The first solar powered house in Australia.

The ABC recently ran an article about the first solar powered house in Australia, the ‘Bos house’ – which was constructed in Victoria 40 years ago. A TV documentary ‘Breakthroughts’ called the house “the first totally energy-independent modern home in the world”.

The first solar powered house in Australia

The first solar powered house in Australia
Solar gate at the Bos’ – the first solar powered house in Australia (source: ABC)

Judy and Michael Bos have a house on a four hectare block at Pearcedale, in south-east Melbourne. They wanted a house which had as much natural insulation as possible so that it would be naturally cool in summer and warm in winter. It was build in 1978 after ‘lengthy consultation’ with architects and investigating other houses:

“We went into other houses, we found that their heating was blasting away and we didn’t need the heat, because the house stays the same temperature all the time,” Judy Bos told the ABC in an interview.

The north-facing side of the Bos’ home is 98% glass, which means it absorbs as much warmth from the sun as possible. If it’s a hot day they have louvres throughout the house to control sunlight. Wind turbines power a dam pump and a 37,000 litre rainwater tank. 

“It was the first house that we knew of that was running exclusively on solar power,” said Michael Harris, who ran tours of the eco-friendly property in the 1980s.

“Back in the 1980s people were very interested in being self-sufficient and being off the grid, and it was very difficult to do.

“The only option you had was to have a clunky, noisy generator in the back shed.”

The Bos’ property was different – where it has a string of polycrystalline celled solar panels to charge a cupboard full of lead acid solar batteries. According to the ABC, solar panels are now 15x more powerful than when the Bos’ place was constructed, and they’re also much, much cheaper. 

The (now sold) house was a labor of love and quite far ahead of its time and the Bos’ say that anyone wanting to follow in their footsteps will find it easy in 2018:

“This is a very old-fashioned solar house,” Ms Bos said.

“We had to deal with what was available at the time … but now there are all sorts of materials that can be used.

“It doesn’t cost any more to put the windows in the right places and to use the right materials, and in the long run you win.”

We’re expecting solar battery installation to increase quite substantially over the coming few years as the technology continues to improve and the cost decreases.  

Shepparton solar: council to install

Shepparton Solar Farm Proposals / Council Solar

Shepparton solar – the regional Victoria town is going to follow the trend of councils going renewable and install solar power at some of their local facilities, the Greater Shepparton City Council voted this week. The jury’s still out on a number proposed solar farms in Shepparton which are being opposed by some.

Shepparton solar – council investment.

Council solar has been a hot topic over the past 12 months and it’s fantastic to see the Greater Shepparton City Council following suit – Renew Economy are reporting that at a council meeting last week a $225,500 contract to install solar panels on multiple council buildings had been awarded to True Value Solar from Melbourne. 

Cr Bruce Giovanetti made a statement about how important councils doing their part in utilising renewable energy is:

‘‘It’s great to see council is taking a proactive approach to ensuring we can reduce energy consumption costs as much as we can,’’ he said.

Shepparton Solar Farms

Shepparton Solar Farm Proposals / Council Solar
Shepparton Solar Farm (source: greatershepparton.com.au)

The Shepparton News are reporting that five solar farms in Shepparton have been proposed:

  • Tatura East solar farm (45MW)
  • Tallygaroopna solar farm (30MW)
  • Lemnos solar farm (100MW)
  • Congupna solar farm (68MW)
  • Mooroopna solar farm (12MW)

These five farms total more than $300m of investment and will produce over 250MW of power for the area – but not everybody is happy about it. 

According to Greater Shepparton Councillor Chris Hazelman:

‘We’ve heard the relevant objections from people nearby, which indicates concerns about the science, about amenity, about the alienation of agricultural land,”

Hazelman elaborated on how he thinks the dispute will end up in the courts: 

‘‘And in the absence of (state government) guidelines, it would appear that regardless of what decision council makes, either for or against … it will inevitably end up in VCAT. It’s going to make it difficult.’’

We’ve heard the NIMBY argument about ‘prime agricultural land’ from ‘concerned residents’ before (remember Photon Energy’s Brewongle solar farm?) – so it’ll be interesting to see how this plays out in court. 

A spokesperson for Planning Minister Richard Wynne said the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning had prepared advice for the minister to consider, and he would make his ruling in due course.

You can read more detailed information about the solar farm planning permit applications by clicking here

Tesla Battery Power in Victoria – Powerpack

Tesla Battery Power in Victoria will be installed in regional Victoria this year, in time for the 2018/19 summer. The Turnbull government has committed up to $25m to Victoria’s first foray into large-scale, grid-connected batteries.

Tesla Battery Power in Victoria

Tesla Battery Power in Victoria - Tesla Powerpack
Tesla Battery Power in Victoria – Tesla Powerpack (source: tesla.com)

The Age is reporting that ARENA (the Australian Renewable Energy Agency) and the Turnbull government will contribute $25m to the $50m project, which will be located in Western Victoria. The area has been identified as having a ‘vulnerable’ energy transmission network and will benefit immensely from the project. The other $25m of funding will come from a consoria led by Spotless Sustainability Services, according to PV Tech.

The batteries will, similar to the South Australia Tesla battery plant, use Tesla’s lithium ion Powerpacks, but in slightly different configurations and with separate manufacturers. 

There will be two separate batteries – 

  1. A 25MW/50MWh Powerpack solar battery in Kerrang, supplied by Tesla, owned by Edify Energy and Wirsol, and connected to the Gannawarra solar farm in north-west Victoria.
  2. A 30MW/30MWh grid-connected Powerpack in Ballarat, supplied by global energy storage giant Fluence (a conglomeration of Siemens and AES), owned by AusNet and and built at a nearby station in Warrenheip. 

Both batteries will be operated by EnergyAustralia and a PPA (power purchase agreement) has already been signed. 

“ARENA is excited to be demonstrating the capabilities that these new batteries will provide in securing reliable electricity for western Victoria and to facilitate the Victoria’s transition to renewable energy,” ARENA’s Ivor Frischknecht said in a statement.

Victoria has a RET (renewable energy target) of 25% by 2020 and 40% by 2025. 

Minister Josh Frydenberg said: “Storage has been the missing piece of the energy jigsaw for a long time. Whether it’s Snowy 2.0 in New South Wales and Victoria, the Battery of the Nation projects in Tasmania or various initiatives, including a 30MW battery, in South Australia, we are expanding, exploring and funding energy storage right across the country.”

Back in January we wrote about the Bulgana Green Power Hub – a 194MW wind farm and a 20MW / 35MWh battery storage facility which will be built by French renewable energy developer Neoen separately to the Gannawarra solar farm Tesla battery or the Ballarat terminal station Powerpack. So there’s plenty on the horizon for energy storage in Victoria – it’ll be great to see how this affects some of the weaker parts of regional Victoria as it’s already had a fantastic effect in South Australia. 

 

Victoria solar feed in tariffs to vary based on time.

Victoria solar feed in tariffs – the state’s Essential Services Commission has this week released the details of a brand new feed in tariff (FiT) which changes depending on the hour of the day. It will be introduced to Victoria on July 1. Whilst not compulsory to begin with due to their complicated nature, the tariffs will likely be enforced in 2019/20.

Victoria solar feed in tariffs overview

Victoria solar feed in tariffs - Essential Services Commission
Victoria solar feed in tariffs – Essential Services Commission (source: esc.vic.gov.au)

Changing from a flat FiT to one that is more in life with electricity demand makes sense given that a major problem for solar energy is dealing with supplying power in peak times and during heatwaves. Previously solar feed-in tariffs were calculated on a flat basis, and, although they’ve been raised recently, it’s been neglecting the idea that offering more money for people to feed power back into the grid via a ‘virtual power station’ is likely to help mitigate periods where electricity is unavailable or at a ridiculously high price. 

The idea of a ‘virtual power plant‘ is something being worked at via a supplier level (The AGL Virtual Power Plant‘), a state level (ACT’s Next Generation Energy Storage Program) and a combination of the two (Tesla’s virtual power plant in South Australia). This marks the first time they’ve tried to do this via varying FiTs, however., 

According to RenewEconomy, the regulations will require retailers pay a minimum of 29c per kWh for those who exporting power between 3pm and 9pm, a minimum rate of 10.3c per kWh those feeding power back into the grid between 7am and 3pm, and a minimum rate of 7.1c/kWh (which is actually less than the current price of 7.2c) for those exporting energy during off-peak hours – during 10pm and 7am. So, if people want, for 2018 they can pay an alternative flat rate of 9.9c/kWh, down 1.3c/kWh from the previous flat rate. 

The ESC said that the lower cost for the flat rate from modelling from ACIL Allen. This modelling showed that the “any-time price”of electricity has fallen, but the evening peak price is now higher, and that the constant addition of solar connections will lead to even lower day time prices.

 

 

Geelong Solar – Council to install solar at pools.

Geelong Solar – the City of Greater Geelong are rolling out a plan to make huge cuts to its carbon emissions (They’re aiming for 50% via their Zero Carbon Emissions Strategy) in 2020. They’ve installed 300 solar panels at a local swimming pool and have a lot of other plans for the rest of the year. 

Geelong Solar and the Zero Carbon Emissions Strategy

Fitness centre Leisurelink Aquatic and Recreation Centre on Pioneer Road in Grovedale has been fitted out with solar panels as part of the Greater Geelong Council renewable energy push. The centre now has over 300 solar panels and joins the Grove Community Centre, City Hall and Boorai Centre in Ocean Grove which had PV rooftop solar panels installed last November. 

Other public premises which will have solar panels installed in the roof later this year include the Bellarine Aquatic and Sports Centre, The Arena, and the National Wool Museum. According to the Geelong Advertiser, the buildings will also have upgraded energy efficient lighting and the heating/cooling systems will be altered so as to help meet Geelong’s Zero Carbon Emissions Strategy. 

Geelong Solar - Leisurelink Swim Sport and Leisure
Geelong Solar – Leisurelink Swim Sport and Leisure (source: geelongaustralia.com.au)

“It’s important for local government to lead the way with environmental initiatives,” Geelong mayor Bruce Harwood said.

“The benefits from installing these solar panels across City buildings will also extend to the community with significant annual savings.”

Mr Harwood said the estimated savings in energy reduction will be $200,000 per year, and this also means 1600 less tonnes of greenhouse gases. 

Geelong council have joined another bunch of council solar initiatives announced in the last year, such as:

It’s great to see councils moving in the right direction and taking the initiative to ensure they are using as much renewable energy as possible. In the same week where UNSW announced that they will be completely solar powered thanks to the Sunraysia solar plant, it’s a great time for renewables in Australia! 

Darebin Solar Saver – Interest Free Solar Loans

The Darebin Solar Saver, a groundbreaking solar scheme in the Victorian city of Darebin, means that residents are able to take out an interest-free loan from the council to cover the cost of solar panels and installation, with repayments added to household rates. 

About the Darebin Solar Saver

Darebin councillors signed a $10m contract with EnviroGroup in Northcote to manage the expansion of the Darebin Solar Saver program, with systems available from 2kW to 10kW – installations are set to commence in July 2018. This is in addition to the ~500 households already enjoying the program. 

The $10 million expansion, which will be funded via existing cash reserves, will help further the council’s goal to double solar-power generated in Darebin from 18,000kW to 36,000kW. 

The Herald Sun quoted Kingsbury resident Mai Pham as a very happy user of the Darebin Solar Saver:

“We are really happy with our solar system. We’re saving on our energy bills and it means we don’t need to worry so much,” she said.

“The cost of installing solar means it’s not even a possibility for many low-income families, so this help from the council to cover the initial outlay is such a good idea.”

Residents who would like to take advantage of the generous and forward-thinking solar programs (which are currently slated to run from 2017 – 2021) can click here to register their interest. Alternatively, if you have any questions email [email protected] or phone 8470 8888.

Darebin Solar Saver
Darebin Solar Saver (source: darebin.vic.gov.au)

Interest Free Solar Loans

We’ve previously written about interest free solar via Annastacia Palaszczuk’s Labor Party and their ‘Powering Queensland’s Future’ scheme which may be offering no-interest solar loans in Queensland. There are a number of retailers currently offering low/no interest solar deals to customers but to have the purchasing power and safety of the government behind one of these schemes would be an amazing step in the right direction. We’ll keep you updated on any further details for councils subsidising solar for their residents! 

Solar Barbecue at Koroit Standoff Continues

The Moyne Shire and the Koroit Lions Club have continued discussions over who should fund and be responsible for maintenance over a proposed solar barbecue at the Koroit railway station. 

The $90,000 Solar Barbecue

Koroit Railway Station - Location for the Solar Barbecue
Koroit Railway Station – Location for the Solar Barbecue (source: wikipedia.org)

The Koroit Lions Club had requested $20,000 from the council through community assistance funding towards the project, which, according to Standard.net.au, is estimated to cost close to $90,000, exclusive of ongoing maintenance. 

Cr Jill Parker proposed to give $20,000 to the club towards a ‘barbecue and shelter of any kind’ with the proviso that council are not responsible for ongoing maintenance. 

“I agree that the Lions Club have shown initiative in putting up a solar barbecue,” Cr Parker told a council meeting. 

“They have asked us for funding towards that and I would like to see that we make that available to them.

“The only provision I would add is that if it is a solar one, that (council) won’t be responsible for ongoing maintenance of a solar unit.”

Through a submission to the council, the club noted that it would be an environmentally friendly asset and some of the councillors, such as Cr Jim Doukas, agreed. Cr Doukas told the meeting that having “two bob each way” (i.e. offering the money but refusing to take responsibility for the project in an ongoing fashion) represented ineffective policy and will make the council look like “idiots”. Cr Doukas said the money should be given “in the interest of progress”, an idea which was shared by Cr Jordan Lockett who said it was not “just about a simple barbecue where old mate cooks his snags”, but an opportunity to be a “progressive shire and say we believe in solar energy”.

The $20,000 grant was eventually passed but, as discussed, the council won’t be responsible for any maintenance/repair. So we’ll see what happens after it’s built! 

Whichever way you cook it, $90,000 for a barbecue is certainly expensive. But when you put the investment into perspective, it’s great seeing the councils get involved in making facilities more environmentally friendly – such as the solar bins which have been rolled out to Cairns and in Noosa recently. Great progressive investment from the Moyne Shire! 

Liddell Power Station To Close in 2022 – AGL Energy

AGL Energy will be closing the Liddell coal-fired power station in 2022, resulting in a 1000MW shortfall of energy. AGL has an exciting plan to cover this missing amount by using a mix of solar power, wind power, pumped hydro, battery storage, and gas peaking plants over a three-stage period leading up to 2022. 

The Closure of Liddell and its implications

The Turnbull government had asked AGL Energy to consider extending the life of the Liddell power station or selling it to someone else, but it doesn’t seem like that plan is on AGL’s radar. According to the SBS, Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg has asked the AEMO (Australian Energy Market Operator) have a look at AGL’s idea, advising that it is best to “leave the judgement of (the plan’s) merits to the experts”. 

AGL’s plan for solar/wind/pumped hydro/storage and gas peaking plants will cost $1.3b and is expected to provide electricity at $83/MWh for up to 30 years, in contrast to the much higher cost for Liddell. By keeping it open for just an extra five years the cost would be $920 million and it would cost $106/MWh, according to figures stated on the SBS

“Obviously it’s a significant proposal, there is a host of new technologies and new investments as part of it,” Mr Frydenberg was quoted in Melbourne on Sunday.

“You need all forms of energy in Australia’s future energy mix, there’s a role for coal there’s a role for gas, there is increasingly a role for wind and solar and for battery storage,” he added.

Liddell Power Station - AGL Energy to close it in 2022
Liddell Power Station – AGL Energy to close it in 2022 (source: wikipedia.org)

This news comes hot on the heels of the closing of the Hazelwood coal-fired power station in Victoria in March this year. Numerous other coal-fired power stations across New South Wales and Victoria are nearing the end of their 50 year lifespans – with two of Victoria’s three coal-fired plants having outages during last February’s hot weather. 

Federal opposition energy spokesman Mark Butler was complimentary of the plan – whether 

Solar Powered Trams in Melbourne / VRETs

Victoria has been working on a plan for solar powered trams over the past year and it looks like the Andrews government has moved one step closer with the project – announcing plans to build two new Victorian solar farms to power Melbourne’s tram networks. If that phrase conjured up the image of a bunch of trams with solar panels on top, unfortunately not yet – but using renewable energy to power public transport is a great step forwards. We already have projects like the Valdora solar farm run by the Sunshine Coast Council to power all their energy needs so it’s very encouraging to see the public sector moving in (some semblance of) lockstep with private innovation and investment. 

Melbourne’s Solar Powered Trams

Premier Daniel Andrews Solar Powered Trams
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announces Solar Powered Trams.

Premier Daniel Andrews announced that Bannerton Solar Park and the Numurkah Solar farm have won tenders to provide renewable energy to power Melbourne’s trams, offering 100MW and 38MW respectively for the network. The $100m Bannerton project will consist of 95,000 solar panels and is expected to reach full completion by July 2018. The Numurkah Solar Farm will output 100MW via 300,000 solar panels on 500 hectares, but only 38MW of this will be going to the government. French solar plant developer Neoen (who will partner with Tesla to create the world’s largest lithium-ion battery in South Australia) will commence construction in early 2018.

In January Energy, Environment and Climate Change Minister Lily D’Ambrosio advised that they would use one solar plant with 75MW of power – and that half of this would go to the tram network as 35MW was sufficient to cover the energy needs of 410 Melbourne trams. Despite opposition energy minister David Southwick decrying it at the time as a ‘media stunt’ and said Andrews’ government should be ‘fighting for the most affordable power deal for Victorians’, the government has forged ahead and have doubled down on their renewable energy plans – announcing Victoria’s Renewable Energy Targets for 2020 and 2025. 

Victorian Renewable Energy Target

Legislation introduced to Parliament (the first time RETs have been enshrined in state legislation in Australia) last week has set Victoria’s RETs (Renewable Energy Targets) to 25% at 2020 and 40% by 2025. According to the Herald Sun, they haven’t released any modelling showing what the figures are based on, but the RET will mean a cut to energy prices of $30 p.a. for an average family. 

According to Andrews, “The VRET will cut the average cost of power for Victorians by around $30 a year for households, $2,500 a year for medium businesses and $140,000 a year for large companies, while driving a 16 per cent reduction in Victoria’s electricity sector greenhouse gas emissions by 2034-35.”

The VRET legislation allows for a competitive reverse auction (i.e. the lowest bidder wins) for up to 650MW of power (enough to power Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo and the Latrobe Valley combined) , which Clean Energy Council chief exec Kane Thornton says will ‘turbocharge’ the renewable energy industry in Victoria, calling it a ‘major step forward for communities, businesses and the state’s renewable energy industry’. 

Political grandstanding or a massive step forward for renewable energy in Victoria? Is it necessarily a zero-sum game? We’ll know very soon – watch this space and we’ll keep you updated on how things are going! With the first legally binding state RETs Victoria are certainly putting their money where their mouth is and doing their bit to reduce emissions and move towards a renewable energy future. 

Newbridge Solar Plant Upgrade Gets Go Ahead

The Victorian state government has given $1 million in funding to upgrading an existing Newbridge solar plant which will create up to 70 local jobs and represents world-class solar technology.

Newbridge Solar and RayGen Resources

Newbridge Solar Plant - RayGen Resources
The Newbridge Solar Plant –
created by RayGen Resources (source: raygen.com)

The plant will be built by Blackburn-based solar technology company RayGen Resources and the funding was announced by Lily D’Ambrosio, the Energy, Envicornment and Climate Change Minister for Victoria. The funding well come from Business Victoria’s New Energy Jobs Fund and will create jobs in manufacturing, sales, product engineering, and software engineering. This represents another boon for Victorian solar which has been moving along in leaps and bounds over the last 12 months.

D’Ambrosio approved the funding this week and was quoted by the Bendigo Advertiser as saying “This is a fantastic opportunity to strengthen the exports for our growing renewables sector and deliver a positive environmental impact”.

John Lasich and Zhen Mu , along with RayGen’s new CEO, Alex Wyatt, are in charge of the Chinese solar project which is based on the pilot plant which supplied power to a Newstead organic mushroom farm. The energy generated by the new Newbridge solar farm will supply the more than enough to power the business. No word yet on when the plant will be completed but we think it will be within the next 12 months and look forward to seeing the PV Ultra technology utilised in the future.