Solar in Space – China’s Plans Revealed.

Chinese media are reporting that solar in space may not be as far off as we think – they’re revealed plans to build a power station orbiting the earth. Let’s take a look at the plans and see what other countries are also working on renewable energy in the solar system. 

Solar in Space – How does it work?

Solar in Space - Mars Rover (source: nasa.gov)
Solar in Space – Mars Rover (source: nasa.gov)

Chinese Media have made a statement about the solar space race – their idea is that a station could orbit the earth at 36,000 kilometres – enough to get the sun’s energy but not experience any atmosphere interference. Seasonal and night-time loss of sunlight will also be totally negated, so the station would be able to generate significantly more power than those on earth which are subject to the sun’s whims.

Chinese journal Science and Technology Daily has reported that the city of Chongqing is the host of construction of an early experimental space solar plant. 

Pang Zhihao, researcher from the China Academy of Space Technology Corporation, said a space solar power station held the promise of providing “an inexhaustible source of clean energy for humans”, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. The space solar station would be able to supply energy at 6x the power of solar farms on earth – reliably supplying energy “99%” of the time. 

The next plan for China is to build and launch a number of small/medium sized solar power stations which will be launched into the stratosphere between 2021 – 2025. 

According to the SMH Japanese, Indian and European scientists are also working on the best way to generate solar power in space. What impact could this unlimited power have on things like the Mars Rover which was ‘pronounced dead‘ over the last week? According to the researches, the energy would be converted to electricity and send to the earth via a microwave or laser beam – so they’ll need to work on ensuring this won’t have any bad effects on atmosphere or the earth in general before it goes ahead. 

 
 

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Solar glass shopping centre – Vicinity Centres/ClearVue.

Australia’s largest retail landlord, Vicinity Centres, has partnered with innovative solar glass company ClearVue Technology to install transparent solar panels (solar glass) to help their shopping centre’s environmental footprint and potentially save money on energy.

Solar Glass – Vicinity Centres partner with ClearVue 

We’ve written about ClearVue Technology quite a few times on this website, from their solar bus shelters to commercial solar windows, the company have been working hard bringing their integrated clear glass solar panel to market in Australia and overseas.

The company have now partnered with Vicinity Centres to install solar glass in its Warwick Grove shopping centre atrium entry. The solar glass atrium has 26 solar cells inbuilt, which generate up to 1MW. It also works as insulation – with materials inside the window deflecting energy to small PV cells at the edge of the screen. This solar window tech is something we’ve been very excited about for a long time so it it’s amazing to watch it enjoying some real world application! 

According to ClearVue, this is the first commercial installation of fully transparent solar cell glass in the entire world. The solar atrium will power lighting, outside signage, a digital display screen within the centre, and it’ll send any excess energy to battery storage at night. So it’s a pretty far cry from actually powering the shopping centre, but that’s not really the point right now. 

“While other products exist, these are typically optically distorted or coloured, or they are not yet commercially available and are still in the research and pre-commercialisation stages,” a ClearVue spokesman said in quotes to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Solar Glass - Vicinity and ClearVue Technologies (source: clearvuepv.com)
Solar Glass – Vicinity and ClearVue Technologies (source: clearvuepv.com)

The Vicinity Centres general manager for shopping centre management, Justin Mills, was also very excited about the new installation:

“(the solar atrium) reinvents the way we harvest renewable energy, reduces our exposure to the volatile energy market and our carbon footprint – a key focus for Vicinity.

“We’re excited to be trialling such innovative, leading-edge technology and embarking on a global-first in solar energy application.” he continued.

If you’d like to read more about solar power installed at shopping centres, take a look at the Stockland Solar Power Rollout – which will see 12.3MW installed across 10 shopping centres in Australia.

You can also read about Vicinity Centres’ solar project – which is the investment of $28m to install 11.2MW of solar power in five shopping centres.

According to Smallcaps, ClearVue Technologies have also signed a a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Grafsol General Trading for exclusive distribution rights in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar. 

“This MoU represents a great opportunity for ClearVue to break into the Middle Eastern region,” said Victor Rosenberg, executive chairman of ClearVue Technologies.

We’ll report more about ClearVue in the middle east next week! 

Have a great weekend.

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Bright Acre Energy – Solar IPO, 2019 Plans

European solar project developer Wirsol Energy have an Australian arm known as Bright Acre Energy. The company has been working on a $500m IPO of their Aussie solar portfolio, but news is thin on the ground lately. Let’s take a look at what to expect from BAE in 2019.

Bright Acre Energy $500m Australian Solar IPO

Bright Acre Energy Gannawarra Solar Farm
Bright Acre Energy Gannawarra Solar Farm (source: brightacreenergy.com.au)

Bright Acre Energy have ten projects in various stages of completion, situated in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. According to the Australian Financial Review, the projects are set to fully connect to the national power grid by the end of 2019. These five projects will total over 1100MW, which is enough electricity to power 350,000+ houses. The official site names the farms as currently having 397MWp of nameplate capacity, with half of this commercially operational and the other half ‘almost there’. 

Former Australian rugby union player Bill Calcraft was the CEO last year, and along with Gerard Dover the site has them listed as ‘Proposed Management’ – so not sure what this means for 2019 – and there hasn’t been any specific news on their potential IPO. We’ve reached out to the team and will keep you updated if we find out anything about Bright Acre’s plans for the rest of the year. 

Bright Acre Energy are currently responsible for the following projects, as per their website:

  • Hamilton Solar Farm (Collinsville, QLD) (Operational) (69MWp)
  • Whitsunday Solar Farm (Collinsville, QLD) (Operational) (69MWp)
  • Clermont Solar Farm (Clermont, QLD) (Near-term Operational) (89MWp)
  • Springdale Solar Farm (Springdale, NSW) (Pipeline) (120MWp)
  • Bomen Solar Farm (Bomen, NSW) (Pipeline) (120MWp)
  • Hay Solar Farm (Hay, NSW) (Pipeline) (140 MWp)
  • Buronga Energy Station (Buronga, NSW) (Pipeline) (400MWp)
  • Wemen Solar Farm aka Wemen Sun Farm (Wemen, NSW) (Near-term Operational) (110MWp)
  • Gannawarra Energy Storage System (Kerang, VIC) (25MW/50MWh)
  • Gannawarra Solar Farm (Kerang, VIC) (60MWp)

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Recycling Solar Panels | What to do with old solar panels.

Recycling solar panels is a topic which will be a lot more prevalent as the initial ‘wave’ panels begin to reach their end of life. Let’s take a look at what the plans are for trying to minimise the environmental impact and maximise the value  of a used solar panel.

Recycling Solar Panels | Will there be a waste crisis for old panels?

Australia has one of the highest PV solar uptakes in the world. There are plenty of us who have had solar installed for a long time. So long, in fact, that people are talking about end of life strategies to dispose of/ repurpose solar panels, so that they don’t cause a problem for the environment. 

Total Environment Centre director Jeff Angel has been crusading for the implementation of such strategies for solar panels, calling it a ‘systemic problem’:

“We’ve had a solar panel industry for years which is an important environmental initiative, and it should have been incumbent on government to act in concert with the growth of the industry so we have an environmentally responsible end-of-life strategy,” he said in a quote to the Sydney Morning Herald.

We’ve written previously about solar panel recycling and, although it’s good to see things like the ELSi project in Germany, there’s still a ways to go before we figure out the best way forward to recycle solar waste.

Reclaim PV: Recycling Solar Panels
Reclaim PV: Recycling Solar Panels (source: reclaimpv.com)

According to the director of Reclaim PV (the only dedicated photovoltaic recycler in Australia), Clive Fleming, they company recycles 90 per cent of materials in a panel. The company has been lobbying for state bans on landfill disposal of solar panels. 

Australian Council of Recycling chief executive Peter Schmigel also had a quote in the SMH about how a proper plan for recycling PV cells could have a positive effect on the economy:

“Recovery rates have been out of sight since the beginning of the scheme, nobody has said anything at all about there being an inbuilt recycling cost. It generates jobs, it generates environmental outcomes and yet for some reason we have policymakers who are hesitant about [establishing similar schemes] for solar PVs and batteries,” he said.

We expect over the coming year or two we’ll hear a lot more about this, with Sustainability Victoria working on a ‘national approach to photovoltaic product stewardship’, with their recommendations presented to the environment ministers around the middle of this year. 

Victoria have already announced they’ll ban electronic waste in landfill from July 2019, so it’ll be interesting to see if/how the other states follow suit.
 

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Finley Solar Farm | Canadian Solar KuMax Modules

Canadian Solar have announced that the Finley Solar Farm will be using their KuMax modules and EPC services for the $170m project in New South Wales.

Finley Solar Farm | Canadian Solar KuMax Modules

Finley Solar Farm
Finley Solar Farm (source: FinleySolarFarm.com.au)

The Finley Solar Farm will use almost half a million Canadian Solar CS3U-P Kumax Panels with single axis tracking, according to SolarQuotes. The modules are ‘split cell/half cut’ with 144 cells per module. Canadian Solar don’t have a huge presence in Australia yet, and it looks like they are going to focus on commercial solar installations for the time being. The farm will cost around $170m and will be built 6km west of Finley (which is located around 140km west of Albury, which is a city in southern New South Wales with a population of around 51,000).  According to their website, the 175MW farm will be developed by ESCO Pacific, one of Australia’s leading renewable energy developers, with construction being managed by Signal Energy Australia.

Canadian Solar Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Shawn Qu discussed their input in the project:

“We are delighted to be selected by ESCO Pacific to provide EPC (Engineering, procurement and construction) services together with Signal Energy and to supply our 1500V crystalline module to this large-scale solar power plant,” said Dr. Qu in a statement on the official Canadian Solar website. 

The farm has started construction (which started in December 2018) and the Finley Solar Farm is expected to be completed in Q3 this year, so not long at all! The energy has already mostly been spoken for, with a 7 year PPA signed last July by ESCO Pacific and Bluescope for the Finley Solar Farm to sell 66% of its output to Bluescope – with the PPA (Power Purchasing Agreement) the biggest corporate PPA of its kind in Australia at the time. 

John Nowlan, the head of Australian steel at BlueScope, said the contract will be a step in the right direction while they continue to support the National Energy Guarantee and rely less and less on non-renewable energy:

“(The contract) will help keep downward pressure on our energy costs, and will support the gradual transition to renewable energy,” Mr Nowlan told the Australian Financial Review.

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