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.

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. 

 
 

Mungari / Kalgoorlie Solar Farm Tender

Hot of the heels of their success last week after signing a contract with Western Power to construct a microgrid in Kalbarri, Carnegie Clean Energy look set to build a Kalgoorlie Solar Farm after winning a tender for the lease of 250 hectares of land within the Buffer Zone of the Mungari Strategic Industrial Area.

The Mungari / Kalgoorlie Solar Farm

Kalgoorlie Solar Farm - Battery Energy Storage Solutions Carnegie
Kalgoorlie Solar Farm – Battery Energy Storage Solutions Carnegie (source: carnegiece.com)

According to SmallCaps, Carnegie (ASX: CCE) plan to construct and operate a solar farm which is capable of supplying large amounts of electricity into Western Australia’s main power grid. It’ll be known as the Mungari Solar Farm and will have a capacity of up to 100MW. This will result in the farm being able to generate 20MWh of battery-storage each year. The farm will be located 6km south-west of Kalgoorlie – where it will be able to supply electricity to Australia’s Eastern Goldfields. Another great step forward for renewable energy in resources – they’ll have access to clean, stable energy and be able to lock in price points without having to worry about the volatility currently plaguing Western Australia. It’ll also help them move towards reaching their RET (Renewable Energy Target) – which is currently 24% of electricity generation to come from renewables by 2020. 

“Carnegie has a strong track record of developing greenfield sites into shovel-ready renewable projects rapidly and responsibly, most recently with its Northam Solar Farm,” said Dr Michael Ottaviano (Carnegie Clean Energy‘s Managing Director).

“We are excited to play a role in the development of the Mungari Strategic Industrial Area, which has an important role in the future economic prosperity of the Eastern Goldfields and look forward to working closely with local industries seeking sources of clean power generation, the State Government, local governments and other key stakeholders in bringing this project to fruition,” said Dr Ottaviano.

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:

 

 

WA Electricity Grid Needs Upgrade For Solar

A leading energy export from the Australian Energy Market Operator has warned that the WA Electricity Grid requires upgrades over the next couple of years or else it risks being completely overwhelmed by the influx of solar in the state. 

The WA Electricity Grid & Solar

According to TheWest’s website, solar energy now makes up the majority of the WA Electricity Grid’s energy collection – representing around 700MW of capacity. They interviewed Cameron Parrotte, the head of strategy and innovation at the Australian Energy Market Operator – who noted that measures need to be put into place to manage the influx of solar into the grid before it starts to overload.  Parrotte said the amount of additional solar capacity is currently growing at 35% per year. 

“When you talk about comparison to other States, percentage-wise we are flying,” he said.

“Some people then say ‘you’ll start running out of roof space’.

“What you are tending to find is that some people who were the early adopters, some of their PVs are starting to reach the end of their life.

“Instead of putting up another 1kW to replace the 1kW they had, they’re putting in 5kW.”

Parrotte / The West said they believe solar power could fully displace conventional methods of energy generation (coal/gas fired plants) for short intervals within as few as five years. Initially, these intervals would be restricted to times when electricity demand is low (e.g. mild, sunny days in the middle of the day) but surely sends another message to those trying to delay the death of traditional electricity methods. It’s now up to providers and authorities to upgrade the grid and make sure it’s able to take the excess power solar will provide. 

We’ve previously written about blockchain powered P2P energy trading fintech platforms such as Power Ledger or WePower along with less technologically intense solutions such as community solar – the writing is on the wall here and it’s only a matter of time before renewable energy completely overtakes coal and gas fired plants, so it’s important the government act now to ensure the grid is capable of withstanding the new era of energy generation!

WA Electricity Grid - Sunwise - Ludlow Solar Installation
WA Electricity Grid – Sunwise – Ludlow Solar Installation (source: sunwiseenergy.com.au)

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 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. 

Butterfly Solar Cell Technology in Germany

Butterfly solar technology – Researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany have managed to double the amount of energy solar panels convert to energy by studying the nanostructures of black butterfly wings.

How does it work?

Radwan Siddique at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology was reading about butterfly wings whilst researching a technique for building 3d nanostructures. “I was so intrigued that I literally went to a lot of butterfly nurseries and gathered several butterflies,” Siddique told Seeker. “The black butterfly was one of them. I was putting them under SEM (a scanning electron microscope) and looking at the structures.” 

Although the openings on the black butterfly’s wings are less than a millionth of a metre wide, the latticed nanostructures they’re made of scatter light and are able to help the butterfly absorb more of the sun’s heat, helping the butterfly (a cold-blooded insect) regulate its body temperature and fly in cool weather. 

Butterfly Solar
Butterfly Solar – Scanning electron microscope image of bio-inspired nanoholes (source: seeker.com via Radwanul Siddique, KIT)

Butterfly Solar Cells – Production

According to Science Advances on October 18, when the findings were published, the “nanopatterned absorbers achieve a relative integrated absorption increase of 90% at a normal incident angle of light to as high as 200% at large incident angles, demonstrating the potential of black butterfly structures for light-harvesting purposes in thin-film solar cells.”

Siddique and his colleagues used a sheet of hydrogenated amorphous silicon in an attempt to copy the structure of the black butterfly wings. When they used a layer of polymer with circular indentations of different sizes, and transferred it to a silicon base, they were able to produce the solar power at a high efficiency using a thin film, as opposed to standard crystal based cells. Some potential uses for these thin-film solar cells could be the incorporation into solar windows or other structures that wouldn’t work well with the crystal-based solar cells. 

The cells are also quick and easy to create – “the way we produce the structure is so simple,” Siddique says, “We need just 5 minutes to 10 minutes to make the nanostructures on a six-inch wafer of silicon.” The butterfly creates these nanostructures by combining proteins to cause a chemical interaction. Siddique’s team created artificial versions of these proteins to manufacture their butterfly solar cells – which are cheap and scalable.

Still early days yet, but it’ll be exciting to see how ‘butterfly solar’ stacks up against other emerging solar tech such as perovskite solar cells

 

 

Reposit Power and their Virtual Power Station

Canberra-based renewable energy startup Reposit Power are predicting their client base will double within a year, and hope to have their technology in 5,000 homes by 2020. Their ‘virtual power station’ model is one we’ve seen before (Enova’s community solar, AGL’s virtual power plant which is in advanced stages of trials), but we’re excited to see how Reposit’s system works. Anything that helps improve baseline power is great for Australian energy as a whole. 

Reposit Solar, the Reposit Box, and ‘Grid Credits’

Reposit Power Control Diagram
Reposit Power Operation Diagram (source: repositpower.com.au)

Reposit Power have a ‘smarter, more intuitive way’ to control energy usage. According to their site, it typically costs approximately 4-6% on top of solar + storage, but these batteries will then be paid off in half the time as standard solar + storage. 

The system learns your energy usage patterns to feed back into the grid at optimum times. Every GridCredit you feed back into Reposit’s virtual grid represents a dollar off your bill – and the system automatically trades excess energy for GridCredits when the demand is at its highest. 

The system also uses advanced weather models to predict solar usage, factors in peak/offpeak tariffs, and will even charge your system overnight from the cheaper tariffs if it detects a probably energy shortfall for the next day’s peak hours.  It has an app which will display all information you need to know about the system, how much you’re saving, and how many GridCredits you are earning. 

Reposit Power Compatible Batteries

There are currently eight Reposit compatible batteries – they are available ‘pre-integrated’ from leading vendors or you can 

  • LG Chem Resu 6.4kWh
  • LG Chem Resu
  • LG Chem Resu HV
  • Fronius Solar Battery
  • GCL e-KwBe
  • Pylontech
  • Tesla Powerwall 1
  • Samsung All in One ESS

Reposit Power & Tesla Powerwall 2 Compatibility

Please note that there are no GridCredits on the Tesla Powerwall 2 as they won’t integrate with cloud / Internet only based control systems – given that it wouldn’t be able to function correctly if the Internet was unavailable. Since the Powerwall 2 is tremendously popular, this is a serious blow to Reposit Power’s ‘virtual power station’ – wonder if they’ll figure out a way to rectify this before the Tesla Powerwall 3 announcement

If you want to read more about Reposit’s choice to not integrate with these cloud control systems please click here to read a detailed post on their website. 

If you want to understand Reposit’s system please view the video below! 

Renewable energy in South Australia

Industry analysts have advised that renewable energy in South Australia will replace gas as SA’s primary source of electricity within eight years. A report by Wood Mackenzie says that by 2025 battery storage will be cheaper than OCGT (open-cycle gas turbine) plants.

The future of renewable energy in South Australia

Renewable energy has been a huge topic of conversation in South Australia lately, especially after the Tesla South Australia battery partnership was announced earlier this month. Despite having a torrid time of it last year with widespread blackouts, premier Jay Weatherill has been forging ahead with his vision of a state primarily powered by renewables, and has been doing a great job. The Lyon Group recently announced a $1 billion battery and solar farm for SA and there are myriad others on the books.

Renewable Energy in South Australia Jay Weatherill
Jay Weatherill – championing renewable energy in South Australia (source: AFR.com)

The report, created by Wood Mackenzie and Greentech Media Research, forecast that battery costs will decrease by 50% by 2025. Bikal Pokharel, an analyst for Wood Mackenzie, noted that SA’s peak loads are currently managed by the OCGT plants, but this will change in the future. By 2025, Pokarel says, “battery storage would be cheaper than OCGTs in managing peak loads … OCGTs would then be relegated as emergency back-ups.”

“If current cost trends continue, 2025 could very well see renewables and batteries overtake rival generating alternatives in dominating South Australia’s power system, and the region could become a leading case study on managing a power system in transition for other mature markets to follow,” Pokharel said.

If the renewables projects currently on the books proceed, by 2025 a whopping 67% of South Australia’s energy requirements will be met by renewables. Since solar and wind power isn’t as reliable as traditional methods, ‘dispatchable power’ will be required to cover base loads – and according to Pokharel, “Current gas supply and transportation terms cannot meet this type of demand profile”.

Funnily enough, expensive diesel generators may become a viable option since they (and their fuel) are simple to store and can be set up quickly. In order to use gas as dispatchable power, changes must be made to the operation of the market – involving offering subsidies for “must-run” gas units or standing capacity.

It’s great to see South Australia leading the way with their charge towards a renewable heavy energy economy and we’re excited to see where this leads in the future.