SolarReserve sign MOU for Aurora Project

American company SolarReserve have signed an MoU with Heliostat SA to manufacture and assemble the components for their solar tower and molten salt storage facility at Port Augusta.

SolarReserve Commence Construction on Aurora Solar Thermal Plant

SolarReserve sign MOU for Aurora Project
SolarReserve sign MOU for Aurora Project (source: solarreserve.com)

SolarReserve announced on Tuesday that they’ll work with Heliostat SA to create 12,800 96 square metre glass mirrors for their Aurora Solar Thermal Plant. 

The solar thermal plant in Port Augusta, South Australia, was announced last August and received developmental approval back in January It is slated to be a $750m project but we haven’t heard any specifics as to updated pricing, and this information is the first news on the project since January of this year. 

According to the CEO of SolarReserve, Kevin Smith, the solar thermal power plant will comprise of approximately 12,000 mirrors, each the size of a billboard (around 100sqm), arranged in a circle over 600 hectares. The mirrors will focus light and heat to the top of a 227m tall tower to generate up to 150MW. This will result in over a million square metres of surface area for the project. 

“Aurora will provide much needed capacity and firm energy delivery into the South Australian market to reduce price volatility,” Mr. Smith said at the time. He elaborated today when discussing the deal with Heliostat SA: 

“We’re excited to have formed a long-term partnership with Heliostat SA and look forward to teaming up with them to bring manufacturing of our world-class heliostats to South Australian workers,” said Mr. Smith.

“SolarReserve is committed to supporting South Australia’s goals which will attract investment, create South Australian jobs and build an exciting and growing new industry.”

According to an article on RenewEconomy the project will create around 200 full time solar jobs for the area, with 650 to be employed during the construction phase. 

This project is a bit slow and new information is thin on the ground, so great to hear that it’s moving ahead. We’ll keep you posted as soon as there’s any new information on the solar thermal plant! 

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Solar Battery Rebates in Victoria | Solar Homes Program

Solar battery rebates in Victoria will be rolled out as part of the Andrews’ government’s $1.34b Solar Homes program. The program also includes half price solar panels for 650,000 households and a $1,000 discount on solar hot water installation for 60,000 households. 

Solar Battery Rebates in Victoria – Solar Homes Program

Solar Battery Rebates in Victoria
Solar Battery Rebates in Victoria (source: solar.vic.gov.au)

Victorian home owners who fit the criteria (it’s means tested) will get a 50% rebate to install battery storage. The rebate will be capped at $4838 in the first year and will slowly decrease to $3714 by 2026, factoring in the inevitability that prices will decrease and energy storage technology will improve. The Age are reporting that this policy will cost an estimated $40m, with around 10,000 Victorian households expected to take advantage of the fantastic subsidy offer. 

According to the SBS, it’s part of Labor’s wider plan to increase renewable energy use and decrease the cost of living – with the plan being to work with energy distributors and invest $10m to help ‘renewable-proof’ the state grid over the next ten years. 

“This is a game changer for Victorian families fed up with big corporations that have been price gouging and ripping consumers off,” Premier Daniel Andrews said.

“Only Labor will put solar panels, solar hot water or solar batteries on 720,000 homes – saving Victorians thousands of dollars on their electricity bills with renewable energy.”

Solar Homes Victoria Subsidy Breakdown

We’ve previously written about Labor’s half price solar for Victorians scheme- looks like there are some great plans coming to fruition for the state. 

Solar Panels – $1.2b for 50% of solar system installation costs for 650,000 homes.

Solar Hot Water – $60m for $1000 subsiddies to install solar hot water.

Solar Batteries – $40m for 50% of solar battery installation costs for ~10,000 homes.

It’ll be very interesting to see how these solar battery rebates work in Victoria and if the other states (especially the ones with a high solar panel update) follow suit. Watch this space – we’ll keep you updated! 

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UNSW’s Martin Green wins Global Energy Prize

Sydney professor Martin Green from UNSW has beaten out Tesla Musk to win the $820,000 Global Energy Prize for his work in the field of photovoltaics. Green will share the prize with Russian scientist Sergey Alekseenko, who is an expert in the field of thermal power engineering.

Martin Green and the Global Energy Prize

Martin Green of UNSW
Martin Green of UNSW (source: Wikipedia)

Professor Green is Director of the Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics at UNSW. According to the ABC he’s a leading specialist in both mono and polycrystalline ilicone sole cells, having invented the PERC solar cell (PERC cells represent just under a quarter of the world’s silicon cell manufacturing capacity (as of end of 2017)).

We’ve written plenty of articles about UNSW solar – they’re involved in general solar power research, have launched the SunSPoT solar potential tool, and they have also recently signed a 15-year corporate PPA (Power Purchase Agreement) with Maoneng Australia and Origin Energy to become 100% solar powered, thanks to Maoneng‘s Sunraysia solar plant.

In 1989, Professor Green and his team were responsible for the solar cells in the first photovoltaic system. In 2014 he was able to double 1989’s energy conversion efficiency of 20% to 40%. 

UNSW President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Jacobs told the ABC that Professor Green had “delivered truly transformational outcomes in renewable energy for more than three decades”.

“Martin is a highly deserving recipient of this global prize and we warmly congratulate him,” he said.

“His fundamental and applied research has transformed the global energy sector and will continue to produce major economic and social benefits, both in Australia and worldwide.” Professor Jacobs continued. 

Professor Green said receiving the award was “a great honour”.

“The efficiency of solar modules is an area whose progress has been faster than many experts expected, and this is good news,” he said.

“We need to maintain the pace of research in Australia, not only to keep our international lead, but also to benefit society by providing a cheap, low carbon source of electricity.”

This is a fantastic reward for one of Australia’s solar stalwarts and we salute Professor Green for his ongoing work with solar power technology.

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Senec.Home Intelligent Energy System in Australia

German company Senec has been shipping its products to Australia since early last year, and today we will take a look at the Senec solar battery range – according to the site one of these systems can increase your power self-sufficiency to 80% or more. Let’s take a look and see how they stack up against some of the other solar battery competitors. 

The Senec.Home Smart Energy Management System

Senec Solar Battery
SENEC.Home (source: SENEC)

Energy storage technology has been coming along in leaps and bounds lately – we’ve seen the standard lithium-ion swapped out with hydrogen, perovskite, zinc bromine and other materials. These batteries are lithium ion based as it still remains the most mature technology but it’s important to keep an eye out to see what’s around the corner. Who knows where the tech will take us! 

The Senec.Home is an ‘all in one’ system which includes a Senec inverter, a battery management system and battery modules. You need to manage the solar panels yourself, so make sure you have that planned out before you go and buy everything! Ask your retailer if there’s a good synergy between the system you’ve chosen because it’s an expensive exercise to try and swap or add more solar panels to an existing installation.

Here are some of the benefits of this system:

  • Engineered for 12,000 recharging cycles. This is double the capacity of its unnamed ‘nearest competitor’ (not the Tesla Powerwall 2 as it’s rated for ‘unlimited’ cycles)
  • The SENEC.Home Li system is an automated management system for the panels + battery. It manages your power needs without you doing a thing.
  • Australian service and support, but designed, manufactured and assembled entirely in Germany (except for the Panasonic battery modules).
  • Panasonic manufactured battery with 2.5kWh, 5.0kWh, 7.5kWh, and 10.0kWh options (“depending on the loading and unloading conditions”).
  • 98% maximum battery efficiency. 
  • Soon they’ll have a backup function so the Senec.Home can work when the grid goes down.
  • Up to four units can be daisy-chained to create your own microgrid.

After hosting a product launch last year for the system, it looks like demand for the product has been quite high. The price varies depending on a few factors so please get in touch with your retailer to discuss specifics. 

Click here to download the SENEC Intelligent Energy System Brochure and Specs.

If you’re interested in getting in contact, try  (08) 6280 1206 or  (+618) 6280 1206 if you’re not in Australia. Otherwise you can visit their site by clicking here

Have you got any experience or feedback with installing, buying, or running these systems? Please let us know about how you’re finding it in the comments. 

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Hydrogen energy storage in French Guiana

Hydrogen energy storage – French hydrogen specialist HDF Energy have announced their  Centrale électrique de l’Ouest guyanais (CEOG) project, which will be one of the world’s biggest solar-plus-storage power plants. The $90m USD plant is expected to generate around 50 GWh per year and will store energy using hydrogen instead of the usual lithium-ion.

Hydrogen energy storage – Centrale électrique de l’Ouest guyanais in French Guiana

Hydrogen energy storage - Centrale électrique de l’Ouest guyanais in French Guiana
Hydrogen energy storage – Centrale électrique de l’Ouest guyanais in French Guiana (source: hdf-energy.com)

With an equivalent 140 MWh of energy stored, CEOG will be the biggest power plant worldwide storing renewable energy using hydrogen.  

The world’s current largest storage project, which was,developed by Tesla and Neoen in South Australia at the Hornsdale Power Reserve, has a slightly lower size – 129 MWh. It uses lithium-ion technology rather than Hydrogen. Neoen have also looked into alternative methods of energy storage, however – they are currently in the middle of building an “Electrolyser” Hydrogen Superhub at Crystal Brook in South Australia.

Hydrogen energy storage technology

According to the manufacturer HDF, the hydrogen energy storage tech has a number of benefits over lithium-ion, such as enabling the storage of energy for long periods of time with minimal loss. It’s a very simple process to store the energy as hydrogen – you just need an electrolyzer, storage tanks, and a fuel cell. 

Firstly the electrolyzer separates hydrogen and oxygen from a water molecule. The resultant hydrogen is then pressurised and stored in tanks. In the fuel cell the hydrogen is combined with oxygen, which then allows the production of electricity and steam. 

Hydrogen has been suffering a tough time of it as late as the efficiency is quite difficult to improve – typical ranges are from 75-80%, according to PV Magazine (click the link to read a fantastic, in-depth article about the future of storing energy as hydrogen). Further losses of between 5-35% result from compression and cooling of the molecular hydrogen. Even for on-site use or with a direct feed into the gas network, you’ll see conversion efficiency of around 70%. 

We need to continue the research to see if the efficiency of hydrogen can be improved and it’ll be very interesting to see what the numbers are from both the French Guiana project and the superhub at Crystal Brook. We’ll keep you posted! 

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