PowerBank trial for WA Homes | Tesla PowerPack

An official announcement by the Government of Western Australia on Wednesday notes that they will partner with Western Power and Synergy to offer a Tesla PowerBank trial via a 105kW (420kWh) Tesla PowerBank battery.

PowerBank trial for WA Homes.

 

PowerBank trial for WA Homes.
Tesla PowerPack Commercial Battery – PowerBank trial for WA Homes (source: Tesla)

The 24 month trial period means that customers participating will be able to ‘virtually’ store excess power they generate during the day (it’ll be fed into the utility-scale 105kW Tesla PowerPack Battery). They can then use 8kWhs of the PowerBank’s battery storage without needing to install their own power bank. According to the press release (and it’s true!), “8kWhs is enough to power the average suburban home for over one hour during peak time.”

Energy Minister Ben Wyatt discussed the Tesla PowerBank trial in a series of interesting quotes which explain how helpful this trial could be to Mandurah residents:

“PowerBank is an ‘in front of the meter’ storage trial which allows invited local customers to store excess electricity from already installed solar PV systems to then use it during peak times.

“This is another Australian milestone for the application of utility-scale batteries for the benefit for customers, drawing on the groundbreaking work by Synergy in its Alkimos Beach energy storage trial.

“For the first time in Australia, a utility-scale battery will be integrated into an established suburb’s network, like Meadow Springs, that has a high level of existing solar PV uptake.

“At the cost of one dollar a day, customers will have access to 8kWh of battery storage to use any time after 3pm each day.

“This trial shows that the WA Government is serious about working with renewables, delivering for taxpayers and planning for our energy future.”

Click here to view the media statement from the WA state government.

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Congupna solar farm / Design and Development Guidelines

The Congupna solar farm has been approved for the Shepparton area and will produce 30MW of energy – this is enough to power 10,000 homes in the region.

Congupna solar farm

Minister for Planning Richard Wynne announced the successful Congupna solar farm approval this morning. 

According to Minister Wynne the farm will create over 100 solar jobs for the region: 

“The Congupna solar farm will create more than 100 new jobs and produce 30 megawatts of new, clean energy – helping to drive down energy prices.”

 “We’re working with industry and community to make sure solar farm developments deliver the right outcomes for communities, the environment and jobs” he continued.

The Tallygaroopna, Lemnos and Tatura East solar farm applications has been deferred until further strategic work on Goulburn Murray Irrigation District is completed.

As per the official press release, the Labor Government in Victoria will invest over $1.3b to put solar panels, hot water, and batters in 720,000 homes, as part of their Solar Homes Program.

Minister for Environment, Energy and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio was equally impressed by the project, discussing how they will be able to affect climate change and electricity prices:

“These new guidelines will provide more certainty to the community, and more confidence to invest in major solar farms like the one at Congupna.”

 “We’re creating jobs, driving down power prices and combatting climate change with the biggest investment in renewable energy in Victoria’s history” Minister D’Ambrosio said.

According to Shepparton News, Mr Wynne’s office stressed in a press release that the Congupna facility “will be built on non-irrigated agricultural land” and is projected to create almost $40 million in capital expenditure.

Solar Energy Facilities – Design and Development Guidelines

At the same time, Minister Wynne released a draft version of the design and development guidelines for solar energy facilities. They’ll help councils, developers, and communities ensure they build solar farms suitable for everybody. Although we’ve seen many successful large-scale solar farm rollouts in Australia, solar farm opposition is still a bit of an issue for some developments. Hopefully these guidelines help clear up what is and isn’t suitable for large-scale solar! 

 

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SolarReserve sign MOU for Aurora Project

American company SolarReserve have signed an MoU with Heliostat SA to manufacture and assemble the components for their solar tower and molten salt storage facility at Port Augusta.

SolarReserve Commence Construction on Aurora Solar Thermal Plant

SolarReserve sign MOU for Aurora Project
SolarReserve sign MOU for Aurora Project (source: solarreserve.com)

SolarReserve announced on Tuesday that they’ll work with Heliostat SA to create 12,800 96 square metre glass mirrors for their Aurora Solar Thermal Plant. 

The solar thermal plant in Port Augusta, South Australia, was announced last August and received developmental approval back in January It is slated to be a $750m project but we haven’t heard any specifics as to updated pricing, and this information is the first news on the project since January of this year. 

According to the CEO of SolarReserve, Kevin Smith, the solar thermal power plant will comprise of approximately 12,000 mirrors, each the size of a billboard (around 100sqm), arranged in a circle over 600 hectares. The mirrors will focus light and heat to the top of a 227m tall tower to generate up to 150MW. This will result in over a million square metres of surface area for the project. 

“Aurora will provide much needed capacity and firm energy delivery into the South Australian market to reduce price volatility,” Mr. Smith said at the time. He elaborated today when discussing the deal with Heliostat SA: 

“We’re excited to have formed a long-term partnership with Heliostat SA and look forward to teaming up with them to bring manufacturing of our world-class heliostats to South Australian workers,” said Mr. Smith.

“SolarReserve is committed to supporting South Australia’s goals which will attract investment, create South Australian jobs and build an exciting and growing new industry.”

According to an article on RenewEconomy the project will create around 200 full time solar jobs for the area, with 650 to be employed during the construction phase. 

This project is a bit slow and new information is thin on the ground, so great to hear that it’s moving ahead. We’ll keep you posted as soon as there’s any new information on the solar thermal plant! 

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Solar Battery Rebates in Victoria | Solar Homes Program

Solar battery rebates in Victoria will be rolled out as part of the Andrews’ government’s $1.34b Solar Homes program. The program also includes half price solar panels for 650,000 households and a $1,000 discount on solar hot water installation for 60,000 households. 

Solar Battery Rebates in Victoria – Solar Homes Program

Solar Battery Rebates in Victoria
Solar Battery Rebates in Victoria (source: solar.vic.gov.au)

Victorian home owners who fit the criteria (it’s means tested) will get a 50% rebate to install battery storage. The rebate will be capped at $4838 in the first year and will slowly decrease to $3714 by 2026, factoring in the inevitability that prices will decrease and energy storage technology will improve. The Age are reporting that this policy will cost an estimated $40m, with around 10,000 Victorian households expected to take advantage of the fantastic subsidy offer. 

According to the SBS, it’s part of Labor’s wider plan to increase renewable energy use and decrease the cost of living – with the plan being to work with energy distributors and invest $10m to help ‘renewable-proof’ the state grid over the next ten years. 

“This is a game changer for Victorian families fed up with big corporations that have been price gouging and ripping consumers off,” Premier Daniel Andrews said.

“Only Labor will put solar panels, solar hot water or solar batteries on 720,000 homes – saving Victorians thousands of dollars on their electricity bills with renewable energy.”

Solar Homes Victoria Subsidy Breakdown

We’ve previously written about Labor’s half price solar for Victorians scheme- looks like there are some great plans coming to fruition for the state. 

Solar Panels – $1.2b for 50% of solar system installation costs for 650,000 homes.

Solar Hot Water – $60m for $1000 subsiddies to install solar hot water.

Solar Batteries – $40m for 50% of solar battery installation costs for ~10,000 homes.

It’ll be very interesting to see how these solar battery rebates work in Victoria and if the other states (especially the ones with a high solar panel update) follow suit. Watch this space – we’ll keep you updated! 

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Solar and Wind Farms in the Sahara Desert

New research in Science magazine shows that installing solar and wind farms in the Sahara Desert could generate massive amounts of electricity and turn parts of the desert green for the first time in over 4,500 years. 

Solar and Wind Farms in the Sahara Desert

The Sahara Desert (source: Wikipedia)
The Sahara Desert (source: Wikipedia)

Atmospheric scientist at the University of Maryland, Eugenia Kalnay, has been working on this theory for over ten years, postulating that the darkness of solar panels won’t reflect the sunlight – helping heat up the surface of the land – which will in turn drive air upwards into the atmosphere (which, in turn, generates rain). 

Dr. Kalnay talked one of her post-doc researchers into creating a computer simulation where 20% of the Sahara is covered with solar panels. They also tried a simulation where the desert was covered in turbines to generate renewable energy from wind. The simulation was successful – with rainfall in the desert increasing by a large enough amount so that vegetation could return to the Sahara.

“It is wonderful!” Dr. Kalnay was quoted as saying in an article by NPR. “We were so happy because it seems like a major solution for some of the problems that we have.”

The Sahara Desert solar farm in the simulation is gigantic – bigger than the entire continental United States. It’d be able to generate 400% of the energy the world currently requires. Would there be a way to install high-capacity transmission lines to transport this power across seas and land? It’s certainly a fantastic concept that seems straight out of a science fiction novel, but technology is increasing at such a pace that ideas like this are, whilst admittedly still in nascent stages, potentially viable. 

Take a look at our articles on printable solar panels/cells to see how, if room wasn’t an issue, how much cheaper large-scale solar could be with lower efficiency panels. 

More great information for solar cell technology. Just a thought experiment at this point but it’s exciting to see what the future could hold for renewable energy in the Sahara Desert! 

 

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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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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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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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Latrobe Valley solar: 30 public buildings to get PV.

Latrobe Valley solar energy is set to get a boost with 30 public buildings in the area to have rooftop installed at no cost, thanks to a bit of help from the state government in Victoria.

Latrobe Valley Solar Scheme

Energy and environment minister Lily D’Ambrosio was in Moe last week to discuss the scheme and show the Latrobe Valley residents a list of the public buildings in line for free solar upgrades, including in some cases solar hot water and lighting. One such building is the Toongabbie Mechanics Institute – a building where existing solar has already saved $500 on last quarter’s electricity bill. Toongabbie Mechanics Institute treasurer Roger Ries summed it up very succintly:

“It’s made amazing reductions. It’s cheaper for the recreation reserve users and it will make it cheaper for the hall here,” Mr Ries said.

Minister D’Ambrosio spoke about the impact these home solar energy upgrades will have on the lives of lives of 1000 vulnerable Gippslanders.

“The energy upgrades and solar installations will not only help bring down energy prices for the Latrobe Valley, they will create local jobs in the renewable energy sector,” she said.

According to the Latrobe Valley Express, over 1000 households/low incomes earners are also eligible for solar systems as part of the $5 million Latrobe Valley Home Energy Upgrade Program.  Local businesses Gippsland Solar (who are responsible for the fantastic Camberwell Grammar School Solar System), Sunny Afternoons and Rocky’s Electrical will be used for both programs which will create 10 full-time jobs.

Latrobe Valley Solar Scheme
Latrobe Valley Solar Scheme (source: EPA Victoria)

There’s been some great solar news for the Latrobe Valley / Gippsland area with regards to both end-user solutions and large-scale renewable energy production – with a 70MW solar farm on the outskirts of Morwell announced back in April, to be build by ARP Australian Solar who said the plant will be a hybrid solar and battery farm which create “well over 100 jobs [during construction]” for the area. 

“There would also be a number of ongoing jobs … involving security, electrical testing, monitoring and what have you.”, according to ARP Australian solar director George Hughes. 

Mr Hughes elaborated on a potential timeline for the Morwell solar farm: 

“With everything going according to plan, we’re looking to start construction in January or February next year, early 2019.”

We’ll keep you updated on both the Latrobe Valley Solar Scheme and the Morwell solar farm. Exciting times for Gippsland!

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