Camberwell Grammar School Solar System

The 862kW Camberwell Grammar School Solar System has been installed in Canterbury and all 2,607 solar panels are currently generating electricity for the largest solar project on any school in Australia. IT will generate 1GWh (1 million kWh’s) of clean energy every year. 

Camberwell Grammar School Solar System - Gippsland Solar
Camberwell Grammar School Solar System – Gippsland Solar (source: gippslandsolar.com.au)

The Camberwell Grammar School Solar System

The team at Gippsland Solar (comprising of 14 commercial installers who were put up in Melbourne for the duration of the project) set up the school solar system, which includes two ‘off-grid classrooms’, earlier this year. It’s been a technically challenging process that required 3D drone modelling, complicated electrical and structural engineering. The first 550kW was delivered over the Christmas school holidays and the remaining 312kW was completed at the end of term one, so as to minimise the amount of disruption to students.

According to the Gippsland Solar Facebook page, the system will generate just over half of the school’s usage and during the holidays they’ll export any excess power back to the grid.

System Details – Gippsland Solar

  • Solar panels – 2650 x Trina 350W frameless panels
  • Inverters – 34 x Fronius European inverters
  • System capacity – 862kW
  • Power production – Approx 1,000,000 kWh’s per year
  • Carbon savings – Approx 1,200 Tonnes per year
  • The school is now looking into installing a Tesla Powerpack battery to go with the solar system. 

Another huge step forwards for commercial solar as we see projects like this become financially feasible. What’s also great to note is that the project was entirely driven by the school student council, who presented the idea to the Camberwell board. 

If you want to learn more about the Camberwell Grammar School Solar System then click here to read a case study from the Gippsland Solar website or click the video below which shows off this beautiful feat of engineering. Kudos Gippsland Solar! 

ShineHub offer ‘fixed rate, free access’ solar.

A company named ShineHub has released a ‘fixed rate, free access’ contract Australia wide (except NT and Tasmania) where users can have solar+storage installed for free. The trial program will be for 1,000 contracts and will be expanded in the future. 

ShineHub’s fixed price solar service.

Shinehub Fixed Price Solar
Shinehub Fixed Price Solar (source: shinehub.com.au)

ShineHub’s contract means that they actually own the system and are responsible for the maintenance of it. The contracts run for 20 years and lock the customer into a 20 year contract to buy the electricity the system produces. According to the team the cost of an average system ShineHub will install is $15,000, so that’s quite a big saving if you’re not able to stump up for the system upfront.

“This is the first contract of its kind available to residential homes across Australia for a solar and battery package,” ShineHub co-founder Alex Georgiou told news.com.au in an interview.

“This provides a simple way to purchase (a system) and everything is taken care of. There are no additional fees, we’ve taken the uncertainty out,” Mr Georgiou said.

“It’s a very easy way for consumers to get what they want, without getting scared off by either the cost or the reliability.”

The program could be particularly good for landlords who don’t want to stump up the fairly sizeable upfront cost to install solar+storage but want to help their tenants enjoy the reduced electricity prices having solar panels can bring. We’ve written fairly extensively about the difficulty of installing solar power for renters – perhaps ideas like ShineHub could be a step in the right direction so they’re able to  enjoy some stability with regards to their electricity bill.

Some more information about the service:

  • Installation will be in July this year.
  • You can buy out the system at a discounted rate. If you want to sell your house it’s possible to transfer the ShineHub contract to a new owner.
  • You’ll remain connected to the grid and will have to pay the ongoing access fee for it.
  • They’ll use Bloomberg rated Tier 1 solar panels from Longi, Alpha ESS’s SMILE5 hybrid inverter and battery system.
  • ShineHub are partnered with 85 certified solar companies in Australia to help deliver their idea. 

If you’re interested in applying for one of the ShineHub systems, you can contact them for a consultation to see if you’re eligible. 

As per news.com.au, the average electricity rates and ShineHub prices are listed below.

NSW:

  • Highest price is: $0.39/kWh
  • Average rate is: $0.24/kWh
  • Price starts at: $0.18/kWh
  • Typical savings bracket: 20 per cent to 35 per cent.

VIC:

  • Highest price is: $0.34/kWh
  • Average rate is: $0.21/kWh
  • Price starts at: $0.18/kWh
  • Typical savings bracket: 14 per cent to 30 per cent.

SA:

  • Highest price is: $0.47/kWh
  • Average rate is: $0.35/kWh
  • Price starts at: $0.18/kWh
  • Typical savings bracket: 35 per cent to 50 per cent.

QLD:

  • Highest price is: $0.35/kWh
  • Average rate is: $0.22/kWh
  • Price starts at: $0.18/kWh
  • Typical savings bracket: 18 per cent to 30 per cent.

WA:

  • Highest price is: $0.26/kWh
  • Average rate is: $0.26/kWh
  • Price starts at: $0.18/kWh
  • Typical savings bracket: Around 30 per cent.

 

Gladstone solar farm – manufacturing contract signed.

The $500m Gladstone solar farm will be built at Aldoga later this year as the Queensland Government chose to award the contract to Spanish renewable energy giant Acciona Energy who will build the 265MW farm and establish a community benefits fund. It will hope to gain development approval over the next few months. 

Gladstone Solar Farm

Gladstone Solar Farm - Acciona
Gladstone Solar Farm – Acciona (source:acciona.com)

Around 1250 hectares of state owned land at Aldoga will be used to create the solar farm, which is slated to create hundreds of jobs and also provide plenty to the local area as part of the contract:

“As part of the lease agreements, Acciona Energy will also establish a community benefits fund of between $50,000 to $120,000 per year, representing between $1.5 million to $3.6 million over the 30-year lease, to be provided to local clubs, associations and community groups in the region.” Cameron Dick, Queensland Minister for State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning, said.

“Acciona Energy will develop, finance, construct and operate a $500 million solar farm through a 30-year lease with the Queensland Government and they are committed to Buy Queensland and Gladstone Buy Local procurement strategies,” Mr Dick continued.

They’re currently undertaking a ‘detailed feasibility study’ before development approvals are sought, and after that they’ll commence construction:

“This could take around 12 months, meaning construction may begin in the second half of next year, and electricity generation in the second half of 2020,” Acciona Energy Australia Managing Director Brett Wickham said.

We’ve written about solar power in Gladstone before and mentioned this project (where it was proposed as a 450MW renewable hub), so it’s great to see this project finally off the ground and gaining some traction. 

No word on whether Acciona will be thinking about adding energy storage to this solar farm, but with the price sinking rapidly we’ll see how their plans change after they have a go at the DA process and start working on construction! 

 

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. 

Solar Scams – a guide how to avoid them!

With the rapid proliferation of solar in Australia has come many solar companies. How do you find a good solar installer? The vast majority of them try to do the right thing but there are some solar scams out there you need to be aware of. Here’s a guide to make sure you don’t get ripped off on your solar power installation!

Solar scams

The first thing to do if you’re interested in installing a solar system is check whether the company is accredited. 

The industry body for the designer, installer, and the actual products is the Clean Energy Council. Make sure your system is designed by a Clean Energy Council accredited designer. Double check that your installer is also CEC accredited. If you’re not sure, the CEC have a list of Approved Solar Retailers you can choose from. 

Solar Scams - Choose a CEC Accredited Installer
Solar Scams – Choose a CEC Accredited Installer (source: CEC)

Double check that your panels and the inverter are accredited and meet Australian standards. If they aren’t CEC accredited, you won’t get your rebates aka Small Scale Technology Certificates (STCs) – this rebate is generally around $2,000 for a 3kW system. Click here to read more about STCs from the Clean Energy Regulator or click here if you want to use their online STC calculator. 

How do I pick the right solar company to avoid solar scams?

Ask if the person designing your system is qualified to do so. According to Choice.com.au, this will shrink your retailer list by 90% and weed out all the designers who will do a poor quality job and leave you with an under-performing solar system. 

Avoid anyone with pushy sales tactics and avoid anyone that uses door-to-door sales as a sales technique. If they’re using language like ‘never pay a power bill again’ or trying to hurry you along by saying that the government rebates are about to end, avoid them again. 

For price, make sure you get 4 quotes at minimum. Watch out for dodgy T&Cs that allow suppliers to swap out for ‘equivalent’ models, upselling, surcharges, and so on. Don’t be afraid to stop a salesman from steamrolling over you. This is a big financial decision and you should do your due diligence before committing. 

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) have a page about consumer rights for solar power that you should also check out (especially if you have a problem).

What information do I need on the quote?

  • A proper, printed out quotation showing the company’s name, address, and ABN.
  • A timetable of operation.
  • Model numbers, brands, and quantity for the panels, inverter, and battery (if applicable). 
  • An estimate of the system’s performance.
  • Product and installation warranty for the inverter.
  • Installation warranty, product warranty and performance warranty for the panels.
  • Any additional funds that may be payable. 
  • STCs should be included in the quote. This is a big one! Be wary because if you’re not careful some dodgy companies can just claim them without mentioning it to you.

If Saving With Solar can give you a hand to help pick the right solar company, please feel free to get in contact with us and we’d be happy to help. 

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. 

Two bidders for Liddell power station.

Delta Electricity have entered the contest with Alinta Energy to buy the Liddell power station – a coal-fired, ageing plant that still pumps out 1680MW and is owned by AGL, who have advised that they’ll close it by 2022.

Liddell Power Station

Liddell Power Station
Liddell Power Station (source: wikipedia.org)

Following the shutdown of the 1600MW Hazelwood coal-fired power plant last year, customers saw power shortages and a spike in power bills. The government is concerned that the same thing will happen if the Liddell power station is shut by 2022 – with PM Malcolm Turnbull directly telephoning AGL chairman Graeme Hunt this week to talk about the sale.

AGL haven’t allowed Alinta Energy or Delta Electricity to do any due diligence on the plant – with Delta MD Greg Everett telling the Sydney Morning Herald is was a major hindrance for the company who have been shut out from performing any in the past, as AGL advised they weren’t willing to sell:

“Would we be interested? If it was for sale we would definitely be interested in doing due diligence on it,” Mr Everett said.

“So we’d be in the same position as Alinta.”

Everett and Delta already operate the Vales Point coal-fired generator in NSW and the company was previously owned by the NSW government. Everett has been quoted as saying there is a ‘reasonable’ chance of extending the life of the program past 2022.

Alinta chief executive Jeff Dimery made a statement this morning confirming that their company are interested in Liddell, and if they sign a deal they aren’t going to apply for any government subsidies. Dimery advised that Alinta are willing to invest ~$1 billion AUD to buy the plant and extend its life by five to seven years. This would see the plant shutting down around 2027-2029 instead of 2022. 

AGL are keeping fairly taciturn about the situation:

“AGL is relying on Liddell to generate power for our customers until 2022 and we will require its infrastructure for our replacement plans into the future,” an AGL spokesman told Fairfax Media.

“AGL received an approach from Alinta last night expressing an interest in entering negotiations to acquire the Liddell Power Station. No formal offer has been received.

“Should a formal offer for Liddell be received, it would be given consideration in order to meet our obligations to customers and shareholders.”

There’s no doubt that Australia are moving towards renewable, clean energy and this is a good thing. The transition, however, needs to be done in an intelligent way – it’s be great to be totally renewably powered as soon as possible but it’s going to be a patience game as the technology increases and we work on reliable baseload power while we invest as much in renewable energy generation as we can. Where will we be in 2022, RET wise? It’s hard to say. We’ll keep you updated with any news about the plant’s potential sale. 

The first solar powered house in Australia.

The ABC recently ran an article about the first solar powered house in Australia, the ‘Bos house’ – which was constructed in Victoria 40 years ago. A TV documentary ‘Breakthroughts’ called the house “the first totally energy-independent modern home in the world”.

The first solar powered house in Australia

The first solar powered house in Australia
Solar gate at the Bos’ – the first solar powered house in Australia (source: ABC)

Judy and Michael Bos have a house on a four hectare block at Pearcedale, in south-east Melbourne. They wanted a house which had as much natural insulation as possible so that it would be naturally cool in summer and warm in winter. It was build in 1978 after ‘lengthy consultation’ with architects and investigating other houses:

“We went into other houses, we found that their heating was blasting away and we didn’t need the heat, because the house stays the same temperature all the time,” Judy Bos told the ABC in an interview.

The north-facing side of the Bos’ home is 98% glass, which means it absorbs as much warmth from the sun as possible. If it’s a hot day they have louvres throughout the house to control sunlight. Wind turbines power a dam pump and a 37,000 litre rainwater tank. 

“It was the first house that we knew of that was running exclusively on solar power,” said Michael Harris, who ran tours of the eco-friendly property in the 1980s.

“Back in the 1980s people were very interested in being self-sufficient and being off the grid, and it was very difficult to do.

“The only option you had was to have a clunky, noisy generator in the back shed.”

The Bos’ property was different – where it has a string of polycrystalline celled solar panels to charge a cupboard full of lead acid solar batteries. According to the ABC, solar panels are now 15x more powerful than when the Bos’ place was constructed, and they’re also much, much cheaper. 

The (now sold) house was a labor of love and quite far ahead of its time and the Bos’ say that anyone wanting to follow in their footsteps will find it easy in 2018:

“This is a very old-fashioned solar house,” Ms Bos said.

“We had to deal with what was available at the time … but now there are all sorts of materials that can be used.

“It doesn’t cost any more to put the windows in the right places and to use the right materials, and in the long run you win.”

We’re expecting solar battery installation to increase quite substantially over the coming few years as the technology continues to improve and the cost decreases.  

Self-forecasting trial for solar/wind farms.

A $10m trial funded by ARENA (the Australian Renewable Energy Agency) will allow operators of solar and wind farms to start self-forecasting in order to improve information for the Australian Energy Market Operator and potentially decrease prices.

Self-forecasting – How will it help?

Self-forecasting trial for wind and solar farms
Self-forecasting trial for wind and solar farms (source: aemo.com.au)

The AEMO currently predicts outputs in five minute intervals – but they’re sometimes not completely accurate and as such can require companies to spend extra money so the grid remains stable. These extra costs are then passed onto the consumers by the retailers (by raising power prices). If we were able to have more accurate forecasting of output by solar/wind farms this would decrease prices for everyone.

The new trial will be undertaken by ARENA and the AEMO, and, according to Federal Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg, local factors (i.e. weather, geography, operational conditions) will be factored in and result in a complete overhaul of the way renewable production prediction is made across Australia’s National Energy Market.

“If successful, this trial could see wind and solar farms providing their own ‘self-forecasts’ that take into account exactly what’s happened when and where they are located. For example, if a cloud passes over a solar farm or if the wind changes,” Mr Frydenberg said.

 “Self-forecasting at the source will allow wind and solar farms to not only maximise the amount of renewable energy dispatched into the grid but also avoid the need to pay for frequency controls services.”
 
Problems are currently arising when AEMO are over or under-forecasting the amount of energy a farm generates – as it can decrease the stability of the grid which then uses frequency control services to manage the supply and demand. The costs of these services, as always, end up being paid by the end-user. 
 
ARENA chief executive Ivor Frischknecht​ said the trial should help cut down on the costs of grid stabilisation which come from inaccurate forecasting:

“If the forecasts are too high, the wind or solar farm may be obliged to pay for the costs of stabilising, which increases the price of electricity and is ultimately passed on. We are hoping this initiative will change how forecasts for variable renewable energy are used in the electricity market.”

 

SA Tesla Battery Plan – Election Fallout

The future of the SA Tesla Battery plan brokered between Elon Musk’s Tesla and Jay Weatherill’s is on unstable footing after the results of Saturday’s state election in South Australia, seeing Weatherill’s party defeated by the Liberals. But will it make much of a difference? How will the new party serve SA’s rapidly growing renewable energy industry?

SA Tesla Battery Plan
SA Tesla Battery Plan Future? Jay Weatherill and Elon Musk in happier times (source: SA Labor Facebook)

SA Tesla Battery Plan – What Now?

The incumbent Labor party, headed up by Jay Weatherill, lost to the Liberal party on Saturday night after 16 years of rule in South Australia. The new premier is Steven Marshall who seems quite keen on continuing the Labor party’s work on growing renewable energy in the state.

ABC Radio National Breakfast’s Fran Kelly asked Marshall about the plan to equip housing trust properties with Tesla Powerwall 2 batteries, and Mr Marshall said: “That’s not part of our agenda. Our agenda is 40,000 homes.” However, when pressed about the specifics at a later date, Marshall was a (little) more clear on the Liberals’ plans:

“We don’t know where that is but any contracts the [previous] government’s entered into — we’ll be honouring them, there’s no doubt about that. Any other items that they flagged during the election, we’re happy to look at it but we’ve got our own energy policy agenda and we’ll be rolling that out as a priority.”

We wrote earlier this year about the South Australian solar loan program which both parties had different versions of a renewable energy push for the state – Labor were offering $100m for solar loans in South Australia. Up to 10,000 South Australian homeowners could access up to $10,000 for loans for solar panels, batteries, or both – with the loans interest free for the first 7  years. There was talk of the solar batteries offered in this scheme to be 100% manufactured by Tesla. 

In contrast Steve Marshall’s Liberals had the same amount of expenditure – on a bigger scale, with a smaller amount per household – their $100m plan was to provide grants of $2,500 per household for 40,000 dwellings. Mr Marshall argued at the time that 10,000 households was not enough to ‘shift the dial’, speaking about the rapidly increasing cost of electricity. The Liberals haven’t mentioned Tesla specifically and Marshall doesn’t have the same close relationship as Weatherill had with the enigmatic Elon Musk – but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Marshall is clearly keen to move forwards on renewable energy and whether he chooses Tesla or one of the Powerwall 2 alternatives as their energy storage battery of choice may not matter so much.

We’ll keep a close eye on how the Marshall government moves forwards with the SA renewable energy initiatives and keep reporting in!