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.

Solar Energy Australia Statistics – 2017

Solar Energy Australia Statistics – The Clean Energy Regulator released their report on solar power uptake in Australia in 2017. A record 3.5m solar panels were installed on rooftops last year, with their combined output of 1057MW around the same as a mid-sized coal-fired power station. 

Solar Energy Australia Statistics

Small-Scale Renewable Energy in Australia 2016 – 2017(source: cleanenergyregulator.gov.au)

The 1057MW was installed by Australian homes and businesses in 2017, mostly from rooftop solar. That’s the equivalent of 9,500 solar panels being installed in Australia every day of 2017! Commercial solar had a huge influx of big solar systems installed which helped with the numbers. Here are some of the many businesses that installed solar power in 2017: 

Clean Energy Regulator Executive General Manager Mark Williamson was pleased to see the solar uptake in all industries:

“We are seeing a wide cross-section of Australians – households, community centres, schools, and small businesses – receiving incentives under the small-scale renewable energy scheme,” Williamson said.

“Our data shows consumers are embracing renewable energy to take control of their electricity bills” Williams said on the CER website

According to Wikipedia, as of December 2017, Australia had over 7,024 MW of installed photovoltaic (PV) solar power. The CER report shows that in 2017 there was a 41% increase in installed renewable energy capacity compared to 2016. Queensland had the most solar panels installed (295MW), and the ACT showed the greatest annual increase – showing a massive 57% change from its 2016 figures. The CER report also showed that the average solar system size in Australia has increased by 200% – from 3kW to 6kw – as prices continue to decrease and technology increases rapidly. 

The small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme which created financial incentives for homes and small businesses to install small scale renewable energy systems has obviously had the desired effect. It’ll be interesting to see how 2018 fares as it’s already off to a roaring start. 

 

Solar Energy Australia Statistics

sonnen in South Australia – HQ, manufacturing plant.

sonnen in South Australia – the German battery manufacturing giant (which is also the world’s largest home storage energy company) have announced that they’re going to move their Australian headquarters from Sydney to Adelaide. The announcement was made last week during a huge week for renewables in SA – with the upcoming election both major parties have promised $100m in solar loans for South Australian residents.  

sonnen in South Australia

Along with the administrative tasks (i.e. the ‘headquarters’) of sonnen’s Australian operations, they’ll also be setting up a full energy storage manufacturing facility in the state.

Chris Parratt, the Australian boss of sonnen’s Australasian business, said the company will have a solar battery manufacturing facility ‘up and running’ in Adelaide within six to nine months.  According to the Australian Financial Review, Parratt says the facility will be able to produce 10,000 systems a year, including sonnen’s flagship sonnenBatterie line. He noted that they are looking at four separate locations in Adelaide, including the former Holden car manufacturing site and the former Mitsubishi car-making factory in Tonsley Park precinct. 

sonnen in South Australia
sonnen in South Australia – sonnenBatterie eco 8.2 (source: sonnen.com.au)

Parratt noted that sonnen have set up a similar facility in Atlanta in the United States of America in a fast timeline last year telling a press conference (along with South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill) that they’re confident in scope management:

“We believe in about six to nine months we’ll be producing our first energy storage system,” he said. 

sonnen already have 30,000 household batteries installed in Germany, making them the world’s largest home storage energy company. 

It looks like this will go ahead regardless of whether Weatherill’s incumbent party or the South Australian Liberal leader Steven Marshall wrests control of the state – the latter is against renewable energy targets but has also committed to a $100m means-tested subsidy for up to 40,000 households to get interest free solar loans. 

Weatherill was quick to extol the employment ramifications of the move, having been told he was “doubling down to chase his losses” by federal energy minister Josh Frydenberg last week with regards to raising the RET from 50% to 75%:

“We saw yesterday I was accused of being a problem gambler. Well today, South Australia has hit the jobs jackpot,” Mr Weatherill said, referring to Sonnen’s plans, which will create 130 new immediate jobs, rising to 190 by the end of the year, and then another 300 jobs for trades people to install the batteries.

It’s shaping up to be a very interesting election in South Australia. Who are you voting for, and why? Let us know in the comments. 

 
 

Super fund ISPT rolls out rooftop solar.

Superannuation fund property investor ISPT is installing up to 59 rooftop solar properties Australia-wide as part of its $12b portfolio, cutting utility costs by $27 through a range of energy efficiency initiatives. Their National Solar Project is a four-stage initiative which aims to reduce the cost of baseload electricity and improve energy security for ISPT’s clients.

Stage 1 of ISPT Rooftop Solar Rollout

ISPT Rooftop PV Solar Installations (source: http://ispt.net.au)
ISPT Rooftop PV Solar Installations (source: http://ispt.net.au)

Alicia Maynard, ISPT’s GM for sustainability and technical services said on the ISPT website that “We conceived this project in 2016 following a national review of our key property assets in terms of the opportunity to install rooftop solar PV panels,”

According to the Australian Financial Review, stage one will involve the installation of solar panels in 13 buildings for a total of 13,000 square metres of renewable energy generation. ISPT have already finished construction of PV solar rooftop arrays in Perth (at 100 St Georges Terrace), in Canberra (at 18 Marcus Clarke Street and 7 London Circuit) and in Melbourne (at Central West Shopping Centre). 

Some of the upcoming projects will include:

  • 50 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne
  • 477 Pitt Street, Sydney (Sydney Central)

“The solar PV rollout is about positioning our portfolio to be at the forefront of the move to clean energy, taking an industry-leading position that will deliver value for our tenants, dividends for our investors and better solutions for our environment,” said chief executive Daryl Browning.

In stage two another 20 properties will have solar installed – with a massive 45,000 square metres of solar panels planned to be installed. These solar initiatives mean that ISPT’s commercial property portfolio has been given a 4.8 star rating by the NABERS (National Australian Built Environment Rating System) energy efficiency scheme.

Commercial Solar Power in Australia

This is another example of commercial solar gaining traction as a way to diversify portfolios, add value to a property, and reduce exposure to rapidly rising electricity prices. Some examples of recent commercial solar include:

 

 

WePower ICO – Fintech solution for green energy.

Disclaimer: As of the date of publishing nobody at Saving with Solar currently has any investment in WePower but we are planning on joining the ICO.

At Saving with Solar we are extremely interested in the blockchain and how it can help solve issues for those generating solar power. Previously we’ve taken a look at Power Ledger (POWR) and today we’ll look at the upcoming ICO for WePower, which is a “blockchain-based green energy trading platform”. 

WePower ICO

The project allows producers of renewable energy to raise capital by issuing ERC20 energy tokens, which represent energy they commit to produce and deliver. They have support from state power regulators in Lithiuania and electric power companies and will target Europe – Spain, Italy, Germany, Estonia, and others. Numerous solar power plants which produce over 1000MW have joined the project: Conquista Solar, Civitas Project and Novocorex.

Development of the project is divided into three stages:

  1. WePower Breeze – market entrance – “challenging the way how energy investments and purchase are done today by creating the necessary technological layer for the change to happen’. 
  2. WePower Storm – growing the services and usability, and using smart contracts to aggregate and manage flows of renewable energy. 
  3. WePower Hurricane – the final step – a completely new decentralized energy utility.

ICO Start: 1 Feb 2018

ICO End: 15 Feb 2018

Hard cap: $35,000,000

Soft Cap: $5,000,000

Token: WPR, ERC20 standard

ICO Price: 1 ETH = 4000 WPR

Minimum investment: $200

Bonuses: 15% discount for early investors: before reaching the soft cap ($5 million) 4600 WPR will be deposited for 1 ETH.

Accepted currencies: ETH

If you’re interested in investing, click here to read the whitepaper they’re prepared ahead of the ICO. Although we believe in this project we in no way recommend investing in anything like this without doing your due diligence first. One negative, for example, is that there are already a number of projects in the sphere offering fintech solutions for green energy (e.g. Power Ledger). Another is that it hinges entirely on the progress of renewable energy. Obviously we’re bullish on that situation, to say the least, but many countries have a strong oil lobby and prices of oil have decreased recently. And, who knows, maybe a perpetual motion machine is just around the corner. 

Kaspar Kaarlep, the CTO of WePower, has a video below where he discusses their vision for energy transformation in Europe and across the world:

ICORating have assigned a “Positive” rating to the project and recommend it for both short and long term investors – saying the WPR tokens can be “considered both as investments for long-term portfolios, and for the purpose of speculative earnings on the expectations of a successful platform launch and demand for tokens from the initial customers for tokenized energy”. 

WePower ICO Whitepaper Rating
ICOrating.com gives WePower the
highest rate (source: WePower Newsletter)

View an introduction to the system by watching this video!

View a platform demo below:

 

If you have any questions, comments, or insight into this project we’d love to hear about it – please sound off in the comments and we can start a conversation about this exciting new technology. 

Australian solar cell research gets $29.2m grant.

Australian solar cell research has received a $29.2m grant from ARENA (Australian Renewable Energy Agency) – with 11 of the 22 projects currently sponsored associated with UNSW, who has been leading the way in Australia’s solar research for over 40 years. 

Australian Solar Cell Research

ARENA chief exec Ivor Frischknecht was quoted on the UNSW website talking about Australia’s solar research and how ARENA have been able to help with funding projects:

“In this funding round, the candidates and the calibre was so high, we actually increased the total funding we awarded to nearly $30 million,” he said. “This research will improve the technological and commercial readiness of new innovation in solar PV cells and modules, enhance Australia’s position as world-leaders in solar PV R&D and address Australian-specific conditions.”

ARENA’s latest funding round has seen UNSW granted $16.43m for 11 projects. UNSW’s research partner in ACAP (the Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics), ANU, received  $7.89m for six projects, the CSIRO received $3.31m and Monash University got $1.59m.

UNSW and SIRF

Australian Solar Cell Research - UNSW's Solar Industrial Research Facility
Australian Solar Cell Research – UNSW’s Solar Industrial Research Facility (source: unsw.edu.au)

UNSW’s Solar Industrial Research Facility (SIRF) was created in 2011 as a $16m ‘turnkey pilot line manufacturing facility’ which allows UNSW to create silicon solar cells from lab processes to factory ready industrial processes. According to the UNSW website, architects Woods-Bagot modelled the outside of the building to mimic the pattern of multi-crystalline silicon solar cells.

Today, it’s a $30m facility aimed at advancing solar power technology – bringing UNSW’s solar tech to industry partners across the world. SIRF has brought over $8 billion in benefits to Australia over the past ten years – with gains of energy efficiency forecast to save Australians $750m over the next decade. It’s been the recipient of myriad ARENA grants and is a great example of Australia’s commitment to solar power research. 

Dean of UNSW Science Emma Johnston, discussing the grants, said: “At UNSW we are proud to have a long history of world-leading solar innovations dating back to the 1970s. But research is only one part of the puzzle. Equally as important is translating these world-leading ideas into commercially viable products.

“The SIRF facility we stand in today is evidence of this commitment – a place where we work hand in hand with industry to deliver solar solutions for Australia and the world,” Dr. Johnston added. 

Australian solar installs new record in November

Australian solar installs reached an all-time high of 120MW in November, eclipsing the 100MW in October and the record of 110MW set in June 2012, which was ‘artificially’ (for want of a better word) inflated as it was the last month before Queensland cut off the $0.44c premium feed-in tariff. These are massive numbers when compared with the previous few years and a fantastic indicator for the future of renewable energy in Australia. 

Australian Solar Installs in 2017

According to RenewEconomy and The Green Energy Markets’ Renewable Energy Index, for most months in 2016 solar installs were below 60MW and January 2016 had a measly install amount of 45MW. The reason for the big drop in numbers was due to the end of the premium feed-in tariffs and also the federal government’s substantial cutback of the amount of STC rebate certificates it provided. This means the cost of solar (and payback period) increased substantially, dropping the number of installs and casting doubt upon the industry as a whole.

Over the past 12-18 months, however, there’s been a perfect storm of the gigantic rise in the cost of wholesale electricity, better quality and price of solar panels and storage due to technology advances, and excitement about renewable energy have helped raise the numbers of solar uptake. Public perception and interest in the technology due to such projects as the massive Tesla battery in South Australia, German company sonnen’s ‘free power’ offering via sonnenFlat, and the Powerwall 2 battery have all led to Australia’s domestic and commercial solar uptake reaching this all-time high.

Australian Solar Installs 2017 - sonnen's sonnenFlat and sonnenBatterie
Australian Solar Installs 2017 – sonnen’s sonnenFlat and sonnenBatterie (source: sonnen.com.au)

The Renewable Energy Index for October 2017 showed that Queensland leads the way for Australia, with jobs coming via renewable energy projects (both large-scale and rooftop solar) almost doubling over four months from 3,634 at the end of 30 June 2017, to 7,194 in October.

 Amazing news for solar contractors and solar installers – although things may slow down a little over the Christmas period we can’t wait to see what 2018 brings to solar power in Australia. 

Solar Grid Parity in Australia – By 2020?

According to power and utility leader EY Global Advisory, Australia may reach solar grid parity by 2020 – a point where it costs less to produce renewable energy than fossil fuels. This would make Australia one of the first nations to reach this stable grid party point, according to EY’s Serge Colle.

Solar Grid Parity – An Overview

The 2020 parity target was forecast by the EY team by modelling solar panel and battery storage installation uptake in Australia – which will result in a reduction in renewable costs. The rapid expansion of commercial solar is also helping grow Australia towards solar grid parity. 

Solar Grid Parity in Australia By 2030 According to EY Global Advisory
Solar Grid Parity in Australia By 2030 According to EY Global Advisory (source: wikimedia.org)

Serge Colle, head of EY Global’s power and utility section, told the Sydney Morning Herald  “For those in the industry that still believe that [the renewable technologies] we see now will never be technically and economically equal to traditional energy solutions they should reconsider their thinking.”

The information is supported by a study from the Australian National University (ANU), which forecasts that new-build large-scale renewable energy generators will cost as low as $50 AUD per megawatt hour within the next 10 years. 

The report, titled “Meeting Australia’s Paris greenhouse commitment at zero net cost” and written by Andrew Blakers, Matt Stocks and Bin Lu last month, posits that Australia’s current renewable energy install rate of 3GW / year, if continued until 2030, will mean that we will then meet the Paris greenhouse emissions reduction target. At that point, half of Australia’s electricity consumption would be generated by renewable energy. 

The report also takes into account the need for baseline power and the sometimes unreliable nature of renewables (i.e. the sun’s not always out and the wind’s not always blowing), saying: 

“The cost of renewables includes the cost of hourly balancing of the grid to retain the same reliability as at present. Hourly balancing comprises pumped hydro energy storage, stronger interstate high voltage power lines and the cost of PV and wind spillage on windy, sunny days when the energy stores are full.”

It’ll be interesting to see how Australia goes with its Renewable Energy Target and also meeting the Paris emissions reduction target given how quickly renewables have been growing in the country, especially in the last 12-18 months. 2018 is shaping up to be a massive year for wind and solar energy in Australia – strap yourselves in. 

CSU Solar System at Wagga Wagga

CSU Solar – Charles Sturt University at Wagga Wagga is launched its 1.7MW, $3.2 million PV solar system yesterday – the country’s largest ever solar panel installation on a single site. The solar panels have been installed on the rooftops of 17 buildings around campus and it’s expected they will generate enough renewable energy to power 20% of the university’s electricity requirements. It was constructed over a six month period. 

CSU Solar System at Wagga Wagga Launch Party Cake
CSU Solar System at Wagga Wagga Launch Party Cake (source: CSU Green Facebook)

CSU Solar and Renewables

According to the CSU website, in 2016 they became the first carbon neutral university in Australia. Their 1,774 kW (1.7MW) solar installation will generate 2,620,000 kWh in its first year of operation – this is equivalent to the generation of 2,330 tonnes of CO2. Head contractor for the project are experienced large-scale solar installers Todae Solar, who have been responsible for a 1.24MW solar plant at the Brisbane Markets in Rocklea, 1.22MW at Stockland in Shellharbour, a nationwide 2.3MW Aldi rollout, and many more. 

Ed Maher, the manager of CSU Green, says the installation will serve two main roles – for CSU to keep leading in carbon neutrality, and also to ease their heavy reliance on the electricity network. It’s been financed through independent energy services firm Verdia and the tender was managed by Solar Choice late last year. As a result, the install is expected to save money starting from year one – “This is despite our existing low electricity tariffs and the absence of any unique government subsidies or grants,” Ed Maher said. “Given these early savings, I believe it marks a new phase in the financial viability of renewable energy on a large commercial scale which is another step towards a clean energy future.”

A lot about university solar this week – it’s no surprise that our universities are leading the renewables charge, and amazing to watch how quickly it progresses. 

If you’re interested, a drone-shot shot of the solar installation is available to watch below!

Sydney Metro Solar Powered Facility

The $8.3 billion Sydney Metro train network will include a solar project on the roof of a maintenance building at Rouse Hill to help power its facility. The Sydney Metro Solar project will generate around 1.5 million kWh (kilowatt hours) per year – enough to power 270 homes. 

This is a relatively small scale project (given the scope of the main network), but it’s a fantastic first step, and we hope just the start of a long and prosperous relationship between Sydney Metro and renewable energy.

Sydney Metro Solar at Rouse Hill

NSW Transport told the Rouse Hill Times that the solar facility at Rouse Hill will consist of 3,287 solar panels. They’ll be installed on the roof of the maintenance building on Cudgegong Road – this will be one of the largest solar power systems installed on a building in Australia – it’ll cover more than 6,500 square metres.

The renewable energy generated by this solar system will be used to power some of the Sydney Metro railway stations, and also the maintenance facility, where the new metro trains will be washed, inspected, repaired, and serviced. According to the official website, in keeping with the eco-friendly theme of the facility, Sydney Metro trains will be washed in an automated train wash, at least twice a week – and up to 95% of the water used to wash a train will be recycled. 

The trains also use regenerative braking – which means extra energy generated by a slowing train can be pushed back into their local grid and used by nearby trains. 

Sydney Metro Solar Rouse Hill
The Sydney Metro Solar Facility will be installed at Rouse Hill HQ (pictured) (source: sydneymetro.info)

NSW Transport and Infrastructure Minister Andrew Constance told the Daily Telegraph “This is one of the biggest solar power systems mounted on a building in Australia — another milestone that shows the sheer scale of the city-shaping Sydney Metro project,”

Constance noted that “Sydney Metro is the biggest urban rail infrastructure investment in the nation’s history and we’re building it for the long term” – so it’ll be great to see how they couple this with renewable energy and eco-friendly developments during its lifetime.