Victorian Renewable Energy Targets Reverse Auction

The first renewable energy auction in Victoria has had a fantastic result – with over 900MW of wind/solar energy to be generated as part of the Victorian Renewable Energy Targets.

Victorian Renewable Energy Targets Reverse Auction

A reverse auction was held to generate >650MW of energy. That goal has been hammered – with the auction ending up with 928MW of renewable projects to generate $1.1 billion of economic investment in regional Victoria and create more than 900 jobs, including 270 apprenticeships and traineeships. 

Victorian Renewable Energy Targets -The Hon. Lily D'Ambrosio MP (source: Wikipedia)
Victorian Renewable Energy Targets -The Hon. Lily D’Ambrosio MP (source: Wikipedia)

The six successful projects were announced by Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and Minister for Energy Lily D’Ambrosio at the Ararat Wind Farm today. Premier Andrews discussed this 

“It’s simple – greater supply of renewable energy means lower power prices and more jobs for Victorian families.”

“We’re making Victoria the capital of renewable energy and supporting the thousands of local jobs it creates.”

Lily D’Ambrosio was similarly effusive in praising the project, even working in a little jab at the Liberals who were trying to ‘shut this industry down’:

“Renewable energy creates jobs, drives growth, and protects our environment – and most importantly, helps drive down power prices for Victorian households and businesses.”

“In contrast to the Liberals who tried to shut this industry down, we’re backing renewable investment and renewable jobs.”

Those six farms are:

  • Berrybank Wind Farm west of Geelong, which will produce 180MW
  • Carwarp Solar Farm south of Mildura, which will produce 121.6MW
  • Cohuna Solar Farm north-west of Echuca, which will produce 34.2MW
  • Dundonnell Wind Farm north-east of Warrnambool, which will produce 336MW
  • Mortlake South Wind Farm south of Mortlake, which will produce 157.5MW
  • Winton Solar Farm near Benalla, which will produce 98.8MW

According to the official press release on the Victorian Government website, more than $1.3b will be invested for solar panels, solar hot water, and battery schemes. This will help over 700,000 households via the Solar Homes scheme which will go ahead with a re-elected Andrews Labor government. 

If you’re interested in reading more about the solar battery rebates in Victoria please click. 

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Solar Bench | Warners Bay, Lake Macquarie

A solar bench has been installed on the Warners Bay foreshore in Lake Macquarie – it is fully self contained and can wirelessly recharge compatible phones.

Solar Bench in Lake Macquarie

Solar Bench in Lake Macquarie
Solar Bench in Lake Macquarie (source: lakesmail.com.au)

The smart solar bench was installed by the Lake Macquarie City Council and has the future capacity to act as a WiFi hotspot, according to Lakes Mail. 

Manager of community planning for the Lake Macquarie City Council, Andrew Bryant, discussed the potential future rollout of further solar benches if this one is a success:

“This is a fully self-contained unit. It provides seating for up to four adults, and solar panels beneath the transparent bench seat can produce up to 100W of electrical power every hour – enough to charge mobile phones, tablets and other smart devices,” Mr Bryant said. He went on to discuss the future of renewables and how quickly tech is coming along:

“This sort of thing would have been science fiction just a few years ago, but users with compatible phones can simply place them on a designated area of the bench to activate recharging,” Mr Bryant said.

Lastly, Mr. Bryant discussed the future-proofing the council and manufacturer have built into the bench so they’re able to upgrade it in the future:

“The internal mechanisms are designed to be upgraded depending on our future needs,” Mr Bryant said.

“We will monitor its use and the needs of the community and will make a decision on these capabilities down the track.”

We’ve reached out to the Lake Macquarie Council to ask about the brand of hte solar benches, but it appears that they’re made by European company Steora:

Back in 2017 Perth had Steora smart benches installed by Australian distributor Cleanair, who came across the tech in Croatia. GM of Cleanair, Ivan Lozic, discussed how they want to harness as much solar power as possible through unconventional means as well as panels:

“Perth has such a great solar resource, so the more we can give residents the opportunity to harness it the better,” Mr Lozic said. If you want to read more about Perth solar benches please click here.

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Darling Downs Solar Update | Jobs, Farms & More

Darling Downs solar is helping the area by providing jobs to locals and kickstarting the economy – with one council already approving $6b worth of wind and solar projects. There’s now a ‘buzz’ around the Darling Downs and renewable energy – let’s take a look at what they have in the pipeline!

Darling Downs Solar 

Darling Downs Solar Farm
Darling Downs Solar Farm (source: Origin Energy)

“We’ve got $1.2 billion of that under construction now, and that’s the exciting thing, this isn’t just about approvals, this is about action to deliver renewable energies to this region,” Western Downs Regional Council mayor Paul McVeigh said in comments to the ABC

“And we know there are another three [solar farms] in the pipeline.”

In Warwick, the 154,000 megawatt-hour generating UQ / Warwick Solar Farm is to be installed on ‘good agricultural land’ has had to wage a battle against NIMBY detractors. Mayor Tracy Dobie defended her decision (she had the deciding vote to allow the farm DA):

“This region is about growth and development and we can sit here and go poor slowly or we can progress our region and the more development we can get in our region the more jobs,” Ms Dobie said.

“The more progress we can make, the better off we are.”

Mayor Dobie continued to discuss the project and what she sees the future of renewable energy in the Darling Downs as looking like:

“This is a turning point in our region to show we are moving forward, that we are looking to the future, and there is nothing more evident than that than renewable energy.

“There’s a buzz about the Darling Downs, this is a great place to be and great time to be here.”

Toowoomba Solar

There’s been an amazing amount of renewable energy movement in Toowoomba – with the billion dollar project at Bulli Creek approved by the Tooowoomba Council. This will be built by Solar Choice over a 10 year staggered period. 

Toowoomba mayor Paul Antonio spoke about the concerns some residents may have and why he’s happy to continue approving solar farms:

“I guess we have to be a bit cautious of the type of land we put it on, but in saying that, the land is restorable, its not going to be destroyed in any mining effort or anything like that, and in 20, 30, 40 years’ time that land will be back to full production.”

Have a look at the short video below from ABC Landline which was part of an article about using ‘good farmland’ for solar farms. 

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Sunshine Coast Solar Farm saves $1.7m in Year 1

The Sunshine Coast Solar Farm has been live for a year, and, as the second largest solar farm in Queensland, is on track to deliver $22m in savings over the next 30 years. 

Sunshine Coast Solar Farm Savings

Sunshine Coast Solar Farm (Valdora)
Sunshine Coast Solar Farm (Valdora) (source: sunshinecoast.qld.gov.au)

Also known as the Valdora solar farm, the 15MW and $50m Sunshine Coast Solar Farm was opened last year, allowing the Sunshine Coast Council to be the first local governments in Australia to offset 100% of its energy usage from a renewable source. Sunshine Coast acting Mayor Tim Dwyer has made some comments to the Sunshine Coast Daily about its progress:

“The Sunshine Coast Solar Farm has saved council $1.7 million – more than double the amount we’d hoped for in the first year,” Cr Dwyer said.

“We have met our offset goal as well – offsetting more than 100% of council’s energy use across all our facilities and operations.

“We’ve generated more than 26,300 megawatt hours of energy in 12 months. To put that into perspective, the average Australian home uses around six megawatt hours per year.

“We’ve saved more than 20,500 tonnes in carbon emissions – the equivalent of taking about 4300 cars off the road for one year.

“Council’s solar farm project has also received three prestigious awards for boosting productivity through infrastructure, sustainability excellence and planning excellence.

“Our Council is the first local government in the country to deliver a solar farm.

“With projects like the solar farm, we are delivering on our vision to be Australia’s most sustainable region – healthy, smart, creative.”

According to the Sunshine Coast Council website, it’s also the first solar farm in Australia which operates at 1500 volts DC, allowing it to operate more efficiently. 

Mayor Mark Jamieson said farm will allow the local council to take control of its own electricity supply, helping with rising electricity costs and also providing an environmentally friendly way to run their facilities:

“All power consumed at all of council’s facilities, including our administration buildings, aquatic centres, community and performance venues, as well as holiday parks, libraries, art galleries and sporting facilities, will be offset with energy from a renewable source thanks to this nation-leading project,” Mayor Jamieson said.

 

 

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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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Rooftop solar subsidies – ACCC calls for axe.

Rooftop solar subsidies should be completely removed and the solar feed-in tariffs should be managed at a state rather than a federal level, according to recommendations from the competition watchdog.

Rooftop solar subsidies in Australia

The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission’s electricity affordability report, which was released this week, highlights the cost of our National Energy Market, which include the large-scale renewable energy target, the small-scale renewable energy scheme and solar feed-in tariffs.

The ACCC said the cost of the LRET are expected to fall in the years after 2020, and were happy to leave the scheme to wind up on its 2030 end date. They said that the SRES, however, cost $130 million in 2016-17, and should be wound down and abolished by 2021, almost ten years ahead of schedule, to reduce costs for all consumers – not just those with solar installed.

The report, according to the Australian, found that households with solar panels installed earn $538 per year via feed-in tariffs, which doesn’t count the fact that they pay less for electricity as well:

“Meanwhile, non-solar households and businesses have faced the burden of the cost of premium solar feed-in tariff schemes and the SRES,” the ACCC said.

“While premium solar schemes are closed to new consumers, the costs of these schemes are ­enduring.”

With the New South Wales solar feed-in tariff to drop by 44% this financial year, the glory days of feed-in tariffs could be behind us. But at what point do we stop to count the social cost (i.e. the environmental displacement)? 

Rooftop solar subsidies in Australia - Opposition Leader Bill Shorten
Rooftop solar subsidies in Australia – Opposition Leader Bill Shorten (source: Wikipedia)

The 398 page report has ‘produced vital ammunition to reform energy’, has been ‘hijacked by zealots’ and doesn’t justify the building of new coal-fired power stations, depending on who you ask. About an hour ago Bill Shorten admitted he hasn’t read the ACCC report yet so it’ll be interesting to see what his thoughts are. Certainly just early days for this conversation, but it’s good to see Australia talking about our energy future and trying to come up with a plan. Watch this space! 

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Alexandra Canal transport depot solar+storage

The Alexandra Canal transport depot was officially opened by Sydney Lord mayor Clover Moore on Wednesday. It’s powered by 1,600 PV solar panels and also includes a Tesla Powerwall/Powerpack battery which has 500 kWh of energy. It represents the first time solar has been combined with large-scale energy storage in NSW – just like Tesla’s South Australia battery venture earlier this year. 

Alexandra Canal transport depot solar

Alexandra Canal transport depot  solar
Alexandra Canal transport depot solar (source: SMH.com.au / Supplied)

The Alexandra Canal transport depot will have the first government-installed Tesla battery for NSW – following suit from Victoria and South Australia who have already got similar setups. Lord mayor Moore took a look at the facility this week and had some high praise and explanation for the government’s future renewable plans:

“Growing the uptake of renewable energy is critical in combating the worst impacts of climate change,” Ms Moore said, adding:

“We’re working towards a target of 50 per cent of all electricity in the City of Sydney area to come from renewables by 2030.

“To help us achieve that target we’re covering the roofs of our properties with as many solar panels as possible. By mid-2021, we expect to have more than 7800 solar panels on the roofs of our properties. As the mix of storage and generation on our electricity grid changes, solar solutions like this could provide reliability and resilience to our electricity network and potentially prevent blackouts,”

The Tesla Powerpack batteries will be remotely managed by TransGrid and will be the first cab off the rank for a plan which will see Sydney install 1.5MW of battery storage on top of council buildings – with the goal of making their city 50% renewable in the short term. 

TransGrid boss Paul Italiano discussed the project with the Sydney Morning Herald:

“This initiative with the City of Sydney will afford the depot a significant amount of energy self-sufficiency while also sharing benefits with the wider community through the electricity network,” Mr Italiano said.

“By partnering with a site where this service is needed, we can support the City of Sydney’s renewable energy goals and reduce the cost of the council’s depot.”

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Enova’s Community Solar Garden Signups

We wrote last year about the Byron Bay based community solar company Enova who became a generator and a reseller of renewable energy. They’re now launching a community solar garden which is an amazing idea for people who aren’t able to reduce their electricity bill by installing solar power. Let’s learn more about the Enova and their plan to revolutionise solar for people in apartments, renters, and many more…

Enova and the Community Solar Garden

Enova Solar Garden
Enova Solar Garden (source: Enova.com.au)

The official Enova website is currently accepting applications from both ‘hosts’ and ‘members’ – that is to say that if you have plenty of free space on your rooftop you could sign up as a host, or if you’re a renter or live in an apartment or can’t get solar for any other reason becoming a member is a great idea. According to the website, “Enova is set to build a 99kW solar system and “sell” the panels to customers who can’t have solar at home”

For the most part it won’t be a ‘solar garden’ per se – most of the power looks like it’ll be generated from rooftop solar. 

According to Echo Net Daily, a Byron Bay based newspaper, a visit from Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy Mark Butler met with a great response for the Enova team. Mr Butler visited Enova HQ last Tuesday (June 12) and had some positive things to say about the plan:

Mr Butler said he was ‘excited to support innovative projects like Enova’s Solar gardens’.

The gardens will  ‘make an important contribution towards reducing carbon emissions and transition to a clean energy future, in addition to allowing access to the benefits of solar for renters.’ Mr Butler added. 

With regards to the concept of a ‘solar garden’, the more literal of us are in luck. A feasibility study in Eastern Australia is currently doing research into solar gardens for renters and how viable the concept is. According to EnergyMatters, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has given $240,000 to the $555,00 project – which will be undertaken by the Institute of Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology Sydney.

We’ll be sure to keep you posted on how Enova’s community solar garden goes and also keep an eye on the feasibility study into the ‘real’ solar gardens. Some more great news for community solar!

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Mackay Solar Tender (Council): $2.1m from Akcome

Mackay Council have decided which company to go with after putting out a solar tender last year. The Mackay solar project will be built by a Brisbane-based company – Akcome Power – who offered a significantly lower price than their competitors. 

The Mackay Solar Tender Overview.

We wrote about the initial tender process last year – the initial pool of EOI respondents was 16 companies, which ended up being whittled down to four.

Akcome Power Pty Ltd won the tender with a price significantly lower than the other three remaining respondents. Personally I’d be a bit wary of such a major discrepancy between quotes, so let’s dig a little deeper. Akcome’s proposal involves the usage of Huawei and ABB inverters – with 10 year warranties – and ‘unspecified’ solar panels with 30-year warranties.

Nevertheless, consultancy Peak Services reviewed the proposal and Akcome as a company and came away satisfied. Have Mackay Council got a fantastic deal or will they end up paying the prices for not paying the price and end up with a system where performance doesn’t meet expectations or quality issues abound? Time will tell. There are certainly plenty of perturbed solar companies in North Queensland right now.

According to the council, the final price will be offset by a little over half a million in STCs (small-scale renewable energy certificates). This, in conjunction with other ‘council and contingency costs’, will bring the final price to around $1.97 million.

“Council, like households, has been hard hit by rising electricity prices,’’ Mackay Mayor Greg Williamson said in a statement last Friday, according to One Step Off The Grid.

“This fairly modest initial outlay is an investment in the future which will provide ongoing cost savings.”

Mackay Solar Council Tender
Mackay Solar Council Tender (source: mackay.qld.gov.au)

This will be a great thing for solar jobs in Mackay – the 21 council facilities will require plenty of help getting the solar installed – and it seems like the majority of it will be going to local installers:

“Akcome has advised it will engage local Clean Energy Council of Australia-accredited electricians, as well as local non-accredited experienced electricians to work with them, plus local trades assistants,” Mackay Mayor Greg Williamson said.

“They expect to use 60 to 70 per cent Mackay-area based tradespeople to complete the installation.”

You can read the minutes of the Mackay council meeting where they decided which company to use by clicking here

 

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Council Solar in Bendigo gets a boost.

A partnership between the City of Greater Bendigo and local community groups has seen council solar in Bendigo continue to climb. The city’s myriad PV solar installations will save the council around $14,000 in electricity with the panels installed on a number of council owned buildings in Bendigo.

Council Solar in Bendigo

Geelong council will be installing solar at the Strathdale Community Centre, Long Gully Community Centre, California Gully Mechanics Institute and Canterbury Park Pavilion.

The Bendigo Advertiser is reporting that the $50,000 solar installations had funding from the Federal Community Solar Program and the City of Greater Bendigo managed the grant. 

Bernie O’Sullivan, Bendigo Council’s director of strategy and growth, spoke about the savings, both financial and ecological that council solar in Bendigo will bring to the city:

“These new solar panels are expected to create more than 55,000 kilowatt hours of electricity each year and create savings of approximately $14,000 a year in electricity costs,” Mr O’Sullivan said.

“The solar panels are also expected to reduce greenhouse gases by 72 tonnes a year. Community groups pay the utility bills associated with these four facilities, so the solar panels will mean reduced costs for those clubs.”

“We were very pleased when the club representatives approached us and we have assisted by applying for funding and getting the panels installed.”

Geelong council have already installed solar at Eaglehawk Recycling Centre, Annie Galvin and Helen Jessen Early Learning Centres and the Epsom Huntly Recreation Reserve Pavilion.

Council Solar in Bendigo - Bendigo Aquatic Centre
Council Solar in Bendigo – Bendigo Aquatic Centre (source: BAC Facebook Page)

The Bendigo Aquatic Centre will be next – another (council funded) 50 kilowatts of PV solar will be installed there later this year. This will bring Bendigo up to 281.5 kilowatt solar installations in the last 12 months. Always fantastic to hear about council working with its constituents to install renewable energy.

Council solar has been a big thing lately, like the Lismore floating solar farm, Geelong council’s decision to install solar panels above its swimming pools, and Newcastle City Council’s plans to cut electricity usage by 30% within 2 years and usage of the Newcastle solar farm.

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