Beryl Solar Farm reaches financial close.

First Solar have reached a financial close at the 87MW Beryl solar farm in New South Wales. The farm will be one of the world’s first to use First Solar’s Series 6 modules (with 420+ watts per module) and will be constructed by Downer EDI. 

Beryl Solar Farm – Construction and Financial Close

Beryl Solar Farm
Beryl Solar Farm (site: firstsolar.com.au)

Beryl is around five km from Gulgong in central west NSW. This is one of NSW’s biggest completed solar farms but there are some upcoming projects which will dwarf it (such as the 200MW Sunraysia solar farm in Balranald or the $380m Gunning Solar Farm – with solar there are always bigger plans in place!).

According to a press release on Reuters, the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract is worth about $150m and construction will commence soon.

TransGrid’s head of business growth Richard Lowe discussed how they will be able to integrate into the project: “The project is located approximately 250 metres south of TransGrid’s Beryl Substation, so we have been able to offer a very competitive and attractive asset connection plan to First Solar,” Lowe said in a statement on the TransGrid website.

“The Beryl Solar Farm will connect directly into TransGrid’s high-voltage electricity transmission network via a 66kV connection to a new bay at Beryl Substation.

“This connection will allow the export of 87 megawatts of power into the National Electricity Market – enough to serve the needs of approximately 25,000 average NSW homes, while the associated carbon emission displacement is equivalent to taking about 45,000 cars off the road.” the statement from TransGrid continued.

TransGrid will oversee the construction and operation of a new substation at the Beryl solar farm so they’re able to then connect that to the existing Beryl substation. This will happen in the second half of the year. 

If you’d like to learn more about the Series 6 module please click here to watch a video on the manufacturing process. 

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NSW solar feed-in tariff halved for 18/19.

The NSW solar feed-in tariff is set to halve in 2018/19 as the New South Wales regulator (IPART) has flagged changes to its price guide, citing lower wholesale prices as the main catalyst.

NSW solar feed-in tariff

NSW Solar feed-in tariff 2018
NSW Solar feed-in tariff 2018 (source: ipart.nsw.gov.au)

IPART (Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal for NSW) released a draft publication entitled ‘Solar feed-in tariffs: the value of electricity from small-scale solar panels in 2018-19‘ on Tuesday. It sets the benchmark for exported solar back into the grid for 7.5c/kW rather than the 11.9-15c/kWh range we saw in 2016/17.

It’s important to note that this is merely a benchmark and supply/demand will continue to define how much solar export it worth. With the wholesale prices currently falling and tipped to continue in 2018/19, it makes sense to see the FiTs adjusted accordingly.

IPART justified their decisions by explaining retail prices would rise if they didn’t slow down the FiT given the rapidly sinking wholesale prices (the most recent forward contract wholesale price from the ASX is 7.4c/kWh):

“We set the draft benchmark for the all-day solar feed-in tariffs 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 them on the wholesale market,” the report advises.

“For 2018-19, our draft all-day benchmark is 7.5c/kWh. We consider this benchmark is reasonable, and that setting a higher benchmark would lead to unacceptable outcomes.

“In particular, if retailers were required to pay more for these solar exports than they would pay for wholesale electricity on the NEM, retail prices for all customers would need to be higher to recover the difference,” the IPART report continues.

We’ve written previously about the NSW solar tariffs with regards to retail purchase or electricity – there’s a large disparity between offers and we expect that to continue. Whether you are feeding back into the grid or not, it’s important to be across the solar deals so you’re getting maximum return from your investment / paying as little as possible for your electricity.

Any questions? Please ask below!

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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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Sydney Markets solar installation turned on.

The Sydney Markets solar installation at their Flemington location has been turned on – the $8.9m solar system is Australia’s largest private solar rooftop installation and is expected to save the markets millions of dollars in electricity bills. 

Sydney markets solar installation

 

Sydney Markets solar installation
Sydney Markets solar installation (source: Sydney Markets Facebook)

According to Fairfax Media, the panels were installed by Autonomous Energy over a five month period and the 8,600 panels are able to generate more than 3MW – which is about 11% of Sydney Markets’ annual power usage. The markets are the largest food distribution centre in the Southern Hemisphere and turnover around $3b each year, so to see a company this big working on their sustainability is great.  

Brad Latham, the chief executive of Sydney Markets, said after stringent modelling, watching the market and seeing what other private solar investment was doing in Australia, they decided it was the right choice:

We’ve been examining solar panels for around five years, the financial models really stack up now,” Mr Latham told Fairfax Media.

“And with current electricity prices and the efficiency of solar panels it makes sense.”

Latham discussed how the Flemington-based Sydney markets already recycle about 70% of their on-site waste and how the renewable energy fits into their wider plan to make the markets as sustainable as possible:

“It’s part of our strategic plan to be leaders in sustainability. This solar power system will enable us to generate sustainable energy, as well as drastically reduce our carbon footprint,” Mr Latham said.

“In order to extract the same amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, 676 hectares of trees would be need to be planted each year.”

Chairman of the Sydney Markets, John Pearson, said this was just the beginning and they have big plants to expand the private solar system: 

“Sydney Markets has additional roof capacity to more than triple the generation of this solar system,” Mr Pearson said.

“We may continue to build upon and expand this system to meet our future energy needs.”

Pearson discussed how they think energy storage technology hasn’t quite reached the point where they’re ready to shell out for it, though: 

“We don’t think batteries are quite there yet, they are still a little ways off but it depends on the financial models,” Mr Latham said.

Another step forward for Australian businesses installing solar systems! 

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Newcastle Solar Farm Grant – CEFC

Newcastle Solar Farm grant – the Newcastle City Council has received $6.5m from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to help pay for the 5MW solar farm to be built in Australia’s coal heartland. It’s fantastic to see them start to transition to clean energy, especially to see funding for the project for public access buildings and other council administrations.

Newcastle Solar Farm Grant

Newcastle Solar Farm Grant
Newcastle Solar Farm Grant (source: www.carnegiece.com)

We first wrote about the $8m Newcastle Solar Farm in February when it was purchased by Carnegie Clean Energy’s fully owned subsidiary Energy Made Clean. The design phase has started  and plant commissioning is expected to be at the end of Q3 2018.

The CEO of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC), Nutali Nelmes, talked about how Newcastle council will be able to use the power for their complexes and move towards the future with regards to clean/renewable energy:

“Councils across Australia administer a vast network of streetlights, community centres, libraries, sport and recreation facilities and other public access buildings,” he said.

“Newcastle is leading the way in financing a solar farm through the CEFC to help it manage the energy costs of these facilities.

“We encourage other councils to also invest in clean energy, which can free up council finance for other community-enhancing projects while locking in longstanding environmental and economic benefits for their communities.”

According to Newcastle Lord Mayor Nutali Nelmes, the Newcastle City Council are planning to cut electricity usage by 30% within 2 years:

“I’d like to thank the Clean Energy Finance Corporation for its incredible support of the City of Newcastle’s sustainability charter,” he was quoted as saying on the Newcastle City Council website.

“We are building sustainability into everything we do after reiterating our commitment last year to generate 30 per cent of our electricity needs from low-carbon sources and cut overall electricity usage by 30 per cent by 2020.

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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.

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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

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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. 

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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.

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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! 

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