Australia’s wineries go green using solar energy

Australia’s wineries go green using solar energy

More Australian wineries are turning to the sun, making the switch to solar power to help in wine production. Driven by rising costs of electricity from non-renewable sources, lower costs of solar power installation, and the potential benefits of producing own power, many wineries haven taken the bold step of investing in more renewable sources. By utilising solar energy for growing grapes and producing wines, wineries in Australia can both save on major costs and reduce their overall carbon footprint.

Photo by Mariana Proença on Unsplash

Electricity is the biggest expense in wine production

For most wineries in Australia, electricity is their largest expense item in the production of their wines. The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) estimates that around 40% of expenditures of wineries go towards electricity, whilst the South Australian Wine Industry Association (SAWIA) says that refrigeration eats up 50-70% of total power costs. Thus, it is no surprise that vineyards look for ways to reduce energy expenses.

Investing in renewable sources makes sense that will drive electricity expenditures down, lower overhead costs, and improve margins. For producers of quality Australian red wines, solar power not only reduces energy costs, but also maximises commercial roof space and reaffirms their commitment to a lower carbon footprint.

Incentive to attract investments in solar power

Solar power adoption surged in Australia in 2008, and even though costs of materials and installation were high, government incentives were also widely available until 2011. Between 2011-14, the prices of solar systems fell. From 2014 to present, there is relative stability in the solar system industry. Photovoltaic (PV) system prices are down significantly and there are existing incentive schemes for solar panels and batteries that are offered at state level, making investments in the area still attractive.

For 2020, interest-free loans up to $9,000 for a solar battery and $14,000 for a solar PV and battery storage system for households with an annual income of $180,000 or less are available. Under the Small-Scale Renewable Energy Scheme, both households and smalls business in Australia that install small-scale renewable energy systems may be eligible for assistance to help with the purchase cost. Eligible participants may be entitled to small-scale technology certificates which can be sold to recoup a part of the purchase and installation cost.

Wineries adopt renewable power sources

An independent report produced by AgEconPlus revealed a 13% increase in the economic contribution of the wine industry since 2015 or an increase of roughly 3% per year. Strong wine exports are largely responsible for recovery in the wine sector. But, the competition is tough and the over 2,000 wineries in Australia have to stay competitive.

In fact, wineries were some of the earliest adopters of solar energy, with dozens in South Australia harnessing solar energy for wine production. Some wineries that have in excess of 100kW solar systems include D’Arenberg, Wirra Wirra, Sidewood, and Peter Lehmann. Recently, Pernod Ricard has become the first large wine company in the country to achieve 100% renewable electricity with the completion of Australia’s biggest combined winery solar installation. According to the winery’s chief operations officer, Brett McKinnon, “being sustainable and responsible is an important part of their business and they want to reduce their impact on the communities where they operate”.

Australian wineries recognise the opportunities to tap into solar energy and enjoy the cost-saving and environmental benefits. Using renewable sources not only lowers electricity costs, but also fulfils a company’s global-minded goals.

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SRES – Will solar rebates increase the cost of electricity?

Will solar rebates increase the cost of electricity? Yesterday The Australian newspaper published an article titled ‘Households’ $2bn solar hit’ which hypothesises that every Australian household will have to stump up $195 to help subsidise the subsidies. Is this rubbish? What impact does the SRES really have on electricity prices? Let’s read on…

SRES – Will solar rebates increase the cost of electricity?

Ketan Joshi via Renew Economy wrote a great article titled “How a ridiculous falsehood about solar power self-replicated in media”. You can read it on Ketan’s blog (ketanjoshi85) by clicking here. The “$2b solar hit” is a sum which has been basically made up through some extremely shoddy extrapolations.

The article in the Australian was run with by a number of Australia’s most trusted media outlets – News.com.au, 7 News, Sky News, the Today Show, and the consistently atrocious Daily Mail – who titled their article about the rebates thusly: 

“Climate change farce: How every Australian household contributes $200 a year to those lucky enough to be able to afford to put solar panels on their roof”

Energy Minister Angus Taylor decided to blame the big electricity retailers:

‘The big cost is the profits being taken by the big energy companies in the wholesale market, without innovation or new products, and it is time for them to deliver a fairer deal for their customers,’ he said.

‘According to the Australian Energy Market Commission, the small-scale technology certificate cost is less than three per cent of the bill, whereas 46 per cent is going to the big generator retailers.’

The Renew Economy article notes that, for FY18 and FY19 respectively, Australians paid/will pay $19 / $32 towards the scheme. This is a stark contrast to the $134 / $195 which was reported. It appears that the figures are so badly skewed for a number of different reasons including the assumption that 100% of electricity costs are passed on from businesses to households. They also haven’t factored in the Small-scale Technology Percentage, which will be set by the Energy Minister in March – and the effect this will have on STCs is quite marked. Installing solar power systems becomes cheaper if the STCs are higher, so you can see how this would have an impact which could be measured erroneously. It’ll be interesting to see how this impacts on solar grants moving forwards. 

The Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (aka SRES) is scheduled to run until 2030. If you’d like to read more about it please visit the Clean Energy Regulator’s website – where they have plenty of information about the scheme. 

We’d also recommend Ketan’s article for a more in depth exploration of the issue.

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Shell buys Sonnen | Cheaper Solar Batteries?

Shell buys sonnen: German solar battery company Sonnen has been bought out by global giant Shell for an undisclosed sum. The purchase is still subject to regulatory approval but let’s take a look at what we can expect from this situation.

Shell buys Sonnen

sonnenProtect aka Sonnen Protect 1300/2500 (source: sonnen)
Shell Buys sonnen – sonnenProtect 1300/2500 (source: sonnen.com)

Mark Gainsborough, executive vice-president of Shell New Energies, discussed the purchase: “Sonnen is one of the global leaders in smart, distributed energy storage systems,” he said.

“Full ownership of Sonnen will allow us to offer more choice to customers seeking reliable, affordable and cleaner energy.”

Shell New Energies was founded in 2016 to ‘advance the company’s interests in electricity, as well as biofuel and hydrogen’.

According to the ABC, sonnen’s new location in Adelaide will reap benefits: the local workforce is expected to expand by 430 jobs this year. This is part of sonnen’s plan to build 50,000 battery systems over the next five years.

sonnen CEO Christoph Ostermann said the investment will help the company scale faster and will also have a greater good in terms of energy tech:

“Shell will help drive the growth of Sonnen to a new level and help speed up the transformation of the energy system,” he said.

Ars Technica are reporting that the company have over 40,000 batteries installed worldwide – in Germany, the US, Australia, and more. 

Shell last week confirmed they will extend New Energies into the Australian domestic market – which includes the construction of a 120MW solar project in Queensland – so this is a great step forward for him. 

More News about sonnen in Australia

sonnen have quite a lot of history providing solar power in Australia – it remains to be seen what the Shell takeover will mean for the area, but in the meantime here are some other news articles about sonnen in Australia:

 

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Approved Solar Retailer | Clean Energy Council Program

Approved Solar Retailer – the Clean Energy Council’s program is over five years old now – the voluntary scheme authorised by the ACCC in 2013 has had its ups and downs. Is it worth it? Let’s take a look. 

Approved Solar Retailer | Clean Energy Council Program

The Approved Solar Retail program has grown to over 200 companies in January 2019, according to EcoGeneration. A hundred of these have been added since September 2018, which makes you wonder what the program was like for the previous five years (there are around 4,000 solar companies Australia wide). Is it worth joining the CEC or are they a toothless tiger (or a cash cow)? How does the CEC deal with complaints about members? Does this represent a glorified rubber stamp and is self-regulation something we can trust industries to work on? That’s something worth discussing with other solar owners who have had experience with the program.

Here’s their code of conduct: 

“This non-prescribed voluntary code of conduct (the Code) aims to promote best practice measures and activities for retail businesses selling solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. This Code is for retail businesses that want to demonstrate the commitment they have to promoting responsible activity and development in the renewable energy sector across Australia. This Code is not intended to replace existing consumer, energy or environmental planning legislation, policy or regulations at local, state or federal government levels, but to bring about increased accountability within the PV retail industry”

The program’s recent growth appears to be directly tied to schemes like the South Australian Government’s Home Battery Scheme and the Victorian Government’s Solar Homes Package – it appears that the ACCC isn’t ‘enough’ to regulate the industry. 

One important thing to note – being an Approved Solar Retailer is different to being a Clean Energy Council member. You can find a list of members on the Clean Energy Council members page.

If you’re having problems with an accredited solar company please fill out a solar accreditation dispute form

If you’d like to check whether an installer is accredited with the Clean Energy Council please click here.

If you’re a solar company hoping to get accredited please click here to learn more about the process and what you can expect. Membership is on a sliding scale and starts from $600 p.a. depending on the size of your company.

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Recycling Solar Panels | What to do with old solar panels.

Recycling solar panels is a topic which will be a lot more prevalent as the initial ‘wave’ panels begin to reach their end of life. Let’s take a look at what the plans are for trying to minimise the environmental impact and maximise the value  of a used solar panel.

Recycling Solar Panels | Will there be a waste crisis for old panels?

Australia has one of the highest PV solar uptakes in the world. There are plenty of us who have had solar installed for a long time. So long, in fact, that people are talking about end of life strategies to dispose of/ repurpose solar panels, so that they don’t cause a problem for the environment. 

Total Environment Centre director Jeff Angel has been crusading for the implementation of such strategies for solar panels, calling it a ‘systemic problem’:

“We’ve had a solar panel industry for years which is an important environmental initiative, and it should have been incumbent on government to act in concert with the growth of the industry so we have an environmentally responsible end-of-life strategy,” he said in a quote to the Sydney Morning Herald.

We’ve written previously about solar panel recycling and, although it’s good to see things like the ELSi project in Germany, there’s still a ways to go before we figure out the best way forward to recycle solar waste.

Reclaim PV: Recycling Solar Panels
Reclaim PV: Recycling Solar Panels (source: reclaimpv.com)

According to the director of Reclaim PV (the only dedicated photovoltaic recycler in Australia), Clive Fleming, they company recycles 90 per cent of materials in a panel. The company has been lobbying for state bans on landfill disposal of solar panels. 

Australian Council of Recycling chief executive Peter Schmigel also had a quote in the SMH about how a proper plan for recycling PV cells could have a positive effect on the economy:

“Recovery rates have been out of sight since the beginning of the scheme, nobody has said anything at all about there being an inbuilt recycling cost. It generates jobs, it generates environmental outcomes and yet for some reason we have policymakers who are hesitant about [establishing similar schemes] for solar PVs and batteries,” he said.

We expect over the coming year or two we’ll hear a lot more about this, with Sustainability Victoria working on a ‘national approach to photovoltaic product stewardship’, with their recommendations presented to the environment ministers around the middle of this year. 

Victoria have already announced they’ll ban electronic waste in landfill from July 2019, so it’ll be interesting to see if/how the other states follow suit.
 

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