Panda Solar Farm in Datong, China.

Looks like we’re starting to reach critical mass with solar energy – an interesting story out of Datong today – where a panda solar farm has been created. The panda shaped farm is a bit of a PR effort for China, who continue to lead the world in investment in renewable energy, having added almost 50% of the global solar capacity in 2018. Let’s take a look! 

Panda Solar Farm in Datong, China.

The 250 acre solar farm, which is shaped like a panda, has completed phase one recently. Renewable company Panda Green Energy added 50MW (half of their eventual goal of 100MW) to the grid in Datong. 

According to an article in Forbes, the farm was proposed in May 2016 by the largest shareholder of Panda Green Energy, China Merchants New Energy. The farm was approved with the goal of building support for the renewable energy amongst Chinese youth. It will also replace burning 1 million tons of coal over the next 25 years. 

Panda Solar Farm in China (source: Forbes.com via CHINA MERCHANTS NEW ENERGY/PANDA GREEN ENERGY)In order to create the ‘dark’ and ‘light’ solar panels to create the panda, darker mono-crystalline silicon and lighter thin film cells were used. When placed in an array they become the panda you see above!

Are you, for some inexplicable reason, crazy about Panda shaped solar farms? Well, you’re in luck. There are 100 more coming across Asia in the next few years. Fiji have already announced one underway. We’ll keep you updated as soon as any others are finished!

With China working so hard to offer renewable energy to its populace, we hope to see other countries step up and investing big time in large scale renewable energy production.

Some other Chinese solar announcements we’ve covered:

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Doping Solar Cells | Perovskite Tech Upgrade!

Doping solar cells – Swinburne University have been making big improvements on their research in upgrading efficiency of perovskite solar cells. Let’s read more.

Doping Solar Cells | Perovskite Tech Upgrade!

Swinburne University have been working in conjunction with Wuhan University of Technology in China, the University of Melbourne, and the University of Adelaide. Their research is to do with ‘doping solar cells’ – using sunlight as a ‘healing process’ to improve cell efficiency and stability. ‘Doping’ perovskite solar cells with potassium is having a big effect on increasing stability and efficiency of the solar cells. 

We’ve written extensively about the potential that perovskite solar cells could have – potentially overcoming Shockley–Queisser limit (33.7% at 1.34 eV) means that the theoretical conversion limit silicon based solar cells has could be improved upon.

As per Wikipedia, Perovskite tech has been moving along in leaps and bounds over the past 5 years:

Solar cell efficiencies of devices using these materials have increased from 3.8% in 2009[3] to 24.2% in 2019 in single-junction architectures,[4] and, in silicon-based tandem cells, to 28.0%,[4] exceeding the maximum efficiency achieved in single-junction silicon solar cells.

With the potassium ‘doping’, the sunlight starts to repair ‘interface traps’:

“Sunlight becomes a trigger for the positive formation of potassium bromide-like compounds, eliminating the interface traps and stabilising the mobile ions, thus resulting in improved power conversion efficiency,” Dr Weijian Chen, an early career researcher at Swinburne, noted in comments on the Swinburne website.

“This research contributes to the rationalisation of the improved performance and guides future design protocol of better solar cells.” Dr Xiaoming Wen, senior research fellow at Swinburne continued.

“The demonstrated solar cell characterisation methods are at the cutting edge, and will help our industry partners develop a new protocol for commercial perovskite solar cells.” Director of Swinburne’s newly founded Centre of Translational Atomaterials (CTAM), Professor Baohua Jia said about the technology.

If you’d like to read more, the research, funded by the Australian Research Council under the Discovery Project program, has been published in Advanced Energy Materials.

 

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Cultana Solar Farm to go ahead

The Cultana solar farm will go ahead, having received planning approval from the South Australian government. Let’s take a closer look at the project. 

Cultana Solar Farm to go ahead

The Cultana solart farm will be a 280MW solar farm being developed by Simec Zen Energy Australia. The project is set to commence construction within the next 12 months. It’ll be constructed on land next to the Whyalla Steelworks, who are currently expanding via Sanjeev Gupta and GFG Alliance (and who will undoubtedly need more power in the coming months and years). 

Sanjeev Gupta and GFG Alliance’s $1b fund to help support solar power in the Whyalla will be tapped for the Cultana project – despite some blowback from Adani Renewables who have bizarrely asked that the project be assessed by the Federal Department of the Environment under the EBPC Act. Adani have raised concerns about the potential impact on animals such as the threatened western grass wren and the slender-billed thornbill. They also discussed the problems with impact to Aboriginal heritage, dust, and traffic impacts. Seems strange given their own project will undoubtedly be scrutinized for the same reasons, but they must have a plan…

The project was signed off by SA Minister for Planning Stephan Knoll who put some restrictions on the approval. Simec have been asked to submit Environmental Management Plans for the construction and the operation phases of the Cultana Solar Farm. 

According to RenewEconomy, the $350M project will generate 600GWh of electricity per annum. This project is tipped to create 350 jobs during construction and 10 ongoing operations solar jobs after it’s completed. It’s expected to contribute savings of 492,000 tonnes of co2 emissions per year. 

Cultana (source: rowanramsey.com.au)

“There is a great future for energy‐intensive industries in Australia,” Sanjeev Gupta was quoted as saying. 

“This the first step in GFG leading the country’s industrial transition to more competitive energy.”

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Solar Energy Jobs double in 17-18 FY

Solar energy jobs in Australia received a huge boost in the 17-18 financial year according to statistics from the ABS. The amount of jobs in this sector double from the previous year. 

Solar Energy Jobs in Australia

With the explosion of solar power in Australia, solar jobs have also seen a drastic uptick – according to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) the number of full time jobs in the renewable energy sector rose by 28% in 17/18. A whopping 46% of this represents rooftop solar – the total of 17,740 full time jobs is up a whopping 60% from 15-16 numbers.

Solar Energy Jobs in Australia (source: @ahsan19 via Unsplash.com)
Solar Energy Jobs in Australia (source: @ahsan19 via Unsplash.com)

“Factors contributing to the growth in renewable energy uptake in Australia include a reduction in costs, greater interest in clean energy sources and the development of electricity storage technologies,” Jonathon Khoo from the ABS said in comments published on the SBS website.

“Although this has led to a boost in employment in the renewable energy sector, employment in renewable energy remains comparatively small compared with other forms of energy which employs around 59,000 people.”

“We saw large scale solar projects – systems with an installed capacity of 100 kilowatts or greater – overtake hydroelectric power to become the second-largest creator of renewable jobs” Mr Khoo continued. 

An article in the Sydney Morning Herald quoted Simon Currie from Renew Estate – he discussed the ramifications for solar employees and those looking to get involved in this rapidly growing industry:

“Projects like Bomen – in Wagga Wagga – are showing the way for the future, by using localised labour, and it paves the way for how the renewable workforce is used in the future,” Mr Currie said.

Solar farm jobs rose steadily from 930 in 2016-17 to 2880 last year, beating hydro’s 2020 jobs and the 1890 employees working at wind farms.  Around 1 in 4 homes which are suitable for solar power have it installed, so there’s still plenty of room to move. We also have energy storage to keep an eye on! 

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Daintree microgrid project | Hydrogen

The Daintree microgrid project has been funded almost $1m by the federal government. It’s set to become Australia’s first solar to hydrogen microgrid and will replace reliance on an expensive and polluting diesel system. Let’s learn more about it! 

Daintree microgrid project

Daintree Microgrid Project (source: Killerscene via Wikipedia)
Daintree Microgrid Project (source: Killerscene via Wikipedia)

The grant amount is $990,150 which will go to the Daintree Renewable Energy Pty Ltd company, as per an article in Energy Magazine, which also noted that the fund will complement the AEMO’s review of microgrids and the regulatory bodies which will govern them, created by the government in August of last year.

Russell O’Doherty, president of Daintree Renewable Energy, was quoted in an interview with Newsport:

“This power will be used to help power the hydrogen cell; the hydrogen gas produced will be collected and stored and used to fuel large scale generators. The only by product of this system is hot water,” he said.

“This is absolutely fantastic news for the environmentally-conscious Daintree community,” Federal Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch also weighed in:

“Far North Queenslanders, especially those living in the Daintree, are extremely passionate about their natural environment and this announcement is a big win for the entire region.”

“The proposed microgrid will store energy generated by new and existing solar panels by converting it to hydrogen, generating reliable power and reducing the World Heritage Area’s reliance on diesel fuel to generate power, with consumption currently estimated at around 4 million litres of diesel per annum,” Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor said.

However it’s not all peachy in the Daintree – the Douglas Shire Sustainability Group is clashing with Daintree Renewable Energy with regards to reticulated power north of Daintree. According to PV Magazine Australia, the DSSG is concerned the renewable project could result in long term damage to the world heritage environment and to tourism. You can learn more about that by clicking here. Watch this space to see what happens there, but surely moving from diesel to solar is a no brainer! 

 

 

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