Australian news, and some related international items

ZEN Energy and the stunning solar future for South Australia

Natural Advantage14 years ago, Richard Turner rigged up a solar-powered battery to bring some modern convenience to his kids’ cubby house. In 2018, after an incredible journey, the business is ready to revolutionise the economy and transform our state’s prosperity.

City Mag, Joshua Fanning, 26 Oct 18 …….It’s 2018 and renewable energy has turned the corner.

Established in 2004 in South Australia, ZEN Energy was created by Richard to get solar powered battery storage into Australian homes.

In 2010 ZEN was the state’s fastest growing company. In 2012, BRW magazine wrote up ZEN as the fourth fastest growing company in the country.

This year, British billionaire industrialist Sanjeev Gupta bought 50.1 per cent of ZEN, creating the new entity SIMEC ZEN Energy as part of his plan to own the power supply to the Whyalla Steelworks – purchased in 2017.

Gupta’s plan for ZEN is simple: power the steelworks and the associated businesses nationally with the cheapest electricity available. And in 2018 the cheapest electricity available is renewable.

But cheap doesn’t come easy. ZEN Energy is only around for Sanjeev Gupta to invest in because a lot of hard work across many generations has come before it………..

Richard isn’t mad the State Government awarded Tesla the contract for the Hornsdale battery; in many ways the Tesla brand cleared the political path for action. Richard is more frustrated by the language and mindset of the state that seems – at so many levels – to believe it’s helpless.

Tech-billionaire batteries and steel factory saviours make good headlines – but ZEN Energy tells the far more credible story of this state’s ongoing industry, creativity and resilience.

It just so happens that ZEN Energy’s story starts in a cubby house in a suburban backyard.

Richard’s children Laura and James wanted to put a little light and TV in the cubby house to make it feel more homely and play later into the evening, and so Richard scooped the kids up into the car and headed for the local hobby shop to see what they could buy. The family bought a little solar panel, a regulator, a converter and a battery. Richard recalls the guy at the shop pulling out a whiteboard marker and writing Ohm’s Law on the shop’s whiteboard.

Watts = Volts x Amps.

Rigging up the system and flicking the switch, a light went on in Richard’s mind at the same time as he lit up his kid’s cubby house. There was a business here……….

“South Australia could be the Middle East of the new world,” says Richard.

The statement catches us off guard both in its simplicity and its severity.

“We’ve got the very best renewable energy generation resource in the world,” says Richard.

“We’ve got the best sun here. We’ve got the best wind here. We’ve got these unique wind patterns that come across the roaring forties, across the Australian Bight that split up and down the Eyre Peninsula. We have nearly two gigawatts of wind power here, and there’s bugger all in the rest of Australia.”

But it’s not the raw product Richard is referring to explicitly when he says South Australia could be the Saudi Arabia of renewable energy. Richard is talking about the whole value chain of the renewable economy epitomised by Sanjeev’s GFG Alliance.

Liberty One Steel in Whyalla (as it has been renamed) and its associated heavy industry across the country will have massive demand for electricity. ZEN will be the clean, green and low-cost energy supply. Off the back of our natural and renewable resources, Richard forecasts radical change in the fortunes of this state.

“When we produce the very lowest cost of power you’re going to have all this new industry evolve. All these traditional industries will revive and gravitate to the region and will employ five times as many people as you employed in a coal-fired power station,” says Richard.

Whyalla – a town built for 100,000 people – has never had more than a quarter of that live there. “We can see, in five years, there’ll be close to 100,000 in Whyalla,” says Richard.

And with low-cost energy we can start to refine – not just mine.

Richard skips from the lithium to graphite reserves of Australia (graphite makes up lithium ion batteries 30 per cent by weight). He speaks with vigour about our clean hydrogen future – hydrogen being a huge and growing fuel source for the energy intensive economies of Korea and Japan who don’t have the renewable energy resources of South Australia.

Sanjeev Gupta will build cars in Australia – electric vehicles – Richard confirms. They’ll be built in either Victoria or South Australia. Regardless of where the cars are built, Richard says, “all the car metals and composite materials will come out of our own factories, powered by the natural energy of the sun”.

Within three-to-five years, renewables will become the dominant energy source in Australia – with coal and gas very much playing a secondary role to fill gaps in energy supply until new hydro facilities come online. Vast arrays of batteries will support critical areas prone to power fluctuations and the national energy regulator AEMO has committed to running immediate pilot programs in the worst affected areas.

Grid scale batteries will reduce severe outages by kicking into action microseconds after a power fluctuation occurs, effectively stabilising the grid. The stability these batteries will create is already causing the industry to predict electricity prices to fall by up to 30 per cent next year.

From bottom of the ladder in the old fossil-fuel energy system, South Australia is set to jump to the top in the new, renewable energy economy. And while the headlines published in our daily paper may continue to put us down, the story of this next stage in our state’s history is far more fantastic.

“South Australia is going to have the most abundant, stable electricity production centre in Australia and probably on earth,” says Richard – a fifth generation South Australian. “In years to come you won’t want to be protecting SA’s power – you’ll be exporting it both interstate and around the world.”

October 27, 2018 - Posted by | solar, South Australia

1 Comment »

  1. Reblogged this on jpratt27.


    Comment by John | October 27, 2018 | Reply

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