Finley solar farm sign contract with BlueScope Steel

BlueScope Steel have signed the largest ever solar power purchasing deal by an industrial energy user in Australia today. They’ll buy around 200 gigawatt-hours of electricity a year – allowing ESCO to commence stage 1 of its 133MW Finley solar farm.

Finley Solar Farm and BlueScope Steel

The seven-year contract signed between the Finley Solar Farm (which will be manufactured by ESCO Pacific in the NSW Riverina area) and BlueScope Steel will represent 20% of BlueScope’s energy requirements. 

Finley Solar Farm and BlueScope Steel
Finley Solar Farm and BlueScope Steel (source: BlueScope.com)

John Nowlan, the head of Australian steel at BlueScope, said the contract will be a step in the right direction while they continue to support the National Energy Guarantee and rely less and less on non-renewable energy:

“(The contract) will help keep downward pressure on our energy costs, and will support the gradual transition to renewable energy,” Mr Nowlan told the Australian Financial Review.

“BlueScope supports Australia’s 2030 emissions target, including the government’s target to reduce electricity sector emissions by 26% on 2005 levels by 2030. By investing in solar energy, we are helping accelerate the decarbonisation of the electricity grid by reducing greenhouse gas emissions by around 300,000 tonnes of CO2e each year. This is comparable to taking 90,000 cars off the road and is enough to power 60,000 homes.” he continued.

This is another great step in the right direction for commercial solar – where we have seen industrial energy users such as Telstra, data centre operator Equinix and Mars Australia sign deals directly with renewable developers. These are known as solar PPAs (Purchase Power Agreements) and can save 20-50% on bills, depending on various factors such as usage and location.

“For any serious corporate off-taker or energy user a solar PPA is a good part of the energy mix,” said ESCO Pacific managing director Steve Rademaker.

“It’s not the only solution but it goes a long way to helping manage costs.”

This is more good news for solar power in resources – it’ll be great to watch companies like BlueScope move from 0%, to 20%, and hopefully eventually to 100% renewable energy. 

Construction on the Finley Solar Farm is set to commence around the end of September, with production scheduled for mid-2019.

If you’d like to read the press release from BlueScope please click here

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Natural Solar – Blockchain Powered Community Solar

Australian company Natural Solar have advised that they will be using the power of blockchain technology its its latest community solar offering – a new housing development just outside of Sydney which will see 12 homes share power with each other.

Natural Solar

Natural Solar - Blockchain Powered Community Solar
Natural Solar – Blockchain Powered Community Solar (source: naturalsolar.com.au)

Nine are reporting that each home will have a 5kWp solar system and an 8kwh sonnenBatterie 8 installed. Homeowners will be guaranteed up to 20 years of $0 power bills, but they will have a $30 / month bill to sonnenFlat for the program. Power will be shared between the 12 houses and any energy movement will be recorded on the blockchain to record and track the efficacy of of the project. Is 12 houses enough? What happens when it’s 4pm on a Tuesday and 8 houses have air conditioning on? 

If this is a bit complicated to understand, Chris Williams, CEO and Founder of Natural Solar,  explains the concept as a ‘super battery’:

“Utilising Blockchain technology, we are able to join all batteries together to create one larger ‘super-battery’ that can power all homes in one development.

“An advantage of this is for the first time ever in Australia, residents will now be able to borrow power from their neighbours who have excess stored in their own battery, creating a complete sharing economy amongst houses.”

What happens if the energy runs out?

This question was put to Williams who said that, although this model means the developer won’t have to pay for expensive grid upgrades, it’ll still have access at all times: 

“In the event houses need additional power and they can’t borrow extra from their neighbours, they are able to automatically draw this from the grid. If the home is signed up to the sonnenFlat energy plan, this will be free of charge for most houses, provided this fits within their annual electricity consumption.”

The project is set to launch by September – so watch this space and we’ll keep you updated on the progress of Natural Solar’s great project.

 

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Commercial Solar Windows – ClearVue Technologies

Australian building material developer ClearVue Technologies have had some good news this week – with their commercial solar windows passing the Australian Standard AS 2047, thus preparing them to market the products across Australia.  

Commercial Solar Windows

We’ve written about the ClearVue integrated clear glass solar panel before – they’ve had a successful IPO, have updated their technology a couple times, and seem to be ready to really get started selling commercial solar windows to Australia and the overseas market.

Commercial Solar Windows - ClearVue Technologies
Commercial Solar Windows – ClearVue Technologies (source: ClearVuePV.com)

Clearvue’s BIPV (Building Integrated Photovoltaic) offering the implementation of solar technology into frame-independent Insulated Glass Units which will house the ClearVue integrated clear glass solar panel. Using industry standard frames means their tech will be easy to offer to commercial buildings Australia-wide.

SmallCaps are reporting that ClearVue is separately undertaking AS 4284 certification-testing on its glass curtain wall product with results expected in August. In Europe, ClearVue has also started the process to receive CE Mark certification and allow its products to be sold in the EU. The results are expected to be received in August as well. Lastly, in America, ClearVue intends to commence US certification in the “next quarter” (Q4 2018).

Executive chairman Victor Rosenberg spoke about the accreditation and ClearVue’s plans for the future:

“The accreditation by the AWA of the ClearVue window product to AS 2047 represents a giant leap forward for the company. With this step, we have now moved from being a research company into a commercial operation and are now able to commercialise our product in the Australian market. We are on track with the business plan outlined in our Prospectus and look forward to being able to announce to the market similar certifications and accreditations shortly,” said Mr Rosenberg.

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South Australian Virtual Power Plant Launched

Tesla’s South Australian Virtual Power Plant has begun deployment, with the first 100 Powerwalls combined with a 5kW solar array rolling out across a group of South Australian households this month. This rollout is in conjunction with the Household Storage Subsidy Scheme in South Australia.

South Australian Virtual Power Plant

South Australian Virtual Power Plant Tesla
South Australian Virtual Power Plant Tesla (source: Tesla / YouTube)

Housing SA are working with Tesla to install the distributed Powerwall tech which is going to start with a focus on public housing and will end up with arrays and Powerwalls/other batteries (read on to learn about the Household Storage Subsidy Scheme) on up to 50,000 homes. 

Another 1,000 South Australian households will have the Tesla batteries installed before July 2019, but potentially ‘in a few weeks’, according to Electrek. Lots of different figures floating around right now so we’ll update you as we hear more.

It’s actually quite similar to the 100MW / 129MWh Powerpack project in that the whole system will help stabilise the grid and provide a strong baseload of power so we don’t see the blackout issues South Australia suffered through in 2016. In this case it’s not one big project, however – many homes working together will decrease cost of electricity and ensure grid stability improves (and continues to). 

There’s also a separate scheme for other battery subsidies – underwritten by the $100 million Household Storage Subsidy Scheme. The push to help renters and low-income earners enjoy the benefits of solar has been fantastic and we’re excited to see some stats and results after the estimated 40,000 SA households receive on average $2,500 each. Please note that this particular scheme is for people who already have solar power installed and want energy storage as well and is not related to the Tesla virtual power plant.

You can watch a video Tesla released about the South Australian Virtual Power Plant – it’ll explain what the plan is and what we can expect to see next from SA and Tesla!

There’s also a video on Twitter from Nine News Adelaide where the current (Liberal) SA state government seem happy to take credit for this scheme (which was totally organised under the previous (Labor) government). Bit of an eye-roll, but then again it’s par for the course for our beloved Australian politicians.

Regardless of that, the tenant in this video had a $500+ bill for electricity every quarter, which has been reduced to $175 since having the solar system installed. So those are some fantastic numbers!

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Rodds Bay Solar Farm Receives DA

The Rodds Bay Solar Farm is one step closer, with its owner Renew Estate given planning approval for the 300MW farm around 50km south of Gladstone in Central Queensland.

Rodds Bay Solar Farm

Rodds Bay Solar Farm - Gladstone
Rodds Bay Solar Farm – Gladstone (source: Google Maps)

The Rodds Bay Solar Farm was given planning approval last week with 40 conditions

Renew Estate director Simon Currie spoke about the ramifications of the solar farm – solar jobs for Gladstone, lower prices for residential and commercial solar buyers. 

“At its peak, a solar farm of this size requires about 300 workers on site,” said Mr. Currie in a statement, reprinted in the Gladstone Observer:

“We will collaborate with local training organisations to ensure local job-seekers have the skills needed to construct and operate a solar farm, and we will prioritise the employment of locals in enduring roles once the project is operational.”

“More generation and competition mean lower power prices and Renew Estate looks forward to delivering the cheap solar energy produced by this project to consumers andbusinesses in the greater Gladstone area.”
 
Wirsol Energy, who are a major shareholder of Renew Estate, are no rookies to the game – with 200MW already operating or under construction in Queensland. The company has a goal of deploying 1GW in Australia, according to managing director Mark Hogan.

“This is an exciting time for the solar industry in Australia and Rodds Bay will help us quickly reach our target of 1GW in Australia.” he said.

The Wemen Sun Farm which is located close to the border of Victoria and New South Wales and approximately 110km south east of Mildura is also being built by Wirsol Energy.
 
Renew Estate are also trying to find an alternative site to build a second solar farm in the area. Plans for its Yarwun solar farm are currently on pause after residents complained about the project.
 

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Latrobe Valley solar: 30 public buildings to get PV.

Latrobe Valley solar energy is set to get a boost with 30 public buildings in the area to have rooftop installed at no cost, thanks to a bit of help from the state government in Victoria.

Latrobe Valley Solar Scheme

Energy and environment minister Lily D’Ambrosio was in Moe last week to discuss the scheme and show the Latrobe Valley residents a list of the public buildings in line for free solar upgrades, including in some cases solar hot water and lighting. One such building is the Toongabbie Mechanics Institute – a building where existing solar has already saved $500 on last quarter’s electricity bill. Toongabbie Mechanics Institute treasurer Roger Ries summed it up very succintly:

“It’s made amazing reductions. It’s cheaper for the recreation reserve users and it will make it cheaper for the hall here,” Mr Ries said.

Minister D’Ambrosio spoke about the impact these home solar energy upgrades will have on the lives of lives of 1000 vulnerable Gippslanders.

“The energy upgrades and solar installations will not only help bring down energy prices for the Latrobe Valley, they will create local jobs in the renewable energy sector,” she said.

According to the Latrobe Valley Express, over 1000 households/low incomes earners are also eligible for solar systems as part of the $5 million Latrobe Valley Home Energy Upgrade Program.  Local businesses Gippsland Solar (who are responsible for the fantastic Camberwell Grammar School Solar System), Sunny Afternoons and Rocky’s Electrical will be used for both programs which will create 10 full-time jobs.

Latrobe Valley Solar Scheme
Latrobe Valley Solar Scheme (source: EPA Victoria)

There’s been some great solar news for the Latrobe Valley / Gippsland area with regards to both end-user solutions and large-scale renewable energy production – with a 70MW solar farm on the outskirts of Morwell announced back in April, to be build by ARP Australian Solar who said the plant will be a hybrid solar and battery farm which create “well over 100 jobs [during construction]” for the area. 

“There would also be a number of ongoing jobs … involving security, electrical testing, monitoring and what have you.”, according to ARP Australian solar director George Hughes. 

Mr Hughes elaborated on a potential timeline for the Morwell solar farm: 

“With everything going according to plan, we’re looking to start construction in January or February next year, early 2019.”

We’ll keep you updated on both the Latrobe Valley Solar Scheme and the Morwell solar farm. Exciting times for Gippsland!

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Rooftop solar subsidies – ACCC calls for axe.

Rooftop solar subsidies should be completely removed and the solar feed-in tariffs should be managed at a state rather than a federal level, according to recommendations from the competition watchdog.

Rooftop solar subsidies in Australia

The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission’s electricity affordability report, which was released this week, highlights the cost of our National Energy Market, which include the large-scale renewable energy target, the small-scale renewable energy scheme and solar feed-in tariffs.

The ACCC said the cost of the LRET are expected to fall in the years after 2020, and were happy to leave the scheme to wind up on its 2030 end date. They said that the SRES, however, cost $130 million in 2016-17, and should be wound down and abolished by 2021, almost ten years ahead of schedule, to reduce costs for all consumers – not just those with solar installed.

The report, according to the Australian, found that households with solar panels installed earn $538 per year via feed-in tariffs, which doesn’t count the fact that they pay less for electricity as well:

“Meanwhile, non-solar households and businesses have faced the burden of the cost of premium solar feed-in tariff schemes and the SRES,” the ACCC said.

“While premium solar schemes are closed to new consumers, the costs of these schemes are ­enduring.”

With the New South Wales solar feed-in tariff to drop by 44% this financial year, the glory days of feed-in tariffs could be behind us. But at what point do we stop to count the social cost (i.e. the environmental displacement)? 

Rooftop solar subsidies in Australia - Opposition Leader Bill Shorten
Rooftop solar subsidies in Australia – Opposition Leader Bill Shorten (source: Wikipedia)

The 398 page report has ‘produced vital ammunition to reform energy’, has been ‘hijacked by zealots’ and doesn’t justify the building of new coal-fired power stations, depending on who you ask. About an hour ago Bill Shorten admitted he hasn’t read the ACCC report yet so it’ll be interesting to see what his thoughts are. Certainly just early days for this conversation, but it’s good to see Australia talking about our energy future and trying to come up with a plan. Watch this space! 

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Redflow batteries in Fiji – to power Digital TV rollout.

Redflow batteries in Fiji – Redflow Limited have shipped $1.2m of Redflow ZBM2 batteries to assist Fiji in rolling out digital TV for its population, according to a press release by the Brisbane/Thailand based company.

Redflow batteries in Fiji

Auckland-based telecommunications infrastructure company Hitech Solutions will install the Redflow batteries in Fiji and have ordered US $1.2m of Redflow’s ZBM2 zinc-bromine flow batteries to store and supply renewable energy which will then power the island’s digital TV.

Redflow Batteries in Fiji - Hitech CEO Derek Gaeth
Redflow Batteries in Fiji – Hitech CEO Derek Gaeth (source: Redflow Press Release)

Hitech will install 5-60 ZBM2 batteries at more than 10 sites in Fiji. Many of these locations are on hills and don’t have access to the country’s electricity grid, so they require energy storage instead.

Redflow CEO Simon Hackett said in a press release that this repeat large sale (Hitech bought the batteries in two separate orders) shows how ZBM2 batteries can displace conventional lead-acid batteries for network power applications in demanding and/or remote environments. “

We are delighted that Hitech has again chosen Redflow batteries,” he said. “This second major sale confirms the unique advantages of our zinc-bromine flow batteries for this high-workload deployment in the tropics. The ZBM2 excels in hot environments and for applications that require high cycle depth and cycle frequency, such as the deployment Hitech is undertaking. This sort of environment and use case wears out lead-acid batteries in relatively short order, requiring their frequent replacement, whereas ZBM2s thrive on heat and hard work.

“We look forward to working with Hitech to ensure its imminent deployments of remote energy systems are successful in a variety of site sizes.”

Redflow’s 10 kilowatt-hour (kWh) ZBM2 is, according to the manufacturer, the world’s smallest zinc-bromine flow battery. The ZBM2 runs at a native 48 volts DC, which means it’s simple to install and deployable in scalable parallel clusters which means high availability, high scale deployments at the largest sites.

The ZBM2 battery comes with a 10-year or 36,500 kWh warranty – a much longer operating life than lead-acid batteries, which are typically replaced every 18-36 months when used in warm climates.

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Solar PV installations in Australia Triple From 2017

Solar PV installations in Australia have tripled in the first half of 2018 in comparison to solar uptake in 2017. How will this affect our renewable economy and can we expect this to continue for the rest of the year? Where are all the installs coming from? Let’s take a look. 

Solar PV installations in Australia

Solar PV installations in Australia Triple From 2017 (source: Canberra Times via Green Energy Markets)
Solar PV installations in Australia Triple From 2017 (source: Canberra Times via Green Energy Markets)

The Canberra Times is reporting that household systems are now, on average, around 5 kilowatts. As the technology improves we’ll see this figure rise and (potentially) prices fall. They’ll certainly fall in terms of per watt pricing but the system uptake has resulted in 44% lower feed-in tariffs in New South Wales already – we’ll have to wait and see how this affects the rest of the country. It certainly doesn’t seem to have curbed the ACT’s appetite for solar systems – with the state leading Australia by a huge margin with a 130.8% uptake in installs over Q1+2 in 2018 vs. the same period. 

Green Energy Markets are also predicting that by 2020 renewable energy will represent around 33% (1/3) of Australia’s energy mix – almost double the 17.3% measured in 2015. Ric Brazzale of Green Energy Markets told the Canberra Times they are expecting to see around 30% higher figures by the end of the year:

“If we continue on at the same rate of installations we will end the year at between 1450 MW to 1500 MW – this will be more than 30 per cent higher than the 1100 MW installed last year,” he said.

It’s important to note that the amazing growth commercial solar (i.e. systems which are more than 15kW) has also seen over the last 12 months is heavily reflected in these figures. Over a quarter of June’s solar system demand is due to companies wanting to insure themselves from rapidly rising electricity prices and take control of their bills back by installing a commercial solar system on their premises. 

If you’re interested in reading all the specifics of their report, please click here to download Green Markets’ Renewable Energy Index for May 2018.

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Logan solar trial to go ahead for low-income households.

Logan solar power has received a boost as Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s state government offer a solar trial for low-income families, following the success of similar schemes in Cairns and Rockhampton. 

Logan Solar Systems for low-income households

Logan Solar Systems for low-income househoulds
Logan Solar Systems for low-income househoulds (source: AFR.com)

According to Yahoo, the solar panels will be installed on selected state-owned homes in the Waterford, Coomera, Woodridge, Logan, Algester and Springwood electorates. It appears that a discounted per kilowatt-hour price will be offered to those who join the scheme. 

Click here to view the statement on the Queensland government’s website about expressions of interest to find an energy partner for the Logan solar trial. 

Energy Minister Dr Anthony Lynham spoke about the savings that can be had for families undertaking this scheme:

“The Queensland Government is committed to increasing the uptake of renewable energy to drive jobs and investment and reduce emissions.

“In Cairns and Rockhampton we are expecting to see savings of up to $250 per year on electricity bills and we want to bring savings to tenants in Logan as well,” Dr Lynham said.

According to the press release, more than 800 solar panel systems have been installed in Cairns and Rockhampton as part of the scheme; and now it’s greater Brisbane’s turn. 

The possibility of solar job creation through this scheme is something the government is also carefully considering: 

“One aspect we will look at is whether the successful tenderer will employ local tradies, including electricians and suppliers,” State Development Minister Cameron Dick said on Monday.

“Logan households will then be invited to participate in the program.”

“The Palaszczuk Government is committed to helping Queenslanders with their cost of living pressures and this will help some of our most vulnerable people,” Mr Dick continued.

Click here to view the statement on the Queensland government’s website about expressions of interest to find an energy partner for the Logan solar trial.  It’s also on the QTenders website from 9 July 2018 – https://www.hpw.qld.gov.au/qtenders/

Great news for those following Annastacia Palaszczuk’s environmental policies after also announcing no-interest solar loans in QLD earlier this year under their ‘Powering Queensland’s Future’ plan.

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