South Australian Virtual Power Plant Launched

Tesla’s South Australian Virtual Power Plant has begun deployment, with the first 100 Powerwalls combined with a 5kW solar array rolling out across a group of South Australian households this month. This rollout is in conjunction with the Household Storage Subsidy Scheme in South Australia.

South Australian Virtual Power Plant

South Australian Virtual Power Plant Tesla
South Australian Virtual Power Plant Tesla (source: Tesla / YouTube)

Housing SA are working with Tesla to install the distributed Powerwall tech which is going to start with a focus on public housing and will end up with arrays and Powerwalls/other batteries (read on to learn about the Household Storage Subsidy Scheme) on up to 50,000 homes. 

Another 1,000 South Australian households will have the Tesla batteries installed before July 2019, but potentially ‘in a few weeks’, according to Electrek. Lots of different figures floating around right now so we’ll update you as we hear more.

It’s actually quite similar to the 100MW / 129MWh Powerpack project in that the whole system will help stabilise the grid and provide a strong baseload of power so we don’t see the blackout issues South Australia suffered through in 2016. In this case it’s not one big project, however – many homes working together will decrease cost of electricity and ensure grid stability improves (and continues to). 

There’s also a separate scheme for other battery subsidies – underwritten by the $100 million Household Storage Subsidy Scheme. The push to help renters and low-income earners enjoy the benefits of solar has been fantastic and we’re excited to see some stats and results after the estimated 40,000 SA households receive on average $2,500 each. Please note that this particular scheme is for people who already have solar power installed and want energy storage as well and is not related to the Tesla virtual power plant.

You can watch a video Tesla released about the South Australian Virtual Power Plant – it’ll explain what the plan is and what we can expect to see next from SA and Tesla!

There’s also a video on Twitter from Nine News Adelaide where the current (Liberal) SA state government seem happy to take credit for this scheme (which was totally organised under the previous (Labor) government). Bit of an eye-roll, but then again it’s par for the course for our beloved Australian politicians.

Regardless of that, the tenant in this video had a $500+ bill for electricity every quarter, which has been reduced to $175 since having the solar system installed. So those are some fantastic numbers!

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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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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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UNSW’s Martin Green wins Global Energy Prize

Sydney professor Martin Green from UNSW has beaten out Tesla Musk to win the $820,000 Global Energy Prize for his work in the field of photovoltaics. Green will share the prize with Russian scientist Sergey Alekseenko, who is an expert in the field of thermal power engineering.

Martin Green and the Global Energy Prize

Martin Green of UNSW
Martin Green of UNSW (source: Wikipedia)

Professor Green is Director of the Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics at UNSW. According to the ABC he’s a leading specialist in both mono and polycrystalline ilicone sole cells, having invented the PERC solar cell (PERC cells represent just under a quarter of the world’s silicon cell manufacturing capacity (as of end of 2017)).

We’ve written plenty of articles about UNSW solar – they’re involved in general solar power research, have launched the SunSPoT solar potential tool, and they have also recently signed a 15-year corporate PPA (Power Purchase Agreement) with Maoneng Australia and Origin Energy to become 100% solar powered, thanks to Maoneng‘s Sunraysia solar plant.

In 1989, Professor Green and his team were responsible for the solar cells in the first photovoltaic system. In 2014 he was able to double 1989’s energy conversion efficiency of 20% to 40%. 

UNSW President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Jacobs told the ABC that Professor Green had “delivered truly transformational outcomes in renewable energy for more than three decades”.

“Martin is a highly deserving recipient of this global prize and we warmly congratulate him,” he said.

“His fundamental and applied research has transformed the global energy sector and will continue to produce major economic and social benefits, both in Australia and worldwide.” Professor Jacobs continued. 

Professor Green said receiving the award was “a great honour”.

“The efficiency of solar modules is an area whose progress has been faster than many experts expected, and this is good news,” he said.

“We need to maintain the pace of research in Australia, not only to keep our international lead, but also to benefit society by providing a cheap, low carbon source of electricity.”

This is a fantastic reward for one of Australia’s solar stalwarts and we salute Professor Green for his ongoing work with solar power technology.

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Australia’s largest hospital solar power system at Port Macquarie

Australia’s largest hospital solar power system will be built at Port Macquarie Base Hospital as part of a $900,000 investment via the Mid North Coast Local Health District project. The hospital solar farm is projected to save the Port Macquarie Base Hospital around $130,000 in energy bills each year.

Australia’s largest hospital solar power system

The ABC is reporting that the hospital solar power system will generate 609kW and “significantly” reduce the site’s dependency on the grid. The project will involve installing more than 2,000 photovoltaic panels to cover most of the available roof space at the hospital. Queensland commercial solar power installer Solgen will be responsible for installing the panels, according to Port News

Hospital Solar - Solgen
Hospital Solar – Solgen (source: solgen.com.au)

Project manager for environmental sustainability for the Mid North Coast Local Health District, Danny Saunders, said that he expected other hospitals in a similar situation could follow suit with regards to installing solar on top of their roofs:

“They have large roofs and consumption day and night. It’s really the perfect storm for installing solar,” Mr Saunders said. He discussed how installing a large-scale solar project on top of a hospital is certainly not a new idea, and that he’s aware of a few others in various stages of completion:

“I know Canberra recently put in a very large system, and Adelaide and Bankstown is going through the process as well now.” 

“We just happen to have the largest one at the moment,” Mr Saunders said.

Port Macquarie MP Leslie Williams also weighed in on the project, with some effusive words:

“It makes perfect sense in an area like Port Macquarie, where we have one of the highest uptakes of rooftop solar, that we can do the same on our government facilities including our health facilities,” she said.

“Obviously hospitals have a huge expanse of rooftop available, and some 2030 panels will go up there, making a significant saving for the local health district that can be invested back into frontline services.”

The solar system is expected to be built by mid-July and will also include energy performance monitoring – with over 9,000 lights replaced with high efficiency LED lights. A great step into the future and we look forward to seeing more hospitals installing solar systems on the top. 

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Kiamal solar farm signs a PPA with Flow Power.

The 200MW Kiamal solar farm located near Ouyen in Western Victoria has signed a PPA for 25% of its output (50MW) – they’ll sell this power to Flow Power who will then offer it to their business clients along with power generated from the Ararat wind farm.

Kiamal solar farm

Kiamal Solar Farm - Flow Power
Kiamal Solar Farm – Flow Power (source: flowpower.com.au)

Kiamal solar farm also signed a deal with Total Eren, as CEO of Flow Power Matthew van der Linden sounded excited about when interviewed: 

“It’s really cheap,” van der Linden told RenewEconomy. “It’s well below the rates out in the market.”

“Because we have got a long term agreement with a large scale project and obviously they can offer a very competitive price around that.”

Total Eren will be responsible for construction of the as yet unbuilt solar farm – this will be the first Australian investment from a JV combining Total Eren and a renewable energy developer.  The farm will include more than 700,000 PV panels over almost 500 hectares of space, using single axis tracking. It also has approval from Mildura council for a 100MW/380MWh battery storage facility, according to Michael Vawser of Total Eren.

Another 50MW of the power was contracted to Mars Australia last week – allowing them to run their entire business (including six factories) on 100% renewable energy. Commercial solar continues to come along in leaps and bounds.

Lastly, Kiamal also signed a contract with energy retailer PowerShop (which is owned by Meridian Energy, New Zealand’s biggest utility company):

“This agreement secures our solar output for Victoria and we are also in final negotiations with projects for additional wind output in Victoria,” van der Linden said. “New South Wales, South Australia, and Queensland should follow soon after, completing our first phase of projects and seeing us out for the year.”

The Kiamal solar farm will begin over the next 12 weeks and it’s estimated it’ll take around 12 months to reach completion. If you’d like to read more about the project you can see some more detailed information by clicking here

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Lyon Group – Global Solar Agreements

Brisbane based Lyon Group have announced three integrated solar and storage projects in Australia will be launched via partnerships they have signed with two overseas companies. The renewable energy developer has partnered with US-based Fluence and Japanese energy company JERA to develop large-scale solar+battery projects. 

Lyon Group’s Global Solar Agreements

Lyon Group, JERA, Fluence CEOs to announce partnership.
Lyon Group, JERA, Fluence CEOs to announce partnership. (source: Lyon Group)

Both JERA and Fluence are already joint ventures (JERA of TEPCO Fuel & Power Inc and Chebu Electric Power Co, and Fluence borne of Siemens and AES). The latter focuses on battery storage and service provision, and JERA would invest in the projects. Lyon will remain the project developer.

“This collaboration agreement is based on a shared understanding that the world requires low emissions energy systems that are also secure, reliable and affordable. Utility-scale battery storage solutions across new and existing generation plants will be a key enabler,” said David Green, Lyon Chairman.

The partnerships will be put to work with the following three solar projects Lyon is developing in need of some answers viz a viz their industrial scale battery storage solutions:

According to Nikkei Asian Review, the three solar power pants will generate 550MW when online at the end of next year. JERA are going to contribute over 10 billion yen (~$122 million AUD) to the projects, which will include a 100MW lithium-ion battery storage system at the Riverlands solar farm in South Australia, equal largest of its kind on the planet (the other 100MW battery isn’t far away – the Tesla Powerpack farm installed in South Australia last year as part of the Hornsdale Power Reserve)

We’ll keep you updated how this partnership progresses. Great news for solar energy in Australia! 

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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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Western Downs green power hub council approval.

The Western Downs green power hub planned by French renewable giant Neoen has received council approval for a solar farm of size up to 500MW. This impressive project promises to bring  North Queensland solar jobs and continue the large-scale solar revolution in Queensland and Australia.

The Western Downs green power hub

The Western Downs green power hub
The Western Downs green power hub proposed location (source: westerndownsgreenpowerhub.com.au)

The Western Downs green power hub will be located 22km south of Chinchilla and 62km north west of Dalby, according to RenewEconomy. No word on the specifics of the gear they will use, but a huge 1500 hectares of ground mounted solar panels will feed two hectares of battery energy storage. This is going to be a gigantic undertaking.

According to the website for the green power hub, they’ll produce around 1.05MWh (million megawatt hours) per year.

“A combination of an ambitious Queensland Renewable Energy Target and a proactive government to meet those targets provide highly favourable conditions for renewable energy projects in the State,” Neoen says on the website.

“Consequently, the company will expedite the development of Western Downs Green Power Hub, as well as several other projects in Queensland.”

Construction was initially slated to commence in Q3 this year but it now looks like mid a 2019 start date will be more likely, according to the website.

“Construction is expected to start mid 2019 providing employment opportunities for the region.”

An article from the Chronicle in September last year (when it was being touted as a 250MW solar plant) noted that the consturction phase of the project will generate up to 300 solar jobs and between two to four during regular usage.

Neoen have been responsible for a number of huge projects across Australia recently:

 

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Solar Gardens – ‘ground solar’ – ARENA funding.

Those unable to get traditional solar systems installed on their roof may wish to take a look at the upcoming solar gardens scheme we will see in Australia. The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) are funding a trial of the ‘ground solar’ in (mostly) regional areas of NSW, Queensland and Victoria.

Solar Gardens – Alternatives to Roof Solar

Solar Gardens in Australia
Solar Gardens in Australia (source: ARENA)

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, those without a rooftop who still want to invest in solar power will be in luck if they’re based in Blacktown, Shoalhaven, Byron Bay, Townsville, or Swan Hill – ARENA and ‘other participants’ are providing around $550,000 in funding to assist the trial.

Dr Liz Develin, the NSW Department of Planning and Environment’s deputy secretary of energy, water and portfolio strategy (wonder if she has to buy extra long business cards?) discussed how the department are hoping to achieve with the rollout:

“We are trialling solar gardens with the aim of helping renters, low-income households and those living in apartments save on their energy bills,” she said.

“Blacktown is a hotspot for rooftop solar and we are really excited to see how this trial goes. The average Western Sydney household with a 4-kilowatt solar system on their roof could already be saving up to $900 a year.”

Specifics on the scheme are still a little thin on the ground (sorry…) but the solar gardens are ‘generally’ under 100kW so as to keep the STCs (small-scale renewable energy generation certificates). The University of Technology Sydney’s Institute for Sustainable Futures and the Community Power Agency will lead this project.

Solar gardens are growing faster than any other segment of solar power in the US (200MW of new capacity was rolled out in 2016) – so perhaps this is the start of a revolution where the word ‘solar’ doesn’t necessarily conjure up the image of panels on a roof. I have no doubt we’ll see blockchain technology integrated or, for the bigger gardens such as those at mid-large size apartment blocks, some microgrids available to help balance demand.

Are you interested in applying to join the solar garden trial? Watch this space. More info to come as we have it!

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