Banks looking even closer at backing big solar projects: Clean Energy Council, Brisbane Times, Tony Moore , 8 Sept 16, Australian banks will invest more heavily in solar energy projects within the next 12 months, Clean Energy Council chief executive Kane Thornton said after Thursday’s announcement that 12 new solar farms Australia-wide had been backed by $100 million from the federal government.
The federal government’s Australian Renewable Energy Agency on Thursday announced 12 large-scale solar projects – six in Queensland – had received federal support.
ARENA chief executive Ivor Frischknecht said improved efficiencies had meant solar energy producers were getting much more bang for their funding buck than they were even two years ago. “In 2014, the grant funding needed for large-scale solar projects was $1.60 a watt,” Mr Frischknecht said.”In 2015, this dropped to 43 cents at the EOI stage of ARENA’s $100 million large-scale solar funding round; and to an average of 28 cents in June 2016 when full applications were submitted,” he said.
“The average requirement of the projects we are taking forward today is an incredible 19 cents a watt.”
Mr Thornton said solar projects would soon begin to rely less on federal government for funding to begin operations. “We really at the threshold of saying that once we see another round of these of these projects we are going to see the costs decline to the point when they are built on their own, without the government support,” he said. “I think it is months, if not maybe a year or so, before we can expect them to go ahead without further funding.”
Mr Thornton said banks were now closely examining the viability of investing more heavily in solar and renewable energy projects in Australia.
The first major investment in solar energy by Australian banks came in 2013 when NAB and ANZ invested in a 20 megawatt solar plant in Canberra. More investment in solar plants followed, while banks have questioned some large new coal projects……….
Mr Thornton said scale of new solar farm plants was lowering production costs to the point where it was “cost comparative’ with coal and gas.
Mr Thornton said it was now time to begin training workforces that worked in traditional energy supply companies to work in renewable energy. http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/banks-looking-even-closer-at-backing-big-solar-projects-clean-energy-council-20160908-grc5ol.html
12 large scale solar projects to get ARENA funding. And the winners are … REneweconomy, By Giles Parkinson on 7 September 2016 All eyes are on the Pullman Hotel in Sydney, where on Thursday, 12 out of the 20 large-scale solar projects shortlisted for the Australian Renewable Energy Agency’s $100 million funding round are expected to be announced as winners of federal government grants.
The announcements are expected to trigger the biggest single investment surge in any renewable energy technology in Australia to date, even outpacing investment in rooftop solar at the height of the premium feed-in tariffs.
Apart from the projects set to go ahead directly from the ARENA tender, the results are also expected to trigger financing commitments for other large-scale solar projects, many of which are keen to cash in on high prices for renewable energy certificates, surging interest in financing from local and international funders, as well as another big slump in the cost of solar modules on international markets.
RenewEconomy understands that 12 of the 20 projects that made the final short list (out of 77 initial inquiries) will get some sort of funding.
The fact that more than half the projects will be helped by ARENA is not unexpected, given the huge reduction in the project costs elicited during the tendering process. It will mean that the ARENA funding round will produce around double the 200MW of large-scale solar capacity that it originally targeted.
It is thought that nine of these 12 projects will be using single axis tracking technology, which a recent study suggests – see our article Solar does work, and a lot better than we thought – provides the best outcome in terms of output and returns on investment.
The tender result is also expected to show that the levellised cost of energy for large-scale solar has fallen to around $100/MWh for the best projects, well below the $135/MWh targeted by ARENA when it started the process.
A lot of this cost reduction is credited to the competitive nature of the bidding process. Last week ARENA chairman Martijn Wilder told ABC Radio the process had knocked down the amount of assistance needed to 10 per cent of project costs from the near 50 per cent needed to get the Nyngan and Broken Hill solar farms built.
It also appears that large energy retailers – under pressure to meet their renewable energy targets,but lately on a capital strike – are prepared to offer around $80-$85/MWh for long-term contracts………..http://reneweconomy.com.au/2016/12-large-scale-solar-projects-to-get-arena-funding-and-the-winners-are-23169
One of the prices we have to pay for our ideological divide on renewable energy is that we have to read headlines like this, particularly in the Murdoch media: “Solar and wind power simply don’t work, not here, not anywhere”. It was written by the former chairman of a coal mining company, in case you were wondering.
Solar doesn’t work? New analysis of Australia’s first large-scale solar farms shows that solar actually does work, and rather better than expected. And the findings should make it a lot easier for future projects to get the backing of equity investors and bankers, if not the owners of coal fired generators desperately protecting their turf.
The research has been produced by US-based solar module manufacturer First Solar, whose panels have been used for around three quarters of the large-scale solar projects built in Australia to date, by capacity.
Its study shows that at all the solar farms built by First Solar – in western NSW, north Queensland and Western Australia – the output has been higher than forecast. Collectively, the Australian solar plants using First Solar thin-film PV modules are performing above expectations by an average of 3.2 per cent.
The best result has been produced by Broken Hill, the 53MW plant built near the iconic mining town in western NSW, which is so far delivering 4.2 per cent above expectations.
(Spectral advantage, btw, is a measure that First Solar uses to show how much better their panels work in humid conditions than silicon-based rivals).
Now, this might not sound like ground-breaking news – forecast production broken by a few percentage points.
But people in suits are very conservative types, and investment in renewable energy in Australia, both in wind and solar, has been hampered by the fact that bankers won’t finance investments unless they can actually touch, feel and watch the technology, and have proof that it actually works.
This data, Curtis says, is proof that the projects are, indeed, bankable. And that’s more important than it might sound.
Curtis says that even though large-scale solar has been proved in many international locations, local investors still wanted proof that it would work in Australia, even though it does have some of the best solar conditions in the world. Such, perhaps, is the insular nature and/or inherent conservatism of Australia’s banking system.
But Curtis is reassured, not just by the release of the production statistics, but also by the attitude of equity investors and financiers in the local market………
……Dylan McConnell, from the Melbourne Energy Institute, emailed through a production chart from the 102MW Nyngan solar farm, which also used First Solar technology.
McConnell pointed out that, indeed, Nyngan was producing at a capacity factor of 25 to 26 per cent. This, he said, was far higher than official forecasts relied upon for the Australian Power generation Technologies Report, which estimated the average capacity factor of large-scale solar PV at 19-22 per cent.
That, says McConnell, suggests that the forecasts relied upon by the federal government underestimate the output of solar farms by between 15 and 35 per cent.
Little wonder that the government can’t make any sensible decisions about large-scale solar, and why it insists on defunding the agency that has brought about most of the cost reductions in the past year, ARENA. https://cleantechnica.com/2016/09/02/solar-power-work-even-better-expected/
Liberal Chairman of Coalition’s environment policy committee a proud climate sceptic, suggests nuclear power
Coalition environment committee chairman takes aim at solar subsidies Craig Kelly says he wants wind and solar funding to be redirected to research into ‘technological breakthroughs’ because existing renewables had ‘little effect’, Guardian, Gabrielle Chan, 31 Aug 16, The Liberal chairman of the Coalition’s environment policy committee, Craig Kelly, has questioned solar and wind power subsidies and would like a cost-benefit analysis of future emission reductions policy, due to be reviewed next year.
Kelly was named chairman of the environment and energy committee at the party room meeting on Monday, making him responsible for coordinating backbench feedback to the government on climate and energy policy.
He said he was proud to be a climate sceptic rather than “wallow in groupthink, to be a sheep, or a lemming”. Kelly described himself as in the “Bjorn Lomborg” camp, suggesting wind and solar funding should be channelled into “further research” because those current renewables like wind and solar power had “diminishing returns”………
Kelly said in considering the price of power, the option of nuclear power should be considered……..https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/aug/31/coalition-environment-committee-chairman-takes-aim-at-solar-subsidies
Turnbull’s plan to defund Australian Renewable Energy Agency will cause loss of 100s of solar energy jobs in Queensland
Queensland solar projects that could create 2,600 jobs at risk in federal cuts
Many schemes may not go ahead if the Australian Renewable Energy Agency is defunded in the government’s omnibus bill, ACF warns, Guardian, Michael Slezak, 25 Aug 16, Thousands of jobs could be created in Queensland if 10 large-scale solar projects were to receive funding, according to analysis by the Australian Conservation Foundation.
The projects, earmarked for funding by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (Arena), would create around 2,695 jobs according to the study.
The figure compared favourably with the 1,400 jobs which the Indian conglomerate Adani estimates its $16bn Carmichael coalmine would bring to the state if it obtains approval for the controversial project, the study claimed.
However, the findings comes as Arena faces defunding by the federal government, placing the projects in jeopardy. Continue reading
“Although this is only a particularly small project, what it is is it represents the first community solar lease product in Australia, it represents the first community solar cooperative fund and it represents the first crowdfunded equity community solar project,”
Community Solar Co-Op Shares Sells Out in Minutes https://probonoaustralia.com.au/news/2016/08/community-solar-co-op-shares-sells-minutes/ Renewable energy organisation Pingala sold out of shares in nine minutes for its first community solar fund. Pingala partnered with the environmentally-conscious Young Henrys brewery in Newtown, Sydney to build a solar farm on its roof, which will save an estimated 127 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions a year.
The newly launched Pingala Cooperative, which sits alongside the Pingala Not for Profit, allows the organisation to raise funds from member investors to install solar panels on its partner businesses.
“We then lease the solar to the business, so they pay us a fee to be able to use the equipment as though it were their own, and through that we get a revenue stream that allows us to pay our costs and generate a small profit,” Pingala secretary Tom Nockolds told Pro Bono Australia News.
“So we’re offering our investors between 5 and 8 per cent… return on investment. But they’re investing in Pingala on an ongoing basis, so there’s no predetermined timeline for when investors get their money back, it’s totally up to the investors themselves to decide when they want to sell their shares, it’s much like buying shares in a company. Continue reading
A landmark high-rise apartment tower in Southbank whose glass exterior is wrapped in solar cells will provide its residents with “off-the-grid” power stored in Tesla-like batteries, its designers say.
The 60-level building will be the first skyscraper in Australia environmentally engineered to include solar cells in the facade, creating a far greater surface area for catching the sun’s rays.
“We get an enormous area of solar panels by comparison to running them across the roof,” said Peter Brook from Peddle Thorp, the architects behind the design.
The curved exterior of the building has been orientated to deliberately capture the sun’s movement from east to west throughout the day, a feature that had created an “elegant tower”……..http://www.theage.com.au/business/property/first-solarpowered-apartment-skyscraper-to-rise-in-melbourne-20160819-gqwv76.html
Councillor Arron Wood can understand why more businesses don’t put solar panels on their roof.
It’s not because they don’t want to save money. And it’s not because they don’t want to do the right thing. “The biggest barrier to wider uptake [of solar power] is the complexity of going through the process,” says Cr Wood, the chairman of Melbourne City Council’s environment committee.
Which is why, he says, opening North Melbourne Football Club’s new solar panel bank – 800 panels set across the club’s roof and that of the neighbouring council-run recreation centre – is a major breakthrough.
“There’s this sense that footy speaks to all parts of life in Melbourne, so partnering with … North Melbourne footy club might drive others to think ‘Maybe this is something we can do’,” he says.
The panels on the club’s roof will produce enough electricity per year to run 70 average Melbourne homes. North Melbourne’s chief executive Carl Dilena said the club expected to cut its energy use by almost a quarter as a result of installing the solar panels.
But as many Melbourne home owners know, solar does not always come cheap, at least initially. The system cost almost half a million dollars to install, and was partly financed by the council, via the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. The club contributed about $67,000 of the funding, with the rest coming from the city council.
It is the first partnership the council has undertaken with an outside party – all other installations it has done have been on council-owned building rooftops.
The council is working with Sustainability Victoria to find businesses interested in reducing either emissions or energy bills that have previously considered going solar.
“The driver for a lot of businesses isn’t saving the environment, it’s to save dollars and that’s completely fine,” says Cr Wood.
Solar could be game changer for rural communities going off the grid, ABC News By Kathryn Diss , 7 Aug 16 For decades, farmers in Western Australia’s south have put up with the most unreliable electricity supply in the state, now they are about to find out if they can live off-grid, surviving on solar power instead.
- Farmers in Western Australia are investigating using stand-alone solar power systems
- Solar battery technology is making this more easily achieved, and the State Government will pay for it
- Power-supply to south west WA has been unreliable, a problem in other regional areas
Ros and Bernie Giles are part of a handful of farming families giving the technology a crack after living through years of frustration at their farm in West River, 500 kilometres south of Perth.
“Summer is our worst time, we seem to have more fluctuations then,” Ms Giles said……
Power problems span farmland across nation
WA’s south west grid spans more than 250,000 square kilometres, an area the size of the United Kingdom, yet it only services a 50th of the population, making it unreliable and expensive to maintain.
But the power problems faced by the people of West River are hardly unique.
Matthew Warren heads up the Australian Energy Council, which formed earlier this year to respond to the world’s rapidly changing energy market.
He said most edge-of-grid communities around the nation suffered the same problems……….
Renewable energy reaches tipping point
The move by WA’s Liberal-National Government to invest in the technology is seen as a step towards a greener future.
It is not just environmental goals driving the innovation but the financial realities of providing an expensive poles and wires network versus the improving economics of renewables……..http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-08-06/solar-could-be-game-changer-for-rural-communities-on-grid-edge/7681398
Adelaide charges ahead with world’s largest ‘virtual power plant’ AGL project to roll out 1,000 battery systems to homes and businesses will operate like a 5MW plant, and optimise energy produced from solar panels, Guardian, Michael Slezak, 5 Aug 16, Adelaide will be home to the world’s largest “virtual power plant” – AGL is rolling out 1,000 battery systems to homes and businesses, with backing from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (Arena).
AGL and Arena say the project will improve network security and dampen a volatile wholesale electricity price in South Australia. However, an energy expert says that at the current size, the system will have a minimal impact on network security or wholesale prices, but might pose a challenge to the revenues of companies that own the poles and wires.
Offered to homes and businesses with solar systems, the $20m AGL project, backed with $5m from Arena, will operate like a 5MW peaking power plant, providing power to homes and businesses during periods at optimal times.
The chief executive of AGL, Andy Vesey, told Guardian Australia: “The beauty of the project is it’s being done over 1,000 batteries, and that’s how we deliver an aggregate benefit to the grid itself.
“But for the consumer, it will have the value of the battery. And it’s being priced at a way that a good investment decision could be made. We’re viewing that the average savings for someone who has rooftop solar right now would be $500 a year. It’s really a way of optimising the energy produced out of their solar panel.”
The system will cost $3,500, and AGL estimates it will take about seven years for solar customers to recover the costs.
Arena’s chief executive, Ivor Frischknecht, said the project would boost grid stability, reduce power price volatility and support the expansion of renewable energy……..
As a demonstration of something that could be bigger, McConnell said one of the biggest impacts of the business model could be on how the networks recover the costs of the poles and wires.
About half the cost of a home energy bill is linked to the network’s cost recovery of its poles and wires. McConnell said that meant a lot of the money being saved by consumers was actually done by avoiding paying the network costs. And that’s what AGL is relying on for its business model.
But this “virtual power plant” isn’t moving people off the grid. Instead, it’s relying on the grid, while avoiding the charges the distributors use to pay for the grid…….https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/aug/05/adelaide-charges-ahead-with-worlds-largest-virtual-power-plant
Combination of solar and wind, with smart analytics and “big data” could cause electricity costs to plummet
Could big data soon make renewable energy storage free?, Independent Australia 2 August 2016, A new report explores the democratising of renewable energies through the advancement of “big data”.RenewEconomy‘s Giles Parkinson reports.
GLOBAL investment bank Citi is predicting that the combination of near zero-variable cost energy sources such as solar and wind, along with smart analytics and “big data”, may deliver what the nuclear industry promised nearly half a century ago — free energy……
Citi is not the only research institution making such forecasts but it is in sharp contrast to the general public discussion in Australia, which is dominated by those who insist that the old centralised energy system – slow, inefficient and expensive – will not and cannot be replaced by new technologies.
South Australia is now the focus of that debate, and the push-back against wind and solar by conservatives and, of course, vested interests, seeking to protect their sunk assets is striking.
But Australia is already well down the path to this transformation, given its high level of rooftop solar and the fact that it is considered to be the world-leading market for household battery storage and smart software. Continue reading
The Age, Simon Johanson, 2 Aug 16, The first stage of the massive 2500-dwelling, mixed-use commercial redevelopment of the former Amcor paper mill site in Fairfield will be built with 60 homes fitted with Tesla battery packs, inverters and solar panels. The full-line energy installation will not be an optional extra for home buyers but a standard inclusion in all three- to five-bedroom homes, Glenvill development director Travers Nuttall said…….http://www.theage.com.au/business/property/melbournes-first-teslatown-to-be-built-in-mega-alphington-development-20160729-gqgr0w.html
Regardless of what the industry’s lobbyists and media barrackers say, renewables are cutting the cost of power and making it more reliable….
The next big threat to the old business model, however, is storage
According to figures compiled by the environment group Solar Citizens before the recent election, just 2352 of the 90,000-odd voters in Frydenberg’s affluent inner Melbourne electorate of Kooyong had solar panels on their roofs.
That placed Kooyong 132nd of 150 federal electorates for rooftop solar. Kooyong is typical of what Solar Citizens found in their study of rooftop solar. More affluent electorates tend to have lower take-up rates……
out in the ’burbs, and in the rural and regional areas, rooftop solar is big. The seat of Dawson, for example, based on Mackay in North Queensland, has more than 10 times as many houses with rooftop solar as Frydenberg’s electorate. Yet voters there just returned George Christensen, a climate change denier who sits on the extreme right wing of the Nationals. Ipswich, home town of Pauline Hanson, has even more solar panels up.
Dickson in Brisbane, held by another arch-conservative, Peter Dutton, has more than 35,000 solar roofs, and the eighth-highest penetration of solar in the country. And the number one electorate for rooftop solar is the huge rural South Australian seat of Grey. There, according to Solar Citizens, some 41,000 constituents have invested $140 million to install more than 80,000 kilowatts of solar, resulting in an annual abatement of 54,000 tonnes of the main greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide. The seat is held by Rowan Ramsey for the Liberals, although he was given a nasty scare from the Nick Xenophon Team at the election. Continue reading
From solar boom to bill shock: Australians face loss of rooftop payments
About 275,000 people across the country will have their solar energy payments reduced by up to 80% over the next six months, Guardian, Michael Slezak 31 July 16 “……. more than 275,000 people across Australia who will see the subsidised payments they receive for their solar energy disappear over the next six months, replaced with rates up to 80% lower.
The solar boom in Australia, which has led to 1.5m households generating their own electricity from the sun, was accelerated by subsidised payments for people who sell solar-generated electricity back to the grid.
In some cases, like Shaw’s, solar customers were able to receive more than twice the money for the electricity they put in the grid, compared with what they paid for electricity they took out of it.
But for a lot of homes and businesses, those schemes are coming to an end over the next six months and, if they’re not prepared, they will be heading towards some serious bill shock.
Customers in New South Wales, who got the most generous rate, will be in for the biggest hit and will need to do the most to adapt to the changes…….
(Others are on schemes that will continue for years to come. So if people are confused about their own feed-in tariffs, they should ask their retailer what’s happening with them.)…….
The issue of what kind of meter to get is a minefield right now, with different issues affecting consumers depending on where they are, and options are changing rapidly.
One thing that can help anyone make the most of their solar electricity is a smart meter, says Claire O’Rourke, national director of Solar Citizens, a group that lobbies on behalf of solar customers.
A smart meter can be read remotely, and can tell when the most power is being drawn, helping maximise the benefits. They can also open up services such as time-of-use tariffs, providing savings for people who avoid using energy during periods of high demand.
“You’re probably better off with a smart meter but they do have an increased cost,” says O’Rourke.
Some retailers are offering discounts for smart meters in return for fixed-term contracts. “It is really in the interest of consumers to shop around,” she says.
For many people right now a smart meter could be overkill. The smart meter will either be paid upfront, or in the case of free meters offered by retailers, will be paid for through increased tariffs, says Moyse. Whether the meter will allow consumers to recoup that cost is unclear.
For people outside NSW, the lowest-cost option is to keep their current meter, at least until it’s clear a smart meter is worth it. Outside NSW, the current meter will work fine on the new deals.
Unfortunately, for most people on the NSW solar bonus scheme, their meters will need to be replaced……..
the loss of generous feed-in tariffs is driving interest in battery storage, says Chris Cooper, chief executive of Suncrowd, a company using group purchasing power to get cheaper prices for batteries.
“It’s a bit of a trigger point for people to look at new technology,” Cooper says. So far Suncrowd has run its first round in Newcastle, and had about 200 homes join together and buy batteries at discount rates.
He says lots of the customers who have been approaching Suncrowd have been people coming off the NSW solar bonus scheme. Having a battery added to an existing solar system can significantly increase “solar self-sufficiency”, Cooper says, a measure of how much the customer relies on solar rather than electricity from the grid. “With an appropriately sized battery you can boost it from 20% to about 60 or 70% self-sufficiency,” he says. Cooper says Suncrowd is building an online tool to help people calculate their solar self-sufficiency and have been showing it to people at events they’ve been holding. “People are really motivated by seeing the numbers go up,” he says…….https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jul/31/australia-residents-solar-rooftop-lose-payments
Jul 27 2016. The federal government has allocated more than $600 million to help large-scale solar projects get off the ground, as utility solar photovoltaic projects become the next wave of renewable energy to be embedded into the national electricity market…...(subscribers only)