CSIRO’s Black Mountain Solar Installation

CSIRO’s Black Mountain facility is set to have a further 2,900 solar panels installed in a plan to save around $900,000 a year. They’ve called for tenders this month and hope to have a decision made this week.

CSIRO’s Black Mountain Solar Installation

Black Mountain Solar
CSIRO’s Black Mountain Solar Installation (source: CSIRO)

Federal government agency CSIRO are doubling down on their previous solar investment – with an existing 380 solar panels at Black Mountain set to be increased by around 700%. The first 480 panels were installed earlier this year, and according to the Canberra Times, over 880kW of solar systems have been rolled out at other CSIRO sites since 2016 – including Black Mountain, Armidale in NSW, Werribee in Victoria, Kensington in Western Australia and Darwin. 

According to a CSIRO spokesman, 1.2MW of solar will also be installed in Pullenvale (QLD) and Waite (SA) – with a further 4.2MW planned for the ACT, NSW, Victoria and Western Australia.

“Once installed, these [photovoltaic] systems will deliver more than $900,000 [in] annual savings on energy bills, save close to 8000 megawatt hours of energy and reduce CO2 equivalent emissions by about 7400 tonnes each year,” the spokesman said.

All together, the plans are to install five megawatts of grid-connected, on-site renewable energy across its building portfolio by 2020.

“A key opportunity exists for CSIRO to hedge against the predicted upward price trend in electricity prices by investing today in alternative renewable energy sources to power their sites,” the CSIRO tender document says.

“The installation of large scale on-site renewable energy generation is a key mechanism to reduce CSIRO’s carbon footprint.”

The CSIRO have called for tenders for the Black Mountain solar upgraded and have advised that they will sign a contract this week, before deciding on a timeline to complete the upgrade. Some more fantastic news for government-installed solar and another step in the right direction for Australia’s renewable energy future. 

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Redback Technologies’ Smart Hybrid System Launch

Brisbane-based Redback Technologies will launch their new Smart Hybrid System this week, which is a brand new all-in-one system to simplify solar energy for installers and homeowners while still generating maximum ROI on your solar investment!

Redback Technologies and the next generation Smart Hybrid System

Redback Smart Hybrid System Inverter SH5000
Redback Smart Hybrid System Inverter SH5000 (source: redbacktech.com)

Redback launched the Smart Hybrid System Sh5000 today at the 2018 All-Energy Conference – it has an abundance of features which are perfect for the house looking to maximise their ROI from installing solar:

  • 5kW inverter
  • New modular (expandable) battery cabinet. It can holdup to 14kWh of energy storage
  • All-in-one design outdoor rated for Australian weather conditions.
  • Inbuilt UPS, pre-wired with integrated DC isolators for an easy install. 

The Redback Technologies Smart Hybrid System uses the newly designed Redback Smart Energy Manager app, which makes installation a breeze. When you conneect the inverter to the web portal, you can monitor the performance of your inverter in real time, making sure it’s working as expected! 

Redback MD Patrick Matweew said in a press release delivered by email: “We’re all looking for ways to save money and reduce stress when it comes to our household energy bills. That’s why now is the right time for homeowners to consider a solar and storage system as it not only reduces household costs, but it also gives consumers the power to control their energy future.

“With the cost of small-scale renewable installations continuing to fall, there’s never been a better time to consider solar and battery storage.”

The Redback Smart Energy Manager app is now available to download from Google Play (Android) or the App Store (Apple).

If you’re interested in buying one of these Smart Hybrid Systems or would like to learn more about them then please give the friendly team at Redback a call on 1300 240 182 or click here to visit their page for homeowners/small business proprietors. 

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Solar Backpackers – Solar jobs not going to locals?

The dozens of solar farms in various stages of construction or approval in Queensland are being flooded with ‘solar backpackers’ – with local staff being eschewed due to the perception of being too difficult to manage. This has led to a situation where ‘solar backpackers’ are being employed instead of local staff as it’s easier for the companies. 

Solar Backpackers and Solar Jobs

According to the ABC, in the last fortnight Workplace Health and Safety Queensland and the Electrical Safety Office conducted inspections across many of Queensland’s regional solar farms. 30 Notices were issued to various companies – this includes 23 breaches of the Work Health and Safety Act and seven breaches of the Electrical Safety Act.

Industrial Minister Grace Grace discussed the issues and advised that a new Code of Practice will be released by the end of the year:

“With the construction of solar and wind farms expanding throughout Queensland, we must ensure electrical safety is paramount,” she said.

“While there is a robust system in place to ensure the highest levels of safety, we are far from complacent and we want to ensure world’s best practice in this area.

“Following the completion of the solar code, a similar process will be undertaken to develop a separate code of practice for wind farms,” she said.

The Australian Border Force have also become involved, but haven’t confirmed any instances of ‘illegal workers’ or ‘worker exploitation’:

“The Australian Government is committed to ensuring that Australian workers have priority and that foreign workers are a supplement to, and not a substitute for, Australians,” an ABF spokesperson said.

“The Working Holiday Maker (WHM) visa allows ‘backpackers’ to stay and holiday in Australia for up to 12 months, work in Australia for up to six months with each employer, study for up to four months and leave and re-enter Australia any number of times while the visa is valid.

“WHM visa holders can undertake any kind of work with any employer during their stay in Australia as long as they do not work more than six months with that employer.”

List of Solar Farms in Queensland (Information from abc.net.au)

Company Solar Farm Area Size Owner Solar Jobs Created
Biosar Energy Childers Bundaberg 120MW Elliott 200
Biosar Energy Susan River Fraser Coast 100MW Elliott 300
Biosar Energy Oakey Solar Farm Stage 2 Toowoomba 70MW Canadian Solar 200
Downer Group Ross River Solar Farm Townville 148MW Palisade Unknown
Downer Group Clare Solar Farm Burdekin 100 MW FRV Unknown
Downer Group Sunshine coast Solar Farm Sunshine Coast 15MW Sunshine Coast City Council Unknown
Acciona Lilyvale Solar Farm Central Highlands 100MW Fotowatio Renewable Ventures Unknown
CIMIC Group & UGL Limited Collinsville Solar Project Whitsunday 42.5MW Ratch Australia 120 at peak
RCR Tomlinson Darling Downs Solar Farm Western Downs 110MW APA Group 3,000 across eight projects
RCR Tomlinson Daydream Solar Farm Whitsunday 180MW Edify Energy 3,000 across eight projects
RCR Tomlinson Hayman Solar Farm Whitsunday 60MW Edify Energy 3,000 across eight projects
RCR Tomlinson Longreach Solar Farm Longreach 15MW Canadian Solar 3,000 across eight projects
RCR Tomlinson Oakey Solar Farm Stage 1 Toowoomba 25MW Canadian Solar 3,000 across eight projects
RCR Tomlinson Sun Metals Solar Farm Stage 1 Townsville 124MW Sun metals Corp 3,000 across eight projects
RCR Tomlinson Emerald Solar Park Central Highlands 72MW Renewable Energy Systems 3,000 across eight projects
RCR Tomlinson Haughton Burdekin 500MW Pacific Hydro 3,000 across eight projects
Bouygues Construction Australia Hamilton Solar Farm Whitsunday 69MW Edify Energy 325
Tranex Whitsunday Solar Farm Whitsunday 69MW Edify Energy Approx. 60
Beon Energy Hughenden Solar Farm Flinders 20MW BayWa r.e 100
Windlab and Erus Energy Kennedy Energy Park Flinders 60MW Windlab Approx. 130 to 140
Yarranlea Yarranlea Solar Farm Toowoomba 121MW Risen Energy 200 proposed positions
Adani Rugby Run Solar Farm Stage 1 Isaac Region 65MW Adani Renewables 150 proposed jobs
 

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RCR Tomlinson Solar Farm Writedowns

Australian solar contracting company RCR Tomlinson has taken a $57m write down on the Daydream solar farm and the Hayman solar farm, which are owned by Edify Energy and to be installed in North Queensland.

RCR Tomlinson Solar Farm Writedown

We reported earlieir this year on the Hayman and Daydream solar farms and how First Solar will be handling the installation for Edify – at that time everything looked rosy but it appears that a couple of major factors have led to cost and time delays. Edify have cited “external” delays, bad weather, and local issues like poor ground quality.  Also being blamed are the increasingly stricter requirements being imposed by the Australian Energy Market Operator which are affecting solar farms Australia-wide. 

RCR Tomlinison Daydream solar farm in Collinsville, Queensland.
RCR Tomlinson -Daydream solar farm in Collinsville, Queensland. (source: thewest.com.au)

As of last year, RCR have over half a Gigawatt of large-scale solar projects in their order book and over a Gigawatt currently being developed or progressed under early contractor involvement processes, according RCR Managing Director & CEO, Dr Paul Dalgleish (who has since left RCR). As a result of the writedown RCR are now attempting to raise $100m from investors and have had to offer a significant discount on RCR shares on a one-for-1.65 basis at $1 each. This represents a ~65% discount on the stock’s last trade price ($2.80).

According to RenewEconomy, Tomlinson has written down $57 million on the $315 million contract values for both the 150MW Daydream and the 50MW Hayman solar farms owned by Edify Energy. They’re both located in North Queensland and both nearing completion.

A statement to shareholders noted that: 

“These project-specific issues required the Company to continuously revise its execution methodologies to mitigate delays, leading to increases in subcontractor costs (both people and plant) and logistics cost overruns.

“As a result of these cost overruns that arose over the life of the Project, RCR has realised cumulative write- downs of $57 million from the tendered margin on the Project.”

Some bad news for solar farms in Australia but we have no doubt that these projects will end up completed and can start making their investments back. We’ll be watching closely how the AEMO’s ongoing changes to legislation affects the many other solar farms currently in various stages of completion/operation. 

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Aldoga Solar Farm | Construction & Energy Submission

The Aldoga solar farm in Gladstone has lodged documents with the Federal Government and is one step closer to wards commencing the construction phase. 

Aldoga solar farm

Aldoga Solar Farm Gladstone Aerial Shot
Aldoga Solar Farm Gladstone Aerial Shot (source: dsdmip.qld.gov.au)

The Aldoga solar farm is to be designed, built and operated by global energy giant Acciona Energy, who have been in Australia since 2002 and certainly know the lay of the land. It will be a 265MW farm and Acciona have already signed a 30 year lease with the State Government. It will be located at Aldoga over 1,250 hectares and is hoped to act as a “precedent for the delivery of further economic opportunities offered from a growing renewable energy sector.”

State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning Minister Cameron Dick announced in April that Acciona Energy was chosen out of 16 applicants to build the solar farm in Gladstone.

“Combined with the renewable energy that will be generated, and the lease payments that will be made to the state, this project represents a major boost to the local community – economically, environmentally and socially,” Mr Dick said.

According to the report Acciona provided to the Department of Environment and Energy on July 6 (you can click here to view it), the farm will use solar panels with single axis tracking so that harvested sunlight can be maximised. 

“There is an alternative option to install a fixed-tilt mounting structure; however, preliminary studies suggest that the single-axis tracker will be more desirable from an energy production perspective,” the report said.

At maximum capacity (265MW AC), the project is estimated to supply up to 122,000 households (or 5x the amount of households in all of Gladstone). It will have a massive amount of solar panels to reach the 265MW – over one million!

It’s estimated that around 240 solar jobs will be created – with Acciona Energy adopting Buy Queensland and Gladstone Buy Local procurement policies, giving preference to local sub-contractors and manufacturers.

According to the Gladstone Observer, construction is set to run between October next year and November 2020, with the farm operating from Nov 2020 – Dec 2050. Wonder what a solar farm will look like then? 

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Darling Downs Solar Update | Jobs, Farms & More

Darling Downs solar is helping the area by providing jobs to locals and kickstarting the economy – with one council already approving $6b worth of wind and solar projects. There’s now a ‘buzz’ around the Darling Downs and renewable energy – let’s take a look at what they have in the pipeline!

Darling Downs Solar 

Darling Downs Solar Farm
Darling Downs Solar Farm (source: Origin Energy)

“We’ve got $1.2 billion of that under construction now, and that’s the exciting thing, this isn’t just about approvals, this is about action to deliver renewable energies to this region,” Western Downs Regional Council mayor Paul McVeigh said in comments to the ABC

“And we know there are another three [solar farms] in the pipeline.”

In Warwick, the 154,000 megawatt-hour generating UQ / Warwick Solar Farm is to be installed on ‘good agricultural land’ has had to wage a battle against NIMBY detractors. Mayor Tracy Dobie defended her decision (she had the deciding vote to allow the farm DA):

“This region is about growth and development and we can sit here and go poor slowly or we can progress our region and the more development we can get in our region the more jobs,” Ms Dobie said.

“The more progress we can make, the better off we are.”

Mayor Dobie continued to discuss the project and what she sees the future of renewable energy in the Darling Downs as looking like:

“This is a turning point in our region to show we are moving forward, that we are looking to the future, and there is nothing more evident than that than renewable energy.

“There’s a buzz about the Darling Downs, this is a great place to be and great time to be here.”

Toowoomba Solar

There’s been an amazing amount of renewable energy movement in Toowoomba – with the billion dollar project at Bulli Creek approved by the Tooowoomba Council. This will be built by Solar Choice over a 10 year staggered period. 

Toowoomba mayor Paul Antonio spoke about the concerns some residents may have and why he’s happy to continue approving solar farms:

“I guess we have to be a bit cautious of the type of land we put it on, but in saying that, the land is restorable, its not going to be destroyed in any mining effort or anything like that, and in 20, 30, 40 years’ time that land will be back to full production.”

Have a look at the short video below from ABC Landline which was part of an article about using ‘good farmland’ for solar farms. 

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Susan River Solar Farm Construction Commences

The up-to 100MW and $175m Susan River Solar Farm located between Hervey Bay and Maryborough in Queensland is commencing construction this month after being granted DA in 2016.

Susan River Solar Farm

Susan River Solar Farm
Susan River Solar Farm Mockup (source: http://susanriversolarfarm.com.au/)

The Susan River Solar Farm was granted DA (development approval) by the Fraser Coast Regional Council in December 2016 and is now commencing its construction, with roadworks already underway to ensure the infrastructure is set up correctly before building commences. The project is being developed by one of Australia’s biggest renewable energy developers – ESCO Pacific Pty Ltd. They currently have nine solar farms in various stages of completion – with three under construction (The Ross River Solar Farm, Childers Solar Farm, and Susan River Solar Farms) and six with planning secured. These six are in Rollingstone, Dino, Horsham, Koberinga, Moura, and Finley.

With regards to solar employment at the Susan River Solar Farm, Esco chief executive Steve Rademaker said the project will create up to 300 jobs during its inception and five to ten full-time jobs after the plant’s construction is complete. He went on to explain why the Fraser Coast location was ideal for their solar farm:

“Choosing a location came down to the suitable size identification and proximity to the electrical grid, among other factors,” Mr Rademaker said.

“The Fraser Coast ticked all these boxes. It’s a good location to build a project like this.”

According to the Fraser Coast Chronicle, the project will occupy 176 hectares and will involve the installation of 350,000 PV solar panels. 

Fraser Coast infrastructure councillor Denis Chapman called it a “jewel in the crown” of the Fraser Coast. 

The project doesn’t have a PPA (Purchase Power Agreement) signed yet, which means the farm will sell its output on the spot market once launched (unless they sign one first!).

The utility scale renewable energy project is expected to finish completion next year. 

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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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