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! 

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! 

 

 

 

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. 

 

 

 

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. 

Community Solar: Clean Energy 4 Goulburn

A group of residents in Goulburn have joined together to create a community solar farm. The 1.2MW AC output Clean Energy 4 Goulburn solar farm will have 4000 non-reflective PV solar panels and the capacity to power between 350 and 500 houses in the region. It will be completed in 2018. 

Clean Energy 4 Goulburn

Clean Energy 4 Goulburn Team
Clean Energy 4 Goulburn Team (source: ce4g.org.au)

After a lack of interest in renewable energy for Goulburn, a group of seven locals led by group president Ed Suttle, formed Clean Energy 4 Goulburn in 2014.  They were hoping to raise $2m to finance their project, with around 50% coming from the local community, as the group made a commitment that they will be majority community owned. 

Following a viable feasibility study in 2015/16, a DA was made to the Goulburn Mulwaree Council for their solar farm to be built on a 2.5-hectare site east of Goulburn owned by Divall’s Haulage. After a protracted approval process, CE4G are partnering with Essential Energy (which in itself took 5 months to be approved), who own the power infrastructure in Goulburn, to get permission to use their poles and wires to transport the energy.

The Sydney Morning Herald is reporting that the GE4G team are hoping to sell 50% of its eventual renewable output to one major end users (e.g. local government or a large institution), and the remaining 50% can be sold (via an electricity retailer) to the greater Goulburn community. 

Click here to visit the Clean Energy 4 Goulburn site and learn more about their plans.

The $380m Gunning Solar Farm is about 50km west of Goulburn (and is still in early development stages) but other than that there aren’t any other solar farms in Goulburn right now. 

Community Solar Farms

Earlier this year investors sunk over $3m into Australia’s largest community solar project in Canberra – the Majura Solar Farm. This is expected to be completed in 2018 also and, with 533 backers, certainly won’t be the last time we see community solar farms being built in Australia. Bringing the power back to the people, especially in rural areas, is going to get a lot larger over the coming years. 

See a video about the Goulburn community solar farm below! 

Ausgrid to buy solar power from Syd businesses.

Electricity network operator Ausgrid has reacted to ballooning infrastructure maintenance and repair costs by investing in a pilot trial for solar power. They’re offering to buy solar from local Sydney businesses in a trial area to see how renewables can help move a company, which has been called “possibly the least efficient network in Australia” (via Hugh Grant (no, not that one!) from the Australian Energy Regulator) into the future.

Ausgrid’s Solar Trial

Ausgrid Solar
Ausgrid’s $2m Solar Pitch (source: ausgrid.com.au)

Ausgrid, Australia’s biggest network operator, was privatized and sold to two Australian super fund managers late last year. Technically the deal was a 99-year lease of their assets, while the New South Wales government holds 49.6% and a consortium of IFM Investors and AustralianSuper holds the other 50.4% interest.

With electricity networks now utilising PV solar to cut costs and future-proof their businesses, it’s clear the cat is well out of the bag in terms of Australia’s energy future. 

Via a $2 million trial investment, Ausgrid is offering $250 per kilowatt for companies in certain Sydney suburbs (Auburn, Erskineville, Alexandria, Redfern, Randwick, Waterloo and Kingsford Smith, according to RenewEconomy) to install solar panels on the top of warehouses and industrial facilities.

A tender document noted: “We consider solar power systems and energy efficiency retrofit activities would offer permanent demand reductions over the typical network need period once installed.”

They hope to reduce grid demand and subsequently lessen the amount required to fix existing infrastructure – and if this pilot is successful Ausgrid could potentially roll the offering across their entire network, which spans Sydney metro, the Central Coast, and the Hunter Valley.

The future for Ausgrid and Solar Power

Now that they’re starting to realise the inexorable march towards renewable energy means adapt or perish, there are myriad pathways Ausgrid could take from here.

Assuming their trial project is successful, they could roll the entire 1.6 million customers into a bunch of microgrids, implement local energy trading, and they could also consider looking at further decentralising their grid – they could offer incentives for energy storage, not just solar panels. 

Whatever ends up happening, Australia’s solar power future is clearly starting to shine brightly when companies like Ausgrid start to turn to renewables to save money! 

 

200MW Sunraysia Solar Farm in Balranald Proposed

Sunraysia Solar Farm Two Pty Ltd (a subsidiary of the Maoneng Group) have proposed to develop a 200MW Solar Farm in Balranald (which situated in southern New South Wales) – if all goes to plan it will be the biggest NSW solar plant – at this point the plant has received approval but is still in the planning phase.

Sunraysia Solar Farm

Sunraysia Solar Farm
Artist’s Rendition – Sunraysia Solar Farm (source:sunraysiasolarfarm.com.au)

The Sunraysia solar farm will be located 17km south of Balranald centre – approximately 140km south-east of Mildura. It’ll consist of around 1,000 hectares of private freehold land and the preliminary layout provides for up to 200MW peak AC (MWp) of solar panels. This is not set in stone, however, the farm is currently in development process and once this is completed Maeoneng are hoping to start construction by the end of 2017. Construction is estimated to run around 12 months.

According to the Maoeng website, their proposal includes the development of a utility scale solar PV farm with a total capacity of 200MWAC. Stage 1 of the proposal would be 109MWAC and stage 2 would be 91MWAC (i.e. already converted into AC power, so factoring in any loss in conversion from direct current). The farm will fulfill Maoneng Group’s commitment to developing and delivering 1GW of solar facilities over Australia during the next six years.

According to the Vice President of Maoeng, Quiao Nan Han, “The development approval will be followed by further consultation with various stakeholders in developing detailed construction management plans,”. The solar farm will produce approximately 530,000MWh of electricity per year and is considering adding battery storage to the project down the track. Maoeneng have already successfully developed the 13MW Mugga Lane solar farm in the ACT.

If you have any questions or would like any more information on the project you can email [email protected] or call them on 02 9199 8599. Alternatively, Maoeng and the Sunraysia Solar Farm have prepared a promotional video about the project which you can view by clicking play below. As always, great to see more investment in renewables!

 

Dubbo Solar project to help Aboriginal families

Dubbo solar power has helped more than 150 homes with solar panels and energy management systems (Eddy) installed in a forward-thinking and experimental project championed by Kenjarhy Solar (partnered with Solar Professionals) and Murdi Paaki Regional Enterprise Corporation (MPREC)

The Dubbo Solar Grid

Kenjarhy Solar, Solar Professionals and MPREC have created the project in conjunction with the Aboriginal Housing Office (AHO) to help Dubbo residents enjoy cheaper and environmentally friendly energy to their homes.

The AHO CEO Shane Hamilton told the Daily Liberal “For many Aboriginal families, energy bills can be an enormous drain on their finances,”.

In conjunction with the solar panels, MPREC have offered workshops for AHO tenants covering energy saving tips. Late last year they also hosted a Festival of Energy to help educate tenants about reducing electricity bills.

Solar Jobs in Dubbo

An added bonus to the scheme is that six local Aboriginal men have been hired and trained specially to undertake and maintain the program. Luke McKellar said that “We want to thank Brad Draper and Kenjarhy Solar and Solar Professionals and MPREC for getting us back into the workforce.”.

With hundreds of smaller Aboriginal communities Australia wide where some are paying up to 60c/kWh to power generators, more schemes like this would be a welcome addition to the government’s portfolio of ideas.

 Solar Panels in Dubbo

Dubbo Solar Panels
Dubbo Solar (source: jmedubbo.com)

If you’re in Dubbo and interested in investing in solar power for your home or business, there are a few local companies to check out for quotes:

Please feel free to leave a review in the comments if you’ve had any good experience with any of these companies or email us if you run a Dubbo Solar Business and would like to be included.

Power Price Rises in NSW as Regulator Loses Case

There’s never been a better time to start investigating solar energy in New South Wales – this week a federal court has blocked regulatory efforts to curb power price rises in NSW. Residential bills are set to soar even higher in the face of already over-inflated prices.

Power Price Rises in NSW

The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) argued in court that the NSW electricity distribution businesses (pole and wire companies like Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy) were inefficient (the cost of transporting electricity from station to house consists of approximately 40% of your bill). This 40% made up the majority of the AER’s ongoing (since 2015) complaints to the Australian Competition Tribunal and subsequently the Federal Court on appeal.

Power Price Rises in NSW - Paula Conboy
AER Chair Paula Conboy

According to the Australian Financial Review, the loss of this court case means that average households will face an increase of around $100 per year. Ausgrid have advised that average household electricity prices will raise by 1.5% or $11 a year for the next six years. Evidently the actual figure remains to be seen.

Since the 99-year lease for 50.4% of Ausgrid (the electricity infrastructure company which owns, maintains and operates the electrical distribution networks for 1.6m NSW residents) was sold to IFM Investors and AustralianSuper in October 2016, concern about already high energy prices has been growing. This court decision will result in a windfall of billions of dollars for the new investors of Aussgrid and Endeavour Energy. Other companies set to benefit include Jemena (who own ActewAGL) and will set a dangerous precedent for the rest of Australia.

Ramifications for other states

Craig Memery, policy officer with the Public Interest Advocacy Centre was quoted as saying “Not only will NSW households pay more following this decision; the precedent set will affect future decisions by the regulator, impacting households across the country.” However NSW energy minister Don Harwin said the government has ‘guarantees’ in place that mean consumers will pay less to the distributors in 2019 than they did in 2014.

Paula Conboy, chair of the AER, said the decision was “disappointing for NSW and ACT electricity and gas customers overall. Our 2015 decisions set lower revenues than proposed by the network businesses in NSW and ACT, partly because we concluded that costs above efficient levels should be funded by the network owners, not customers.”

Once again we’ll just have to see what this means for the rest of Australia but it’s hard to view it as anything but a growing problem for Australians who are on track to consume almost 200 Terawatt hours in 2017.

 Time to invest in solar?

Despite the outcome of this case prompting Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg to reaffirm his call for a reform of the national electricity market rules (in order to stop companies gaming the price setting system), we don’t have much faith in the government to stop the ridiculous levels power prices have reached. With the cost of solar + storage at an all time low and dropping consistently, it’s definitely reaching a point where you can add value to your residence and decrease energy costs in the medium-long term by investing in solar power. Power price rises in NSW are going to continue at the same rate – take a look at our solar battery comparison chart to learn more about your options and wrest control away from the unmitigated, uncontrolled greed of the power companies and continued incompetence of the government and judicial system.

 

Australian Renewable Energy Agency Solar Grants – 12 Plants Reach Financial Close in April

Australian Renewable Energy Agency
The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) have reached a significant solar milestone with their funding of PV plants in Australia. As of EOM April 2017 all 12 plants currently receiving grant funding from ARENA have reached a “financial close”. A financial close refers to the fact that all plants are fully financed with council and environmental approvals. They also have agreements in place with regards to grid connection, construction, and engineering. Nine of the plants have already begun construction and, when completed, the 12 plants will generate enough renewable energy to power 150,000 homes. All together, the 12 plants will generate 468.8MW of solar energy – and this doesn’t count at least six more plants being developed without any assistance from ARENA.

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht noted that the total cost of plant production has decreased by 40% over the last three years. The amount of grant funding required to launch large-scale solar projects has also shrunk dramatically – from $1.60/watt three years ago to just 28c per watt in 2017. In addition to this, there are at least six PV plants in advanced stages of development that have received no funding, an indication that the industry has advanced to a level where it’s financially feasible to develop solar plants even without any government intervention and Australia is well on its way to reaching our 2020 renewable energy target (large-scale renewable energy generation of 33,000 GWh)

The 12 plants received a total of $92m in grants from ARENA – in addition to $1bn provided by private investment.

Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) Funded Solar Plants

The Solar Plants ARENA have funded and their capacity:

  1. QLD – Kidston Solar Park, 50MW
  2. QLD – Longreach Solar Park, 15MW
  3. QLD – Collinsville Solar Power Station, 42MW
  4. QLD – Oakey Solar Farm, 25MW
  5. QLD – Darling Downs Solar Farm, 106.8MW
  6. QLD – Whitsunday Solar Farm, 52.8MW
  7. NSW – White Rock Solar Farm, 20MW
  8. NSW – Dubbo Solar Hub, 22.4MW
  9. NSW – Manildra Solar Farm, 42.4MW
  10. NSW – Parkes Solar Farm, 46MW
  11. NSW – Griffith Solar Farm (Neoen), 26.4MW
  12. WA – Emu Downs Solar Farm, 20.1MW