Large scale solar in NSW to explode in 2018.

Large scale solar in NSW under the Berejiklian government is about to kick up a notch, as 11 large-scale solar energy plants have been approved in the last 12 months. 2018 is also off to a great start with the 500,000 PV solar panel, 170MW Finley Solar Project in the Riverina being approved. 

Large scale solar in NSW

Large Scale Solar in NSW
Large Scale Solar in NSW (source: smh.com.au via NSW Government)

NSW Energy Minister Don Harwin contends that NSW is helping lead the charge (for our money South Australia and Queensland are well ahead right not, but in any case) for solar power in Australia: 

“These projects will ensure our energy security and with many more in the pipeline, NSW is in a stronger position than other states,” he said.

Although NSW only has half the amount of rooftop solar PV as Queensland and South Australia (15% as opposed to 30%) – these figures are definitely a step in the right direction.

 According to Planning Minister Anthony Roberts quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald, 1800 jobs have been created and the ten solar plant approvals in 2017 were double the 2016 number: 
 
The solar plants “collectively reduce carbon emissions by over 2.5 million tonnes, which is equivalent to taking around 800,000 cars off the road”, Roberts said. 
 
Estimates from the Smart Energy Council (an amalgam of the Australian Solar Council and the Energy Storage Council which occured late last year) project that 1.4GW of rooftop solar and 2.5-3.5GW of solar farms will be added to Australia’s solar arsenal in 2018, a massive increase from the record 1.3GW for both rooftop and solar farms that we saw in 2017. 

“With some of the best sunshine anywhere in the world and lots of good locations available, it is not surprising that NSW is up there with Queensland as one of the national frontrunners for new large-scale solar power projects,” Kane Thornton, chief executive of the Clean Energy Council, said.

Hivve – Solar powered school classrooms being trialled.

Solar Powered School Classrooms are being trialled in two classrooms in NSW as part of a $368,115 grant from ARENA. The classrooms are built by a company named Hivve and will be built at St Christopher’s Catholic Primary School in Holsworthy and Dapto High School.

St Christopher’s Principal Tony Boyd was quoted by Fairfax Media talking about the project:

“It’s an exciting prospect where schools can be a generator of electricity,” Mr Boyd said.

Hivve – Solar Powered School Classrooms

Hivve - Solar Powered School Classrooms
Hivve – Solar Powered School Classrooms (source: hivve.com.au)

According to their website, Hivve is an “advanced environmentally responsible education ecosystem that has been thoughtfully designed to create a flexible, accessible and healthy learning environment.”

According to figures from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), school classrooms use an average of 3,800 KWh of electricity, but Hivve classrooms will generate 7,600 net KWh. The school and students will be able to view the results in real-time via an online dashboard. 

A press release about the solar powered classrooms published on the ARENA website had a couple of quotes from CEO Ivor Frischknecht who said the solar classrooms can have a dual purpose, to edify the new generation about renewables whilst actually generating energy:

“This is a great way to get the next generation involved in renewables at an early age and educate them as to what the positive benefits will be as Australia continues its shift towards a renewable energy future,”

“The success of the Hivve project could lead to a nation-wide adoption of the modular classrooms, reducing reliance on the grid and even providing a significant amount of electricity back to the NEM.” Mr Frischknecht said.

Hivve Director David Wrench spoke about the technology and how it will be able to educate the students:

“We are very pleased to be partnering with ARENA on this exciting project. We have carefully designed every element of the Hivve classroom to create the best possible learning environment for students”, Mr Wrench said.

We’ve seen a lot of solar power at universities (e.g. UNSW’s recent pledge to become fully solar powered), but these are some of the first solar school initiatives – hopefully the first of many more!

Click here to view the media release by ARENA: Classrooms powered by renewable energy to be trialled in NSW schools

Lismore Floating Solar Farm Switched On

Last year we wrote about Australia’s first floating solar farm being installed and set up in Lismore – today we are proud to announce that the East Lismore Sewage Treatment Plant launched the Lismore Floating Solar Farm yesterday morning.

According to the Northern Star, the 100kW  floating solar panels installed by the council above a wastewater lagoon in East Lismore will form a cornerstone of the council solar plan. They are one of 70 councils across Australia, which represent almost a third of the country’s population (7.5 million people), who have signed a pledge to take action on climate change by attempting to reduce or completely eradicate their carbon footprint / fossil fuel usage. An example of this is the recent Mackay Council Solar Tender, where they have voted to invite tenders from shortlisted respondents for the installation of PV solar at 20 council sites in Mackay. 

Lismore Floating Solar Farm Switched On (source: farmingthesun.net)
Lismore Floating Solar Farm Switched On (source: farmingthesun.net)

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  target of generating all required electricity via renewable sources by 2023, which makes them the first regional council in Australia to commit to making its electricity supply 100% renewable. 

RenewEconomy are reporting quotes from a couple of locals:

“This is an historic occasion for Lismore. We have demonstrated that you can collaborate with your community and provide renewable energy solutions for a regional city,” Lismore Mayor Isaac Smith said.

Ben Franklin, the local National Party MP, was similarly pleased: 

“It shows the community is passionate about renewable energy, and that is will put money where their mouth is. This is the future, and today in Lismore we are part of it.”

The Lismore plant joins a growing trend of floating solar energy, such as the 40MW floating PV solar plant in Huainan, China, which will be built and operated byu the Sungrow Power Supply over a lake on a collapsed coal mine. 

Neoen’s Coleambally solar farm construction

French renewable energy and battery storage developer Neoen has reached a financial close on its 150MW AC Coleambally solar farm in NSW. Construction has already started and, according to the official website, it’ll consist of approximately 560,000 solar panels on 550 hectares of land 5km north east of Coleambally, which is about 65km  from Griffith.

The Coleambally solar farm

Coleambally solar farm
Neoen’s Coleambally solar farm (source: coleamballysolarfarm.com.au)

“We started developing this idea a year ago. We found the land, we signed a PPA (power purchase agreement), and organised the grid connection (and) now we have reached financing and it will be in production before the end of the year. That is less than two years from idea to production.” 

Neoen’s Australian Operations CEO Franck Woitiez told RenewEconomy.

According to their discussion, Woitiez questioned the viability of pumped hydro, referring to the $2 billion turned $4.5 billion turned $8 billion “Snowy 2.0” scheme which has been laid out by Malcolm Turnbull’s federal government and is now being discussed, with an investment decision to be made later this year. After a $29m feasibility study showed it is unlikely the project could operate in the “merchant market” given its size and scope, it’ll be interesting to see what happens.

Woitiez rubbished and said solar and storage would be a far cheaper and faster option:

“You could build 2,000MW (the amount of power Snowy 2.0 will generate) of solar, add storage, and provide reliable and dispatchable and cheap electricity in half the time of hydro, and at a lower cost.”

Would be be better to let the market dictate terms here rather than handing over an exorbitant amount of taxpayer money for sub standard technology (or, if you believe the government, a ‘nation-building project’), poorly run by public servants? Well, how did the NBN turn out? Obviously sensible policy structure need apply – you can’t trust the private sector to regulate themselves – but the last year or so of solar farms in Australia has proven that large scale renewable investment can be a viable, mutually beneficial option. 

You can follow Franck Woitiez on Twitter via his handle @fwoit or clicking here

Neoen, founded in 2008 and currently with 1,125MW of renewable energy ‘in operation or  under operation’ as of April last year. No word on how much they have now as there’s been a lot of movement by them recently, especially in Australia – Neoen are also responsible for the Bulgana Green Power Hub, the Tesla Battery in South Australia (known officially by the grid as the Hornsdale Power Reserve), and Melbourne’s solar powered trams. They also built the 300MW Cestas Solar Park in France in 2015, which was the biggest solar farm in Europe at the time.

UNSW Solar – uni to go fully solar powered

UNSW Solar has taken another huge step forward – the University of New South Wales has signed a 15-year corporate PPA (Power Purchase Agreement) with Maoneng Australia and Origin Energy to become 100% solar powered, thanks to Maoneng‘s Sunraysia solar plant.

UNSW Solar 

The Sunraysia solar farm, which will be Australia’s biggest solar farm, is planned to commence construction in April or May of this year, at a cost of $275 million. It will generate at least 530,000 megawatt hours of electricity each year, of which UNSW will purchase 124,000 – almost a quarter. They signed an agreement on December 14, 2017, which will run for 15 years. A three year ‘retail firming’ contract was also signed with Origin, as the electricity retailer. This will help manage intermittency of solar production.

UNSW Solar - UNSW President Ian Jacobs (source: newsroom.unsw.edu.au)
UNSW Solar – UNSW President Ian Jacobs (source: newsroom.unsw.edu.au)

UNSW president and vice chancellor Ian Jacobs discussed the partnership with Fairfax, advising that it would comprise a key part of making UNSW’s entire operation energy carbon neutral by 2020.

“Over the past six months, UNSW has collaborated with our contract partners Maoneng and Origin, to develop a Solar PPA model that leads the way in renewable energy procurement and reflects our commitment to global impact outlined in our 2025 strategy,” he said.

Mr Jacobs wouldn’t provide specifics on pricing, but did note that it will be helpful to UNSW in a financial sense:

“It’s a highly competitive agreement financially,” he said.

“The Solar PPA arrangement will allow UNSW to secure carbon emission-free electricity supplies at a cost which is economically and environmentally attractive when compared to fossil fuel-sourced supplies.”

Energy Action, a company who assisted during the tender by with energy market analysis, noted that the PPA would help UNSW have greater clarity on their future electricity spends and not be as vulnerable to electricity price fluctuations:

“This agreement provides UNSW with a direct line of sight over the source of renewables supply, reduced emissions, and greater certainty around prices over the next 15 years,” Energy Action chief executive Ivan Slavich said.

Kelly Davies, Senior Consultant at Norton Rose Fulbright, was quoted on the university press release as saying: “UNSW is a true leader of innovation. The PPA market has been extremely dynamic in the last 12 months and deals like UNSW’s have been critical in driving real change in the way universities and other users procure energy.”

UNSW have also been the recipient of a few solar grants from ARENA over the past years so the idea of them using renewable energy to research and upgrade renewable energy is certainly a palatable one and it’s amazing to see so much energy from the Sunraysia Solar Plant already accounted for! 

Stockland Solar Power Rollout – 12.3MW

Stockland Solar installs – Australia’s biggest diversified property company have announced that they will partner with Todae solar to roll out Australia’s largest ever property solar project at 10 of Stockland’s shopping centres.

Stockland Solar Shopping Centres

Their September press release noted that the $23.5 million investment will see Stockland install more than 39,000 PV panels, on roof space on retail centres in areas such as Merrylands, Burleigh Heads, Point Cook and Wendouree in Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria. They are aiming to install 12.3MW across 10 shopping centres, at a cost of $23m a year. This will generate around 17GWh of solar per annum. 

Mark Steinert, Managing Director and CEO of Stockland discussed their plan in the release, saying:

“We are 100% committed to investing in sustainable energy. We’re extremely proud to be setting a new standard in solar for Australian property which will help create clean, green energy for our retailers, our customers and the communities we operate in.

“We’ve already invested more than $4.5 million in successful solar projects at four of our shopping centres in NSW and this project will extend our reach across 10 of our centres on the east coast.”

Stockland Solar Powered Shopping Centres
Stockland Solar Powered Shopping Centres (source: stockland.com.au)

Combined, the project is expected to produce 17.2 GWh of energy every year, the equivalent to driving an electric car around the world 2,381 times.

Todae will help Stockland install solar at Stockland Shellharbour, Stockland Wetherill Park and Stockland Nowra shopping centres in NSW. They’ll also expand an installation at Stockland Green Hills. To date, Stockland solar have generated over 2.3 million kWh of energy – the company owns and operates the most green star rated shopping centres in Australia.

“Investing in technology like solar energy is not only environmentally sustainable, it also makes good business sense. Our forecast average yield over a 10 year period is 11.6 per cent on capital invested, generating strong shared value for both our investors and our communities,” Mr Steinert said.

This solar installation will bring the company closer to its target for a 60% carbon intensity reduction for its office and retail assets over the FY06-FY25 period.

Last year Stockland was recognised as the most sustainable real estate company in the world in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) and achieved Global Sector and Regional Sector Leader status in the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB) survey in the category Diversified – Retail/Office. 

Stockland is also going to spend $200,00 on installing Tesla Destination Chargers across 31 Stockland shopping centres, according to One Step Off The Grid

Stockland’s shopping centre solar rollout will be across the following centres:

  • Stockland Caloundra, Qld
  • Stockland Merrylands, NSW
  • Stockland Hervey Bay, Qld
  • Stockland Bundaberg , Qld
  • Stockland Traralgon, Vic
  • Stockland Burleigh Heads, Qld
  • Stockland Point Cook, Vic
  • Stockland Cairns, Qld
  • Stockland Green Hills, NSW
  • Stockland Wendouree, Vic

This represents another massive step forwards for commercial solar and we are sure we’ll see many other companies follow Stockland’s lead and start generating as much of their own power as they can. 

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! 

 

 

 

CSU Solar System at Wagga Wagga

CSU Solar – Charles Sturt University at Wagga Wagga is launched its 1.7MW, $3.2 million PV solar system yesterday – the country’s largest ever solar panel installation on a single site. The solar panels have been installed on the rooftops of 17 buildings around campus and it’s expected they will generate enough renewable energy to power 20% of the university’s electricity requirements. It was constructed over a six month period. 

CSU Solar System at Wagga Wagga Launch Party Cake
CSU Solar System at Wagga Wagga Launch Party Cake (source: CSU Green Facebook)

CSU Solar and Renewables

According to the CSU website, in 2016 they became the first carbon neutral university in Australia. Their 1,774 kW (1.7MW) solar installation will generate 2,620,000 kWh in its first year of operation – this is equivalent to the generation of 2,330 tonnes of CO2. Head contractor for the project are experienced large-scale solar installers Todae Solar, who have been responsible for a 1.24MW solar plant at the Brisbane Markets in Rocklea, 1.22MW at Stockland in Shellharbour, a nationwide 2.3MW Aldi rollout, and many more. 

Ed Maher, the manager of CSU Green, says the installation will serve two main roles – for CSU to keep leading in carbon neutrality, and also to ease their heavy reliance on the electricity network. It’s been financed through independent energy services firm Verdia and the tender was managed by Solar Choice late last year. As a result, the install is expected to save money starting from year one – “This is despite our existing low electricity tariffs and the absence of any unique government subsidies or grants,” Ed Maher said. “Given these early savings, I believe it marks a new phase in the financial viability of renewable energy on a large commercial scale which is another step towards a clean energy future.”

A lot about university solar this week – it’s no surprise that our universities are leading the renewables charge, and amazing to watch how quickly it progresses. 

If you’re interested, a drone-shot shot of the solar installation is available to watch below!

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.