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)

Flex PowerPlay Smart Solar Power System

A company named Flex (also known as Flextronics) have rolled out the Flex PowerPlay ‘smart solar power system’ which consists of various combinations of Flex branded solar panels, an inverter, an energy hub, and an energy monitor.  It’s compatible with many existing solar battery brands and is being offered through Energy Matters in Australia. Flex are a well established company who have made the move into residential solar, offering ‘smart solar’ which will help you ‘outsmart the system’ – it’s like a vertically integrated, polished version of the Paladin Solar Controller

About the Flex PowerPlay

Flex PowerPlay
Flex PowerPlay App (source: flexpowerplay.com)

According to their website more than 20,000 Australian homes and businesses are currently using Flex – and they have delivered over 8 million solar panel modules to customers worldwide. The PowerPlay solar power system uses their own 60cell, PID-free Flex PowerPlay panels which are available in 290w and 295w, with a 12 year product warranty and a 25 year performance warranty. According to Solar Quotes their efficiencies are 17.8% and 18.1%, respectively. 

The Flex inverter will divert power depending on time of day, current tariff, current energy storage, and much more – in order to save you as much money as possible on your power bill. You’re able to use the app to see exactly what’s happening with your system at any time. 

Flex (NASDAQ: FLEX) are a massive engineering company who are also leaders in battery tech – they’re responsible for 1 in 4 smart meters in the US, 10 million micro inverters, and have worked with Google, Nike, and Fitbit to deliver tech solutions. The company represents more than 200,000 professionals in over 100 locations around the world. Their quarterly rev for Q3 2018 was USD $6.75 billion – increased 10% YOY. 

Their offices in Australia are located in Sydney and Melbourne – so they’re far from a fly-by-night company and buying from Flex is a safe bet. As discussed before, you’re also able to use existing solutions from brands such as sonnen, whose solar battery storage solutions (e.g. sonnenBatterie Eco 8) are also well established and have fantastic reviews. 

Interested in Flex’s offering? If you’re in Australia you can check your eligibility and request an obligation-free quote by clicking here

Australian solar cell research gets $29.2m grant.

Australian solar cell research has received a $29.2m grant from ARENA (Australian Renewable Energy Agency) – with 11 of the 22 projects currently sponsored associated with UNSW, who has been leading the way in Australia’s solar research for over 40 years. 

Australian Solar Cell Research

ARENA chief exec Ivor Frischknecht was quoted on the UNSW website talking about Australia’s solar research and how ARENA have been able to help with funding projects:

“In this funding round, the candidates and the calibre was so high, we actually increased the total funding we awarded to nearly $30 million,” he said. “This research will improve the technological and commercial readiness of new innovation in solar PV cells and modules, enhance Australia’s position as world-leaders in solar PV R&D and address Australian-specific conditions.”

ARENA’s latest funding round has seen UNSW granted $16.43m for 11 projects. UNSW’s research partner in ACAP (the Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics), ANU, received  $7.89m for six projects, the CSIRO received $3.31m and Monash University got $1.59m.

UNSW and SIRF

Australian Solar Cell Research - UNSW's Solar Industrial Research Facility
Australian Solar Cell Research – UNSW’s Solar Industrial Research Facility (source: unsw.edu.au)

UNSW’s Solar Industrial Research Facility (SIRF) was created in 2011 as a $16m ‘turnkey pilot line manufacturing facility’ which allows UNSW to create silicon solar cells from lab processes to factory ready industrial processes. According to the UNSW website, architects Woods-Bagot modelled the outside of the building to mimic the pattern of multi-crystalline silicon solar cells.

Today, it’s a $30m facility aimed at advancing solar power technology – bringing UNSW’s solar tech to industry partners across the world. SIRF has brought over $8 billion in benefits to Australia over the past ten years – with gains of energy efficiency forecast to save Australians $750m over the next decade. It’s been the recipient of myriad ARENA grants and is a great example of Australia’s commitment to solar power research. 

Dean of UNSW Science Emma Johnston, discussing the grants, said: “At UNSW we are proud to have a long history of world-leading solar innovations dating back to the 1970s. But research is only one part of the puzzle. Equally as important is translating these world-leading ideas into commercially viable products.

“The SIRF facility we stand in today is evidence of this commitment – a place where we work hand in hand with industry to deliver solar solutions for Australia and the world,” Dr. Johnston added. 

Australian solar installs new record in November

Australian solar installs reached an all-time high of 120MW in November, eclipsing the 100MW in October and the record of 110MW set in June 2012, which was ‘artificially’ (for want of a better word) inflated as it was the last month before Queensland cut off the $0.44c premium feed-in tariff. These are massive numbers when compared with the previous few years and a fantastic indicator for the future of renewable energy in Australia. 

Australian Solar Installs in 2017

According to RenewEconomy and The Green Energy Markets’ Renewable Energy Index, for most months in 2016 solar installs were below 60MW and January 2016 had a measly install amount of 45MW. The reason for the big drop in numbers was due to the end of the premium feed-in tariffs and also the federal government’s substantial cutback of the amount of STC rebate certificates it provided. This means the cost of solar (and payback period) increased substantially, dropping the number of installs and casting doubt upon the industry as a whole.

Over the past 12-18 months, however, there’s been a perfect storm of the gigantic rise in the cost of wholesale electricity, better quality and price of solar panels and storage due to technology advances, and excitement about renewable energy have helped raise the numbers of solar uptake. Public perception and interest in the technology due to such projects as the massive Tesla battery in South Australia, German company sonnen’s ‘free power’ offering via sonnenFlat, and the Powerwall 2 battery have all led to Australia’s domestic and commercial solar uptake reaching this all-time high.

Australian Solar Installs 2017 - sonnen's sonnenFlat and sonnenBatterie
Australian Solar Installs 2017 – sonnen’s sonnenFlat and sonnenBatterie (source: sonnen.com.au)

The Renewable Energy Index for October 2017 showed that Queensland leads the way for Australia, with jobs coming via renewable energy projects (both large-scale and rooftop solar) almost doubling over four months from 3,634 at the end of 30 June 2017, to 7,194 in October.

 Amazing news for solar contractors and solar installers – although things may slow down a little over the Christmas period we can’t wait to see what 2018 brings to solar power in Australia. 

Solar thermal power station in Queensland planned.

Australian company CWP Renewables has proposed to build a 250MW, $1.3 billion solar thermal power station in Townsville. The station, similar to one already built in Nevada and one planned for South Australia, will be a huge economic and employment boon to the area. 

About the Solar Thermal Power Station

Solar Thermal Power Station Khi Solar One, South Africa
Solar Thermal Power Station Khi Solar One, South Africa (source: wikipedia.org)

We reported in August that South Australia will have a solar thermal power station installed in 2018 (Aurora, to be built by SolarReserve). Their station is slated to cost around $650 m so if CWP’s proposal goes ahead it will be the largest solar thermal structure in the country. Privately held SolarReserve was also responsible for the 110MW Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project in Nevada near Las Vegas. No word on CWP’s track record with solar thermal (or who they’ll choose to partner with for the tech), but they will be bidding against SolarReserve who told RenewEconomy they are also planning to develop up to six solar thermal facilities in Queensland over the next decade. 

“This Concentrated Solar Thermal project can deliver dispatchable, emissions-free power to North Queensland, together with thousands of high value jobs which utilise the existing skills of the North Queensland workforce, ” CWP Renewables managing director Alex Hewitt told the Townsville Bulletin yesterday.  Hewitt advised that the project is being called “Freedom Energy One” and will include solar + storage, noting that it could represent a cost effective and eco-friendly alternative to a new coal generator.

We reported yesterday that Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s Labor party’s “Powering Queensland’s Future” proposal will include a $50 million “down payment” for a solar thermal power plant in Queensland, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the money will go towards CWP’s plant – along with SolarReserve and CWP there are a few companies looking to tender for a plant right now. 

According to CWP, if approval was reached then project construction would commence in 2019. The two-year construction phase would result in the creation of more than 2,000 jobs – with employment for civil works, tracking mirror installation, thermal receiver tower installation, storage tank and piping creation, and the construction of a brand new electrical substation which would be used for the plant. 

It looks like there’s a pretty good chance Queensland will see the construction of a solar thermal power station at some point, and it’s just a matter of time! 

If you want to learn more about the tech please click here to read the Wikipedia article about concentrated solar thermal. 

Adani’s Whyalla Solar Farm greenlit

India based energy company Adani have received development approval for a $200 million, 140MW Whyalla solar farm. The farm will consist of PV solar modules and operate on a single axis tracking system. 

Adani’s Whyalla Solar Farm

Whyalla Solar Farm Adani
Whyalla Solar Farm (source: @AdaniAustralia on Twitter)

The solar plant will be located 10km north of Whyalla’s centre, on the Port Lincoln Highway. It will originally generate 100MW and the potential capacity of the solar plant will be up to 140MW. According to AdelaideNow, grid connection will be via the 132kv network between the Whyalla Centra and Cultana substations.

Although the original development application didn’t include any information about battery storage, this is an option that Adani is also investigating. 

No PPA (Power Purchasing Agreement) has been signed yet, but as soon as that is sorted out we will see a starting date for construction of the farm – which is expected to be some time in 2018. The plant should be generating renewable energy by 2019. The construction phase of this solar farm is expected to create 350 jobs and could be “just the tip of the iceberg” for Whyalla, Giles MP Eddie Hughes told news.com.au last year. 

“Since 1998 Whyalla has wanted to become the solar capital,” said Mr Hughes. “It’s the realisation of the dream to have a major proponent come to us.”

Other Whyalla Solar Projects

News of Adani’s solar farm comes off the back of Zen Energy approving a $700m solar, battery and pumped-hydro storage project to power Zen Energy owner Sanjeev Gupta’s Liberty OneSteel works in Whyalla. The project is expected to provide 1 gigawatt (1000MW) and also  100MW/100MWh battery storage. Hopefully, this will also provide some help to the real estate market in Whyalla, which has dropped by 21% in 2017 so far. 

Adani also has another $100m solar farm in Moranbah awaiting DA from the Isaac Regional Council. 

 

Redback Solar raise $7m in capital for R&D

Redback Solar news – Brisbane based solar tech startup Redback Technologies has raised $7m in capital from the Clean Energy Innovation Fund. The company will use the investment to expand its R&D, improve its ‘smart software suite’ and hire more staff.

Redback Solar’s Capital Raising

Dynamic Business are reporting that the Clean Energy Innovation Fund (a partnership between the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA)) has invested $5 million USD (approximately $6.43 million AUD) into Redback Technologies.

Around the same time, Right Click Capital’s Growth Fund has invested $2m USD (~$2.57 million AUD) into Redback along with offering their specialised experience to assist in Redback’s planned expansion into the Asia-Pacific region. The Right Click Capital Growth Fund, as per their website, have ‘deep experience starting and scaling technology businesses’ and are looking to back ‘ambitious technology businesses’ so it looks like a perfect fit. 

Right Click Capital Partner Benjamin Chong spoke a little about why they chose to invest in Redback, advising that “The inherent inefficiencies within the energy sector in Australia makes it ripe for disruption. Redback Technologies is uniquely positioned to seize this opportunity, with the power to provide everyday Australians with an alternative, low-cost solution to energy generation, storage and consumption. “We are excited by the solid track record of Redback’s management team and the firm’s ability to leverage technology to provide intelligent energy management solutions for households and businesses in Australia and beyond.”

Founder and MD of Redback Technologies, Richard Livingston, was excited about the investment and spoke about the impact it would have on stimulating Redback Technology’s products, software, and expansion. “This investment will enable us to further develop our next generation energy intelligence platform and devices and further cement our vision to ensure Australian households and businesses are entirely powered by renewables.” Livingston was quoted as saying.

Redback Solar – 2017 Movements

Redback Technologies launched the Redback Smart Hybrid System with EnergyAustralia early last month – with a ‘normal household’ with usage of 8000kWh / year to save around $1,500 a year with the system (4.9kW solar array and 3.3kWh battery). They received $9.3 million from EnergyAustralia last year for this – seeing Redback’s Generation 2 Smart Hybrid System offered to EnergyAustralia’s 1.7 million customers in Victoria, NSW, QLD, the ACT, and South Australia. 

Redback Solar - Capital Raising 2017
The Redback Solar team at a trade show in 2017 (source: Redback Technologies Facebook)

It’s obvious that Redback have a fantastic team and product – they’re growing rapidly and multiple teams have invested in them – we’re excited to see where these Brisbane locals end up! 

Beelbee Solar Farm approved by WDRC

The Western Downs Regional Council has approved the Beelbee Solar Farm, which is owned by the APA Group (who are also responsible for the Darling Downs Solar Farm which they purchased from Origin Energy in May with an option over the Beelbee project). This is the ninth solar farm approved for the Western Downs region. 

Beelbee Solar Farm
Beelbee Solar Farm Location (source: Google Maps)

About the Beelbee Solar Farm

The Chronicle has reported that the Beelbee solar farm will feed between 150MW and 240MW into the national electricity grid. It will also include up to 100MW of battery storage. The Deputy Mayor of Western Downs, Andrew Smith, was quoted in the paper and was very excited about the opportunities APA Group are providing to the local area with their solar investments. 

“What a month it’s been and I’m told there’s even more development applications in the pipeline,” Cr Smith said.

“Complementing their Darling Downs Solar Farm, their commitment to bring another renewable energy project to our region highlights the Western Downs’ economic strength and impressive portfolio on the solar energy scene.

Smith also noted that the planning and development assessment team at Western Downs have been working hard to minimise the turnaround time for development applications, telling the Chronicle that the Beelbee Solar Farm was approved in “less than six weeks”. It’ll be interesting to see how this helps the Western Downs compete against Toowoomba solar farms – let’s hope we see a lot more in the future as their close proximity to Brisbane means that it could be a great opportunity to feed energy back into the grid for Australia’s third largest city. 

No word yet on PPA’s, but Origin Energy will buy all the renewable energy generated by the Darling Downs solar farm (which will generate 110MW) from 2018-2030, so perhaps the APA Group will piggyback onto that for a PPA with the Beelbee solar farm. 

 

Solar Tax scrapped by the AEMC

Earlier this year the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) released a draft report on the Distribution Market Model, which made a number of dubious recommendations – not least among them the concept of introducing what would effectively be a “solar tax”. The AEMC didn’t like the idea of solar producing households using the grid ‘for free’ and there is no other way for networks to recoup the costs of grid connection/supply. The AEMC, who create the ‘rules’ for Australian electricity and gas markets, also provide market development advice to governments (such as this report).

AEMC - Solar Tax
AEMC put brakes on Solar Tax (source: aemc.gov.au)

The proposed solar tax was fought tooth and nail by the Solar Citizens and it appears that the AEMC have now backed down from their idea and the solar tax won’t go ahead.

Here is the relevant section from the draft report:

Currently, clause 6.1.4 of the NER prohibits a DNSP from charging a distribution network user (such as an owner of a distributed energy resource) distribution use of system charges for the export of electricity by that user to the distribution network.

There may be cause to revisit this clause if DNSPs incur costs (and benefits) due to the export of energy from distributed energy resources (or passive solar PV systems) that are not appropriately reflected in connection charges and where these costs (and benefits) increase (albeit not necessarily proportionately) with the volume of injections.

The Commission therefore considers that there may be benefits in exploring the deletion of clause 6.1.4 of the NER, and what possible alternatives there are.

On Tuesday the AEMC produced its final report on the Distribution Market Model and it said that “Further work is needed to understand whether distributed energy resources create benefits, or impose costs on the distribution network.” The report also made a note that large renewable energy generators are not billed for accessing the grid “beyond a shallow connection charge” so it would be a bit rich to charge residential solar systems for it.

So the tax has been thrown on the backburner for the time being – but we’ll have to see what the future holds.

How the Solar Tax war was won

Shina Tager, from Solar Citizens, was quoted by RenewEconomy as saying “Any moves to tax the sun in the way that’s being proposed by the AEMC report will be met with very strong community resistance by the 5 million solar voters around the country.” Tager also said “Over 1.6 million Australian households have stumped up their own money to put solar on their roof and take back control of their power bills and this is another move to make solar owners the fall guy.”

What would have happened if something like this goes ahead? Would we see a larger amount of people going off-grid and eschewing the national network altogether? The 2016 Australian Energy Statistics note a ‘continued expansion in off-grid generation’ – and presumably any efforts to monetise (read:tax) those producing their own energy will results in a greater exodus from the grid. We’ll have to wait and see what happens, but a great victory from the Solar Citizens for the time being!

Hayman and Daydream Solar Farm built by First Solar

First Solar have won a module supply contract for Edify Energy‘s Daydream solar farm and Hayman solar farm in Queensland. RCR Tomlinson Ltd (ASX: RCR) was awarded the $315m contract for the farms and have decided to give the supply contract to First Solar, who now have over 500MW in the pipeline over the next 12 months. For their part, RCR have over half a Gigawatt of large-scale solar projects in their order book and over a Gigawatt currently being developed or progressed under early contractor involvement processes, according RCR Managing Director & CEO, Dr Paul Dalgleish talking to RenewEconomy.

Daydream Solar Farm and Hayman Solar Farm

First Solar - Daydream Solar Farm
First Solar – Daydream Solar Farm (source: firstsolar.com)

The Daydream solar farm will be 180.7MW and the Hayman Solar Farm will be 60.2MW – the two projects are located just north of Collinsville in North Queensland – in the Whitsunday region. According to ELP.com, they will use single axis tracking technology which has been commissioned from Array Technologies, and over 2 million advanced thin film PV modules from First Solar, to produce around 531,000 MWh of renewable energy every year.

Edify signed a power purchase agreement with Origin Energy for the Daydream solar farm’s output (they’ll also buy the renewable energy certificates), but the Hayman Solar Farm will operate as a merchant plant.

About First Solar and Edify Energy

First Solar, Inc. are an American based PV manufacturer of rigid film modules, or solar panels, and also a provider of utility-scale PV power plants. In 2009 they were the first solar panel manufacturer to lower their creation cost to $1 (USD) per watt. According to Wikipedia they produced CdTe-panels (cadmium telluride) with an efficiency of ~14% at a cost of 0.59 USD / watt in 2013. They’re the second largest maker of PV modules worldwide.

Edify Energy are an Australian renewable energy development and investment company who have led the financing and delivery of over 30 utility scale solar PV projects at a cost of over $1b. For the Daydream solar farm and Hayman solar farm, they won ARENA (Australian Renewable Energy Agency) funding last September under their large-scale solar funding round.

More good news for Queensland solar farms – construction on the projects will commence almost immediately – scheduled for Q3 2017, with module delivery to arrive in Q4 2017 and Q1 2018.