Empowering Homes – Interest free solar battery loans in NSW

Empowering Homes – Interest free solar battery loans in NSW could be set to commence towards the end of 2019 – let’s take a look at the system and how to apply for it.

Empowering Homes – Interest free solar battery loans in NSW

Empowering Homes – Interest free solar battery loans in NSW

The Empowering Homes program is going to support the installation of up to 300,000 solar-battery systems across New South Wales in the next 10 years, providing interest free solar battery loans to eligible residents. The loans will offer up to $9,000 for a battery system, or $14,000 for a solar battery system. As long as your household has a combined income of less than $180,000, you’ll be eligible for the scheme (subject to normal loan assessment criteria).

Empowering Homes interest free solar in NSW
Empowering Homes – Interest free solar in NSW. (source: energy.nsw.gov.au)

The scheme, which is using $50m redirected from a cancelled virtual power plant program, is still missing a lot of information. According to the official website it aims to ‘unlock up to $3.2 billion in clean energy investment, adding up to 3,000 megawatt hours of storage into the NSW energy system when complete’. 

“I want to deliver a program that provides robust consumer protections in terms of safety, system performance and value for money,” NSW Minister for Energy, Matt Kean, said in comments reproduced on the NSW Government’s website.

According to Solar Quotes and statistics provided by the Australian PV Institute, New South Wales’ solar penetration (at ~19%) is quite far behind Queensland (34.1%), South Australia (33.5%), and Western Australia (27.6%). 

According to figures from the Government website, “a household with a $500 quarterly electricity bill could save up to $285 a year on their bills while repaying the no-interest loan. Savings could increase to over $2000 a year once the loan is repaid.”

For further information about battery systems please visit Energy Saver NSW.

If you’re like to register your interest in the Empowering Homes program and also receive updates as they become available, please click here and fill in the form at the bottom of the website. According to the official site the first battery/solar-battery systems will be available for install in summer 19/20. 

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Cultana solar farm EPC services signed.

The Cultana solar farm is one step closer to completion today – as Sanjay Gupta’s Simec Energy Australia securing an EPC partnership agreement with Shanghai Electric. Let’s take a look!

Cultana solar farm EPC services signed.

The 280W solar farm is located near the Wynalla Steelworks (also owned by Mr Gupta’s GFG Alliance under the name Liberty OneSteel), and will be built through Simec Energy, Gupta’s renewable arm which has a lofty goal of $1b spend in clean energy projects. The Cultana solar farm is set to cost $350m and represents the first stage of Simec Energy’s $1b plan.

“Cultana Solar Farm is an ambitious project that will deliver globally-competitive renewable energy on a large scale to power-heavy industry. It is a great step forward in our vision to revitalise industry and we look forward to working with our partners to bring our renewables projects to life,” Gupta was quoted as saying upon hearing the news.

“Our planned Next-Gen project will ignite a new industrial revolution in Australia. These projects are shining examples of GFG’s commitment to create a sustainable future for industry and build stronger local communities,” Mr. Gupta continued.

Last month we wrote about how the solar farm has been granted approval from the South Australian government despite an interesting objection Adania Renewables lodged against the application.

The basis of this program is up to 1GW of solar to be constructed in and around Whyalla, so more great news for South Australian  solar. Reid told the solar conference that the first step is an 80MW solar farm “behind the meter” near the Whyalla Steelworks, and after this they will install 200MW of grid connected solar on property owned by GFG Alliance.

According to RenewEconomy, the solar farm will include over 880,000 solar panels and they will be supplied by Wuxi Suntech.

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What is Passive Solar and How Does It Work?

What is Passive Solar and How Does It Work?

With an increased focus on greener building and energy efficiency, the term “passive solar” is being used more and more. Not to be confused with solar panels, passive solar is the use of the natural environment in a way that will optimise the internal temperature of a home. Rather than relying heavily on mechanical cooling or heating systems, a passive solar design will instead focus on building in a way that encourages the retention of warmth in winter and the reflection of heat in summer.

A home with a well thought out solar design will collect heat from the sun and store it in the “thermal mass” of the building (dense materials like concrete and brick that retain heat). Engaging a builder who has experience in passive solar design will go a long way towards improving the energy efficiency of a new house, as passive solar designs will vary based on what climate the home is situated in. Typical methods for improving passive solar include:

  • South Facing Windows: To make the most of the suns natural warmth, windows in the main living areas should face towards the south and be free of shading during the winter months when the sun is lower. If the roof overhang is correctly sized, then this will block excessive heat during the warmer months (when the sun is higher); alternatively, the installation of an awning or shutters can have a similar effect.
  • Thermal Mass: Building materials with thermal mass will absorb heat during the day and then release it slowly at night when the temperature drops. A well-insulated home with products such as brick, masonry or concrete (all commonly used in construction) will assist with warming the house in winter and cooling it down in summer.
  • Energy Efficient Windows: Some people may express concern that installing windows will be counterproductive to passive solar design, but this is not necessarily the case. Energy efficient windows block ambient outside temperature (whether it is cold or hot), while still allowing radiant heat to pass through. This means that a home with energy efficient windows will still benefit from winter sunlight, but with reduced heat loss in winter and improved retention of warmth in winter.

A home with optimal passive solar design will be comfortably cool in summer, warm and cozy in winter and obtain a good deal of sunlight all year round. Although a greater level of energy efficiency can be achieved when passive solar is a consideration before a home is built, existing houses can still benefit from these concepts. Simple and effective steps such as installing shutters, upgrading window glazing or increasing insulation can all contribute to an improved passive solar design. Although some of these tasks could be completed by homeowners, engaging the services of a professional may save time and money in the long run.

Houses that are constructed with a passive solar design will effectively reduce the need to rely on mechanical heating and cooling systems, thereby lowering power usage, minimising utility bills and benefiting the environment.

Solar windows are seeing a massive boost in popularity as the technology improves. We’re looking forward to see where the tech is going for this and also passive renewable energy. 

 

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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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