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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Clare solar farm in North Queensland now online.

The Clare solar farm, Queensland’s biggest solar farm at 100MW capacity, has connected to the grid and started exporting renewable energy. This is one of many solar projects due in 2018, totalling around 1400MW.

About the Clare Solar Farm

Clare Solar Farm
Clare Solar Farm (source: claresolarfarm.com.au)

The Clare solar farm project is located around 35km south-west from Ayr in North Queensland. It’s the biggest operating solar farm in the state, dwarfing the incumbent 50MW Kinston solar project. It is owned by Lighthouse Solar who also have ownership of the Hughenden solar farm which has a 20MW capacity and is about to begin production itself. 

We wrote about the Clare solar farm last July when it was a 125MW plant potentially going up to 150MW. It’s been launched with 100MW with the space to potentially expand down the track. They’ve signed a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with Origin Energy along with the Bungala solar farm, which will be the biggest solar farm in Australia when it completes later this year.

According to the Clean Energy Council, around $2.6 billion of solar projects will be connected to the grid in 2018, adding around 1400MW of capacity. A solar forum held in Brisbane by the CEC last week noted that the boom in solar investment (both domestic and commercial) has led to 2760 Australian solar jobs added to the economy. 

“Large-scale solar has gone from an emerging technology in Australia at the beginning of the decade to a genuinely game-changing form of power that is cheaper than new coal or gas. It has exceeded the expectations of even the most optimistic predictions,”  CEC chief executive Kane Thornton said in comments to RenewEconomy.

“Along with the national Renewable Energy Target, support from the Queensland Government, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation has helped to make this one of the lowest-cost options we have for electricity today.”

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Solar in Bundaberg leads Australia’s top suburbs.

Solar in Bundaberg leads Australian suburbs for PV solar update as aerial imagery company Nearmap are reporting that last year 1078MW of rooftop solar systems were installed across Australia. Seven of the top ten suburbs are in Queensland and the other three are in Western Australia – with a huge bump in the number of rural and coastal towns installing more solar power systems than ever before. 

Solar in Bundaberg

Solar in Bundaberg
Solar in Bundaberg 2017 (source: RealEstate.com.au via Nearmap)

We’ve seen quite a lot of work done in Bundaberg so it’s no surprise to see they are the biggest suburb in Australia with the highest solar power uptake. Walking around you can see systems on many roofs and Stockland are installing a solar system on top of their Bundaberg shopping centre.

Nearmap executive Shane Preston discussed how they were able to use their software to have a visual on how much the landscape has changed, and how we will see even more as the technology/price continues to move in the right direction. Mr. Preston noted that using technology like Nearmap allow you to have a clearer look on how much solar is actually being installed in households Australia wide:

“But when you look at it from the air, you can observe in incredible detail the renewable energy uptake occurring across our country,’’ he said.

“As the benefits of renewable energies like solar continue to surface, we can expect to see more demand for installations,’’ he continued, in comments made to news.com.au.

Nearmap (visit their website here) worked with the Clean Energy Regulator (CER) to come up with the statistics (in a sense – as per Your Mortgage, Nearmap flew over 88% of the population in urbanised areas six times in the last year to help document Australia’s solar revolution) – so even though the statistics come from the CER they’ve been helped along by Nearmap’s great service. 

Australia’s Biggest Solar Suburbs

Bundaberg North – 11,756
Erskine – 11,409
Nikenbah – 10,517
Caloundra – 9308
Toowoomba – 8580
Hocking – 8416
Pacific Pines – 7724
Mackay – 7263
Raceview – 7295
Canning Vale – 7116

 

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Ross River Solar Farm (Kelso, Townsville)

The $202 million, 148MW Ross River Solar Farm in Kelso, near Townsville in North Queensland is currently under construction. It’s the largest operating single stage solar farm in Australia and will comprise of 413,000 solar panels on single axis tracking systems.

Ross River solar farm

Ross River Solar Farm
Ross River solar farm (source: rossriversolarfarm.com.au)

The solar farm reached a financial close last May under Palisade Investment Partners and ESCO Pacific. Built on a disused mango farm over 202 hectares in a rural residential area near Ross Dam, it received DA (Development Approval) from the Townsville City Council in June 2016 (you can see the Town Planning Report they submitted by clicking here). They’ve signed a 13-year power purchase agreement with EnergyAustralia – with a new buried cable 132kV transmission line to connect the project to the Ross River Bulk Supply Substation being run to help facilitate the PPA. 

The project is funded via equity from the Palisade Renewable Energy Fund and three of Palisade’s clients, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC), VicSuper and HESTA.

Palisade Managing Director and CEO, Roger Lloyd, said: “We are excited about this investment which further diversifies Palisade’s renewables portfolio. Palisade’s hands-on approach to taking greenfield projects through the development phase to financial close allows us to shape our investments in a way that minimises risk and maximises returns.”

According to an article from the Toowomba Chronicle, up to 250 North Queensland solar jobs are being created through this project. Downer Utilities, part of the listed Downer Group, is the lead construction contractor and you can click here to see their current solar job listings if you’re interested in joining the project.

The Ross River solar farm is set for completion later this year and is expected to operate for up to 40 years. We’ll keep you updated with any interesting developments we hear about it. 

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Sun Metals solar farm starts commissioning.

The 124MW Sun Metals solar farm near Townsville is about to start commissioning. The farm will be located at the Sun Metals zinc refinery which is about 15km south of Townsville and is currently Australia’s biggest solar farm. Not for long, but that’s the way things are going with large-scale solar in Australia! 

Sun Metals solar farm

Sun Metals
Sun Metals Solar Farm (source: sunmetals.com.au)

We wrote an article last September about the solar farm and how it was expected to be fully commissioned by April, so the project has kept to timeline very well. Sun Metals Chief executive Yun Choi was quoted in the Townsville Bulletin as saying that commissioning will commence in a ‘staged approach’ over the next fortnight – with the solar farm working at full capacity by the end of May. 

Sun Metals have built the solar farm so they’re able to insulate themselves from the rising costs of electricity – and it’s estimated that the 124MW project will be able to account for over 1/3 of the zinc refinery’s power requirements. 

“Once the solar farm is operational it will enable the refinery to be the largest single-site renewable consumer in Australia,” Choi says.

“The solar farm will be one of a kind in that it will directly power a large industrial user and export electricity into the National Electricity Market – so I think that makes it pretty innovative.”

According to Choi via RenewEconomy, Sun Metals need 900,000 MWh (megawatt hours) to facilitate the production of 225,000 tonnes of zinc each year. Around 300,000MWh will be created by the new solar farm and the lower electricity costs will result in savings which will then be funnelled into a potential $300m expansion of Sun Metals, which will also help a lot with solar jobs in the area. 

“If we go ahead, the expanded refinery would see an additional $300 million invested right here in Townsville and is expected to support up to 827 construction jobs during peak construction, also with significant increase in permanent workers at the refinery once operational,” he told the Townsville Bulletin.

Great news for solar jobs in Townsville and for solar fans in general! Renewable energy in resources is a spot where we will see a lot of growth over the next 24 months and it’s fantastic to see Sun Metals leading the way. 

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Gladstone solar farm – manufacturing contract signed.

The $500m Gladstone solar farm will be built at Aldoga later this year as the Queensland Government chose to award the contract to Spanish renewable energy giant Acciona Energy who will build the 265MW farm and establish a community benefits fund. It will hope to gain development approval over the next few months. 

Gladstone Solar Farm

Gladstone Solar Farm - Acciona
Gladstone Solar Farm – Acciona (source:acciona.com)

Around 1250 hectares of state owned land at Aldoga will be used to create the solar farm, which is slated to create hundreds of jobs and also provide plenty to the local area as part of the contract:

“As part of the lease agreements, Acciona Energy will also establish a community benefits fund of between $50,000 to $120,000 per year, representing between $1.5 million to $3.6 million over the 30-year lease, to be provided to local clubs, associations and community groups in the region.” Cameron Dick, Queensland Minister for State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning, said.

“Acciona Energy will develop, finance, construct and operate a $500 million solar farm through a 30-year lease with the Queensland Government and they are committed to Buy Queensland and Gladstone Buy Local procurement strategies,” Mr Dick continued.

They’re currently undertaking a ‘detailed feasibility study’ before development approvals are sought, and after that they’ll commence construction:

“This could take around 12 months, meaning construction may begin in the second half of next year, and electricity generation in the second half of 2020,” Acciona Energy Australia Managing Director Brett Wickham said.

We’ve written about solar power in Gladstone before and mentioned this project (where it was proposed as a 450MW renewable hub), so it’s great to see this project finally off the ground and gaining some traction. 

No word on whether Acciona will be thinking about adding energy storage to this solar farm, but with the price sinking rapidly we’ll see how their plans change after they have a go at the DA process and start working on construction! 

 

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Cannington Mine Solar System Installation

Cannington, in North West Queensland, hosts the Cannington mine on an old sheep and cattle station – and it’s going to get a 3MW solar farm! The Cannington Mine solar system has been ordered by South32 and will be built later this year. 

Cannington Mine Solar Farm

Cannington Mine solar farm
Cannington Mine solar farm (source: south32.net)

The Cannington mine is the world’s largest producer of silver and lead. The underground mine was opened in 1997 and is owned by South32, a mining and metals company with its HQ in Perth. The deposit was discovered by BHP Minerals (South32 was spun out of BHP Billiton in 2015) in 1990 and the mine was commissioned in 1997, with the cost of opening around US$450m. 

According to the North West Star, the solar photovoltaic (PV) farm will be installed across six hectares. It’ll generate electricity to supply the accommodation village of the mine and also its airport. Any leftover electricity will prop up the mining and processing operations of the Cannington mine. 

Energy Developments Pty Limited and SunSHIFT has won the tender to deliver the solar PV farm to Cannington – the installation of which is expected to result in 4000-6000 tonnes of greenhouse gases not being released into the atmosphere. Energy Developments currently own and operate over 980MW (almost there!) of energy generators – they focus on landfill gas (LFG) power generation and abatement, waste coal mine gas (WCMG) power generation and abatement, solar, wind, remote energy, and liquefied natural gas. 

Chief Sustainability Officer at South32 Rowena Smith said that she and everyone involved in the Cannington Mine solar farm were excited about the constructions:

“It’s an exciting time in the industry when renewable energy technology and innovation is applied to deliver power to our world-class remote mining operations.” Ms. Smith said. 

 Another great step forward for renewable energy in resources, which is really benefiting from the plummeting cost of installing solar power. It’ll be interesting to see how much money South32 are able to save by installing the Cannington Mine solar farm. We’ll keep you posted! 

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Solar battery database in Queensland – Reg for $50!

Queenslanders that have a solar battery (AKA energy storage) powered by PV solar panels on their roof can earn $50 by registering it on the Queensland solar battery database which was announced last Wednesday, ahead of a national database which is currently being discussed.

Solar battery database in Queensland

Queensland Energy Minister Dr Anthony Lynham announced the database which will work in tandem with the Australian Energy Market Commission, who are currently working on national rules for a register of battery storage systems and distributed energy devices.  

“Households with solar panels are starting to install batteries to store their solar power to use during peak periods,” Lynham said on a press release entitled ‘Queensland leads the way on energy storage‘ hosted on the Queensland Government website.

“Energex and Ergon Energy need to know where those batteries are in an emergency, but also because those batteries can help better manage the electricity network and supply during peak demand.

“This is part of our plan to use network energy assets to further lower wholesale prices, minimise price spikes and increase the resilience of the power networks,” he said. 

“For example, households with batteries, and the service providers operating the equipment on their behalf, will be able to respond to possible peak load events by optimising the use of their battery stored power.”

The register will be to help improve safety during emergencies as emergency service responders can attend fire scenes and if they aren’t aware of energy storage at the premises, it can be an issue for obvious reasons.

Solar Battery Database
Solar Battery Database to assist in safety for grid employees. (source: energex.com.au)

Energy Queensland Chief Executive Officer David Smales discussed the safety concerns and why Queensland are jumping ahead to establish this database:

“Capturing these details in a centralised register will help address these potential safety concerns. 

“It will also create opportunities for Ergon Energy and Energex to potentially work with customers to use these installed battery systems to more broadly contribute to addressing demand and voltage issues in the electricity grid.”

If you want more information about the project or how to redeem your $50 please visit www.energex.com.au or www.ergon.com.au.

Queensland’s solar future is looking bright, with the Palaszczuk Government’s “Powering Queensland’s Future” plan, solar power on over a third of homes, and renewable energy jobs in Queensland more than doubling late last year. 

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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.”

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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. 

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