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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Karadoc Solar Farm | Solar Farms in Victoria

The Karadoc Solar Farm has launched and is currently exporting power to the grid – making it the biggest solar farm in Victoria (for now). 

Karadoc Solar Farm

Karadoc Solar Farm
Karadoc Solar Farm (source: baywa-re.com.au)

The 112MW Karadoc Solar Farm can power over 110,000 homes. It’s located 35km south of Mildura and is being built by German-based energy company Bay-Wa. With 112MW it is just marginally larger than the Bannerton solar park, which outputs 110MW and is responsible for powering solar powered trams in Melbourne

As per this article from RenewEconomy, brewer Carlton and United Breweries (CUB) has contracted the entire output of the project in its goal to become 100% powered by renewable energy. 

“This represents an important step in CUB’s commitment to 100 per cent of its electricity being sourced from renewables,” said CUB CEO Jan Craps at the time.

There are a number of large-scale solar farms in Victoria in various stages of their life cycle, but all will be online by summer 2018/19:

  • Bannerton Solar Farm (110MW)
  • Karadoc Solar Farm (112MW)
  • Yatpool Solar Farm (81MW – Also a Bay-Wa project)
  • Wemen Solar Farm (110MW – also known as the Wemen Sun Farm)
  • Ganawarra Solar Farm (50MW – Live)
  • Swan Hill Solar Farm (15MW – Live)
  • Kiamal Solar Farm (265MW DC – won’t be completed until the middle of next year)

This isn’t even mentioning the 928MW which will be generated via three solar and wind farms as per a recent Victoria government renewable energy tender. 

Daniel Gäfke, Managing Director of BayWa r.e. Solar Pte Ltd. “The Karadoc solar farm is the largest installation ever undertaken by BayWa r.e and is a great showcase of our ability to procure, design and build projects of this size anywhere in the world. Australia is a very important market for us and this investment is testament to the commitment we have to help increase Australia’s renewable energy capacity.”

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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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Scotch College Solar | Perth School Solar

Scotch College, a private school founded in 1897 in Perth, has installed 512kW of rooftop solar across multiple rooftops on its premises with the goal of saving around $235,000 a year on energy costs. Another great step in the right direction for solar schools! 

Scotch College Solar System| Perth School Solar

Scotch College Solar System
Scotch College Solar System (source: Verdia.com.au)

Scotch College installed a large-scale PV solar system at their school, with 1,280 photovoltaic solar panels (enough to cover 10 tennis courts) now currently generating 512kW of solar power. According to an article on One Step Off The Grid, this 512kW is expected to cover 26% of the school’s energy needs. 

It has been installed by Verdia , who were also responsible for financing a 1.7MW, $3.2 million PV solar system at the CSU Wagga Wagga campus late last year, and are helping Stockland Shopping Centres out with their gigantic commercial solar rollout (they’ve worked on Stockland Merrylands and Stockland Caloundra most recently). 

“It’s cheaper and cleaner than grid power and is a working example to students of a 21st century distributed power system,” said Verdia CEO Paul Peters.

“The 512-kilowatt rooftop solar system has been installed across multiple buildings within the senior, junior/middle and maintenance school areas. It will replace about 26% percent of grid electricity use on-site with emission free, renewable power.” he continued. 

According to an official post about the Scotch College Solar System on the Verdia website, the solar project is expected to pay for itself in just under five years and it will save the school $4m in reduced energy costs over the life of the assets. 

If you’re interested in learning more about the options for adding solar power to schools and classrooms, you can also read our article from earlier this year about the Hivvee solar powered school classrooms currently being trialled in NSW. 

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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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