SolarReserve sign MOU for Aurora Project

American company SolarReserve have signed an MoU with Heliostat SA to manufacture and assemble the components for their solar tower and molten salt storage facility at Port Augusta.

SolarReserve Commence Construction on Aurora Solar Thermal Plant

SolarReserve sign MOU for Aurora Project
SolarReserve sign MOU for Aurora Project (source: solarreserve.com)

SolarReserve announced on Tuesday that they’ll work with Heliostat SA to create 12,800 96 square metre glass mirrors for their Aurora Solar Thermal Plant. 

The solar thermal plant in Port Augusta, South Australia, was announced last August and received developmental approval back in January It is slated to be a $750m project but we haven’t heard any specifics as to updated pricing, and this information is the first news on the project since January of this year. 

According to the CEO of SolarReserve, Kevin Smith, the solar thermal power plant will comprise of approximately 12,000 mirrors, each the size of a billboard (around 100sqm), arranged in a circle over 600 hectares. The mirrors will focus light and heat to the top of a 227m tall tower to generate up to 150MW. This will result in over a million square metres of surface area for the project. 

“Aurora will provide much needed capacity and firm energy delivery into the South Australian market to reduce price volatility,” Mr. Smith said at the time. He elaborated today when discussing the deal with Heliostat SA: 

“We’re excited to have formed a long-term partnership with Heliostat SA and look forward to teaming up with them to bring manufacturing of our world-class heliostats to South Australian workers,” said Mr. Smith.

“SolarReserve is committed to supporting South Australia’s goals which will attract investment, create South Australian jobs and build an exciting and growing new industry.”

According to an article on RenewEconomy the project will create around 200 full time solar jobs for the area, with 650 to be employed during the construction phase. 

This project is a bit slow and new information is thin on the ground, so great to hear that it’s moving ahead. We’ll keep you posted as soon as there’s any new information on the solar thermal plant! 

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Solar and Wind Farms in the Sahara Desert

New research in Science magazine shows that installing solar and wind farms in the Sahara Desert could generate massive amounts of electricity and turn parts of the desert green for the first time in over 4,500 years. 

Solar and Wind Farms in the Sahara Desert

The Sahara Desert (source: Wikipedia)
The Sahara Desert (source: Wikipedia)

Atmospheric scientist at the University of Maryland, Eugenia Kalnay, has been working on this theory for over ten years, postulating that the darkness of solar panels won’t reflect the sunlight – helping heat up the surface of the land – which will in turn drive air upwards into the atmosphere (which, in turn, generates rain). 

Dr. Kalnay talked one of her post-doc researchers into creating a computer simulation where 20% of the Sahara is covered with solar panels. They also tried a simulation where the desert was covered in turbines to generate renewable energy from wind. The simulation was successful – with rainfall in the desert increasing by a large enough amount so that vegetation could return to the Sahara.

“It is wonderful!” Dr. Kalnay was quoted as saying in an article by NPR. “We were so happy because it seems like a major solution for some of the problems that we have.”

The Sahara Desert solar farm in the simulation is gigantic – bigger than the entire continental United States. It’d be able to generate 400% of the energy the world currently requires. Would there be a way to install high-capacity transmission lines to transport this power across seas and land? It’s certainly a fantastic concept that seems straight out of a science fiction novel, but technology is increasing at such a pace that ideas like this are, whilst admittedly still in nascent stages, potentially viable. 

Take a look at our articles on printable solar panels/cells to see how, if room wasn’t an issue, how much cheaper large-scale solar could be with lower efficiency panels. 

More great information for solar cell technology. Just a thought experiment at this point but it’s exciting to see what the future could hold for renewable energy in the Sahara Desert! 

 

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Pilbara Solar Farm | Alinta Planning Off Grid Solar Farm

Alinta Energy have applied to the Western Australia Department of Water and Resources to clear 160 hectares at the proposed site of its Pilbara solar farm. 

Pilbara Solar Farm | Alinta Energy

Pilbara Solar Farm Alinta
Pilbara Solar Farm by Alinta Energy (source: AlintaEnergy.com.au)

The planning application send through to the department is for permission to clear the 160 hectares of the site and also lays out a planning application for the Pilbara solar farm. 

“The clearing will be required so that Alinta Energy Transmission (Chichester) Pty Ltd (Alinta) can build, own and operate a solar field located adjacent to Fortescue Metals Group’s (FMG’s) Christmas Creek Substation in the Pilbara region of Western Australia (the Project),” the application says, according to RenewEconomy, who have quoted ‘solar industry insiders’ who estimate the size of the solar farm to be around 60MW (Alinta haven’t announced the size of the proposed farm yet).  

“The Project will supply FMG’s Christmas Creek mine site with power to support ongoing mining operations” the report continues.

It’s understood that the project will probably use single axis tracking and hopefully usurp the current energy for the Christmas Creek mine – an expensive and ecologically unfriendly 58MW diesel plant. This goes to show how important renewable energy in resources is – especially when you’re dealing with a site far from the grid. Some of these mines use an astronomical amount of power and having as much as possible of that power requirement coming from renewable energy is a fantastic step in the right direction for the resources industry in Australia. 

Last month Alinta made a development application for the 65km energy transmission line which would link the Christmas Creek mine with the Cloudbreak mine – so this gives us a bit of an idea as to what they are hoping to achieve in the future. Don’t be surprised if you hear more about this solar farm and a whopping great battery to go with it! Watch this space. 

 

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National Energy Guarantee approved by Coalition party room

The NEG (National Energy Guarantee) has been passed by the Coalition party room after a strenuous morning of debate – let’s take a look at what happens next. 

Next Steps For National Energy Guarantee

NEG - National Energy Guarantee
NEG – National Energy Guarantee (source: ABC News: Matt Roberts)

We wrote earlier this week about the NEG approval and how Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has a very hard road ahead if he’s to push this policy through parliament:

“The Labor Party has to decide whether they want to support cheaper and more reliability electricity,” Mr Turnbull said.

“We have got to bring an end to the years of ideology and idiocy which have been a curse on energy policy for too long and that is why industry – whether you’re talking about big industrial consumers or small business, consumer groups  – are calling on government, governments, and oppositions to get behind this policy.”

The four issues which we discussed earlier this week are still in a state of flux:

  1. The emission reduction targets can only ever increase and must not decrease.
  2. Targets need to be set in regulation (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 opposition (federal Labor) are also in favour of the NEG but they want the 2030 emissions reduction target increased from 26% to 45%:

“We are still very keen on trying to find a bipartisan way through the deep energy crisis that has emerged under this Prime Minister,” shadow energy and climate change minister Mark Butler said.

“We will continue to fight for a much more ambitious investment setting for this sector so you do see new renewable energy jobs and investment and you do see downward pressure on power prices.”

According to former PM Tony Abbot, the NEG still needs a lot of work as most of its support is currently ‘conditional’ and at least a dozen members of the Coalition had expressed concern about the NEG. Abbot said that the provided explanations of how the NEG “might theoretically get prices down” sounded “like merchant bankers’ gobbledegook”:

‘We’ve got to be loyal to our electorates and to party members too and not show the unity of lemmings.’,” Mr Abbott continued.

The Australian Financial Review has the numbers at 26 MPs supporting the policy and around 10 yet to be convinced. 

For the next steps, the state ministers will be asked to support a month long public consultation on laws which will affect their constituents. The state legislation should then be finalised by the end of October and we’ll see what sort of shape (if any) the NEG is at that point. Federal legislation tied to the NEG will be introduced within the next 10 days. 

 

 

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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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Global wind and solar statistics – 1 Terawatt reached!

Global wind and solar statistics – Bloomberg New Energy Finance are reporting that global wind and solar energy capacity reached the 1TW milestone at the end of June this year.

Global wind and solar statistics

Global wind and solar statistics - Wikipedia
Global wind and solar statistics (source: wikipedia.org) (By Jürgen from Sandesneben, Germany – Flickr, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1372121)

According to Wikipedia, renewable energy contributed 19.3% to global energy consumption and 24.5% to the generation of electricity in 2015 and 2016, respectively. This has risen sharply in the past couple of years and research indicates that we will continue to speed above and beyond the trillion watts – which is 1 million MW, or a billion kW, if that makes it easier to understand!

Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) release a report this week which is based on their comprehensive and up-to-date database of renewable energy projects. The report notes that 54% of the renewable energy generated was from wind, and 46% represents solar power. This is interesting as it shows how quickly solar is reaching wind power – in 2007 we had 8GW of capacity (around 8% of the world’s renewable energy) – in comparison to wind power which had 89GW.  According to Renew Economy this represents a gigantic increase of 57x of solar’s 2007 statistics. 

With one terawatt out of the way, Business Green have been crunching the numbers with regards to the second one, which will undoubtedly be far faster and far cheaper than the first:

“The BNEF analysts predict that the pace of renewables rollout will accelerate even more in the coming years, with the second terawatt expected to arrive by mid-2023.”

It looks like wind and solar will produce more power than coal in America within the next 10 years. How will the figures be for the rest of the world? How will Australia go given the future of our National Energy Guarantee is shaky at best (not to mention it’s receiving plenty of criticism in either case). How will solar battery storage affect these figures? Will the huge influx of commercial solar system installations help us reach the next terawatt much faster? Watch this space. It’s going to be an exciting few years for renewable energy! 

 

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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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Latrobe Valley solar: 30 public buildings to get PV.

Latrobe Valley solar energy is set to get a boost with 30 public buildings in the area to have rooftop installed at no cost, thanks to a bit of help from the state government in Victoria.

Latrobe Valley Solar Scheme

Energy and environment minister Lily D’Ambrosio was in Moe last week to discuss the scheme and show the Latrobe Valley residents a list of the public buildings in line for free solar upgrades, including in some cases solar hot water and lighting. One such building is the Toongabbie Mechanics Institute – a building where existing solar has already saved $500 on last quarter’s electricity bill. Toongabbie Mechanics Institute treasurer Roger Ries summed it up very succintly:

“It’s made amazing reductions. It’s cheaper for the recreation reserve users and it will make it cheaper for the hall here,” Mr Ries said.

Minister D’Ambrosio spoke about the impact these home solar energy upgrades will have on the lives of lives of 1000 vulnerable Gippslanders.

“The energy upgrades and solar installations will not only help bring down energy prices for the Latrobe Valley, they will create local jobs in the renewable energy sector,” she said.

According to the Latrobe Valley Express, over 1000 households/low incomes earners are also eligible for solar systems as part of the $5 million Latrobe Valley Home Energy Upgrade Program.  Local businesses Gippsland Solar (who are responsible for the fantastic Camberwell Grammar School Solar System), Sunny Afternoons and Rocky’s Electrical will be used for both programs which will create 10 full-time jobs.

Latrobe Valley Solar Scheme
Latrobe Valley Solar Scheme (source: EPA Victoria)

There’s been some great solar news for the Latrobe Valley / Gippsland area with regards to both end-user solutions and large-scale renewable energy production – with a 70MW solar farm on the outskirts of Morwell announced back in April, to be build by ARP Australian Solar who said the plant will be a hybrid solar and battery farm which create “well over 100 jobs [during construction]” for the area. 

“There would also be a number of ongoing jobs … involving security, electrical testing, monitoring and what have you.”, according to ARP Australian solar director George Hughes. 

Mr Hughes elaborated on a potential timeline for the Morwell solar farm: 

“With everything going according to plan, we’re looking to start construction in January or February next year, early 2019.”

We’ll keep you updated on both the Latrobe Valley Solar Scheme and the Morwell solar farm. Exciting times for Gippsland!

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Global investment in solar power in 2017

The United Nations are reporting that global investment in solar power in 2017 was substantially higher than any other energy source, with a massive 45% of the investment coming from China. Let’s investigate this a little deeper and see what some industry professionals have to say.  

Investment in Solar Power

In a record-breaking year, the 98GW of new solar capacity is higher than any other tech, including other renewables like wind or water turbines, nuclear or fossil fuels. There’s 6GW of this going to Australia – Iain MacGill from UNSW discussed the massive increase in Australian domestic solar via the ABC:

“We have the highest [per capita] rooftop residential solar market in the world, and by quite a big margin,” Dr MacGill said.

“A large proportion of Australia’s investment has gone into South Australia [and that means] we’re at the leading edge of working out how to integrate that renewable power into the electricity market.”

Professor Ulf Moslener from the Frankfurt School UNAP Centre discussed China’s huge $126 billion investment in solar power, where air pollution currently kills around a million people per year:

“The costs are still falling which makes the dominance in investment terms in China even more thrilling,” he said.

The director of ANU’s Energy Change Institute, Ken Baldwin, said there’s still plenty of room to grow and that the next ‘decade or two’ will see the closing of all Australian coal-fired plants: 

“What will be interesting to see is whether this can be maintained,” Professor Baldwin said.

“There was 6 gigawatts of solar, both residential and commercial installed in [Australia] in 2017.

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Renewable Energy Storage Target for South Australia

South Australian premier Jay Weatherill is on the campaign trail at the moment – promising to introduce Australia’s first renewable energy storage target (which the state will subsidise) and also upping the current state-based 2025 renewable energy target from 50% to 75% (given they’re already at 48.9%).

Renewable Energy Storage Target

Jay Weatherill - Renewable Energy Storage Target for South Australia
Jay Weatherill – Renewable Energy Storage Target for South Australia (source: @jayweatherill on Twitter)

Weatherill was at an election forum which was about the environment on Tuesday (the 20th) and said the South Australian state election to be held on March 17 will be primarily focused on renewable energy – a ‘referendum on renewables’ of sorts: 

“If we go down, they will be wagging their fingers at everybody around the nation, to say that’s what happens if you push too hard into renewable energy,” Weatherill said. “That’s what the prime minister is trying to do and that’s what is going to happen.”

He has promised to lift the renewable energy target to 75% and implement a renewable energy storage target which would be 25% of SA’s peak demand – approximately 750MW of storage. The government would help the private sector meet this target through subsidy arrangements. 

Weatherill discussed his party’s policy further with Guardian Australia, noting that South Australia are happy to continue ‘going it alone’ if they’re not going to get any help from the Turnbull government:

“It’s a rejection of the federal government’s approach – and the state Liberal party’s approach,” Weatherill said. “We’re not interested in putting our leadership in renewable energy in the hands of people that don’t believe in a renewable energy future.”

Carnegie Clean Energy reported yesterday that they have secured $3 million in government funding to build a 2MW, 500 kWh Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) at the General Motors Holden site in Elizabeth, South Australia. With the rapidly decreasing cost of large-scale energy storage, it seems that the Renewable Energy Storage target shouldn’t be too much of a problem and will be a massive help to baseline power and will also assist in reducing the blackouts which plagued the country in 2016.

“This solar and battery project by Carnegie is part of a wave of new investment in South Australia we have leveraged through the $150m Renewable Technology Fund announced as part of our energy plan,” Weatherill said at the time.

In further news, Weatherill has today announced that South Australian households will be able to apply for a $10,000 loan to cover the cost of installing solar panels and battery storage – which we’ll cover tomorrow. 

 

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