Australian news, and some related international items

South Australia’s global milestone -100 per cent of energy demand met by solar panels alone

October 27, 2020 Posted by | solar, South Australia | Leave a comment

Coalition to divert renewable energy funding away from wind and solar

September 17, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics, solar, wind | Leave a comment

Forget toilet paper, consumers are panic buying solar 

March 21, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, solar | Leave a comment

Australia’s future as a renewable energy superpower


Australia has a real future as a renewables superpower, Edis,  19 19 Jan 2020,  Amid almost daily complaints from industry about skyrocketing electricity costs, out dropped an announcement recently so counter to the dominant news flow that it seemed beyond belief. Yet there it was in the business pages: Australian software billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes and iron ore billionaire Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest have a plan to supply a fifth of Singapore’s electricity needs – all of it from solar power – via a 3750-kilometre underwater cable from the Northern Territory.

The proposed solar farm, near Tennant Creek, would be the world’s biggest by a comfortable margin. It would stretch as far as the eye can see, across an area equal to more than 20,000 soccer fields.Despite Cannon-Brookes’s self-deprecating description of the project as “batshit insane”, it could actually make technical and economic sense.

And it’s not the only mega-renewable energy project being pursued by credible Australian companies with the aim of powering the many hundreds of millions of people living to the north of us. Continue reading

January 20, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, energy, politics international, solar | Leave a comment

‘Bold’ scheme launches to power every property on SA’s Eyre Peninsula with solar  

‘Bold’ scheme launches to power every property on SA’s Eyre Peninsula with solar  ABC Eyre Peninsula   By Lucy Robinson and Emma Pedler 6 Sept 19,  An ambitious plan to power every property in one region of South Australia with solar has been labelled an Australian first — but experts are divided over whether it will work.

Key points:

  • The Eyre Peninsula in SA has been plagued by blackouts and a new Community Solar Scheme is rolling out to boost energy security in the region
  • The scheme includes finance solutions and free quotes to help people access the technology
  • SA Power Networks said the current energy network in SA has “limited capacity to support solar” across the state

Home to around 60,000 people, Eyre Peninsula has been plagued by blackouts in recent years and left without power for several days at a time on multiple occasions.

Its towns were among those hit hardest by the statewide blackouts in September 2016, with Eyre Peninsula businesses wearing a median cost of $10,000 from the event.

The Eyre Peninsula Local Government Association (EPLGA) has released a Community Solar Scheme, put together by Regional Development Australia (RDA), which it says could boost energy security while helping residents save money on power bills……..

September 7, 2019 Posted by | solar, South Australia | Leave a comment

Noosa the first Queensland council to declare a climate emergency – Mayor explains why

Why this south-east Queensland council declared a ‘climate emergency’, By Tony Wellington, July 27, 2019

Frustrated by stagnant policy at the federal level, Australian communities are looking elsewhere for responses to climate change.

Businesses, communities and, increasingly, local governments are stepping up to the plate.

Noosa council declared a climate emergency to send a strong message, according to the mayor.

As the closest tier of government to the people, it’s our responsibility to listen to the concerns of residents, and they are demanding a healthy and resilient future for their children and grandchildren.

The concerns of our communities are not being heard by the national decision-makers. Local governments have no choice but to act as climate advocates for their communities and thus take matters into their own hands.

That’s why we in Noosa shire have set ourselves a target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2026 – and our community has jumped on board.

Our modelling shows that, if action is not taken to significantly reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, a much larger proportion of our residential and commercial properties will be within the storm tide inundation zone in the year 2100.

In other words, with a projected sea-level rise of 0.8 metres and intensifying weather events, many properties could be flooded in a significant storm or else subject to coastal erosion. We need to plan for this now, not wait until it’s too late.

Noosa recently became the first Queensland council to declare a climate emergency, joining 847 other government jurisdictions across the world who have already done so. We want to send a strong message to higher levels of government that this is the most serious issue facing humankind.

Noosa council is rolling out solar panels and battery storage, adopting a wide range of energy efficiency measures and tackling methane emissions from our landfill. And we are working with our community to reduce emissions at the business and household level. Of course, there is much more to be done. But we’re not alone.

We’re just one of many councils across the country who are rising to the challenge of climate change. From the Huon Valley in Tasmania to Port Douglas in northern Queensland, councils are working together through alliances such as the Cities Power Partnership.

We need to learn from each other and share our knowledge because we’re all in this together. Every local government wants to see sustainable, healthy communities that thrive in the future. And, like it or not, the future is renewable energy. Tony Wellington is the Mayor of Noosa Shire Council 

July 29, 2019 Posted by | climate change - global warming, Queensland, solar | Leave a comment

Melbourne’s tram network is set to be powered by the state’s largest solar farm

July 22, 2019 Posted by | solar, Victoria | Leave a comment

Western Australian Aboriginal community uses solar hydropanel to solve problem of uranium in water

Buttah Windee in remote WA now has clean water thanks to solar hydropanel technology

Key points:

  • Six solar hydropanels have been installed in the small WA community, capturing 900 litres of water a month from the air
  • The community had discovered its water supply contained uranium more than twice the national health standard, and the State Government deemed it too expensive to address
  • With the help of crowdfunding and technology donated by a WA company, the residents of the community no longer need to live elsewhere

The remote Aboriginal community is 760 kilometres north-east of Perth on the outskirts of Meekatharra.

Almost a decade ago, resident Andrew Binsiar discovered the community’s water was tainted with naturally occurring uranium at more than twice the national health standard.

“I was actually very surprised,” he said.

“You’d imagine people would test the water for human consumption before people are allowed to drink it.”

Unable to drink the community’s tap water, most of the 50 people who lived at Buttah Windee left.

Too expensive to fix: State Government

But for Andrew Binsiar and his wife Janine, leaving the home where they had raised their five children was not an option.

He turned to the State Government for help, but was told fixing the water supply would be too expensive.

“They come out and put up ‘do not drink the water’ signs and that was their solution to it,” Mr Binsiar said.

The State Government offered to move the remaining residents into state housing in Meekatharra, but Mr Binsiar was apprehensive about exposing his family to the town’s social issues.

“We knocked them back … for the simple reason I’d already been there and done that. My life changed when I moved here,” he said.

“I wasn’t a very good father when I lived in Meeka.”

Solar hydropanels pull water from air

Almost a decade on, Buttah Windee is the first remote Aboriginal community in Australia to use innovative technology for its water supply.

Six solar hydropanels have been installed at the outback community, donated by a WA company who heard about the community’s plight and wanted to help out.

Director of Wilco Electrical Frank Mitchell said the units captured water from the air and produced up to 900 litres of water a month.

“Those fans, you can hear them whirring away, are just drawing in air all day, all around, and the piece of material inside collects … the moisture in the air, then condenses down into the tank where it’s got a pump straight out to the tap,” he said.

Mr Binsiar said it was a simple idea, which should be introduced to all remote communities.

“Water is a basic human right that everyone deserves,” he said.

“It could mean better health for your children … I would guarantee that most communities have bad water.”

Crowdfunding rallies support

The near decade-long battle for clean drinking water has not come easily for the Buttah Windee residents, with Mr Binsiar turning to crowdfunding as a last resort.

Word spread quickly when Mr Binsiar began the fundraising campaign last year, and people from across Australia donated nearly $26,000 in three months.

“It was a huge success. The Australian public have been awesome,” he said.

Mr Binsiar used the funds to install a reverse osmosis water treatment plant.

“Reverse osmosis takes out all the contaminants in the water … on the back end of it, it puts the minerals your body needs back into the water,” he said.

“They’ve given us a chance where no-one else would and we are really proud of what we have done here.”

Barramundi fish farm to boost employment

The two separate systems now supply the community with safe drinking water and enough water to run a small barramundi fish farm.

Mr Binsiar and several residents built the fish farm hoping it would eventually provide local employment and a potential source of income.    “Hopefully we can continue on and make it bigger and provide this region with fresh barramundi,” he said.

“I’d like to welcome everyone out to Buttah Windee and come and look at the work we do.”

April 1, 2019 Posted by | aboriginal issues, environment, solar, Western Australia | Leave a comment

New South Wales Labor’s pledge for ‘solar schools’

Labor promises $100 million for ‘solar schools’, By Lisa Visentin, March 17, 2019 Labor leader Michael Daley has pledged to spend $100 million installing solar panels on hundreds of public schools across NSW.

Mr Daley linked his “solar schools package” to the recent student strike over climate change inaction, and said the policy would help teach students about renewable energy.

“As we saw at rallies across the country on Friday, the next generation is demanding real action on climate change,” Mr Daley said.

“Putting solar panels on schools will help students further their knowledge about renewable energy, as well as bring down their school’s power bills and reduce emissions.”

Under Labor’s plan, solar panels would be installed at 350 government schools. The $100 million package would be funded as part of the Labor’s $800 million “cool schools” policy to install airconditioning in every single classroom in the state.

Mr Daley’s announcement comes after he publicly backed the striking school students during a speech earlier in the week, describing their actions as a “demonstration of young leadership”.

His endorsement drew fire from Premier Gladys Berejiklian who said she was “appalled” the alternate premier was encouraging students to skip school.

It comes as a recent ReachTEL poll revealed climate change was a pressing concern for most NSW voters, with 57.5 per cent of voters saying it would influence the way they voted.

As part of the state election campaign, Ms Berejiklian has announced interest-free loans to 300,000 households for solar and battery systems while Labor has pledged to put solar on 500,000 homes over the next decade through rebates.

Labor has championed its policies on climate change as a key point of difference with the Coalition, with Mr Daley promising to appoint NSW’s first minister for climate change if elected premier.

Ms Berejiklian earlier this week restated her government’s support for action on climate change and said NSW had the largest renewable projects in Australia.

“We’ve had a consistent position since we’ve been in government, that climate change is real and that as a government we need to do everything we can to deal with it and we have been,” she said.

March 18, 2019 Posted by | New South Wales, politics, solar | Leave a comment

New South Wales Labor announces plan for 500,000 households to get rooftop solar

Labor announces plan for 500,000 households to get rooftop solar,, By Laura Chung,February 9, 2019 NSW Labor has announced it will support a program to help 500,000 households to install rooftop solar, reducing electricity bills in the next 10 years.

Under Labor’s Solar Homes policy, owner-occupied households in NSW with a combined income of $180,000 or less would be eligible for a rebate, to be capped at $2200 per household.

Shadow Minister for Energy and Climate Change, Adam Searle, said the policy could add solar to an additional million homes over the next decade, and could save the average household anywhere between $600 and $1000 a year on electricity bills.

“This is a bold program to push NSW to the front of the energy revolution,” he said. “This will significantly cut electricity bills and carbon emissions.”

“We will have much more to say about energy and tackling climate change.”

The program would be phased in during the 2019-2020 financial year. The policy announcement comes ahead of the launch of Labor’s campaign bus, which will travel around the state from Sunday.

The Smart Energy Council said Labor’s policy addressed two of NSW residents’ main concerns: the cost of living and climate change.

It shows “a strong commitment towards climate change” and is a “sign of confidence in renewable energy, a critical part of NSW’s future,” a spokesman said.

The council said it would like to see a stronger commitment from both the NSW Government and the Opposition to supporting families’ purchases of household solar batteries, which would provide people “with a greater sense of control of power and how they use power.”

In a statement, deputy leader of NSW Liberals Dominic Perrottet said Labor “cannot be trusted” to deliver more affordable, reliable and clean energy, “with a history of energy cost blowouts and blunders”.

The NSW Coalition government “is getting on with the job of taking pressure off electricity prices, while maintaining energy security,” Mr Perrottet said.

February 10, 2019 Posted by | New South Wales, politics, solar | Leave a comment

The problem of hazardous waste from discarded old solar panels

I have long been worried that environmentalists are seen to be enthusiastic about renewable energy, seeing it as the panacea for the world’s climate woes.  Solar power is a great technology for replacing polluting fossil fuel power, but it’s only a part of what needs to be done – in the urgently needed transition from our wasteful CONSUMER SOCIETY to a CONSERVER SOCIETY.  It must not become a contributor to the waste disaster. 
Waste crisis looms as thousands of solar panels reach end of life, By Nicole Hasham, 13 Jan 19,Thousands of ageing rooftop solar panels represent a toxic time-bomb and major economic waste unless Australia acts swiftly to keep them out of landfill, conservationists and recyclers say.

Australia’s enthusiastic embrace of rooftop solar has brought clear environmental and economic benefits, but critics say governments have dragged their feet in addressing the looming waste crisis.

As of December more than 2 million Australian households had rooftop solar installed. The uptake continues to grow due to the technology’s falling cost and rising electricity bills.

Photovoltaic panels last about 30 years, and those installed at the turn of the millennium are nearing the end of their lives. Many have already been retired due to faults or damage during transport and installation.

The nation’s environment ministers in April last year agreed to fast-track the development of new product stewardship schemes for photovoltaic solar panels and associated batteries. Such schemes make producers and retailers take responsibility for an item across its life cycle.

However, Total Environment Centre director Jeff Angel, a former federal government adviser on product stewardship, said action was long overdue and the delay reveals a “fundamental weakness” in Australia’s waste policies.

“We’ve had a solar panel industry for years which is an important environmental initiative, and it should have been incumbent on government to act in concert with the growth of the industry so we have an environmentally responsible end-of-life strategy,” he said.

Mr Angel said photovoltaic panels contain hazardous substances and “when we are sending hundreds of thousands of e-waste items to landfill we are also creating a pollution problem”.

“It’s a systemic problem that [applies to] a whole range of products”, he said, saying schemes were badly needed for paint, batteries, floor coverings, commercial furniture and many types of electronic waste.

Photovoltaic panels are predominantly made from glass, polymer and aluminium, but may also contain potentially hazardous materials such as lead, copper and zinc.

Australian Council of Recycling chief executive Peter Schmigel attributed delays in product stewardship schemes to both “bureaucratic malaise” and unfounded concern about cost.

The national television and computer recycling scheme, which since 2011 has required manufacturers and importers to participate in industry-funded collection and recycling, showed that regulatory measures can work, he said.

“Recovery rates have been out of sight since the beginning of the scheme, nobody has said anything at all about there being an inbuilt recycling cost. It generates jobs, it generates environmental outcomes and yet for some reason we have policymakers who are hesitant about [establishing similar schemes] for solar PVs and batteries,” he said.

Victoria will ban electronic waste in landfill from July 2019, including all parts of a photovoltaic system, mirroring schemes imposed in Europe.

Sustainability Victoria is also leading a project examining end-of-life management options for photovoltaic systems, which may progress to a national program. The issue is particularly pertinent in Victoria where a new $1.3 billion program is expected to install solar power on 700,000 homes.

Sustainability Victoria resource recovery director Matt Genever said there was strong support from industry, government and consumers for a national approach to photovoltaic product stewardship. Final options are due to be presented to environment ministers in mid-2019.

He rejected suggestions that plans were progressing too slowly.

“The analysis we’ve done in Victoria … shows that it’s in 2025 that we see a real ramp up in the waste being generated out of photovoltaic panels. I certainly don’t think we’ve missed the boat,” he said.

A report by the International Energy Agency and the International Renewable Energy Agency in 2016 found that recoverable materials from photovoltaic panel waste had a potential value of nearly $US15 billion by 2050.

Reclaim PV director Clive Fleming, whose business is believed to be the only dedicated photovoltaic recycler in Australia, said it recycles 90 per cent of materials in a panel. The company has been lobbying for state bans on solar panels entering landfill.

The NSW Environment Protection Authority said it has commissioned research to better understand how e-waste, including solar panels, was managed. The panels can be dumped in NSW landfill, however given their life span they were “not a common item in the waste stream”, it said.

The Queensland government is developing an end-of-life scheme for batteries used in solar systems and other appliances.

A federal review of the Product Stewardship Act was expected to be completed last year, but the Department of the Environment and Energy is yet to present a report to the government.

Mr Genever hoped the review would result in a broader range of products being subject to stewardship programs and take steps to ensure voluntary schemes were effective.

Both the Smart Energy Council and the Clean Energy Council, which represent solar industry operators, said a well-designed product stewardship scheme was important and should be developed through cooperation between industry, governments and recyclers.

January 14, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, solar | Leave a comment

New South Wales government is preparing for a surge in renewable energy

We want to do everything we can’: NSW readies for renewables surge, Brisbane Times, By Peter Hannam, 5 November 2018 New solar and wind farms being planned for NSW have twice the capacity of the state’s coal-fired power stations, prompting the state government to set aside $55 million to help smooth their introduction.As of October 29, NSW had 20,000 megawatts of generation capacity either approved or seeking planning approval, worth more than $27 billion in investment, according to government data.

Proposed solar plants accounted for 11,200MW, dwarfing wind farms with 5100MW, and the Snowy 2.0 pumped hydro of about 2000MW. Just 100MW involved coal, with the planned upgrade of AGL’s Bayswater power station.

Along with the new plants, some eight large-scale battery projects – all with solar farms – with more than 400MW-hours of capacity are also in the planning pipeline as the industry gears up for the bulge in variable energy sources.

The market, though, is going to need some near-term help to smooth the exit of most of the state’s existing power plants – particularly the 10,160MW of coal-fired power stations, said Amy Kean, director of the Energy Infrastructure and Emerging Technologies unit at the Department of Planning

To that end, the government last week revealed the first details of its $55 million Emerging Energy Program aimed at supporting a portfolio of nascent technologies that will be needed as 70 per cent of the state’s generation fleet retires by 2035.

“We’re trying to drive these technologies down the cost curve so they can then complement variable wind and solar technologies,” Ms Kean said.

The surge in renewable energy comes as the federal government has largely vacated the energy policy space after the demise of the Turnbull government’s National Energy Guarantee. The states are largely being left to press on with carbon reduction and other power sector goals.

“There is no doubt that our energy future lies in alternative technologies,” Don Harwin, the NSW Energy Minister, said.

“We want to do everything we can to unlock the expertise of the private sector to accelerate projects that deliver clean, reliable and affordable energy.”

Renewable energy could emerge as a key policy issue at next March’s state election. Adam Searle, Labor’s energy spokesman said his party planned to “have quite a lot more to say about it”, and that the ALP “will do more on new energy than Coalition parties”.

Solar catches up with windThe rapid advance and competitive nature of solar photovoltaic panels, meanwhile, has caught many by surprise. …….

November 6, 2018 Posted by | New South Wales, solar | 1 Comment

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

Australia large scale solar output breaks through 1GW on Sunday

 REneweconomy Giles Parkinson, 

That consistency of output is a key point – many solar tractors think that the output of solar farms peaks at around 12pm or 1pm and falls off rapidly after that.Most solar farms, thanks to single axis tracking technology, reach peak output around 9am, and stay around that level for six hours.

Sometimes they do better than that. The AEMO data shows, for instance, that the Bungala solar farm in South Australia reached 105.2MW at 8.05am grid time, (which is the same as Queensland time), and stayed there until 3.20pm.

…….In all, according to Clean Energy Regulator data, some 4,000MW of solar is completed, under construction, or has reached financial close. That should add to some of the mid-day negative pricing that were again observed in Queensland last week.
It should be noted that this data includes the NEM only. There are two operating solar farms in W.A.’s separate grid, and many smaller utility scale solar farms located in off-grid locations in W.A., Northern Territory and Queensland……….

October 21, 2018 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, solar | 2 Comments

Victoria’s largest solar farm goes ahead after “solving” connection dilemma

October 16, 2018 Posted by | solar, Victoria | Leave a comment