Australian news, and some related international items

Solar towers with storage beat coal on just about all fronts.

Parkinson-Report-Why new coal? Solar towers + storage beats it on all counts By  on 21 February 2017

The US-based developers of the world’s leading solar tower and storage technologies has expressed surprise that Australia’s federal government is pursuing “new coal” plants, saying that solar towers with storage beats coal on just about all fronts.

Tom Georgis, the head of international development for SolarReserve, says solar towers and storage can match and beat coal on capability – providing baseload and flexible generation – and match new coal on cost, and provide zero emissions output as a bonus.

“This is just not a direction that financial markets are heading in,” Georgis told RenewEconomy in an interview on Tuesday, during a visit to Australia, where the company is hoping to build a $700 million, 110MW solar tower and storage facility in Port Augusta, and in other states too.

“In our opinion it is almost backward looking,” Georgis said, adding that carbon capture and storage in electricity generation is unproven and not cost-effective, and coal generation needs to take account of the impact of mining, and of emissions.

The Australian energy industry, including fossil fuel generators, have reacted to the Coalition’s push for new coal plants with a mixture of surprise and disbelief, saying any such plant is “uninvestable”.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance has estimated costs at between $138/MWh and more than $200/MWh, and significantly higher with CCS. It and others say estimate emissions reductions are grossly over-estimated.

SolarReserve says its own technology costs are “well under ” coal, even without CCS. It has been coy about its costs in Australia, having never built a plant here before, although CEFC executive director Simon Brooker told a Senate inquiry this month that a cost of around $150/MWh was being talked about for a first of its kind plant. Costs would then fall quickly as others are built.

SolarReserve is believed to be participating in a South Australian government tender for 75 per cent of its electricity needs, competing mostly with new gas stations and existing mothballed ones. It has talked with both the CEFC and ARENA.

Interestingly, Engie, the owner of the mothballed Pelican Point gas station near Adelaide considered to be its biggest rival in the tender, reportedly told the same inquiry on Monday that running the generator would not be economic, even with a government contract, because of the cost and availability of gas.

This may have prompted S.A. energy minister Tom Koutsantonis to say some positive things about solar towers and storage last week. Both the federal Coalition and Labor have promised to help promote solar towers, but have done nothing since the election.

Georgis says SolarReserve has already beaten gas generators on price in a tender in Chile last year, and is confident it can beat new gas generation in Australia too. Its main issue lies in the length of a contract, which will be crucial in its ability to secure finance.

Georgis again underlined the capability of solar towers and storage, and its ability to provide baseload power, power on demand, bulk storage, and use its steam turbines to provide the ancillary services normally delivered by fossil fuel generation.

He says battery storage will make sense for short-period needs, and as a cheaper option to network upgrades and for accompanying solar in distributed generation, but battery storage could not deliver or compete on price for bulk storage.

Pumped hydro was also unlikely to provide a “baseload” option, and was reliant on arbitrage opportunities (pumping water up hill while prices were low, and generating power when prices were high) to make it economic. Solar towers, on the other hand, had zero fuel costs.

February 22, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, solar | Leave a comment

Powershop electricity customers funding community renewable energy

solar-rooftopPowershop reveals cash for renewable projects from customers who paid more

Energy retailer raised $100,000 from customers, which will be given out as grants to community-owned energy projects,  Guardian, , 9 Feb 17, Amid fresh attacks on renewable energy targets from the federal government and large energy retailer ERM Power, smaller electricity retailer Powershop has raised $100,000 from its customers to be given out as grants to 10 community-owned projects around the country.

Three months ago Powershop launched the Your Community Energy initiative, where they gave customers the opportunity to pay higher rates, which it said would then be distributed to renewable energy projects that were community-owned.

Powershop aimed to raise $20,000 by the end of 2016 but, as of February 2017, it had raised $100,000.

One project – rooftop solar on the Centre for Education and Research in Environmental Strategies (Ceres) centre in Melbourne – has already received $10,000 from the initiative and used that to complete their 15 KW solar installation.

A spokeswoman for Ceres, Judy Glick, said the installation would save the community group $2,000 each year and reduce their yearly emissions by almost 16 tonnes of CO2. “Ceres is on a mission to achieve zero emissions by 2025,” she said.

Five other projects were also announced as recipients of a share of the money. Continue reading

February 10, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, solar, Victoria | Leave a comment

Solar power now taking off in a big way in Western Australia

map-WA-solarWest Australians embrace solar panels at record rate By Kathryn Diss WA households and businesses are installing solar panels at a record rate, with installations up 33 per cent last year, driven by rising power prices and the falling cost of the technology, new research has found.

The data, compiled by solar industry consultancy SunWiz, also revealed ten of the nation’s top 20 solar-adopting suburbs were in WA, with Wanneroo, Mandurah and Armadale leading the way.

Sunwiz managing director Warwick Johnston said two factors were driving the uptake in WA.

“We’re seeing solar prices have come down to levels they’ve never been before — prices in Perth are at their lowest compared to the eastern states — and we’re also seeing the electricity price rises really kicking in in Western Australia”, he said.

“In Perth electricity prices started climbing again and [are] expected to do so for a number of years, so I think that’s in people’s minds, in people’s consciousness when they’re thinking about solar power.

“Those factors are really making solar something people are interested in.”

The huge uptake in solar panels during 2016 provided a boon for solar installers across the state.

Solargain WA sales manager James Baverstock has been selling solar panels since 2008 but 2016 was his best year yet, with unprecedented sales during the last three months of the year.

“Towards the end of 2016 we saw record numbers — we were 80 per cent up compared to the same time during the previous year,” he said.

“The average size of the system has also gone up, we’ve seen that go up a kilowatt to a kilowatt and a half. That’s been a steady increase and [it has] certainly accelerated a little bit more recently.

Leading change

The research came as more than 40 interest groups joined forces in WA to call for action on climate change. Headed by doctors, farmers and church groups, the coalition wants the government to commit to an ambitious renewable energy target of 100 per cent by 2030.

General practitioner Richard Yin spoke on behalf of the coalition and said a shift towards renewable energy was essential.  “We understand the target is ambitious but it’s been modelled as being possible and it’s been modelled in such a way we believe it can achieved,” he said.

“Everything has a cost. To not proceed down this line has an effect on our climate, to not proceed has a health impact, the combustion from coal kills many thousands of people in Australia each year and the estimated cost is about $2.6 billion in terms of our health cost.” Former WA doctor and surgeon Kingsley Faulkner is also behind the movement.

He now chairs Doctors for the Environment and said climate change was having a big impact on public health.

“In medicine we have a real responsibility to not only treat individual patients but to be involved with public health matters, and climate change and other environmental challenges are amongst the biggest of those matters,” he said.

Increasing use of solar panels has come at a time when, according to the state’s economic watchdog, households are increasingly struggling to pay their power bills on time.

February 1, 2017 Posted by | solar, Western Australia | Leave a comment

Jobs booster for South Australia, as Snowy Hydro joins Equis to build Australia’s largest solar farm

map solar south-australiaJobs boost as Snowy Hydro and Equis to build $200m solar power plant near Tailem Bend, Daily Telegraph  David Nankervis, The Advertiser January 31, 2017 SOUTH AUSTRALIA’s largest solar farm — with capacity for battery storage back up — will be built at a cost of more than $200 million at Tailem Bend this year.

February 1, 2017 Posted by | solar, South Australia | Leave a comment

Melbourne trams to be powered by solar energy by end of 2018

text-relevantMelbourne tram network to use solar energy by end of 2018, Government says A new solar energy plant to be built in regional Victoria will run Melbourne’s entire tram network by the end of 2018, the State Government has said.

The Government said it would run a tender to build 75 megawatts of new solar farms — most likely in the state’s north-west — by the end of next year.

About half of the energy produced by the farms will offset the amount of electricity needed to run 401 trams on Melbourne’s network.

Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the plan was a world first.

“The world is moving to clean energy, we made a commitment as a Government, we continue to uphold that commitment to grow renewable energy,” she said.

“The world is moving to clean energy, we made a commitment as a Government, we continue to uphold that commitment to grow renewable energy,” she said.

But Ms D’Ambrosio would not say how much extra the solar energy would cost.

“We won’t be disclosing that figure,” she said.

“We know that [the] cost of solar plant is coming down every single day and we know that we will drive a very competitive process.”

The Government said the project would create 300 new jobs.

It last year approved a $650-million wind farm near Dundonnell, in south-west Victoria, the state’s largest.

January 20, 2017 Posted by | solar, Victoria | Leave a comment

Smarter, cheaper solar plants are halving Australian solar farm capital intensity

solar-panels-and-moneyAustralian solar farm capital intensity halves, due to smarter, cheaper plants, REneweconomy By  on 19 January 2017

The capital intensity per watt of the utility scale solar plants in the current development pipeline in Australia is about half that of those that are already operational.

The stark and rapid improvement in the economics of big solar in the country is due to global declines in component costs, but also importantly declining EPC (construction) costs and the deployment of yield-boosting technology like tracking.

With the pipeline of utility scale PV projects growing seemingly on a daily basis, Sustainable Energy Research Analytics (SERA) believes that solar’s increasing competitiveness is due to a large part to a more competitive and efficiency EPC landscape…….

January 20, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, solar | Leave a comment

Solar energy is racing ahead in Australia – large scale projects

text-relevantSolar closing cost gap with wind, conventional power, AFR,  Angela Australia-solar-plugMacdonald-Smith, 16 Jan 17  The latest batch of large-scale solar projects have revealed a “new cost paradigm” for the technology in Australia, although costs remain more than double the lowest-cost projects overseas, experts say.  Construction contracts awarded to Downer EDI for the Clare solar project and to RCR Tomlinson for the Sun Metals Solar project, both in Queensland, demonstrate a further decline in costs per unit of power produced that makes the projects markedly cheaper than the first utility-scale solar projects built here, said Gero Farruggio at Sustainable Energy Research Analytics (SERA).

“The costs are half of what the the capital intensity was of the ones that are on stream and were built over 2015 and 2016,” Mr Farruggio said. “It’s a huge step forward for the industry and for the future of solar in Australia.”

The progress on costs has been more rapid than expected, and large-scale solar projects are now becoming competitive with wind power and getting “very close” to wholesale electricity prices excluding large-scale generation certificates (LGCs), said SERA director Ben Willacy.

 “It really won’t be long before solar projects can compete in Australia without a subsidy and without necessarily relying on LGC revenue,” Mr Willacy said.

Mr Farruggio said that while the cost of solar panels was falling worldwide, increased competition among contractors was also helping improve the economics of local solar projects, with about 15 EPC [engineering, procurement and construction] contractors now fighting it out for work as opposed to just one a few years ago. Work has also slowed in other areas such as mining and energy, helping soften construction costs, while expertise in the area has grown.

Solar developer Fotowatio Renewable Ventures late last month awarded a $190 million construction and operations contract for the 100 megawatt Clare project near Ayr to Downer, after striking a deal last May to sell power from the plant to Origin Energy.

RCR Tomlinson said late December it won a contract worth more than $155 million from Korea Zinc’s Sun Metals subsidiary to build a 98.5MW solar project at a zinc operation in Townsville. RCR previously worked on AGL Energy’s Broken Hill solar farm.

A wave of further announcements on construction contracts is expected by the end of the month as the projects that were selected for funding under the Australian Renewable Energy Agency’s large-scale solar funding round move towards financial close. Those 12 projects, spread across Queensland, NSW and Western Australia, are expected to unlock almost $1 billion of commercial investment……..

The solar power projects will contribute to rising investment in clean energy in Australia thanks to the 2020 Renewable Energy Target. Investment in the sector surged 49 per cent last year to $US3.44 billion, bouncing back after two weak years thanks to renewed confidence in the large-scale RET, Bloomberg New Energy Finance said in a report on Friday.

 Last year’s increase in investment bucked the global trend, which showed a global slowing in the sector, and was driven by a rise in large-scale project financing which rose to $US1.98 billion, BNEF said. Still, investment in large-scale renewables projects will need to double if the 2020 target is to be met, the firm found.

January 16, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, solar | 2 Comments

Australian politics in 2017 – allout war over renewable energy?

text-relevantEarly skirmishes point to a war over renewable energy lasting well into 2017, The Age, Peter Hannam, 15 Jan 17   “……Trenches are now being dug for what looms as a political battle that will probably last through 2017. On one side lie the Turnbull government, fossil fuel suppliers and right-wing pundits, who say the priority has to be affordable and reliable power.
Turnbull destroys renewables 

logo Paris climate1On the other, Labor and the Greens and clean-energy backers who argue ageing coal-fired power stations need to prepare for an orderly if not accelerated exit to meet Australia’s commitments agreed in the Paris climate treaty.

Josh Frydenberg, environment and energy minister, ended holidays early on Thursday to rail against states for curbing unconventional gas exploration, which also feeds into higher Frydenberg, Josh climateelectricity prices. That’s especially true in SA where gas provides all the power that’s not from wind or the sun.

He took particular aim at Queensland, where the Labor government under map-solar-QueenslandAnnastacia Palaszczuk is aiming for a 50 per cent share of renewable by 2030, up from 4.4 per cent in 2015………

Frydenberg’s Labor counterpart, Mark Butler, though, says the Coalition’s energy policy was “being dictated by the hard right of the party with the likes of Tony Abbott and Cory Bernardi”.

“The culture-war element starts to blind people to pretty clear policy,” he says, noting three-quarters of Australia’s fleet of power stations were operating beyond the end of their design life and needed to be replaced.

“The Turnbull government leaves a policy vacuum at the federal level, the states will fill the void,” he says.

Federal Labor remains committed to a 50 per cent renewable share by 2030, he said, noting the Turnbull government has no target beyond 2020 nor is a target among the terms of reference for its 2017 climate policy review. NSW Labor shares the party’s national goal……

Abbott, as if on cue, weighed into the renewables debate on Saturday……

What is certain is that energy bills are on the rise – although the causes are highly debated…….

Bruce Mountain, an energy economist with CME Australia, says rising energy prices will prompt more people to add solar panels and also batteries as prices continue to tumble – much faster than regulators predict.

Tesla’s new 13.5-kilowatt-hour Powerwall 2, costing about $8800 before installation, already offers a lower battery price than AEMO had predicted for 2040, he says

An average household in Adelaide, where power prices have doubled in the past eight years to be among the highest in Australia, would now be better off with panels and storage.

While panels alone typically slash demand for electricity from the grid by a third, adding a battery will reduce grid purchases by about 95 per cent, he said.

‘Existential threat’

Dylan McConnell, a research fellow at the Melbourne Energy Institute, notes AEMO is predicting 15.5 gigawatts of coal-fired power plants  will be shut by 2030. That’s about half of such stations and equivalent to 10 Hazelwoods.

Importantly, AEMO is betting 12GW of new gas-fired power will come on stream “assuming no alternative technologies come to fruition”, Mr McConnell said.

However, the open-cycle gas plants that can provide peaking power to complement variable suppliers such as wind and solar farms “face an existential threat from batteries”, he said……..

Without clear signals, investors won’t have the confidence to invest the billions needed to bring new, more efficient capacity online.

RET challenges

Bloomberg New Energy Finance underscored the scale of the challenge even meeting the 2020 Renewable Energy Target of supplying 33,000 gigawatt-hours from clean energy annually from 2020.

Last year, investment in large scale renewables under the RET bounced back from a meagre $US10 million in 2014 and 2015 after the Abbott government’s review of the sector threw it into a panic. In 2016, it recovered to $US1.1 billion ($1.45 billion).

“However it is still well below the $US2.9 billion per annum now needed to satisfy the notional 20 per cent target by 2020,” Bloomberg said.

Greens energy spokesman Adam Bandt says the Coalition will be tempted to stir up fears of rising electricity prices “in the hope that they can repeat 2013”, when Tony Abbott swept to power in part because of the carbon tax issue.

“They’ll try to beat the electricity bill drums but the prices are going up on their watch,” he says………

January 15, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, energy, politics, solar, storage | Leave a comment

Australian not-for-profit, the Alternative Technology Association (ATA) installs solar household systems in East Timor villages


East Timor villages lit up by solar from Australian not-for-profit By Tom Kenning Jan 12, 2017 


An Australia-based not-for-profit, the Alternative Technology Association (ATA), has installed hundreds of household solar lighting systems across 12 villages in East Timor.

The two-year project was completed in partnership with two local partners, CNFP and Natiles, and with funding from the Google Impact Challenge 2014, four East Timor Friendship Groups and public donations.

After pilot projects in 2015, now 607 solar systems have been installed in villages in the districts of Aileau, Viqueque and Baucau, affecting 4,000 people.

In each village, Natiles liaised with the community, providing training to a management committee and helping it set up its own maintenance fund, while CNEFP trained 30 local technicians to install, maintain and repair the systems. Participating villagers pay a US$10 installation fee, followed by a monthly subscription of US$2, which will be held by the management committee to fund ongoing maintenance and repairs.

This monthly payment is less than the cost of candles and kerosene for a month, said the ATA.

Lighting was installed inside and outside the front of each house, and each household also received a USB-rechargeable torch on a wristband. The systems are designed to be easy to fix and tamper-proof.

The solar systems allow villagers to charge mobile phones via the USB port and to work or study in the evenings.

The ATA has worked closely with the East Timor Government and the United Nations Development Program on the future of the country’s renewable energy rollout since 35% of Timorese households still have no access to the grid.

January 12, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, solar | Leave a comment

Great solar energy potential for Queensland, but Australia’s Minister For Coal denies this

text-relevantmap-solar-QueenslandSunny Brisbane rooftops well placed to capitalise on solar power, experts say, ABC 6 Jan 17, PM  By Katherine Gregory  Brisbane has the potential to capitalise on solar power’s more competitive pricing, according to experts.

New research by the not-for-profit solar energy company Australian PV Institute and the University of New South Wales has revealed solar panels in Brisbane’s CBD could generate significant savings.

“We’ve done this stocktake of the solar potential of Brisbane’s CBD and from that we’ve worked out that Brisbane could install 188 megawatts of solar on the rooftops of the CBD and produce enough power to meet 11 per cent of demand of the CBD,” the Institute’s chair Renate Egan said.

“This could be done with upfront investment of about $200 million and would payback in electricity repayments $30 million a year.”

To conduct the stocktake the institute used its new Solar Potential Map, which calculates how much electricity can be generated from any particular roof in Brisbane’s CBD.

Ms Egan said it had found close to 50 per cent of roofs could have solar panels.

“We’ve started with Brisbane CBD because Brisbane and Queensland are really proactive around solar,” she said.

“Queensland has got the largest update of solar in Australia, with 1.6 gigawatts of solar installed in Brisbane [and] in Queensland, and they have a target of getting to three gigawatts by 2020.”

Ms Egan said the institute had also engaged with the Queensland Government about it providing the initial upfront investment to install the panels on government buildings such as Suncorp Stadium and the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC).

“Anything that helps achieve our renewable energy target of 50 per cent by 2030 is being considered,” a spokesman for Queensland’s Energy Minister Mark Bailey said in a statement.

Canavan, Matt climate‘Like trying to develop an alpine skiing industry in Queensland’

But the Federal Minister for Northern Australia, Matt Canavan, said Queensland’s renewable energy target was mad.

“It’s like trying to develop an alpine skiing industry in Queensland, it’s about as realistic as that,” he said.

“We don’t have the same renewable resources as say South Australia.

“It would cost an enormous amount of money to build in Queensland and put at risk huge amounts of jobs, particularly in the power sector.

“You’ve got a Labor state government more interested in the philosophy and ideology of power rather than the practicality and reality of it and providing jobs and a decent cost of living for people.”……

January 7, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Queensland, solar | Leave a comment

Queensland Government moving fast towards its renewable energy target

map-solar-Queenslandtext-relevantSolar targets: ‘We’re already halfway there’ says Energy Minister Mark Bailey, Brisbane Times, Tony Moore , 5 Dec 16  The Queensland Government says it is halfway towards one section of its 2020 target of generating 3000 megawatts of solar power from Queensland rooftops by 2020.

“November’s peak of almost 16MW of solar generation capacity installed represents a 33 per cent increase on the year-to-date monthly average,” Energy Minister Mark Bailey said on December 19.

“The four-month period from August to November included four of the five best months during 2016 for the number rooftop solar installations in Queensland.”

Fairfax Media on Tuesday reported calls by University of New South Wales researchers for Brisbane to make better use of the roofs to collect solar energy.

The researchers will arrive in Brisbane on Friday to demonstrate that by putting solar panels on public buildings such as Suncorp Stadium, QPAC and Roma Street Station enough energy could be collected to power 1200 homes.

Senior researcher Anna Bruce wants to talk to Queensland’s Energy Supply Department and to Brisbane City Council about the potential of using extra roof space to collect solar power.

The research team believes it is possible to “generate 241 gigawatt hours of energy per year,” from photo-voltaic cells which could collect a potential 188 megawatts.

Generating 3000 megawatts from Queensland rooftops is one of the Queensland government’s renewable energy objectives; as well as establishing “a credible pathway for having 50 per cent renewable energy generation by 2030”.

That is contained in its solar energy policy, which can be read here.………

January 6, 2017 Posted by | Queensland, solar | Leave a comment

South Australia needs a level playing field for rooftop solar

text-relevantDennis Matthews, 1 Jan 17 Australia’s Chief Scientist, Alan Finkel, has recentlymap solar south-australia drawn attention to a problem in adopting new energy technology.

When home owners consider installing rooftop photovoltaic (PV) electricity generators they are faced with up-front costs.

By comparison, electricity supplied through the grid by large scale electricity generators is provided at no up-front cost to the consumer. The consumer eventually pays the generators’ up-front costs (plus interest) through quarterly bills over a period of several years.

The solution to the problem has been known for several decades – provide a level playing field by having PV up-front costs financed by either an electricity service provider or government with the costs plus interest being recovered over time through the usual quarterly bill.

Such a simple arrangement would not only make rooftop PV competitive (including for rental properties) with grid electricity but would also make energy conservation measures, such as double glazing, more competitive.


January 1, 2017 Posted by | solar, South Australia | Leave a comment

Community involvement in Wesfarmers-owned solar energy project in Western Australia

map-WA-solarSolar switch for one of Australia’s biggest companies funded by community 
By Ursula Malone Mum and dad investors are using their savings to fund a half-a-million-dollar solar energy project at the Wesfarmers-owned Blackwoods distribution depot at Canning Vale in Western Australia.

Blackwood is the country’s largest distributor of industrial and safety supplies and its Canning Vale depot will have 630 solar panels installed on its roof in the New Year. “Wesfarmers is an enormous company but it is also Australia’s largest private employer so there is an enormous connection [with the community] already,” said Wesfarmers sustainability lead Patrick Heagney.

“We have an internal target to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, so this is something we’re very proud of.”

The 200-kilowatt system will supply a quarter of the business’s electricity needs.

Mr Heagney said it was the biggest single solar installation in the Wesfarmers group, and the first funded by community investors.

Investors expecting solid returns  The community funding model for solar projects was developed by solar innovator Huon Hoogesteger and Emeritus Professor of Economics at University of Technology Sydney, Warren Yeates. “Within 48 hours we had fully subscribed investors for that particular installation,” said Mr Hoogesteger. Continue reading

December 23, 2016 Posted by | solar, Western Australia | Leave a comment

Solar cooling systems in Echuca and Ballarat, Victoria

Victoria-sunny.psdSolar cooling systems take heat out of summer’s hottest days
A few Australian businesses are exploiting the searing heat of summer to create purpose-designed solar cooling systems whose benefits extend far beyond electricity savings,
Guardian, , 20 December 16,  

As Australia settles in for another long hot summer, the demand for air-conditioning is set to surge. In fact, with the World Meteorological Organisation stating that 2016 is likely to be the hottest year on record, it’s no surprise an estimated 1.6bn new air conditioners are likely to be installed globally by 2050.

Powering all these units will be a challenge, especially on summer’s hottest days. In Australia, peak demand days can drive electricity usage to almost double and upgrading infrastructure to meet the increased demand can cost more than four times what each additional air-conditioning unit costs.

Yet an emerging sector of the solar industry is turning the searing heat of summer into cooling by using solar heat or electricity. For those developing the technology, the benefits of solar cooling are obvious: the days when cooling is needed the most are also the days when solar works best.

When combined with a building’s hot water and heating systems – which together with cooling account for around half of the global energy consumption in buildings – solar cooling can drastically reduce reliance on grid energy and improve a building’s sustainability credentials. According to the International Energy Agency, solar could cover almost 17% of global cooling needs by 2050.
Currently, such systems are still the exception. “It hasn’t got into the mainstream yet,” says Ken Guthrie, who chairs the International Energy Agency’s Solar Heating and Cooling Program.

Nevertheless, several solar cooling technologies are making their way to market. While off-the-shelf systems for most are still years away, a handful of businesses have already opted for purpose-designed solar cooling systems, which experts hope will convince others to follow their lead.

Echuca regional hospital in rural Victoria was one of the first to take the leap into solar cooling. In 2010, with support from Sustainability Victoria, the hospital designed and installed a solar heat–driven absorption chiller with engineering firm WSP consultants.

A 300 sq m roof-mounted evacuated tube solar field feeds hot water to a 500 kW chiller that was set to save the hospital $60,000 on energy bills and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by around 1,400 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year.

The system was not designed to run entirely off solar (a gas-fired boiler takes up the slack on hot days), but “we have had days where we run 100% solar” for both cooling and hot water, says Echuca regional health executive project manager Mark Hooper.

The benefits of solar were clear enough that a larger 1,500 kW chiller, connected to a field of trough-shaped solar collectors that track the sun during the day, was installed during the hospital’s recent expansion and redevelopment. This second chiller started operating in November and an analysis of the resulting energy and emissions savings will be assessed in conjunction with CSIRO.

Meanwhile, Stockland Wendouree shopping centre in Ballarat, Victoria, is trialling a CSIRO-designed solar cooling system with funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (Arena). Trough-shaped metal collectors on the centre’s rooftop collect solar heat that is used to dry out a desiccant matrix (much like the silica gel sachets in your shoebox) that dehumidifies air brought in from outside. The hot, dry air is then directed to an indirect evaporative cooler, which delivers cool, dry air into the shopping centre.

The yearlong trial is still under way and hasn’t yet seen a full summer to calculate energy savings, but “it’s going very well,” says CSIRO’s Stephen White. The system is 50% more efficient than an earlier iteration of the design – an important improvement given many buildings don’t have the sprawling rooftop spaces of a shopping centre to mount large solar collector arrays.

With photovoltaic cells more affordable than ever, cooling systems that run off solar electricity are already commercially available. But solar thermal systems could still find a place in the market, according to Guthrie, especially for larger commercial buildings. “There’s no single solution,” he says.

Like any solar technology, solar cooling doesn’t work 24/7. Storing the solar energy collected during the day for use overnight is possible. Stockland’s system uses thermal oil storage, for example, and Echuca regional hospital has insulated its firewater tanks to store chilled water. But there are also efforts to store heat or cooling from one season to the next using underground storage tanks.

Whichever systems a building adopts, White says the benefits of solar cooling extend beyond electricity savings. “It’s not just about the cents per kilowatt hour avoided, but it’s also about the value of the asset itself,” he says.

For Hooper, the motivation was even simpler: “We did it to ensure that our children have a future.”

December 21, 2016 Posted by | solar, Victoria | Leave a comment

Giles Parkinson exposes misinformation on rooftop solar and battery storage

Parkinson-Report-Some analysts kid themselves about future of solar + storage, REneweconomy, By  on 19 December 2016

We’ve read and reported on some remarkably misinformed analysis in recent weeks, including from the country’s principal energy rule maker and the government’s favourite energy consultant. But this one just about takes the biscuit.

It is an analysis by investment bank CLSA – partly informed by Frontier Economics, the consultancy behind the other notable analyses we reported on last week, here and here – and argues why rooftop solar and battery storage will never take off in Australia and why no one in their right mind would ever leave the grid. Or even install solar modules.

We wouldn’t normally bother with it, but it got some serious air-time in the AFR, and in other Fairfax media, and may just be cited by others.

So it’s worth looking at and pointing out that it is based on some extraordinary assumptions – not just about the cost of solar and storage, but also about the way people would use the technology.

Let’s take its assumptions on going off-grid for instance. It cites as an example an energy hungry, four-bedroom house, the sort of consumer that would likely be the last to choose to go off grid.

No matter. It assumes that such households would want to use all of their appliances at the same time (the oven, the microwave, the dishwasher, the washing machine, the iron, the kettle, the air-con, the drier, the TV, and every light in the house as well as laptops) and would therefore need 19kW of continuous power to supply all that. [good table here on original]

This, concludes analyst Baden Moore, would require 3 Tesla Powerwall 2 batteries or three Redflow ZCells, just to manage two hours of that demand – not to mention the 3-7 days of backup. Just the cost of meeting this peak, he says, would be prohibitive and cost more than $50,000 for the battery storage alone.

There are myriad problems with this calculation. The first is that many houses simply can’t download that amount of power anyway even from the coal-powered grid. In Victoria, for instance, new households have a “capacity” limit of around 10kW.

And then there is something called the “diversity factor,” which, as SolarQuip’s Glen Morris – a leading authority on solar and storage – explains, means it is almost impossible to reach such peak demand at the same time.

One appliance might go for a few seconds at maximum demand then ease off. “I’ve got 10kW (of maximum demand) just in my kitchen but I’ve never been able to turn them on all at the same time and trip the 5kW inverter,” says Morris, who lives off grid.

If a household was going to consider going off grid, would they choose to pay more than $50,000 for batteries that would not be needed most of the time, or would they pay $1,000 or less for smart controls to ensure that most of these appliances are used in off-peak?

The other issue is the sort of thinking that the CLSA report represents. It’s the same dumb attitude – based on visions of soaring peak demand – that was used to over-build and gold plate the country’s electricity network, such that Australian consumers are now paying through the teeth for their grid supply; the very cost that is making rooftop solar and battery storage so attractive to consumers.

But Moore doesn’t seem to see a problem here. He argues that the grid has been built and paid for, and that the energy networks should use any means possible to recover their costs.

“The Australian Energy Markets Commission (AEMC), the key regulator of Australian energy markets, highlights the networks will be allowed to vary the price of grid connection to ensure the cost of capital on the network is recovered,” Moore writes.

“On this basis, the cost of the network will be recovered from all consumers regardless of their usage of battery and solar energy.”

Even the networks know how crazy this attitude is. In the report they prepared with the CSIRO, and in their advice to the Finkel report, they say that millions of households will be driven, economically, to take up solar and storage.

And unless the industry gets its act together and offers them a decent and competitive service, then many will choose to leave the grid, leaving the economics of the industry in a complete mess.

Part of the problem is what Moore and Frontier Economics are comparing the price of solar and storage to. Instead of the full grid price, Moore and Frontier compare solar and storage to the retail and wholesale component of people’s bills. But then they come up with some extraordinary estimates of those prices……

[good charts on original] ….The CLSA report even highlight an analysis on South Australia’s recent blackout by Russell Skelton, a former head of the two biggest coal generators in NSW. Needless to say, Skelton says the high level of wind energy was at fault for the blackout and will cause similar problems elsewhere.

This is in direct contrast to the AEMO report, which said that the nature of wind energy had nothing to do with the outage, and of the Finkel review, which pointed out there are plenty of technology alternatives to coal and gas to ensure grid security and reliability as renewables grow.

It also contradicts the CSIRO and the network owners, who see no problem incorporating more than 90 per cent wind and solar over time, and more than 80 per cent in South Australia in the same time frame that other states are aiming for 50 per cent.

CLSA’s principal point out of all this is to argue that the incumbent utilities are in the box seat when it comes to (slowly) migrating the energy system from black to green.

It is true that these utilities, and the networks, wield enormous influence at political and regulatory level on policies. But simply wishing away the cost competitiveness of new technologies is no strategy to protect the incumbents, or the consumer.

December 21, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, solar, storage | Leave a comment