Bruny Island solar trial – ANU

Bruny Island solar trial – the tiny island off Tasmania is the site of a new smart solar and battery trial which may be helping shape Australia’s energy future. The combination of solar and battery installations work in conjunction to remove Bruny Island’s traditional reliance on diesel generators. 

Bruny Island solar trial

Bruny Island solar trial
Bruny Island solar trial (source: wikipedia.org)

The trial was done with Australian National University’s battery storage and grid integration program who worked with 40 households (around 3.5% of the amount of homes on Bruny Island) on the island to create a ‘microcosm of a future Australian electricity grid’. This was done by using the Network Aware Coordination (NAC) platform. The NAC consists of a series of ‘smart’ algorithms which can decide how to manage solar+storage (i.e. when to feed back into the grid or charge the battery based on myriad factors such as weather, usage patterns, and what other households’ energy draw/storage is). 

The Bruny Island solar trial wasn’t about fully replacing the diesel generators, but more about supplementing their usage and minimising reliance on diesel during peak times such as summer or a heatwave. 

“In the same way that traffic lights coordinate the flow of cars and trucks on the road, the Network-Aware Coordination platform coordinates the flow of energy from residential solar and batteries to networks and markets to ensure the efficient and reliable operation of the electricity grid,” the ANU said.

Lachlan Blackhall from the ANU discussed the goals of the project:

“The trial of the NAC is about better understanding how to use solar and battery to make the grid more efficient,” Mr. Blackhall was quoted in the Canberra Times. “During Easter, Bruny Island actually required more power than could be supplied by the undersea cable to the island.

“Typically they would use diesel but this program – even with only 3.5 per cent of homes on the island participating – reduced diesel usage by 30 per cent.”

The great results bode well for the future in Australia and also for people wanting to create a microgrid – the software and learnings headed up by the NAC will help ensure the whole grid remains healthy, rather than the more ‘selfish’ policies which we’ve seen other systems use. Looking at the grid as a whole rather than a household means we have a lot more control to share power as evenly as possible and try to minimise reliance on diesel. 

Even though it was a small trial it could scale up quickly without too much effort so the good result of the trial is very heartening. It’ll be interesting to see which size ‘microgrid’ they try and integrate NAC to next! 

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Wesley Vale Solar Farm – Latrobe.

Epuron Projects Pty Ltd have a proposed solar farm, to be known as the Wesley Vale Solar Farm, which will supply energy to Latrobe and the national grid. It will be able to produce up to 25,600MWh of electricity per annum, which is the equivalent of 2900 households. 

Wesley Vale Solar Farm

Wesley Vale Solar Farm
Wesley Vale Solar Farm (source: epuron.com.au/solar/wesley-vale-solar)

The Wesley Vale Solar Farm is still in the planning stages, but it will be located at 213 Mill Road and, according to The Advocate, is going to be the biggest solar farm in the state. 

According to Epuron project manager Shane Bartel via the application the farm hasn’t decided on fixed or tracking arrays for the panels, which will be located on the 35 hectare property.  They’re currently waiting on TasNetworks who are upgrading the local network to see if they’re able to connect directly to the Wesley Vale substation. 

If the application is approved, the Wesley Vale solar farm will commence construction this year and will be built over multiple stages, which may include energy storage in the future. 

Powercom’s Application – Latrobe solar farm

Powercom, according to their general manager Rohan Windsor, are applying to build a smaller fixed array PV system for the landowner of 32 Cherry Hill Road. It’s understood that this is a farmer looking to insulate themselves from the rapidly rising cost of electricity. Windsor discussed this further and was quoted by the Advocate thusly:

“The main factor in all this is the cost of energy is more than doubling. Usually you can off-set 30 to 40 per cent of your bill.

“The larger (farms) may have costs of $500,000, so then there’s a big saving. In agriculture, if you can reduce ongoing costs by 30 per cent, that’s a big saving.

“Since the introduction of the energy price increase recently, and as peoples’ (power) contracts came up for negotiation, we’re seeing more interest in solar.”

According to their website Powercom have created the largest solar installation in Tasmania to date:  1200 solar panels and 317kw at a commercial premises.

You can watch a video about the installation here:

Solar Farms in Tasmania

We don’t get to write that much about solar farms in Tasmania so it’s great to see some news. Renewable energy in Tasmania has been a hot button issue lately, as the state announced plans to be totally self-sufficient by 2022. The vast majority of renewables are generated by hydropower and wind farms. 

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Renewable Energy in Tasmania – 100% by 2022

On Wednesday the Tasmanian State Government released a report of recommendations with regards to renewable energy in Tasmania. The report was prepared by an energy security taskforce after Tasmania suffered a major power crisis in 2015/16 and will be 100% implemented by summer 17/18, as the Government have admitted a more ‘conservative’ approach is required, as per the ABC website.

This comes hot on the heels of news from the Tasmanian Government that they plan to be totally self-sufficient by 2022.

Renewable Energy in Tasmania – an overview

The 2015/16 Tasmanian energy crisis was due to low rainfall and the breaking of the Basslink power cable which joined Tassie to the mainland. It ended up sending the state into a spiral of insufficient energy which lasted six months and had myriad follow-on effects.

The energy security taskforce’s report noted that there aren’t currently any pressing concerns with regards to energy security in Tasmania, as dam levels are around 39%. It did, however, note that “more rigorous and widely understood framework” needs to be set up in order to better manage water storage. Given that Hydro Tasmania (an energy company owned by the state) has the unenviable position of trying to make profit whilst also addressing energy security, it’s a delicate situation. The report’s draft framework clearly states when Hydro Tasmania can “operate freely within its commercial interests and those occasions where it needs to take increasing steps to redress/avoid energy security risks”.

The report also recommends that they continue to hold the Tamar Valley gas plant in order to use it as a backup power station for the Tasmanian electricity grid, and, according to the report, to “provide clarity” to the Tasmanian gas market.

Tasmanian Energy Minister Matthew Groom praised the report, advising that there is “no doubt” Tasmania needs to adopt a more conservative tack when dealing with energy security.

Hydro Tasmania were also happy with the recommendations, labelling them “robust and responsible”.

These are good steps towards solving the renewable energy challenges in Tasmania and will go a long way to preventing a repeat of the energy crisis.

Tasmania – 100% Renewable Energy by 2022

Renewable Energy in Tasmania - Hydro
Renewable Energy in Tasmania – Hydro power (source: abc.net.au)

The State Government have announced a plan to invest in two new wind farms (at Wild Cattle Hill and Granville Harbor), which will add 6-7% (of the total required energy) to Tasmania’s available generation. Given that Tassie is currently using 93% renewable energy, these wind farms, to be completed around 2020, should allow the state to reach its goal of 100% renewable by 2022 fairly easily.

What’s interesting is that they have decided to ignore battery storage for the immediate future – with the report noting “The Taskforce concludes that until there are significant decreases in battery costs and technology, or significant changes to current electricity pricing, adding a battery system represents a significant additional cost to the household that is not offset by reducing the cost of peak electricity”.

Let’s see how battery storage factors into future conversations, both in Tasmania and other parts of Australia.

 

 

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Tasmanian Solar figures show Launceston leading the charge.

Recent figures released by the Australian Photovoltaic Institute shows Australia’s solar installation statistics for 2017 mean we have nearly 6GW of capacity nationwide. Leaders in the solar ‘race’ are Queensland with 1.7GW and NSW with 1.2GW of residental/commercial solar PV power. Comparatively, Tasmanian solar figures are at a smaller 105mW. This gives them plenty of room for improvement, but when you consider geographic size and amount of sunlight this is moving in a very hopeful direction for solar. Especially when you consider that they are in front of the Northern Territory who should have at least 1.5GW by now.

Solar Uptake in Tasmania – 2017

With 105mW, Tasmania have more solar capacity than the NT and the ACT. According to the APVI, Launceston is the best performing area of Tasmania for solar power – with 2,353 discrete residential/commercial installations. Since 2013, when the feed-in tariff dropped from 28c / kWh to 5.5c / kWh, the solar industry has been very slow – with installers like Jason Garard reporting a massive drop in business from “two-and-a-half jobs a week to a job every two months”. There is some hope in sight, however, as the state government and energy minister Matthew Groom preparing to support solar development through a new 2017 scheme called TEELS. This comes as welcome news to groups like ‘Solarcitizens.org.au‘ who have been pleading with the government for a ‘fair go for Tassie solar’ after the 2013 tariff drop and a lack of state initiative has all but crushed the industry.

Tasmanian Solar
Tasmanian Solar – Fair Go for Tassie Solar (source:solarcitizens.org.au)

Tasmanian Solar – Energy Efficiency Loan Scheme (TEELS)

The Tasmanian Energy Efficiency Loan Scheme (TEELS) is a $10m government initiative backed by Westpac to provide interest free loans for the purchase and installation of energy efficient products (e.g. solar hot water systems, solar photovoltaic (PV) systems). Tasmanians are registering their interest with Aurora Energy, who are partnering the government on this scheme. It’s expected this will have a major effect on solar energy in Tasmania.

As of today (April 28), they are finalising the setup of the scheme – you can click here for a list of eligible TEELS products and services and also to register for the Tasmanian Energy Efficiency Loan Scheme. We’ll update this page and our main page about solar power in Tasmania as soon as TEELS has officially launched!

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