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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Enova’s Community Solar Garden Signups

We wrote last year about the Byron Bay based community solar company Enova who became a generator and a reseller of renewable energy. They’re now launching a community solar garden which is an amazing idea for people who aren’t able to reduce their electricity bill by installing solar power. Let’s learn more about the Enova and their plan to revolutionise solar for people in apartments, renters, and many more…

Enova and the Community Solar Garden

Enova Solar Garden
Enova Solar Garden (source: Enova.com.au)

The official Enova website is currently accepting applications from both ‘hosts’ and ‘members’ – that is to say that if you have plenty of free space on your rooftop you could sign up as a host, or if you’re a renter or live in an apartment or can’t get solar for any other reason becoming a member is a great idea. According to the website, “Enova is set to build a 99kW solar system and “sell” the panels to customers who can’t have solar at home”

For the most part it won’t be a ‘solar garden’ per se – most of the power looks like it’ll be generated from rooftop solar. 

According to Echo Net Daily, a Byron Bay based newspaper, a visit from Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy Mark Butler met with a great response for the Enova team. Mr Butler visited Enova HQ last Tuesday (June 12) and had some positive things to say about the plan:

Mr Butler said he was ‘excited to support innovative projects like Enova’s Solar gardens’.

The gardens will  ‘make an important contribution towards reducing carbon emissions and transition to a clean energy future, in addition to allowing access to the benefits of solar for renters.’ Mr Butler added. 

With regards to the concept of a ‘solar garden’, the more literal of us are in luck. A feasibility study in Eastern Australia is currently doing research into solar gardens for renters and how viable the concept is. According to EnergyMatters, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has given $240,000 to the $555,00 project – which will be undertaken by the Institute of Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology Sydney.

We’ll be sure to keep you posted on how Enova’s community solar garden goes and also keep an eye on the feasibility study into the ‘real’ solar gardens. Some more great news for community solar!

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Solar Gardens – ‘ground solar’ – ARENA funding.

Those unable to get traditional solar systems installed on their roof may wish to take a look at the upcoming solar gardens scheme we will see in Australia. The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) are funding a trial of the ‘ground solar’ in (mostly) regional areas of NSW, Queensland and Victoria.

Solar Gardens – Alternatives to Roof Solar

Solar Gardens in Australia
Solar Gardens in Australia (source: ARENA)

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, those without a rooftop who still want to invest in solar power will be in luck if they’re based in Blacktown, Shoalhaven, Byron Bay, Townsville, or Swan Hill – ARENA and ‘other participants’ are providing around $550,000 in funding to assist the trial.

Dr Liz Develin, the NSW Department of Planning and Environment’s deputy secretary of energy, water and portfolio strategy (wonder if she has to buy extra long business cards?) discussed how the department are hoping to achieve with the rollout:

“We are trialling solar gardens with the aim of helping renters, low-income households and those living in apartments save on their energy bills,” she said.

“Blacktown is a hotspot for rooftop solar and we are really excited to see how this trial goes. The average Western Sydney household with a 4-kilowatt solar system on their roof could already be saving up to $900 a year.”

Specifics on the scheme are still a little thin on the ground (sorry…) but the solar gardens are ‘generally’ under 100kW so as to keep the STCs (small-scale renewable energy generation certificates). The University of Technology Sydney’s Institute for Sustainable Futures and the Community Power Agency will lead this project.

Solar gardens are growing faster than any other segment of solar power in the US (200MW of new capacity was rolled out in 2016) – so perhaps this is the start of a revolution where the word ‘solar’ doesn’t necessarily conjure up the image of panels on a roof. I have no doubt we’ll see blockchain technology integrated or, for the bigger gardens such as those at mid-large size apartment blocks, some microgrids available to help balance demand.

Are you interested in applying to join the solar garden trial? Watch this space. More info to come as we have it!

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Self-forecasting trial for solar/wind farms.

A $10m trial funded by ARENA (the Australian Renewable Energy Agency) will allow operators of solar and wind farms to start self-forecasting in order to improve information for the Australian Energy Market Operator and potentially decrease prices.

Self-forecasting – How will it help?

Self-forecasting trial for wind and solar farms
Self-forecasting trial for wind and solar farms (source: aemo.com.au)

The AEMO currently predicts outputs in five minute intervals – but they’re sometimes not completely accurate and as such can require companies to spend extra money so the grid remains stable. These extra costs are then passed onto the consumers by the retailers (by raising power prices). If we were able to have more accurate forecasting of output by solar/wind farms this would decrease prices for everyone.

The new trial will be undertaken by ARENA and the AEMO, and, according to Federal Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg, local factors (i.e. weather, geography, operational conditions) will be factored in and result in a complete overhaul of the way renewable production prediction is made across Australia’s National Energy Market.

“If successful, this trial could see wind and solar farms providing their own ‘self-forecasts’ that take into account exactly what’s happened when and where they are located. For example, if a cloud passes over a solar farm or if the wind changes,” Mr Frydenberg said.

 “Self-forecasting at the source will allow wind and solar farms to not only maximise the amount of renewable energy dispatched into the grid but also avoid the need to pay for frequency controls services.”
 
Problems are currently arising when AEMO are over or under-forecasting the amount of energy a farm generates – as it can decrease the stability of the grid which then uses frequency control services to manage the supply and demand. The costs of these services, as always, end up being paid by the end-user. 
 
ARENA chief executive Ivor Frischknecht​ said the trial should help cut down on the costs of grid stabilisation which come from inaccurate forecasting:

“If the forecasts are too high, the wind or solar farm may be obliged to pay for the costs of stabilising, which increases the price of electricity and is ultimately passed on. We are hoping this initiative will change how forecasts for variable renewable energy are used in the electricity market.”

 

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Emu Downs Solar Farm Completed

The 20MW Emu Downs solar farm north of Perth, which is the largest solar farm in Western Australia and co-located with the 80MW Emu Downs wind farm and the under construction 130MW Badgingarra wind farm, has been completed. This will make the 230MW project the largest of its type, nationwide (for now!). It utilises single axis tracking technology from NextTracker and will help cover baseline power around lunchtime when wind patterns are weaker. 

Emu Downs Solar Farm / Wind Farm

Emu Downs Solar Farm Wind
Emu Downs Solar Farm (source: apa.com.au)

The Emu Downs wind + solar farm is the largest wind+solar project in Australia, beating the NSW Southern Tablelands’ Gullen Range Wind Farm and Gullen Solar Farm (165.5MW / 10MW respectively) It’s also bigger than the previous second biggest wind/solar  White Rock Wind Farm and the White Rock Solar Farm (175MW / 20MW), located New England Tablelands of NSW. 

APA received $5.5m funding from ARENA (Australian Renewable Energy Agency) back in 2017 for the 20 megawatt solar photovoltaic farm, also entering into a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) to sell the electricity and STCs to energy provider Synergy until 2030. 

This will make the Emu Downs facility the first of 12 large-scale solar farms ARENA funded – with three in NSW (Griffith, Parkes, and Dubbo) almost complete, according to RenewEconomy. Emu Downs’ $5.5m was part of $92m ARENA gave the 12 solar farms which will eventually output a massive 492MW. 

APA CEO Mick McCormack made a statement in a media release to thank ARENA for helping them get the Emu Downs Solar Farm up and running:

“APA is grateful for ARENA’s support over a number of years to get this exciting project, APA’s first solar farm, constructed and delivering an enhanced energy solution from our combined wind and solar farm.” 

APA also bought the Darling Downs Solar Farm from Origin in the middle of last year, and it’s expected to finished construction this year. 

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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

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Australian solar cell research gets $29.2m grant.

Australian solar cell research has received a $29.2m grant from ARENA (Australian Renewable Energy Agency) – with 11 of the 22 projects currently sponsored associated with UNSW, who has been leading the way in Australia’s solar research for over 40 years. 

Australian Solar Cell Research

ARENA chief exec Ivor Frischknecht was quoted on the UNSW website talking about Australia’s solar research and how ARENA have been able to help with funding projects:

“In this funding round, the candidates and the calibre was so high, we actually increased the total funding we awarded to nearly $30 million,” he said. “This research will improve the technological and commercial readiness of new innovation in solar PV cells and modules, enhance Australia’s position as world-leaders in solar PV R&D and address Australian-specific conditions.”

ARENA’s latest funding round has seen UNSW granted $16.43m for 11 projects. UNSW’s research partner in ACAP (the Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics), ANU, received  $7.89m for six projects, the CSIRO received $3.31m and Monash University got $1.59m.

UNSW and SIRF

Australian Solar Cell Research - UNSW's Solar Industrial Research Facility
Australian Solar Cell Research – UNSW’s Solar Industrial Research Facility (source: unsw.edu.au)

UNSW’s Solar Industrial Research Facility (SIRF) was created in 2011 as a $16m ‘turnkey pilot line manufacturing facility’ which allows UNSW to create silicon solar cells from lab processes to factory ready industrial processes. According to the UNSW website, architects Woods-Bagot modelled the outside of the building to mimic the pattern of multi-crystalline silicon solar cells.

Today, it’s a $30m facility aimed at advancing solar power technology – bringing UNSW’s solar tech to industry partners across the world. SIRF has brought over $8 billion in benefits to Australia over the past ten years – with gains of energy efficiency forecast to save Australians $750m over the next decade. It’s been the recipient of myriad ARENA grants and is a great example of Australia’s commitment to solar power research. 

Dean of UNSW Science Emma Johnston, discussing the grants, said: “At UNSW we are proud to have a long history of world-leading solar innovations dating back to the 1970s. But research is only one part of the puzzle. Equally as important is translating these world-leading ideas into commercially viable products.

“The SIRF facility we stand in today is evidence of this commitment – a place where we work hand in hand with industry to deliver solar solutions for Australia and the world,” Dr. Johnston added. 

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Redback Solar raise $7m in capital for R&D

Redback Solar news – Brisbane based solar tech startup Redback Technologies has raised $7m in capital from the Clean Energy Innovation Fund. The company will use the investment to expand its R&D, improve its ‘smart software suite’ and hire more staff.

Redback Solar’s Capital Raising

Dynamic Business are reporting that the Clean Energy Innovation Fund (a partnership between the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA)) has invested $5 million USD (approximately $6.43 million AUD) into Redback Technologies.

Around the same time, Right Click Capital’s Growth Fund has invested $2m USD (~$2.57 million AUD) into Redback along with offering their specialised experience to assist in Redback’s planned expansion into the Asia-Pacific region. The Right Click Capital Growth Fund, as per their website, have ‘deep experience starting and scaling technology businesses’ and are looking to back ‘ambitious technology businesses’ so it looks like a perfect fit. 

Right Click Capital Partner Benjamin Chong spoke a little about why they chose to invest in Redback, advising that “The inherent inefficiencies within the energy sector in Australia makes it ripe for disruption. Redback Technologies is uniquely positioned to seize this opportunity, with the power to provide everyday Australians with an alternative, low-cost solution to energy generation, storage and consumption. “We are excited by the solid track record of Redback’s management team and the firm’s ability to leverage technology to provide intelligent energy management solutions for households and businesses in Australia and beyond.”

Founder and MD of Redback Technologies, Richard Livingston, was excited about the investment and spoke about the impact it would have on stimulating Redback Technology’s products, software, and expansion. “This investment will enable us to further develop our next generation energy intelligence platform and devices and further cement our vision to ensure Australian households and businesses are entirely powered by renewables.” Livingston was quoted as saying.

Redback Solar – 2017 Movements

Redback Technologies launched the Redback Smart Hybrid System with EnergyAustralia early last month – with a ‘normal household’ with usage of 8000kWh / year to save around $1,500 a year with the system (4.9kW solar array and 3.3kWh battery). They received $9.3 million from EnergyAustralia last year for this – seeing Redback’s Generation 2 Smart Hybrid System offered to EnergyAustralia’s 1.7 million customers in Victoria, NSW, QLD, the ACT, and South Australia. 

Redback Solar - Capital Raising 2017
The Redback Solar team at a trade show in 2017 (source: Redback Technologies Facebook)

It’s obvious that Redback have a fantastic team and product – they’re growing rapidly and multiple teams have invested in them – we’re excited to see where these Brisbane locals end up! 

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Relectrify: Recycled EV batteries for home storage.

Melbourne-based startup Relectrify has been given $750,000 AUD from the federal government’s Clean Energy Innovation Fund to continue its work in developing a program to recycle electric vehicle batteries for installation as household energy storage. Another great step forward for energy storage technology

Relectrify and EV battery lifespan

Relectrify Powertrak
The Powertrak by Relectrify (source: relectrify.com)

Relectrify was founded by Valentin Muenzel and Daniel Crowley in 2015 via the Melbourne Accelerator program at the University of Melbourne. Muenzel and Crowley realised that electric vehicle batteries unable to provide the range or power required for EVs would still be useful in other applications. On average, most batteries at this stage were, while unsuitable for EVs, still retaining up to 80% capacity and still had at least 2,000 full (charge/discharge) cycles remaining. 

They’re also working with partners to create a flagship deep-cycle 12V battery known as the Powertrak, which is a 100Ah capacity upcycled automotive quality lithium phosphate battery with a 3-year warranty – click here to view the website or order a Powertrak. 

“Batteries are becoming a fundamental building block of the new energy industry and seeing significant uptake across households, businesses and the power grid,” Muenzel said to the Herald Sun. “And this is just the beginning. There is an immense need for affordable and capable storage across almost all parts of our lives now and in the future.”

They created technology that allows batteries to be repurposed, so nonfunctional cells (each battery contains hundreds of individual cells) no longer result in the battery being deemed unusable. Rectify’s energy storage repurposing technology is low cost, boosts performance, and increases the longevity of the storage. You can click here to visit their homepage and learn more about the tech and their plans for the future. 

Relectrify and the future

Although the market penetration of electric cars is currently only 0.2%, it’s projected to rise to 25% by 2035. 

The Herald Sun is reporting that industry experts predict the batteries could be capable of storing around 15 gigawatt hours by 2035. This represents enough stored energy to power South Australia’s current summer peak demand for five hours.

Click play on the video below to watch a video about Relectrify and its role in providing a ‘second life’ for electric vehicle batteries!

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AGL Virtual Power Plant Upgrade?

AGL have confirmed that their trial of networked home storage batteries has been halted temporarily as they manage unknown variables with their ‘Virtual Power Plant’ – which was labelled by AGL as the ‘largest project of its kind in the world’ earlier this year.

Virtual Power Plant

AGL Virtual Power Plant
AGL Virtual Power Plant (source: @AndyVesey_AGL)

The scheme went live in March at West Lakes in Adelaide and has see hundreds of households’ solar and battery storage linked together to form a 5MW ‘virtual solar power station’. The scheme cost $20m and ARENA (the Australian Renewable Energy Agency) kicked in $5m of that to back the project. As such the cost to the consumer was heavily subsidised and interest has been very high within the test area. 

At the time AGL MD and CEO Andy Vesey said “Our South Australian VPP demonstration is a practical example of the new energy future,” – noting that AGL planned their ‘VPP’ will deliver benefits by increasing grid stability (albeit just for the test group for the time being). The batteries installed were by Sunverge, a producer of intelligent energy storage and advanced AC-coupled storage systems. They use a proprietary virtual power plant software, and in this situation were unique as all the batteries could be remotely operated by AGL. Some customers paid extra for the AC coupled storage systems so they could use them during a blackout. 

There have, however, been potential hiccups with the Virtual Power Plant this week as AGL wrote to waitlisted customers to advise them they won’t receive any of the current Sunverge batteries, and that they plan to utilise “next-generation battery technology into our next phase of installations”. 

The ABC asked AGL about the issues with their VPP and they dodged the question about how many batteries being replaced (and what their upgrade plan is), but a spokesman did say that “Lessons and customer feedback from the initial phase of the project are being used to shape subsequent phases and we want to ensure that all customers have an opportunity to opt in to the next generation offering,”

We’ll keep you updated to see what they’re going to offer for the next phase of their Virtual Power Plant – another exciting step for energy storage technology for South Australia.

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