Solar Recycling Update | Breakthrough at Deakin

 There’s been a big announcement from Deakin University who have figured out a process to remove the silicon from used solar panels – repurposing it for lithium-ion batteries. Let’s learn more about this solar recycling update which was also discussed over at Renew Economy. 

Solar Recycling Update | Breakthrough at Deakin

(source: https://www.deakin.edu.au/ifm)

There’s been a new advancement in solar recycling research. The relatively short lifespan of solar panels and the huge issue of e-waste has been something researchers have been wrestling with for years.

Deakin University’s Institute for Frontier Materials has been where Material scientists Dr Md Mokhlesur Rahman and Prof Ying (Ian) Chen have conducted this groundbreaking research. Probably makes more sense coming from them, so here you go:

“Our discovery addresses several significant challenges currently facing industries dependent on batteries and energy storage heading into the future, Dr Rahman said.

“First, being such an exceptionally high value commodity with widespread applications we do not want any of this precious product wasted. Battery grade nano-silicon is highly expensive and retails for more than $44,000 per kilogram.

“Second, with the automotive industry set to be battery driven in the future, the push to find ways to increase battery capacity is growing.

“Part of the silicon repurposing process is to nano-size the battery grade silicon, leaving a nano-silicon which can store about 10 times more energy in the same space.” Dr Rahman continued.

His colleague Dr Chen elaborated on the importance of being able to extract the silicon cells and reuse them:

“Silicon cells are the most important component of a solar panel, transferring the sun’s energy into electrons,” Professor Chen said.

“They’re also a high-value material being a chemical element and far too precious to end up as waste, which is why this finding is significant.

“We can’t claim solar panels to be recyclable, in a circular economy sense, until scientists find a way to harvest and repurpose their most valuable components,” he said.

So whilst it’s not solar recycling per se, it’s certainly a gigantic step in the right direction. What will this mean for solar panel recycling companies such as Reclaim PV? Hopefully it’ll give them a big push as well. The lifespan of solar panels has always been the white elephant on the roof so the more we can extract and repurpose from old panels the better.

According to an article on Renew Economy, the project is supported by Institute for Frontier Material’s Circular Economy Strategy Lead, Catherine McMahon, in collaboration with Deakin Research Innovations’ Senior Commercial Manager Andrew Rau and industry partner Delaminating Resources Melbourne.

 

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Space Solar banned from Govt Rebate Scheme.

Solar company Space Solar have been banned from the Government Rebate Scheme for two years after an inspection conducted by Solar Victoria and Energy Safe Victoria found out that the company were employing unlicensed electrical workers, who were then “carry out works in an unsafe manner”.

Space Solar banned from Government Rebate Scheme.

Space Solar, also known as Community Energy Group, have had their director’s membership cancelled and (for the time being, their website is still up)

The company describes itself as the leading solar installer in Sydney and Melbourne with a decade of experience and a “team of professional engineers”.

According to an article in The Age, customers have been told to contact Consumer Affairs, and the government is expecting Space Solar to cover any costs. Sure that’ll work well.

The $2225 subsidy being offered to new solar installations in Victoria has attracted significant criticism for the method of its rollout and impact on solar installers (i.e. consumers ‘waiting’ to get the highly limited rebate and holding off on having solar installed)

Following on from such government-championed schemes such as the pink batts disaster, the government were quick to respond. Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio was scathing in her explanation of the situation:

“This kind of behaviour is totally unacceptable. Customers deserve to know their solar installations are completed to the highest standards and that’s why we have such a strict audit regime in the country,” she said.

“The majority of solar retailers and installers do the right thing – we’re acting to protect their reputation and uphold the standards of our world-leading solar industry.”

The company was registered as a Clean Energy Council-certified solar retailer in August. You have to use Council-approved retailers to claim the government rebate.  A new company named Solar Victoria was created to roll out the program, and the former boss of the government’s Victorian Cladding Taskforce, Stan Krpan is in charge of the company. Hopefully we see some more stringent checks on installs and weed out more installers who don’t follow by the guidelines. 

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Berri Solar Farm to be sold by the Riverland Council

The $25m Berri Solar Farm is going to be sold by the Riverland council for a firm to take over the development due to a customer pulling out of a PPA (Power Purchasing Agreement).

Berri Solar Farm to be sold by the Riverland Council

Chief Executive of Berri Barmera, Karyn Burton, said the catalyst for the decision to sell the Berri solar farm was due to a major client pulling out of a Power Purchasing Agreement (PPA) due to being sold to another company. 

The farm was approved by the Riverland Regional Development Assessment Panel back in 2017 but construction work hasn’t commenced yet. The council also won a $5 million grant as part of the State Local Government Infrastructure Partnership for the build.

“That was in the mix until June, when they advised (the) council they were going to seek opportunities elsewhere,” Ms Burton said.

“They’d been taken over by a global group and they were looking at their energy needs on a global basis.”

Ms Burton continued to discuss the way the government would like to look at the 

“We’ll sell it as a shovel-ready project,” Ms Burton said.

“Councils are quite risk adverse – they won’t risk going into the market where prices for power fluctuate, not giving us that assurance that we’d cover that as a stand-alone business.

“Whereas there are other solar players out there would be able to do that.”

Mayor Peter Hunt said “despite putting in our best effort to deliver a great project for Council, Accolade Wines and the Community, the timing and justification to continue with the project was simply not right in the end. Accolade Wines was bought by new owners in 2018 and in terms of energy procurement and use, they are considering a number of options. We needed an answer and in this case they made it clear that they could not commit further to the project. The upside is we have fielded several enquiries to buy the project including lease rights to the old Racecourse site. We have expert advice that the project has strong commercial value and that is why we have decided to call for expressions of interest from parties seeking to buy the intellectual property and development rights.”

The council has called for expressions of interest in parties interested in buying the project, until September 27.

Read the article on the Berri Barmera Council website ‘Solar Farm Project to be Sold‘ if you’d like to learn more about the next steps for the Berri Solar Farm. 

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Redflow – ZBM2 Microgrid in Tasmania for Hackett

Redflow CEO Simon Hackett has shifted his Tasmanian sheep and cattle farm to a new power source – a 100kW ground mounted solar microgrid using 27 Redflow ZBM2 batteries. Nice to see the bosses eating their own dog food. Let’s take a look at the project and what their future plans are for it.

Redflow – ZBM2 Microgrid in Tasmania for Hackett

Hackett, the owner of Redflow,  will use an initial deployment of 27 ZBM2 batteries, storing as much as 270 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy, interfaced to a large fault-tolerant cluster of 12 x Victron Quattro 48/15000 inverter/chargers.

Simon Hackett at his Tasmanian farm (source: Redflow)
Simon Hackett at his Tasmanian farm (source: Redflow)

 

“The project, with an overall budget of around $1 million, will include the building of a new site-wide microgrid. This will use new underground power interconnects to link seven distinct buildings across the whole property,” Hackett said in a statement. He went on to discuss the existing situation at the sheep and cattle farm he owns:

“We already have a Tesla Model S at the property and we plan to progressively replace our existing fleet of diesel farm ATVs, utes, and tractors with electric versions as soon they become available,” he said.

“We read with interest earlier this year that Toyota is committed to making electric HiLux 4WD vehicles and we would love to take delivery of the first of those to reach Australian shores.

Hackett explained that the Microgrid has myriad future plans and will be scalable:

“We can and will add more renewable energy generation using solar and/or wind if required in the future. Even after the full replacement of diesel vehicles with electric ones, we expect the property to be a net exporter of electrical energy to the Tasmanian grid,” he said.

Lastly, Hackett is very optimistic (mind you, he’d want to be) about the installation – we’re very interested to see some figures on how much it saves:

“I am convinced, based on my deep experience with Redflow, that ZBM2 batteries at the core of this energy system can deliver the hardworking energy storage and longevity to make this investment pay off over the long term,” he said in comments made last week.

Click here to read the original press release on Redflow’s website, entitled ‘Redflow receives order for ZBM2 batteries to power rural microgrid in North West Tasmania’.

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Sun Cable – Australian Solar Farms Could Soon Power Singapore

Australian entrepreneur David Griffin of Sun Cable, who is a leader in the renewable energy industry, plans to use a solar farm located in the Northern Territory to power Singapore. His vision is still under development and once it is finished, will be the largest on a global level. Investors from all over the world are taking interest in this solar farm project.

Solar farm projects around Australia have been a huge success for the local communities. This project will be the first attempt to export renewable energy internationally. Mr. Griffin, who was General Manager at Infigen Energy, has been working on the development of wind and solar farms in South Africa and Australia for almost two decades.

The plan is for this solar farm to send electrical power to Darwin, and then under the sea through a cable to Singapore. He admits that the whole endeavour is quite complex and full of risks and for that reason, the design process will be expansive.

The Sun Cable farm will spread across 15k hectares and will be supported by a 10-GW power plant.The Government of the Northern Territory named it a ‘major project’ and construction is predicted to begin in 2023, after all environmental permissions and approvals are obtained.

Mr. Griffin’s goal is to provide electrification without harming the environment. Instead of clearing the Asian forests and causing climate catastrophe, he wants to produce large amounts of renewable energy using the abundance of space available in Australia. With its abundant sunshine, the Northern Territory strives to become the center of renewable energy.

Wealth for the Future

The Executive Manager of Innovation at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, David Burt, considers Sun Cable one of the most important renewable energy projects, which will bring wealth for the country in the future.

Australia has a large mass of land, which means it has potential to produce wind or solar energy for export purposes. And considering the fact that the Asia Pacific countries are growing rapidly, Australia’s location is ideal for sending renewable power offshore. Sun Cable’s goal is to supply about 20% of the energy in Singapore, which represents an opportunity for the country to earn millions of dollars.

Australia already has huge optical-fibre cables undersea for the Internet. There is a risk, however, that these cables might get damaged which could disrupt the country’s ability to send energy.

Sun Cable Risk Assessment

Australia’s undersea cable is located in the Bass Strait connecting the Victorian and Tasmanian electricity grids. It feeds energy both ways, which allows the states to unload surplus electricity.

However, in South Australia, wind operators faced a serious problem when storms caused massive blackouts, upon which about 850k consumers were left without power back in 2016.

5B, a solar technology startup, will be supplying the solar panels pre-assembled in China for the Sun Cable project. 5B was founded six years ago by Eden Tehan and Chris McGrath and today it provides solar panels for twenty plants across Australia.

Each of 5B’s pre-fabricated ‘Maverick’ solar blocks is comprised of 80-200 panels. For Sun Cable, they need 80k Maverick blocks, which shows how large the project is.

The project is expected to create about a thousand jobs in the construction sector and another 300 in the operational sector.

According to David Griffin, now is the perfect time to enter the energy market in the region. At the moment, Singapore is highly dependent on gas from Indonesia and Malaysia. In general, electricity is very expensive in Asia. Mr. Griffin considers Sun Cable to be the first of many projects that will focus on exploiting opportunities in Asia.

 

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