Redback Technologies receive $4m grant from QLD

The Queensland government has given Redback Technologies a $4m grant to continue its work on developing a smart energy monitoring platform. The grant has been awarded through the Advance Queensland Platform Technology Program. 

Redback Technologies

Redback Technologies - Redback Smart Hybrid Inverter
Redback Technologies – Redback Smart Hybrid Inverter (source: redbacktech.com)

The Brisbane based Redback Technologies advertise themselves as creators of “Advanced hybrid technology with battery manages and stores solar energy, which you can save for your own personal use or sell back to grid.”

The Fifth Estate is reporting that this could result in Redback hiring up to 109 new staff to help the development and manufacture of their ‘smart energy monitoring platform’ – a system which is able to deliver real-time power generation/usage information via apps or the internet and is also able to automate smart (IOT) appliances. It also manages solar and battery energy use depending on the weather, usage patterns, current tariffs the customer has, and so on. Obviously the project is not complete yet so we don’t have a full feature set but it’s really exciting to see something like this developed so close to home, and being helped by the government. 

Innovation Minister Kate Jones told a press conference:

“Redback Technologies is at the forefront of moves to make battery storage technology more affordable, with a system that will enable a reduction in energy costs for consumers and help to pump renewable energy into the grid.

“The $4 million Advance Queensland Platform Technology Program grant will lead to the development of a smart energy monitoring platform that will give customers the ability to instantly analyse and control energy consumption.” Ms. Jones continued.

Philip Livingston, the managing director of Redback, said that there will be macro as well as end user benefits as the business grows – pointing out that the more data they’re able to get on usage patterns, we will see a commensurate increase in efficiency of their systems: 

“The support of the Queensland government will enable Redback and our partners to create a platform ecosystem, using big data to drive better outcomes for energy users and energy businesses,” he said.

“This technology will benefit industries beyond energy.”

Llewellyn Motors install 332kw solar system in Ipswich.

Llewellyn Motors in Ipswich have installed a 1232-panel, 332-kilowatt solar system on the roof of their car dealership, creating Australia’s largest privately-owned solar power station. 

Llewellyn Motors’ Solar System

The Ipswich car dealership worked in conjunction with Planet Ark Power to install the solar system, and according to Llewellyn’s general manager James Sturgess it has already saved the company approximately $7,000 in power costs since it was turned on in October.

Llewellyn Motors Solar System - Planet Ark Power
Llewellyn Motors Solar System – Planet Ark Power (source: Planet Ark Facebook)

“Basically this takes care of half our energy needs,” Mr Sturgess told QT.

“The model we’ve put together is for this system to be cash flow positive from day one. We’ve been able to achieve 90% of our target straight away, and that’s taking into account a few rainy days.”

They are still in negotiations with Energex and the State Government with regards to feeding power back into the grid. In either case, the Llewellyn Motors solar set up is unique in that includes a special type of battery storage which uses data projections and previous information to decide when it should switch on and off. This battery will help reduce peaks in consumption and cut their solar bill further. 

According to the executive director of Planet Ark Power, Richard Romanowski, their proprietary dSTATCOM software is a key driver of the ‘smart battery’ that helps the company save so much money and decide which to charge/discharge:

“This system is going to save them thousands of dollars a month,” Mr Romanowski said.

“The key is in the way the smart battery reduces the customer’s demand charges; it’s a battery plus software.”

This is another example of commercial solar continuing to gain ground in Australia – last week we reported on Stockland shopping centres rolling out 12.3MW of solar across 10 of their venues. We’ve also seen Aldi installing solar systems at their distribution centres, Office supply company Complete Office Supplies’ private solar investment in June this year was a massive $1m in rooftop PV solar at their Sydney, Brisbane, and Melbourne warehouse locations. No doubt there’s plenty more to come. 

Mackay Council Solar Tender – 20 Sites

Mackay Council solar sites – the Mackay Regional Council has voted to invite tenders from 16 shortlisted respondents for the installation of solar systems at 20 council sites. 

Mackay Council Solar 

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

An ordinary meeting held by the Mackay Regional Council yesterday voted to ask for tenders from shortlisted Expressions of Interest (EOI) respondents – a pool of 16.  They’re hoping to install solar systems at 20 sites around Mackay, according to the council website. These sites are:

  • Mackay Civic Precinct ArtSpace
  • Mackay Civic Precinct Administration Building
  • Mackay Civic Precinct Entertainment Centre and Convention Centre (MECC)
  • Wellington St Administration Building
  • The Dome – Dudley Denny City Library
  • Gordon White Library
  • Bluewater Lagoon
  • Paget Depot
  • Nebo Road Water Treatment Plant
  • Mt Bassett Sewer Pump Station
  • Mirani Depot Site
  • Paget Waste Transfer Station
  • Sarina Administration Centre including Bob Wood Hall and Library
  • Sarina Sewerage Treatment Plant
  • Mackay South Sewerage Treatment Plant
  • Mackay North Sewerage Treatment Plant
  • Dumbleton Weir
  • Mirani Sewerage Treatment Plant
  • Pioneer Swim Centre
  • Sydney St SPS

According to the Daily Mercury, the council’s yearly electricity bill is around $7 million – with $3 million of that from street lights and $2 million to power the city centre. Mackay Mayor Greg Williamson said that every $1 million the council saves could lead to a 1% reduction in rates bills. 

According to Mackay Regional Council CEO Craig Doyle they an assortment of options including a large-scale solar farm, waste-to-energy and a hydro turbine,  but ended up deciding on small-scale solar on specific sites instead: 

“We called for EOIs in September last year to investigate options around renewable energy and explored both site-specific and large-scale options,” Mr Doyle said. “It was decided that small-scale, site-specific solar systems would suit council’s needs best.”

Mr Doyle elaborated on the council’s ultimate aims: “This renewable energy program aligns with our Environmental Sustainability Strategy with one of the aims being to become a ‘low-carbon, resource-efficient and productive organisation’.

This news follows an encouraging trend of councils looking to minimise their ecological footprint – for example, Lismore City Council’s 100kw floating solar farm has recently been completed. This will help them reach the target of generating all required electricity via renewable sources by 2023 and we’d love to see other councils following suit.

 

 

 

Renewable energy jobs in Queensland double.

In the last four months, renewable energy jobs in Queensland have doubled to over 7,000 – in the wake of rapidly rising electricity prices and a ballooning interest in solar power.   

Green Energy Markets have published the latest Renewable Energy Index for October, which has some amazing statistics for Queensland – showing that renewable energy is having a marked effect on the economy in myriad ways. 

Renewable Energy Jobs in Queensland

According to the Renewable Energy Index, total jobs created by both domestic and commercial solar in Queensland doubled in the last four months – rising from 3,643 in June to 7,194 in October.

Projects commenced included phase one of the Kennedy wind, solar and battery park in north Queensland and the Emerald Solar Farm.

“Queensland has 300 sunny days a year. It needs a government that’s willing to embrace this abundant natural resource and drive the transition to cheaper, clean energy for all,” she said. Lyons also spoke about the LNP’s plan to scrap the Renewable Energy Target and contrasted it with Labor’s “Powering Queensland’s Future” Plan – advising that the LNP’s plan puts the entire industry at risk. 

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. 

Solar thermal power station in Queensland planned.

Australian company CWP Renewables has proposed to build a 250MW, $1.3 billion solar thermal power station in Townsville. The station, similar to one already built in Nevada and one planned for South Australia, will be a huge economic and employment boon to the area. 

About the Solar Thermal Power Station

Solar Thermal Power Station Khi Solar One, South Africa
Solar Thermal Power Station Khi Solar One, South Africa (source: wikipedia.org)

We reported in August that South Australia will have a solar thermal power station installed in 2018 (Aurora, to be built by SolarReserve). Their station is slated to cost around $650 m so if CWP’s proposal goes ahead it will be the largest solar thermal structure in the country. Privately held SolarReserve was also responsible for the 110MW Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project in Nevada near Las Vegas. No word on CWP’s track record with solar thermal (or who they’ll choose to partner with for the tech), but they will be bidding against SolarReserve who told RenewEconomy they are also planning to develop up to six solar thermal facilities in Queensland over the next decade. 

“This Concentrated Solar Thermal project can deliver dispatchable, emissions-free power to North Queensland, together with thousands of high value jobs which utilise the existing skills of the North Queensland workforce, ” CWP Renewables managing director Alex Hewitt told the Townsville Bulletin yesterday.  Hewitt advised that the project is being called “Freedom Energy One” and will include solar + storage, noting that it could represent a cost effective and eco-friendly alternative to a new coal generator.

We reported yesterday that Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s Labor party’s “Powering Queensland’s Future” proposal will include a $50 million “down payment” for a solar thermal power plant in Queensland, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the money will go towards CWP’s plant – along with SolarReserve and CWP there are a few companies looking to tender for a plant right now. 

According to CWP, if approval was reached then project construction would commence in 2019. The two-year construction phase would result in the creation of more than 2,000 jobs – with employment for civil works, tracking mirror installation, thermal receiver tower installation, storage tank and piping creation, and the construction of a brand new electrical substation which would be used for the plant. 

It looks like there’s a pretty good chance Queensland will see the construction of a solar thermal power station at some point, and it’s just a matter of time! 

If you want to learn more about the tech please click here to read the Wikipedia article about concentrated solar thermal. 

Labor’s “Powering Queensland’s Future” Plan

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and her incumbent Labor party have fired the first renewable energy salvo ahead of the looming Queensland state election on the 25th, promising $150m to support new large-scale renewable generation and solar power in schools as part of their Powering Queensland’s Future plan. 

Powering Queensland’s Future

Premier Palazczuk announced the Powering Queensland’s Future Plan on Sunday while she was touring the Clare Solar Farm project in Ayr (in the Burdekin electorate which is currently held by the LNP). It includes $97 million for solar schools, a huge $50 million down payment for a new solar thermal power plant, $3.6 million to decarbonise remote communities, and a $1 million study for renewable solutions for the Daintree.

Annastacia Palaszcuk - Powering Queensland’s Future
Annastacia Palaszcuk & Labor – Powering Queensland’s Future (source: couriermail.com.au)

Under the plan, the Government will establish a new company called CleanCo which will be mandated to deliver 1000MW of renewable energy in Queensland – with a special focus on flexible and dispatchable renewable energy (e.g. portable solar power). 

According to the Brisbane Times the funds would support a pipeline of $20 billion in proposed investment and it’ll create up to 15,000 full-time jobs, situated mostly in regional Queensland where unemployment is higher than in the cities. 

“We are committed to our transition to at least 50 percent renewable energy in Queensland by 2030,” Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said.

“Our Powering Queensland’s Future Plan (delivers) delivering more of the cheapest form of new generation – renewables sooner to complement our young and efficient fleet of coal and gas-fired generation.”

This is in stark contrast to the LNP’s plan to scrap the RET (Renewable Energy Target) if they are elected, believing that it’s time for the free market to decide on renewables vs. fossil fuels via their ‘Cheaper Energy Policy’. According to Labor’s policy, “Funding was cut (under LNP) for the Solar Dawn project, which would have delivered Queensland’s first solar thermal plant near Chinchilla, along with investment and job and training opportunities in regional Queensland,” calling the Newman-Nicholls government “complete renewable energy blackout”. 

Opposition Leader Tim Nicholls called the policy “more subsidies for more renewables that are going to cost jobs in regional Queensland”, and noted that they think baseload power is more reliable. 

 

 

350MW Lower Wonga Solar Farm in Gympie greenlit.

In April this year, we reported on a Gympie solar farm which lodged a $2b development proposal with the council. Today we are pleased to announce that the 350MW Lower Wonga Solar Farm has been greenlit by the Gympie Regional Council via a unanimous vote and should commence construction within the next few months.

Lower Wonga Solar Farm

Lower Wonga Solar Farm, Gympie
Proposed site for the Lower Wonga Solar Farm, Gympie (source: solarq.com.au)

The Lower Wonga Solar Farm, located on 572 hectares adjacent to a high voltage substation in Lower Wonga, will output 350MW (nominal, AC) via around 1.3 million solar PV panels, according to its website. However, an article by Arthur Gorrie at the Gympie Times notes that it will use 2 million panels. We have reached out to Solar Q, the developers of the project, to advise which is correct and will update you when we hear back.

In any case, Gympie Mayor Mick Curran told Wednesday’s council general meeting the solar electricity plant would be the largest in Australia. This record probably won’t last for long the Bulli Creek Solar Farm in Millmerran will generate 2000MW over 5400 acres and was greenlit by the Federal Government last week. 

Solar Q plan to increase the plant’s renewable energy generation from 350MW to 800MW in 2021 via a three-stage construction process over the next four years. 800MW is enough electricity to power 315,000 homes.  They are also planning to include battery storage, which will make it one of Australia’s biggest solar generating plants. It’ll reduce carbon emissions of around 666,700 tonnes of co2, which is the equivalent of getting 180,000 cars off the road! 

Scott Armstrong, Managing Director of Solar Q,  was quoted as saying “The whole aim with an energy plant is to be as close as possible to the customers, so you reduce energy transmissions losses and costs. “But we are also close to a workforce. We don’t need fly in-fly out, we have Gympie,” he said.

Great to see them supporting local employment – the farm is expected to create 450 full-time construction jobs for the 18 months of construction, 12 permanent positions, and result in the creation of major business opportunities for the Gympie region. The high voltage substation will be able to sustain transmission to Gin Gin, Teebar Creek, Mungar, Kilkivan region, Gympie region, Palmwoods/Sunshine Coast, and Brisbane areas. 

We’ll be sure to post an update as soon as we have any more information about this exciting new development. 

No-interest solar loans being considered by QLD

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palasczuk and the Queensland Government are considering adding no-interest solar loans to their arsenal of weapons against the rising cost of living in the Sunshine State. Despite the rapid advent of solar energy in Queensland prices are still high and consumer sentiment is at an all-time low.

No-Interest Solar Loans

QLD Treasurer Curtis Pitt advised that the government will offer no-interest solar loans for Queenslanders unable to raise the relatively high cost of investing in solar and battery tech.

“Solar panels and batteries are a great way for households and small businesses to cut their electricity bills, but for some the upfront cost can be a challenge,” Mr Pitt said.

Electricity saving scheme in QLD

Annastacia Palaszczuk - No-interest solar loans in QLD
Annastacia Palaszczuk – No-interest solar loans in QLD (source: queenslandlabor.org)

Earlier this week Ms Palaszczuk threatened to re-enter the retail energy market in Queensland if the Government’s saving scheme isn’t passed on to customers. She vowed to cut $50 from Queenslanders’ energy bills for the next two years and has also introduced a rebate of up to $300 for residents that want to purchase approved energy-efficient appliances.

“The time for action in Queensland is now,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“I’m the only Premier across Australia that can take this action and the reason I can do that is because Queenslanders own their assets.
“They’re our assets, they’re our dividends and now we’re going to use those dividends to help ease the pressures facing families across Queensland.

“Over this term we have used that money to pay down debt and restore frontlines services and now we’re moving to the next phase.”

The Government are giving over a dozen retailers until the end of the week to sign an “energy pledge”, which commits them to a public pledge to reduce bills (in lockstep with the Government’s attempts to reduce the wholesale costs of electricity).

According to the ABC, Origin and Alinta have “immediately said yes” and the rest of the companies have been asked to reply by close of business today. 

Redback Solar raise $7m in capital for R&D

Redback Solar news – Brisbane based solar tech startup Redback Technologies has raised $7m in capital from the Clean Energy Innovation Fund. The company will use the investment to expand its R&D, improve its ‘smart software suite’ and hire more staff.

Redback Solar’s Capital Raising

Dynamic Business are reporting that the Clean Energy Innovation Fund (a partnership between the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA)) has invested $5 million USD (approximately $6.43 million AUD) into Redback Technologies.

Around the same time, Right Click Capital’s Growth Fund has invested $2m USD (~$2.57 million AUD) into Redback along with offering their specialised experience to assist in Redback’s planned expansion into the Asia-Pacific region. The Right Click Capital Growth Fund, as per their website, have ‘deep experience starting and scaling technology businesses’ and are looking to back ‘ambitious technology businesses’ so it looks like a perfect fit. 

Right Click Capital Partner Benjamin Chong spoke a little about why they chose to invest in Redback, advising that “The inherent inefficiencies within the energy sector in Australia makes it ripe for disruption. Redback Technologies is uniquely positioned to seize this opportunity, with the power to provide everyday Australians with an alternative, low-cost solution to energy generation, storage and consumption. “We are excited by the solid track record of Redback’s management team and the firm’s ability to leverage technology to provide intelligent energy management solutions for households and businesses in Australia and beyond.”

Founder and MD of Redback Technologies, Richard Livingston, was excited about the investment and spoke about the impact it would have on stimulating Redback Technology’s products, software, and expansion. “This investment will enable us to further develop our next generation energy intelligence platform and devices and further cement our vision to ensure Australian households and businesses are entirely powered by renewables.” Livingston was quoted as saying.

Redback Solar – 2017 Movements

Redback Technologies launched the Redback Smart Hybrid System with EnergyAustralia early last month – with a ‘normal household’ with usage of 8000kWh / year to save around $1,500 a year with the system (4.9kW solar array and 3.3kWh battery). They received $9.3 million from EnergyAustralia last year for this – seeing Redback’s Generation 2 Smart Hybrid System offered to EnergyAustralia’s 1.7 million customers in Victoria, NSW, QLD, the ACT, and South Australia. 

Redback Solar - Capital Raising 2017
The Redback Solar team at a trade show in 2017 (source: Redback Technologies Facebook)

It’s obvious that Redback have a fantastic team and product – they’re growing rapidly and multiple teams have invested in them – we’re excited to see where these Brisbane locals end up!