Australian news, and some related international items

Small scale solar energy triumphing globally, and especially in Australia

Australia-solar-plugSmall Scale Solar A Stand-Out Performer  Global investment in renewable energy jumped in the first quarter – and in Australia, it’s still citizens leading the revolution through rooftop solar power.

   According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), investment in clean energy around the world reached USD $47.7bn during the first 3 months of this year.
The stand-out sector was small scale solar power (less than 1MW systems); which skyrocketed by as much as 42%. Overall investment in solar (large and small) was up 23% at $27.5bn.
RenewEconomy, drawing on data from BNEF and Pew Charitable Trusts, states Australian households accounted for nearly two thirds of total investment in renewables in the nation in 2013 ($2.8 billion), and practically all of it so far this year.
RenewEconomy states more than 4,000 applications to install small systems are being a lodged a month in the south-east Queensland region managed by Energex. In South Australia and Western Australia, small scale system uptake is more than 2,500 a month, and in Victoria just below that level.
That uptake is so strong isn’t surprising. In addition to the lure of households being able to slash or even wipe out their power bills; there is an added sense of urgency given fears with regard to the future of Australia’s Renewable Energy Target (RET). The RET provides support for the purchase of small-scale solar power systems; which can amount to thousands of dollars.
Another factor helping to drive uptake is the availability of innovative financing arrangements – such as zero dollar deposit payment plans. National provider Energy Matters’ Save As You Go initiative is structured in a way that in addition to the zero deposit; repayments are structured so many households will repay less per week than what they would spend on equivalent mains electricity supply.
According to Energy Matters, solar is still one the highest returning investmentsin Australia – outperforming shares, property, gold, global fixed interest or even fine art.

April 18, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, solar | Leave a comment

Small scale solar thermal energy initiative unveiled today in New South Wales

sunSolar plant to be unveiled at Wallsend swimming pool    A revolutionary solar thermal project invented by researchers at the University of Newcastle will be unveiled today at Wallsend swimming pool. The demonstration plant will collect heat from the sun in curved mirrored troughs, producing electricity and heat for on-site use, using the new heat engine technology.

The GRANEX project has been funded by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA). Researcher Professor Behdad Moghtaderi says the technology will have significant benefits for remote mining and industrial sites in rural communities.

“It can be used in remote communities, aboriginal communities, because all we need is a set of solar arrays,” he said. “You really don’t need diesel fuel, or anything like that.

“The problem is not really the infrastructure as such. “It’s more of a cost and logistical problems associated with transporting diesel fuel.”

The Wallsend swimming centre could save hundreds of dollars on its its annual power bills because of the project.

Professor Moghtaderi says the technology means electricity can be produced with zero carbon emissions from a range of different sources.”Any type of low-grade heat source and also renewable energy sources, in the example that you have for a swimming pool today, essentially we are using solar energy as heat input,” he said. “But, with the same token, you can use geothermal energy, biomass energy or waste heat going out of the stack of power plants and things like that.” ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht today joined Parliamentary Secretary for Industry and Paterson MP Bob Baldwin at the official launch.

“The $1.7 million project integrates solar thermal and GRANEX heat engine technology and is supported by $812,000 funding from ARENA,” he said.”The 200 kilowatt solar field, located at the Wallsend swimming complex, will generate 30 kilowatts of electrical output and 150 kilowatts of heat for the swimming pool.

Mr Frischknecht says the demonstration project is the first of its kind and will produce thousands of hours of valuable operating data.”It demonstrates the potential of small-scale solar thermal systems in providing cost effective energy options, particularly for off-grid areas,” he said.

“ARENA recognises the importance of supporting renewable energy projects that are innovative, economically geared and increasingly market-driven – such as those that could deliver low cost power to remote mining communities.

“It is vital that Australia continues to deliver world-leading and cost-effective renewable technology solutions that keep up with economic growth.”

April 16, 2014 Posted by | New South Wales, solar | Leave a comment

Community solar energy project underway in Illawarra, New South Wales

sunResidents back renewable energy plan April 9, 2014, WOLLONGONG ADVERTISER A group of Illawarra residents aims to set up a small-scale renewable energy project, such as solar panels on a community building roof.
The plan came out of a community energy forum held at the Illawarra Aboriginal Centre, in Wollongong, on March 27.

More than 30 residents turned up to hear a range of speakers talk about community renewable energy projects in Australia and overseas. The event was organised by the Wollongong Climate Action Network to generate interest and share ideas about how the Illawarra could set up its own  project.
Tathra resident and Bega Clean Energy for Eternity member Matthew Nott spoke about the significant efforts his community had made.
Reading about climate change in 2006, Mr Nott said he felt this was one of the greatest challenges we faced. He organised a ‘‘Clean energy for eternity’’ human sign on Tathra Beach, which attracted 3000 people.

With the help of others, Mr Nott ran a fund-raising campaign to place solar panels on community buildings – so far they have provided solar panels to six surf clubs, 12 Rural Fire Service sheds, five churches, 15 community halls and four preschools.
The group’s most ambitious project  is to build Australia’s largest community solar farm, providing half the power needs of Tathra Sewage Treatment Plant.

Graeme Jessop and John Davis from not-for-profit Clear Sky Solutions presented their investment model of renewable energy development. Last year they installed solar panels onto a Boggabri pub using investor funds.

Community Power Agency’s Nicky Ison spoke about community projects overseas. Forum participants agreed to work on a small-scale Illawarra renewable energy project, such as solar panels on a community building.
Organiser Rowan Huxtable said the network was very pleased at the community’s response and urged anyone wanting to help the project to contact them.Information: 0408 372 792 or email

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

Broken Hill’s solar farm, part funded by ARENA will keep going

solar array GerladtonBusiness as usual’ for Government agency part-funding Broken Hill and Nyngan Solar Farms, ABC News 10 April 14 Gavin Coote A solar farm at Broken Hill in far-western New South Wales will still go ahead, despite the contractor’s uncertainty about future renewable energy investment in Australia.

First Solar is building the Nyngan and Broken Hill Solar Farms, but is reconsidering its future investments because of uncertainty surrounding the Federal Government’s Renewable Energy Target.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency, or ARENA, is an independent government agency and is helping fund the solar farm, along with the NSW Government.

The Agency says it won’t comment on any future projects in western New South Wales until they are signed off financially, but says it’s business as usual for the ARENA’s current programs, including those at Nygnan and Broken Hill…… “It is business as usual for ARENA, we are continuing to manage our existing projects and to assess and progress proposals we receive in accordance with our procedures and decision making processes.”….

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

Abbott government policies cloud the future for solar energy projects

Abbott-destroys-renewablesPolicy cloud puts up to $110m in solar energy projects on hold SMH, April 8, 2014   Jared Lynch Business reporter Solar projects totaling tens of millions of dollars are at risk after the Abbott government launched a review into its renewable energy targets.

First Solar, the company building the southern hemisphere’s biggest solar plant, said it was reconsidering its future investment plans for Australia, citing increased policy uncertainty.

About $90 million to $110 million worth of projects have been put on hold, First Solar vice president for business development Jack Curtis said. ”We don’t have a great line of sight as to where the next round of projects is coming from, largely as a function of the uncertainty in the policy backdrop,” Mr Curtis said.

The government had planned to source 41,000 gigawatt hours from renewable sources by 2020, or 20 per cent of total supply in that year. But that is being questioned after the government appointed former Reserve Bank board member and global warming sceptic Dick Warburton to head the review.

Mr Curtis said many solar projects only needed short-term incentives. He believed the solar industry had a ”credible path” to become self sustainable, citing its ability to ”dramatically” reduce costs.

For example, in the past five years, the US solar industry had cut costs by 60-70 per cent, Mr Curtis said.

”We are not saying ‘support solar … and we’ll keep saying thanks’. What we are saying that there is a very credible path given the cost reduction demonstrated by the solar industry that it can get to a point where it is a sustainable industry.” First Solar is building two solar plants at Nyngan and Broken Hill in NSW with energy company AGL………

The projects that are on hold are mainly in the mining sector, helping companies with the off-grid operations, Mr Curtis said.
He said those projects had an economic multiplier effect of 1.5x, so for every $1 the government spent, $1.50 was injected into the broader economy. ”[The federal government] obviously has a tight fiscal outlook that they have to manage and we are sympathetic of that.

”But if their other industries that are on the up and up that can generate a 1.5 multiplier for every $1 the government invested, I’d like to hear about them because I think that’s a pretty good positive return on the allocation of government funds.”

April 9, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, solar | Leave a comment

Cost of Australia’s decentralised solar energy is plunging, despite opposition from electricity utilities

solar-panels-and-moneyAustralia’s Plunging Cost Of Solar Energy (Stats) (Excellent graphs)  Giles Parkinson…...“People are told that solar is too expensive,” Greene says. “But we have seen a staggering reduction of the cost of solar in the last couple of years, so I hope that these graphs frame what the actual cost of solar is.”…..

All of this is causing some fierce push-back from the utility industry. Greene and other speakers cited numerous ways that distributors are seeking to slow down the uptake of solar – one is by drawing out the application process (taking 65 business days for each amendment or query), requiring systems to be installed to stop exports back into the grid, or simply refusing the installation.

That, of course, leads to users thinking that they might be better off without the grid. How far is that away?…….

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

Solar power making economic sense for remote mining projects in Australia

Aust-sunFirst Solar close to deal to power Australian mines, SMH, April 1, 2014  First Solar, the largest US solar-panel maker, is close to announcing agreements to supply its technology to remote mining projects in Australia to help resources companies save on fuel costs.

The company expects to develop as much as 200 megawatts of capacity for the mining industry over the next three years, Jack Curtis, First Solar’s Sydney-based vice president of business development for the Asia-Pacific, said in a phone interview. The Arizona-based company plans to combine solar power with diesel, he said.

“In an environment where profitability isn’t what it used to be, with the mining industry focused on cost control, the electricity that powers the mines is becoming a bigger line item, and the ability to put a dent in that and hedge against fuel price volatility is something that solars offers,” Curtis said. “We expect fairly shortly to announce some pretty exciting projects in that space.”

The U.S. company is increasing efforts to install solar systems at industrial sites and warehouses as utilities demand smaller projects, and is seeking deals in other regions including Saudi Arabia, India and South America. The world’s largest mining companies, including BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto Group, at the same time are reining in spending as a decade-long boom in metal prices wanes.

Mining sites

First Solar will target mining sites in Western Australia, the Northern Territory and South Australia and seek to expand as the solar industry proves that it can provide reliable supply, Curtis said, declining to name any companies.

Operators of Australian mines facing high diesel fuel costs should grow more comfortable using solar technology to generate some of their power, said Nathan Lim, who oversees $127 million in assets and owns First Solar shares as manager of the Australian Ethical International Equities Trust.

“The high cost of energy at a facility in the middle of nowhere has always made it interesting to anyone offering an alternative solution,” Lim said. “The difference between today and five to 10 years ago is the reliability, and that the cost of solar has come down. It’s becoming a no-brainer for people in remote locations.”…..

April 1, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, solar | Leave a comment

For solar power in Australia, the Western Australian Senate election is critically important

logo-australian-solar-councWestern Australia’s Election Crucial In National Solar Battle As the people of Western Australia prepare to return to the polls, the Australian Solar Council says the outcome will play a major role in the battle solar is facing nationally.

“There are increasing indications that the Federal Government is planning to remove or scale back support for rooftop and large scale solar through its review of the Renewable Energy Target (RET),” says Australian Solar Council CEO John Grimes.  Mr. Grimes says with Labor and the Greens supporting the position of not changing the RET, if numbers can be secured in the Senate, any changes the Abbot Government seeks to make that would negatively impact the RET can be blocked.

The Australian Solar Council has secured letters of support regarding the Renewable Energy Target from Labor and The GreensPalmer United Party issending mixed signals.  The Council’s Save Solar campaign is currently focusing the majority of its efforts in Western Australia and recently launched its first ever TV and print advertising campaign.

The response from the community is such that it says several political parties have asked the Council stop all of the emails being sent by solar supporters as they are receiving hundreds each day.

“Our clear message – anti-solar policies will only happen at great political cost, because the people are with us,” says Mr. Grimes.

“This campaign says to governments across Australia that solar is the future and the industry will not tolerate ad-hoc policy changes that damage our businesses and most of all restrict access to solar for the 3.5 million people who want solar over the next 5 years.”

Shadow Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Water, Hon. Mark Butler MP will meet solar workers in Perth on Monday to discuss the importance of the Renewable Energy Target for the solar industry; which employs thousands of people in Western Australia.

March 31, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics, solar, Western Australia | Leave a comment

Call for electric highway in Western Australia

solar-power-carElectric car devotees push for electric highway in Western Australia ABC News, By Claire Moodie 18 Mar 2014, Australia’s first ‘electric highway’ will be rolled out in Western Australia if Perth devotees of the cars have their way.The push is on for a network of charging stations in up to 35 towns in Western Australia’s south west, including the tourist getaway of Margaret River.

It would be a game changer for electric vehicle (EV) owners, many of whom currently think twice about leaving the city.”You can’t just drop into a petrol station,” said Patti McBain, whose converted Ford Focus has a range of about 125 kilometres.”You have to plug in somewhere.”…….

Kirsten Rose of the Sustainable Energy Association says Australia is lagging behind due to the lack of public policy on electric cars.”There is little or no support for getting these cars on the road at the moment,” she said. Ms Rose says Australia needs to follow the lead of the US and Europe and introduce financial incentives, such as rebates, if it is to get up to speed with the benefits of EVs.

The rest of the world is well ahead of us in this game. Motor Trade Association chief executive Stephen Moir “In our cities, air quality and air pollution is an increasing issue and EVs have no emissions so there is a very significant public health benefit that needs to be quantified,” she said.

The Motor Trade Association agrees incentives need to be introduced if electric cars are to move from a niche market into the mainstream. Chief executive Stephen Moir says although prices are falling, the average electric vehicle on the Australian market is about twice the price of its petrol equivalent.

The Electric Vehicle Association says while the upfront costs are high, the running costs are minimal. “Once you’ve bought the electric car or motorcycle, you’re looking at less than three cents per kilometre to drive whereas a petrol-powered car might be something like 12,” Mr Jones said.

“The fact that you can generate your own electricity on your roof for free and charge your car and drive around for free, is a winner.”And they need virtually no maintenance.”

March 19, 2014 Posted by | solar, Western Australia | Leave a comment

Solar PV will take over from coal as new financing models favour solar

Parkinson-Report-Solar PV to replace coal as “incumbent” technology REneweconomy, By  on 17 March 2014  Australia is embarking on a radical transformation of its electricity system that will see solar PV transition from being “disruptive” technology to the “incumbent” technology, displacing coal and sparking a radical change in the way that electricity is provided.

This is the assessment from Clean Energy Council CEO David Green (pictured), who in a presentation last week said generation will move from its traditional place at the point of supply to at or near the point of use; the primary role of the grid will be converted to that of a back-up “battery”; and consumers will play a key role in a more competitive market.

Green told a Davos Connection conference on infrastructure last week that the core logic behind having large scale generation plants close to their fuel source (coal or hydro) was being challenged by shifts in the basic cost parameters of many sources of energy allow generation (mostly solar) to be built closer to where it is used.

It was clear, he said, that solar PV has been taken up more rapidly in lower-income suburbs than higher income – because of the attraction for lower-income households to get a lower, fixed rate of electricity.

Now, new financing models – such as leasing and community ownership, as well as models for renters – was likely to spark a third wave of investment in solar PV. ….

……….RenewEconomy’s Take: Green is right, and this speech is welcome. It is about time that the clean energy industry articulates such a vision for the future in a co-ordinated and vigorous manner. There is much at stake.

As in the US, there is a mixture between those who see opportunity, and those who see only threat. Right now, it appears, it is the latter dominating policy settings. The utilities are resisting change, and so are the government owners.

The carbon price is being wound back, the renewable energy target is under threat, and energy efficiency schemes are also being wound back. In the meantime, tariffs and regulations appear ready to be deployed to slow down the uptake of the solar and solar storage and other technologies. It should be a quite battle..

March 17, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, solar | Leave a comment

Market outlook for solar power to 2025

Aust-sunSolar PV in Australia, Market Outlook to 2025, 2013 Update – Capacity, Generation, Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE), Investment Trends, Regulations and Company Profiles Market Watch  LONDON, March 13, 2014 /PRNewswire/ — just published a new market research report: Solar PV in Australia, Market Outlook to 2025, 2013 Update – Capacity, Generation, Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE), Investment Trends, Regulations and Company Profiles Solar PV in Australia, Market Outlook to 2025, 2013 Update – Capacity, Generation, Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE), Investment Trends, Regulations and Company Profiles Summary “Solar PV in Australia, Market Outlook to 2025, 2013 Update – Capacity, Generation, Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE), Investment Trends, Regulations and Company Profiles” is the latest report from GlobalData, the industry analysis specialists that offer comprehensive information and understanding of the solar PV market in Australia.

Summary “Solar PV in Australia, Market Outlook to 2025, 2013 Update – Capacity, Generation, Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE), Investment Trends, Regulations and Company Profiles” is the latest report from GlobalData, the industry analysis specialists that offer comprehensive information and understanding of the solar PV market in Australia. The report provides in depth analysis on global renewable power market and global solar PV market with forecasts up to 2025. The report analyzes the power market scenario in Australia (includes thermal conventional, nuclear, large hydro and renewables) and provides future outlook with forecasts up to 2025. The research details renewable power market outlook in the country (includes wind, small hydro, biopower and solar PV) and provides forecasts up to 2025.
The report highlights installed capacity and power generation trends from 2001 to 2025 in Australia solar PV market. Continue reading

March 14, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, solar | Leave a comment

Wind and solar energy make economic and scientific sense

Hear-This-wayAudio: Renewable energy finally makes economic sense, ABC Radio National 3 March 2014 Critics says renewable energy cannot supply a reliable base-load of electricity, a claim rejected by author Mark Diesendorf. In this opinion piece, he solar,-wind-aghastargues that wind, solar and other technologies are not only better for the environment, they make economic and scientific sense as well.You may have recently heard the following common claim repeated by aproponent of nuclear power: renewable energy cannot supply ‘base-load’ electric power. This misleading claim is based on the false assumption that the only way to supply base-load electricity demand is via coal and nuclear power stations.

This myth is disseminated so stridently because renewable energy and energy efficiency have been growing to such an extent over the past decade that they now threaten the existing fossil fuel based business models. Furthermore, wind power is already much less expensive than nuclear energy, and solar photovoltaic power, PV for short, is on the way. Continue reading

March 5, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, solar, wind | 1 Comment

Australia’s solar energy up against attack from Tony Abbott

Abbott-destroys-renewablesAustralia’s solar industry prepares for battle, pvmagazine 06. FEBRUARY 2014 |  BY:  EDGAR MEZA The government of Prime Minister Tony Abbott looks set to gut the country’s Renewable Energy Target program. Critics accuse Abbott of having misrepresented his stance on renewables. Australia’s renewable energy sector is feeling increasingly threatened by the government of Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

In a report on Thursday in U.K. newspaper The Guardian, opposition Labor Party environment spokesman Mark Butler took Abbott to task. Butler accused the prime minister of having pretended to support the renewables industry before the election but said he was now “launching a full-frontal attack” on the sector…….

The Labor environment spokesman said Abbott had taken control of a scheduled review of the country’s Renewable Energy Target (RET), adding that the current ruling coalition may reassess the program due to increases in power prices.

Butler said Labor would continue to oppose the repeal of the country’s carbon tax when parliament resumes this month and added that the party was also preparing “to ramp up a community campaign in support of renewable energy.” The renewable energy sector has become increasingly alarmed at the possibility of the government drastically reducing or even abolishing the RET.

The Australian solar council has already launched a “save solar” campaign out of fear the government review will immobilize the industry by eliminating the target, which requires 45,000 gigawatt hours of power to be sourced from renewables by 2020 and provides a subsidy to people who install solar systems.

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

Solar air conditioning, solar power the clean way to keep cool

Solar-air-conditioningOver one million Australian homes now have solar and our power pricing doesn’t handle them well either

under the status quo, those without air conditioning and with solar are being slugged unfairly.

Matthew Warren: The way we pay for electricity is out of date and urgently needs reform MATTHEW WARREN THE ADVERTISER FEBRUARY 03, 2014 THE recent intense heatwave across south-eastern Australia stretched many things to breaking point.Heatwaves provide a rare, but important examination of the power system.On a normal summer’s day in South Australia the peak load is around 1890 megawatts. In the heatwave it topped 3000 megawatts for almost three days straight. That put the network right at the edge of its capacity.

There is one key reason for these spikes in demand: increased deployment of airconditioners. On the hottest of days they are all turned on at once and this sends demand skyrocketing……

A large part of your household power bill is to pay for these infrequent events. It would make sense if those households with large air conditioners paid more than those who have only a small unit or none at all.

But they don’t. Continue reading

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

Australia’s largest solar plant – construction begins

Construction begins on Nyngan, Australia’s largest solar PV plant REneweconomy, By  on 28 January 2014 Construction of AGL Energy’s $300 million solar PV plant in central NSW is set to begin, with the head contractor, First Solar, going on-site on Tuesday.

The ARENA-backed Nyngan Solar Plant – with more than 1,350,000 PV modules expected to be installed on a 250 hectare site – will be the largest PV plant in Australia, and the largest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere, once finished.

Construction is expected to take around 18 months to complete, with the 102MW plant slated to be fully operational by June 2015. Continue reading

January 29, 2014 Posted by | New South Wales, solar | 1 Comment


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