Tesla in Australia 2018/2019 – Facts & Figures

Tesla have announced their Q2 earnings which notes that they have a ‘crazy’ growth outlook despite cell shortage and a slow deployment of their solar roof. Tesla in Australia is still very far behind the USA, but what can we expect the future to bring?

Tesla in Australia – 2018/19

What can Australians expect from Tesla over the next financial year? We’ve had an agonisingly slow rollout down under and there are many people waiting to see how long it takes for the solar roof to make its way out here.

With the cell shortage that has crippled availability of the Tesla Powerwall 2 in Australia, is it worth waiting for the Powerwall 3 instead? There hasn’t been any announcement yet so it really depends on your personal situation. 

The Tesla Gigafactory in Buffalo, New York is in working on speeding up production of the Solar Roof. They hope to produce 1 GW of solar products at the site annually beginning in 2019, and Tesla has said that it could even reach 2 GW/year down the track. The Gigafactory produces standard solar panels, along with the Solar Roof.

So if you have a bit of patience and are happy to wait until 2019, it’s fine to wait. Solar batteries still have a bit of a ways to go before they are a no-brainer for people to install, let alone the solar roof. But in the meantime, there are certainly solar roof alternatives like the Tractile solar roof tile or the Sonnen/Bristile partnership which they’ve called ‘Solartile‘. Have you got any questions or any experience with any of these solar shingles? Please let us know in the comments. 

Where is the Tesla Solar Roof?

Tesla in Australia - Solar Roof via @Toblerhaus on Twitter
Tesla in Australia – Tesla Solar Roof 2018 Installation (California) (source: @Toblerhaus on Twitter)

We’ve written about the Tesla Solar Roof before – and we’ve also written about its place in the Australian ecosystem, given that they’re rare as hen’s teeth in America, let alone over here. According to PV Magazine USA, it’s probable that the Tesla Solar Roof will not help their bottom line (Energy Generation and Division Revenues) until halfway through 2019 at the earliest. The reasons for this are for safety and the time lag it’s taking to get all their ducks in a row.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk clarified:

“It takes a while to confirm that the Solar Roof is going to last for 30 years and all the details work out, and we’re working with first responders to make sure it’s safe in the event of a fire and that kind of thing. So it’s quite a long validation program for a roof which has got to last for 30, 40, 50 years, but we also expect to ramp that up next year at our Gigafactory 2 in Buffalo. That’s going to be super exciting.”

According to Musk ‘several hundred’ Solar Roofs have been deployed, are being installed or scheduled for install, and international expansion (i.e. Australia!) is slowly rolling out.

PV Magazine have also written about some of the first solar roof installations in the USA – please click here to read some more about them.

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Solar Tarp – foldable, portable solar power.

California based Lipomi Research Group are working on creating a solar tarp – which would have myriad uses for society. Let’s learn more about how these upgraded solar panels could help parts of the world where they don’t have access to regular electricity – and some of the technological challenges they’re facing trying to complete the project.

About the Solar Tarp technology

Prototype Solar Tarp Sample - University of California
Prototype Solar Tarp Sample – University of California (source: theconversation.com)

The Lipomi Research Group are focused on “identifying ways to create materials with both good semiconducting properties and the durability plastics are known for – whether flexible or not”.  They’ve been tinkering with perovskite solar cells, which are 1/1000 the thickness of a silicon layer in a solar panel. 

Darren Lipomi of the Lipomi Group, who is also a Professor of Nanoengineering at the University of California, said that their goal is to create flexible solar panels which are as efficient as conventional silicon but don’t have some of the drawbacks of it.

The goal is to develop flexible solar panels which are thin, lightweight, and bendable. Lipomi is calling their idea a ‘solar tarp’ – which refers to a solar panel which can be expanded to the ‘size of a room’, but balled up to the size of a grapefruit when not in use. The issues here are finding a molecular structure to make the solar panels stretchable and tough – this involves replacing the silicon semiconductors with materials such as perovskite. 

They’re also taking a look at polymer semiconductors / organic semiconductors (based on carbon, and used in place of perovskites or silicon in a solar cell). These aren’t as efficient, but are far more flexible and extremely durable.

According to The Conversation, the sunlight that hits the earth in a single hour contains more energy than the whole planet uses in an entire year – so there’s plenty more work to do on improving how we utilise the sun! We’ll keep an eye on the solar tarp project and let you know when it reaches the next stage.

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Commercial Solar Windows – ClearVue Technologies

Australian building material developer ClearVue Technologies have had some good news this week – with their commercial solar windows passing the Australian Standard AS 2047, thus preparing them to market the products across Australia.  

Commercial Solar Windows

We’ve written about the ClearVue integrated clear glass solar panel before – they’ve had a successful IPO, have updated their technology a couple times, and seem to be ready to really get started selling commercial solar windows to Australia and the overseas market.

Commercial Solar Windows - ClearVue Technologies
Commercial Solar Windows – ClearVue Technologies (source: ClearVuePV.com)

Clearvue’s BIPV (Building Integrated Photovoltaic) offering the implementation of solar technology into frame-independent Insulated Glass Units which will house the ClearVue integrated clear glass solar panel. Using industry standard frames means their tech will be easy to offer to commercial buildings Australia-wide.

SmallCaps are reporting that ClearVue is separately undertaking AS 4284 certification-testing on its glass curtain wall product with results expected in August. In Europe, ClearVue has also started the process to receive CE Mark certification and allow its products to be sold in the EU. The results are expected to be received in August as well. Lastly, in America, ClearVue intends to commence US certification in the “next quarter” (Q4 2018).

Executive chairman Victor Rosenberg spoke about the accreditation and ClearVue’s plans for the future:

“The accreditation by the AWA of the ClearVue window product to AS 2047 represents a giant leap forward for the company. With this step, we have now moved from being a research company into a commercial operation and are now able to commercialise our product in the Australian market. We are on track with the business plan outlined in our Prospectus and look forward to being able to announce to the market similar certifications and accreditations shortly,” said Mr Rosenberg.

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Buy black solar panels in Australia – cost, review & more.

Today we’ll take a look at black solar panels. How do they perform compared to conventional panels? What are the best brands? And where can you buy them in Australia if you’re so inclined?

Where to buy black solar panels in Australia

Canadian Solar’s robust All-Black panels (CS6K-MS modules – click for datasheet) with 60 solar cells are specifically targeted for consumers in the residential market. 

Sunpower’s residential solar panel X-Series are, according to their website, offered in SunPower® Signature™ Black, “designed to blend harmoniously into your roof.” Built using all-black solar cells and anti-reflective glass to reduce glare, the premium aesthetics can accommodate a variety of architectural styles. Note that they didn’t mention performance at all – but if ‘premium aesthetics’ are important to you then these could be worth checking out (the black panels have 10W less output).

LG Solar’s NeON 2 solar panel comes in conventional colouring and also black. According to the datasheets the black panel is 4.4% larger in order to reach the 315/320 watt output of its less flamboyant solar sibling.

Black solar panels are more expensive and perform slightly worse than blue solar panels. With that said, if looks are important to you some quality manufacturers have some options – you certainly can’t go wrong with LG or Sunpower – and if you have a surfeit of space on your roof the extra 4.4% isn’t going to be a big deal.

Have you got any experience with black solar panels or would like to ask us any questions on them? Please sound off in the comments and we’d be happy to help.

Sunpower X21 Series Black Solar Panels in Australia
Sunpower X21 Series Black Solar Panels in Australia (source: sunpower.com)

Are black solar panels less efficient?

Solar cells can have polycrystalline cells, which have multiple crystals and appear blue, or monocrystalline cells, which are cut from one large crystal and appear much darker than the poly cells. The monocrystalline cells are more expensive and are the ones black solar panels are made out of. These solar panels are made when you use a black backing sheet instead of the conventional white and place the darker monocrystalline cells on it – the panel then appears black (or close enough).

This is, however, only to do with aesthetics – you won’t get any better performance from a black solar panel. In fact, ironically enough solar panel performance degrades the hotter the module gets, and the black backing sheet absorbs more heat – so you’d want to make sure black is super important to you! 

 

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The ClearVue integrated clear glass solar panel.

We’ve written about ClearVue solar glass a couple of times already this year – the Perth based company has had a successful IPO and has some great tech behind it. On Wednesday they announced the development of a frame-independent Insulated Glass Unit which will house the ClearVue integrated clear glass solar panel.

The ClearVue integrated clear glass solar panel.

The ClearVue integrated clear glass solar panel
The ClearVue integrated clear glass solar panel (source: CleearVuePV.com)

A press release on the ClearVue website has given an indication of what we can expect from this company – they’ve developed these IGU’s which means there will be more licensing opportunities, as the clients ‘no longer need to rely upon ClearVue proprietary window frame designs and can instead utilise industry standard frames’ – meaning it’ll be far easier to get the tech into more homes, office buildings, boats, or even caravans. 

This represents a fairly significant shift in tech for the company who previously built the PV cells around the inside of the window frame – where it’s now captured within the IGU glass module itself – making it far easier to apply their BIPV integrated clear glass solar panel. 

ClearVue Executive Chairman Victor Rosenberg said in the press release that the new IGU units will open up their ability to sell more units and include them in wider ranges of usage:

“The move away from dependency upon any specific frame design to an industry standard IGU that can be supplied to innumerate framing companies and window fabricators will significantly increase ClearVue’s potential to reach a global market faster. This simple step has widened our scope for even greater licensing opportunities”

The IGU units will be used in early trial sites in, amongst other places, Mirreco’s micro-homes. In other news, their window and glass curtain wall solutions continue to progress and are expected to be completed on schedule. We can’t wait to see what’s next for this and for solar windows! One of my favourite pieces of solar tech.

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Can you walk on solar panels? Solar panel durability.

Can you walk on solar panels? We could probably answer this article with one word – no. But let’s take a look at how walking on solar panels damages them – with cracks, damaged cells (which are impossible to see with the naked eye), and more. We’ll also investigate some of the most durable solar panels you can buy in 2018.

Can you walk on solar panels
Can you walk on solar panels? (source: SolarWorld USA via YouTube)

Can you walk on solar panels?

Still no. A running joke between colleagues in the solar industry is when a new ‘cowboy’ outfit comes to town with a bunch of flashy solar marketing – which involves pictures of installers blithely standing or crouching on top of a panel, potentially doing very serious damage to the efficacy of the system. And the fact that the damage compounds over time means it’s sometimes difficult to correlate the problem to find out what happened to make your solar system underperform…

When we talk about walking on solar panels, this doesn’t just mean the glass itself – you need to stay off the rails and frame as well. 

If you absolutely insist on a super-strength solar panel someone light could walk on, or you live somewhere with strong hail/wind/snow loads, SolarWorld have a Sunmodule which is extremely hard. View a video of its endurance here:

Tesla’s Solar Roof also has great durability and is an option for those needing a very strong solar panel. Note that we still recommend you don’t step on this, or any solar panel, unless you have to rescue an ailing baby bird or retrieve a pot of gold. They’re simply not made for it. 

NREL, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, have produced a video showing the invisible damage from walking on a solar panel.

According to the video, after a cell is cracked, its power output degenerates far more rapidly than usual (every solar panel’s output decreases with time). Temperature changes (like the difference between day and night, or different seasons) cause thermal expansions and contractions which pull apart the materials around the crack, exacerbating the problem. 

In short – please don’t walk on solar panels. 

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Alexandra Canal transport depot solar+storage

The Alexandra Canal transport depot was officially opened by Sydney Lord mayor Clover Moore on Wednesday. It’s powered by 1,600 PV solar panels and also includes a Tesla Powerwall/Powerpack battery which has 500 kWh of energy. It represents the first time solar has been combined with large-scale energy storage in NSW – just like Tesla’s South Australia battery venture earlier this year. 

Alexandra Canal transport depot solar

Alexandra Canal transport depot  solar
Alexandra Canal transport depot solar (source: SMH.com.au / Supplied)

The Alexandra Canal transport depot will have the first government-installed Tesla battery for NSW – following suit from Victoria and South Australia who have already got similar setups. Lord mayor Moore took a look at the facility this week and had some high praise and explanation for the government’s future renewable plans:

“Growing the uptake of renewable energy is critical in combating the worst impacts of climate change,” Ms Moore said, adding:

“We’re working towards a target of 50 per cent of all electricity in the City of Sydney area to come from renewables by 2030.

“To help us achieve that target we’re covering the roofs of our properties with as many solar panels as possible. By mid-2021, we expect to have more than 7800 solar panels on the roofs of our properties. As the mix of storage and generation on our electricity grid changes, solar solutions like this could provide reliability and resilience to our electricity network and potentially prevent blackouts,”

The Tesla Powerpack batteries will be remotely managed by TransGrid and will be the first cab off the rank for a plan which will see Sydney install 1.5MW of battery storage on top of council buildings – with the goal of making their city 50% renewable in the short term. 

TransGrid boss Paul Italiano discussed the project with the Sydney Morning Herald:

“This initiative with the City of Sydney will afford the depot a significant amount of energy self-sufficiency while also sharing benefits with the wider community through the electricity network,” Mr Italiano said.

“By partnering with a site where this service is needed, we can support the City of Sydney’s renewable energy goals and reduce the cost of the council’s depot.”

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Solar Highways in China

There’s been a lot of information in the news lately about solar highways and we’re please to report on how one of the trials is going over in China. Solar roads are growing in popularity and we are seeing more trials pop up as the technology improves and becomes cheaper to implement. The myriad uses of solar roads (electric heating strips could melt snow, LEDs could warn drivers of any impending issues up ahead, or the roads could even charge electric vehicles down the track) mean there is a lot of research going on to try and make the tech tenable. Let’s look into it some more! 

Solar Highways in China and worldwide.

Solar Highways in China (source: YouTube)
Solar Highways in China (source: YouTube)

We wrote about solar roads in China last year and are pleased to report that we have an update on how the solar panel trial on a major highway in the city of Jinan has gone. The trial was lead by Pavenergy and Qilu Transportation with Pavenergy making the solar panels for Qilu, which is a state-owned company who operates the highway the solar road section is installed on.

The panels are made up of a complex polymer not unlike plastic – which means they have slightly more friction than normal roads – but this can be adjusted during the manufacturing profess to ensure it’s the right surface for cars. According to Today Online, normal asphalt (aka bitumen) roads cost around USD $120 per square metre each 10 years to resurface and repair. The solar road companies Pavenergy and Colas are hoping to reach USD $310 – $460 per square metre to install the solar roads – with around USD $15 of electricity being produced by each square meter of solar road each year. This means they could pay for themselves in comparison with conventional roads over a 15 year period. The problem now is the longevity of the panels – can they withstand big trucks driving over them every hour for 10 years? 

“If it can pass this test, it can fit all conditions,” said Mr Li Wu, the chairman of Shandong Pavenergy. 

Professor Zhang Hongchao, an engineering expert at Tongji University in Shanghai is helping Pavenergy with their research, which they expect to have further information on within the next 6-12 months. 

If you’re interested in reading more about solar roads then try our article about solar roads in Tokyo which are currently being installed for the upcoming Olympics in 2020. Another company rivalling Pavenergy and Qilu is a French company named Colas which has already developed 25 solar roads and solar parking lots in France, Canada and the USA. 

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The rotating, energy-efficient solar home Girasole

In Crace, Canberra, Anna and Phillip Burroughs reside in a multi-award-winning solar home named ‘Girasole’. It’s the widest rotating home in the world – using solar power to rotate on its axis to gather maximum amounts of solar panel and allow for a novel and exciting living area for the Burroughs’. 

Girasole the rotating solar home.

Girasole Rotating Solar Home
Girasole Rotating Solar Home (source: Liveability.com.au)

Girasole was designed by DNA Architects and Industrious Design in 2012-2013 – with the house being offered a six star energy rating. Construction was completed by MAG Constructions in 2013 and in the middle of the year the Burroughs happily moved in to their amazing new home which boasts a 120,000 litre underground water tank, 10.5kW solar panels, north-facing living room windows, the highest insulation rating possible (using polystyrene external cladding) and LED lighting throughout. 

A touchscreen panel in the house is pressed to commence the rotation of the 56 tonne home – which also has an automatic option to ‘follow the sun’. It takes about 10 minutes for the house to do a full 360′ rotation and, amazingly, takes about the same energy as a lightglobe to turn around due to extremely clever and energy efficient construction and design. 

According to the Internet, ‘Girasole’ is Italian for sunflower – an apt choice for the amazing solar house. Gira(re) also means ‘to turn’ and sole is the sun, so it’s a bit of a play on words. 

Some words from the original designer, John Andriolo from MAG Constructions:

“The idea for this house came about over 50 years ago when I was just a 10-year-old boy studying history in Italy. I found Galileo Galilee’s idea of ‘eppure si mouve’ (‘the earth is moving’) completely fascinating, and since then I have always dreamt that one day I would build a house that follows the sun. Seeing this idea now become a reality is a little surreal but I hope it will demonstrate how our natural resources, like the sun and rain, can be put to good use in future home designs.”

In a world where we’re starting to see solar panels mandatory on new homes (well, in California at least) there’s no doubt we’ll start to see a lot more novel ideas. 

If you want to follow Girasole on Facebook please click here.

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Hyundai Solar Panels coming to Australia

Hyundai solar panels will be available in Australia this year after inking a massive deal with a local solar company. The Korean company will look to sell to the commercial and residential sector and will also look to install large-scale solar projects here.

Hyundai Solar Panels in Australia

Hyundai Solar Panels - Green Energy
Hyundai Solar Panels – Green Energy (source: Hyundai)

Hyundai Heavy Industries Green Energy have signed an exclusive deal with Queensland solar distribution company Supply Partners. The deal has been valued at $70 million and will see Hyundai HI return to the Australian market since it exited in 2011. 

Larry Kim, the head of global sales for Hyundai Heavy Industries Green Energy, said the company’s sales targets are ambitious – planning to sell 20-30MW of panels this year, and 40-50MW in 2019. According to RenewEconomy, they were only up to 10MW of panels when they exited the market. It’s important to note that the solar landscape has changed considerably in the last 7 years and that 10MW worth of panels certainly doesn’t represent the ostensible failure the numbers provide in 2018 terms.

Kim said the focus of Hyundai will be squarely on the residential and commercial markets. 

“Nowadays, the Australian market is growing very fast in all markets, but residential and commercial are more stable,” Kim told RE in an interview.

He also discussed their plans with regards to energy storage and how they’re going to roll it out to Australia – given that we already have such a high solar panel installation rate it would seem logical to enter this market as well. 

“This is part of (our) long-term strategy,” he said.

“We are focusing on the Korean market for energy storage systems first,” he said. “After that, (we will look at) the Australia residential market.

“But not in the near future.”

We’ll be super interested to see how Hyundai’s re-entry into the Australian market goes and will be sure to update you as soon as we hear anything more about the move.

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