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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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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Cultana Solar Farm to go ahead

The Cultana solar farm will go ahead, having received planning approval from the South Australian government. Let’s take a closer look at the project. 

Cultana Solar Farm to go ahead

The Cultana solart farm will be a 280MW solar farm being developed by Simec Zen Energy Australia. The project is set to commence construction within the next 12 months. It’ll be constructed on land next to the Whyalla Steelworks, who are currently expanding via Sanjeev Gupta and GFG Alliance (and who will undoubtedly need more power in the coming months and years). 

Sanjeev Gupta and GFG Alliance’s $1b fund to help support solar power in the Whyalla will be tapped for the Cultana project – despite some blowback from Adani Renewables who have bizarrely asked that the project be assessed by the Federal Department of the Environment under the EBPC Act. Adani have raised concerns about the potential impact on animals such as the threatened western grass wren and the slender-billed thornbill. They also discussed the problems with impact to Aboriginal heritage, dust, and traffic impacts. Seems strange given their own project will undoubtedly be scrutinized for the same reasons, but they must have a plan…

The project was signed off by SA Minister for Planning Stephan Knoll who put some restrictions on the approval. Simec have been asked to submit Environmental Management Plans for the construction and the operation phases of the Cultana Solar Farm. 

According to RenewEconomy, the $350M project will generate 600GWh of electricity per annum. This project is tipped to create 350 jobs during construction and 10 ongoing operations solar jobs after it’s completed. It’s expected to contribute savings of 492,000 tonnes of co2 emissions per year. 

Cultana (source: rowanramsey.com.au)

“There is a great future for energy‐intensive industries in Australia,” Sanjeev Gupta was quoted as saying. 

“This the first step in GFG leading the country’s industrial transition to more competitive energy.”

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Tesla in 2019 – What to expect – solar implications.

Tesla in 2019 – As the company rockets towards uncharted waters it’s very difficult to predict what Tesla will do in 2019. 

Tesla in 2019 – What to expect – solar implications?

Tesla in 2019 - Tesla Model Y (source: Tesla)
Tesla in 2019 – Tesla Model Y (source: Tesla)

Electrek are reporting that Tesla announced they are unveiling the Model Y solar car on March 14 – an ‘all-electric crossover based on the Model 3’. It’ll be announced in Los Angeles at Tesla Design Studio in Hawthrone, California. 

A shareholder’s letter released last month for Q4 2018 notes that ‘volume production’ of the Model Y should commence by the end of next year (and it’ll probably be done at Tesla’s Gigafactory 1 in Nevada).

“Additionally, this year we will start tooling for Model Y to achieve volume production by the end of 2020, most likely at Gigafactory 1.”

Tesla confirmed their plans for Model Y production at Gigafactory 3 in China at a ground-breaking ceremony back in February.

Although the Tesla electric cars aren’t necessarily to do with solar power per se, Tesla’s impending success or lack thereof relies fairly heavily on these devices. CEO Elon Musk needs the electric cars to succeed to ensure the company has enough money to work on its myriad other projects. They have a lot of competition from other manufacturers such as Mercedes-Benz and Audi who will likely announce their electric automobiles this month.

Some concerns are the Model Y totally cannibalising the Model 3 sales – with the $35,000 Model 3 and the Model X now only available online to lower costs for the financially embattled company. Their shares fell almost 10% last Friday amidst the slew of announcements. 

With regards to solar, Tesla’s main projects are the Powerwall 2, the Tesla solar roof, the commercial scale solar battery storage Tesla Powerpack 2, and potentially the announcement of a Tesla Powerwall 3 release date. To be frank it’s a bit concerning to see all the blood in the water around Tesla right now – let’s cross our fingers for some great results in 2019 for the company. 

 

 

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Cape York Battery Power Plant

The $150m Cape York Battery Power Plant is being developed by solar battery developer Lyon Group and will include Australia’s first large dispatchable solar generator.

Cape York Battery Power Plant 

Cape York Battery Power Plant
Cape York Battery Power Plant Team – David Green, Chairman, Lyon Group. Hendrik Gordenker, Chairman, JERA. Jan Teichmann, Vice President, Global Markets, Fluence. (source: lyoninfrastructure.com.au)

The Cape York Battery Power Plant will be the first large scale dispatchable solar energy generator in Australia’s national energy market. 

It will be built by Lyon Group in conjunction with Japanese energy company JERA. JERA have an astounding 74GW of solar on their portfolio, so there will be a very experienced team working on the project. 

“The Cape York Battery Power Plant will be the first fully integrated grid-connected large dispatchable solar peaker in Australia if not the world,” said Lyon Group chair David Green. 

“It is a $150 million commitment to new peaking generation and a stronger grid in north Queensland.

“The 20MW/80MWh Fluence battery-based energy storage system plus 55MWac solar generation will dispatch firm clean energy through a single connection point, using a single power plant controller.” he continued.

The Cape York Battery Power Plant will also include Australia’s first four-hour duration battery system, which makes it the first large scale dispatchable solar energy generator in Australia’s national energy market. 

Satoshi Yajima, Senior Vice President of Power Generation Business, JERA had some interesting things to say with regards to the shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy: 

“JERA’s global generation fleet is mostly fossil fuel powered at present, but the company believes that Australia and most other countries will rapidly move beyond 50 percent renewable energy.

A very large volume of utility-scale battery storage will be required to achieve and move beyond 50 per cent renewable energy.

The Cape York Battery Power Plant is a small power plant within JERA’s portfolio, but we see this project as lighting the way to expand our renewables portfolio.”

Construction on the generator will start early this year after it secured its generator performance standard this week. This is one of the first projects to pass the new, more stringent grid connection requirements implemented in 2018. Can’t wait to see what this looks like when it’s complete and investigate some of the savings it brings. 

 

 

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