Cubbie Solar Farm | Solar Power in Resources

Cubbie Solar Farm – Nasdaw listed company VivoPower said this Monday that its wholly owned Australia subsidiary, Aevitas, has been chosen to build the solar project at Cubbie Station in South West Queensland.

Cubbie Solar Farm

Cubbie Solar Farm
Cubbie Solar Farm (source: cubbie.com.au)

Cubbie Station, located in Dirranbandi in South West Queensland, is the largest irrigation property in the southern hemisphere and as such has very significant power and water requirements. Since January 2013, the Cubbie Ag property group is owned by CS Agriculture Pty Ltd. The major stakeholder of this company is Ruyi Australia Group, who manage Australian operations on behalf of Ruyi Group, a Chinese multinational company.  They’ve been spending this year working on getting a solar farm up which will be able to supply around 40% of the station’s power requirements during its peak season (April to September). 

Stage 1 of the project will involve the creation of  3.5MWDC Solar Farm Non-export generation – to do this ~9,800 solar panels will need to be mounted onto a fixed structure and wired through to the inverter. Aevitas Group Limited was awarded the EPC (Engineering design, Procurement and Construction) contract last week, as per a press release posted on the Nasdaq website

Cubbie Ag have a plan for the future as well – they are aiming to provide power to Dirranbandi and St George as the project grows and generates more renewable energy. According to One Step Off The Grid, their goal is to expand the solar farm to 7.2MW and also add battery storage to it.

Solar power in resources and commercial solar have both been growing in leaps and bounds (and often in conjunction) so it’s exciting to see more of these projects coming to fruition. Solar power for farms and business are popping up very frequently. 

The Cubbie Solar Farm is expected to commence construction in October and will be operable by the end of the year.

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National Energy Guarantee Approval – Next Steps

National Energy Guarantee Approval – the NEG has been approved by the states and territories of Australia ‘in principle’ – allowing it to move to the next step. There’s still plenty of discussion to go before we see anything signed off, but it’s a step in the right direction for those who believe in the NEG and its ostensible goal of cheaper, more reliable power with less carbon emissions.

National Energy Guarantee Approval

National Energy Guarantee Approval - Malcolm Turnbull
National Energy Guarantee Approval – Malcolm Turnbull (source: yourlifechoices.com.au)

As with most political decisions in this country, there is a lot of posturing and point scoring going on – depending on who you ask, it’s either a ‘great step forward’ or the governments ‘withholding support’. Regardless of the case, the Federal Government has now released a draft of the energy bill which will be taken to next week’s party room meeting for approval. If you want to learn more about what happened with the NEG during the week, please click here

The states want to see detailed legislation and some of them have ‘red line’ conditions which must be met before they fit in to the National Energy Guarantee – there’s still a long way before any of this becomes law in Australia.

Victoria were especially strident in their remarks about the NEG. Victoria’s Energy Minister, Labor’s Lily D’Ambrosio, said agreeing to the plan today would be like signing “with a blindfold on”. advising that they won’t support it unless the following four demands are met:

  1. The emission reduction targets can only ever increase and must not decrease.
  2. Targets need to be set in regulation (this one’s going to be a bit of a problem as Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg has already rejected it).
  3. Emission reduction targets must be set every three years, three years in advance.
  4. Creation of a registry which is transparent and accessible by regulators and governments.

The emissions reduction target in the NEG is to bring down emissions in the electricity sector by 26 per cent by 2030.

COAG Energy Ministers will have another discussion after the Coalition Party Room meeting on Tuesday. Watch this space! We’ll keep you posted.

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Sunshine Coast Solar Farm saves $1.7m in Year 1

The Sunshine Coast Solar Farm has been live for a year, and, as the second largest solar farm in Queensland, is on track to deliver $22m in savings over the next 30 years. 

Sunshine Coast Solar Farm Savings

Sunshine Coast Solar Farm (Valdora)
Sunshine Coast Solar Farm (Valdora) (source: sunshinecoast.qld.gov.au)

Also known as the Valdora solar farm, the 15MW and $50m Sunshine Coast Solar Farm was opened last year, allowing the Sunshine Coast Council to be the first local governments in Australia to offset 100% of its energy usage from a renewable source. Sunshine Coast acting Mayor Tim Dwyer has made some comments to the Sunshine Coast Daily about its progress:

“The Sunshine Coast Solar Farm has saved council $1.7 million – more than double the amount we’d hoped for in the first year,” Cr Dwyer said.

“We have met our offset goal as well – offsetting more than 100% of council’s energy use across all our facilities and operations.

“We’ve generated more than 26,300 megawatt hours of energy in 12 months. To put that into perspective, the average Australian home uses around six megawatt hours per year.

“We’ve saved more than 20,500 tonnes in carbon emissions – the equivalent of taking about 4300 cars off the road for one year.

“Council’s solar farm project has also received three prestigious awards for boosting productivity through infrastructure, sustainability excellence and planning excellence.

“Our Council is the first local government in the country to deliver a solar farm.

“With projects like the solar farm, we are delivering on our vision to be Australia’s most sustainable region – healthy, smart, creative.”

According to the Sunshine Coast Council website, it’s also the first solar farm in Australia which operates at 1500 volts DC, allowing it to operate more efficiently. 

Mayor Mark Jamieson said farm will allow the local council to take control of its own electricity supply, helping with rising electricity costs and also providing an environmentally friendly way to run their facilities:

“All power consumed at all of council’s facilities, including our administration buildings, aquatic centres, community and performance venues, as well as holiday parks, libraries, art galleries and sporting facilities, will be offset with energy from a renewable source thanks to this nation-leading project,” Mayor Jamieson said.

 

 

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Primo Smallgoods Solar – Company to install 3.2MW

Primo Smallgoods are set to install Australia’s biggest commercial solar rooftop PV system with 3.2MW to go up at their Wacol, Brisbane plant in August. 

Primo Smallgoods Solar – Commercial Solar

Primo Smallgoods Solar Installation`
Primo Smallgoods Solar Installation (source: primo.com.au)

The installation will cut Primo Smallgoods’ reliance on the grid by 19 percent, according to chief operating officer Bruce Sabatta:

“JBS globally has set sustainability targets to achieve by 2020. These targets cover water, gas, electricity and greenhouse gas emissions amongst others,” he said.

“As part of the JBS business, Primo has a part to play in the reduction of our environmental impact in Australia,” Sabatta was quoting as saying back in June.

“With our new solar panel installation in place, we will use the power generated from the solar panels instead of solely relying on power from the electricity grid.

“We are making significant investments in energy efficiency to lower our carbon footprint and to continue to improve our efficiency leadership position in the industry,” Sabatta continued.

The solar array will be installed by CleanPeak Energy and Todae Solar, following a tendering process by Solar Choice in 2016. Todae are also responsible for the Brisbane Markets’ solar installation and the 12.3MW solar system Stockland are currently rolling out, so they have a lot of experience in these large-scale commercial solar installs. CleanPeak Energy was started by Philip Graham and Jonathan Hare, previously of Citigroup and Origin Energy, in order to work solely on commercial solar – so this job looks like a perfect fit.

“Our model is to effectively work with a customer to deliver a power solution that is renewable and cheaper than their current offer,” Mr Graham was quoted in the AFR.

One Step Off The Grid are reporting that the Primo solar system will generate 4,869MWh of power in its first year – the equivalent of powering 20,032 homes for one year.

This comes at a time where private/commercial investment in large-scale solar is at an all-time high with companies like Hunter Douglas investing in 800Kw earlier this month. 

“This installation is notable for the cutting edge technology that we have chosen, and its cost effectiveness which will see it pay back the investment in a little over four years,” said Tony Politis, Hunter Douglas MD for Australia/NZ.

There are many other commercial solar installs on the books all across Australia, including:

Brisbane Airport are installing a huge 6MW solar array at multiple locations which they are hoping to have complete by the end of 2018. 

BlueScope Steel will buy 200 gigawatt-hours of electricity a year from the Finley solar farm.

Cannington Mine‘s owner, South32, will install a 3MW solar farm across six hectares – to supply the mine’s accommodation village and airport. 

 

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Rodds Bay Solar Farm Receives DA

The Rodds Bay Solar Farm is one step closer, with its owner Renew Estate given planning approval for the 300MW farm around 50km south of Gladstone in Central Queensland.

Rodds Bay Solar Farm

Rodds Bay Solar Farm - Gladstone
Rodds Bay Solar Farm – Gladstone (source: Google Maps)

The Rodds Bay Solar Farm was given planning approval last week with 40 conditions

Renew Estate director Simon Currie spoke about the ramifications of the solar farm – solar jobs for Gladstone, lower prices for residential and commercial solar buyers. 

“At its peak, a solar farm of this size requires about 300 workers on site,” said Mr. Currie in a statement, reprinted in the Gladstone Observer:

“We will collaborate with local training organisations to ensure local job-seekers have the skills needed to construct and operate a solar farm, and we will prioritise the employment of locals in enduring roles once the project is operational.”

“More generation and competition mean lower power prices and Renew Estate looks forward to delivering the cheap solar energy produced by this project to consumers andbusinesses in the greater Gladstone area.”
 
Wirsol Energy, who are a major shareholder of Renew Estate, are no rookies to the game – with 200MW already operating or under construction in Queensland. The company has a goal of deploying 1GW in Australia, according to managing director Mark Hogan.

“This is an exciting time for the solar industry in Australia and Rodds Bay will help us quickly reach our target of 1GW in Australia.” he said.

The Wemen Sun Farm which is located close to the border of Victoria and New South Wales and approximately 110km south east of Mildura is also being built by Wirsol Energy.
 
Renew Estate are also trying to find an alternative site to build a second solar farm in the area. Plans for its Yarwun solar farm are currently on pause after residents complained about the 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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Lyon Group – Global Solar Agreements

Brisbane based Lyon Group have announced three integrated solar and storage projects in Australia will be launched via partnerships they have signed with two overseas companies. The renewable energy developer has partnered with US-based Fluence and Japanese energy company JERA to develop large-scale solar+battery projects. 

Lyon Group’s Global Solar Agreements

Lyon Group, JERA, Fluence CEOs to announce partnership.
Lyon Group, JERA, Fluence CEOs to announce partnership. (source: Lyon Group)

Both JERA and Fluence are already joint ventures (JERA of TEPCO Fuel & Power Inc and Chebu Electric Power Co, and Fluence borne of Siemens and AES). The latter focuses on battery storage and service provision, and JERA would invest in the projects. Lyon will remain the project developer.

“This collaboration agreement is based on a shared understanding that the world requires low emissions energy systems that are also secure, reliable and affordable. Utility-scale battery storage solutions across new and existing generation plants will be a key enabler,” said David Green, Lyon Chairman.

The partnerships will be put to work with the following three solar projects Lyon is developing in need of some answers viz a viz their industrial scale battery storage solutions:

According to Nikkei Asian Review, the three solar power pants will generate 550MW when online at the end of next year. JERA are going to contribute over 10 billion yen (~$122 million AUD) to the projects, which will include a 100MW lithium-ion battery storage system at the Riverlands solar farm in South Australia, equal largest of its kind on the planet (the other 100MW battery isn’t far away – the Tesla Powerpack farm installed in South Australia last year as part of the Hornsdale Power Reserve)

We’ll keep you updated how this partnership progresses. Great news for solar energy in Australia! 

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Western Downs green power hub council approval.

The Western Downs green power hub planned by French renewable giant Neoen has received council approval for a solar farm of size up to 500MW. This impressive project promises to bring  North Queensland solar jobs and continue the large-scale solar revolution in Queensland and Australia.

The Western Downs green power hub

The Western Downs green power hub
The Western Downs green power hub proposed location (source: westerndownsgreenpowerhub.com.au)

The Western Downs green power hub will be located 22km south of Chinchilla and 62km north west of Dalby, according to RenewEconomy. No word on the specifics of the gear they will use, but a huge 1500 hectares of ground mounted solar panels will feed two hectares of battery energy storage. This is going to be a gigantic undertaking.

According to the website for the green power hub, they’ll produce around 1.05MWh (million megawatt hours) per year.

“A combination of an ambitious Queensland Renewable Energy Target and a proactive government to meet those targets provide highly favourable conditions for renewable energy projects in the State,” Neoen says on the website.

“Consequently, the company will expedite the development of Western Downs Green Power Hub, as well as several other projects in Queensland.”

Construction was initially slated to commence in Q3 this year but it now looks like mid a 2019 start date will be more likely, according to the website.

“Construction is expected to start mid 2019 providing employment opportunities for the region.”

An article from the Chronicle in September last year (when it was being touted as a 250MW solar plant) noted that the consturction phase of the project will generate up to 300 solar jobs and between two to four during regular usage.

Neoen have been responsible for a number of huge projects across Australia recently:

 

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Solar Gardens – ‘ground solar’ – ARENA funding.

Those unable to get traditional solar systems installed on their roof may wish to take a look at the upcoming solar gardens scheme we will see in Australia. The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) are funding a trial of the ‘ground solar’ in (mostly) regional areas of NSW, Queensland and Victoria.

Solar Gardens – Alternatives to Roof Solar

Solar Gardens in Australia
Solar Gardens in Australia (source: ARENA)

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, those without a rooftop who still want to invest in solar power will be in luck if they’re based in Blacktown, Shoalhaven, Byron Bay, Townsville, or Swan Hill – ARENA and ‘other participants’ are providing around $550,000 in funding to assist the trial.

Dr Liz Develin, the NSW Department of Planning and Environment’s deputy secretary of energy, water and portfolio strategy (wonder if she has to buy extra long business cards?) discussed how the department are hoping to achieve with the rollout:

“We are trialling solar gardens with the aim of helping renters, low-income households and those living in apartments save on their energy bills,” she said.

“Blacktown is a hotspot for rooftop solar and we are really excited to see how this trial goes. The average Western Sydney household with a 4-kilowatt solar system on their roof could already be saving up to $900 a year.”

Specifics on the scheme are still a little thin on the ground (sorry…) but the solar gardens are ‘generally’ under 100kW so as to keep the STCs (small-scale renewable energy generation certificates). The University of Technology Sydney’s Institute for Sustainable Futures and the Community Power Agency will lead this project.

Solar gardens are growing faster than any other segment of solar power in the US (200MW of new capacity was rolled out in 2016) – so perhaps this is the start of a revolution where the word ‘solar’ doesn’t necessarily conjure up the image of panels on a roof. I have no doubt we’ll see blockchain technology integrated or, for the bigger gardens such as those at mid-large size apartment blocks, some microgrids available to help balance demand.

Are you interested in applying to join the solar garden trial? Watch this space. More info to come as we have it!

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Mackay Solar Tender (Council): $2.1m from Akcome

Mackay Council have decided which company to go with after putting out a solar tender last year. The Mackay solar project will be built by a Brisbane-based company – Akcome Power – who offered a significantly lower price than their competitors. 

The Mackay Solar Tender Overview.

We wrote about the initial tender process last year – the initial pool of EOI respondents was 16 companies, which ended up being whittled down to four.

Akcome Power Pty Ltd won the tender with a price significantly lower than the other three remaining respondents. Personally I’d be a bit wary of such a major discrepancy between quotes, so let’s dig a little deeper. Akcome’s proposal involves the usage of Huawei and ABB inverters – with 10 year warranties – and ‘unspecified’ solar panels with 30-year warranties.

Nevertheless, consultancy Peak Services reviewed the proposal and Akcome as a company and came away satisfied. Have Mackay Council got a fantastic deal or will they end up paying the prices for not paying the price and end up with a system where performance doesn’t meet expectations or quality issues abound? Time will tell. There are certainly plenty of perturbed solar companies in North Queensland right now.

According to the council, the final price will be offset by a little over half a million in STCs (small-scale renewable energy certificates). This, in conjunction with other ‘council and contingency costs’, will bring the final price to around $1.97 million.

“Council, like households, has been hard hit by rising electricity prices,’’ Mackay Mayor Greg Williamson said in a statement last Friday, according to One Step Off The Grid.

“This fairly modest initial outlay is an investment in the future which will provide ongoing cost savings.”

Mackay Solar Council Tender
Mackay Solar Council Tender (source: mackay.qld.gov.au)

This will be a great thing for solar jobs in Mackay – the 21 council facilities will require plenty of help getting the solar installed – and it seems like the majority of it will be going to local installers:

“Akcome has advised it will engage local Clean Energy Council of Australia-accredited electricians, as well as local non-accredited experienced electricians to work with them, plus local trades assistants,” Mackay Mayor Greg Williamson said.

“They expect to use 60 to 70 per cent Mackay-area based tradespeople to complete the installation.”

You can read the minutes of the Mackay council meeting where they decided which company to use by clicking here

 

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