Solar Tarp – foldable, portable solar power.

California based Lipomi Research Group are working on creating a solar tarp – which would have myriad uses for society. Let’s learn more about how these upgraded solar panels could help parts of the world where they don’t have access to regular electricity – and some of the technological challenges they’re facing trying to complete the project.

About the Solar Tarp technology

Prototype Solar Tarp Sample - University of California
Prototype Solar Tarp Sample – University of California (source: theconversation.com)

The Lipomi Research Group are focused on “identifying ways to create materials with both good semiconducting properties and the durability plastics are known for – whether flexible or not”.  They’ve been tinkering with perovskite solar cells, which are 1/1000 the thickness of a silicon layer in a solar panel. 

Darren Lipomi of the Lipomi Group, who is also a Professor of Nanoengineering at the University of California, said that their goal is to create flexible solar panels which are as efficient as conventional silicon but don’t have some of the drawbacks of it.

The goal is to develop flexible solar panels which are thin, lightweight, and bendable. Lipomi is calling their idea a ‘solar tarp’ – which refers to a solar panel which can be expanded to the ‘size of a room’, but balled up to the size of a grapefruit when not in use. The issues here are finding a molecular structure to make the solar panels stretchable and tough – this involves replacing the silicon semiconductors with materials such as perovskite. 

They’re also taking a look at polymer semiconductors / organic semiconductors (based on carbon, and used in place of perovskites or silicon in a solar cell). These aren’t as efficient, but are far more flexible and extremely durable.

According to The Conversation, the sunlight that hits the earth in a single hour contains more energy than the whole planet uses in an entire year – so there’s plenty more work to do on improving how we utilise the sun! We’ll keep an eye on the solar tarp project and let you know when it reaches the next stage.

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Peer-To-Peer Renewable Energy Trading with Power Ledger

Australian blockchain solar startup Power Ledger has partnered with Yolk Property Group to apply its renewable energy trading between residents in their White Gum Valley development. This marks the first time an apartment development utilising blockchain technology has been offered for sale to the public in Australia. 

Peer-To-Peer Renewable Energy Trading

The White Gum Valley project is an ARENA funded sustainable living innovation project. Inside White Gum, Yolk Property Group are building an apartment development named ‘Evermore’ which will have solar PV panels, battery storage, and, of course, the Power Ledger blockchain technology we have written about quite frequently on this site.

According to The West, the project is being overlooked by a team at Curtin University headed up by Professor Peter Newman. They are collecting and analysing the data to help inform Western Power and national authorities on energy infrastructure – viewing this as a learning experience.

“The world is watching – I think that now there are people all round the world saying they’re doing it in Perth why can’t we?” Professor Newman said.

Yolk Property Group have advised that expected cost savings for residents will be around 30 to 40 per cent. Certainly nothing to be sneezed at!

About Power Ledger

Peer-To-Peer Renewable Energy Trading - Power Ledger
Peer-To-Peer Renewable Energy Trading – Power Ledger (source: Power Ledger Facebook)

Under the Power Ledger method, buying and selling of power happens automatically and is all stored in the blockchain – so it’s really easy to manage and is very hands-off.

“If you’ve got excess solar now, your solar panels are producing energy while you’re away at work or you’re away on holidays – that energy gets spilled into the grid and you sell it to Synergy your retailer,” Power Ledger’s David Martin said.

“Now, under the model we have here, instead of selling your energy to Synergy you can sell it to your next door neighbour at a better price.”

If we can manage to get a solar battery rebate in Australia, will that help methods like Power Ledger? Watch this space…

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Western Australia Solar Subsidies may be cut – Wyatt

Western Australia Solar Subsidies look like they’re in the firing line right now – with Energy Minister Ben Wyatt advising that he supports either completely scrapping or winding back rooftop solar panel subsidies.

Western Australia Solar Subsidies

Western Australia Solar Subsidies - Synergy
Western Australia Solar Subsidies – Synergy (source: synergy.net.au)

Earlier this year the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission called to axe rooftop solar subsidies Australia-wide by 2021. Ben Wyatt said he has asked the Public Utilities Office to have an in depth look about the buyback scheme which could probably do with a bit of an overhaul, or at least a step in the right direction, technology wise.

“While the cost of solar PV systems has reduced significantly since the introduction of the Renewable Energy Target and is now considered economically viable in the absence of government subsidy, the implications of such a change need to be fully thought through, including the impact on the local solar industry,” Mr Wyatt said.

In WA, Synergy currently pays a feed-in tariff of 7.1c/kW to 240,000 households with solar – and over 70,000 customers entitled to the premium solar feed-in tariff which is 40c/kW (there’s no indication that the gov’t is looking at winding back the premium FIT). This is known as the Renewable Energy Buyback Scheme (REBS). Mr Wyatt said that Synergy are paying ‘over the odds’ for this power during hte middle of the day, when demand is low and output high. If you’d like to learn more about WA’s unique energy situation please have a look at this article.

We’re all for furthering the cause of solar, but is it worth taking a look at maybe moving some of the subsidies and tariffs towards energy storage rather than energy generation?

Ray Challen, who was the top energy adviser as the head of the Public Utilities Office up until the end of last year, said he thinks it’s time to consider the best way to continue improving our renewable generation:

“The reason for subsidising any form of behaviour is to produce some sort of greater social good, and it would be difficult to say at the moment that there is a greater social good from subsidising small-scale solar because people could do it anyway,” Mr Challen said. “Not only that but if you wanted to subsidise anything in the power sector then you would be probably subsidising batteries.”

So will we have a solar battery subsidy? It’s hard to say at this point, but many people are talking about making a change to the way we currently reward solar generators. Would a carefully managed solar battery rebate help? Watch this space…

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Sunshine Coast Solar Farm saves $1.7m in Year 1

The Sunshine Coast Solar Farm has been live for a year, and, as the second largest solar farm in Queensland, is on track to deliver $22m in savings over the next 30 years. 

Sunshine Coast Solar Farm Savings

Sunshine Coast Solar Farm (Valdora)
Sunshine Coast Solar Farm (Valdora) (source: sunshinecoast.qld.gov.au)

Also known as the Valdora solar farm, the 15MW and $50m Sunshine Coast Solar Farm was opened last year, allowing the Sunshine Coast Council to be the first local governments in Australia to offset 100% of its energy usage from a renewable source. Sunshine Coast acting Mayor Tim Dwyer has made some comments to the Sunshine Coast Daily about its progress:

“The Sunshine Coast Solar Farm has saved council $1.7 million – more than double the amount we’d hoped for in the first year,” Cr Dwyer said.

“We have met our offset goal as well – offsetting more than 100% of council’s energy use across all our facilities and operations.

“We’ve generated more than 26,300 megawatt hours of energy in 12 months. To put that into perspective, the average Australian home uses around six megawatt hours per year.

“We’ve saved more than 20,500 tonnes in carbon emissions – the equivalent of taking about 4300 cars off the road for one year.

“Council’s solar farm project has also received three prestigious awards for boosting productivity through infrastructure, sustainability excellence and planning excellence.

“Our Council is the first local government in the country to deliver a solar farm.

“With projects like the solar farm, we are delivering on our vision to be Australia’s most sustainable region – healthy, smart, creative.”

According to the Sunshine Coast Council website, it’s also the first solar farm in Australia which operates at 1500 volts DC, allowing it to operate more efficiently. 

Mayor Mark Jamieson said farm will allow the local council to take control of its own electricity supply, helping with rising electricity costs and also providing an environmentally friendly way to run their facilities:

“All power consumed at all of council’s facilities, including our administration buildings, aquatic centres, community and performance venues, as well as holiday parks, libraries, art galleries and sporting facilities, will be offset with energy from a renewable source thanks to this nation-leading project,” Mayor Jamieson said.

 

 

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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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Primo Smallgoods Solar – Company to install 3.2MW

Primo Smallgoods are set to install Australia’s biggest commercial solar rooftop PV system with 3.2MW to go up at their Wacol, Brisbane plant in August. 

Primo Smallgoods Solar – Commercial Solar

Primo Smallgoods Solar Installation`
Primo Smallgoods Solar Installation (source: primo.com.au)

The installation will cut Primo Smallgoods’ reliance on the grid by 19 percent, according to chief operating officer Bruce Sabatta:

“JBS globally has set sustainability targets to achieve by 2020. These targets cover water, gas, electricity and greenhouse gas emissions amongst others,” he said.

“As part of the JBS business, Primo has a part to play in the reduction of our environmental impact in Australia,” Sabatta was quoting as saying back in June.

“With our new solar panel installation in place, we will use the power generated from the solar panels instead of solely relying on power from the electricity grid.

“We are making significant investments in energy efficiency to lower our carbon footprint and to continue to improve our efficiency leadership position in the industry,” Sabatta continued.

The solar array will be installed by CleanPeak Energy and Todae Solar, following a tendering process by Solar Choice in 2016. Todae are also responsible for the Brisbane Markets’ solar installation and the 12.3MW solar system Stockland are currently rolling out, so they have a lot of experience in these large-scale commercial solar installs. CleanPeak Energy was started by Philip Graham and Jonathan Hare, previously of Citigroup and Origin Energy, in order to work solely on commercial solar – so this job looks like a perfect fit.

“Our model is to effectively work with a customer to deliver a power solution that is renewable and cheaper than their current offer,” Mr Graham was quoted in the AFR.

One Step Off The Grid are reporting that the Primo solar system will generate 4,869MWh of power in its first year – the equivalent of powering 20,032 homes for one year.

This comes at a time where private/commercial investment in large-scale solar is at an all-time high with companies like Hunter Douglas investing in 800Kw earlier this month. 

“This installation is notable for the cutting edge technology that we have chosen, and its cost effectiveness which will see it pay back the investment in a little over four years,” said Tony Politis, Hunter Douglas MD for Australia/NZ.

There are many other commercial solar installs on the books all across Australia, including:

Brisbane Airport are installing a huge 6MW solar array at multiple locations which they are hoping to have complete by the end of 2018. 

BlueScope Steel will buy 200 gigawatt-hours of electricity a year from the Finley solar farm.

Cannington Mine‘s owner, South32, will install a 3MW solar farm across six hectares – to supply the mine’s accommodation village and airport. 

 

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Beryl Solar Farm Sold To New Energy Solar

We’ve written about the Beryl Solar Farm reaching a financial close back in May – now the 87MW (108MW according to the AFR) project has a new owner and is continuing construction. 

Beryl Solar Farm Sold To New Energy Solar

Beryl Solar Farm Sold to New Energy Solar
Beryl Solar Farm Sold to New Energy Solar (source: FirstSolar.com.au)

According to PV Magazine, the farm has been purchased by New Energy Solar – who also bought the 50MW Manildra Solar Farm for $113m last month. Both farms were previously owned by First Solar and the Beryl farm will be using their 420W large-format Series 6 thin film PV modules. Beryl also comes with a 15 year PPA with Transport for NSW – who will purchase 134,000 MWh from Beryl Solar Farm each year – using the power for the Sydney Metro Northwest railway. This long PPA with a AAA rated customer (i.e. the government) makes the farm a great buy in its current shape.

The EPC project was estimated at $150m according to Reuters, but it’s now estimated at $187m. Downer Utilities started work on the project in May and hope to have it finished in mid 2019. The farm will produce enough energy to power 25,000 households and doesn’t require any water for its electricity generation.

New Energy Solar said the cost of the farm won’t be announced but it was pegged to a target for five-year annual average gross yield of 8.2%, in comparison with yield on its existing portfolio of about 6.8% p.a, so by those metrics it looks like a canny purchase. 

New Energy Solar’s CEO, John Martin, discussed how the extra-long 15 year PPA helped get the sale of this project over the line:

“Beryl, New’s second investment in Australia, will further enhance the scale and contracted cashflows of our Australian portfolio,” said Martin. “Following the Manildra acquisition last month, we are delighted to be consolidating our relationship with First Solar through this second sizeable transaction in the Australian market.”

Martin continued to say that ~69% of the energy provided by the Beryl project will go to Transport for NSW – with the rest slated to package up with a 20MWh battery and sold to a corporate customer as commercial solar

To learn more about the project from the First Solar website please click here

If you’re interested in solar employment and working at the Beryl Solar Farm, please click here to visit the Downer Group’s careers website.

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Is There A Solar Battery Rebate In Australia?

We’ve heard whispers of a solar battery rebate doing the rounds. Is Australia about to see its own energy storage subsidy, and, if so, how would the potential rollout of that be implemented?

Solar Battery Rebate in 2018

Solar Battery Rebate in Australia - Tesla Powerwall
Solar Battery Rebate in Australia – Will it include the Tesla Powerwall 2?

We’ve written about solar battery growth before – the sector has seen a sharp rise in 2017 which has continued into 2018. Will the government consider incentivising households and businesses to install energy storage, helping add stability to the grid, lower skyrocketing electricity costs and assist Australia in reaching our Renewable Energy Target? Time will tell. States like Queensland already have the Affordable Energy Program where 5,000 Queenslanders will see an interest-free loan for solar systems/battery storage, so a scheme just for storage doesn’t seem out of the question.

Whilst nothing official has been announced yet, there are plenty of whispers about the government playing with solar power rebates – feed-in-tariffs are dropping sharply. Will we see discounted deals on solar batteries? As they’re not currently at the point where ROI (Return On Investment) is ubiquitously positive, energy storage uptake in Australia is still finding its feet. If the government gives it a boost how much will that cost and what kind of value do we put on the financial/social impact of embracing renewable energy?

In the United States, The federal solar tax credit, also known as the investment tax credit (ITC), allows you to deduct 30% of the cost of installing a solar energy system from your taxes. The ITC applies to residential and commercial systems, and there is no cap on how much you can spend. Should Australia try something like this, or is our current system more effective?

Solar Rebates/Subsidies In 2018 

Here are some of the various offers federal/state government are using to try and get people to embrace solar. Any questions about a specific scheme? Please leave a comment below and we’d be happy to look into your query.

In terms of batteries, we don’t have a specific incentive to install it, either as an add-on to existing solar system or as part of a new system.The Battery Energy Storage System incentive provides eligible South East Queensland households with a one-off $50 payment for registering eligible systems on the Queensland Government battery storage database.

Please note that information about rebates and subsidies can go out of date quite quickly so ensure you double check before purchasing – you can learn more about current available solar rebates in Australia by visiting the “Your Energy Savings” website, which has been set up by the federal government – simply click here to visit

Interested in learning more about solar batteries available in Australia? Click to learn more about Tesla Powerwall competitors and alternatives.

In the meantime, we’re still waiting to see what sort of battery rebate may be offered. Since Australia already has a very strong solar panel presence, it makes sense to work on maximising storage as well as generation.

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Finley solar farm sign contract with BlueScope Steel

BlueScope Steel have signed the largest ever solar power purchasing deal by an industrial energy user in Australia today. They’ll buy around 200 gigawatt-hours of electricity a year – allowing ESCO to commence stage 1 of its 133MW Finley solar farm.

Finley Solar Farm and BlueScope Steel

The seven-year contract signed between the Finley Solar Farm (which will be manufactured by ESCO Pacific in the NSW Riverina area) and BlueScope Steel will represent 20% of BlueScope’s energy requirements. 

Finley Solar Farm and BlueScope Steel
Finley Solar Farm and BlueScope Steel (source: BlueScope.com)

John Nowlan, the head of Australian steel at BlueScope, said the contract will be a step in the right direction while they continue to support the National Energy Guarantee and rely less and less on non-renewable energy:

“(The contract) will help keep downward pressure on our energy costs, and will support the gradual transition to renewable energy,” Mr Nowlan told the Australian Financial Review.

“BlueScope supports Australia’s 2030 emissions target, including the government’s target to reduce electricity sector emissions by 26% on 2005 levels by 2030. By investing in solar energy, we are helping accelerate the decarbonisation of the electricity grid by reducing greenhouse gas emissions by around 300,000 tonnes of CO2e each year. This is comparable to taking 90,000 cars off the road and is enough to power 60,000 homes.” he continued.

This is another great step in the right direction for commercial solar – where we have seen industrial energy users such as Telstra, data centre operator Equinix and Mars Australia sign deals directly with renewable developers. These are known as solar PPAs (Purchase Power Agreements) and can save 20-50% on bills, depending on various factors such as usage and location.

“For any serious corporate off-taker or energy user a solar PPA is a good part of the energy mix,” said ESCO Pacific managing director Steve Rademaker.

“It’s not the only solution but it goes a long way to helping manage costs.”

This is more good news for solar power in resources – it’ll be great to watch companies like BlueScope move from 0%, to 20%, and hopefully eventually to 100% renewable energy. 

Construction on the Finley Solar Farm is set to commence around the end of September, with production scheduled for mid-2019.

If you’d like to read the press release from BlueScope please click here

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Natural Solar – Blockchain Powered Community Solar

Australian company Natural Solar have advised that they will be using the power of blockchain technology its its latest community solar offering – a new housing development just outside of Sydney which will see 12 homes share power with each other.

Natural Solar

Natural Solar - Blockchain Powered Community Solar
Natural Solar – Blockchain Powered Community Solar (source: naturalsolar.com.au)

Nine are reporting that each home will have a 5kWp solar system and an 8kwh sonnenBatterie 8 installed. Homeowners will be guaranteed up to 20 years of $0 power bills, but they will have a $30 / month bill to sonnenFlat for the program. Power will be shared between the 12 houses and any energy movement will be recorded on the blockchain to record and track the efficacy of of the project. Is 12 houses enough? What happens when it’s 4pm on a Tuesday and 8 houses have air conditioning on? 

If this is a bit complicated to understand, Chris Williams, CEO and Founder of Natural Solar,  explains the concept as a ‘super battery’:

“Utilising Blockchain technology, we are able to join all batteries together to create one larger ‘super-battery’ that can power all homes in one development.

“An advantage of this is for the first time ever in Australia, residents will now be able to borrow power from their neighbours who have excess stored in their own battery, creating a complete sharing economy amongst houses.”

What happens if the energy runs out?

This question was put to Williams who said that, although this model means the developer won’t have to pay for expensive grid upgrades, it’ll still have access at all times: 

“In the event houses need additional power and they can’t borrow extra from their neighbours, they are able to automatically draw this from the grid. If the home is signed up to the sonnenFlat energy plan, this will be free of charge for most houses, provided this fits within their annual electricity consumption.”

The project is set to launch by September – so watch this space and we’ll keep you updated on the progress of Natural Solar’s great project.

 

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