Solar Barbecue at Koroit Standoff Continues

The Moyne Shire and the Koroit Lions Club have continued discussions over who should fund and be responsible for maintenance over a proposed solar barbecue at the Koroit railway station. 

The $90,000 Solar Barbecue

Koroit Railway Station - Location for the Solar Barbecue
Koroit Railway Station – Location for the Solar Barbecue (source: wikipedia.org)

The Koroit Lions Club had requested $20,000 from the council through community assistance funding towards the project, which, according to Standard.net.au, is estimated to cost close to $90,000, exclusive of ongoing maintenance. 

Cr Jill Parker proposed to give $20,000 to the club towards a ‘barbecue and shelter of any kind’ with the proviso that council are not responsible for ongoing maintenance. 

“I agree that the Lions Club have shown initiative in putting up a solar barbecue,” Cr Parker told a council meeting. 

“They have asked us for funding towards that and I would like to see that we make that available to them.

“The only provision I would add is that if it is a solar one, that (council) won’t be responsible for ongoing maintenance of a solar unit.”

Through a submission to the council, the club noted that it would be an environmentally friendly asset and some of the councillors, such as Cr Jim Doukas, agreed. Cr Doukas told the meeting that having “two bob each way” (i.e. offering the money but refusing to take responsibility for the project in an ongoing fashion) represented ineffective policy and will make the council look like “idiots”. Cr Doukas said the money should be given “in the interest of progress”, an idea which was shared by Cr Jordan Lockett who said it was not “just about a simple barbecue where old mate cooks his snags”, but an opportunity to be a “progressive shire and say we believe in solar energy”.

The $20,000 grant was eventually passed but, as discussed, the council won’t be responsible for any maintenance/repair. So we’ll see what happens after it’s built! 

Whichever way you cook it, $90,000 for a barbecue is certainly expensive. But when you put the investment into perspective, it’s great seeing the councils get involved in making facilities more environmentally friendly – such as the solar bins which have been rolled out to Cairns and in Noosa recently. Great progressive investment from the Moyne Shire! 

Byron Bay Solar Train takes its maiden voyage.

The Byron Bay Solar Train we wrote about back in October has taken its maiden voyage on the three kilometre stretch of unused rail line it calls home.

Byron Bay Solar Train 

The maiden trip was made last Friday with around 100 passengers (the train has a max capacity of 100 seated passengers but there is a little extra space for those who don’t mind standing) on board, and proud owner Brian Flannery discussed the train and its potential impact on tourism to ABC

“Hopefully it attracts people to Byron Bay,” Mr Flannery said.

“I think international tourists will come here to have a look at this world’s first solar train.

“So let’s see, in five years’ time they’ll probably still say I’m mad, but it’s a bit of fun.”

The train was created in conjunction with Tim Elderton from the Lithgow Railway Workshop who installed the curved solar panels (including 30 kilowatts of solar panels on the roof of the train station) and battery system to power the train. Elderton said that on a sunny day they’re able to to make ‘four or five trips before we have to plug it in’. 

The train runs on a track between Casino and Murwillumbah which was closed by the New South Wales Government in 2004 due to low numbers. Despite this, Jeremy Holmes from the Byron Bay Railroad Company thought that this novel concept could be embraced by the residents, saying that “I think everyone knows that Byron’s very conscious about anything to do with the environment,”

If you’ve been looking for the Byron Bay Solar Train’s timetable, they’ve provided a graphic below which shows the dates and times it will operate until January 2018, when full service will commence. 

If you’ve got any queries then you can contact the company on the phone via 02 8123 2130 or email them by clicking here!  

Byron Bay Solar Train Timetable
Byron Bay Solar Train Timetable (site: byronbaytrain.com.au)

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! 

 

 

 

Solar Bins Australia – Compacting, Wi-Fi, and more!

A company named Solar Bins Australia is offering a bin which uses solar power to self-compact rubbish. They then inform the waste contractor when they’re full and need to be emptied. Maybe not the most glamours application of solar power we’ve seen lately, but certainly something which proves some of the more lateral benefits that solar power can have! 

Solar Bins Australia

Solar Bins Australia - BigBelly Solar Bin in Hastings Street, Noosa
Solar Bins Australia – BigBelly Solar Bin in Hastings Street, Noosa (source: solarbins.com.au)

The BigBelly ‘smart city platform’ was developed in Needham, Massachusetts and offers multiple eco-friendly solutions, including their solar bin (which is resold in Australia by Solar Bins Australia) – it has a reasonably high initial cost but the benefits are vast and will save a lot of money in the long run:

  • The bin has 600L capacity and automatically compacts when it’s full (this is 5 times the capacity of standard 120L wheelie bins)
  • Partners with ‘Smartbelly’ so you can connect with it to see how full it is, offer wi-fi, and much more.
  • According to their website, it’s proven to reduce street bin collections by 86% on average.
  • Highly customisable – you can include side panels, an ashtray, a security shield, a foot pedal, or personalise it with wraps and stickers. 
  • The bin sends an email and a text when it’s 85% full, so there’s no wasted time going to empty bins that are only 20% full (and conversely, bins won’t overflow, attracting vermin and scattering rubbish around the place).
  • As such, these are great not only for the council (where they have been installed in Cairns), but large private workplaces, universities, or anywhere that has a large number of rubbish bins. 

Solar Bins Cairns

According to the Cairns Post, solar-powered recycling bins are now installed on the Esplanade at Cairns beside the Muddy’s Playground. The council’s water and waste spokesman Cr Richie Bates said he was ‘pumped’ about the installation, and it’s great to see another example of councils utilising solar power and minimising their carbon footprint:

“The council is being smart about embracing new waste management technologies.” said Cr Bates. 

Have you had any experience using one of these solar powered bins? How was it? Let us know in the comments! 

ALDI Solar System installed at Brendale, QLD

A press release by Epho Commercial Solar Energy this morning announced that they have completed installation of a 1MW PV solar system on top of ALDI’s distribution centre at Brendale, QLD. The ALDI solar system is now live and is expected to offset the equivalent amount of carbon to planting 30,000 trees or taking 422 cars off the road each year. 

ALDI Solar System at Brendale

1MW Aldi Solar System at Brendale Distribution Centre
1MW Aldi Solar System at Brendale Distribution Centre (source: app.com.au)

The 1MW PV solar rooftop at the ALDI Brendale Distribution centre will generate 1.45 million kwH (1,454Mwh) and was installed by Epho, using over 20km of cabling and 3,400 solar panels. It was installed while the distribution centre was in use – making the installation a bit tricky and requiring expert installers. Epho has previously worked with ALDI via a commercial solar pilot program in 2016, where stores in NSW and VIC had smaller solar systems installed. 

Epho Operations Manager Luke Butterworth expounded further on the install in the media release: “To meet ALDI’s stringent requirements and maintain its award-winning customer experience, each ALDI installation needed to happen in a ‘ghost-like’ manner with minimal disturbance to the normal operation to ALDI’s business,” said Mr Butterworth. “The 1MW project allowed Epho to demonstrate every facet of our turnkey solar power solution to our customer, from project management, to stakeholder management, engineering and operations as well as work health and safety.”

Dr Oliver Hartley, Epho’s MD, was similarly excited, noting in the press release that “Solar power is a perfect fit for supermarkets and these large commercial solar systems can supply a significant chunk of the electricity needs for stores and distribution centres with free and clean renewable energy for years to come.”

It’s estimated that the system will fully cover the facility’s power requirements on a sunny day (and there are plenty of those in Queensland!)

Commercial Solar in Australia

Back in September, we reported on the growing trend of private businesses installing solar power on their premises, noting that commercial solar installs are up 60% in the last year and a half. 

Installs such as the Brisbane Aiport Solar System,  Complete Office Supplies’ private solar investment, and the Mitani Group’s commercial solar installation in South Australia are becoming commonplace as commercial solar grows as a financially viable option to protect against rapidly rising electricity costs. Great to see ALDI following suit and we’re sure there will be many more to come as Australia continues its renewable energy revolution. 

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! 

Adani’s Whyalla Solar Farm greenlit

India based energy company Adani have received development approval for a $200 million, 140MW Whyalla solar farm. The farm will consist of PV solar modules and operate on a single axis tracking system. 

Adani’s Whyalla Solar Farm

Whyalla Solar Farm Adani
Whyalla Solar Farm (source: @AdaniAustralia on Twitter)

The solar plant will be located 10km north of Whyalla’s centre, on the Port Lincoln Highway. It will originally generate 100MW and the potential capacity of the solar plant will be up to 140MW. According to AdelaideNow, grid connection will be via the 132kv network between the Whyalla Centra and Cultana substations.

Although the original development application didn’t include any information about battery storage, this is an option that Adani is also investigating. 

No PPA (Power Purchasing Agreement) has been signed yet, but as soon as that is sorted out we will see a starting date for construction of the farm – which is expected to be some time in 2018. The plant should be generating renewable energy by 2019. The construction phase of this solar farm is expected to create 350 jobs and could be “just the tip of the iceberg” for Whyalla, Giles MP Eddie Hughes told news.com.au last year. 

“Since 1998 Whyalla has wanted to become the solar capital,” said Mr Hughes. “It’s the realisation of the dream to have a major proponent come to us.”

Other Whyalla Solar Projects

News of Adani’s solar farm comes off the back of Zen Energy approving a $700m solar, battery and pumped-hydro storage project to power Zen Energy owner Sanjeev Gupta’s Liberty OneSteel works in Whyalla. The project is expected to provide 1 gigawatt (1000MW) and also  100MW/100MWh battery storage. Hopefully, this will also provide some help to the real estate market in Whyalla, which has dropped by 21% in 2017 so far. 

Adani also has another $100m solar farm in Moranbah awaiting DA from the Isaac Regional Council. 

 

New Energy Solar raising funds for IPO.

American based sustainable investment fund New Energy Solar is hoping to raise up to $300m as they prepare to float on the ASX. Applications for the Retail Offer are expected to open this Friday – their prospectus and product disclosure statement was lodged with ASIC last Thursday and anyone looking to invest in the company should start doing their due diligence!

About New Energy Solar

New Energy Solar, established in 2015 and run by John Martin, is an unlisted investment fund that invests in large-scale, cashflow-positive solar power stations. According to the Australian Financial Review, they then sign fixed-price and escalating PPA (purchase power agreements) with customers which are generally for 13-15 years. After the PPA terms expire the plants can re-contract with their customers or sign a new contract with someone else.

The company website notes that they have already generated 189,000MWh of electricity in Q1 and Q2 of 2017 – this represents 105,000 tonnes of displaced CO2 emissions – equivalent to pulling 50,000 cars off the road and powering 44,500 homes. 

New Energy Solar currently has four solar power stations on their books and they hope to use funds raised by the ASX IPO to buy more plants in the United States and also expand into buying solar plants in Australia. 

Their current projects include:

  • North Carolina 43MW Project
  • North Carolina 47MW Project
  • Stanford 67.4MW Project
  • TID 67.4MW Project

A media release said that they are also in binding contracts to purchase 14 more American solar plants, with a total output of 130MW. This will bring New Energy Solar’s total holdings to “a diversified 345MW portfolio of large scale solar power plants underpinned by highly creditworthy off-takers and a weighted average PPA term of 16.4 years”.

John Martin, New Energy Solar CEO was quoted as saying “These high-quality projects and the proposed PPAs with creditworthy off-takers greatly increase our scale as an investor in solar and also enhance the diversity of our portfolio.”

The exact timing of the New Energy Solar IPO is as yet unknown and will depend on how successful it is in the opening stages – we’ll update this article with some progress as soon as we hear any more. It’s exciting to see more private solar investment in Australia and we’ll follow New Energy closely over the coming weeks and months. 

Click here to view their website about the IPO and download the offer document. 

New Energy Solar ASX IPO
New Energy Solar ASX IPO (source: newenergysolar.com.au)

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! 

 

Maverick by 5B – a prefab, low-cost solar array.

Australian company 5B have launched the Maverick (MAV) portable solar farm – their easily-transported large-scale portable solar farm with a continuous array design. Because of this, a solar farm built with MAV can generate between 180 – 200% more MWh per hectare than fixed tilt or single axis tracking designs. This could be a game changer for farmers, remote communities, film crew, or anyone who needs to use a large amount of power and don’t have grid access. Launched in July this year, the ‘solar farm in a box’ has been gaining traction for anyone looking for portable solar in Australia. 

Maverick Portable Solar Array by 5B
Maverick Portable Solar Array by 5B (source: 5b.com.au)

Maverick Portable Large-Scale Solar Farm

The Maverick is a continuous array, which means DC cables don’t need to be trenched, saving setup time and reducing the potential for any errors when setting up. According to the 5B website, two people are able to roll out a 12kW MAV in ten minutes with ‘standard site vehicles’. Here are some further stats on the MAV:

  • Ground mounted DC solar array of 32 or 40 PV modules.
  • Any 60/72 cell standard framed PV module can be used if you want to choose (they come with Jinko panels by default).
  • Each MAV weighs approximately three tonnes. 
  • MAV is 5m wide and 16m/20m long (32/40 modules) once deployed.
  • Modulates oriented in a concertina shape at 10-degree tilt (electronically configured and ready for integration at site).
  • Simple deployment via a forklift and 2-3 people. As per the 5B tagline – “100 kilowatts fully installed before lunch, and 1 megawatt in a week” – pretty impressive!

They’re modular as well; you can ship four 32-module MAVs in a standard ISO 20 foot container (similar to the Renovagen solar carpet we discussed yesterday)

Click here to download the MAV product brochure. You can also view a video from 5B below which shows how the Maverick solar array works. Have you had any experience with the MAV? How did you find it? Please let us know in the comments.