Ovida Community Energy Hub | Victorian Solar Grant

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

Ovida Community Energy Hub

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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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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Natural Solar – Blockchain Powered Community Solar

Australian company Natural Solar have advised that they will be using the power of blockchain technology its its latest community solar offering – a new housing development just outside of Sydney which will see 12 homes share power with each other.

Natural Solar

Natural Solar - Blockchain Powered Community Solar
Natural Solar – Blockchain Powered Community Solar (source: naturalsolar.com.au)

Nine are reporting that each home will have a 5kWp solar system and an 8kwh sonnenBatterie 8 installed. Homeowners will be guaranteed up to 20 years of $0 power bills, but they will have a $30 / month bill to sonnenFlat for the program. Power will be shared between the 12 houses and any energy movement will be recorded on the blockchain to record and track the efficacy of of the project. Is 12 houses enough? What happens when it’s 4pm on a Tuesday and 8 houses have air conditioning on? 

If this is a bit complicated to understand, Chris Williams, CEO and Founder of Natural Solar,  explains the concept as a ‘super battery’:

“Utilising Blockchain technology, we are able to join all batteries together to create one larger ‘super-battery’ that can power all homes in one development.

“An advantage of this is for the first time ever in Australia, residents will now be able to borrow power from their neighbours who have excess stored in their own battery, creating a complete sharing economy amongst houses.”

What happens if the energy runs out?

This question was put to Williams who said that, although this model means the developer won’t have to pay for expensive grid upgrades, it’ll still have access at all times: 

“In the event houses need additional power and they can’t borrow extra from their neighbours, they are able to automatically draw this from the grid. If the home is signed up to the sonnenFlat energy plan, this will be free of charge for most houses, provided this fits within their annual electricity consumption.”

The project is set to launch by September – so watch this space and we’ll keep you updated on the progress of Natural Solar’s great project.

 

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Community solar in Mayo | Solar Communities Program

The Turnbull Government’s $5 million Solar Communities Program will help community solar in Mayo – a rural electorate in South Australia. Four grants have been provided to local community groups to help install solar/energy storage systems and reduce their electricity bills. 

Community Solar in Mayo

Community Solar in Mayo
Community Solar in Mayo (source: Wikipedia)

According to energy minister Josh Frydenberg, there are four community groups in mayo which will receive grants through the Solar Communities Program, of which round 2 closed on June 7 and allows application for grants of up to $12,500 for rural solar projects: 

  1. Strathalbyn Woolshed received $8,897 to buy and install a 13.11kW solar pv system in order to help minimise their electricity bill.
  2. Nairne Oval Committee received $11,590 for an energy storage system to complement the existing 15kW solar system at the Nairne and District Sporting Complex.
  3. Macclesfield Recreation Grounds Committee received $9,790 to buy and install a 13.11kW solar system. This will supply ~75% of the ground’s energy requirements.
  4. Hill Radio received $10,249 to buy and install a 6.27kW solar system with battery storage to help minimise their electricity bill.

The Solar Communities Program is being delivered by the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science in conjunction with the Department of the Environment and Energy. The initial round of funding saw more than $2.8m delivered to 218 community groups. 150 groups are expected to be helped throughout round 2 of the Program.

The Solar Communities Program

According to a press release by Josh Frydenberg and reposted on the Renew Economy site, the program “provides funding for community groups in selected regions across Australia to install rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV), solar hot water and solar-connected battery systems to reduce their electricity costs.”

Here are some other examples of community solar in Australia:

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Solar Gardens – ‘ground solar’ – ARENA funding.

Those unable to get traditional solar systems installed on their roof may wish to take a look at the upcoming solar gardens scheme we will see in Australia. The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) are funding a trial of the ‘ground solar’ in (mostly) regional areas of NSW, Queensland and Victoria.

Solar Gardens – Alternatives to Roof Solar

Solar Gardens in Australia
Solar Gardens in Australia (source: ARENA)

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, those without a rooftop who still want to invest in solar power will be in luck if they’re based in Blacktown, Shoalhaven, Byron Bay, Townsville, or Swan Hill – ARENA and ‘other participants’ are providing around $550,000 in funding to assist the trial.

Dr Liz Develin, the NSW Department of Planning and Environment’s deputy secretary of energy, water and portfolio strategy (wonder if she has to buy extra long business cards?) discussed how the department are hoping to achieve with the rollout:

“We are trialling solar gardens with the aim of helping renters, low-income households and those living in apartments save on their energy bills,” she said.

“Blacktown is a hotspot for rooftop solar and we are really excited to see how this trial goes. The average Western Sydney household with a 4-kilowatt solar system on their roof could already be saving up to $900 a year.”

Specifics on the scheme are still a little thin on the ground (sorry…) but the solar gardens are ‘generally’ under 100kW so as to keep the STCs (small-scale renewable energy generation certificates). The University of Technology Sydney’s Institute for Sustainable Futures and the Community Power Agency will lead this project.

Solar gardens are growing faster than any other segment of solar power in the US (200MW of new capacity was rolled out in 2016) – so perhaps this is the start of a revolution where the word ‘solar’ doesn’t necessarily conjure up the image of panels on a roof. I have no doubt we’ll see blockchain technology integrated or, for the bigger gardens such as those at mid-large size apartment blocks, some microgrids available to help balance demand.

Are you interested in applying to join the solar garden trial? Watch this space. More info to come as we have it!

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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! 

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sonnenCommunity – Info, Australia Release Date?

sonnenCommunity is a peer-to-peer energy-sharing solution which has been live in Germany (with a small expansion in Italy) for over three years. The nationwide, cloud-based, virtual power plant is comprised of around 8,000 homes with storage panels and a sonnenBatterie and has been growing rapidly. With their recent announcement of an American sonnenCommunity and rapid expansion of sonnen in Australia (including their sonnenFlat flat rate electricity offering), how long will it be until we see the service in Australia? 

About sonnenCommunity

sonnenCommunity in Europe Statistics
sonnenCommunity in Europe Statistics (source: sonnenbatterie.de)

According to the official site, it’s a ‘community of sonnenBatterie owners who are committed to a cleaner and fairer energy future’. The site has a live widget showing the feed-in for the last 12 months, which was showing almost 15 million kWh and the grid consumption, which was a little over 8 million. This means the prevention of almost 9 million tonnes of co2. Amazing statistics! 

We’ve also embedded a video below about the service – give it a watch and let us know in the comments if you have any questions.

sonnenCommunity in Arizona, USA

sonnen announced a partnership with Mandalay Homes this week, which will bring their ‘Clean Energy Communities’ initiative to 3,000 homes in Arizona. This will mean the deployment of over 10GW of solar panels and 11.6MW of battery storage systems in the ‘Jasper’ community in Prescott Valley. 

As America has many different grids and operators, the homes will be connected to local utility Arizona Public Service (APS). The systems will trade electricity between themselves and will try to minimise flow back into the APS grid and maximise the amount of power bought from the sonnenCommunity in peak times (3-8pm). When required, the sonnenBatteries will recharge from the grid during off-peak times (2-5am). 

sonnen Director of Business Development Olaf Flohr estimated in PV Magazine that the system will allow Jasper residents to be 75-80% energy independent and that bills will be around $24 USD per month. 

sonnenCommunity in Australia

sonnenCommunity was easier to launch in Germany because they have one interconnected grid system – which means sonnen was able to cut out the utility companies and work directly with the grid operator to launch their service. 

Usually, a regional utility company will manage the sale, distribution, and energy movements through the grid. It’ll be interesting to see how sonnenCommunity fares in America – this ‘trial run’ will see how much opportunity there is to expand in areas such as Australia. 

Given the fact that Australia is a world leader when it comes to household solar installations, it’d make sense to bring the service over here. Watch this space! 

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Enova becomes community solar generator.

Byron Bay based community solar company Enova have become a generator as well as a reseller of renewable energy, pushing them one step closer to taking on the ‘dirty’ energy companies with their environmentally friendly product. They don’t, however, have any large-scale solar or wind farms to generate or sell this energy – the vast majority of their energy will be generated by small systems. We’ve previously explored the idea of community solar farms, but this takes it one step more granular – household level PV solar generation and distribution is a really interesting model and we’re excited to see how it works for Enova (and who else decides to give it a shot). 

Enova’s Community Solar Timeline

Enova - Community Solar
Enova – Community Solar Power (site: enovaenergy.com.au)

Enova boosted their solar feed-in tariff to 16c/kWh around 8 weeks ago in what may have been preparation for this new business move – they have an 18kW system on their office rooftop to show that everyone can be part of the community solar revolution – and the energy doesn’t have to come from massive, billion-dollar investments – everyday users can play their part in wresting power (pun unintended) back from the major retailers. 

Tony Pfeiffer, managing director of Enova, was quoted as saying “Fossil fuels are on the way out and complete reliance on large- scale energy generation will not be far behind.” Pfeiffer discussed his ideas with regards to the future of energy production – writing that “The future is all about locally generated and locally consumed renewable energy and Enova is making that possible right here, right now, beginning in the Northern Rivers region of NSW.”

According to a statement on Enova’s website, they’re able to meet approximately 40% of existing user requirements with this model – so it’ll be interesting to see what level of success they have and if it helps pave the way for community solar generation and community owned solar. We’ll keep you posted! 

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Community Solar in Canberra – Majura Solar Farm

Investors in the Australian Capital Territory have put $3.07 million into Australia’s largest community solar project – which will be built on a vineyard in Canberra. Community solar isn’t a new thing in Australia – but it’s certainly gathering steam (or sunlight) as rising energy prices and rapidly improving solar power technology is encouraging people to invest in renewable energy.

Community Solar – The SolarShare Community Energy Majura Solar Farm

Community Solar - Majura Solar Farm
Community Solar – Majura Solar Farm (source: serree.org.au)

The $3m solar plant is going to be built at the flat land at the bottom of the valley at Mount Majura Vineyard (since wine grapes are best grown on slopes this is currently unused land) and will consist of 5,000 solar panels. The Majura Solar Farm will be built over approximately three hectares and is expected to produce 1.9GWh of electricity per year, which it is planning on selling directly to the ACT government.

Lawrence McIntosh from SolarShare said that, pending approval, they are hoping to have the farm built in 2018.  The ‘SolarShare Community’ applied to sell the energy at a fixed price to the ACT government –  for $200/Mwh ($0.20 / kWh) over a 20 year period. No word on whether this is a bit hopeful but we’ll see (click here for the annual volume weighted average spot prices) how they go, given that this is the largest community owned solar plant in Australia, in terms of output. According to the Canberra Times, the feed-in tariff (FIT) amount is still under consideration. A spokeswoman from the ACT Environment and Planning and Sustainable Development was quoted as saying “The Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability will make the final decision regarding the outcome of the process”.

533 backers are part of the community solar project which comes hot on the heels of private solar investment in Australia growing exponentially over the past few months.

 

 

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