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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GreatCell Solar Enters Administration

Last month one of Australia’s longest running solar tech companies, GreatCell Solar, went into administration after the double blow of the death of their lead scientist and a failure to secure funding for its Dye Solar Cells prototype facility. 

GreatCell Solar Calls In Administrators

GreatCell Solar have unfrotunately had to call in administrators in December 2018 due to the death of their chief scientist and a problem with funding.

“The decision follows a series of unfortunate and unwelcome developments in recent weeks, including the untimely death of chief scientist Dr Hans Desilvestro in a mountaineering accident on 10 November,” Greatcell (ASX:GSL) told investors in mid-December. 

According to Stockhead, GreatCell has developed a third generation photovoltaic (PV) technology called Dye Solar Cells (DSC). DSCs are based on dye-sensitised films and are able to convert any visible light (including indoor low light) into electricity. They have been trying to get more funding for the tech but they’ve had problems with that too.

GreatCell Funding Fail

“Despite a global search and chasing down every potential funding opportunity, GSL has not been able to attract sufficient long-term equity investment,” the solar company said in a statement published on RenewEconomy:

“This is an extremely disappointing outcome for Greatcell Solar, its directors, employees and shareholders given the considerable investment already undertaken over many years to achieve an advanced, pre-commercialisation status for its 3rd generation photovoltaic technology.

“The Company is widely considered amongst its international peers to be pre-eminent in the field of Perovskite Solar Cell PV technology” the statement continues.

In late 2007 GreatCell were the recipients of a $6m ARENA grant to help fund research into perovskite solar cell technology. Unfortunately it appears that they’re somewhat stymied at the moment – but they still have a tech roadmap up on their website which leads us to still have some hope:

GreatCell Solar
GreatCell Solar Technology Roadmap (source: greatcellsolar.com.au)

Perovskite solar cells are gaining traction lately and this is the tech used in these prototypes. No word yet on what’s going to happen to Greatcell in 2019, but its statement didn’t leave a surfeit of hope: 

“With the appointment of Administrators, BRI Ferrier, the outlook for shareholders is uncertain at best” it reads. Fingers crossed they’re able to secure some more funding and get back to work with a new team. 

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Sundrop Farms | Solar Greenhouse

Sundrop Farms have a solar greenhouse at Port Augusta in South Australia and today we’ll take a look at how it works and how effective the system is. 

Sundrop Farms | Solar Greenhouse

Sundrop Farms Solar Greenhouse
Sundrop Farms Solar Greenhouse (source: Sundrop Facebook)

Sundrop Farms’ pilot facility was opened in Port Augusta in 2010. The solar hydroponic farming concept cost $200m to build and was opened at the end of 2016. It includes a 20 hectare solar greenhouse, a field of 23,000 mirrors, a 127m tall solar tower and a desalination plant. Another great step in the right direction for solar technology

According to an interview with Sundrop Farms Australia Managing Director Steve Marafiote in GQ, it was an easy choice to work with the company once he saw what their value proposition was:

“When I understood what Sundrop was about, I knew I wanted to be part of the business,” Mr. Marafiote said.

“This large-scale sustainable operation is world leading,” he continued. 

“If you look at the agricultural land where the farm is now, it was 120 hectare site that would traditionally sustain six to 10 cows a year. That’s it. Instead, that desert land has been converted to produce 15,000 tonnes of tomatoes a year – it’s a stark difference.”

The project had $100m of investment from private equity firm KKR and partners with Coles Supermarkets as an official partner. Sundrop has a 10 year contract with them to deliver truss tomatoes – giving them a sizeable 15% share of the Australian market. 

Another massive boon for companies wanting to use a method like this for renewable farming is that there is a surfeit of data points with which to make decisions, includeing monitoring and controlling such factors as water, fuel, temperature and electricity use:

“We know what those operating costs will look like for the next 20 years, and I don’t think there are too many sectors who have the luxury of that position.” said Marafiote.

Click here to view the official website.

 

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Walgett Solar Farm to supply 50% of UTS solar

The University of Technology of Sydney (UTS) has signed a PPA with the Walgett Solar Farm which will cover 50% of its energy usage.

Walgett Solar Farm

The $40m Walgett Solar Farm was approved by the NSW government last year – it will eventually output 32MW and is now reaching the next stage of its project lifecycle.

The farm is owned fully by Epuron, who will be able to commence construction on the project after signing this PPA with UTS.

“For our renewable projects to be able to attract finance and get built, it’s crucial to find suitable partners to become committed customers and provide certainty,” Epuron Director Martin Poole told PV Magazine.

“With the UTS commitment to purchase our clean energy output, the Walgett Solar Farm can move ahead and we look forward to commencing construction in the coming months.” Mr Poole continued.

The project is expected to be built in two stages with the first stage outputting around 15MW.

The Walgett Solar Farm will generate approximately 63,000MWh p.a. once complete – enough to power almost 10,000 homes in New South Wales. 

UTS Solar

Walgett Solar Farm
Walgett Solar Farm PPA will help power UTS (source: newsroom.uts.edu.au)

This is the third PPA UTS have signed to add to its renewable portfolio – their main goal, as we wrote last year, is to completely offset their energy usage with renewable energy via a $1.3b ‘City Campus Master Plan’.

“We are committed to finding sustainable solutions to reduce our environmental impact,” UTS Vice-Chancellor Attila Brungs said. “But we don’t just want to create improvement for ourselves, we want to change whole systems to enable others to also improve their sustainability. UTS has spent the last couple of years researching and creating an effective energy model to help reduce emissions while also supporting the continued growth of the renewable energy sector.”

They’ve installed six solar systems on rooftops at the UTS campus and, by 2020/21, are hoping to reduce their emissions 30% on 2007 levels. 

In other university solar news, the University of Newcastle is doing great things with printed solar cells.

 

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Battery Energy Storage System in Alice Springs

Battery Energy Storage System – Alice Springs is set to receive its first grid-scale battery as solar power in the Northern Territory heats up.

Alice Springs Battery Energy Storage System

Battery Energy Storage System Alice Springs
Battery Energy Storage System discussion at Alice Springs (source: territorygeneration.com.au)

The $8.3M, 5MW/2.5MWh grid-scale battery storage facility in Alice Springs was announced last year and has been completed this week. It was built by New Zealand solar company Vector using LG grid-scale solar batteries.  

Government owned Territory Generation (The Northern Territory’s major electricity producer) have advised that they’re hoping this battery will facilitate greater uptake of solar in the NT:

“The Battery Energy Storage System is an important milestone in the Northern Territory’s transition to renewable energy and a critical piece of infrastructure to support the Northern Territory Government’s Roadmap to Renewables strategy,” Territory Generation Chief Executive Officer Tim Duignan said.

“Reliability and stability of the power system is a critical barrier in the uptake of renewable energy across Australia, and I am pleased that we are at the forefront of tackling this issue right here in Alice Springs,” he continued.

The BESS should have quite a big impact on base-load power as well, so let’s see how it fares during summer 2018/19. Previously a very conservative approach to local grid management (read more in RenewEconomy) means this battery should help quite a lot: with half an hour storage capability, and can supply 8MW for 6 seconds, or 7.5MW for 60 seconds – suitable for the moments everyone decides their air conditioners need to be turned on at the same time!  

Mr. Duignan also discussed the plans for Darwin solar in the future: “The cutting-edge technology in our Battery Energy Storage System will reinforce Alice Springs as the solar capital of Australia by enabling greater solar penetration whilst maintaining grid stability.”

We wrote about the Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) last June as it was unveiled in an attempt to compete with the other states, where the Northern Territory was lagging behind considerably (January 2017 PV output was 4,049MWh vs Queensland’s 126,629MWh). 

The Northern Territory is in a very unique position compared to its neighbour states – the state hosts a mere one percent of the total population but it represents approximately 15% of Australia’s land mass. However, installs are more expensive over there due to less competition and higher cyclone ratings required on solar panels. This dearth of Darwin solar is starting to change and there are a raft of high quality solar installers working hard in Darwin, Katherine, Alice Springs, and more. It’ll be interesting to see how quickly they can catch up to the other states. 

Darwin Solar Farms

There are plenty of farms and solar projects in various stages of completion in the Northern Territory and this is growing rapidly:

  • GPT Group have 1.25 MW at Casuarina Square shopping Centre
  • Darwin International Airport’s 4MW.
  • Epuron are working on a 25MW Solar plant at Katherine.
  • The Australian Defence Force have tendered for a 12MW of solar (combined) at their Darwin and Robertson Barracks.
  • Rim Fire Energy Retail’s 10MW Batchelor solar farm.
  • Infigen Energy are building a 12MW solar farm at Manton Dam and 10MW at Batchelor.
  • Community solar project “Repower Alice Springs” is planning for a 10MW community solar farm.

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