Redback Technologies receive $4m grant from QLD

The Queensland government has given Redback Technologies a $4m grant to continue its work on developing a smart energy monitoring platform. The grant has been awarded through the Advance Queensland Platform Technology Program. 

Redback Technologies

Redback Technologies - Redback Smart Hybrid Inverter
Redback Technologies – Redback Smart Hybrid Inverter (source: redbacktech.com)

The Brisbane based Redback Technologies advertise themselves as creators of “Advanced hybrid technology with battery manages and stores solar energy, which you can save for your own personal use or sell back to grid.”

The Fifth Estate is reporting that this could result in Redback hiring up to 109 new staff to help the development and manufacture of their ‘smart energy monitoring platform’ – a system which is able to deliver real-time power generation/usage information via apps or the internet and is also able to automate smart (IOT) appliances. It also manages solar and battery energy use depending on the weather, usage patterns, current tariffs the customer has, and so on. Obviously the project is not complete yet so we don’t have a full feature set but it’s really exciting to see something like this developed so close to home, and being helped by the government. 

Innovation Minister Kate Jones told a press conference:

“Redback Technologies is at the forefront of moves to make battery storage technology more affordable, with a system that will enable a reduction in energy costs for consumers and help to pump renewable energy into the grid.

“The $4 million Advance Queensland Platform Technology Program grant will lead to the development of a smart energy monitoring platform that will give customers the ability to instantly analyse and control energy consumption.” Ms. Jones continued.

Philip Livingston, the managing director of Redback, said that there will be macro as well as end user benefits as the business grows – pointing out that the more data they’re able to get on usage patterns, we will see a commensurate increase in efficiency of their systems: 

“The support of the Queensland government will enable Redback and our partners to create a platform ecosystem, using big data to drive better outcomes for energy users and energy businesses,” he said.

“This technology will benefit industries beyond energy.”

Newcastle solar farm to go ahead – Carnegie

Carnegie Clean Energy, who last week announced they will be building both the Kalbarri microgrid and the Kalgoorlie solar farm, have had another win today as their fully owned subsidiary Energy Made Clean won a tender to build and operate a $7m, 5MW Newcastle solar farm. 

Newcastle Solar Farm

Newcastle Solar Farm
Newcastle Solar Farm (source: Carnegie Clean Energy)

According to a press released they issued yesterday, Carnegie Clean Energy won the tender to install the PV solar + storage facility on a capped, former landfill site at the Summerhill Waste Management Centre in Newcastle. The project forms part of Newcastle Council’s plan to cut emissions by 30% by 2020 as part of the Renewable Energy Target. 

Carnegie’s Managing Director, Dr Michael Ottaviano (feels like we’ve been quoting him every day lately!) said, “We are delighted to have won our first utility scale solar farm project in NSW and our first to be connected in the National Electricity Market. This project brings the value of new contracted work for our joint venture to over $30m over the past 2 months.”

The Newcastle solar farm will be installed as a ground mounted fixed tilt system. It’ll have an optimised piling system so as to benefit as much as possible from the site topology and it’ll be modular – they are preparing for the future addition of a Battery Energy Storage System (BESS). Carnegie have stated that the design phase has already commenced and plant commissioning is expected at the end of Q3 this year. 

Energy Made Clean “specialises in the delivery of mixed renewable energy microgrid projects to islands and remote and fringe of grid communities” and Carnegie is the “only company in the world to offer a combination of wave, solar, wind, battery storage and desalination via microgrids” – so it’ll be really interesting to see what their future plans are now that they have some big projects to work on! 

Mungari / Kalgoorlie Solar Farm Tender

Hot of the heels of their success last week after signing a contract with Western Power to construct a microgrid in Kalbarri, Carnegie Clean Energy look set to build a Kalgoorlie Solar Farm after winning a tender for the lease of 250 hectares of land within the Buffer Zone of the Mungari Strategic Industrial Area.

The Mungari / Kalgoorlie Solar Farm

Kalgoorlie Solar Farm - Battery Energy Storage Solutions Carnegie
Kalgoorlie Solar Farm – Battery Energy Storage Solutions Carnegie (source: carnegiece.com)

According to SmallCaps, Carnegie (ASX: CCE) plan to construct and operate a solar farm which is capable of supplying large amounts of electricity into Western Australia’s main power grid. It’ll be known as the Mungari Solar Farm and will have a capacity of up to 100MW. This will result in the farm being able to generate 20MWh of battery-storage each year. The farm will be located 6km south-west of Kalgoorlie – where it will be able to supply electricity to Australia’s Eastern Goldfields. Another great step forward for renewable energy in resources – they’ll have access to clean, stable energy and be able to lock in price points without having to worry about the volatility currently plaguing Western Australia. It’ll also help them move towards reaching their RET (Renewable Energy Target) – which is currently 24% of electricity generation to come from renewables by 2020. 

“Carnegie has a strong track record of developing greenfield sites into shovel-ready renewable projects rapidly and responsibly, most recently with its Northam Solar Farm,” said Dr Michael Ottaviano (Carnegie Clean Energy‘s Managing Director).

“We are excited to play a role in the development of the Mungari Strategic Industrial Area, which has an important role in the future economic prosperity of the Eastern Goldfields and look forward to working closely with local industries seeking sources of clean power generation, the State Government, local governments and other key stakeholders in bringing this project to fruition,” said Dr Ottaviano.

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

Redflow in Thailand – Produce First Battery Stacks

Redflow in Thailand – we reported last year on their decision to move manufacturing of the Redflow zinc-bromine flow batteries to Thailand. Today they have emailed out a press release advising that they’ve successfully produced the first battery electrode stacks from the new factory southeast of Bangkok at the Hemaraj Chonburi Industrial Estate. 

Redflow in Thailand

Redflow in Thailand - Battery Production Milestone Reached
Redflow in Thailand – Battery Production Milestone Reached (source: redflow.com)

Redflow announced in December last year that they had succesfully started manufacturing core compenents for the zinc-bromine flow batteries at its new production facility – with the successful production of electrode inserts made of HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene) plastic at their Thai factory.

Today’s press release noted that they’ve now successfully produced battery electrode stacks – a key component of the ZBM2 zinc-bromine flow battery. The stacks involve using electrodes that charge and discharge the battery by “plating” and “deplating” zinc on a membrane. This process means the membrane is able to sustain 10 kilowatt-hours of energy storage capacity throughout the battery’s operating life, which  is estimated at 10 years of 36,500 kWh of delivered energy (whichever comes first). Keep in mind that battery performance and lifetime won’t be sensitive to cycle depth as there are no limitations due to the nature of zinc-bromine flow batteries. They’ll deliver 100% depth of discharge every day for their warranted time and this doesn’t cause any damage to the battery. 

According to the Redflow Limited Managing Director and CEO Richard Aird, the process has been smooth sailing so far: 

“The manufacturing team is very happy with the consistent quality and acceptable yield metrics of the stack line,” he said in the press release. 

As per Redflow’s manufacturing timeline, they are well on track to be able to produce complete batteries by June of this year. 

It’s been a brave move for Simon Hackett’s Redflow, who have had a challenging 2017 and made some tough operating decisions for the new year. We’ll keep you updated as to how production goes for their batteries. 

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. 

Labor’s “Powering Queensland’s Future” Plan

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and her incumbent Labor party have fired the first renewable energy salvo ahead of the looming Queensland state election on the 25th, promising $150m to support new large-scale renewable generation and solar power in schools as part of their Powering Queensland’s Future plan. 

Powering Queensland’s Future

Premier Palazczuk announced the Powering Queensland’s Future Plan on Sunday while she was touring the Clare Solar Farm project in Ayr (in the Burdekin electorate which is currently held by the LNP). It includes $97 million for solar schools, a huge $50 million down payment for a new solar thermal power plant, $3.6 million to decarbonise remote communities, and a $1 million study for renewable solutions for the Daintree.

Annastacia Palaszcuk - Powering Queensland’s Future
Annastacia Palaszcuk & Labor – Powering Queensland’s Future (source: couriermail.com.au)

Under the plan, the Government will establish a new company called CleanCo which will be mandated to deliver 1000MW of renewable energy in Queensland – with a special focus on flexible and dispatchable renewable energy (e.g. portable solar power). 

According to the Brisbane Times the funds would support a pipeline of $20 billion in proposed investment and it’ll create up to 15,000 full-time jobs, situated mostly in regional Queensland where unemployment is higher than in the cities. 

“We are committed to our transition to at least 50 percent renewable energy in Queensland by 2030,” Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said.

“Our Powering Queensland’s Future Plan (delivers) delivering more of the cheapest form of new generation – renewables sooner to complement our young and efficient fleet of coal and gas-fired generation.”

This is in stark contrast to the LNP’s plan to scrap the RET (Renewable Energy Target) if they are elected, believing that it’s time for the free market to decide on renewables vs. fossil fuels via their ‘Cheaper Energy Policy’. According to Labor’s policy, “Funding was cut (under LNP) for the Solar Dawn project, which would have delivered Queensland’s first solar thermal plant near Chinchilla, along with investment and job and training opportunities in regional Queensland,” calling the Newman-Nicholls government “complete renewable energy blackout”. 

Opposition Leader Tim Nicholls called the policy “more subsidies for more renewables that are going to cost jobs in regional Queensland”, and noted that they think baseload power is more reliable. 

 

 

Community Solar: Clean Energy 4 Goulburn

A group of residents in Goulburn have joined together to create a community solar farm. The 1.2MW AC output Clean Energy 4 Goulburn solar farm will have 4000 non-reflective PV solar panels and the capacity to power between 350 and 500 houses in the region. It will be completed in 2018. 

Clean Energy 4 Goulburn

Clean Energy 4 Goulburn Team
Clean Energy 4 Goulburn Team (source: ce4g.org.au)

After a lack of interest in renewable energy for Goulburn, a group of seven locals led by group president Ed Suttle, formed Clean Energy 4 Goulburn in 2014.  They were hoping to raise $2m to finance their project, with around 50% coming from the local community, as the group made a commitment that they will be majority community owned. 

Following a viable feasibility study in 2015/16, a DA was made to the Goulburn Mulwaree Council for their solar farm to be built on a 2.5-hectare site east of Goulburn owned by Divall’s Haulage. After a protracted approval process, CE4G are partnering with Essential Energy (which in itself took 5 months to be approved), who own the power infrastructure in Goulburn, to get permission to use their poles and wires to transport the energy.

The Sydney Morning Herald is reporting that the GE4G team are hoping to sell 50% of its eventual renewable output to one major end users (e.g. local government or a large institution), and the remaining 50% can be sold (via an electricity retailer) to the greater Goulburn community. 

Click here to visit the Clean Energy 4 Goulburn site and learn more about their plans.

The $380m Gunning Solar Farm is about 50km west of Goulburn (and is still in early development stages) but other than that there aren’t any other solar farms in Goulburn right now. 

Community Solar Farms

Earlier this year investors sunk over $3m into Australia’s largest community solar project in Canberra – the Majura Solar Farm. This is expected to be completed in 2018 also and, with 533 backers, certainly won’t be the last time we see community solar farms being built in Australia. Bringing the power back to the people, especially in rural areas, is going to get a lot larger over the coming years. 

See a video about the Goulburn community solar farm below! 

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! 

‘National Energy Guarantee’ a national disgrace.

Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership has been fraught with spineless (or a complete lack of) policy and the Government’s announcement of a National Energy Guarantee yesterday was congruent with what we’ve come to expect. In short, their national energy policy removes the Clean Energy Target, has 0 renewable energy policy after 2020, and defers critical decisions to state Government, the Australian Energy Regulator, and the Australian Energy Market Operator. The ‘National Energy Guarantee’ policy is based on a unanimous recommendation by the independent Energy Security Board, chaired by Dr Kerry Schott.

National Energy Guarantee

As per the official document, the National Energy Guarantee will actually comprise of two separate guarantees, determined and enforced by different bodies: 

The reliability guarantee will be set to deliver the right level of dispatchable energy—from ready-to-use sources such as coal, gas, pumped hydro and batteries—needed in each state. It will be set by the AEMC and AEMO. The goal of this is to help stop blackouts like those seen in South Australia last year and reduce prices by using long-term contracts rather than short-term spot prices. 

The emissions guarantee will be set to contribute to Australia’s international commitments. The level of the guarantee will be determined by the Commonwealth and enforced by the AER. This means that renewable subsidies and incentives have been scrapped completely – retailers will be responsible for ensuring their power is efficient enough to help Australia meet its international obligations (our Renewable Energy Targets signed up during the Paris climate change conference). No word yet on what the penalty would be for those not reaching this target but presumably they’d be able to make up for it the next year or face a light slap on the wrist. 

This is a ‘technology- neutral’ position which does not ‘pick winners’ – so it’ll be interesting to see how this pans out. What impact will it have on the myriad Australian solar farms currently in various stages of development? What about future plans? 

Residential Energy Prices

The Government estimates this Guarantee ‘could’ lead to a reduction in residential bills – around $100-115 per year over 2020-2030. They’re hoping to reduce spot price volatility without using subsidies or taxes – which theoretically could help the ballooning cost of electricity in Australia. See the graph below which is labeled ‘% increase’ on the Y axis – which may make it a little more difficult to see that the price has more than doubled every year since 2012. With Australian wages stagnating and underemployment at an all-time high, something needs to be done about these gigantic increases. But is this really the way to go about it? 

National Energy Guarantee - Average Retail Electricity Price Increases 2004-2017
National Energy Guarantee – Average Retail Electricity Price Increases (source:energy.gov.au)

We understand it’s difficult to balance this rapidly increasing price with the subsidisation of new technology which can take time to show results, but this 50c/day saving is hardly the ‘game-changer’ it’s hailed to be – so the myopic choice of ignoring Chief Scientist Alan Finkel’s recommended Clean Energy Target in favour of a 50c / day saving Turnbull can’t even guarantee is a perfect metaphor for the endemic, anaemic, short-sighted policy we’ve come to expect from Australian politicians over the past decade or so. How far can we kick the can down the road? I guess we’ll find out. 

It’s becoming increasingly clear that coal-fired generators have no future in Australia. Have renewables reached the point where they don’t need any help from the Government with regards to subsidies or tax breaks? Prima facie this looks like an atrocious plan for renewable energy and Australia’s energy future as a whole.