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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Western Downs green power hub council approval.

The Western Downs green power hub planned by French renewable giant Neoen has received council approval for a solar farm of size up to 500MW. This impressive project promises to bring  North Queensland solar jobs and continue the large-scale solar revolution in Queensland and Australia.

The Western Downs green power hub

The Western Downs green power hub
The Western Downs green power hub proposed location (source: westerndownsgreenpowerhub.com.au)

The Western Downs green power hub will be located 22km south of Chinchilla and 62km north west of Dalby, according to RenewEconomy. No word on the specifics of the gear they will use, but a huge 1500 hectares of ground mounted solar panels will feed two hectares of battery energy storage. This is going to be a gigantic undertaking.

According to the website for the green power hub, they’ll produce around 1.05MWh (million megawatt hours) per year.

“A combination of an ambitious Queensland Renewable Energy Target and a proactive government to meet those targets provide highly favourable conditions for renewable energy projects in the State,” Neoen says on the website.

“Consequently, the company will expedite the development of Western Downs Green Power Hub, as well as several other projects in Queensland.”

Construction was initially slated to commence in Q3 this year but it now looks like mid a 2019 start date will be more likely, according to the website.

“Construction is expected to start mid 2019 providing employment opportunities for the region.”

An article from the Chronicle in September last year (when it was being touted as a 250MW solar plant) noted that the consturction phase of the project will generate up to 300 solar jobs and between two to four during regular usage.

Neoen have been responsible for a number of huge projects across Australia recently:

 

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Clare solar farm in North Queensland now online.

The Clare solar farm, Queensland’s biggest solar farm at 100MW capacity, has connected to the grid and started exporting renewable energy. This is one of many solar projects due in 2018, totalling around 1400MW.

About the Clare Solar Farm

Clare Solar Farm
Clare Solar Farm (source: claresolarfarm.com.au)

The Clare solar farm project is located around 35km south-west from Ayr in North Queensland. It’s the biggest operating solar farm in the state, dwarfing the incumbent 50MW Kinston solar project. It is owned by Lighthouse Solar who also have ownership of the Hughenden solar farm which has a 20MW capacity and is about to begin production itself. 

We wrote about the Clare solar farm last July when it was a 125MW plant potentially going up to 150MW. It’s been launched with 100MW with the space to potentially expand down the track. They’ve signed a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with Origin Energy along with the Bungala solar farm, which will be the biggest solar farm in Australia when it completes later this year.

According to the Clean Energy Council, around $2.6 billion of solar projects will be connected to the grid in 2018, adding around 1400MW of capacity. A solar forum held in Brisbane by the CEC last week noted that the boom in solar investment (both domestic and commercial) has led to 2760 Australian solar jobs added to the economy. 

“Large-scale solar has gone from an emerging technology in Australia at the beginning of the decade to a genuinely game-changing form of power that is cheaper than new coal or gas. It has exceeded the expectations of even the most optimistic predictions,”  CEC chief executive Kane Thornton said in comments to RenewEconomy.

“Along with the national Renewable Energy Target, support from the Queensland Government, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation has helped to make this one of the lowest-cost options we have for electricity today.”

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Solar in Bundaberg leads Australia’s top suburbs.

Solar in Bundaberg leads Australian suburbs for PV solar update as aerial imagery company Nearmap are reporting that last year 1078MW of rooftop solar systems were installed across Australia. Seven of the top ten suburbs are in Queensland and the other three are in Western Australia – with a huge bump in the number of rural and coastal towns installing more solar power systems than ever before. 

Solar in Bundaberg

Solar in Bundaberg
Solar in Bundaberg 2017 (source: RealEstate.com.au via Nearmap)

We’ve seen quite a lot of work done in Bundaberg so it’s no surprise to see they are the biggest suburb in Australia with the highest solar power uptake. Walking around you can see systems on many roofs and Stockland are installing a solar system on top of their Bundaberg shopping centre.

Nearmap executive Shane Preston discussed how they were able to use their software to have a visual on how much the landscape has changed, and how we will see even more as the technology/price continues to move in the right direction. Mr. Preston noted that using technology like Nearmap allow you to have a clearer look on how much solar is actually being installed in households Australia wide:

“But when you look at it from the air, you can observe in incredible detail the renewable energy uptake occurring across our country,’’ he said.

“As the benefits of renewable energies like solar continue to surface, we can expect to see more demand for installations,’’ he continued, in comments made to news.com.au.

Nearmap (visit their website here) worked with the Clean Energy Regulator (CER) to come up with the statistics (in a sense – as per Your Mortgage, Nearmap flew over 88% of the population in urbanised areas six times in the last year to help document Australia’s solar revolution) – so even though the statistics come from the CER they’ve been helped along by Nearmap’s great service. 

Australia’s Biggest Solar Suburbs

Bundaberg North – 11,756
Erskine – 11,409
Nikenbah – 10,517
Caloundra – 9308
Toowoomba – 8580
Hocking – 8416
Pacific Pines – 7724
Mackay – 7263
Raceview – 7295
Canning Vale – 7116

 

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Gladstone Solar Power – Installers, Plants, and more.

Gladstone solar – Gladstone has been experiencing a massive amount of interest in solar power over the last 18 months – both for residents and as a potential hotspot for solar farms. 

For a town that’s traditionally been ‘coal-based’, they’ve been very quick and forward thinking to jump on the renewables train (North Queensland solar has been growing exponentially for all of 2017)  – so if you’re looking for solar installers in Gladstone or just want to read about our projections for renewable energy in the region, please read on!

Gladstone Solar Power Installers
Gladstone Solar Power Installers (source: statedevelopment.qld.gov.au)

Solar Installers in Gladstone

Residential solar in Gladstone has been growing rapidly and there are a number of reliable installers in the local area – if you want to get a 5kw system installed, a Tesla Powerwall (or any other type of solar battery), please contact one of the installers below (and let us know how you get on!):

Do you install solar in Gladstone and would like to be included on this page? Please email us

Gladstone Solar Farms

As of October 2017 the Gladstone Observer noted that Mayor Matt Burnett has discussed their desire to become a “renewable hub” and that “numerous” companies had been courting the city in the hopes of being approved to install solar/wind farms in Gladstone. Cr Burnett noted that this doesn’t necessarily represent a ‘change’ from coal to solar, more so a diversification. 

“I believe one of these projects will start in the next 18 months, if not in the next 12 months,” Cr Burnett told the Observer – and it certainly seems that way. 

Eco Energy World has submitted a DA to build the Raglan Solar Farm at 75 and 199 Epala Road, and there is a shortlist of five companies looking to build at the Gladstone State Development Area. There’s also talk of a 450MW renewable hub at Aldoga. We’ll keep you updated with any news with regards to solar in Gladstone, watch this space! 

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$100m Adani Solar Farm Planned

The Indian energy company Adani Group (yes, the same company trying to build Australia’s biggest ever coal mine) have announced plans to develop a $100m Adani solar farm in Moranbah. Work will commence on the 175MW solar farm as soon as they get DA from the Isaac Regional Council.

Adani Solar Farm

Adani Solar Farm Moranbah Rugby Run
Adani Solar Farm at Rugby Run, Moranbah (source: adanirenewables.com)

Adani announced on Tuesday that the Moranbah solar farm will go ahead as soon as DA is received – according to the Mackay Daily Mercury cultural heritage surveys and engineering design has already commenced. Adani Renewables CEO Dr. Jennifer Purdie announced that stage 1 will commence in 2017 – “This is an exciting project in terms of its size, location, and the technology we are using,” Dr. Purdie said. “This will be Adani Renewables’ first project – the first of many – and we thank the Isaac Regional Council, in particular Mayor Anne Baker and her officers for their assistance and encouragement.”

The $100m first stage of the project, built on 600 hectares at the Rugby Run grazing property, will use single axis tracking systems to maximise efficiency and energy output. According to RenewEconomy, further stages will increase the generation capacity to 170MW. 

“We are excited to welcome Rugby Run Solar Farm as the first renewable energy project in the region,” Mayor of Isaac, Anne Baker was quoted as saying. “This project continues to diversify our local economy, and will contribute towards a sustainable future for both Isaac and the state. The project is expected to create 150 jobs during construction. 

Renewable Energy in Resources

Renewable energy in resources has become a hot topic lately, with the Korean zinc refiner Sun Metals solar farm currently under construction in Townsville. The 125MW, $199m solar farm will provide baseline power for around 1/3 of Sun Metals’ energy needs. 

Advanced Energy Resources are also building an $8m wind and solar farm at Port Gregory for GMA Garnet’s mine – it will provide baseline power for almost 70% of the mine’s needs. 

We expect to see the trend of resource companies building ‘companion’ renewable energy farms continue. They have myriad benefits – including reducing exposure to price fluctuations, increasing public goodwill, increasing site stability, and the obvious environmental factors. 

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SMC / Sun Metals Solar Farm Project

Korean owned North Queensland zinc refiner Sun Metals has begun building a 125MW, $199m solar farm to underpin its refinery in Townsville. The Sun Metals solar farm will be completed next year and is another of many massive ongoing solar projects in North Queensland

Sun Metals Solar Farm

Sun Metals Solar Farm
Sun Metals Solar Farm (source: sunmetals.com.au)

Construction on the solar farm began in May – it’s expected to be completed early next year, and fully commissioned (providing renewable energy to the refinery) by April. The project will include 1.3 million solar panels and, according to a release by the Queensland Government, will create 210 solar powered jobs.  Queensland energy minister Mark Bailey praised the project, saying “Use of renewable energy in this way not only demonstrates it as a reliable energy source for large-scale industry, but that Korea Zinc is committed to the people of North Queensland, to minimising carbon emissions and protecting the Great Barrier Reef.”

First Solar have been chosen to undertake the project. They have over 500MW in the pipeline for the next 12 months, including the Hayman and Daydream solar farms

About Sun Metals

Sun Metals is a subsidiary of Korea Zinc – they’ve already spent around $1b on the Townsville zinc refinery and, according to the Courier Mail, the 116MW the Sun Metals solar farm provides will account for around 1/3 of their energy needs – so there’s plenty of room to expand. PV Magazine said Sun Metals produce 225,000 tonnes of zinc p.a. and that requires over 900,000 mWh of electricity. 

Sun Metals CEO Yun Choi said in May that “The SMC Solar Farm investment of $199 million is the first step in Korea Zinc ensuring the long term viability of the existing refinery and also underpinning the potential for its expansion using world class new technology, with an investment decision due in late 2017,”

Jack Curtis of First Solar was quoted as saying that “This project represents the viability of the commercial and industrial solar market in Australia and the growing trend of major energy consumers owning and operating renewable energy assets.”

Whilst far from being the first example of renewable energy in resources, it’s great to see these big companies work at reducing their carbon footprint as the benefits (e.g. cost, price fluctuation protection, environmentally friendly nature) of solar becomes more and more attractive. 

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Powering North Queensland Summit Recap

The Powering North Queensland Summit was held in Townsville last Thursday (August 31, 2017). It had some fantastic media coverage and over 200 companies were represented. It was a great event to show off how far solar has come in North Queensland since last year and was run as a joint initiative of the Australian Solar Council and the Energy Storage Council. 

Powering North Queensland Summit Recap

Powering North Queensland Summit 2017
Powering North Queensland Summit – Townsville, 2017 (source: solar.org.au)

John Grimes of the Australian Solar Council and Battery Storage Council told the summit that Queensland has $6.8 billion of investment in the pipeline. The 31 large-scale solar projects, four wind / solar / storage hybrid plants, and one pumped hydro project will generate more than 6 gigawatts of power, with the vast majority of them being located in North Queensland. It’s estimated that this represents around 3,200 jobs as well.

Grimes also said that that PV solar is now the cheapest source of electricity worldwide, where it, along with wind, costs around 30 AUD per megawatt hour. “We are getting to the point where the cost of solar PV is so cheap it’s basically following the cost trajectory for glass. The glass and aluminium frame are the most expensive components,” Mr Grimes said, according to the Townsville Bulletin.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk also addressed the Powering North Queensland summit, discussing the $199m 300 hectare Sun Metals solar farm which will be built next to its $1b zinc refinery in Townsville.

“What we are seeing is private investment of $2 billion and $1.6 billion in north Queensland … upon completion Sun Metals will be the largest single site user of renewable energy. This is a unique project and is a great example of an innovative company investing in its future and North Queensland.”

Apart from the usual political posturing and petty point-scoring, Palaszczuk also highlighted the Government’s $1.16b Powering Queensland Plan, which hopes to provide electricity price relief for the state by investing $770m to offset the Solar Bonus Scheme. Other initiatives were also discussed, and the Premier reiterated the QLD Government’s commitment to a 50% RET (Renewable Energy Target) by 2030.

To read the premier’s full speech, please click here.

North Queensland Renewables Boom Interview

John Grimes of the Australian Solar Council and Rachel Watson, the GM of Australia Pacific Hydro, were also on Radio National last Saturday discussing the Haughton Solar Farm in Townsville and the other myriad solar projects currently in various stages of construction/planning across North Queensland. You can listen to the show on the ABC website by clicking here.

 

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2 North Queensland Solar farms approved

Fotowatio Renewable Ventures (FRV) has been approved to build two North Queensland solar farms in Clare and Tieri – to bring another 141MW of solar power to the sunshine state.

FRV and North Queensland Solar

FRV Logo - North Queensland Solar Farms
FRV Logo (source:claresolarfarm.com.au)

According to the Daily Mercury, the Tieri project will create 200-250 jobs during its development. It is a 96MW DC solar farm and will join another FRV farm in the same region – the 125MW Lilyvale Solar Farm.

With the additional approval of the 45MW Clare II Solar Farm in Burdekin (which will be constructed next to the Clare I solar farm) these two projects (Clare II and Tieri) will add 141MW to FRV’s current 281MW portfolio of solar farms in the approved, but planning stages. It’s going to be a big 12 months for solar farms Australia wide, but especially in Queensland where there has been a flurry of recent approvals (e.g. the mega solar farm at Bouldercomb, an smaller Longreach Solar Farm and many more). RenewEconomy data shows that there are 17 solar farms currently being built (or having reached financial close) in Queensland alone – and there are at least another 34 currently being planned.

FRV Australia Managing Director Cameron Garnsworthy said: “These recent planning approvals build on FRV’s track record of successfully working with local communities to achieve positive regulatory endorsement for its utility-scale solar projects”. They’ve previously been responsible for the succesful design and development of the Moree solar farm, the Royalla solar farm (both in New South Wales), and, as previously mentioned, the original Clare solar farm which is currently being upgraded. They have a proven track record overseas as well – FRV is a global developer of solar projects who have built utility-scale plants in locations as diverse as Jordan, Uruguay, India and Italy.

You can click here to read more about the existing 125MW Clare Solar farm which will potentially reach 150MW in its final design (On May 31 FRV sold it to Lighthouse Infrastructure and DIF who acquired a 50% equity interest each in the project).

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