Cultana solar farm EPC services signed.

The Cultana solar farm is one step closer to completion today – as Sanjay Gupta’s Simec Energy Australia securing an EPC partnership agreement with Shanghai Electric. Let’s take a look!

Cultana solar farm EPC services signed.

The 280W solar farm is located near the Wynalla Steelworks (also owned by Mr Gupta’s GFG Alliance under the name Liberty OneSteel), and will be built through Simec Energy, Gupta’s renewable arm which has a lofty goal of $1b spend in clean energy projects. The Cultana solar farm is set to cost $350m and represents the first stage of Simec Energy’s $1b plan.

“Cultana Solar Farm is an ambitious project that will deliver globally-competitive renewable energy on a large scale to power-heavy industry. It is a great step forward in our vision to revitalise industry and we look forward to working with our partners to bring our renewables projects to life,” Gupta was quoted as saying upon hearing the news.

“Our planned Next-Gen project will ignite a new industrial revolution in Australia. These projects are shining examples of GFG’s commitment to create a sustainable future for industry and build stronger local communities,” Mr. Gupta continued.

Last month we wrote about how the solar farm has been granted approval from the South Australian government despite an interesting objection Adania Renewables lodged against the application.

The basis of this program is up to 1GW of solar to be constructed in and around Whyalla, so more great news for South Australian  solar. Reid told the solar conference that the first step is an 80MW solar farm “behind the meter” near the Whyalla Steelworks, and after this they will install 200MW of grid connected solar on property owned by GFG Alliance.

According to RenewEconomy, the solar farm will include over 880,000 solar panels and they will be supplied by Wuxi Suntech.

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Cultana Solar Farm to go ahead

The Cultana solar farm will go ahead, having received planning approval from the South Australian government. Let’s take a closer look at the project. 

Cultana Solar Farm to go ahead

The Cultana solart farm will be a 280MW solar farm being developed by Simec Zen Energy Australia. The project is set to commence construction within the next 12 months. It’ll be constructed on land next to the Whyalla Steelworks, who are currently expanding via Sanjeev Gupta and GFG Alliance (and who will undoubtedly need more power in the coming months and years). 

Sanjeev Gupta and GFG Alliance’s $1b fund to help support solar power in the Whyalla will be tapped for the Cultana project – despite some blowback from Adani Renewables who have bizarrely asked that the project be assessed by the Federal Department of the Environment under the EBPC Act. Adani have raised concerns about the potential impact on animals such as the threatened western grass wren and the slender-billed thornbill. They also discussed the problems with impact to Aboriginal heritage, dust, and traffic impacts. Seems strange given their own project will undoubtedly be scrutinized for the same reasons, but they must have a plan…

The project was signed off by SA Minister for Planning Stephan Knoll who put some restrictions on the approval. Simec have been asked to submit Environmental Management Plans for the construction and the operation phases of the Cultana Solar Farm. 

According to RenewEconomy, the $350M project will generate 600GWh of electricity per annum. This project is tipped to create 350 jobs during construction and 10 ongoing operations solar jobs after it’s completed. It’s expected to contribute savings of 492,000 tonnes of co2 emissions per year. 

Cultana (source: rowanramsey.com.au)

“There is a great future for energy‐intensive industries in Australia,” Sanjeev Gupta was quoted as saying. 

“This the first step in GFG leading the country’s industrial transition to more competitive energy.”

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Solar Homes policy – NSW Solar grant

Solar Homes policy – the NSW Labor party have announced a huge solar rebate they will implement if they win the upcoming state election. Let’s learn more about how many households could be helped and what the particulars of the scheme are. 

Solar Homes policy

Michael Daley - Solar Homes Policy (source: michaeldaley.com.au)
Labor leader Michael Daley – announcing the Solar Homes Policy (source: michaeldaley.com.au)

The Solar Homes policy was announced by NSW Labor leader Michael Daley on his official website this week:

“This program will take NSW to over a million solar homes. Based on current take up rates for household solar, the program could help add solar to an additional 1 million homes over the next decade.” the website states. Further reading into the document shows that 500,000 households will benefit from the solar scheme. 

Under the Solar Homes policy, owner-occupied households in New South Wales are eligible for a rebate of up to $2,200, as long as their combined annual income is less than $180,000. 

Deputy Leader and Shadow Environment Minister Penny Sharpe said, “Under this plan, everyone wins. Families get help with their electricity bills and we are taking real action on climate change and giving NSW a cleaner, greener future.”

NSW Labor’s Leader in the Legislative Council and Shadow Minister for Energy and Climate Change, Adam Searle said, “Solar Homes is just one aspect of Labor’s plan for cheaper and cleaner energy across NSW. Our policies will cut both electricity bills and carbon emissions. We look forward to providing more in the lead up to the election.”

If Labor do win the state election (which will be held on March 23) and the Solar Homes policy goes ahead, it will commence in the 19-20 financial year (“to ensure an orderly rollout”), and follow other states with their own initiatives:

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Approved Solar Retailer | Clean Energy Council Program

Approved Solar Retailer – the Clean Energy Council’s program is over five years old now – the voluntary scheme authorised by the ACCC in 2013 has had its ups and downs. Is it worth it? Let’s take a look. 

Approved Solar Retailer | Clean Energy Council Program

The Approved Solar Retail program has grown to over 200 companies in January 2019, according to EcoGeneration. A hundred of these have been added since September 2018, which makes you wonder what the program was like for the previous five years (there are around 4,000 solar companies Australia wide). Is it worth joining the CEC or are they a toothless tiger (or a cash cow)? How does the CEC deal with complaints about members? Does this represent a glorified rubber stamp and is self-regulation something we can trust industries to work on? That’s something worth discussing with other solar owners who have had experience with the program.

Here’s their code of conduct: 

“This non-prescribed voluntary code of conduct (the Code) aims to promote best practice measures and activities for retail businesses selling solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. This Code is for retail businesses that want to demonstrate the commitment they have to promoting responsible activity and development in the renewable energy sector across Australia. This Code is not intended to replace existing consumer, energy or environmental planning legislation, policy or regulations at local, state or federal government levels, but to bring about increased accountability within the PV retail industry”

The program’s recent growth appears to be directly tied to schemes like the South Australian Government’s Home Battery Scheme and the Victorian Government’s Solar Homes Package – it appears that the ACCC isn’t ‘enough’ to regulate the industry. 

One important thing to note – being an Approved Solar Retailer is different to being a Clean Energy Council member. You can find a list of members on the Clean Energy Council members page.

If you’re having problems with an accredited solar company please fill out a solar accreditation dispute form

If you’d like to check whether an installer is accredited with the Clean Energy Council please click here.

If you’re a solar company hoping to get accredited please click here to learn more about the process and what you can expect. Membership is on a sliding scale and starts from $600 p.a. depending on the size of your company.

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Battery Energy Storage System in Alice Springs

Battery Energy Storage System – Alice Springs is set to receive its first grid-scale battery as solar power in the Northern Territory heats up.

Alice Springs Battery Energy Storage System

Battery Energy Storage System Alice Springs
Battery Energy Storage System discussion at Alice Springs (source: territorygeneration.com.au)

The $8.3M, 5MW/2.5MWh grid-scale battery storage facility in Alice Springs was announced last year and has been completed this week. It was built by New Zealand solar company Vector using LG grid-scale solar batteries.  

Government owned Territory Generation (The Northern Territory’s major electricity producer) have advised that they’re hoping this battery will facilitate greater uptake of solar in the NT:

“The Battery Energy Storage System is an important milestone in the Northern Territory’s transition to renewable energy and a critical piece of infrastructure to support the Northern Territory Government’s Roadmap to Renewables strategy,” Territory Generation Chief Executive Officer Tim Duignan said.

“Reliability and stability of the power system is a critical barrier in the uptake of renewable energy across Australia, and I am pleased that we are at the forefront of tackling this issue right here in Alice Springs,” he continued.

The BESS should have quite a big impact on base-load power as well, so let’s see how it fares during summer 2018/19. Previously a very conservative approach to local grid management (read more in RenewEconomy) means this battery should help quite a lot: with half an hour storage capability, and can supply 8MW for 6 seconds, or 7.5MW for 60 seconds – suitable for the moments everyone decides their air conditioners need to be turned on at the same time!  

Mr. Duignan also discussed the plans for Darwin solar in the future: “The cutting-edge technology in our Battery Energy Storage System will reinforce Alice Springs as the solar capital of Australia by enabling greater solar penetration whilst maintaining grid stability.”

We wrote about the Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) last June as it was unveiled in an attempt to compete with the other states, where the Northern Territory was lagging behind considerably (January 2017 PV output was 4,049MWh vs Queensland’s 126,629MWh). 

The Northern Territory is in a very unique position compared to its neighbour states – the state hosts a mere one percent of the total population but it represents approximately 15% of Australia’s land mass. However, installs are more expensive over there due to less competition and higher cyclone ratings required on solar panels. This dearth of Darwin solar is starting to change and there are a raft of high quality solar installers working hard in Darwin, Katherine, Alice Springs, and more. It’ll be interesting to see how quickly they can catch up to the other states. 

Darwin Solar Farms

There are plenty of farms and solar projects in various stages of completion in the Northern Territory and this is growing rapidly:

  • GPT Group have 1.25 MW at Casuarina Square shopping Centre
  • Darwin International Airport’s 4MW.
  • Epuron are working on a 25MW Solar plant at Katherine.
  • The Australian Defence Force have tendered for a 12MW of solar (combined) at their Darwin and Robertson Barracks.
  • Rim Fire Energy Retail’s 10MW Batchelor solar farm.
  • Infigen Energy are building a 12MW solar farm at Manton Dam and 10MW at Batchelor.
  • Community solar project “Repower Alice Springs” is planning for a 10MW community solar farm.

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