Solar loans in South Australia, sonnen to move HQ

Premier Jay Weatherill has announced $100m for solar loans in South Australia. Up to 10,000 South Australian homeowners will be able to access up to $10,000 for loans for solar panels, batteries, or both. The loans will be interest free for the first 7  years. At the same time, German company sonnen has announced it will relocate its Australian headquarters from Sydney to Adelaide – we’ll report more on that next week. 

Solar Loans in South Australia

Solar Loans in South Australia
Solar Loans in South Australia (source: Jeremy Buckingham via Wikipedia)

Yesterday the Labor party made the announcement that they will offer these solar loans for private homes – with Premier Weatherill discussing the ramifications of the plan in a press conference:

“It’s going to slash bills, we’ve already seen that with our virtual power station, modelling demonstrates a 30 per cent reduction in energy power,” he said.

“We’ve seen from the national regulator that renewable energy projects are projected to reduce energy bills by $300 over the next two years, so it’s just beginning to happen.”

The Liberal party already announced a very similar policy last October so it looks like there’ll be a good result for renewables no matter who wins – it’s a little surprising to see Premier Weatherill offer something so similar when he has been such a champion of renewable energy for so long. Regardless, it’s a great scheme and one which will have a good result either way – South Australia continues to lead the charges with regards to renewables in Australia.

According to the ABC, opposition leader Steven Marshall said their $100m plan was to provide grants of $2,500 per household for 40,000 dwellings – so less money, but for more properties. Mr Marshall argued that 10,000 households was not enough to ‘shift the dial’ with regards to ballooning energy prices:

“The reality is 10,000 is not going to shift the dial in South Australia in terms of prices, unlike the Liberal Party which has put our policy up for independent scrutiny and we know that prices will come down under the Liberal Party’s energy policy,” Mr Marshall said.

“We’ve put our plan out for independent evaluation.

“Labor still hasn’t provided any indication whether this is going to bring down energy prices in South Australia for any more than just the 10,000 people it’s talking about.”

Back in October last year the Liberal party said their plan will save $300 per household per annum, but later admitted their modelling was inaccurate and the savings will be around $70 and won’t start until 2022. To achieve that figure of $300 a $500m-$700m interconnecter to New South Wales would need to be connected by 2021.

No word on specific savings with regards to Labor’s plan so for the time being voters will need to decide whether $2,500 for 40,000 houses or $10,000 for 10,000 houses is going to have a better effect on energy prices and stability. No doubt we’ll have more information on this as election time draws nearer! 

 

Renewable Energy Storage Target for South Australia

South Australian premier Jay Weatherill is on the campaign trail at the moment – promising to introduce Australia’s first renewable energy storage target (which the state will subsidise) and also upping the current state-based 2025 renewable energy target from 50% to 75% (given they’re already at 48.9%).

Renewable Energy Storage Target

Jay Weatherill - Renewable Energy Storage Target for South Australia
Jay Weatherill – Renewable Energy Storage Target for South Australia (source: @jayweatherill on Twitter)

Weatherill was at an election forum which was about the environment on Tuesday (the 20th) and said the South Australian state election to be held on March 17 will be primarily focused on renewable energy – a ‘referendum on renewables’ of sorts: 

“If we go down, they will be wagging their fingers at everybody around the nation, to say that’s what happens if you push too hard into renewable energy,” Weatherill said. “That’s what the prime minister is trying to do and that’s what is going to happen.”

He has promised to lift the renewable energy target to 75% and implement a renewable energy storage target which would be 25% of SA’s peak demand – approximately 750MW of storage. The government would help the private sector meet this target through subsidy arrangements. 

Weatherill discussed his party’s policy further with Guardian Australia, noting that South Australia are happy to continue ‘going it alone’ if they’re not going to get any help from the Turnbull government:

“It’s a rejection of the federal government’s approach – and the state Liberal party’s approach,” Weatherill said. “We’re not interested in putting our leadership in renewable energy in the hands of people that don’t believe in a renewable energy future.”

Carnegie Clean Energy reported yesterday that they have secured $3 million in government funding to build a 2MW, 500 kWh Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) at the General Motors Holden site in Elizabeth, South Australia. With the rapidly decreasing cost of large-scale energy storage, it seems that the Renewable Energy Storage target shouldn’t be too much of a problem and will be a massive help to baseline power and will also assist in reducing the blackouts which plagued the country in 2016.

“This solar and battery project by Carnegie is part of a wave of new investment in South Australia we have leveraged through the $150m Renewable Technology Fund announced as part of our energy plan,” Weatherill said at the time.

In further news, Weatherill has today announced that South Australian households will be able to apply for a $10,000 loan to cover the cost of installing solar panels and battery storage – which we’ll cover tomorrow. 

 

Ikea Solar Panels in Australia – Cost, Pricing, Brands.

According to new IKEA Australia boss Jan Gardberg, the Swedish furniture company will sell solar panels ‘at cost’ in Australia as part of a strategy to increase their market share across the country. We reported on IKEA solar panels in the UK last August and reached out about a timeline for Australia, but didn’t get a response back. But now we know!

Ikea Solar Panels in Australia

“We have already introduced (solar panels) into the UK market and in Poland and something similar in Japan, and I and the team would like to find a way to introduce that to the Australian market,” Jan Gardberg, the new boss of IKEA Australia, told Channel 9. 

“It would actually be cost-neutral because we believe this to be another positive way that we, as a big company, can contribute for the sustainable life at home for the many people in Australia”he continued – which sounds like fantastic news for consumers given solar panel technology is increasing so rapidly and energy storage becoming so commonplace the price is becoming a lot more reasonable.

But what are the ramifications for the smaller solar companies when they’re already in a race to the bottom in terms of discounting? If a company with almost bottomless pockets is selling solar as a loss-leading strategy there’s going to be some interesting days ahead. Keeping in mind the customers will still need to pay for inverters and installation there’s still money to be made for those shrewd enough to piggyback on IKEA’s plan – but along with shrinking STCs it’s definitely tough times for those in the retail solar game, where profit margins are already razor thin. 

Natalie Collard from the Clean Energy Council was positive about the Ikea solar panels:

“We expect IKEA will respond quickly to any concerns about installation quality or performance from the systems that are being sold in-store. IKEA is continuing the trend of large mainstream businesses adopting renewable energy, and this will only strengthen in the years ahead.”

“The Clean Energy Council’s Approved Solar Retailers have all committed to excellence in customer service, a minimum five-year whole-of-system warranty and ethical marketing practices. A list of these businesses can be found at www.approvedsolarretailer.com.au.”

Ikea Solar Panel Price

Ikea Solar Panels
Ikea Solar Panels (source: noco2.com.au)

RenewEconomy have reported that the UK IKEA solar panel offerings are from Solarcentury, and they currently have three separate offerings for solar panels:

  1. 3kW solar system for ~$7,800 AUD
  2. Customisable solar system (from 3kW) starting at around ~$8,700 AUD
  3. Customisable solar system with ‘seamless roof integration’ (from 3kW), starting at around $10,900 AUD

Since August 2017 IKEA also sell battery storage to the UK market – with their batteries coming from SonnenBatterie and LG Chem, both well respected and very highly performing brands. 

They also offer a 3,5, or 15 year loan to ‘spread the cost of solar’ if you’re so inclined. 

No news on how much these panels will cost in Australia or if they’ll be the same as in the UK, but as soon as we have any information we’ll update this article! 

Solar Power for Rental Properties

Solar power for rental properties may start becoming more common as the cost of installs decreases and councils/community groups work on ideas such as giving landlords interest-free loans to install solar on their rental properties. With over 30% of Australia’s population currently renting, we need to figure out a way to make it viable for landlords and renters alike to benefit from renewable energy.

Solar power for rental properties

According to the ABC, 1.8 million Australian homes have PV solar installed on their roof – with a record amount being installed last year. This increase is due to two main factors – rapidly increasing electricity costs and decreasing cost of the actual solar technology.

According to Andrew Reddaway from the Alternative Technology Association, Australia could save 5.6 million tonnes of greenhouse gas if we work on increasing solar panel uptake for rental properties. 

“It’s a bit of a risk of the country dividing into the solar energy haves and have-nots,” Mr Reddaway said. 

Whilst not exactly a ‘two speed economy’, the increasing number of renters mean that we need to have a look at finding ways to get solar installed on these houses. There are obvious ramifications for having a situation where it’s not feasible for landlords to install solar power on properties they own – unfortunately magnanimity / environmental concern aren’t powerful enough drivers for owners to shell out $10,000 for a system. What sort of system would be fair, keeping in mind having solar power on the roof will also increase the value of the property. 

“It’ll be the tenant who sees the benefit on the electricity bill, whereas the person who pays for the solar system is generally the landlord. So the main question is: What’s in it for the landlord?” Mr Reddaway continued. 

Z-Net Uralla, a community group in regional NSW, have teamed up with the NFP CORENA (Citizens Own Renewable Energy Network Australia) to give landlords interest-free loans to install solar on their rental properties. CORENA work with both parties to discuss a fair increase in rent to help loan repayments.

“We are hoping that the partnership can be a model for communities elsewhere to copy,” Margaret Hender of CORENA said.

Solar power for rental properties - Margaret Hender CORENA
Solar power for rental properties via no-interest loans – Margaret Hender of CORENA (source: https://corenafund.org.au)

The energy inequality currently being inexperienced has led to a few different attempts at trying to bridge the gap. CORENA have their interest free loans, and there are options for renters to install their own portable solar for apartment buildings, as we investigated last year. 

The city of Darebin has been offering interest free solar loans for residents,with repayments added to household rates. 

Are you a renter or a landlord and have any experience with solar power? Let us know in the comments. 

Redback Technologies receive $4m grant from QLD

The Queensland government has given Redback Technologies a $4m grant to continue its work on developing a smart energy monitoring platform. The grant has been awarded through the Advance Queensland Platform Technology Program. 

Redback Technologies

Redback Technologies - Redback Smart Hybrid Inverter
Redback Technologies – Redback Smart Hybrid Inverter (source: redbacktech.com)

The Brisbane based Redback Technologies advertise themselves as creators of “Advanced hybrid technology with battery manages and stores solar energy, which you can save for your own personal use or sell back to grid.”

The Fifth Estate is reporting that this could result in Redback hiring up to 109 new staff to help the development and manufacture of their ‘smart energy monitoring platform’ – a system which is able to deliver real-time power generation/usage information via apps or the internet and is also able to automate smart (IOT) appliances. It also manages solar and battery energy use depending on the weather, usage patterns, current tariffs the customer has, and so on. Obviously the project is not complete yet so we don’t have a full feature set but it’s really exciting to see something like this developed so close to home, and being helped by the government. 

Innovation Minister Kate Jones told a press conference:

“Redback Technologies is at the forefront of moves to make battery storage technology more affordable, with a system that will enable a reduction in energy costs for consumers and help to pump renewable energy into the grid.

“The $4 million Advance Queensland Platform Technology Program grant will lead to the development of a smart energy monitoring platform that will give customers the ability to instantly analyse and control energy consumption.” Ms. Jones continued.

Philip Livingston, the managing director of Redback, said that there will be macro as well as end user benefits as the business grows – pointing out that the more data they’re able to get on usage patterns, we will see a commensurate increase in efficiency of their systems: 

“The support of the Queensland government will enable Redback and our partners to create a platform ecosystem, using big data to drive better outcomes for energy users and energy businesses,” he said.

“This technology will benefit industries beyond energy.”

Newcastle solar farm to go ahead – Carnegie

Carnegie Clean Energy, who last week announced they will be building both the Kalbarri microgrid and the Kalgoorlie solar farm, have had another win today as their fully owned subsidiary Energy Made Clean won a tender to build and operate a $7m, 5MW Newcastle solar farm. 

Newcastle Solar Farm

Newcastle Solar Farm
Newcastle Solar Farm (source: Carnegie Clean Energy)

According to a press released they issued yesterday, Carnegie Clean Energy won the tender to install the PV solar + storage facility on a capped, former landfill site at the Summerhill Waste Management Centre in Newcastle. The project forms part of Newcastle Council’s plan to cut emissions by 30% by 2020 as part of the Renewable Energy Target. 

Carnegie’s Managing Director, Dr Michael Ottaviano (feels like we’ve been quoting him every day lately!) said, “We are delighted to have won our first utility scale solar farm project in NSW and our first to be connected in the National Electricity Market. This project brings the value of new contracted work for our joint venture to over $30m over the past 2 months.”

The Newcastle solar farm will be installed as a ground mounted fixed tilt system. It’ll have an optimised piling system so as to benefit as much as possible from the site topology and it’ll be modular – they are preparing for the future addition of a Battery Energy Storage System (BESS). Carnegie have stated that the design phase has already commenced and plant commissioning is expected at the end of Q3 this year. 

Energy Made Clean “specialises in the delivery of mixed renewable energy microgrid projects to islands and remote and fringe of grid communities” and Carnegie is the “only company in the world to offer a combination of wave, solar, wind, battery storage and desalination via microgrids” – so it’ll be really interesting to see what their future plans are now that they have some big projects to work on! 

Tailem Bend solar farm reaches financial close.

The 127MW Tailem Bend solar project will begin construction later this month. A financial close has been achieved by Singapore energy company Equis Energy and a 22 year purchase power agreement (PPA) has already been signed with Snowy Hydro. There are now plans in the pipeline to create Tailem Bend 2.

Tailem Bend Solar Project

Tailem Bend Solar Farm
Tailem Bend Solar Farm (source: http://equisenergy.com/newsroom/)

The $200m project is 100km south-east of Adelaide and will begin construction in February, according to Equis.

The Australian Financial Review noted that there were initial plans for a 28.8MW diesel generator to support the solar farm, but these were scuppered by the Australian Energy Market Operator who placed “unreasonable technical demands” on the project.  

Equis, who are also planning on building a 1000MW project in Queensland’s part of the Surat Basin (the Wandoan solar farm), said they have a huge amount of projects in the pipeline:

“Australia represents one of the most exciting solar power generation markets globally and Equis expects to build over $1 billion of new projects over the next 24-36 months,” director David Russell said in the press release. 

“As Asia’s largest renewable energy developer, Equis is able to leverage its economies of scale to deliver large scale, low-cost, reliable renewable energy, which Australia needs, as well as providing employment opportunities and supporting economic growth in local communities.” Mr Russell continued. 

According to Deal Street Asia, the project is expected to start generating power and feeding it to the grid in the first quarter of next year. 

The Tailem Bend solar projects will generate around 413,000MWh/year, which is equivalent to 82,600 homes and will save over 200,000 tonnes of CO2 annually compared to the same generation from South Australia’s current non-renewable power plants. 

Equis Energy are also building a  250MW DC solar photovoltaic power plant with energy storage installed in NSW’s Sunraysia region (the Sunraysia solar farm)

Power Ledger Partnerships + Future Updates

We wrote late last year about blockchain based renewable energy fintech Power Ledger partnerships, which has been an astounding success and continues to move along in leaps and bounds despite the extreme volatility of the cryptocurrency market. They’ve landed a partnership with an American NFP called Helpanswers to bring their service to hundreds of sites across the United States of America.

Power Ledger Partnerships – Updates

Power Ledger Partnerships - The Team
Power Ledger Partnerships – The Team (source: https://powerledger.io/)

According to Smart Company, the partnership will stretch all over the USA – from the west (California), the south (Texas), the midwest (Chicago), and also Washington and New England. It’ll cover 50MW of PV solar storage and will be able to offer 50MWh. 

Power Ledger is a blockchain powered peer-to-peer (p2p) marketplace for producers and consumers to buy and sell renewable energy.

“We’re thrilled to partner with Helpanswers to grow our technology and platform footprint in North America and bring Power Ledger a step closer to our goal of democratising power,” Power Ledger managing director David Martin was quoted in a statement released on the Power Ledger website. 

“Power Ledger is focussed on creating the right economic and investment platform for consumer-owned, low-cost, low-carbon energy systems to transform the electricity industry.”

There have been quite a few news articles about Power Ledger since its successful ICO, which will see them pitching their ‘smart project’ to Richard Branson, among others…

If you want to learn more, co-founder David Martin had a video call with BlockchainBrad (BCB) that you might find interesting and is embedded below. A great project which certainly has a lot of potential and shows how the blockchain and renewable energy can work well in tandem! Check out our article on the WePower ICO (which has reached its goal and we’ll write about over the next week) if you’re interested in other fintech solutions for green/renewable energy. 

Power Ledger (POWR) are currently trading at $0.781389 USD according to Coin Market Cap

Mungari / Kalgoorlie Solar Farm Tender

Hot of the heels of their success last week after signing a contract with Western Power to construct a microgrid in Kalbarri, Carnegie Clean Energy look set to build a Kalgoorlie Solar Farm after winning a tender for the lease of 250 hectares of land within the Buffer Zone of the Mungari Strategic Industrial Area.

The Mungari / Kalgoorlie Solar Farm

Kalgoorlie Solar Farm - Battery Energy Storage Solutions Carnegie
Kalgoorlie Solar Farm – Battery Energy Storage Solutions Carnegie (source: carnegiece.com)

According to SmallCaps, Carnegie (ASX: CCE) plan to construct and operate a solar farm which is capable of supplying large amounts of electricity into Western Australia’s main power grid. It’ll be known as the Mungari Solar Farm and will have a capacity of up to 100MW. This will result in the farm being able to generate 20MWh of battery-storage each year. The farm will be located 6km south-west of Kalgoorlie – where it will be able to supply electricity to Australia’s Eastern Goldfields. Another great step forward for renewable energy in resources – they’ll have access to clean, stable energy and be able to lock in price points without having to worry about the volatility currently plaguing Western Australia. It’ll also help them move towards reaching their RET (Renewable Energy Target) – which is currently 24% of electricity generation to come from renewables by 2020. 

“Carnegie has a strong track record of developing greenfield sites into shovel-ready renewable projects rapidly and responsibly, most recently with its Northam Solar Farm,” said Dr Michael Ottaviano (Carnegie Clean Energy‘s Managing Director).

“We are excited to play a role in the development of the Mungari Strategic Industrial Area, which has an important role in the future economic prosperity of the Eastern Goldfields and look forward to working closely with local industries seeking sources of clean power generation, the State Government, local governments and other key stakeholders in bringing this project to fruition,” said Dr Ottaviano.

Kalbarri microgrid: Carnegie to build.

The long awaited Kalbarri microgrid will be built this year and launched in 2019, as Renewable energy developer Carnegie Clean Energy have signed a $6.8 million contract with state-owned Western Power to build a 5MW Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) in the area. 

Kalbarri Microgrid

Kalbarri Microgrid Details
Kalbarri Microgrid Details (source: Western Power)

According to the contract, Carnegie’s subsidiary Energy Made Clean will be teaming up with JV partner Lendlease services to build the sustainable energy storage system. It will be able to generate 4.5MWh and a minimum of 2MWh will always be accessible for backup services. 

The BESS facility will have two different modes – “Island Mode”, and “Grid Mode”, with the former allowing operation independent of the electricity grid. Grid mode will do what it says on the tin – helping provide network stabilisation for voltage and frequency to other generation sources. 

Carnegie Clean Energy CEO Dr Michael Ottaviano was ecstatic about winning the contract: 

“We’re excited to have won an extremely competitive, global tender using the latest in storage and control technologies. This reinforces Carnegie’s leadership in the design and delivery of innovative energy solutions in Australia,” he said. 

“(this) contract award comes just over 12 months after the establishment of the EMC/Lendlease JV which has secured $25m in orders in the last 4 weeks with Kalbarri and our Northam Solar Farm. With tender cycles running in excess of 12 months, and a clear focus on delivery of high-value projects for utility grade customers, we are just starting to see the results of our hard work over the past year.” Mr Ottaviano continued. 

West Australian Energy Minister Ben Wyatt also spoke of the BESS microgrid in Kalbarri and how it is a “game changer” for communities “…subject to environmental factors that can cause outages. The improved reliability for the region will boost the local tourism and retail operations, as well as enhance the lifestyle of residents.”