Solar Panel Degradation | New Software

Solar panel degradation is a big issue, and one of the problems with it is that it can be a bit nebulous to measure, especially if you’re off-site. An Indian university may have some answers with regards to measuring this in a cost and time effective method.

Solar Panel Degradation | Alternatives to on-site inspection.

Parveen Bhola is a research scholar at India’s Thapar Institute of Engineering and Technology. Alongside Saurabh Bhardwaj, an associate professor at Thapar, the pair have developed and optimised statistical and machine learning-based alternatives to enable real-time on or off-site inspection of solar panels to measure the solar panel degradation. This is achieved throughout the usage of clustering-based computation – utilising historical meteorological data to compete performance ratios and solar panel degradation. Factors such as temperature, pressure, wind speed, solar power created, sunshine hours, humidity and historical performance are all utilised to come up with a measurement of the panels’ effectiveness. 

“The majority of the techniques available calculate the degradation of PV (photovoltaic) systems by physical inspection on site. This process is time-consuming, costly, and cannot be used for the real-time analysis of degradation,” Bhola said in a quote posted on TechXplore. “The proposed model estimates the degradation in terms of performance ratio in real time.”

As solar panel technology increases, it’s important that our tools for troubleshooting and optimising their output be improved commensurately; this is a great step for all solar system holders, but especially those in rural areas where having someone come on site is cost and time prohibitive. With this new technique it’s likely that troubleshooting will be more efficient and perhaps even point out problems before they occur. 

Solar Panel Degradation - Thapar Insitute of Engineering and Technology
Solar Panel Degradation – Thapar Insitute of Engineering and Technology (source: Thapar.edu)

The article, “Clustering-based computation of degradation rate for photovoltaic systems,” can be found in the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2018 (DOI: 10.1063/1.5042688). You can also find it online: https://aip.scitation.org/doi/full/10.1063/1.5042688.

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True Value Solar to shut down in Australia

True Value Solar, a German owned solar installation company in Australia, will shut down over the coming months as it struggles to compete in the local marketplace.

True Value Solar Shutdown

True Value Solar
True Value Solar

True Value Solar was once Australia’s biggest solar installation company, so this comes as a bit of a shame. With that said, their heavy discounting and price-focused product range led to its own issues as well. The company has 3.2 stars on ProductReview and has been sinking rapidly as the solar race to the bottom continues – as the old saying goes, good price, quality, and speed – you can pick two. Unfortunately this has now claimed another scalp and True Value have decided to exit the market. 

The company had been owned by German company M+W Group since 2011, when they invested in a controlling stake. They bought out the entire True Value Solar company in 2013 and have since rebranded as Exyte.  

Exyte, who turns over $4 billion per annum, have decided to exit the country and shut up shop. A map on its website with over 20 countries where Exyte operate no longer shows Australia .

True Value solar MD David McCallum hasn’t made any comment yet, nor has Exyte said anything official, but comments in One Step Off The Grid note that the status of the company (i.e. the upcoming closure) was ‘confirmed’ by RenewEconomy today. The current ~30 employees have already been informed of plans to shutter the company.

It’s understood that the winding down of True Value will be a gradual process so they are able to honour existing contracts and warranties as much as possible. No word yet on how it will affect their commercial solar arm. 

If you want to remember the good old days, please have a look below which shows you a ‘typical True Value Home Installation’.

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Ballarat Energy Storage System | Solar Storage in Victoria

The Ballarat Energy Storage System has been turned on by the Victorian Government today – let’s take a look at this unique battery and see how it will help shape Victoria’s energy future!

Ballarat Energy Storage System

The Ballarat Energy Storage System has 30MW capacity and can output 30MWh – it’s located at the Ballarat terminal station and is owned by Australian energy company Ausnet. The battery storage units are Fluence branded, and were installed by Spotless and Downer Group.

Ballarat Energy Storage System
Ballarat Battery Energy Storage System (source: spotless.com)

ARENA and the Victorian Government will jointly provide $25 million in funding for both this project and the Gannawarra Energy Storage System (GESS). The project (BESS) is expected to end up costing around $35m. 

Lily D’Ambrosio, the minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, made a statement about the Ballarat Energy Storage System discussing the Government’s plans for Australia’s renewable energy future:

“We said we would deliver these large-scale batteries for Victoria, and that’s exactly what we’ve done,” she said.

“This is part of our plan to transition to a more affordable, reliable and clean energy system. We’re modernising our electricity grid, strengthening our energy security and delivering real action on climate change.”

According to RenewEconomy, the battery will be most useful in these three situations:

  1. It can help with congestion on Victoria’s transmission grid (especially as it’s installed at a network terminal rather than a wind or solar farm (which is the norm)). 
  2. It’ll help shore up the baseline load for Melbourne, especially during peak times when air conditioners and deconstructed latte machines are switched on en masse; and
  3. It’ll provide ‘key grid stability services’ like frequency control. 

Lastly, straight from the horses’s mouth:

The battery will store energy at times of relatively low value. The battery will use stored energy and use it at times of relatively high value. The project will also examine providing other grid services such as frequency control ancillary services (FCAS) and, should it be established under the electricity market rules, a Fast Frequency Response (FFR).

It’ll be fascinating to see how this works over the summer – we’ll, of course, also be keeping a close eye on the Tesla batteries at the Hornsdale Power Reserve to see if they’re able to continue delivering massive savings to the SA government. How long until the rest of the states follow suit? 

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Euroa microgrid: community solar to avoid summer blackouts.

The Euroa Environment Group is leading a $6 million grassroots project which will see 589 kW of new solar panels and up to 400 kW of energy storage installed to create a local Euroa microgrid. This will help avoid the summer blackouts which have plagued the small north-east Victoria city in recent years. 

Euroa Microgrid in combination with Mondo Power and Globird Energy

Euroa Microgrid
Euroa Microgrid Diagram (source: Mondo Power via abc.net.au)Mon

The EEG (Euroa Environment Group) is a local collective formed to help the issue of constant blackouts in the small city. They’ve now got a huge $6m project which will see the EEG partner with Mondo Power, Globird Energy, and 14 local businesses in Euroa who will install the technology, creating a microgrid in the city which means the town will have greater electricity supply reliability, and will also reduce local demand for electricity during peak times.

The Andrews Labor Government has also given a $600,000 solar grant towards the project, which is currently underway.

Shirley Saywell, president of the EEG and local business owner, has discussed the reasons they’ve taken this path:

“We believe that unfortunately we’re not getting good leadership from our Federal politicians, and I believe it’s up to grassroots organisations to drive the renewables charge,” she said.

“There’s no one simple answer to coal, and I think that’s not well understood.”

“Leadership is coming from groups like ours because we understand there is a range of solutions, and there’s not one simple solution. It’s about being clever about what’s available to us.”

 This sort of community solar is also a hot topic of discussion for Australia’s politicians:

Jaclyn Symes, Member for Northern Victoria, discussed how this could impact future decisions for other towns suffering from unreliable power supply:

“Everyone is becoming more educated around the opportunities and the options for reducing reliance on coal,” Ms Symes said.

“I expect that lots of people will be watching with interest about how this works and what savings people will see, and what types of reliability of power improvements can be generated as well.”

We’ll keep you updated with any news from this microgrid and how it helps Euroa traverse the 18/19 summer. 

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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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