Australian news, and some related international items

Western Australia’s large-scale Greenough River solar farm to quadruple in size

Australia’s first large-scale solar farm to quadruple in size By Giles Parkinson on 19 May 2017

The Greenough River solar farm in Western Australia, the first large-scale solar farm in the country, plans to quadruple in size from 10MW to 40MW.

The plans by co-owners Synergy, the government-owned generator and retailer, and US energy giant General Electric, were unveiled in a submission to WA’s Economic Regulation Authority, and reveal that two new 15MW arrays will be built either side of the existing facility, around 50km south-east of Geraldton.

The new arrays, will use First Solar modules, as did the first, but unlike the first installation these will deploy single axis tracking technology to improve the yield. More than 90 per cent of solar farms in Australia are now using tracking technology. SMA is providing the inverters.

Synergy and GE say that the solar farm will seek a power purchase agreement, but presumably that will come from Synergy itself, as it is it the biggest utility in the state and has yet to meet all its renewable energy target commitments.

Greenough River was built in 2012 and remains the only solar farm connected to the main grid in Western Australia, although several other projects have begun, or are about to begin, construction. These include the 30MW Byford solar farm south-east of Perth and a 10MWW solar farm planned near Northam by Carnegie Clean Energy.

Across Australia, however, the large-scale solar boom is accelerating. Eight grid-connected large-scale solar farms have now been completed and another 30 are under construction, or have reached financial closure and are about to begin.

The joint owners of Greenough River says the solar plant, located on a wheat farm, “has been extremely warmly welcomed by what is a very small remote community. No public complaints or opposition have been received.”

May 20, 2017 Posted by | solar, Western Australia | Leave a comment

Big solar energy projects taking off across Australia

12 from 12: ARENA’s big solar plans take off across the country By Giles Parkinson on 16 May 2017  The Australian Renewable Energy Agency has announced that all 12 of the projects that won funding under its large-scale solar program have now reached financial close and will begin construction shortly, if they haven’t already.

The last of the 12 projects to get to financial close – the 20MW White Rock solar farm in northern NSW – did so late last week. Funding was never really in doubt considering that the project is owned by Chinese giant Goldwind, which is building a 175MW wind farm by the same name at the same place.

ARENA, however, used the milestone to hail its $90 million initiative as a huge success, helping to bring down the cost of large-scale solar to the level of wind energy – and five years ahead of what had been expected.

The 12 projects have also benefited from $320 million in low-cost finance from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, as the country’s major banks tried to wrap their mind around this new technology.

But there is every sign that they have, and have lowered the risk quotient on their financing, at least for those with long-term power purchase agreements. While the ARENA program will deliver 490MW of large-scale solar, another 1,500MW is thought to be also under construction, or about to begin, around the country.

“This competitive round is the perfect demonstration of how ARENA is accelerating Australia’s shift to a low emission, renewable energy future,” Frischknecht said in a statement. “From zero to more than 20 plants in five years, Australia’s large-scale solar industry has grown at a tremendous pace thanks to concerted efforts by ARENA and the CEFC.

“We know of at least six new plants that are being developed without any ARENA grant funding support.”

He said the ARENA program had unlocked $1 billion in investment from other sources and regional economies would benefit, with an estimated 2,300 direct jobs and thousands more indirect jobs expected to be created by these plants.

Frischknecht said planning, developing and financing large-scale solar projects remained a complex task involving multiple different parties. That’s why the knowledge gained from the project is so valuable. “ARENA believes in the power of shared knowledge. That’s why we require project developers to share the learning from each stage of development, construction and connection with the renewable energy sector,” Mr Frischknecht said.

“Our support for Whitsunday Solar Farm assisted project developer Edify Energy to secure debt finance for two additional plants, Hamilton Solar Farm in Queensland and Gannawarra Solar Farm in Victoria. ARENA is benefitting from knowledge sharing activities across the three projects.”

The projects are expected to be completed between late-2017 and mid-2018, and will help reduce wholesale prices in all three states where these projects will be built when they come on stream.

May 17, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, solar | 1 Comment

Western Australia: renewable energy going ahead in leaps and bounds

Solar power has become so popular in some parts of Western Australia that there are more households equipped with panels than without.

The national leader is Baldivis, south of Perth, where two-thirds of households feature rooftop solar. Other strong WA performers include Byford (56%) and Rockingham (53%).

There is now six gigawatts of solar power installed across the country. The Australian Photovoltaic Institute chair, Renate Egan, said an additional 1GW was added over the past year by household-scale solar in tandem with commercial and large-scale solar farms.

Once considered an eco-warrior’s pipe dream, renewable energy is rapidly gaining ground in the traditional mining state of Western Australia, Guardian, Max Opray, 15 May 17, Along the remote southern coastline of Western Australia, the locals have cottoned on to a new, surefire way to keep their beer cold. Continue reading

May 17, 2017 Posted by | solar, Western Australia | Leave a comment

Solar panels and the law: Can you stop your neighbour from blocking your sunlight?

It’s a problem central Adelaide resident Jo Thomas was forced to confront when she learned a developer had plans to build a four-storey building next door.

Continue reading

May 16, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, legal, solar | Leave a comment

Victoria’s grid could be dominated by wind and solar

Network owner Ausnet sees grid dominated by wind and solar By Giles Parkinson on 16 May 2017

Ausnet Services, the largest operator of electricity and gas networks in Victoria, has given its vision of what the grid of the future might look like in that state – and it is one dominated by wind and solar.

That is probably not surprising, given that the state government is likely to have its target of 40 per cent renewable energy generation by 2025 locked into legislation in the next few months. But it does reflect how quickly the nature of generation in the state most dependent on brown coal will change. Continue reading

May 16, 2017 Posted by | solar, Victoria, wind | Leave a comment

Solar and battery storage mini-grid trial takes part of Melbourne suburb off-grid

AusNet trial successfully takes part of Melbourne suburb off-grid By Sophie Vorrath on 11 May 2017  A solar and battery storage mini-grid trial by Victorian network operator AusNet Services has succeeded in taking part of a Melbourne suburb completely off grid, demonstrating how utilities can use solar, battery storage and the internet of things to boost energy security and reliability in the future.

AusNet said on Wednesday that eight homes had been successfully separated from Victoria’s main electricity grid and operated together as a stand-alone solar and battery storage powered mini grid, as part of the company’s Mooroolbark Mini Grid trial.

The homes, including two that had neither solar or batteries, were able to maintain power by sharing electricity via AusNet’s powerlines that connect the mini grid, before being successfully re-integrated with the main grid.

AusNet said the cloud-based mini grid control system – which has been provided by locally-based energy technology company GreenSync – and the stabiliser took the mini grid through a sequence of stages to test the stability of the mini grid as an independent, unified renewable energy system.

The stabiliser, developed by Power Technology Engineered Solutions, is essentially a smart battery storage system that smooths renewable energy supply and consumption across the mini grid by either delivering or absorbing power when needed.

Parker, speaking at Energy Network Australia’s Welcome to the Grid Edge conference on Wednesday, said that the achievement was a “major milestone” on the road to a future grid with high penetration of solar and storage.

“The electricity network will continue to play an important role in our energy future, but we need to make sure it is able to support technology such as solar panels and battery storage for the benefit of all customers,” he said.

“In the future, we may be able to use this technology to keep homes powered during major storm events.

“We could also use (it) to smooth peak demand on our network, helping to reduce the need to build expensive power stations and therefore reducing costs to customers.”

The next step for the trial is to test additional control functionality to manage peak loads and generation on the network, as well as further testing of the stand-alone supply scenario involving additional customers being integrated into the stand-alone mini grid.

May 12, 2017 Posted by | solar, Victoria | Leave a comment

Queensland 20,000 jobs in solar power proposal

20,000 jobs in solar power proposal
A US firm is scouting sites in Queensland for up to six solar thermal power stations, each of which would cost about $600m to build and need 4000 construction workers…..

May 7, 2017 Posted by | Queensland, solar | Leave a comment

Port Augusta Mayor speaks at Parliament house rally for solar thermal power

Demonstrators rally for Port Augusta solar thermal power plant   April 30, 2017  MORE than 200 people turned out on the steps of Parliament House on Sunday, with their own makeshift solar panels, urging the State Government to back a solar thermal power plant at Port Augusta.

Decked with mirror panels to mimic solar panels, the demonstrators were led by Port Augusta Mayor Sam Johnson and former coal power station worker Gary Rowbottom.

The Federal Government has committed $110 million in funding through a loan for the project, but the State Government is yet to commit any money.

Mr Johnson said a power purchase plan from the government would make it viable and secure jobs for the Far North city. “Our community has pushed for solar thermal for years,” he said. “Now, it’s time for action from the State Government. Federal funding is now locked in for solar thermal in Port Augusta so it’s time for the Premier to make solar thermal a reality.

“Building solar thermal won’t just help Port Augusta, it will create manufacturing jobs for SA, regional jobs and balance our electricity grid with big storage.”

Mr Rowbottom said the project would provide much-needed stimulus for Port Augusta.  “This is Jay Weatherill and the SA Government’s chance to support our community for the long term, helping us build a new future and becoming the clean energy powerhouse of SA now the coal station has closed,” he said.

Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis said solar thermal power was “absolutely in the mix” for the State Government going forward.

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

Western Australian suburb Baldivis tops nation for solar rooftops

Baldivis tops nation for power from sun, 1 May 2017 The southern Perth postcode of Baldivis is Australia’s solar capital, with more than two-thirds of houses in the suburb generating their own power from the sun.

With electricity prices spiralling and a rush towards green energy, fresh figures show the rate of solar panel installations across Australia led by WA is gathering pace.

There are almost 230,000 households and small businesses with solar panels across WA after a massive 71 per cent increase in installations in past 10 months alone.

More than a quarter of WA homes have solar panels. But the figures show the rate of solar uptake in some suburbs is sky-high, with a staggering 69 per cent of households in Baldivis having a system.

According to the figures, from the Australia Photovoltaic Institute, there are 5765 “dwellings” in Baldivis and 3951 of them have solar panels — the highest rate of penetration in Australia.

It was a similar story in Byford, where 56 per cent of 3326 households had rooftop PV, as well as Rockingham, where uptake was 53 per cent.

The figures also show Mandurah, while having a lower penetration rate, had the second highest number of solar panel installations of any suburb in the country.

Of the 28,428 households in the southern centre, almost 10,000 had photovoltaic cells, behind only Bundaberg in Queensland, which had 10,529 systems. Australian Photovoltaic Institute chairman Renate Egan said it was remarkable that solar was so popular that in some suburbs the households without solar panels were outnumbered by those which did have them.

Warwick Johnston, an analyst with consultancy SunWiz, said WA trailed Queensland and NSW on installations.

“The biggest change has been WA leapfrogging Victoria into third place when it comes to the number of new solar installations,” Mr Johnston said.

The latest figures came as Energy Networks Australia — which represents grid operators such as Western Power — released a report showing the amount of solar power in WA was set to triple in the next 13 years.

It said using battery storage systems, electric cars and “smart homes” would also rise.

ENA boss John Bradley said more than 40 per cent of WA’s electricity was predicted to come from renewable sources by 2030 amid moves to de-carbonise the economy.

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

Farmers want the Australian government to embrace solar energy

Farmers urge government to embrace solar for the future 30 Apr 2017, A year ago, my family acquired solar panels in a very unusual way. Our farm is located in Quirindi, northern NSW, in the heart of Australia’s food bowl.

We’ve never before experienced a run of 40-degree days like we had last summer. Being farmers we are at the mercy of the seasons, and in recent years we have experienced extremes in our weather – extended hot summer periods and increasingly variable rainfall.  It’s hard on our cows, it dries out the soil, stresses pastures and impacts the number of animals we can stock on the farm.

A few years back a concerned group of Christians called Common Grace crowdfunded enough money to buy solar panels for the then Prime Minister, Tony Abbott.  It was an attempt to raise awareness of the value and importance of sustainable energy.

But when this gift was rejected, Common Grace turned to the front lines of climate change in Australia and offered the panels to farmers, like me. My parents taught me the value of caring for the land, and so, I appreciate the clean energy from solar which allows me to use appliances during the day knowing I am having minimal impact on the environment.

My family spends less on electricity now and with the price of solar storage falling, we’ve got plans to go completely off the grid.

It’s frustrating that our government is failing to transition Australia to sustainable energy when we are out in the paddock already trying to adapt to the impacts of worsening droughts and heatwaves.

We must tackle climate change so we can pass on healthy farmlands to our children, and so farmers can continue to produce food and clothes for generations to come.

Being given the opportunity to go solar has been great. I just wish our government will now give it a go. Kirrily Blomfield was 2014 NSW farmer of the year.

May 1, 2017 Posted by | New South Wales, personal stories, solar | Leave a comment

Australia’s solar rooftop hotspot – South Australia

South Australian households and businesses are installing solar panels as rising electricity prices and blackouts take their toll Gailberger, The Advertiser, 26 Apr 17

SOLAR uptake has reached new records across the nation, as South Australian households and businesses put in solar installations at almost double the rate of last year.

Solar analysts say the industry has experienced one of its strongest quarters, driven by increased knowledge, high electricity prices, and fear the Federal Government will cut incentives in the future.There is now six gigawatts of solar power installed across Australia — enough to meet the needs of 1.3 million average households — figures released today by the Australian Photovoltaic Institute show.“Solar power now makes up 11 per cent of our country’s total electricity generation capacity,” Australian Photovoltaic Institute chair Dr Renate Egan said.

South Australia has the highest penetration among dwellings at 32 per cent, with Aberfoyle Park identified as the state’s “solar rooftop hotspot”. More than 22,618 new solar installations have been made in SA as of April — 7000 more than the same time last year.

SunWiz managing director Warwick Johnston said small-scale residential and commercial solar installations will continue to grow because of an increased awareness of renewable energy.

“Particularly in SA given the context of all the blackouts that happened … people are moving towards being independent of the grid.”

He expects another 800MW will be installed across Australia this year, and said a boost from solar farm projects will equate to another gigawatt added to the grid. Continue reading

April 28, 2017 Posted by | solar, South Australia | Leave a comment

Australia’s rapidly increasing solar energy capacity

Australian solar capacity now 6GW, to double again by 2020, REneweconomy, By Giles Parkinson on 27 April 2017  Australia’s total solar power capacity has reached 6GW and is expected to double over the next few years as Australian households continue to invest in rooftop panels to reduce electricity bills, and the large-scale solar sector takes off after years of promise.

The latest industry analysis on installed capacity – released by the Australian Photovoltaic Institute – shows that rooftop solar capacity has now reached 5.6GW and large-scale solar capacity is now at 496MW, and growing fast.

The leading state in rooftop solar remains Queensland, with 1.72GW of rooftop solar – that makes it, as we reported here, bigger than the state’s largest coal generator. NSW and Victoria also have more than 1GW of rooftop solar capacity, with South Australia having the highest penetration (32 per cent) among residential dwellings.

As of April 2017, there was a total of 1.67 million PV installations in Australia, covering 21 per cent of suitable rooftops, which is the highest penetration of rooftop solar in the world. In total, these solar installations collectively generate 8,400 gigawatt hours of electricity each year, which meets approximately 3.3 per cent of Australian demand.

The data suggests that the rate of installation of rooftop solar is also accelerating. After establishing a record March quarter, the rate of installations for the year to date is up significantly in all the major states.

Interestingly, the biggest growth is coming from Western Australia, which has installed 43MW so far this year, outstripping Victoria, as locals prepare for the likely imminent removal of the state-based subsidy that has hidden the true cost of electricity from consumers……..

by 2040 the nature of the grid will have changed dramatically, and will have become more “distributed” – as predicted by the new head of the Australian Energy Market Operator Audrey Zibelman.

The key features will be localised and flexible generation. Batteries – and BNEF predicts there will be at least 15GW of them – will provide a large amount of flexibility, but so too will other forms of flexible generation, including demand response………

April 28, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, solar | Leave a comment

Australia’s Minister for Environment and Energy, Josh Frydenberg, backs Port Augusta solar thermal plan

Frydenberg backs Negev-style solar thermal plant for Port Augusta AFR 27 Apr 17

……..Mr Frydenberg, who is on a trip to Israel and visited the 121 megawatt Ashalim solar thermal power project in the Negev desert, said Australia could learn from the collaboration between the Californian-based BrightSource Energy, General Electric and NOY Infrastructure and Energy Investment Fund.

“The Ashalim solar plant is impressive in scope and scale. When it is operational it will be the tallest and fifth largest solar thermal plant in the world,” Mr Frydenberg said from Israel.

“With the solar potential of Port Augusta being similar to that of the Negev Desert, this project can provide a number of valuable lessons for ARENA as they consider proposals for Australia’s first solar thermal plant.” ARENA is evaluating a solar thermal plant in Port Augusta in SA to replace the closure of two coal-fired power stations in recent years……….

April 28, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, solar, South Australia | Leave a comment

Enormous solar farm planned for Gympie area, Queensland

Queensland company lodges plan to build Australia’s biggest solar farm near Gympie, ABC News, By Bruce Atkinson, 19 Apr 17, A company proposing to build Australia’s largest solar farm near Gympie says the $2 billion facility will eventually supply about 15 per cent of south-east Queensland’s power needs.

Queensland company Solar Q has lodged a development application with the Gympie Council to build a solar farm and battery storage facility 30 kilometres north-west of the city.

The project will be built in stages, with initial approval being sought for a 350-megawatt facility, but within four years it is proposed to increase this to 800 megawatts or enough electricity to power about 315,000 homes.

Managing director Scott Armstrong said the finished facility would be the biggest in Australia but “the way the market is going is that there will be bigger projects that will come on”……..

When completed, around 3 million solar panels will provide power to the network on the 17-square-kilometre site. During peak consumption at night, the battery storage facility, which is powered by the grid, will ease the load on power stations……..

The proponents are not expecting any hurdles to approval from the Gympie Council or State Government agencies, Mr Armstrong said.

“Solar and battery storages are a static generation facility so it will produce minimal noise, it doesn’t emit, it doesn’t have particulates from chimney stacks, it doesn’t have ash dams, so we are not expecting any impediments with regards to getting approvals,” he said.

Once the approvals are in place Mr Armstrong expects the connection agreement with the transmission company will be finalised.

He said the project would be funded by private investors, including superannuation management funds.Work is expected to start by the end of the year…….

April 21, 2017 Posted by | Queensland, solar | Leave a comment

Huge surge in household solar panel installations

Solar panel installations ‘skyrocket’ in Australia, ABC News, By consumer affairs reporter Amy Bainbridge , 14 Apr 17 There has been a big surge in the number of households installing solar panels, with March installations reaching their highest level in almost five years.

Key points:

  • Solar panels were installed on about 15,000 homes and businesses in March 2017
  • Installations have hit their highest level in almost five years
  • Experts say rising electricity bills and recent blackouts in SA are turning people to solar

Warwick Johnston from energy consultancy firm Sunwiz crunched the numbers and said 91 megawatts of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems were installed during the month.

“March has been a very impressive month for 2017,” he said.

“We already saw a surge starting to build up in 2016, and we were wondering if that was going to continue into 2017 and it really has just continued to skyrocket.”

Queensland led the way, installing 25 megawatts of capacity, which is enough to power about 5,500 homes and businesses.

Installations were also up in South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria.

Mr Johnston said the recent blackouts in South Australia were a factor in the rising demand.

“People are certainly aware of the benefits of solar power and storage to offset or protect against grid blackouts, and that has been a driving factor in the uptake of solar,” he said.

“We’re seeing the uptake occur in states which weren’t affected by those blackouts as well, so it really is people being aware that solar panels are a great way to beat rising electricity bills.”

Installation figures in Tasmania, the Northern Territory and the ACT were flat……

April 15, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, solar | Leave a comment