Australian news, and some related international items

“Small” rooftop solar is driving Australia’s solar energy boom

Regional home and business owners driving Australia’s solar energy boom ABC, PM By Angela Lavoipierre 22 Mar 17 When you think of solar, you probably think of vast fields of black panels at large-scale solar farms, producing enormous quantities of power.

Key points:

  • The highest uptake of rooftop solar is in the regional and urban fringe areas
  • Moree, NSW is a perfect example, with 19 per cent of homes sporting rooftop panels
  • The cost of installing solar systems has decreased by around 80 per cent in the last decade

But Australia’s real solar engine, at least for the time being, is a much more humble sight. It is small collections of solar panels on ordinary homes and businesses around the country.

At 2.8 per cent, rooftop solar contributes far more to Australia’s total energy mix than largescale solar, which currently comes in at around a quarter of a per cent.

Claire O’Rourke is the national director of Solar Citizens, a group which lobbies for private solar owners.

“It’s not the inner-city latte-sippers who are going solar,” she said.

“It’s definitely the highest uptake around those urban fringe areas and in regional areas as well where you’ll see in some areas 30-40 per cent of homes with solar on rooftops.”

There are nearly 1.6 million Australian homes with solar panels on their rooftops. To put it in perspective, 1.4 million of those homes took up solar installations in the last decade.

“These are kind of remarkable figures for an industry that was seen as more of a cottage industry 15 or 20 years ago where it was kind of off-grid hippies that were taking it up,” Ms O’Rourke said.

“But it’s very much a mainstream option for people to manage their energy use and also to take control of their rising power bills.”

According to the Grattan Institute, consumers in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide are paying nearly twice as much for electricity as they were a decade ago. Ms O’Rourke said that was part of the reason rooftop solar had been booming. “Prices have gone up, bills have gone up, and the other contributing factor is that the costs of solar has rapidly decreased,” she said. “So if you look at a bit of technical analysis, it’s dropped from $9-a-watt for out-of-pocket expenses on installing a solar system, to $1.60.”So it’s like an 80 per cent decrease in out-of-pocket installation costs in only a decade.”

Moree embraces solar…..

March 24, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, solar | Leave a comment

Rooftop solar the unsung hero in recent South Australia blackouts.

 Regional home and business owners driving Australia’s solar energy boom, ABC PM By Angela Lavoipierre , 23 Mar 17 

“……….Rooftop solar panels do not necessarily power the buildings they are attached to.Most of the time, the power generated by those panels is sold straight back to the energy market.

Generous state-based schemes designed to tempt people into the market paid handsomely for that energy in the past, but those deals all but disappeared.

At another time in Australian history, that change might have had a chilling effect on solar uptake, but soaring energy prices have made sure that is not the case. To those who own their own homes, with mounting power bills, solar still looks pretty tempting, even if it is just for your own personal use. The rapid pace of growth in rooftop solar has slowed.

But Hugh Saddler, an energy analyst based at the Australian National University, said Australia could expect to see an ongoing boom in the uptake of small-scale solar for businesses.

“The steady or in more case rapid increase in the commercial sector is being driven to a significant degree by the steadily falling cost of installing a solar system,” Dr Saddler said.

There are currently industry-based schemes, paid for by consumers, to encourage businesses to go solar.

Dr Saddler predicts those schemes, once they end, could prove to be a hiccup in the growth of Australia’s solar industry, but little more. “I suppose one challenge will be whether it will still be an attractive investment when the small renewable energy scheme comes to an end and I’m sure that it will be because the prices are coming down all the time,” he said.

If 2.8 per cent does not sound like much, Dr Saddler makes the case that rooftop solar was the unsung hero in recent SA black outs. “If it hadn’t been for the rooftop solar making a very large contribution at about 4 o’clock in the afternoon … then that peak would have been about 7 per cent higher than the peak demand on the grid two hours later,” he said.

“And that would have roughly doubled the number of consumers that had to be cut off for load shedding.”

March 23, 2017 Posted by | solar, South Australia | Leave a comment

Huge savings predicted from Tasmania’s largest solar rooftop farm.

Proponents predict big savings from 4000-panel solar farm NICK CLARK, Mercury March 23, 2017 A $2 million solar farm, Tasmania’s largest, will inject power into the state’s grid during summer and save thousands of tonnes of greenhouse gases.

Proponent Nest Energy will place 4000 solar panels on the sawtooth roof of a former wool store in the Launceston suburb of Kings Meadows. Partner Mark Barnett said 15 people would be employed during construction with the project anticipated to be running by August. He said the privately funded project would produce about 1GWh of electricity a year – enough to fully power 200 homes.

It would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20,000 tonnes over the 35-year project life.

Mr Barnett said in winter the panels would produce enough for several businesses while in summer there would be 30 per cent excess electricity, which would be injected into the grid with the company receiving a feed-in tariff. “The building tenants will receive their power at a significant discount while the building owner will realise an improved building value so it’s a fabulous win/win” he said.

Mr Barnett said the project had been two years in the planning. He said a drop in the price of renewable components coinciding with a trend of rising power prices, meant there was plenty of opportunity for further projects, especially in agriculture. Treasurer Peter Gutwein said the project demonstrated an increased level of confidence in the northern Tasmanian economy.

March 23, 2017 Posted by | solar, Tasmania | Leave a comment

Solar energy should be priced fairly, recognising its many benefits

Avoided transmission costs…… Reduced distribution costs… Reduced CO2 emissions…. Health benefits…… Retailing costs….. Additional benefits

A fair price for rooftop solar? Try 10-18c/kWh REnedweconomy, By  on 20 March 2017

This is the first of a series of articles produced by the fair value for distributed generation project. In this article we explain the background to the project and the basis for our calculation that local rooftop solar is currently worth in the range of 10-18c/kWh when all the network, environmental and health benefits are taken into account. Continue reading

March 23, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, solar | Leave a comment

Australian householders turning to energy independence with solar and battery storage

Households abandoning the grid have ‘lost faith’ , The Age, Brian Robins, 17 Mar 17  The federal government has been warned that the rise in spending on solar energy systems is clear evidence households have “lost faith” in their energy suppliers, as they move to get greater control over the cost of their electricity bill.

In its submission to the Finkel Review which is being conducted into the future security of the electricity market, Energy Consumers Australia said its research has highlighted the shift that is now emerging.

“While assumptions are often made that generous feed-in-tariffs and solar PV’s clean attributes have been the primary motivators for their uptake, our research indicates that the primary reasons consumers are investing in this technology is to manage consumption and gain control of costs. The desire for independence from the grid is a particularly strong driver for early interest in battery storage,” it says.

“We see this as a clear indication that consumers have lost faith in the traditional market’s capacity to deliver value for money, and are taking matters into their own hands.”

Energy Consumers Australia undertakes regular detailed surveys of household attitudes to their energy supplies and while most households are not actively engaged in the retail market for electricity, due to a variety of factors, as many as 1.5 million households have engaged by making a significant investment in solar rooftop photo voltaic systems, it said.

And even as the historically generous subsidies supporting the installation of these systems is being wound down, its research has found that a third of households are considering installing these systems over the next five years, with as many as 27 per cent considering installing battery storage systems. But these options are more limited for households which rent or live in accommodation which is unsuitable for the installation of these systems.

“This risks the costs of building and maintaining the [national electricity market] being increasingly recovered from a subset of consumers who are on lower incomes, haven’t been able to break into the housing market, or small businesses in commercial premises subject to investment decisions by owners,” it noted in its submission to the review.

Similarly, its community consultations have found more consumers want to be able to trade or share electricity at the local level…….

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

73% of Australians want investment in solar, not coal

Ian Chappell stands by Adani mine letter despite being called ‘elitist’ by Coalition MPAdani ‘categorically’ rejects letter signed by 91 prominent Australians as protesters confront Queensland premier during tour of Adani’s Indian HQ, Guardian, , 17 Mar 17 “……A new ReachTel poll has found 73% of Australians agree that “the best thing for Australia would be for Adani to invest in large-scale solar power stations, rather than a new coalmine”.

The poll, commissioned by the Australian Marine Conservation Society, surveyed 2,134 Australian residents on Tuesday.

They were also asked whether the Queensland premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, and regional mayors currently on a trade mission to India should be “seeking investment in clean energy solutions like new solar power stations or in coalmines”.

It found 72.1% preferred solar while 14.6% preferred coal.

copy of the open letter shows 91 signatories, including former Australian environment minister Peter Garrett, Perth-based UK-born comedian and author Ben Elton and investment banker Mark Burrows.

It “respectfully” called on Adani’s billionaire chairman, Gautam Adani, to drop the mine plan for three reasons. It would drive global warming that threatened the Great Barrier Reef nearby, it loomed as a “public health disaster” according to the medical journal Lancet; and it “does not have wide public support in Australia”, the letter said.

ACF is appealing a federal court finding against its challenge to commonwealth approval of the Adani mine on the grounds it did not account for climate change impacts on the Great Barrier Reef through carbon emissions.

The court ruled the federal environment minister was entitled to find that if Adani did not go ahead, emissions would come from coal sourced elsewhere. The ACF argues this is “the drug dealer’s defence”.

March 19, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, solar | Leave a comment

Virtual power plant achievable within 5 years – AGL Energy’s Andy Vesey

‘Virtual power plant’ is here, says AGL Energy’s Andy Vesey, AFR, 17 Mar 17 Home storage batteries will be cheap enough within five years to make the “virtual power plant” achievable, revolutionising energy and making investment in traditional plant harder to justify, AGL Energy chief executive Andy Vesey says.

Mr Vesey said that batteries would be about the same $3500 price that AGL is charging 1000 Adelaide householders for its virtual power plant trial, a fraction of the $16,000 full price of the Sunverge batteries used in the trial. They could pay themselves off in about five years.

“It’s coming,” he told an American Chamber of Commerce lunch. He said grid scale batteries proposed by Tesla and others already offer value in the right circumstances.

Virtual power plants – “behind the meter” energy resources such as batteries, solar panels, software and smart thermometers managing power-hungry appliances – are one way to ease pressure on the grid and help prevent blackouts such as those plaguing South Australia. ….

Mr Vesey said on Friday that adding storage to solar homes was like adding refrigeration to agriculture, changing the way consumers interact with the power grid and the investment equation for energy companies….

He said when you put 1000 rooftop solar households with batteries together and control them in the cloud “you fundamentally have a 5 megawatt peaking plant on the edge of the grid. It changes everything”. ……

March 18, 2017 Posted by | solar, South Australia, storage | Leave a comment

New South Wales electricity prices make household solar and storage look good

Solar and storage boost? NSW households face 5c/kWh price rise By  on 17 March 2017 The continuing surge in New South Wales wholesale electricity costs – and in other states for that matter – is likely to add even more incentive for households and business to turn to rooftop solar and battery storage. NSW baseload futures prices for 2018 have jumped another $10/MWh to $115/MWh in the last two weeks, meaning that a rooftop solar system is cheaper than the wholesale price of the coal-fired grid, let alone retail prices which are more than twice as high.

Analysts at Morgan Stanley say that if the wholesale price increase was to be fully captured by energy retailers, then the retail price would need to rise by around 5c/kWh, or about 20-25 per cent.

This scale of rise, shocking as it would be, is unlikely to happen because most retailers will have a rolling hedge book that will mitigate part of the cost increase.

Still, Morgan Stanley expects that retail prices will still have to increase around 10 per cent from July 1, which would add at least 2c/kWh on to energy costs, which are currently 21c/kWh to 24c/kWh, not including hefty network charges of up to $1.50/day.

This should be yet another incentive for NSW households to invest in rooftop solar. The state trails most other states on solar penetration, with around 15 per cent of homes, compared to nearly 30 per cent in Queensland and South Australia.

And the fact that NSW retailers offer such a small amount on solar exports (most at around 6c/8c/kWh, with a couple of outliers on 12c/kWh) this should increase the attraction of battery storage.

NSW is already seen as the best state for battery storage because of the recent expiry of premium feed-in tariffs.

March 18, 2017 Posted by | New South Wales, solar, storage | Leave a comment

‘World’s largest virtual power plant’ now working in West Lakes in Adelaide

SA power: ‘World’s largest virtual power plant’ switched on at West Lakes in Adelaide, ABC News By Matt Coleman, 16 Mar 17, What is being called the world’s largest residential virtual power plant (VPP) has gone live in suburban Adelaide, where reliability of power supply is the dominant public policy issue.

The VPP is an initiative of power company AGL and involves solar panels and battery storage at hundreds of properties being linked together to form a five-megawatt virtual solar power station.”Our South Australian VPP demonstration is a practical example of the new energy future,” AGL’s managing director and CEO Andy Vesey said.

“We believe the VPP will deliver benefits … .by providing another source of generation to deploy into the network.”

He said the environment would also benefit from reduced emissions.

AGL said the Federal Government, through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), was providing up to $5 million to support the $20 million project.

The project is different to standard home battery storage because the batteries’ operation can be directed remotely.

As well as being used to help power the home they are in, they can also be directed — all at once — to service the grid when overall system stability or reliability is under pressure…….

March 17, 2017 Posted by | solar, South Australia | Leave a comment

Big Solar is coming to Australia

Big solar interview: Impact Investment’s Lane Crockett By  on 15 March 2017

Large scale solar is finally hitting the news in a major way in Australia in 2017, with a succession of new project announcements and an influx of new investors. One of those is Impact Investment Group, which is looking to invet $1 billion in renewable energy plants and infrastructure in the next three years.

Its head of renewables, Lane Crockett, a former head of Pacific Hydro’s Australian operations, is to speak at the Large Scale Solar Conference to be jointly hosted by RenewEconomy and Informa early next month.

Here, he shares his thoughts about the industry, including opportunities, solar costs and battery storage.

RE: Lane, what’s attracted you (personally) to the large scale solar industry.

Crockett: There are four main factors that attract me to large scale solar:

  • The speed to market (less planning time and takes half the time to build a solar farm relative to a wind farm);
  • Fewer complicated community issues in the planning and development phases;
  • The price of solar farms has fallen considerably, making it the most competitive new build power in some jurisdictions; and
  • The time of day generation highly correlates with demand.

RE: What specifically is Impact Investment Group’s goal?

Crockett: Impact Investment Group is aiming to have a pipeline of $1BN of renewable infrastructure investment by 2020. We want to direct large amounts of capital towards investments with positive impacts.

RE: Why the interest in the 1MW to 30MW market?

Crockett: Whilst we are now looking at bigger facilities, we find that we are most competitive in the small to medium range of utility scale plants.

RE: Will there be enough choice of assets? is there really that many being built?

Crockett: Yes; there are many projects being developed. The most challenging part is designing the final commercial arrangements which underpin the building and operation of new projects.

RE: Are there any announcements imminent?

Crockett: Yes, but we’re not going to break news right now. Investors should keep an eye out.

RE: Where is the price of solar going?

Crockett: Solar continues to defy expectations as it continues to fall in cost. Not only are equipment costs continuing to fall but the construction market in Australia has become more competitive as contractors become more confident in their delivery methods and costs.

RE: Are you considering storage?

Crockett: Yes, but investment in storage remains problematic as there is no market mechanism to underpin that investment, except the spot price arbitrage, which is a risky strategy.

RE: How far are we from having a grid dominated by solar (and wind) instead of coal and gas?

Crockett: I think 5 – 10 years. It’s certainly feasible and Australia must do it to meet our international obligations to keep global warming under 2 degrees. If you consider the benefits that its a healthier form of electricity production and financially compelling for investors and consumers alike, then it’s a compelling case.

RenewEconomy and Informa’s jointly hosted Big Solar conference will be held in Sydney on April 6 and 7. More details can be found here.

March 17, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, solar | Leave a comment

Clean Energy Finance Corporation funding 3 big solar energy projects

CEFC tips another $70m into big solar, as market confidence soars, REneweconomy, 

The three projects, which are being developed by Edify Energy alongside international renewable energy investor Wirsol, include the Whitsunday and Hamilton Solar Farms in Queensland, both 57.5MW, and the Gannawarra Solar Farm in Victoria, at 50MW.

The “benchmark” financing deal – announced on Monday – commits the CEFC, the Commonwealth Bank and Germany’s NORD/LB to a syndicated senior debt facility to support the three projects, with Edify and Wirsol are providing equity. Continue reading

March 15, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Queensland, solar, Victoria | Leave a comment

Big rise in solar panel installations in South Australia

Installation of solar energy panels surge after SA blackouts Daniel Wills, State Political Editor, The Advertiser March 12, 2017

INSTALLATION of solar panels have surged in the wake of SA’s statewide blackout, despite a cutback in customer tariffs, as homes and businesses take power security into their own hands.

Figures released by Solar Citizens shows SA spent about $23 million on panels in the final quarter of last year, a more-than 17 per cent jump compared with the same period in 2015.

In the second half of 2016, after an incident in July when volatile prices almost forced the temporary closure of some of SA’s biggest employers, 6424 solar systems were installed in the state.

That lifted the overall number of solar systems in SA to a huge 205,068.

At the same time, diesel generator sellers are reporting a huge surge in interest.

Solar Citizens SA campaigner Dan Spencer said households were clearly looking to panels as a technology that could bring down prices as well as add some backup to the grid.

“While politicians attacked SA’s clean energy leadership, South Australians took action at home,” he said. “With solar and storage becoming cheaper and more affordable every day it’s no surprise that ordinary South Australians have looked to clean energy.”

The top five suburbs for solar installation since the blackout were located in regional or outer suburban areas with incomes below the SA average. The regional suburb of Waitpinga led the way and was followed by Smithfield Plains, Salisbury North, Angas Plains and Morphett Vale.

March 13, 2017 Posted by | solar, South Australia | Leave a comment

Australia has already 43% increase in solar rooftop installations, in 2017

Rooftop solar installs up 43% in 2017, on back of power market woes, REneweconomyBy  on 10 March 2017

A summer of record high temperatures, heat waves and unplanned electricity outages appears to have put a rocket under the Australian rooftop solar market in 2017, with installations at end of February nearly 50 per cent up on the same time last year.

According to the latest monthly insights report from SunWiz – based on data from Solar Choice – February was an excellent month for solar PV growth, and registrations have been clocked at 43 per cent better than 2016 YTD, driven largely by residential installs.

The February rebound marks the second best month for solar PV installs in Australia since 2013 – the best month since 2013 being December 2016……..

March 11, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, solar | Leave a comment

Already cheaper than grid: – Solar and Storage

Solar and storage: LG Chem says it already cheaper than grid, REneweconomy, By  on 8 March 2017 One Step Off The Grid

LG Chem, the South Korean battery storage maker that has so far claimed the biggest share of the nascent Australian market, says that solar and battery storage is already beating grid power in most states.

The assessment by LG Chem follows similar analysis by private energy consultants, and suggests that the market for battery storage could be about to take off, even with looming threats of restrictions.

According to Jamie Allen, the marketing head in Australia for LG Chem, a 5kW rooftop solar system and a 10kWh battery storage device (such as LG Chem’s own 9.8kWh offering) can be purchased and installed for around $15,000.

Based on the assumed output of around 22kWh a day from the solar array, that makes the cost per kWh of solar power at around 22c/kWh over 10 years.

Given that most flat rate per kWh tariffs start at around 23c/kWh or 24c/kWh – even in NSW where there are high fixed network charges on top of that – the solar power is still on the money, although the battery storage is essential to ensure that much of that output is used directly, or stored for later use at night.

Of course, the actual cost per kWh of the solar output would be less than half the 22c/kWh cited here, because the panels would last well beyond 20 years.

But the 10 year time frame is used because that is the warranty period for most battery storage and it is the “combo” package that is being promoted. And without storage, then much of the output would have to be exported, with tariffs in NSW as low as 6c/kWh or non-existent for some.

What does this tell us? Allen says it is that storage is crucial to maximize the value of that solar output. Every kWh that can be consumed on site will beat the cost of production.

Of course, this is not the only benefit. Allen notes that the solar system will likely last at least another decade, possibly two, and the cost of battery storage to replace the current system will also be cheaper, while grid costs are likely to rise.

And, on top of that, the solar and storage system offers other benefits: back-up power for when local or wider blackouts occur, and increasing property values, not to mention the environmental and climate benefits……..

March 11, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, solar, storage | Leave a comment

Solar panels set for Victorian prisons

VICTORIA’S prisons are going green, with solar panels set to be rolled out in a bid to reduce inmates’ carbon footprint. (subscribers only)

March 11, 2017 Posted by | solar, Victoria | Leave a comment