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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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. 

 

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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.

 

 

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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! 

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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! 

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