Congupna solar farm / Design and Development Guidelines

The Congupna solar farm has been approved for the Shepparton area and will produce 30MW of energy – this is enough to power 10,000 homes in the region.

Congupna solar farm

Minister for Planning Richard Wynne announced the successful Congupna solar farm approval this morning. 

According to Minister Wynne the farm will create over 100 solar jobs for the region: 

“The Congupna solar farm will create more than 100 new jobs and produce 30 megawatts of new, clean energy – helping to drive down energy prices.”

 “We’re working with industry and community to make sure solar farm developments deliver the right outcomes for communities, the environment and jobs” he continued.

The Tallygaroopna, Lemnos and Tatura East solar farm applications has been deferred until further strategic work on Goulburn Murray Irrigation District is completed.

As per the official press release, the Labor Government in Victoria will invest over $1.3b to put solar panels, hot water, and batters in 720,000 homes, as part of their Solar Homes Program.

Minister for Environment, Energy and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio was equally impressed by the project, discussing how they will be able to affect climate change and electricity prices:

“These new guidelines will provide more certainty to the community, and more confidence to invest in major solar farms like the one at Congupna.”

 “We’re creating jobs, driving down power prices and combatting climate change with the biggest investment in renewable energy in Victoria’s history” Minister D’Ambrosio said.

According to Shepparton News, Mr Wynne’s office stressed in a press release that the Congupna facility “will be built on non-irrigated agricultural land” and is projected to create almost $40 million in capital expenditure.

Solar Energy Facilities – Design and Development Guidelines

At the same time, Minister Wynne released a draft version of the design and development guidelines for solar energy facilities. They’ll help councils, developers, and communities ensure they build solar farms suitable for everybody. Although we’ve seen many successful large-scale solar farm rollouts in Australia, solar farm opposition is still a bit of an issue for some developments. Hopefully these guidelines help clear up what is and isn’t suitable for large-scale solar! 

 

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Redback Technologies’ Smart Hybrid System Launch

Brisbane-based Redback Technologies will launch their new Smart Hybrid System this week, which is a brand new all-in-one system to simplify solar energy for installers and homeowners while still generating maximum ROI on your solar investment!

Redback Technologies and the next generation Smart Hybrid System

Redback Smart Hybrid System Inverter SH5000
Redback Smart Hybrid System Inverter SH5000 (source: redbacktech.com)

Redback launched the Smart Hybrid System Sh5000 today at the 2018 All-Energy Conference – it has an abundance of features which are perfect for the house looking to maximise their ROI from installing solar:

  • 5kW inverter
  • New modular (expandable) battery cabinet. It can holdup to 14kWh of energy storage
  • All-in-one design outdoor rated for Australian weather conditions.
  • Inbuilt UPS, pre-wired with integrated DC isolators for an easy install. 

The Redback Technologies Smart Hybrid System uses the newly designed Redback Smart Energy Manager app, which makes installation a breeze. When you conneect the inverter to the web portal, you can monitor the performance of your inverter in real time, making sure it’s working as expected! 

Redback MD Patrick Matweew said in a press release delivered by email: “We’re all looking for ways to save money and reduce stress when it comes to our household energy bills. That’s why now is the right time for homeowners to consider a solar and storage system as it not only reduces household costs, but it also gives consumers the power to control their energy future.

“With the cost of small-scale renewable installations continuing to fall, there’s never been a better time to consider solar and battery storage.”

The Redback Smart Energy Manager app is now available to download from Google Play (Android) or the App Store (Apple).

If you’re interested in buying one of these Smart Hybrid Systems or would like to learn more about them then please give the friendly team at Redback a call on 1300 240 182 or click here to visit their page for homeowners/small business proprietors. 

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Solar Backpackers – Solar jobs not going to locals?

The dozens of solar farms in various stages of construction or approval in Queensland are being flooded with ‘solar backpackers’ – with local staff being eschewed due to the perception of being too difficult to manage. This has led to a situation where ‘solar backpackers’ are being employed instead of local staff as it’s easier for the companies. 

Solar Backpackers and Solar Jobs

According to the ABC, in the last fortnight Workplace Health and Safety Queensland and the Electrical Safety Office conducted inspections across many of Queensland’s regional solar farms. 30 Notices were issued to various companies – this includes 23 breaches of the Work Health and Safety Act and seven breaches of the Electrical Safety Act.

Industrial Minister Grace Grace discussed the issues and advised that a new Code of Practice will be released by the end of the year:

“With the construction of solar and wind farms expanding throughout Queensland, we must ensure electrical safety is paramount,” she said.

“While there is a robust system in place to ensure the highest levels of safety, we are far from complacent and we want to ensure world’s best practice in this area.

“Following the completion of the solar code, a similar process will be undertaken to develop a separate code of practice for wind farms,” she said.

The Australian Border Force have also become involved, but haven’t confirmed any instances of ‘illegal workers’ or ‘worker exploitation’:

“The Australian Government is committed to ensuring that Australian workers have priority and that foreign workers are a supplement to, and not a substitute for, Australians,” an ABF spokesperson said.

“The Working Holiday Maker (WHM) visa allows ‘backpackers’ to stay and holiday in Australia for up to 12 months, work in Australia for up to six months with each employer, study for up to four months and leave and re-enter Australia any number of times while the visa is valid.

“WHM visa holders can undertake any kind of work with any employer during their stay in Australia as long as they do not work more than six months with that employer.”

List of Solar Farms in Queensland (Information from abc.net.au)

Company Solar Farm Area Size Owner Solar Jobs Created
Biosar Energy Childers Bundaberg 120MW Elliott 200
Biosar Energy Susan River Fraser Coast 100MW Elliott 300
Biosar Energy Oakey Solar Farm Stage 2 Toowoomba 70MW Canadian Solar 200
Downer Group Ross River Solar Farm Townville 148MW Palisade Unknown
Downer Group Clare Solar Farm Burdekin 100 MW FRV Unknown
Downer Group Sunshine coast Solar Farm Sunshine Coast 15MW Sunshine Coast City Council Unknown
Acciona Lilyvale Solar Farm Central Highlands 100MW Fotowatio Renewable Ventures Unknown
CIMIC Group & UGL Limited Collinsville Solar Project Whitsunday 42.5MW Ratch Australia 120 at peak
RCR Tomlinson Darling Downs Solar Farm Western Downs 110MW APA Group 3,000 across eight projects
RCR Tomlinson Daydream Solar Farm Whitsunday 180MW Edify Energy 3,000 across eight projects
RCR Tomlinson Hayman Solar Farm Whitsunday 60MW Edify Energy 3,000 across eight projects
RCR Tomlinson Longreach Solar Farm Longreach 15MW Canadian Solar 3,000 across eight projects
RCR Tomlinson Oakey Solar Farm Stage 1 Toowoomba 25MW Canadian Solar 3,000 across eight projects
RCR Tomlinson Sun Metals Solar Farm Stage 1 Townsville 124MW Sun metals Corp 3,000 across eight projects
RCR Tomlinson Emerald Solar Park Central Highlands 72MW Renewable Energy Systems 3,000 across eight projects
RCR Tomlinson Haughton Burdekin 500MW Pacific Hydro 3,000 across eight projects
Bouygues Construction Australia Hamilton Solar Farm Whitsunday 69MW Edify Energy 325
Tranex Whitsunday Solar Farm Whitsunday 69MW Edify Energy Approx. 60
Beon Energy Hughenden Solar Farm Flinders 20MW BayWa r.e 100
Windlab and Erus Energy Kennedy Energy Park Flinders 60MW Windlab Approx. 130 to 140
Yarranlea Yarranlea Solar Farm Toowoomba 121MW Risen Energy 200 proposed positions
Adani Rugby Run Solar Farm Stage 1 Isaac Region 65MW Adani Renewables 150 proposed jobs
 

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Solar Panel Roads in Australia / Efficiency

Solar panel roads – today we’ll take a look at how research and trials for solar panel roads are going, and what the future looks like for solar highways. Will we ever see solar highways in Australia (or anywhere else, for that matter)? 

Solar Panel Roads

We’ve already written extensively about solar roads and the various trials they’re currently in the middle of:

However there are three main problems with solar roads at the moment – price, performance, and safety. It’s still exorbitantly expensive to come up (the price per kW of all the current solar roads is up to $~2000 per kilowatt) with these road solar cells which perform significantly worse than their roofed brethren. Since the panels don’t have a tilt and need to be housed underneath something strong and load-bearing, this cuts efficiency significantly. And if 5% of a panel is shaded, this can reduce power generation by up to 50%. It’s assumed that dirt, dust, and traffic will exacerbate this – so we need a way to make the initial panels cheaper and/or more effective if solar roads are ever going to be a real possibility. 

Solar Panel Roads in Australia

Solar Panel Roads in Australia
Solar Panel Roads in Australia? (source: solarroadways.com)

Would these solar panel roads work in Australia? News.com.au have a great article about solar road technology, where they  discuss how expensive the current trials are and what the future for this technology could be:

The article quotes Dr. Andrew Thomson, a solar researcher at Australian National University. 

“It’s a really attractive looking idea,” Dr Thomson said. But while “it’s technically feasible, it’s very expensive. I don’t really think there’s a market for it, the opportunity cost is very much against it”.

We’ll keep you updated with progress on how solar road resarch is going along – but perhaps it’s just not the best place to put solar panels as Dylan Ryan, lecturer in Mechanical & Energy Engineering at Edinburgh Napier University told news.com.au: “…solar roads on city streets are just not a great idea”

 

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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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Victorian Renewable Energy Targets Reverse Auction

The first renewable energy auction in Victoria has had a fantastic result – with over 900MW of wind/solar energy to be generated as part of the Victorian Renewable Energy Targets.

Victorian Renewable Energy Targets Reverse Auction

A reverse auction was held to generate >650MW of energy. That goal has been hammered – with the auction ending up with 928MW of renewable projects to generate $1.1 billion of economic investment in regional Victoria and create more than 900 jobs, including 270 apprenticeships and traineeships. 

Victorian Renewable Energy Targets -The Hon. Lily D'Ambrosio MP (source: Wikipedia)
Victorian Renewable Energy Targets -The Hon. Lily D’Ambrosio MP (source: Wikipedia)

The six successful projects were announced by Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and Minister for Energy Lily D’Ambrosio at the Ararat Wind Farm today. Premier Andrews discussed this 

“It’s simple – greater supply of renewable energy means lower power prices and more jobs for Victorian families.”

“We’re making Victoria the capital of renewable energy and supporting the thousands of local jobs it creates.”

Lily D’Ambrosio was similarly effusive in praising the project, even working in a little jab at the Liberals who were trying to ‘shut this industry down’:

“Renewable energy creates jobs, drives growth, and protects our environment – and most importantly, helps drive down power prices for Victorian households and businesses.”

“In contrast to the Liberals who tried to shut this industry down, we’re backing renewable investment and renewable jobs.”

Those six farms are:

  • Berrybank Wind Farm west of Geelong, which will produce 180MW
  • Carwarp Solar Farm south of Mildura, which will produce 121.6MW
  • Cohuna Solar Farm north-west of Echuca, which will produce 34.2MW
  • Dundonnell Wind Farm north-east of Warrnambool, which will produce 336MW
  • Mortlake South Wind Farm south of Mortlake, which will produce 157.5MW
  • Winton Solar Farm near Benalla, which will produce 98.8MW

According to the official press release on the Victorian Government website, more than $1.3b will be invested for solar panels, solar hot water, and battery schemes. This will help over 700,000 households via the Solar Homes scheme which will go ahead with a re-elected Andrews Labor government. 

If you’re interested in reading more about the solar battery rebates in Victoria please click. 

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Ovida Community Energy Hub | Victorian Solar Grant

A generous grant for the $2m Melbourne based Ovida Community Energy Hub was announced by the Victorian state government this week. It’s been given a grant to help deliver affordable, dispatchable and reliable energy for occupants of apartment and commercial buildings.

Ovida Community Energy Hub

Ovida Community Energy Hub installers Jemena (source: jemena.com.au)
Ovida Community Energy Hub installers Jemena

The Ovida Community Energy Hub has been awarded a $980m grant from the Victorian government to install shared solar and battery storage systems in three as yet unchosen multi-tenanted buildings. 

It’ll be done in conjunction with a group of solar companies – the consortium behind the $2 million Ovida project includes Ovida themselves, shared/community solar company Allume Energy, distribution company Jemena, RMIT and the Moreland Energy Foundation.

“Microgrid projects are part of our plan to drive down energy prices, reduce emissions and create a pipeline of investment in renewable energy,” Victorian energy minister Lily D”Ambrosio said in a statement reported by One Step Off The Grid

“This initiative will allow more households and businesses in multi-tenanted buildings to take control of their energy bills.”

The project will generate 5000kWh of renewable energy and will also support 11,000kWh of energy storage when it’s complete 

“Traditionally solar arrangements in multi-tenanted apartment blocks have been all or nothing – meaning all residents had to invest in and use the system for it to work,” said Ovida’s Paul Adams while discussing the project. 

“We know this can be a challenge because apartment blocks often include long-term residents, owners, and short-term occupants who each have different energy needs and expectations.

Along with apartment solar, this is another great step for commercial solar in Australia – watching the government get involved like this bodes well for the future of these sorts of projects. As the price of electricity continues to rise more and more businesses will be looking to insure themselves against further rises and look at buying their energy from alternative sources.

 

 

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Darling Downs Solar Update | Jobs, Farms & More

Darling Downs solar is helping the area by providing jobs to locals and kickstarting the economy – with one council already approving $6b worth of wind and solar projects. There’s now a ‘buzz’ around the Darling Downs and renewable energy – let’s take a look at what they have in the pipeline!

Darling Downs Solar 

Darling Downs Solar Farm
Darling Downs Solar Farm (source: Origin Energy)

“We’ve got $1.2 billion of that under construction now, and that’s the exciting thing, this isn’t just about approvals, this is about action to deliver renewable energies to this region,” Western Downs Regional Council mayor Paul McVeigh said in comments to the ABC

“And we know there are another three [solar farms] in the pipeline.”

In Warwick, the 154,000 megawatt-hour generating UQ / Warwick Solar Farm is to be installed on ‘good agricultural land’ has had to wage a battle against NIMBY detractors. Mayor Tracy Dobie defended her decision (she had the deciding vote to allow the farm DA):

“This region is about growth and development and we can sit here and go poor slowly or we can progress our region and the more development we can get in our region the more jobs,” Ms Dobie said.

“The more progress we can make, the better off we are.”

Mayor Dobie continued to discuss the project and what she sees the future of renewable energy in the Darling Downs as looking like:

“This is a turning point in our region to show we are moving forward, that we are looking to the future, and there is nothing more evident than that than renewable energy.

“There’s a buzz about the Darling Downs, this is a great place to be and great time to be here.”

Toowoomba Solar

There’s been an amazing amount of renewable energy movement in Toowoomba – with the billion dollar project at Bulli Creek approved by the Tooowoomba Council. This will be built by Solar Choice over a 10 year staggered period. 

Toowoomba mayor Paul Antonio spoke about the concerns some residents may have and why he’s happy to continue approving solar farms:

“I guess we have to be a bit cautious of the type of land we put it on, but in saying that, the land is restorable, its not going to be destroyed in any mining effort or anything like that, and in 20, 30, 40 years’ time that land will be back to full production.”

Have a look at the short video below from ABC Landline which was part of an article about using ‘good farmland’ for solar farms. 

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National Energy Guarantee approved by Coalition party room

The NEG (National Energy Guarantee) has been passed by the Coalition party room after a strenuous morning of debate – let’s take a look at what happens next. 

Next Steps For National Energy Guarantee

NEG - National Energy Guarantee
NEG – National Energy Guarantee (source: ABC News: Matt Roberts)

We wrote earlier this week about the NEG approval and how Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has a very hard road ahead if he’s to push this policy through parliament:

“The Labor Party has to decide whether they want to support cheaper and more reliability electricity,” Mr Turnbull said.

“We have got to bring an end to the years of ideology and idiocy which have been a curse on energy policy for too long and that is why industry – whether you’re talking about big industrial consumers or small business, consumer groups  – are calling on government, governments, and oppositions to get behind this policy.”

The four issues which we discussed earlier this week are still in a state of flux:

  1. The emission reduction targets can only ever increase and must not decrease.
  2. Targets need to be set in regulation (Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg has already rejected it).
  3. Emission reduction targets must be set every three years, three years in advance.
  4. Creation of a registry which is transparent and accessible by regulators and governments.

The opposition (federal Labor) are also in favour of the NEG but they want the 2030 emissions reduction target increased from 26% to 45%:

“We are still very keen on trying to find a bipartisan way through the deep energy crisis that has emerged under this Prime Minister,” shadow energy and climate change minister Mark Butler said.

“We will continue to fight for a much more ambitious investment setting for this sector so you do see new renewable energy jobs and investment and you do see downward pressure on power prices.”

According to former PM Tony Abbot, the NEG still needs a lot of work as most of its support is currently ‘conditional’ and at least a dozen members of the Coalition had expressed concern about the NEG. Abbot said that the provided explanations of how the NEG “might theoretically get prices down” sounded “like merchant bankers’ gobbledegook”:

‘We’ve got to be loyal to our electorates and to party members too and not show the unity of lemmings.’,” Mr Abbott continued.

The Australian Financial Review has the numbers at 26 MPs supporting the policy and around 10 yet to be convinced. 

For the next steps, the state ministers will be asked to support a month long public consultation on laws which will affect their constituents. The state legislation should then be finalised by the end of October and we’ll see what sort of shape (if any) the NEG is at that point. Federal legislation tied to the NEG will be introduced within the next 10 days. 

 

 

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National Energy Guarantee Approval – Next Steps

National Energy Guarantee Approval – the NEG has been approved by the states and territories of Australia ‘in principle’ – allowing it to move to the next step. There’s still plenty of discussion to go before we see anything signed off, but it’s a step in the right direction for those who believe in the NEG and its ostensible goal of cheaper, more reliable power with less carbon emissions.

National Energy Guarantee Approval

National Energy Guarantee Approval - Malcolm Turnbull
National Energy Guarantee Approval – Malcolm Turnbull (source: yourlifechoices.com.au)

As with most political decisions in this country, there is a lot of posturing and point scoring going on – depending on who you ask, it’s either a ‘great step forward’ or the governments ‘withholding support’. Regardless of the case, the Federal Government has now released a draft of the energy bill which will be taken to next week’s party room meeting for approval. If you want to learn more about what happened with the NEG during the week, please click here

The states want to see detailed legislation and some of them have ‘red line’ conditions which must be met before they fit in to the National Energy Guarantee – there’s still a long way before any of this becomes law in Australia.

Victoria were especially strident in their remarks about the NEG. Victoria’s Energy Minister, Labor’s Lily D’Ambrosio, said agreeing to the plan today would be like signing “with a blindfold on”. advising that they won’t support it unless the following four demands are met:

  1. The emission reduction targets can only ever increase and must not decrease.
  2. Targets need to be set in regulation (this one’s going to be a bit of a problem as Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg has already rejected it).
  3. Emission reduction targets must be set every three years, three years in advance.
  4. Creation of a registry which is transparent and accessible by regulators and governments.

The emissions reduction target in the NEG is to bring down emissions in the electricity sector by 26 per cent by 2030.

COAG Energy Ministers will have another discussion after the Coalition Party Room meeting on Tuesday. Watch this space! We’ll keep you posted.

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