibilities are growing and there are companies interested in taking the technology commercial.

“Eventually we see these being laminated to windows that line skyscrapers,” VICOSC project coordinator Dr David Jones said.

“By printing directly to materials like steel, we’ll also be able to embed cells onto roofing materials.”

September 15, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, solar | Leave a comment


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