Solar Road Failure in France – Update on Technology

The world’s first solar road (Normandy road in France) has been a bit of a bust. According to an article in Business Insider it’s in very poor shape and not even worth repairing. What a shame – let’s read more about the Normandy solar road, what went wrong, and what its failure might mean for future solar highways.

Solar Road Failure in France – Update on Technology, Idaho solar road.

The Normandy solar road covers 2800 square meters and was installed in 2016 in Tourouvre-au-Perche. 

A report from Le Monde has been translated by Business Insider and paints a pretty sad picture of the road’s effectiveness (or lack thereof):

On top of the damage and poor wear of the road, the Normandy solar track also failed to fulfill its energy-production goals. The original aim was to produce 790 kWh each day, a quantity that could illuminate a population of between 3,000 and 5,000 inhabitants. But the rate produced stands at only about 50% of the original predicted estimates.

Other issues the ~$6.1m Normandy road has include rotting leaves, thunderstorms, and the volume of the solar road – where the speed limit even had to be lowered as it was so loud.  Daily Caller are advising that 75% of the panels were broken pre-installation and now 83% are non-functional. The current amount of energy being generated by this project is so low it would only be able to power a small water fountain and restroom lights. The Daily Caller article also discusses a $3.9m USD Idaho road which is suffering from a similar issue. 

If you’d like to read the original article (it’s in French) from Le Monde, entitled “En Normandie, le fiasco de la plus grande route solaire du monde”, please click here

If you’d like to read more about other solar highways across the world, here are a few links:

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Hackers Now Targeting Power Grids

There’s a growing threat to the power grid prompting a number of Australians to consider solar – Hackers. Sound far fetched? Let’s read on.

Hackers Now Targeting Power Grids

There’s a growing threat to the power grid that’s prompting a number of Australians to consider solar – Hackers. It’s one of the reasons why some of us are becoming preppers. Many of us laugh at these extreme predictions however the threat is real. Many fear it could bring households and businesses to its knees when significant power outages are achieved. With the improvements in the efficiency and cost of solar batteries, preparing to be self-sufficiency is becoming an attractive option. While power generators may be in use for large-scale corporations and businesses that require electricity to be always available, solar batteries are an option for small businesses and households. Battery stored power can at least help us be self-sufficient for the short-term when required.

An anonymous hacking group known to target industrial systems is now attacking power grids around the world. But what does this mean for us here in Australia and can it be prevented?

It is believed that the group of hackers attacked the ICS (industrial control systems) of a Saudi Arabian petrochemical plant. But the industrial cybersecurity company Dragos says the list of victims is getting longer and it includes power grids in Australia.

The hacker group in question (called Xenotime) became known after an incident in 2017. Back then, the group was involved in infecting the previously-mentioned Saudi Arabian petrochemical plant with malware (called Trisis, HatMan, or Triton). The malware was specially designed to obstruct industrial safety systems.

In particular, the malware interfered with the ESD systems (emergency shutdown systems). Security companies forewarned that hackers could cause physical harm and even shut down operations. According to experts, such activity is equivalent to a state’s preparation for an attack. Later, the security company FireFly conducted analysis and connected this hackers’ attack to a state-funded research laboratory located in Russia. In addition, the company said that they discovered the same malicious software at another company.

Solar is no longer about saving and making money alone, it’s about security. The security company Dragos now warns that Xenotime is no longer focused only on gas and oil and has begun probing power networks located in Asia-Pacific and the States.

According to Dragos, the attack on the gas and oil facility in Saudi Arabia was actually an upsurge of ICS attacks. After that attack, Xenotime has expanded and targeted gas and oil companies in other parts of the world. In 2018, the hacking group attacked a number of ICS manufacturers and vendors.

After the 2017 attack, Xenotime has started research and scanning on possible targets which are mostly located in Europe and North America. At the beginning of 2019, the hacking group attempted to gather information related to Asia-Pacific and US electricity plants.

Dragos’ analysts believe that such behaviour could be a sign that the hacking group is planning a cyber attack on a larger scale. The group also attempted to use lists of stolen passwords and usernames in order to enter target accounts; however, so far, these attempts have been unfruitful. Nevertheless, Xenotime’s interest in power grids shouldn’t be taken lightly as their final goal is to compromise safety.

Dragos’ experts say that for now, the hacking group’s activity is mainly focused on gathering information and gaining access to operations necessary for an intrusion into industrial control systems in the future. However, there’s no proof that the hackers are actually able to execute a full-scale disruptive attack on power grids.

Still, the security company says that all ICS-related firms and organisations should be prepared for potential intrusions. Security teams need to be aware that ICS attacks are very probable and could happen at any time. They should think about solutions in case of loss of SIS integrity; for instance, creating an on-call incident response teams, process and configuration data to be used for comparison to other compromised devices, as well as means to facilitate recovery in case of a breach. All these are complex and sensitive operations and for that reason precisely, they must be taken into consideration in advance.

The ICS infrastructure runs everything from rail networks and factories to power grids, and that’s why these threats must be taken seriously. Experts are warning that hacking attempts are on the rise. Enemies are investing in the ability to intrude into crucial infrastructure such as gas and oil, water and electricity.

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The Planetary Society’s LightSail 2 Solar Satellite

The Planetary Society have launched a solar satellite which has been named the Lightsail 2. The solar sailing Cubesat device will be in orbit for the rest of August. Let’s learn more about the solar sailing technology and what the Planetary Society hope to achieve with the launch of this fascinating new piece of technology! 

The Planetary Society’s LightSail 2 Solar Satellite

The Planetary Society’s LightSail 2 Solar Satellite (source: planetary.org)

The concept of ‘solar sailing’ means that an object will be moved by photons escaping the sun’s gravitational pull. According to Popular Mechanics, It’s the second ever solar sailing object to fly – with the solar satellite following IKAROS (Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation Of the Sun) from Japan, which launched in 2010. IKAROS certainly has the cooler name, but the LightSail 2 has some superior technology – an aluminzed (a coating of aluminum alloy) Mylar sail and far better uptime.

“For The Planetary Society, this moment has been decades in the making,” said Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye. “Carl Sagan talked about solar sailing when I was in his class in 1977. But the idea goes back at least to 1607, when Johannes Kepler noticed that comet tails must be created by energy from the sun. The LightSail 2 mission is a game-changer for spaceflight and advancing space exploration.”

“We’re thrilled to announce mission success for LightSail 2,” LightSail program manager and Planetary Society chief scientist Bruce Betts said. “Our criteria was to demonstrate controlled solar sailing in a CubeSat by changing the spacecraft’s orbit using only the light pressure of the sun, something that’s never been done before. I’m enormously proud of this team. It’s been a long road and we did it.”

If you’re interest in reading more, the Planetary Society have created a site named Mission Control where you’re able to track the LightSail 2 in space. To visit Mission Control please click here

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Tesla Megapack | Massive Energy Storage | Large Scale Renewable Storage

The Tesla Megapack has been announced by Tesla today. The Megapack is designed for utilities and large-scale commercial customers and could be a real game changer for those in remote areas or looking for large amounts of portable renewable storage. Let’s learn more!

Tesla Megapack | Utility Scale Energy Storage

Tesla Megapack (source: Tesla.com)
Tesla Megapack (source: Tesla.com)

Tesla announced the Megapack today – as a potential replacement for “peaker” power plants, which help the grid when it’s overloaded. Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) will deploy several Megapacks at Moss Landing on Monterrey Bay in California. There are also three other locations PG&E are looking at optimising.

The Tesla Powerpack, released in 2015, is Tesla’s current offering for large scale energy storage – the array in South Australia has a capacity of 129 MWh and can deliver 100 MW of power.

The Megapacks are substantially more powerful – each Megapack can store up to 3 megawatt hours (MWh) of energy at a time, and it’s possible to string enough Megapacks together to create a battery with more than 1 GWh of energy storage, according to the press release.

This gives the product comes with some serious grunt: “A 1 Gigawatt hour (GWh) project provides record energy capacity—enough to power every home in San Francisco for 6 hours.”

“Every Megapack arrives pre-assembled and pre-tested in one enclosure from our Gigafactory—including battery modules, bi-directional inverters, a thermal management system, an AC main breaker and controls. No assembly is required, all you need to do is connect Megapack’s AC output to your site wiring.”

According to The Verge, Tesla has been deploying record numbers of Powerwalls and Powerpacks in 2019 – which has created issues with battery shortage, undoubtedly a pain for anyone wanting to order the Powerwall 2 in Australia, for example: 

“Tesla deployed 415 MWh worth of Powerwalls and Powerpacks in the second quarter of 2019, a record for the company. Throughout 2018 and into early 2019, the company had to scale back the number of Powerwall and Powerpack products it deployed because it needed the batteries to support the dramatic increase in Model 3 production.”

Is it going to be easier to wait for the Powerwall 3? Watch this space. 

Megapack Specifications

Tesla Powerpack Rendition (source: Tesla.com)
Tesla Megapack Rendition (source: Tesla.com)
  • Microgrid – you can build a localized grid which is able to disconnect from the main power grid. Sound 
  • Renewable Smoothing – ‘Smooth out the intermittency of renewables by storing and dispatching when needed’
  • T&D (Transmission and Distribution) Investment Deferral – ‘Postpone costly grid infrastructure upgrades by supplying power at a distributed location to defer the need to upgrade ageing infrastructure’. (Learn more about T&D savings with energy batteries by clicking here)
  • Voltage Support – the Megapack can add voltage or remove it to help maintain the grid.
  • Frequency Regulation – The Megapack can rapidly change charge or discharge energy in response to changes in grid frequency.

How to buy Tesla Megapack in Australia

According to the Tesla website, the next step is to fill in an enquiry form on their site, after which “…our team of experts will work with you to identify custom site needs, and design a solution to maximize project values across multiple applications.”

If you’re interested in buying a Tesla Megapack please use the enquiry form on the Tesla website or click here

If you’d like more information on the Tesla Megapack in Australia, we have set up a mailing list which will keep you updated if you’re interested in large scale commercial solar / renewable storage like this one. Just fill in the box below and we’ll keep you posted.

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Victorian Solar Rebate Rally | Solar Homes

Victorian Solar Rebate Rally – a rally was held at Victoria’s Parliament House today where hundreds of people in the solar industry voiced their displeasure with the rollout (and subsequent roll-in) of the Victorian solar rebate. Have they got a fair enough gripe? Let’s take a look.

Victorian Solar Rebate Rally

The original Victorian solar rebate (AKA Solar Homes) was announced in the lead-up to the 2018 election by Daniel Andrews and Lily D’Ambrosio. The plan was to install subsidised solar panels and/or solar batteries ($2,225 per system) – which then caused statewide PV solar installations to skyrocket from 3,000 / month to 7,000 / month.

Presumably the industry didn’t have too many issues with that, but the problem was when the scheme was paused in April 2019, only just recently reopening under an agency named Solar Victoria who had Stan Krpan from the Victorian Cladding Taskforce heading it up. 

This stop/start issue has seen a couple of follow-on effects – with owners now adopting a ‘wait and see’ approach and the subsequent slowdown in installations is causing a big bite for Victorian solar installers, especially those who have (bravely, given they’re relying on the Government) planned a growth strategy around the rebate. 

”This is a gold-level performance in incompetence,” said John Grimes of the Smart Energy Council in quotes relayed in The Age.

“The industry has become a solar coaster: one minute it’s up, the next it’s down.”

According to Mr. Grimes, installations across Victoria are down 30% since April. We also commend his pun game.

The Age article also quotes Dave Douglas of EverSolar who discussed his growth strategy prior to the rebate pausing and how it’s affected his business:

“We doubled in size because of this rebate. We put on an extra 20 staff, got more vans and ordered more solar panels.”

Mr. Douglas had a couple of ideas how to solve the issue – double the monthly subsidy quota or drop the eligibility from a pre-tax household income from $180,000 to about $80,000.

Opposition energy spokesman Ryan Smith was at the rally as well, with his own opinion (which, surprisingly, was the opposite of the incumbent Government) on the rebate:

“The change has made it more difficult to have panels installed,” he said. “Far from being cheaper, as businesses close, competition will dry up and panel installation costs will rise.”

Thoughts? Are you a solar business owner or a Victorian looking to get solar installed on your home? We’d love to hear from you.
 
To read more about the Victorian solar rebate please click here.

 

 

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