DC Power Co attracts 15,000 Investors.

Australian based ‘solar retailer’ DC Power Co has attracted 15,000 investors, reached and exceeded its minimum crowdfunding target of $1.75m so it’s now able to start trading and offering solar-power generated electricity to customers. The company is built “for solar system owners, by solar owners” and promises to offer an eco-friendly alternative to traditional retailers. 

About the DC Power Co. 

DC Power Co
DC Power Co ‘Why you should invest’ (source: dcpowerco.com.au)

Having received initial funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) as part of ARENA’s Advancing Renewables Program, they’re now looking to raise another round of money to get the company going. Co-founder Nic Frances Gilley discussed with ARENA the way DC Power Co’s business model is designed around solar transparency:

“Until now, solar users have had to make do with whatever their energy company has offered them, with very little transparency about how much they are saving or could be saving, because their business model relies on customers consuming more energy,” Mr Frances Gilley says.

“Because we don’t have to sell them energy to make money, we can help them reduce their energy costs and use their system better,” he says. “We are about people making the most from their solar panels.”

Back in February in an interview Mr Frances Gilley said DC Power Co. were hoping to raise $4.75m. It doesn’t look like they’re going to make that much but the campaign has reached $2.15m so far.  There is still enough money to get the company going and there are still two days left in their crowdfunding campaign at OnMarket. 

Shouldn’t be too long until we see the next steps from these guys – where they’ll be offering a free solar performance check to ensure your rooftop solar panels are working correctly. DC Power Co. research shows that 57% of solar users (“tens of thousands of households”) don’t know what their solar system is even doing (or if it’s even on at all!). 

If you want to invest in their crowdfunding (you have until midnight on Sunday the 15th of April) or learn more about the business model please click here to visit the DC Power Co. website. Otherwise we have embedded a video below which will explain more about the company and what their goals are. It’ll be interesting to see how how this solar IPO goes. 

Wesley Vale Solar Farm – Latrobe.

Epuron Projects Pty Ltd have a proposed solar farm, to be known as the Wesley Vale Solar Farm, which will supply energy to Latrobe and the national grid. It will be able to produce up to 25,600MWh of electricity per annum, which is the equivalent of 2900 households. 

Wesley Vale Solar Farm

Wesley Vale Solar Farm
Wesley Vale Solar Farm (source: epuron.com.au/solar/wesley-vale-solar)

The Wesley Vale Solar Farm is still in the planning stages, but it will be located at 213 Mill Road and, according to The Advocate, is going to be the biggest solar farm in the state. 

According to Epuron project manager Shane Bartel via the application the farm hasn’t decided on fixed or tracking arrays for the panels, which will be located on the 35 hectare property.  They’re currently waiting on TasNetworks who are upgrading the local network to see if they’re able to connect directly to the Wesley Vale substation. 

If the application is approved, the Wesley Vale solar farm will commence construction this year and will be built over multiple stages, which may include energy storage in the future. 

Powercom’s Application – Latrobe solar farm

Powercom, according to their general manager Rohan Windsor, are applying to build a smaller fixed array PV system for the landowner of 32 Cherry Hill Road. It’s understood that this is a farmer looking to insulate themselves from the rapidly rising cost of electricity. Windsor discussed this further and was quoted by the Advocate thusly:

“The main factor in all this is the cost of energy is more than doubling. Usually you can off-set 30 to 40 per cent of your bill.

“The larger (farms) may have costs of $500,000, so then there’s a big saving. In agriculture, if you can reduce ongoing costs by 30 per cent, that’s a big saving.

“Since the introduction of the energy price increase recently, and as peoples’ (power) contracts came up for negotiation, we’re seeing more interest in solar.”

According to their website Powercom have created the largest solar installation in Tasmania to date:  1200 solar panels and 317kw at a commercial premises.

You can watch a video about the installation here:

Solar Farms in Tasmania

We don’t get to write that much about solar farms in Tasmania so it’s great to see some news. Renewable energy in Tasmania has been a hot button issue lately, as the state announced plans to be totally self-sufficient by 2022. The vast majority of renewables are generated by hydropower and wind farms. 

Shepparton solar: council to install

Shepparton Solar Farm Proposals / Council Solar

Shepparton solar – the regional Victoria town is going to follow the trend of councils going renewable and install solar power at some of their local facilities, the Greater Shepparton City Council voted this week. The jury’s still out on a number proposed solar farms in Shepparton which are being opposed by some.

Shepparton solar – council investment.

Council solar has been a hot topic over the past 12 months and it’s fantastic to see the Greater Shepparton City Council following suit – Renew Economy are reporting that at a council meeting last week a $225,500 contract to install solar panels on multiple council buildings had been awarded to True Value Solar from Melbourne. 

Cr Bruce Giovanetti made a statement about how important councils doing their part in utilising renewable energy is:

‘‘It’s great to see council is taking a proactive approach to ensuring we can reduce energy consumption costs as much as we can,’’ he said.

Shepparton Solar Farms

Shepparton Solar Farm Proposals / Council Solar
Shepparton Solar Farm (source: greatershepparton.com.au)

The Shepparton News are reporting that five solar farms in Shepparton have been proposed:

  • Tatura East solar farm (45MW)
  • Tallygaroopna solar farm (30MW)
  • Lemnos solar farm (100MW)
  • Congupna solar farm (68MW)
  • Mooroopna solar farm (12MW)

These five farms total more than $300m of investment and will produce over 250MW of power for the area – but not everybody is happy about it. 

According to Greater Shepparton Councillor Chris Hazelman:

‘We’ve heard the relevant objections from people nearby, which indicates concerns about the science, about amenity, about the alienation of agricultural land,”

Hazelman elaborated on how he thinks the dispute will end up in the courts: 

‘‘And in the absence of (state government) guidelines, it would appear that regardless of what decision council makes, either for or against … it will inevitably end up in VCAT. It’s going to make it difficult.’’

We’ve heard the NIMBY argument about ‘prime agricultural land’ from ‘concerned residents’ before (remember Photon Energy’s Brewongle solar farm?) – so it’ll be interesting to see how this plays out in court. 

A spokesperson for Planning Minister Richard Wynne said the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning had prepared advice for the minister to consider, and he would make his ruling in due course.

You can read more detailed information about the solar farm planning permit applications by clicking here

Solar Energy Australia Statistics – 2017

Solar Energy Australia Statistics – The Clean Energy Regulator released their report on solar power uptake in Australia in 2017. A record 3.5m solar panels were installed on rooftops last year, with their combined output of 1057MW around the same as a mid-sized coal-fired power station. 

Solar Energy Australia Statistics

Small-Scale Renewable Energy in Australia 2016 – 2017(source: cleanenergyregulator.gov.au)

The 1057MW was installed by Australian homes and businesses in 2017, mostly from rooftop solar. That’s the equivalent of 9,500 solar panels being installed in Australia every day of 2017! Commercial solar had a huge influx of big solar systems installed which helped with the numbers. Here are some of the many businesses that installed solar power in 2017: 

Clean Energy Regulator Executive General Manager Mark Williamson was pleased to see the solar uptake in all industries:

“We are seeing a wide cross-section of Australians – households, community centres, schools, and small businesses – receiving incentives under the small-scale renewable energy scheme,” Williamson said.

“Our data shows consumers are embracing renewable energy to take control of their electricity bills” Williams said on the CER website

According to Wikipedia, as of December 2017, Australia had over 7,024 MW of installed photovoltaic (PV) solar power. The CER report shows that in 2017 there was a 41% increase in installed renewable energy capacity compared to 2016. Queensland had the most solar panels installed (295MW), and the ACT showed the greatest annual increase – showing a massive 57% change from its 2016 figures. The CER report also showed that the average solar system size in Australia has increased by 200% – from 3kW to 6kw – as prices continue to decrease and technology increases rapidly. 

The small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme which created financial incentives for homes and small businesses to install small scale renewable energy systems has obviously had the desired effect. It’ll be interesting to see how 2018 fares as it’s already off to a roaring start. 

 

Solar Energy Australia Statistics

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.