Australia’s solar installers face another boom and bust http://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/australias-solar-installers-face-another-boom-and-bust-20140829-10a17h.html#ixzz3C28RqcIn Solar energy installers are expecting a boom then sharp contraction of their businesses as the Abbott government prepares to take an axe to renewable energy support. Continue reading
How Australia Perfected Solar Power and Then Went Back to Coal https://news.vice.com/article/how-australia-perfected-solar-power-and-then-went-back-to-coal By Julian Morgans August 30, 2014 There was a time in the 1980s when Australia led the world in solar technology. To begin with, Australia receives more solar radiation per square foot than anywhere on the planet, and that presents an obvious advantage. But the true catalyst was geography: two thirds of the country consists of uninhabited desert. This posed problems for engineers tasked with constructing a national telephone network in the early 1970s. The solution was to build remote relay stations powered with solar energy, which at the time was a fledgling, expensive technology. Yet by 1978 the national provider, Telecom, had developed reliable solar cells that could be installed affordably across the country and be infrequently maintained. International recognition came in 1983 when Perth was tapped with hosting the Solar World Congress.
Fast-forward to 2014 and Australian solar power is in a very different place. This week a proposed solar farm with 2,000 dishes—capable of powering 30,000 homes—was canceled amid uncertainty about the future of renewable energy. This comes at a time when every one of the country’s proposed solar farms are on hold and coal operators push legislation to strangle solar proliferation. So what happened? Continue reading
Australia’s Solar Soldiers http://www.energymatters.com.au/index.php?main_page=news_article&article_id=4467 28 Aug 14 The Australian National University says it will seek to commercialise its design of a wearable solar panel system for soldiers after successful field tests demonstrated the technology could easily replace heavy battery packs normally used to power combat equipment.
The Soldier Integrated Power System (SIPS) was developed by scientists at the ANU Centre for Sustainable Energy Systems. SIPS will dramatically reduce the weight members of the Australian Defence Force must now carry in order to power an increasingly tech-heavy arsenal.
“Much of the equipment carried by Australian soldiers requires heavy battery packs, such as night-vision goggles, lights, GPS devices and communication systems. Currently, soldiers depend on conventional batteries to power these devices,” said ANU Project Development Manager Dr Igor Skryabin.
Energy Matters reported on the ANU’s plan to integrate SLIVER cells into a solar vest for soldiers in 2011, when nations such as the USA and UK were fitting infantry with portable solar panels and inverters for use in combat missions. But the ANU team were primarily focused on designing a simple system that would ensure the mobility of Australian infantry.
The solar panel system is based on the ANU’s SLIVER solar cell – flexible solar cells the thickness of a human hair but with a high power-to-weight ratio of more than 200 watts per kilogram. They are also bi-facial, allowing either side of the cell to convert light to energy.
In a 72-hour field test under real mission conditions, the ANU flexible panels produced sufficient power to maintain battery charge. In sunny conditions the panels fully charged the batteries.
“The trials were performed by soldiers in a real mission environment with normal usage of power,” Dr Skryabin said. “Based on the success of this demonstration, ANU will be commercialising the project outcomes with industrial partners.”
The SIPS project was a collaboration between the ANU, CSIRO and Tectonica Australia, as part of a $2.3 million contract awarded under round 15 by the Capability and Technology Demonstrator (CTD) Program managed by the Defence Science and Technology Organisation.
The organized opposition to the federal government’s moves to abolish or reduce Australia’s Renewable Energy Target (RET) has begun. More than 500 people attended a rally in Brisbane to protest against changes to the RET. The Australian Solar Council launched a campaign against the federal government making changes to the RET. Its first event in the northeastern state of Queensland on Thursday attracted 500 attendees.
The council’s CEO John Grimes said that a clear message has been sent to the government that Australians in key electorates are willing to vote to defend renewable energy in the country.
“Tonight over 500 solar heroes have come forward to send a clear warning to the Abbott government,” said Grimes. He said the message to Abbott’s conservative government has been clear: “We love solar, solar saves us money on power bills [and] we will vote to defend the Renewable Energy Target!”
The Save Solar campaign has also raised the ire of the government. Environment Minister Greg Hunt slammed John Grimes on ABC Radio……..
“The Environment Minister should be attacking the Prime Minister’s radical plan to shut down the solar industry, not shooting the messenger,” said Grimes. “Today’s outburst shows how scared the Government is of this national campaign to Save Solar taking hold.”
There have been a host of surveys showing that Australians are supportive of renewable energy and the RET. With over 1.3 million solar households around the country, certainly a large number of people have first hand experience of solar.
The Australian Newspaper, a Rupert Murdoch owned publication that is generally skeptical of climate change and is often critical of renewable energy has been running a series of surveys about Australian’s attitudes towards renewables. In its most recent survey, it found that 88% of Australians support renewable energy, while only 8% report being “totally against.”
The Australian currently has a second survey live here.
Australia’s Clean Energy Council is also currently campaigning against changes to the RET. It’s CEO Kane Thornton argues that even a reduction of the RET to a “true 20%,” proposed as a compromise measure, would devastate the renewable energy industry in Australia. http://www.pv-magazine.com/news/details/beitrag/australia–pro-solar-rally-slams-attack-on-renewable-target_100016170/#axzz3BRV0obrI
Solar giant to close Australian R&D unit August 22, 2014 Peter Hannam ENVIRONMENT EDITOR, THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD A GIANT CHINESE SOLAR ENERGY FIRM, ORIGINALLY BASED ON AUSTRALIAN TECHNOLOGY, PLANS TO CLOSE ITS LOCAL RESEARCH ARM AMID CONCERNS ABOUT THE FUTURE OF RENEWABLE ENERGY IN THE COUNTRY.
Suntech, founded by Australian-trained former “Sun King” billionaire Shi Zhengrong, will next month close its Suntech R&D Australia unit with the loss of about a dozen jobs.
The company, now owned by a Hong Kong solar tycoon Cheng Kin Ming and renamed Wuxi Suntech, said in May it invests more than $3 million a year in Australian research and development.
“Suntech wants to continue a relationship with Australia, but it no longer makes the same sense to keep a research team [here],” Renate Egan, managing director of the Sydney-based R&D unit, said.
“Clearly the market’s not going to grow here,” Dr Egan said, referring to large-scale projects.
The government is yet to release the recommendations of its hand-picked panel reviewing the Renewable Energy Target. Clean energy investors fear the panel, headed by former Caltex chairman and climate change sceptic Dick Warburton, will back a cut of the current goal of supplying 41,000 gigawatt-hours of renewable energy by 2020 – if not scrap it entirely for new entrants……….
Richard Corkish, chief operating officer of the Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics at the UNSW, said the loss of the Suntech unit could see significant talent head overseas.
“We hope as big a fraction as possible [of the researchers] can remain in Australia,” Dr Corkish said, adding that there has “not been too much good news” lately for the industry’s outlook in Australia.
While Australia continues to conduct world-leading research into aspects of solar PV research – such as UNSW’s work on increasing the productivity of solar panels – the level of support is likely to shrink because of government cutbacks, Dr Corkish said.
The Australian Renewable Energy Agency currently provides grants for UNSW, Monash University and other institutions.
However, the Abbott government has vowed to scrap the agency and is expected to try again in the Senate………
While Australia’s take-up of renewable energy may be about to slow markedly, other nations are likely to press ahead.
A research report out this week by investment giant UBS estimates solar panels combined with storage are likely to be competitive with conventional power grids by 2020. Battery prices are likely to halve by the decade’s end – and continue to fall – giving the solar-storage combination a payback period of six to eight years by then……..http://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/solar-giant-to-close-australian-rd-unit-20140822-10758l.html
Australian Solar Council will campaign in marginal seats over Abbott’s broken promises on renewable energy
Australian Solar Council attacks Prime Minister’s ‘broken promises’ on renewable energy support ABC News, By Matt Eaton, 21 Aug 14 The Australian Solar Council is beginning a campaign to target marginal federal seats over so-called broken promises on support for renewable energy.
Solar council CEO John Grimes has accused Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Treasurer Joe Hockey of breaking a series of election promises by moving to abolish the renewable energy target (RET).
“This comes as a big surprise to many people in the community,” Mr Grimes told 612 ABC Brisbane.
The RET scheme commits Australia to a target of generating 20 per cent of electricity from renewable sources by 2020.
“Before the election he [Mr Abbott] was committed to renewable energy, he was committed to the RET, he was committed to a million solar roofs,” Mr Grimes said.
“After the election, promise after promise broken, million solar roofs gone, the RET he wants abolished – he and Joe Hockey are working hard for that outcome……….
Mr Grimes said Mr Hunt and the Government would continue applying pressure to get their way.
“They will destroy any character, to stop this movement, to stop this gaining hold in the electorate,” he said.
“In that call, [Mr Hunt] told me that if I didn’t shut it down, that he would be launching a pointed, public attack at me and my character – that’s what he said to me on that call.”
Mr Grimes said Mr Hunt was under great pressure on the issue and needed to “attack his personal credibility”………http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-08-21/solar-council-attacks-broken-promises-on-renewables/568606
View more articles from Kirsten Lawson With the country’s biggest solar farm in Canberra’s south about to go live, Environment Minister Simon Corbell has defended the controversial Uriarra solar farm in the face of bushfire concerns and overwhelming opposition from local residents.
Mr Corbell said the 20MW array off the Monaro Highway at Royalla, which will go live in a couple of weeks, was twice the size of any other solar farm in the country and the largest feeding into the national grid. Its nearest rival was a 10MW solar farm in Western Australia.
He said the Uriarra solar project, now in planning, would also be 10MW and its significance on the national scale should not be underestimated. He rejected residents’ characterisation of the 27-hectare solar array at Uriarra as an industrial site.
“These are PV panels sitting in a field,” he told the ACT Assembly. “They don’t create noise, they don’t create emissions, they don’t create all of those things that are associated with an industrial plant. But, of course, the opponents … want to characterise it as that because in doing so … they hope to attach the emotional language that comes with industrial, manufacturing or mining or other resource-intense facility.”
The solar farm was low impact, environmentally beneficial and simply harnessed the power of sunlight, Mr Corbell said………
The Liberals’ Andrew Wall said the project had a litany of flaws, including the damage it would do to property values in Uriarra and the bushfire risk. Residents were not opposed to solar power but to the site, he said.
But Mr Corbell rejected concerns about the power line, saying the village was already powered by an overhead electricity line through the same corridor as the planned solar-farm line.
The ActewAGL line is 11V, but Mr Corbell said it was “not a big difference when it comes to starting a fire”. “One spark will start a fire, it doesn’t matter about the power of the line,” he said.
Farmers wanted solar and wind farms because it helped them diversify and access a reliable income stream, he said.
The importance of the project should not be underestimated at a time when the federal government was sending a message to companies and countries around the world that Australia was not interested in renewable energy.
When Royalla begins operating in September, ActewAGL will pay it $186 for each megawatt hour fed into the grid. The company is expected to generate about 37,000 megawatt hours a year, and the maximum it will be paid for is 42,293 megawatt hours. http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/national-significance-of-uriarra-solar-should-not-be-underestimated-says-act-environment-minister-simon-corbell-20140814-103www.html#ixzz3AcIlV6Od
Sundrop Farms gets the green light Sundrop Farms’ innovative greenhouse expansion project has been given the green light with the support of Port Augusta City Council.
Provisional development approval was granted at Tuesday night’s Development Assessment Panel meeting.
Sundrop Farms will now start making detailed designs for the 20 hectare expansion before getting a final construction price from a selected contractor. This process is expected to take two months when the final decision on whether the development will go ahead will be made.
If the expansion does go ahead it is expected to create 200 ongoing jobs for the city and a major economic boost.
Sundrop Farms chief technology officer Reinier Wolterbeek said the provisional approval was one of the major boxes that needed to be ticked to get the expansion underway. “It’s a major milestone, we’ve worked a long time to get to this stage,” he said. We’ve worked with the .2 hectares here [inPort Augusta] for about four years…with ups and downs but we’ve achieved the yields we are after.”
Sundrop Farms uses cutting-edge solar thermal technology to desalinateseawater for irrigation and to heat and cool greenhouses.The expansion would involve the building of a 20 hectare, four greenhouse facility which will produce more than 15,000 tonnes of tomatoes a year for metropolitan markets across Australia.
Solar energy will be harnessed using a power tower which absorbs heat reflected from a field of mirrors………http://www.transcontinental.com.au/story/2484815/sundrop-farms-greenhouse-expansion-project-approved-by-council-photos/?cs=1286
Growing Food In The Desert With Solar Power http://www.energymatters.com.au/index.php?main_page=news_article&article_id=3488 by Energy Matters, 27 Nov 12,
Australia is home to a food production revolution – Sundrop Farms near Port Augusta is successfully growing high-value crops using seawater and sunlight in what would be considered extremely hostile conditions for horticulture.
With energy and water costs responsible for up to 70% of total farm expenses in some regions and irrigation accounting for 70 percent of the 3,240 cubic kilometres of water withdrawn for human use, Sundrop Farms’ progress is being keenly monitored.
The Sundrop Farms System uses solar power to desalinate seawater to produce freshwater for irrigation and to generate electricity to power its climate-controlled greenhouse.
The seawater based greenhouse ventilation also cleans and sterilises the air, making it possible to grow crops without chemical pesticides.
The Sundrop Farms System allows land normally not deemed suitable for agriculture or horticulture to produce large quantities of food. The company claims its hydroponics based greenhouse growing methods yield 15-30 times more produce per hectare than conventional field production. Each hectare of Sundrop Farms greenhouses also directly employs between 5-7 people
Even the salt by-product of desalination has value – it’s mostly sold to third parties and some of the minerals are at times re-used in Sundrop Farms’ greenhouse as plant nutrients.
In addition to horticultural applications, the system can also be used for floriculture and aquaculture.
With modern food systems sometimes resulting in production occurring thousands of kilometres away from the point of consumption, Sundrop Farms type systems can also play a role in substantially reducing food miles; which can significantly add to the carbon footprint of food.
A planned 8 hectare expansion of the Port Augusta facility aims to produce 2.8 million kg of tomatoes and 1.2 million kg of peppers annually while saving the equivalent of approximately 4.6 million barrels of oil equivalent and 280 million litres of fresh water per year compared to a standard greenhouse in a similar location.
Quarter of houses rely on renewable energy http://www.gladstoneobserver.com.au/news/Why-we-rule-solar-race/2350835/ Ebony Battersby | 14th Aug 2014 DESPITE living in a coal-centric town, Gladstone residents are leading the nation in the switch to solar.
New figures reveal Gladstone homes are installing solar powered energy at rates faster than the rest of the country, coming in second on the list behind Bundaberg. About 26 per cent of Gladstone households are now relying on renewable energies.
Bundaberg tops the list with 38 per cent of households now solar users, with Mackay falling shortly behind at 23 per cent.
The Climate Council CEO Amanda McKenzie praised the efforts of Gladstone residents. “It’s great to see Gladstone residents are taking matters into their own hands, taking control of their power bills and reducing their carbon emissions at the same time,” she said. “Gladstone households already know that renewables make sense economically and environmentally, now it’s time for the rest of the country to catch up.”
Renewable energies are the one-way road to the future, according to local solar consultant Murray Kay. “We power the shop here entirely on solar,” he said.”Business has been great here in Gladstone. Solar is the way of the future.”
However, the solar versus coal argument presents a conundrum for local who invested in both the renewable and finite industries. On July 2, Queensland breached the negative energy price barrier for several hours, driven by the prevalence of rooftop solar.
This is not uncommon during the evening when power use is minimal. But on July 2, the milestone was reached in the middle of the day.
Regularly priced at around $40-$50 per megawatt hour, the plunge to zero confirmed solar was not only powering the state.
Predictions declare that 75 per cent of Australia’s residential buildings and 90 per cent of commercial buildings will be powered by rooftop solar in as little as ten years, according to UBS data. It is estimated that the demand for electricity has plummeted by 13 per cent over the past four years.
Construction Set To Begin At Australia’s First Single-Axis Tracking Solar PV Project Clean Technica 12 Auh 14 While Australia’s carbon policy seems to have hit a dead-end, good news from the renewable energy sector continues to pour in. The country will soon see construction begin on its first solar photovoltaic power project with single-axis tracking feature.
The solar pv project owned by Fotowatio Renewable Ventures (FRV) will have a generation capacity of 70 MW (DC) and located at near Moree, New South Wales. The project will be supported by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), which has provided more than A$101 million……
A single-axis tracking panel equipped with horizontal axis trackers would partially rotate about the horizontal axis, and track the sun’s movement through the day in the north-south direction. Panels with vertical axis tracking will track sun’s movements through the day in the east-west direction. Horizontal single-axis tracking arrangement is simpler, easy to maintain, and cheaper than vertical axis tracking arrangement.
ARENA, established as part of the Clean Energy Future policy of the Labour government, has lost favor from the current Liberal government that has spared no effort to ban it. The fact that the agency has survived the axe till now is quite miraculous. But its future continues to hang in the balance. The ARENA repeal bill was tabled in the Australian lower House of Parliament in June, and was then referred to a Senate committee which is seeking stakeholders’ views. http://cleantechnica.com/2014/08/11/construction-set-begin-australias-first-single-axis-tracking-solar-pv-project/
Government swamped by 120 objections to the Uriarra solar farm Canberra Times, August 12, 2014 Kirsten Lawson Chief Assembly reporter for The Canberra Times. The government has been swamped by objections to the Uriarra solar farm, including from federal Labor MP Gai Brodtmann, who said it would damage the character and appeal of the village, block views, affect the rural feel and probably depress house prices.
Ms Brodtmann’s intervention will put pressure on the government, as will the weight of opposition from residents of Uriarra Village across the road from the planned solar farm. More than 80 are among about 122 people to submit submissions.
Just six submissions are in favour, and only one of them if from a resident. John White wrote briefly in support. “Quite frankly, as the village is advertised as being a sustainable eco village, I do not understand the other resident views for not supporting such a wonderful opportunity the village could have gained by this solar farm.”….. http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/government-swamped-by-120-objections-to-the-uriarra-solar-farm-20140811-102rbe.html#ixzz3AEwFXw3x
Work starts at UQ Gatton on Australia’s largest solar photovoltaic systems research facility University of Queensland News, 6 August 2014 The University of Queensland and First Solar have begun construction on a 3.275 megawatt solar photovoltaic research facility at UQ’s Gatton campus.
It will be the largest solar photovoltaic (PV) research facility in the southern hemisphere and support innovation in Australia’s renewable energy industry by providing world-leading research on large-scale solar power systems.
“The researchers using this facility will provide new insights on integrating large-scale renewable power plants with conventional electricity grids,” said UQ Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Peter Høj.
“These researchers are some of the best in the business, and their teamwork with an innovative global company such as First Solar will ensure optimal returns on a substantial Australian government investment in renewable energy research and development, with excellent implications for society and the environment.”
Covering 10ha, the plant will be Queensland’s largest solar PV project and produce enough electricity annually to power more than 450 average Australian homes, equivalent to displacing more than 5600 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide or removing 1590 cars from the road.
It is a pilot plant for new and existing large-scale Australian solar projects, including the Nyngan (102MW) and Broken Hill (53MW) plants being built by First Solar for AGL PV Solar Developments Pty Ltd, a subsidiary of AGL Energy Limited in New South Wales.
In addition to supplying and installing about 40,000 advanced thin-film photovoltaic panels in ground-mounted arrays, First Solar will also provide engineering, procurement and construction for the Gatton PV Pilot Plant………http://www.uq.edu.au/news/article/2014/08/work-starts-uq-gatton-australia%E2%80%99s-largest-solar-photovoltaic-systems-research
Moree Solar Farm puts big solar in big sky country 4 Aug 14 The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) today announced $101.7 million of support for Moree Solar Farm, which upon completion will be one of the largest solar plants in Australia.
ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht congratulated renewable energy company Fotowatio Renewable Ventures (FRV) who are set to begin construction on the project shortly. “Moree Solar Farm will be the first large-scale solar plant in Australia to use a single-axis horizontal tracking system, where panels follow the sun across the sky to capturesunlight and maximise power output,” Mr Frischknecht said.
“The 56MWac (70MWp) farm will produce enough electricity to power the equivalent of 15,000 average New South Wales homes.”
Mr Frischknecht said the Moree community would benefit from the project and had been keen supporters, along with the Moree Plains Shire Council, for several years. “The $164 million Moree Solar Farm will benefit the local economy and will also deliver an estimated 130 local jobs during the construction phase over 2014–2016.
“More than 50 locations around Australia were investigated before the developers selected the site 10 kilometres out of Moree in NSW’s northern wheat belt, an area known as ‘big sky country’. “The location benefits from high levels of solar radiation and also allows the solar farm to connect to the national electricity grid.”
Mr Frischknecht said the project, which is also being supported by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, would aim to demonstrate that large-scale solar power plants can be constructed and operated within Australia’s major electricity grids.
“ARENA will work with FRV to share the valuable knowledge gained in delivering the Moree Solar Farm with the rest of the industry,” Mr Frischknecht said. “We recognise reducing early mover disadvantage and supporting the transfer ofinformation will help advance development of more utility scale solar plants in Australia.”
Moree Solar Farm is a solar flagship project ARENA inherited when it was established in July 2012. Last week, another former flagship project supported by ARENA, reached a major milestone when the first of approximately 1.35 million panels were installed at AGL’s large-scale solar plant in Nyngan, NSW.
Red Centre keeps shining as solar technology hub http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-07-22/alice-springs-solar-hub-technology/5613534 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.”