Solar Panel Recycling | ELSi Project in Germany

Solar panel recycling – German engineering company Geltz Umwelt-Technologie has successfully developed an advanced recycling plant for obsolete or ageing solar panels. This has been funded by the EU and is known as the ELSi project. 

Solar Panel Recycling and Geltz

Solar Panel Recycling - Geltz
Solar Panel Recycling – Geltz (source: geltz.de)

Phys.Org have been reporting an interview with Fabian Geltz from Geltz Umwelt-Technologie:

“Solar module layers are bonded together with polymers that make mechanical separation and treatment of solar module components almost impossible,” said Geltz.

Exploring ways to ensure that valuable components do not end up in landfills was at the heart of ELSi’s mission. “Up until now, there has not been any technical solution to recycle and separate the valuable materials from the mixed scrap. The critical step in the recycling process is therefore the destruction of the polymer layers,” Geltz noted.

The main issue is deciding which parts of the panel are good to recycle, and how to salvage the used panels without too much energy/cost. 

ELSi came up with a very clever idea to solve this problem. Using an energy-efficient pyrolysis process (which involves decomposition brought about by high temperatures), fellow research partners were able to to dissolve the unwanted polymer layers and detach the glass inside the solar panels. This process allowed ELSi to separate and recover aluminium, glass, silver, copper, tin and silicon in their pure forms.

“Thanks to the successful recovery of materials and components, the unusable solar module can become a valuable source of raw materials for the future,” the company advised.

According to Phys.Org, the new facility could process around 50,000 solar modules every year. As solar power technology increases and we start seeing more used old solar panels, it’s fantastic there’s a way we can work on salvage and reclamation so we don’t just needlessly waste the materials. 

Solar recycling is only going to get bigger as the industry grows – so it’s super important to improve this technology before we end up with a surfeit of old solar panels causing damage to the environment.

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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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Global wind and solar statistics – 1 Terawatt reached!

Global wind and solar statistics – Bloomberg New Energy Finance are reporting that global wind and solar energy capacity reached the 1TW milestone at the end of June this year.

Global wind and solar statistics

Global wind and solar statistics - Wikipedia
Global wind and solar statistics (source: wikipedia.org) (By Jürgen from Sandesneben, Germany – Flickr, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1372121)

According to Wikipedia, renewable energy contributed 19.3% to global energy consumption and 24.5% to the generation of electricity in 2015 and 2016, respectively. This has risen sharply in the past couple of years and research indicates that we will continue to speed above and beyond the trillion watts – which is 1 million MW, or a billion kW, if that makes it easier to understand!

Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) release a report this week which is based on their comprehensive and up-to-date database of renewable energy projects. The report notes that 54% of the renewable energy generated was from wind, and 46% represents solar power. This is interesting as it shows how quickly solar is reaching wind power – in 2007 we had 8GW of capacity (around 8% of the world’s renewable energy) – in comparison to wind power which had 89GW.  According to Renew Economy this represents a gigantic increase of 57x of solar’s 2007 statistics. 

With one terawatt out of the way, Business Green have been crunching the numbers with regards to the second one, which will undoubtedly be far faster and far cheaper than the first:

“The BNEF analysts predict that the pace of renewables rollout will accelerate even more in the coming years, with the second terawatt expected to arrive by mid-2023.”

It looks like wind and solar will produce more power than coal in America within the next 10 years. How will the figures be for the rest of the world? How will Australia go given the future of our National Energy Guarantee is shaky at best (not to mention it’s receiving plenty of criticism in either case). How will solar battery storage affect these figures? Will the huge influx of commercial solar system installations help us reach the next terawatt much faster? Watch this space. It’s going to be an exciting few years for renewable energy! 

 

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NEG – National Energy Guarantee and its Australian Future

NEG – The future of Australia’s National Energy Guarantee hangs in the making this week as state government cabinets meet to discuss their positions on it, ahead of Friday’s Council of Australian Governments meeting.

NEG – National Energy Guarantee

The Australian is reporting that Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg has accused Labor states of “politicking and posturing” ahead of the meeting.

NEG - National Energy Guarantee - Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg
NEG – National Energy Guarantee – Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg (source: JoshFrydenberg.com.au)

“This is politicking and posturing ahead of Friday’s meeting, because the states know all well and good that what will hopefully occur on Friday is that we agree to the design of the national energy guarantee subject to a phone hook-up after the policy has been through the federal Coalition party room,” Mr Frydenberg said on ABC radio.

Mr Frydenberg continued talking about what Australia can expect from the NEG: 

“It’s a 38 million tonne reduction, but importantly it’s a $550 annual saving to Australian households and a 20 per cent reduction in wholesale prices,” he said.

He noted that there’s no reason for the state governments to cause any issues for the NEG as they will still retain the right to have their own RETs:

“Nothing in this policy prevents the states from having their own renewable energy targets. “They complement what is being done at the federal level, but we do need the federal government to maintain whole responsibility for this, because it’s a national problem and it requires a national solution, and it’s the federal government that is the signatory to Paris, not the states.”

Ed McManus, chief executive of Meridian Energy Australia and retailer Powershop, said states should back the NEG despite the emissions target being less than many of us had hoped. Mr McManus said he thinks some of the potential benefits of the NEG are already taking root in the futures market:

“I do believe some of the benefits of the NEG are already built into the forward prices. You only need look at the impact of the recent coal outages on calendar 2019 wholesale [futures market] prices, where prices have rallied $7-8 per megawatt hour,” Mr McManus said.

Labor frontbencher Michelle Rowland discussed what she sees as NEG flaws:

“We have a situation where we have very low emissions targets under this government’s policy, but in particular, this would absolutely stifle investment in renewable energy, and if you want to talk about jobs, you need those large scale renewable energy investment decisions to be made in order to drive those jobs into the future in this sector,” Mr Rowland told Sky News.

“This government wants to say it’s focused on innovation and science and all the rest of it. “Again, this shows that there is absolutely nothing joined up when it comes to their policies in this area.”

As usual it’s impossible to expect the politicians to stand up and try and make decisions to benefit the nation, so who knows what to expect ahead of Friday’s meeting. Renew Economy have a great hit piece on how the coalition have come up with the $550 / year figure. We weren’t exactly overly charitable about it when Malcolm Turnbull announced the National Energy Guarantee last year, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens over the coming weeks. Watch this space! 

 

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Solar Tarp – foldable, portable solar power.

California based Lipomi Research Group are working on creating a solar tarp – which would have myriad uses for society. Let’s learn more about how these upgraded solar panels could help parts of the world where they don’t have access to regular electricity – and some of the technological challenges they’re facing trying to complete the project.

About the Solar Tarp technology

Prototype Solar Tarp Sample - University of California
Prototype Solar Tarp Sample – University of California (source: theconversation.com)

The Lipomi Research Group are focused on “identifying ways to create materials with both good semiconducting properties and the durability plastics are known for – whether flexible or not”.  They’ve been tinkering with perovskite solar cells, which are 1/1000 the thickness of a silicon layer in a solar panel. 

Darren Lipomi of the Lipomi Group, who is also a Professor of Nanoengineering at the University of California, said that their goal is to create flexible solar panels which are as efficient as conventional silicon but don’t have some of the drawbacks of it.

The goal is to develop flexible solar panels which are thin, lightweight, and bendable. Lipomi is calling their idea a ‘solar tarp’ – which refers to a solar panel which can be expanded to the ‘size of a room’, but balled up to the size of a grapefruit when not in use. The issues here are finding a molecular structure to make the solar panels stretchable and tough – this involves replacing the silicon semiconductors with materials such as perovskite. 

They’re also taking a look at polymer semiconductors / organic semiconductors (based on carbon, and used in place of perovskites or silicon in a solar cell). These aren’t as efficient, but are far more flexible and extremely durable.

According to The Conversation, the sunlight that hits the earth in a single hour contains more energy than the whole planet uses in an entire year – so there’s plenty more work to do on improving how we utilise the sun! We’ll keep an eye on the solar tarp project and let you know when it reaches the next stage.

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Peer-To-Peer Renewable Energy Trading with Power Ledger

Australian blockchain solar startup Power Ledger has partnered with Yolk Property Group to apply its renewable energy trading between residents in their White Gum Valley development. This marks the first time an apartment development utilising blockchain technology has been offered for sale to the public in Australia. 

Peer-To-Peer Renewable Energy Trading

The White Gum Valley project is an ARENA funded sustainable living innovation project. Inside White Gum, Yolk Property Group are building an apartment development named ‘Evermore’ which will have solar PV panels, battery storage, and, of course, the Power Ledger blockchain technology we have written about quite frequently on this site.

According to The West, the project is being overlooked by a team at Curtin University headed up by Professor Peter Newman. They are collecting and analysing the data to help inform Western Power and national authorities on energy infrastructure – viewing this as a learning experience.

“The world is watching – I think that now there are people all round the world saying they’re doing it in Perth why can’t we?” Professor Newman said.

Yolk Property Group have advised that expected cost savings for residents will be around 30 to 40 per cent. Certainly nothing to be sneezed at!

About Power Ledger

Peer-To-Peer Renewable Energy Trading - Power Ledger
Peer-To-Peer Renewable Energy Trading – Power Ledger (source: Power Ledger Facebook)

Under the Power Ledger method, buying and selling of power happens automatically and is all stored in the blockchain – so it’s really easy to manage and is very hands-off.

“If you’ve got excess solar now, your solar panels are producing energy while you’re away at work or you’re away on holidays – that energy gets spilled into the grid and you sell it to Synergy your retailer,” Power Ledger’s David Martin said.

“Now, under the model we have here, instead of selling your energy to Synergy you can sell it to your next door neighbour at a better price.”

If we can manage to get a solar battery rebate in Australia, will that help methods like Power Ledger? Watch this space…

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Western Australia Solar Subsidies may be cut – Wyatt

Western Australia Solar Subsidies look like they’re in the firing line right now – with Energy Minister Ben Wyatt advising that he supports either completely scrapping or winding back rooftop solar panel subsidies.

Western Australia Solar Subsidies

Western Australia Solar Subsidies - Synergy
Western Australia Solar Subsidies – Synergy (source: synergy.net.au)

Earlier this year the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission called to axe rooftop solar subsidies Australia-wide by 2021. Ben Wyatt said he has asked the Public Utilities Office to have an in depth look about the buyback scheme which could probably do with a bit of an overhaul, or at least a step in the right direction, technology wise.

“While the cost of solar PV systems has reduced significantly since the introduction of the Renewable Energy Target and is now considered economically viable in the absence of government subsidy, the implications of such a change need to be fully thought through, including the impact on the local solar industry,” Mr Wyatt said.

In WA, Synergy currently pays a feed-in tariff of 7.1c/kW to 240,000 households with solar – and over 70,000 customers entitled to the premium solar feed-in tariff which is 40c/kW (there’s no indication that the gov’t is looking at winding back the premium FIT). This is known as the Renewable Energy Buyback Scheme (REBS). Mr Wyatt said that Synergy are paying ‘over the odds’ for this power during hte middle of the day, when demand is low and output high. If you’d like to learn more about WA’s unique energy situation please have a look at this article.

We’re all for furthering the cause of solar, but is it worth taking a look at maybe moving some of the subsidies and tariffs towards energy storage rather than energy generation?

Ray Challen, who was the top energy adviser as the head of the Public Utilities Office up until the end of last year, said he thinks it’s time to consider the best way to continue improving our renewable generation:

“The reason for subsidising any form of behaviour is to produce some sort of greater social good, and it would be difficult to say at the moment that there is a greater social good from subsidising small-scale solar because people could do it anyway,” Mr Challen said. “Not only that but if you wanted to subsidise anything in the power sector then you would be probably subsidising batteries.”

So will we have a solar battery subsidy? It’s hard to say at this point, but many people are talking about making a change to the way we currently reward solar generators. Would a carefully managed solar battery rebate help? Watch this space…

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Bendigo Sustainability Group – Community Solar Rooftop

The Bendigo Sustainability Group have launched a crowdfunding campaign to install 30kW of community solar PV at two sites. 

Bendigo Sustainability Group

The Bendigo Sustainability Group are hoping to raise funds to install 100 solar panels for the Eaglehawk Badminton and Table Tennis Stadium – which costs around $30,000. So far they have 73 panels fully funded. The Community Housing Victoria appeal is for the same amount of panels but is struggling a little bit to reach its target – with around 50 panels currently funded. The fundraising round will close on July 31 so hopefully they can get a big push for the last week of donations and end up with both projects fully funded. 

Community Housing

Bendigo Sustainability Group - Community Housing Solar
Bendigo Sustainability Group – Community Housing Solar (source: bsg.org.au)

The BSG are hoping to install a solar PV system on the roof of 8 Community Housing Limited Units in Golden Square, with an aim to reduce electricity bills by around $300 per year for each resident. It’s admittedly a small project, but a great boost for low-income solar in Australia as we hopefully see other councils and communities try to make solar more affordable/feasible for low-income earners.

Eaglehawk Badminton and Table Tennis Stadium

BSG are hoping to install a solar PV system on the roof of the stadium to significantly reduce electricity costs to both tenants. These facilities are Olympic standard and making them cheaper to run will be a huge benefit to both the badminton and table tennis communities. 

Bendigo Sustainability Group spokesperson Chris Corr said that the final size of the solar systems will depend on donations and they may have to install smaller solar systems depending on the success of the fundraising. Bendigo have already fully funded four other council solar installations:

  • Bendigo Archive Centre  – 30kW  (2017)
  • Bendigo Tramways Depot  – 50kW  (2017)
  • Bendigo Discovery Centre  – 11kW  (2016)
  • Bendigo Library  – 20kW  (2015)

Those wanting to help support the Bendigo Sustainability Group should call them on on 5443 5244 or click here to visit the project summary.

All donations for these projects are tax deductible through the Bendigo Sustainability Group’s Sustain Bendigo Fund. The Sustain Bendigo Fund (ABN 92 157 965 158) is endorsed by the Australian Taxation Office as an Income Tax Exempt Charity (ITEC) with Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR) status.

 

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Beryl Solar Farm Sold To New Energy Solar

We’ve written about the Beryl Solar Farm reaching a financial close back in May – now the 87MW (108MW according to the AFR) project has a new owner and is continuing construction. 

Beryl Solar Farm Sold To New Energy Solar

Beryl Solar Farm Sold to New Energy Solar
Beryl Solar Farm Sold to New Energy Solar (source: FirstSolar.com.au)

According to PV Magazine, the farm has been purchased by New Energy Solar – who also bought the 50MW Manildra Solar Farm for $113m last month. Both farms were previously owned by First Solar and the Beryl farm will be using their 420W large-format Series 6 thin film PV modules. Beryl also comes with a 15 year PPA with Transport for NSW – who will purchase 134,000 MWh from Beryl Solar Farm each year – using the power for the Sydney Metro Northwest railway. This long PPA with a AAA rated customer (i.e. the government) makes the farm a great buy in its current shape.

The EPC project was estimated at $150m according to Reuters, but it’s now estimated at $187m. Downer Utilities started work on the project in May and hope to have it finished in mid 2019. The farm will produce enough energy to power 25,000 households and doesn’t require any water for its electricity generation.

New Energy Solar said the cost of the farm won’t be announced but it was pegged to a target for five-year annual average gross yield of 8.2%, in comparison with yield on its existing portfolio of about 6.8% p.a, so by those metrics it looks like a canny purchase. 

New Energy Solar’s CEO, John Martin, discussed how the extra-long 15 year PPA helped get the sale of this project over the line:

“Beryl, New’s second investment in Australia, will further enhance the scale and contracted cashflows of our Australian portfolio,” said Martin. “Following the Manildra acquisition last month, we are delighted to be consolidating our relationship with First Solar through this second sizeable transaction in the Australian market.”

Martin continued to say that ~69% of the energy provided by the Beryl project will go to Transport for NSW – with the rest slated to package up with a 20MWh battery and sold to a corporate customer as commercial solar

To learn more about the project from the First Solar website please click here

If you’re interested in solar employment and working at the Beryl Solar Farm, please click here to visit the Downer Group’s careers website.

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