CSIRO’s Black Mountain Solar Installation

CSIRO’s Black Mountain facility is set to have a further 2,900 solar panels installed in a plan to save around $900,000 a year. They’ve called for tenders this month and hope to have a decision made this week.

CSIRO’s Black Mountain Solar Installation

Black Mountain Solar
CSIRO’s Black Mountain Solar Installation (source: CSIRO)

Federal government agency CSIRO are doubling down on their previous solar investment – with an existing 380 solar panels at Black Mountain set to be increased by around 700%. The first 480 panels were installed earlier this year, and according to the Canberra Times, over 880kW of solar systems have been rolled out at other CSIRO sites since 2016 – including Black Mountain, Armidale in NSW, Werribee in Victoria, Kensington in Western Australia and Darwin. 

According to a CSIRO spokesman, 1.2MW of solar will also be installed in Pullenvale (QLD) and Waite (SA) – with a further 4.2MW planned for the ACT, NSW, Victoria and Western Australia.

“Once installed, these [photovoltaic] systems will deliver more than $900,000 [in] annual savings on energy bills, save close to 8000 megawatt hours of energy and reduce CO2 equivalent emissions by about 7400 tonnes each year,” the spokesman said.

All together, the plans are to install five megawatts of grid-connected, on-site renewable energy across its building portfolio by 2020.

“A key opportunity exists for CSIRO to hedge against the predicted upward price trend in electricity prices by investing today in alternative renewable energy sources to power their sites,” the CSIRO tender document says.

“The installation of large scale on-site renewable energy generation is a key mechanism to reduce CSIRO’s carbon footprint.”

The CSIRO have called for tenders for the Black Mountain solar upgraded and have advised that they will sign a contract this week, before deciding on a timeline to complete the upgrade. Some more fantastic news for government-installed solar and another step in the right direction for Australia’s renewable energy future. 

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Parkesbourne solar and storage project unveiled.

Australian renewable energy developer CWP Renewables is planning to build a 600MW Parkesbourne solar and storage project within Goulburn in New South Wales. The gigantic project will cover around 2,000 hectares in in the Greater Hume Shire.

Parkesbourne solar and storage – more info.

Parkesbourne Solar Project`
Parkesbourne Solar Project (source: cwprenewables.com)

There are two separate Parkesbourne solar projects being touted by CWP – the first is a 600MW solar and storage project in the New South Wales Goulburn Mulwaree Council area. The second plan is for a 200MW Glenellen solar and storage park. According to Renewables Now, this will be installed on already cleared land situated north-east of Jundera, within the Greater Hume Shire. 

Project manager Matthew Flower discussed what will happen on in the future if this project goes ahead:

“We are looking at producing up to 600MW power with this and right now there are no other 600MW solar farms in Australia,” Mr Flower said. 

“The largest at the moment would be about 150MW.

“That is not to say it will be the largest by the time of possible approval because this area is expanding so rapidly, but it is certainly a major project.

“The attraction of the area is proximity to the electricity grid and relatively flat land.”

Mr Flower went on to explain why they chose the specific location and why they will use solar power instead of wind:

“Wind can vary a lot, but not sun,” Mr Flower said.

“It would not matter if it was further west, because of the angle of the sun. Latitude is the main thing.

“Our application comes off the back of early engagement with potential hosts, neighbouring landowners and the wider community. 

“These discussions have shaped the project, which will continue as we work through the permitting process,” Mr Flower said. 

The project is expected to create 300 solar jobs during construction and 25 more ongoing operational positions. The $600m farm could even be the largest of its type in all of Australia.

We’ll keep you updated as more information about the project becomes available! An Environmental Impact Statement will be released to the public sometime in 2018. 

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Beryl Solar Farm Sold To New Energy Solar

We’ve written about the Beryl Solar Farm reaching a financial close back in May – now the 87MW (108MW according to the AFR) project has a new owner and is continuing construction. 

Beryl Solar Farm Sold To New Energy Solar

Beryl Solar Farm Sold to New Energy Solar
Beryl Solar Farm Sold to New Energy Solar (source: FirstSolar.com.au)

According to PV Magazine, the farm has been purchased by New Energy Solar – who also bought the 50MW Manildra Solar Farm for $113m last month. Both farms were previously owned by First Solar and the Beryl farm will be using their 420W large-format Series 6 thin film PV modules. Beryl also comes with a 15 year PPA with Transport for NSW – who will purchase 134,000 MWh from Beryl Solar Farm each year – using the power for the Sydney Metro Northwest railway. This long PPA with a AAA rated customer (i.e. the government) makes the farm a great buy in its current shape.

The EPC project was estimated at $150m according to Reuters, but it’s now estimated at $187m. Downer Utilities started work on the project in May and hope to have it finished in mid 2019. The farm will produce enough energy to power 25,000 households and doesn’t require any water for its electricity generation.

New Energy Solar said the cost of the farm won’t be announced but it was pegged to a target for five-year annual average gross yield of 8.2%, in comparison with yield on its existing portfolio of about 6.8% p.a, so by those metrics it looks like a canny purchase. 

New Energy Solar’s CEO, John Martin, discussed how the extra-long 15 year PPA helped get the sale of this project over the line:

“Beryl, New’s second investment in Australia, will further enhance the scale and contracted cashflows of our Australian portfolio,” said Martin. “Following the Manildra acquisition last month, we are delighted to be consolidating our relationship with First Solar through this second sizeable transaction in the Australian market.”

Martin continued to say that ~69% of the energy provided by the Beryl project will go to Transport for NSW – with the rest slated to package up with a 20MWh battery and sold to a corporate customer as commercial solar

To learn more about the project from the First Solar website please click here

If you’re interested in solar employment and working at the Beryl Solar Farm, please click here to visit the Downer Group’s careers website.

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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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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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