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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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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Solar PV installations in Australia Triple From 2017

Solar PV installations in Australia have tripled in the first half of 2018 in comparison to solar uptake in 2017. How will this affect our renewable economy and can we expect this to continue for the rest of the year? Where are all the installs coming from? Let’s take a look. 

Solar PV installations in Australia

Solar PV installations in Australia Triple From 2017 (source: Canberra Times via Green Energy Markets)
Solar PV installations in Australia Triple From 2017 (source: Canberra Times via Green Energy Markets)

The Canberra Times is reporting that household systems are now, on average, around 5 kilowatts. As the technology improves we’ll see this figure rise and (potentially) prices fall. They’ll certainly fall in terms of per watt pricing but the system uptake has resulted in 44% lower feed-in tariffs in New South Wales already – we’ll have to wait and see how this affects the rest of the country. It certainly doesn’t seem to have curbed the ACT’s appetite for solar systems – with the state leading Australia by a huge margin with a 130.8% uptake in installs over Q1+2 in 2018 vs. the same period. 

Green Energy Markets are also predicting that by 2020 renewable energy will represent around 33% (1/3) of Australia’s energy mix – almost double the 17.3% measured in 2015. Ric Brazzale of Green Energy Markets told the Canberra Times they are expecting to see around 30% higher figures by the end of the year:

“If we continue on at the same rate of installations we will end the year at between 1450 MW to 1500 MW – this will be more than 30 per cent higher than the 1100 MW installed last year,” he said.

It’s important to note that the amazing growth commercial solar (i.e. systems which are more than 15kW) has also seen over the last 12 months is heavily reflected in these figures. Over a quarter of June’s solar system demand is due to companies wanting to insure themselves from rapidly rising electricity prices and take control of their bills back by installing a commercial solar system on their premises. 

If you’re interested in reading all the specifics of their report, please click here to download Green Markets’ Renewable Energy Index for May 2018.

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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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Metz Solar Farm sold to Clenergy

New South Wales based 120MW PV solar farm Metz Solar Farm, previously owned by a consortium of buyers, has been sold by Pinsent Masons to Clenergy, a major renewable company from China.

Metz Solar Farm

Metz Solar Farm
Metz Solar Farm (source: metzsolarfarm.com.au)

The consortium, which included Infinergey and other unnamed investors (we wrote about the Metz farm in August last year), used Pinsent Masons to advise all aspects of the sale, which was the group’s first major project in Australia. Financial specifics are confidential – we reported last year the farm was bought for around $130m so it’d be interesting to see what it was worth to a buyer right now – unfortunately we’ll probably never know. Keep in mind it hasn’t even started construction yet – that will be around Spring of this year – the solar farm is expected to reach completion early 2019. 

The Armidale-based farm was 100MW when we looked at it last year, but with the application of Clenergy’s push-pull centralized single-axis tracking architecture, it’s now able to generate 120MW. 

Infinergy, who are more known for wind power according to PV Magazine, have put themselves “on the map” with this project – they are now looking to get development and grid connection approvals for 300MW by the end of the year, with a focus on utility scale solar in NSW and Victoria. 

Pinsent Masons partner Ewan Robertson, who, along with associate Lucy Carter, advised on the sale of the project, was bullish about the state of large-scale renewables in Australia: 

“The sale of the Metz solar farm is significant as it not only marks the sellers’ first project sale in the Australian market, it also represents the buyers’ first acquisition in Australia. Further, the speed at which the sale was initiated and completed is a ringing endorsement of the current appetite for renewable energy in Australia,” Robertson said.

“We are delighted to have achieved the successful development and the subsequent sale of Metz Solar Farm, all within a timeframe of 18 months,” said Infinergy CEO Esbjorn Wilmar in a statement.

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Sydney Markets solar installation turned on.

The Sydney Markets solar installation at their Flemington location has been turned on – the $8.9m solar system is Australia’s largest private solar rooftop installation and is expected to save the markets millions of dollars in electricity bills. 

Sydney markets solar installation

 

Sydney Markets solar installation
Sydney Markets solar installation (source: Sydney Markets Facebook)

According to Fairfax Media, the panels were installed by Autonomous Energy over a five month period and the 8,600 panels are able to generate more than 3MW – which is about 11% of Sydney Markets’ annual power usage. The markets are the largest food distribution centre in the Southern Hemisphere and turnover around $3b each year, so to see a company this big working on their sustainability is great.  

Brad Latham, the chief executive of Sydney Markets, said after stringent modelling, watching the market and seeing what other private solar investment was doing in Australia, they decided it was the right choice:

We’ve been examining solar panels for around five years, the financial models really stack up now,” Mr Latham told Fairfax Media.

“And with current electricity prices and the efficiency of solar panels it makes sense.”

Latham discussed how the Flemington-based Sydney markets already recycle about 70% of their on-site waste and how the renewable energy fits into their wider plan to make the markets as sustainable as possible:

“It’s part of our strategic plan to be leaders in sustainability. This solar power system will enable us to generate sustainable energy, as well as drastically reduce our carbon footprint,” Mr Latham said.

“In order to extract the same amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, 676 hectares of trees would be need to be planted each year.”

Chairman of the Sydney Markets, John Pearson, said this was just the beginning and they have big plants to expand the private solar system: 

“Sydney Markets has additional roof capacity to more than triple the generation of this solar system,” Mr Pearson said.

“We may continue to build upon and expand this system to meet our future energy needs.”

Pearson discussed how they think energy storage technology hasn’t quite reached the point where they’re ready to shell out for it, though: 

“We don’t think batteries are quite there yet, they are still a little ways off but it depends on the financial models,” Mr Latham said.

Another step forward for Australian businesses installing solar systems! 

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Newcastle solar farm to go ahead – Carnegie

Carnegie Clean Energy, who last week announced they will be building both the Kalbarri microgrid and the Kalgoorlie solar farm, have had another win today as their fully owned subsidiary Energy Made Clean won a tender to build and operate a $7m, 5MW Newcastle solar farm. 

Newcastle Solar Farm

Newcastle Solar Farm
Newcastle Solar Farm (source: Carnegie Clean Energy)

According to a press released they issued yesterday, Carnegie Clean Energy won the tender to install the PV solar + storage facility on a capped, former landfill site at the Summerhill Waste Management Centre in Newcastle. The project forms part of Newcastle Council’s plan to cut emissions by 30% by 2020 as part of the Renewable Energy Target. 

Carnegie’s Managing Director, Dr Michael Ottaviano (feels like we’ve been quoting him every day lately!) said, “We are delighted to have won our first utility scale solar farm project in NSW and our first to be connected in the National Electricity Market. This project brings the value of new contracted work for our joint venture to over $30m over the past 2 months.”

The Newcastle solar farm will be installed as a ground mounted fixed tilt system. It’ll have an optimised piling system so as to benefit as much as possible from the site topology and it’ll be modular – they are preparing for the future addition of a Battery Energy Storage System (BESS). Carnegie have stated that the design phase has already commenced and plant commissioning is expected at the end of Q3 this year. 

Energy Made Clean “specialises in the delivery of mixed renewable energy microgrid projects to islands and remote and fringe of grid communities” and Carnegie is the “only company in the world to offer a combination of wave, solar, wind, battery storage and desalination via microgrids” – so it’ll be really interesting to see what their future plans are now that they have some big projects to work on! 

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Australia’s largest solar plant built in NSW in 2018

Australia’s largest solar plant will be built in NSW early next year. It will be a 250MW DC solar photovoltaic power plant with energy storage and installed in NSW’s Sunraysia region. The plant will be built by Decmil on behalf of Chinese company Maoneng Australia, who already have a solar farm in the ACT and are looking to create a second. The Sunraysia solar farm was being discussed back in June (click to view our article about it) and has changed from 200MW to 250MW but will still be located on 1000 hectares of private freehold land 17km south of Balranald centre – approximately 140km south-east of Mildura.

Australia’s largest solar plant

Australia's largest solar plant - Sunraysia Solar Farm
Australia’s largest solar plant – Sunraysia Solar Farm artist’s rendition (source: sunraysiasolarfarm.com.au)

According to Maoneng vice-president Qiao Han, Maoeng Australia and Decmil signed an MOU (Memorandum Of Understanding) on Tuesday. They plan to construct the plant as soon as April or May in 2018 – with the construction contract valued at approximately $275 million. 

The plant is expected to generate at least 530,000 megawatt hours of electricity each year, and will power houses in both NSW and Victoria. Maoneng’s previous Australian solar investment, the 13MW Mugga Lane solar park in the ACT, generates around 24,500 megawatt hours – so this is a big step up. 

There’s talk of the plant also using batteries to store excess power making it one of the first solar farms in New South Wales to do so. According to a statement from Decmil, “This will provide greater energy reliability and allow the solar farm to produce electricity during periods of peak demand rather than only during sunlight hours.”

Large-Scale Solar Farm Competitors

Although this will be Australia’s largest solar plant for a while, there are currently three projects which will be larger when they are completed: 

No doubt before those three are finished we’ll have even bigger plants on the horizon – it’s great watching the neverending race of large-scale solar! 

 

 

 

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Floating Solar Farm in Lismore – Australia’s First

A floating solar farm has been installed in Lismore, northern New South Wales – it’s Australia’s first foray into floating solar and the Lismore City Council are hoping to have construction completed today. It should be fully functional by mid-December.

Floating Solar Farm

Floating Solar Farm in Lismore
Floating Solar Farm in Lismore (source: farmingthesun.net)

The 100kw floating solar farm, located at the Lismore City Council sewage plant, will be constructed by Suntrix and will be capable of generating around 12% of the power required by the sewage plant. 

“This particular pontoon will be floating by tomorrow, which is really exciting but the aim is to have it all connected and up and running by mid-December,” Lismore City Council’s Environmental Strategies Officer Sharyn Hunnisett said. Ms. Hunnisett also noted that this is merely the first step in Lismore City Council’s plan to power their sewage plant via renewable energy – telling the Northern Star that they are hoping to upgrade and expand the plant over the next six months. 

“We will have to do our calculations but we are hoping a minimum of 400kw in the future,” Ms. Hunnisett said.

Chief Project Officer, Geoff Fussell from Suntrix, said that the solar farm could power around 20 homes and will consist of 280 solar panels. He also told the ABC about the importance of building the farm so that it’s able to mitigate floods – “The panel island will float at the level of the water table but allows for 12 metres height expansion in heavy rains,” he said. “The solar panel anchors can withstand floods.”

The Lismore floating solar farm is one of many measures the Lismore City Council has put in place as per its Renewable Energy Master Plan. They have set themselves the ambitious and admirable target of generating all required electricity via renewable sources by 2023. This makes them the first regional council in Australia to commit to making its electricity supply 100% renewable. 

Solar power in Lismore is gaining a lot of traction recently, with Farming the Sun and Lismore City Council working in tandem on the floating solar farm, and also the construction of a 99kW rooftop PV solar system on top of the Goonellabah Sports & Aquatic Centre. The Rainbow Power Company, based in Nimbin, was responsible for the build at the Aquatic Centre. 

 

 

 

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Sydney Metro Solar Powered Facility

The $8.3 billion Sydney Metro train network will include a solar project on the roof of a maintenance building at Rouse Hill to help power its facility. The Sydney Metro Solar project will generate around 1.5 million kWh (kilowatt hours) per year – enough to power 270 homes. 

This is a relatively small scale project (given the scope of the main network), but it’s a fantastic first step, and we hope just the start of a long and prosperous relationship between Sydney Metro and renewable energy.

Sydney Metro Solar at Rouse Hill

NSW Transport told the Rouse Hill Times that the solar facility at Rouse Hill will consist of 3,287 solar panels. They’ll be installed on the roof of the maintenance building on Cudgegong Road – this will be one of the largest solar power systems installed on a building in Australia – it’ll cover more than 6,500 square metres.

The renewable energy generated by this solar system will be used to power some of the Sydney Metro railway stations, and also the maintenance facility, where the new metro trains will be washed, inspected, repaired, and serviced. According to the official website, in keeping with the eco-friendly theme of the facility, Sydney Metro trains will be washed in an automated train wash, at least twice a week – and up to 95% of the water used to wash a train will be recycled. 

The trains also use regenerative braking – which means extra energy generated by a slowing train can be pushed back into their local grid and used by nearby trains. 

Sydney Metro Solar Rouse Hill
The Sydney Metro Solar Facility will be installed at Rouse Hill HQ (pictured) (source: sydneymetro.info)

NSW Transport and Infrastructure Minister Andrew Constance told the Daily Telegraph “This is one of the biggest solar power systems mounted on a building in Australia — another milestone that shows the sheer scale of the city-shaping Sydney Metro project,”

Constance noted that “Sydney Metro is the biggest urban rail infrastructure investment in the nation’s history and we’re building it for the long term” – so it’ll be great to see how they couple this with renewable energy and eco-friendly developments during its lifetime. 

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