Vecco Group: $25m for Australia’s first vanadium battery plant.

Queensland-based Vecco Group will spend up to $25 million building Australia’s first vanadium battery plant in Brisbane.

Vecco Group and Australia’s first vanadium battery plant

According to InQueensland, Vecco Group have come to an agreement with China’s Shanghai Electric – one of the largest electrical equipment manufacturing companies in China – for an initial purchase of vanadium electrolytes (Confused about flow batteries? Click here to learn how a Vanadium Redox Battery works)

Thomas Northcott, Managing Director of Vecco Group said, “this is a significant step forward for Vecco in securing an integrated supply chain from our Debella Vanadium + HPA Project through to battery production.”

“We are excited to be capturing the first mover advantage in Australia and south east Asia for what is a rapidly growing market for large scale renewable energy storage.” Northcott continued in a press release from Vecco Group.

“Demand is currently strong and there is significant future demand supplying large long duration vanadium batteries to support green hydrogen projects around Australia.”

Vecco is also carrying out a pre-IPO to raise $5 million and is aiming at a full IPO next year.

As we continue with advancements in solar battery technology, it’s fantastic to see alternative options to lithium-ion – the flow batteries such as Redflow are awfully heavy but they have a great use case if the technology can continue improving at this rate. With that said, vanadium batteries have been proposed as early as the 1930’s and have been in production since the 1980’s, so they probably have some ground to make up.

Vecco Group Flow Battery example by Colintheone – https://avs.scitation.org/doi/10.1116/1.4983210, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=59002803

The vanadium industry

The vanadium industry has progressed significantly in 2021 with multiple announcements, including one from from mining billionaire Robert Friedland’s company VRB Energy. VRB announced a 500MWh vanadium flow battery in March. Gigafactory in China and Sir Mick Davis, the ex-CEO of Xstrata are also invested in Kazakhstan based vanadium company Ferro-Alloy Resources.

Vanadium flow batteries last for 25 years, suffer no capacity degradation and a low environmental footprint, as the electrolyte is almost 100% recyclable.

Other companies working in the space include UniEnergy Technologies, StorEn Technologies, and Ashlawn Energy in the United States; Renewable Energy Dynamics Technology and VoltStorage in Europe; Prudent Energy in China;Australian Vanadium in Australia.

 

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How much electricity does a solar panel generate per day? What’s a tier 1 panel?

Having the world’s highest average solar radiation per square meter, Australia is considered the most potential and viable solar energy source whether you’re a home or a commercial entity looking to install panels on your premises.

Choosing the right solar system can be very confusing as there’s a lot of misleading jargon and buzzwords – especially with the solar panels! You’ll also have to ensure they are compatible with your entire solar system – you’ve then got to see how they interact with each other before trying to calculate their output, which can be challenging as well.

It is impossible to tell you with certainty that your solar panel produces this much power – as this varies from brand to brand and panel to panel. There’s also something else you need to consider in addition to choosing a panel – the quality of manufacturer, generally ranked via solar panel tiers.

How much electricity does a solar panel generate per day? Photo by Ryan Searle on Unsplash

How are solar panels tiered?

Solar panels are categorized into three tiers, with tier 1 as the best. This can affect output depending on the brand and number of watts per panel (especially over longer periods of time). Your location will also be important – obviously someone in Australia is going to get better value out of a solar installation than someone in Glasgow (only 50 days of sunshine a year there…).

Let’s discuss the concept of a Tier 1 solar panel. This is a bit of a misnomer – in the sense that Tier 1 or Bank-ability solar panels come from companies which have been in the industry for many years and are financially capable of dealing with your warranty issues, repairing issues or any problems you encounter over the ~10 years you will use their product. That’s my convoluted way of saying Tier 1 denotes the ranking of the manufacturer itself, not the solar panel. It is the manufacturer who will back up your product in the case of potential future defective panels or installations. Banks or investors may not want to put their money in your solar power project (commercial solar or residential) unless they’re satisfied your manufacturers are likely to be around if and when your solar systems malfunction. How many successful projects has the company undertaken? How long have they been around? The answers to these questions will impact which tier the manufacturer is.

It is important to keep in mind that Tier 2 or Tier 3 solar panels are not always a poor choice per se – these manufacturers can also offer high quality panels, it’s just riskier to rely on them because the company is recently established, and you may not be sure how long they’ll be in the industry. Maybe their manufacturing standards aren’t as robust as some of the bigger brands – as always, you get what you pay for. It’s a matter of weighing up the pros and cons and ensuring your solar investment is making money within your risk tolerance. And if you’re going for a bigger installation, it’s generally worth going for a quality manufacturer and a tier 1 panel. Preferably more than one, but you get the point.

Who chooses solar panel tiers?

This tier-based ranking (remember, it’s per manufacturer, not per panel) is decided by Bloomberg New Energy Finance – a research organization. There are other ‘tier’ lists out there which are better off avoided as it can be very confusing – the Bloomberg list has been well trusted for a long time.

If you’re interested in more detail in how a company’s tier is decided, the official BloombergNEF site has a useful PDF you can download here.

Just remember, there’s a lot of marketing involved in solar, so be sure to ask as many questions as you can to the salesperson. Grab a copy of the spec sheet for the panels they’re showing you and check it out yourself. Do your due diligence and you can even end up with a cashflow positive solar installation.

How much electricity does a solar panel generate per day?

Your location and the amount of watts in the solar panel will also impact the amount of power your panels are able to generate. solar panels will be in terms of making the most of the solar power.

Your inverter also plays an important role in regulating and maximising generation of solar power. A top-notch quality solar inverter determines how well your solar output is distributed, applicable once the DC power turns into AC.

In Australia you can generally bank on 10-12 hours of sunlight during summer. For simplicity’s sake, let’s call average sunlight 10 hours for our calculation, and the capacity of the solar panel we’re measuring is 300 watts:

Total Watts = Average time of sunlight x Solar Panels watts x Number of Panels

= 10 x 300 x 1

= 3000 Watts Hour or 30KWH Daily

But we also need to consider solar panel efficiency. A solar panel has a maximum of 15–22% efficiency, due to the Shockley-Queisser limit silicon panels will never reach greater than 1/3 efficiency.

Let’s calculate total watts from a single panel, daily, with 20% efficiency:

3000 Watts x 20% = 600 Watt Hours or 0.66KWH per day.

If you want to measure solar output you have numerous options depending on which inverter you’ve chosen. Most of them offer a web-based interface so you can keep an eye on how much money you’re saving – you could even pipe the solar statistics to a Raspberry Pi, or automate reports showing how much you’ve saved. Solar power in Australia has never been cheaper – we’re seeing a meteoric rise in commercial solar installations nationwide, whether you’re Ikea or an SME – it’s time to go green and choose solar power for your business.

Which manufacturers offer tier 1 solar panels in 2021?

As per review.solar for Q1 2021:

  • LONGi
  • Jinko
  • JA Solar
  • Trina Solar
  • Canadian Solar
  • Risen
  • QCells
  • Suntech
  • Talesun
  • First Solar
  • ZNShine
  • Seraphim
  • Eging
  • Haitai New Energy
  • Astronergy
  • Jolywood
  • SunPower/ Maxeon
  • Jinergy
  • VSUN Solar
  • Jetion
  • LG Electronics
  • BYD
  • AE Solar
  • Phono Solar
  • Waaree
  • HT-SAAE
  • REC Group
  • URE
  • ET Solar
  • Renesola
  • Adani
  • Boviet
  • Vikram
  • Ulica
  • Leapton
  • Hansol
  • Kyocera
  • S-Energy
  • Recom
  • Shinsung
  • Heliene
  • Sharp
  • Swelect
  • Photowatt

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What’s in the future for Solar Power in Australia?

The International Monetary Fund has underlined revisions to the growth prospects of the Australian economy. This marking an end to the economic growth that followed the 2008 financial crisis, as Australia is faced with bleak prospects in the 2020-2021 financial year. As politicians and fund managers scramble, the golden question seems to be what will spur growth not just in the short term, but into the future.

Australia is looking to leaders in Europe who have their own stimulus package coming in at $1220 billion AUD in size, which is heavily investing in energy and clean transport. This vision is supported by not only the economic benefit of job creation, but it provides a sustainable environmental solution, in what is fast proving to be a daunting threat in climate change around the world. 

Leading economies seem to share this vision, although not entirely. China is approving coal-fired plants at the fastest rate since 2015, while also heavily investing in electric transportation. India is heavily invested into renewable energy and so is Japan. Australia in its own right has continued to pursue its national projects including the “200% renewable Tasmania” announcement by the Tasmanian government. While bright spots are found, there is still an abundant need for a stimulus that looks beyond the next 5 years of economic recovery. 

The prospect of renewables seems to be improving for businesses and home owners. With renowned problems such as costs and efficiency being gripes of consumers in the past, the renewables market has shown a continuity of innovation over the past two decades. The improvement in engineering has pushed the efficiency of silicon solar cells closer to their theoretical maximum while improving innovations seek to maximize the sunlight the panels can be exposed to. Resulting in higher returns coming from renewable energy systems, such as solar, while being more accessible to individuals around Australia.

Solar energy increasingly has been lowering in cost as the market for the products matures and the labor required is more accessible, resulting in Australians moving from a reported 16% of all electricity generated by Solar or Wind to 40% in 2030. This being attributed to lowering costs and increased return on investment. It seems that the market for solar in particular is an enticing offering for consumers.

The question comes then of how to formulate a stimulus to drive the growth of renewable energy, to not only fight climate change, but fight the impending economic catastrophe of COVID-19. Demand from consumers and businesses present an opportunity for further incentives, while the fallout of 2020 may have a profound impact on the targets set for the next 20 years, which will have far reaching effects.

Whether we emerge from a turbulent 2020 looking towards a better future is entirely up to us, and it seems apparent that renewables, particularly solar could be the way to look when looking to drive productive economic growth. 

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Solar Recycling Update | Breakthrough at Deakin

 There’s been a big announcement from Deakin University who have figured out a process to remove the silicon from used solar panels – repurposing it for lithium-ion batteries. Let’s learn more about this solar recycling update which was also discussed over at Renew Economy. 

Solar Recycling Update | Breakthrough at Deakin

(source: https://www.deakin.edu.au/ifm)

There’s been a new advancement in solar recycling research. The relatively short lifespan of solar panels and the huge issue of e-waste has been something researchers have been wrestling with for years.

Deakin University’s Institute for Frontier Materials has been where Material scientists Dr Md Mokhlesur Rahman and Prof Ying (Ian) Chen have conducted this groundbreaking research. Probably makes more sense coming from them, so here you go:

“Our discovery addresses several significant challenges currently facing industries dependent on batteries and energy storage heading into the future, Dr Rahman said.

“First, being such an exceptionally high value commodity with widespread applications we do not want any of this precious product wasted. Battery grade nano-silicon is highly expensive and retails for more than $44,000 per kilogram.

“Second, with the automotive industry set to be battery driven in the future, the push to find ways to increase battery capacity is growing.

“Part of the silicon repurposing process is to nano-size the battery grade silicon, leaving a nano-silicon which can store about 10 times more energy in the same space.” Dr Rahman continued.

His colleague Dr Chen elaborated on the importance of being able to extract the silicon cells and reuse them:

“Silicon cells are the most important component of a solar panel, transferring the sun’s energy into electrons,” Professor Chen said.

“They’re also a high-value material being a chemical element and far too precious to end up as waste, which is why this finding is significant.

“We can’t claim solar panels to be recyclable, in a circular economy sense, until scientists find a way to harvest and repurpose their most valuable components,” he said.

So whilst it’s not solar recycling per se, it’s certainly a gigantic step in the right direction. What will this mean for solar panel recycling companies such as Reclaim PV? Hopefully it’ll give them a big push as well. The lifespan of solar panels has always been the white elephant on the roof so the more we can extract and repurpose from old panels the better.

According to an article on Renew Economy, the project is supported by Institute for Frontier Material’s Circular Economy Strategy Lead, Catherine McMahon, in collaboration with Deakin Research Innovations’ Senior Commercial Manager Andrew Rau and industry partner Delaminating Resources Melbourne.

 

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Berri Solar Farm to be sold by the Riverland Council

The $25m Berri Solar Farm is going to be sold by the Riverland council for a firm to take over the development due to a customer pulling out of a PPA (Power Purchasing Agreement).

Berri Solar Farm to be sold by the Riverland Council

Chief Executive of Berri Barmera, Karyn Burton, said the catalyst for the decision to sell the Berri solar farm was due to a major client pulling out of a Power Purchasing Agreement (PPA) due to being sold to another company. 

The farm was approved by the Riverland Regional Development Assessment Panel back in 2017 but construction work hasn’t commenced yet. The council also won a $5 million grant as part of the State Local Government Infrastructure Partnership for the build.

“That was in the mix until June, when they advised (the) council they were going to seek opportunities elsewhere,” Ms Burton said.

“They’d been taken over by a global group and they were looking at their energy needs on a global basis.”

Ms Burton continued to discuss the way the government would like to look at the 

“We’ll sell it as a shovel-ready project,” Ms Burton said.

“Councils are quite risk adverse – they won’t risk going into the market where prices for power fluctuate, not giving us that assurance that we’d cover that as a stand-alone business.

“Whereas there are other solar players out there would be able to do that.”

Mayor Peter Hunt said “despite putting in our best effort to deliver a great project for Council, Accolade Wines and the Community, the timing and justification to continue with the project was simply not right in the end. Accolade Wines was bought by new owners in 2018 and in terms of energy procurement and use, they are considering a number of options. We needed an answer and in this case they made it clear that they could not commit further to the project. The upside is we have fielded several enquiries to buy the project including lease rights to the old Racecourse site. We have expert advice that the project has strong commercial value and that is why we have decided to call for expressions of interest from parties seeking to buy the intellectual property and development rights.”

The council has called for expressions of interest in parties interested in buying the project, until September 27.

Read the article on the Berri Barmera Council website ‘Solar Farm Project to be Sold‘ if you’d like to learn more about the next steps for the Berri Solar Farm. 

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