Solar Homes policy – NSW Solar grant

Solar Homes policy – the NSW Labor party have announced a huge solar rebate they will implement if they win the upcoming state election. Let’s learn more about how many households could be helped and what the particulars of the scheme are. 

Solar Homes policy

Michael Daley - Solar Homes Policy (source: michaeldaley.com.au)
Labor leader Michael Daley – announcing the Solar Homes Policy (source: michaeldaley.com.au)

The Solar Homes policy was announced by NSW Labor leader Michael Daley on his official website this week:

“This program will take NSW to over a million solar homes. Based on current take up rates for household solar, the program could help add solar to an additional 1 million homes over the next decade.” the website states. Further reading into the document shows that 500,000 households will benefit from the solar scheme. 

Under the Solar Homes policy, owner-occupied households in New South Wales are eligible for a rebate of up to $2,200, as long as their combined annual income is less than $180,000. 

Deputy Leader and Shadow Environment Minister Penny Sharpe said, “Under this plan, everyone wins. Families get help with their electricity bills and we are taking real action on climate change and giving NSW a cleaner, greener future.”

NSW Labor’s Leader in the Legislative Council and Shadow Minister for Energy and Climate Change, Adam Searle said, “Solar Homes is just one aspect of Labor’s plan for cheaper and cleaner energy across NSW. Our policies will cut both electricity bills and carbon emissions. We look forward to providing more in the lead up to the election.”

If Labor do win the state election (which will be held on March 23) and the Solar Homes policy goes ahead, it will commence in the 19-20 financial year (“to ensure an orderly rollout”), and follow other states with their own initiatives:

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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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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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Summerhill solar farm commences construction.

The 5MW Summerhill solar farm will officially commence construction tomorrow – the farm will be located at the former Wallsend Borehole Colliery. 

Summerhill solar farm

Summerhill Solar Farm
Summerhill Solar Farm – Artist’s Rendition (source: smh.com.au)

All the renewable energy created by the Summerhill solar farm will be owned by the Newcastle City Council who will then be approximately 50% powered by renewable energy. 

Carnegie’s wholly owned subsidiary Energy Made Clean and JV partner Lendlease have been awarded the design and construction of the project, according to PV Magazine. It’ll be built on top of the former Wallsend Borehole Colliery. Read more about the tender here

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the solar plant’s cost is around $8m, with $6.5m of this provided in the form of a loan by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

Initial modelling shows that this plant will save around $350,000 per annum, also noting that the city council’s cost of electricity has double over the past few years – making this a very attractive option to help offset the highly volatile wholesale price of electricity. It’s listed as ‘battery ready’ according to the Altenergy website. 

Nuatali Nelmes, the Lord Mayor of Newcastle, discussed the project in a media statement:

“The solar farm will produce enough energy to run the equivalent of all of our council facilities during the day, which represents significant environmental returns for ratepayers and millions of dollars in savings on electricity costs,” Mayor Nelmes said.

Further discussion shows that, although financial ramifications are very important, the eco-friendly nature of the project was ‘more than just money’:

“While cost savings are certainly a critical factor in our decision to build the solar farm, sustainability initiatives are about more than just money and our community expects us to be good environmental stewards,” Ms Nelmes continued.

This is a fantastic attitude and we look forward to seeing how well the SUmmerhill solar farm performs for the Newcastle City Council. More top news for council solar, which has been growing in leaps and bounds over the last 18 months. 

Read some more articles about council solar below!

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