Large scale solar in NSW to explode in 2018.

Large scale solar in NSW under the Berejiklian government is about to kick up a notch, as 11 large-scale solar energy plants have been approved in the last 12 months. 2018 is also off to a great start with the 500,000 PV solar panel, 170MW Finley Solar Project in the Riverina being approved. 

Large scale solar in NSW

Large Scale Solar in NSW
Large Scale Solar in NSW (source: smh.com.au via NSW Government)

NSW Energy Minister Don Harwin contends that NSW is helping lead the charge (for our money South Australia and Queensland are well ahead right not, but in any case) for solar power in Australia: 

“These projects will ensure our energy security and with many more in the pipeline, NSW is in a stronger position than other states,” he said.

Although NSW only has half the amount of rooftop solar PV as Queensland and South Australia (15% as opposed to 30%) – these figures are definitely a step in the right direction.

 According to Planning Minister Anthony Roberts quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald, 1800 jobs have been created and the ten solar plant approvals in 2017 were double the 2016 number: 
 
The solar plants “collectively reduce carbon emissions by over 2.5 million tonnes, which is equivalent to taking around 800,000 cars off the road”, Roberts said. 
 
Estimates from the Smart Energy Council (an amalgam of the Australian Solar Council and the Energy Storage Council which occured late last year) project that 1.4GW of rooftop solar and 2.5-3.5GW of solar farms will be added to Australia’s solar arsenal in 2018, a massive increase from the record 1.3GW for both rooftop and solar farms that we saw in 2017. 

“With some of the best sunshine anywhere in the world and lots of good locations available, it is not surprising that NSW is up there with Queensland as one of the national frontrunners for new large-scale solar power projects,” Kane Thornton, chief executive of the Clean Energy Council, said.

Flex PowerPlay Smart Solar Power System

A company named Flex (also known as Flextronics) have rolled out the Flex PowerPlay ‘smart solar power system’ which consists of various combinations of Flex branded solar panels, an inverter, an energy hub, and an energy monitor.  It’s compatible with many existing solar battery brands and is being offered through Energy Matters in Australia. Flex are a well established company who have made the move into residential solar, offering ‘smart solar’ which will help you ‘outsmart the system’ – it’s like a vertically integrated, polished version of the Paladin Solar Controller

About the Flex PowerPlay

Flex PowerPlay
Flex PowerPlay App (source: flexpowerplay.com)

According to their website more than 20,000 Australian homes and businesses are currently using Flex – and they have delivered over 8 million solar panel modules to customers worldwide. The PowerPlay solar power system uses their own 60cell, PID-free Flex PowerPlay panels which are available in 290w and 295w, with a 12 year product warranty and a 25 year performance warranty. According to Solar Quotes their efficiencies are 17.8% and 18.1%, respectively. 

The Flex inverter will divert power depending on time of day, current tariff, current energy storage, and much more – in order to save you as much money as possible on your power bill. You’re able to use the app to see exactly what’s happening with your system at any time. 

Flex (NASDAQ: FLEX) are a massive engineering company who are also leaders in battery tech – they’re responsible for 1 in 4 smart meters in the US, 10 million micro inverters, and have worked with Google, Nike, and Fitbit to deliver tech solutions. The company represents more than 200,000 professionals in over 100 locations around the world. Their quarterly rev for Q3 2018 was USD $6.75 billion – increased 10% YOY. 

Their offices in Australia are located in Sydney and Melbourne – so they’re far from a fly-by-night company and buying from Flex is a safe bet. As discussed before, you’re also able to use existing solutions from brands such as sonnen, whose solar battery storage solutions (e.g. sonnenBatterie Eco 8) are also well established and have fantastic reviews. 

Interested in Flex’s offering? If you’re in Australia you can check your eligibility and request an obligation-free quote by clicking here

Solar Power in Vietnam grows rapidly.

Solar power in Vietnam is seeing a huge boom in 2018 as a number of large-scale solar power facilities are in various stages of construction, due to the recent cancellation of two nuclear power plant construction projects deemed too expensive in the initial phases.

Solar Power in Vietnam

Solar Power in Vietnam
Solar Power in Vietnam (source: http://i.dtinews.vn)

Vietnam were planning on partnering with Japan and Russia to build two nuclear power plants in the southern province of Ninh Thuan, but these plans were scuppered late last year due to the large upfront cost of building the reactors (reportedly several billion dollars per reactor, according to Nikkei.com). 

Instead, the Thien Tan Group will spend USD $2 billion on five large-scale solar power plants in Ninh Thuan. The first plant, which will generate 50MW of energy, will start operating in 2018, followed by four more which will generate 200-300MW each – with all five estimated to end up at 1GW (the same as a nuclear reactor). 

They’re planning on attracting 4.85GW of large scale PV solar power plants by 2030.

The Khanh Hoa Province have also got 120MW of solar power plants opening in 2018 – great news as currently solar power only accounts for 0.01% of Vietnam’s total power generation capacity. The government plans to rectify this by bumping the amount of solar generation up to 3.3% by 2030 and 20% by 2050. They currently generate almost 18GW in hydropower, but statistics from the Ministry of Industry and Trade have shown that wind and solar will become a lot more important in Vietnam’s energy mix in the next ten years. 

There is plenty of sunlight and unused land, especially in southern Vietnam, so as we see the price of solar panels and storage decline there should be a massive increase in the amount of solar generated there. This is similar to what we saw in Thailand, where battery producer Redflow moved their operations last year in order to save on lower production costs. 

Tesla Virtual Power Plant in SA

A Tesla Virtual Power Plant will be built in South Australia, comprising of 50,000 home solar and battery systems state-wide. The deal between the South Australian Government and Elon Musk’s Tesla was announced last week by Premier Jay Weatherill ahead of the SA March state election. 

The SA government have pledged to do their part in the implementation of the virtual power plant scheme with a $2 million grant and a $30 million loan from the state Renewable Technology Fund.

Tesla Virtual Power Plant

According to Premier Weatherill, a trial of the scheme has already begun in Housing Trust properties, with 100 properties to receive their systems by EOFY (June 30), and another 1,000 in FY 18/19. After the trial is complete another 24,000 Housing Trust properties will receive the systems. 

Since there’s no word yet on the Tesla Powerwall 3 release date, they’ll use the Powerwall 2 batteries which have a 13.5kWh size. 5kW solar arrays will also be used for the 50,000 homes included in the virtual power plant. No word yet on the specifics of the solar panels the arrays will consist of but we’ll bring you that information as it becomes available.

Tesla Virtual Power Plant - Powerwall 2 Solar Battery
Tesla Virtual Power Plant – Powerwall 2 Solar Battery (source: tesla.com)

A statement from Tesla was released: 

“When the South Australian Government invited submissions for innovation in renewables and storage, Tesla’s proposal to create a virtual power plant with 250 megawatts of solar energy and 650 megawatt hours of battery storage was successful. A virtual power plant utilises Tesla Powerwall batteries to store energy collectively from thousands of homes with solar panels. At key moments, the virtual power plant could provide as much capacity as a large gas turbine or coal power plant.”

Danny Price of Frontier Economics discussed the program with the ABC:

“The biggest saving for consumers is that they don’t have to pay for as much network cost to deliver power to them because they’re generating their own power,” Price said.

Zoe Bettison, the Minister for Social Housing, discussed the reason they are installing these solar + storage systems in Housing Trust properties:

“We know that people in social housing can often struggle meeting their everyday needs and this initiative will take some pressure off their household budget,” she said.

A mammoth deal and step forward for South Australian solar – we’ll bring you more information as it becomes available!

Perovskite Degradation – Major Breakthrough

Scientists the world over have been trying to create inexpensive, highly efficient solar cells out of perovskite, and this week some new research has come out which moves us another step in that direction. Perovskite degradation occurs rapidly when the naturally occurring mineral exposed to ambient air, which is quite the issue for a solar cell. According to the NREL team,Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have manufactured an environmentally stable, high-efficiency perovskite solar cell. Another step closer to commercial sale of perovskite solar cells!

Perovskite Degradation and the NREL Research

Perovskite Degradation
Perovskite Degradation (source: wikipedia.org)

CleanTechnica have written an article about the NREL Research on perovskite deterioration in ambient air and are reporting that the research team have successfully tested a perovskite solar cell in ambient conditions with no protection for 1,000 hours – with a fantastic result that 94% of conversion efficiency was retained.

The scope of the research is a little over our head, but if you’re interested in learning more about the study “Tailored Interfaces of Unencapsulated Perovskite Solar Cells for >1000 Hours of Ambient Operational Stability you can click the link to read about it via Nature magazine. 

In simplest form, previous methods of protecting the perovskite have focused on creating a protective enclosure around the solar cell. Instead of that, they focused on the ‘weakest link’ in a perovskite solar cell and replaced it with a different molecule.

“Each interface and contact layer throughout the device stack plays an important role in the overall stability which, when appropriately modified, yields devices in which both the initial rapid decay (often termed burn-in) and the gradual slower decay are suppressed.”

Perovskite research is moving along at a fantastic clip. Here are some other updates on this technology we’re really excited about:

 

 

 

Hivve – Solar powered school classrooms being trialled.

Solar Powered School Classrooms are being trialled in two classrooms in NSW as part of a $368,115 grant from ARENA. The classrooms are built by a company named Hivve and will be built at St Christopher’s Catholic Primary School in Holsworthy and Dapto High School.

St Christopher’s Principal Tony Boyd was quoted by Fairfax Media talking about the project:

“It’s an exciting prospect where schools can be a generator of electricity,” Mr Boyd said.

Hivve – Solar Powered School Classrooms

Hivve - Solar Powered School Classrooms
Hivve – Solar Powered School Classrooms (source: hivve.com.au)

According to their website, Hivve is an “advanced environmentally responsible education ecosystem that has been thoughtfully designed to create a flexible, accessible and healthy learning environment.”

According to figures from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), school classrooms use an average of 3,800 KWh of electricity, but Hivve classrooms will generate 7,600 net KWh. The school and students will be able to view the results in real-time via an online dashboard. 

A press release about the solar powered classrooms published on the ARENA website had a couple of quotes from CEO Ivor Frischknecht who said the solar classrooms can have a dual purpose, to edify the new generation about renewables whilst actually generating energy:

“This is a great way to get the next generation involved in renewables at an early age and educate them as to what the positive benefits will be as Australia continues its shift towards a renewable energy future,”

“The success of the Hivve project could lead to a nation-wide adoption of the modular classrooms, reducing reliance on the grid and even providing a significant amount of electricity back to the NEM.” Mr Frischknecht said.

Hivve Director David Wrench spoke about the technology and how it will be able to educate the students:

“We are very pleased to be partnering with ARENA on this exciting project. We have carefully designed every element of the Hivve classroom to create the best possible learning environment for students”, Mr Wrench said.

We’ve seen a lot of solar power at universities (e.g. UNSW’s recent pledge to become fully solar powered), but these are some of the first solar school initiatives – hopefully the first of many more!

Click here to view the media release by ARENA: Classrooms powered by renewable energy to be trialled in NSW schools

Lismore Floating Solar Farm Switched On

Last year we wrote about Australia’s first floating solar farm being installed and set up in Lismore – today we are proud to announce that the East Lismore Sewage Treatment Plant launched the Lismore Floating Solar Farm yesterday morning.

According to the Northern Star, the 100kW  floating solar panels installed by the council above a wastewater lagoon in East Lismore will form a cornerstone of the council solar plan. They are one of 70 councils across Australia, which represent almost a third of the country’s population (7.5 million people), who have signed a pledge to take action on climate change by attempting to reduce or completely eradicate their carbon footprint / fossil fuel usage. An example of this is the recent Mackay Council Solar Tender, where they have voted to invite tenders from shortlisted respondents for the installation of PV solar at 20 council sites in Mackay. 

Lismore Floating Solar Farm Switched On (source: farmingthesun.net)
Lismore Floating Solar Farm Switched On (source: farmingthesun.net)

The Lismore floating solar farm is one of many measures the Lismore City Council has put in place as per its Renewable Energy Master Plan. They have set themselves the  target of generating all required electricity via renewable sources by 2023, which makes them the first regional council in Australia to commit to making its electricity supply 100% renewable. 

RenewEconomy are reporting quotes from a couple of locals:

“This is an historic occasion for Lismore. We have demonstrated that you can collaborate with your community and provide renewable energy solutions for a regional city,” Lismore Mayor Isaac Smith said.

Ben Franklin, the local National Party MP, was similarly pleased: 

“It shows the community is passionate about renewable energy, and that is will put money where their mouth is. This is the future, and today in Lismore we are part of it.”

The Lismore plant joins a growing trend of floating solar energy, such as the 40MW floating PV solar plant in Huainan, China, which will be built and operated byu the Sungrow Power Supply over a lake on a collapsed coal mine. 

Neoen’s Coleambally solar farm construction

French renewable energy and battery storage developer Neoen has reached a financial close on its 150MW AC Coleambally solar farm in NSW. Construction has already started and, according to the official website, it’ll consist of approximately 560,000 solar panels on 550 hectares of land 5km north east of Coleambally, which is about 65km  from Griffith.

The Coleambally solar farm

Coleambally solar farm
Neoen’s Coleambally solar farm (source: coleamballysolarfarm.com.au)

“We started developing this idea a year ago. We found the land, we signed a PPA (power purchase agreement), and organised the grid connection (and) now we have reached financing and it will be in production before the end of the year. That is less than two years from idea to production.” 

Neoen’s Australian Operations CEO Franck Woitiez told RenewEconomy.

According to their discussion, Woitiez questioned the viability of pumped hydro, referring to the $2 billion turned $4.5 billion turned $8 billion “Snowy 2.0” scheme which has been laid out by Malcolm Turnbull’s federal government and is now being discussed, with an investment decision to be made later this year. After a $29m feasibility study showed it is unlikely the project could operate in the “merchant market” given its size and scope, it’ll be interesting to see what happens.

Woitiez rubbished and said solar and storage would be a far cheaper and faster option:

“You could build 2,000MW (the amount of power Snowy 2.0 will generate) of solar, add storage, and provide reliable and dispatchable and cheap electricity in half the time of hydro, and at a lower cost.”

Would be be better to let the market dictate terms here rather than handing over an exorbitant amount of taxpayer money for sub standard technology (or, if you believe the government, a ‘nation-building project’), poorly run by public servants? Well, how did the NBN turn out? Obviously sensible policy structure need apply – you can’t trust the private sector to regulate themselves – but the last year or so of solar farms in Australia has proven that large scale renewable investment can be a viable, mutually beneficial option. 

You can follow Franck Woitiez on Twitter via his handle @fwoit or clicking here

Neoen, founded in 2008 and currently with 1,125MW of renewable energy ‘in operation or  under operation’ as of April last year. No word on how much they have now as there’s been a lot of movement by them recently, especially in Australia – Neoen are also responsible for the Bulgana Green Power Hub, the Tesla Battery in South Australia (known officially by the grid as the Hornsdale Power Reserve), and Melbourne’s solar powered trams. They also built the 300MW Cestas Solar Park in France in 2015, which was the biggest solar farm in Europe at the time.

Coal-fired power stations in France to be shut by 2021

The President of France, Emmanuel Macron, has told the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that all coal-fired power stations in France will be shut by 2021. Macron’s predecessor, Francois Hollande, had planned to shut down the plants by 2023 but President Macron has decided to move that date forward in an ambitious timeline to help France lead the EU (and the world) on climate issues.

Coal-fired power stations in France

Coal-fired power stations in France to close in 2021- President Emmanuel Macron
Coal-fired power stations in France to close in 2021- President Emmanuel Macron

Although France only produces around 1% of its energy from coal-fired power stations in favour of using nuclear power, President Macron’s commitment to shutting them all down is a great step forward for climate change. In 1960 France had 36.5% of their power generated from dirty coal power stations. They currently generate around 75% of their electricity using nuclear energy due to a long-held policy on energy security, but they have a goal to reduce this percentage to 50% by 2025, with one of the main problems what to do with the radioactive waste. In the Champagne-Ardenne region of eastern France, near the village of Bure, they are talking about storing it deep below ground while the radiation slowly reduces. 

Regardless of the fact that it only represents a very small decrease in coal generated power, Mr Macron called the decision “a huge advantage in terms of attractiveness and competitiveness” in a speech discussing France’s view towards climate change: 

“We should stop opposing on one side productivity, on the other side climate change issues,” he said.

Tesla Battery in SA Earns $1m in a few days.

The Tesla Battery in SA has earned an estimated $1m in the last few days due to warm temperatures and a very volatile electricity market. Since being announced in July of last year and completed in November, the battery has already withstood a test last December when the Loy Yang Power Station (sector A3) tripped and went offline – the battery was able to send 100MW to the grid in 140ms, despite being almost 1000km away. It’s now proving its value again during a hot Australian summer where it was paid up to $1000/MWh to charge itself last week, according to Electrek and RenewEconomy.

Tesla Battery in SA Earnings

Tesla Battery in SA Earns $1m in a few days
Tesla Battery in SA Earns $1m in a few days (source: reneweconomy.com.au)

The 100MW/129MWh Tesla Powerpack system installed in South Australia (which is known to the grid as the Hornsdale Power Reserve) was built by Tesla and is operated by Neoen -who have access to about 30MW/90MWh of the battery’s capacity to trade on the wholesale market. The South Australian government have access to the remaining electricity to help stabilise the grid. 

As we saw with its 140ms response time, the Powerpack is able to offer energy to the wholesale market a lot faster than its rivals – allowing Neoen to profit from the large swings in energy prices in Australia (which become even more intense when we have a heatwave or there’s an outage at any of our major plants). 

Elektrek are reporting that during certain peak periods, Neoen were able to sell energy at up to $14,000 per MWh, according to forecasts from RenewEconomy on the 23rd. 

A couple of weeks ago Tesla was chosen to build another Powerpack battery in Bulgana, and the company fronted by the charismatic Elon Musk is also working in conjunction with Neoen to bid for even larger battery projects – so hopefully the good results the battery in SA has been delivering will bode well for the future.