Ovida Community Energy Hub | Victorian Solar Grant

A generous grant for the $2m Melbourne based Ovida Community Energy Hub was announced by the Victorian state government this week. It’s been given a grant to help deliver affordable, dispatchable and reliable energy for occupants of apartment and commercial buildings.

Ovida Community Energy Hub

Ovida Community Energy Hub installers Jemena (source: jemena.com.au)
Ovida Community Energy Hub installers Jemena

The Ovida Community Energy Hub has been awarded a $980m grant from the Victorian government to install shared solar and battery storage systems in three as yet unchosen multi-tenanted buildings. 

It’ll be done in conjunction with a group of solar companies – the consortium behind the $2 million Ovida project includes Ovida themselves, shared/community solar company Allume Energy, distribution company Jemena, RMIT and the Moreland Energy Foundation.

“Microgrid projects are part of our plan to drive down energy prices, reduce emissions and create a pipeline of investment in renewable energy,” Victorian energy minister Lily D”Ambrosio said in a statement reported by One Step Off The Grid

“This initiative will allow more households and businesses in multi-tenanted buildings to take control of their energy bills.”

The project will generate 5000kWh of renewable energy and will also support 11,000kWh of energy storage when it’s complete 

“Traditionally solar arrangements in multi-tenanted apartment blocks have been all or nothing – meaning all residents had to invest in and use the system for it to work,” said Ovida’s Paul Adams while discussing the project. 

“We know this can be a challenge because apartment blocks often include long-term residents, owners, and short-term occupants who each have different energy needs and expectations.

Along with apartment solar, this is another great step for commercial solar in Australia – watching the government get involved like this bodes well for the future of these sorts of projects. As the price of electricity continues to rise more and more businesses will be looking to insure themselves against further rises and look at buying their energy from alternative sources.

 

 

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Bookaar Solar Farm | Timeline, Opposition & More

The $150m, 200MW Bookaar Solar Farm in Victoria is set to start construction in July next year, if local residents trying to scupper the plans don’t have their way.

Bookaar Solar Farm

Bookaar Solar Farm Location
Bookaar Solar Farm Location (source: Google Maps)

The 200MW Bookaar Solar Farm will feature around 700,000 solar panels, according to the ABC. It is located 10 km to the north of Camperdown, in South West Victoria. It’s being developed by Bookaar Renewables Pty Ltd (a partnership between the landowners and Infinergy Pacific)

According to the official website, there are six main reasons they chose that particular location:

  • Good degree of flat land within the land holding.
  • Good solar resource.
  • Simple grid connection options onsite, with capacity on the lines for the required generation size.
  • Extensive farming land.
  • Good transportation links and site access.
  • Low visual impact – they are hoping to add to existing screening by planting a vegetation screen around the perimeter of the solar farm so neighbour views aren’t as obstructed.

During the construction period it is estimated that the project could provide jobs for up to 150 workers over the course of a year and more.  Following this, 12 full time local jobs will be created over the 30 year operational period of the project. 

The project’s Planning Application and Assessments will be submitted to the Corangamite Shire Council in May 2018.  If approved, construction will begin in late 2019 and be completed by late 2019 or early 2020. 

“The development would be operational for 30 years, after which it would be decommissioned and the site returned to its pre-development status,” the application to council states.

With that said, there is still some solar farm opposition due to its planned size.

Bookaar Solar Farm Opposition

The farm is estimated to be around 6 square kilometres in size, in comparison to Camperdown (where the farm will be built near) which is only 4 square kilometres. As a result, some of the residents are a little uneasy about the impact this farm may have on their investments/lives.

Over 30 people turned up to a meeting a fortnight ago where the Boookaar Community Action Group discussed the ‘immense’ size of the project. 

“The clincher is that it’s 605 hectares, over 1500 acres, just by sheer size it’s an immense problem,” Chair of the group Andrew Duynhoven told the meeting.

“The actual solar farm is the size of Camperdown, plus a quarter.

“It’s massive. It’ll probably be the biggest solar farm application in Australia at the moment.”

Dynhoven elaborated that he is pro-solar but the ‘sheer scale’ of the farm is making them nervous:

“I’m not against solar. I’d love to have solar on the dairy, and in the near future that will occur, but I’m against the sheer scale of this.”

Given the small size of Camperdown and the big solar farm, it is more understandable than most solar farm NIMBY opposition. The residents are also concerned about glint, glare, and the classic: using ‘prime agricultural land’ to build a solar farm. 

A public information meeting will be held at the Camperdown botanic gardens at 1pm on Sunday for anyone interested in following this along. Further discussion about the farm can be found on The Standard‘s website. 

 

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Half price solar for Victorians in $1.2b plan.

Half price solar in conjunction with solar loans will be available to Victorians under a $1.2b plan announced by the state government over the weekend.

Half price solar for Victorians

Half Price Solar for Victorians
Half Price Solar for Victorians (source: premier.vic.gov.au)

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced a $1.24 billion solar plan yesterday. According to the press release the Labor Government released on their website, Victorians will save around $890 / year if they are interested in being part of the half price solar scheme – which involves 50% off solar panels and no upfront cost. The second 50% will be in the form of a solar loan from the government – but to get this loan the Andrews Government will need to be re-elected and implement it from July 2019. 

Premier Andrews has an ongoing argument with the federal government over the National Energy Guarantee – so this is a shot across the bow of Malcolm Turnbull who has recently decided to abolish all energy targets inside the NEG. 

“I can’t give you an answer on the NEG because I don’t know what the NEG actually means, this thing is changing every 24 hours,” Mr Andrews told reporters on Sunday.

 
Not wanting to see a repeat of the pink batts insulation fiasco, an independent agency named Solar Victoria will work with the industry, regulators, and training organisations to ensure the quality of installs is high. Around $9m will be spent to support accreditation of up to 4,500 electricians. Looks like there will be plenty of solar jobs in Victoria if they’re able to get this project over the line.
 
The Victorian Government are hoping to bring solar power to 650,000 households over the next ten years with the Solar Homes program, which they are investing $68m in to launch immediately.
 
Click here to view the Media Release, entitled ‘Cutting power bills with solar panels for 650,000 homes’. 
 
 

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Bendigo Sustainability Group – Community Solar Rooftop

The Bendigo Sustainability Group have launched a crowdfunding campaign to install 30kW of community solar PV at two sites. 

Bendigo Sustainability Group

The Bendigo Sustainability Group are hoping to raise funds to install 100 solar panels for the Eaglehawk Badminton and Table Tennis Stadium – which costs around $30,000. So far they have 73 panels fully funded. The Community Housing Victoria appeal is for the same amount of panels but is struggling a little bit to reach its target – with around 50 panels currently funded. The fundraising round will close on July 31 so hopefully they can get a big push for the last week of donations and end up with both projects fully funded. 

Community Housing

Bendigo Sustainability Group - Community Housing Solar
Bendigo Sustainability Group – Community Housing Solar (source: bsg.org.au)

The BSG are hoping to install a solar PV system on the roof of 8 Community Housing Limited Units in Golden Square, with an aim to reduce electricity bills by around $300 per year for each resident. It’s admittedly a small project, but a great boost for low-income solar in Australia as we hopefully see other councils and communities try to make solar more affordable/feasible for low-income earners.

Eaglehawk Badminton and Table Tennis Stadium

BSG are hoping to install a solar PV system on the roof of the stadium to significantly reduce electricity costs to both tenants. These facilities are Olympic standard and making them cheaper to run will be a huge benefit to both the badminton and table tennis communities. 

Bendigo Sustainability Group spokesperson Chris Corr said that the final size of the solar systems will depend on donations and they may have to install smaller solar systems depending on the success of the fundraising. Bendigo have already fully funded four other council solar installations:

  • Bendigo Archive Centre  – 30kW  (2017)
  • Bendigo Tramways Depot  – 50kW  (2017)
  • Bendigo Discovery Centre  – 11kW  (2016)
  • Bendigo Library  – 20kW  (2015)

Those wanting to help support the Bendigo Sustainability Group should call them on on 5443 5244 or click here to visit the project summary.

All donations for these projects are tax deductible through the Bendigo Sustainability Group’s Sustain Bendigo Fund. The Sustain Bendigo Fund (ABN 92 157 965 158) is endorsed by the Australian Taxation Office as an Income Tax Exempt Charity (ITEC) with Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR) status.

 

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Latrobe Valley solar: 30 public buildings to get PV.

Latrobe Valley solar energy is set to get a boost with 30 public buildings in the area to have rooftop installed at no cost, thanks to a bit of help from the state government in Victoria.

Latrobe Valley Solar Scheme

Energy and environment minister Lily D’Ambrosio was in Moe last week to discuss the scheme and show the Latrobe Valley residents a list of the public buildings in line for free solar upgrades, including in some cases solar hot water and lighting. One such building is the Toongabbie Mechanics Institute – a building where existing solar has already saved $500 on last quarter’s electricity bill. Toongabbie Mechanics Institute treasurer Roger Ries summed it up very succintly:

“It’s made amazing reductions. It’s cheaper for the recreation reserve users and it will make it cheaper for the hall here,” Mr Ries said.

Minister D’Ambrosio spoke about the impact these home solar energy upgrades will have on the lives of lives of 1000 vulnerable Gippslanders.

“The energy upgrades and solar installations will not only help bring down energy prices for the Latrobe Valley, they will create local jobs in the renewable energy sector,” she said.

According to the Latrobe Valley Express, over 1000 households/low incomes earners are also eligible for solar systems as part of the $5 million Latrobe Valley Home Energy Upgrade Program.  Local businesses Gippsland Solar (who are responsible for the fantastic Camberwell Grammar School Solar System), Sunny Afternoons and Rocky’s Electrical will be used for both programs which will create 10 full-time jobs.

Latrobe Valley Solar Scheme
Latrobe Valley Solar Scheme (source: EPA Victoria)

There’s been some great solar news for the Latrobe Valley / Gippsland area with regards to both end-user solutions and large-scale renewable energy production – with a 70MW solar farm on the outskirts of Morwell announced back in April, to be build by ARP Australian Solar who said the plant will be a hybrid solar and battery farm which create “well over 100 jobs [during construction]” for the area. 

“There would also be a number of ongoing jobs … involving security, electrical testing, monitoring and what have you.”, according to ARP Australian solar director George Hughes. 

Mr Hughes elaborated on a potential timeline for the Morwell solar farm: 

“With everything going according to plan, we’re looking to start construction in January or February next year, early 2019.”

We’ll keep you updated on both the Latrobe Valley Solar Scheme and the Morwell solar farm. Exciting times for Gippsland!

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Rooftop solar subsidies – ACCC calls for axe.

Rooftop solar subsidies should be completely removed and the solar feed-in tariffs should be managed at a state rather than a federal level, according to recommendations from the competition watchdog.

Rooftop solar subsidies in Australia

The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission’s electricity affordability report, which was released this week, highlights the cost of our National Energy Market, which include the large-scale renewable energy target, the small-scale renewable energy scheme and solar feed-in tariffs.

The ACCC said the cost of the LRET are expected to fall in the years after 2020, and were happy to leave the scheme to wind up on its 2030 end date. They said that the SRES, however, cost $130 million in 2016-17, and should be wound down and abolished by 2021, almost ten years ahead of schedule, to reduce costs for all consumers – not just those with solar installed.

The report, according to the Australian, found that households with solar panels installed earn $538 per year via feed-in tariffs, which doesn’t count the fact that they pay less for electricity as well:

“Meanwhile, non-solar households and businesses have faced the burden of the cost of premium solar feed-in tariff schemes and the SRES,” the ACCC said.

“While premium solar schemes are closed to new consumers, the costs of these schemes are ­enduring.”

With the New South Wales solar feed-in tariff to drop by 44% this financial year, the glory days of feed-in tariffs could be behind us. But at what point do we stop to count the social cost (i.e. the environmental displacement)? 

Rooftop solar subsidies in Australia - Opposition Leader Bill Shorten
Rooftop solar subsidies in Australia – Opposition Leader Bill Shorten (source: Wikipedia)

The 398 page report has ‘produced vital ammunition to reform energy’, has been ‘hijacked by zealots’ and doesn’t justify the building of new coal-fired power stations, depending on who you ask. About an hour ago Bill Shorten admitted he hasn’t read the ACCC report yet so it’ll be interesting to see what his thoughts are. Certainly just early days for this conversation, but it’s good to see Australia talking about our energy future and trying to come up with a plan. Watch this space! 

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Council Solar in Bendigo gets a boost.

A partnership between the City of Greater Bendigo and local community groups has seen council solar in Bendigo continue to climb. The city’s myriad PV solar installations will save the council around $14,000 in electricity with the panels installed on a number of council owned buildings in Bendigo.

Council Solar in Bendigo

Geelong council will be installing solar at the Strathdale Community Centre, Long Gully Community Centre, California Gully Mechanics Institute and Canterbury Park Pavilion.

The Bendigo Advertiser is reporting that the $50,000 solar installations had funding from the Federal Community Solar Program and the City of Greater Bendigo managed the grant. 

Bernie O’Sullivan, Bendigo Council’s director of strategy and growth, spoke about the savings, both financial and ecological that council solar in Bendigo will bring to the city:

“These new solar panels are expected to create more than 55,000 kilowatt hours of electricity each year and create savings of approximately $14,000 a year in electricity costs,” Mr O’Sullivan said.

“The solar panels are also expected to reduce greenhouse gases by 72 tonnes a year. Community groups pay the utility bills associated with these four facilities, so the solar panels will mean reduced costs for those clubs.”

“We were very pleased when the club representatives approached us and we have assisted by applying for funding and getting the panels installed.”

Geelong council have already installed solar at Eaglehawk Recycling Centre, Annie Galvin and Helen Jessen Early Learning Centres and the Epsom Huntly Recreation Reserve Pavilion.

Council Solar in Bendigo - Bendigo Aquatic Centre
Council Solar in Bendigo – Bendigo Aquatic Centre (source: BAC Facebook Page)

The Bendigo Aquatic Centre will be next – another (council funded) 50 kilowatts of PV solar will be installed there later this year. This will bring Bendigo up to 281.5 kilowatt solar installations in the last 12 months. Always fantastic to hear about council working with its constituents to install renewable energy.

Council solar has been a big thing lately, like the Lismore floating solar farm, Geelong council’s decision to install solar panels above its swimming pools, and Newcastle City Council’s plans to cut electricity usage by 30% within 2 years and usage of the Newcastle solar farm.

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Numurkah solar farm to supply Laverton steelworks.

Neoen’s 100MW Numurkah solar farm in north west Victoria will supply energy to the  GFG Laverton steelworks (part of GFG’s LibertyOneSteel, and GFG’s SIMEC ZEN Energy) as part of a 15 year deal which has been called a part of the ‘revolution of the century’, according to the Neoen chief executive.

Numurkah solar farm and the Laverton steelworks

Numurkah Solar Farm Neoen
Numurkah Solar Farm – Neoen’s previous solar farm in Lannion (source: numurkahsolarfarm.com.au)

The deal is between GFG Alliance (Sanjeev Gupta’s company) and Neoen Australia (French renewables giant responsible for many recent Australian solar projects) to supply power to the Laverton steelworks via the Numurkah solar farm, which consists of 500 hectares of ground mounted solar panels

 
Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg told the Energy Users Association of Australia 2018 conference it looks like things are heading in the right direction with regards to wholesale prices:
 
“We are seeing the wholesale price of power come down. For the last six weeks the wholesale price has averaged $79 a MWh. For the same six weeks last year the wholesale price was $116 a MWh,”
 
GFG Alliance owner Sanjeev Gupta discussed how important renewable energy is to their overarching stratgies for long-term growth: 
 
 “Renewable energy is at the heart of our Greensteel  and Greenaluminium strategies, designed to make metal production and engineering competitive again in developed countries,” Mr Gupta said.

“We see Australia – with its incomparable energy resources – as the natural home for expansion of energy-intensive industry, with renewables to play an integral role.”

Xavier Barbaro, Neoen’s chief executive. wasn’t afraid to think big when discussing the current state of energy in the world:

“The switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy is the revolution of this century,” he said. 

 

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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.  

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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

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