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.

Nowingi solar+storage to shake up the market.

In the face of rapidly rising electricity prices (where the wholesale price has doubled over the last few years since the carbon tax was axed) – there’s a desperate need for a solution Australia wide – and the brand new $660m Nowingi solar and battery storage plant, whilst being far from a panacea, is certainly a step in the right direction. Built by the Lyon Group who are also responsible for a proposed $1b solar battery farm in South Australia to be finished by the end of the year, this plant, built by private investment, looks like it will be an iconoclastic undertaking – read on to learn why.

The Nowingi Solar + Storage Project

Nowingi Solar Farm Artist Impression
Nowingi Solar Farm (Artist’s Impression – source: lyongroup.com.au)

According to Lyon partner David Green (Lyon are a private equity firm backed by Mitsubishi of Japan and the Unite States hedge fund Magnetar Capital) to the Australian Financial Review, the project is one one of three which amount to almost $2 billion in investment (AUD). These three projects will be offered to utilities, retailers and end users by using a ‘world-first’ tender model. Green took a swipe at the bumbling government and their inept policies of the last 10 years and said “These things are happening despite governments, not because of them,” Mr Green said. “The private demand for renewable energy can’t be denied.”. They’ll initially be 100% financed by equity to facilitate rapid development, but at some point they will likely be refinanced with some debt capital (Green noted that one of Australia’s ‘big four’ banks approached them voicing interest). Lyon told the AFR that “We are seeing a really significant shift in sentiment in private sector capital.”

As of next week the Lyon Group will seek expressions of interest from market participants (generators, network owners, and energy users) for contracts and other services which will be able to use the 60Mwh of storage capacity the three projects, located in Queensland, South Australia, and Victoria, will create. The 250MW Nowingi Solar Farm (Nowingi is around 50km south of Mildura) is going to use 2.3 million panels to deliver power and also charge an 80MW (160Mwh) battery – and users will be able to bid for access to storage at the facility where in other circumstances they may have to buy at a much higher rate on the spot market. That is to say they’ll bid before (i.e. energy price arbitragethe inevitable power shortages / heat waves / high price times – thus protecting themselves from the extremely volatile wholesale price (a very powerful proposition for businesses, network owners and utility companies alike – anyone whose business relies on using high amounts of energy).

Despite (perhaps as a result of?) Canberra’s weak and ineffectual policy, private capital is coming to solar energy in a big way – just yesterday we discussed this on a smaller scale with Complete Office Supplies’ private solar investment – and last week we had a look at Eco Energy World’s solar projects and their intent to offer energy directly on the spot market without signing a Purchase Power Agreement (PPA) with any utility groups. This plant is the natural progression of such offerings – and it’s great to see private companies stand up and offer solutions, rather than pandering.

Hazelwood Shutdown – The implications for Australian Power Prices

After over 50 years of service, the Hazelwood shutdown will finally be completed today . Hazelwood, the Engie and Mitsui owned power plant operated at 1600 megawatts and was a brown (‘dirty’ coal) fired plant, is located in Victoria and supplied almost 25% of the state’s energy (and about 5% nationwide).

This has led to a steady surge in energy futures for the April-June quarter (over 300% in the past year) as per data from the AEMO (Australian Energy Market Operator)

Melbourne analyst for UBS, Nik Burns, wrote in a report this week that the energy market is “…struggling to absorb the potential impact of the closure on future electricity prices” which is leading to “increased volatility”. As the graph below shows Australia’s already struggling power and energy market have reacted with steadily increasing panic to the situation:

Hazelwood Shutdown
Hazelwood Shutdown (source: smh.com.au)

 

Federal Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg has previously said that Victoria could import energy from NSW and Tasmania (coal-fired and hydro generated, respectively) – and according to SMH, and Australia’s electricity grid operator over the next two years there is a prediction of 72 days of high demand conditions/possible power supply shortfalls if next summer is even close to as hot as predicted. As previously highlighted, the plant supplied a massive 25% of Victoria’s power and the 72 days of potential power “reserve shortfall” – which doesn’t necessarily mean blackouts, but certainly shows how reliant the state (along with SA who have myriad similar woes) will be on imported power over the coming months following the Hazelwood shutdown.

However, investigating the situation further it may not be as bad as that sounds – these predictions are based on ‘extreme demand scenarios’ – which refers to the assumption of ‘once in a decade’ electricity usage. A scenario like this is possible for days and even weeks over the next couple of years, but 72 days seems extreme at best. Dylan McConnell from the University of Melbourne said “If there’s a 45-degree day, or three 45-degree days in a row, or a generator fails you could have demand at that level and get a shortfall in Victoria, but it’s not going to happen 72 times in two years,”.  Grattan Institute energy program director Tony Wood agreed that the electricity supply was unlikely to be interrupted in summer 2018/19.

“The most likely outcome at the moment is that we will get through this,” Mr Wood said.

Regardless, Australia’s transition to a clean energy remains fraught with uncertainty (apart from the seemingly inexorable price hikes). With the $2billion Snowy Mountain expansion “Snowy Hydro 2.0” still years away (the feasibility study should be completed by the end of the year) we face a few interesting years as we try to balance reaching our 2030 renewable goals and keep energy on while minimising blackouts and load shedding across the country.