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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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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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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Camberwell Grammar School Solar System

The 862kW Camberwell Grammar School Solar System has been installed in Canterbury and all 2,607 solar panels are currently generating electricity for the largest solar project on any school in Australia. IT will generate 1GWh (1 million kWh’s) of clean energy every year. 

Camberwell Grammar School Solar System - Gippsland Solar
Camberwell Grammar School Solar System – Gippsland Solar (source: gippslandsolar.com.au)

The Camberwell Grammar School Solar System

The team at Gippsland Solar (comprising of 14 commercial installers who were put up in Melbourne for the duration of the project) set up the school solar system, which includes two ‘off-grid classrooms’, earlier this year. It’s been a technically challenging process that required 3D drone modelling, complicated electrical and structural engineering. The first 550kW was delivered over the Christmas school holidays and the remaining 312kW was completed at the end of term one, so as to minimise the amount of disruption to students.

According to the Gippsland Solar Facebook page, the system will generate just over half of the school’s usage and during the holidays they’ll export any excess power back to the grid.

System Details – Gippsland Solar

  • Solar panels – 2650 x Trina 350W frameless panels
  • Inverters – 34 x Fronius European inverters
  • System capacity – 862kW
  • Power production – Approx 1,000,000 kWh’s per year
  • Carbon savings – Approx 1,200 Tonnes per year
  • The school is now looking into installing a Tesla Powerpack battery to go with the solar system. 

Another huge step forwards for commercial solar as we see projects like this become financially feasible. What’s also great to note is that the project was entirely driven by the school student council, who presented the idea to the Camberwell board. 

If you want to learn more about the Camberwell Grammar School Solar System then click here to read a case study from the Gippsland Solar website or click the video below which shows off this beautiful feat of engineering. Kudos Gippsland Solar! 

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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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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 

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Stockland Solar Power Rollout – 12.3MW

Stockland Solar installs – Australia’s biggest diversified property company have announced that they will partner with Todae solar to roll out Australia’s largest ever property solar project at 10 of Stockland’s shopping centres.

Stockland Solar Shopping Centres

Their September press release noted that the $23.5 million investment will see Stockland install more than 39,000 PV panels, on roof space on retail centres in areas such as Merrylands, Burleigh Heads, Point Cook and Wendouree in Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria. They are aiming to install 12.3MW across 10 shopping centres, at a cost of $23m a year. This will generate around 17GWh of solar per annum. 

Mark Steinert, Managing Director and CEO of Stockland discussed their plan in the release, saying:

“We are 100% committed to investing in sustainable energy. We’re extremely proud to be setting a new standard in solar for Australian property which will help create clean, green energy for our retailers, our customers and the communities we operate in.

“We’ve already invested more than $4.5 million in successful solar projects at four of our shopping centres in NSW and this project will extend our reach across 10 of our centres on the east coast.”

Stockland Solar Powered Shopping Centres
Stockland Solar Powered Shopping Centres (source: stockland.com.au)

Combined, the project is expected to produce 17.2 GWh of energy every year, the equivalent to driving an electric car around the world 2,381 times.

Todae will help Stockland install solar at Stockland Shellharbour, Stockland Wetherill Park and Stockland Nowra shopping centres in NSW. They’ll also expand an installation at Stockland Green Hills. To date, Stockland solar have generated over 2.3 million kWh of energy – the company owns and operates the most green star rated shopping centres in Australia.

“Investing in technology like solar energy is not only environmentally sustainable, it also makes good business sense. Our forecast average yield over a 10 year period is 11.6 per cent on capital invested, generating strong shared value for both our investors and our communities,” Mr Steinert said.

This solar installation will bring the company closer to its target for a 60% carbon intensity reduction for its office and retail assets over the FY06-FY25 period.

Last year Stockland was recognised as the most sustainable real estate company in the world in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) and achieved Global Sector and Regional Sector Leader status in the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB) survey in the category Diversified – Retail/Office. 

Stockland is also going to spend $200,00 on installing Tesla Destination Chargers across 31 Stockland shopping centres, according to One Step Off The Grid

Stockland’s shopping centre solar rollout will be across the following centres:

  • Stockland Caloundra, Qld
  • Stockland Merrylands, NSW
  • Stockland Hervey Bay, Qld
  • Stockland Bundaberg , Qld
  • Stockland Traralgon, Vic
  • Stockland Burleigh Heads, Qld
  • Stockland Point Cook, Vic
  • Stockland Cairns, Qld
  • Stockland Green Hills, NSW
  • Stockland Wendouree, Vic

This represents another massive step forwards for commercial solar and we are sure we’ll see many other companies follow Stockland’s lead and start generating as much of their own power as they can. 

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