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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New South Wales solar feed-in tariff to drop by 44%

The New South Wales solar feed-in tariff is set to drop by 44% after IPART, the state pricing regulator, confirmed previously drafted cuts to the state’s feed-in tariff benchmark for 2018/19.

New South Wales solar feed-in tariff

New South Wales solar feed-in tariff IPART
Click to view New South Wales solar feed-in tariff changes via IPART (source: IPART.NSW.GOV.AU)

The regulator, IPART (Independent Pricing and Regulator Tribunal for NSW) advised in May that they will be recommending heavy drops in the tariff with the release of a draft publication entitled ‘Solar feed-in tariffs: the value of electricity from small-scale solar panels in 2018-19. 

It looks like the solar feed-in tariff drops will be going ahead – so let’s take a look at what this means for people with solar, and people without:

As per Renew Economy, IPART justified their slashing of the prices in advising that all customers would be affected if they didn’t act.

“We set the benchmark range based on our forecast of the average price that retailers would pay for solar exports across the day (weighted by solar output) if they were buying this electricity on the wholesale spot market,” the report, released yesterday, said.

“We consider that this is reasonable, and that a higher benchmark would lead to unacceptable outcomes.

“Specifically, if retailers were required to pay more than this for solar exports, they would be paying more than they pay for wholesale electricity on the NEM.

“As a result, retail prices for all customers would need to be higher to recover the difference,” the report continued.

Those who have already invested in solar are a little less magnanimous about the changes – with Shani Tager from Solar Citizens conveying her opinon via email to RenewEconomy: 

“The decision to cut the feed-in tariff punishes solar owners, it’s like getting a pay cut for working overtime,”

That particular analogy might be a bit of a stretch but it’s interesting IPART aaren’t considering the ‘social price’ of carbon like Victoria are currently doing. This has raised the ire of the Greens as well:

“If the NSW government are serious about supporting renewable energy then they should be change the criteria to assess solar feed-in tariffs to recognise the multitude of benefits solar energy brings,” Greens MP Tamara Smith said.

To sign off, IPART gave us a hint of things to come and how they plan to deal with the situation in the future:

“We consider that solar customers should be treated like any other generator in the competitive electricity market, which means that they take or pay the market price – and are not otherwise compensated or penalised for their impact on these prices,” the report said.

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Two bidders for Liddell power station.

Delta Electricity have entered the contest with Alinta Energy to buy the Liddell power station – a coal-fired, ageing plant that still pumps out 1680MW and is owned by AGL, who have advised that they’ll close it by 2022.

Liddell Power Station

Liddell Power Station
Liddell Power Station (source: wikipedia.org)

Following the shutdown of the 1600MW Hazelwood coal-fired power plant last year, customers saw power shortages and a spike in power bills. The government is concerned that the same thing will happen if the Liddell power station is shut by 2022 – with PM Malcolm Turnbull directly telephoning AGL chairman Graeme Hunt this week to talk about the sale.

AGL haven’t allowed Alinta Energy or Delta Electricity to do any due diligence on the plant – with Delta MD Greg Everett telling the Sydney Morning Herald is was a major hindrance for the company who have been shut out from performing any in the past, as AGL advised they weren’t willing to sell:

“Would we be interested? If it was for sale we would definitely be interested in doing due diligence on it,” Mr Everett said.

“So we’d be in the same position as Alinta.”

Everett and Delta already operate the Vales Point coal-fired generator in NSW and the company was previously owned by the NSW government. Everett has been quoted as saying there is a ‘reasonable’ chance of extending the life of the program past 2022.

Alinta chief executive Jeff Dimery made a statement this morning confirming that their company are interested in Liddell, and if they sign a deal they aren’t going to apply for any government subsidies. Dimery advised that Alinta are willing to invest ~$1 billion AUD to buy the plant and extend its life by five to seven years. This would see the plant shutting down around 2027-2029 instead of 2022. 

AGL are keeping fairly taciturn about the situation:

“AGL is relying on Liddell to generate power for our customers until 2022 and we will require its infrastructure for our replacement plans into the future,” an AGL spokesman told Fairfax Media.

“AGL received an approach from Alinta last night expressing an interest in entering negotiations to acquire the Liddell Power Station. No formal offer has been received.

“Should a formal offer for Liddell be received, it would be given consideration in order to meet our obligations to customers and shareholders.”

There’s no doubt that Australia are moving towards renewable, clean energy and this is a good thing. The transition, however, needs to be done in an intelligent way – it’s be great to be totally renewably powered as soon as possible but it’s going to be a patience game as the technology increases and we work on reliable baseload power while we invest as much in renewable energy generation as we can. Where will we be in 2022, RET wise? It’s hard to say. We’ll keep you updated with any news about the plant’s potential sale. 

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