Clare solar farm in North Queensland now online.

The Clare solar farm, Queensland’s biggest solar farm at 100MW capacity, has connected to the grid and started exporting renewable energy. This is one of many solar projects due in 2018, totalling around 1400MW.

About the Clare Solar Farm

Clare Solar Farm
Clare Solar Farm (source: claresolarfarm.com.au)

The Clare solar farm project is located around 35km south-west from Ayr in North Queensland. It’s the biggest operating solar farm in the state, dwarfing the incumbent 50MW Kinston solar project. It is owned by Lighthouse Solar who also have ownership of the Hughenden solar farm which has a 20MW capacity and is about to begin production itself. 

We wrote about the Clare solar farm last July when it was a 125MW plant potentially going up to 150MW. It’s been launched with 100MW with the space to potentially expand down the track. They’ve signed a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with Origin Energy along with the Bungala solar farm, which will be the biggest solar farm in Australia when it completes later this year.

According to the Clean Energy Council, around $2.6 billion of solar projects will be connected to the grid in 2018, adding around 1400MW of capacity. A solar forum held in Brisbane by the CEC last week noted that the boom in solar investment (both domestic and commercial) has led to 2760 Australian solar jobs added to the economy. 

“Large-scale solar has gone from an emerging technology in Australia at the beginning of the decade to a genuinely game-changing form of power that is cheaper than new coal or gas. It has exceeded the expectations of even the most optimistic predictions,”  CEC chief executive Kane Thornton said in comments to RenewEconomy.

“Along with the national Renewable Energy Target, support from the Queensland Government, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation has helped to make this one of the lowest-cost options we have for electricity today.”

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Solar Scams – a guide how to avoid them!

With the rapid proliferation of solar in Australia has come many solar companies. How do you find a good solar installer? The vast majority of them try to do the right thing but there are some solar scams out there you need to be aware of. Here’s a guide to make sure you don’t get ripped off on your solar power installation!

Solar scams

The first thing to do if you’re interested in installing a solar system is check whether the company is accredited. 

The industry body for the designer, installer, and the actual products is the Clean Energy Council. Make sure your system is designed by a Clean Energy Council accredited designer. Double check that your installer is also CEC accredited. If you’re not sure, the CEC have a list of Approved Solar Retailers you can choose from. 

Solar Scams - Choose a CEC Accredited Installer
Solar Scams – Choose a CEC Accredited Installer (source: CEC)

Double check that your panels and the inverter are accredited and meet Australian standards. If they aren’t CEC accredited, you won’t get your rebates aka Small Scale Technology Certificates (STCs) – this rebate is generally around $2,000 for a 3kW system. Click here to read more about STCs from the Clean Energy Regulator or click here if you want to use their online STC calculator. 

How do I pick the right solar company to avoid solar scams?

Ask if the person designing your system is qualified to do so. According to Choice.com.au, this will shrink your retailer list by 90% and weed out all the designers who will do a poor quality job and leave you with an under-performing solar system. 

Avoid anyone with pushy sales tactics and avoid anyone that uses door-to-door sales as a sales technique. If they’re using language like ‘never pay a power bill again’ or trying to hurry you along by saying that the government rebates are about to end, avoid them again. 

For price, make sure you get 4 quotes at minimum. Watch out for dodgy T&Cs that allow suppliers to swap out for ‘equivalent’ models, upselling, surcharges, and so on. Don’t be afraid to stop a salesman from steamrolling over you. This is a big financial decision and you should do your due diligence before committing. 

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) have a page about consumer rights for solar power that you should also check out (especially if you have a problem).

What information do I need on the quote?

  • A proper, printed out quotation showing the company’s name, address, and ABN.
  • A timetable of operation.
  • Model numbers, brands, and quantity for the panels, inverter, and battery (if applicable). 
  • An estimate of the system’s performance.
  • Product and installation warranty for the inverter.
  • Installation warranty, product warranty and performance warranty for the panels.
  • Any additional funds that may be payable. 
  • STCs should be included in the quote. This is a big one! Be wary because if you’re not careful some dodgy companies can just claim them without mentioning it to you.

If Saving With Solar can give you a hand to help pick the right solar company, please feel free to get in contact with us and we’d be happy to help. 

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Ikea Solar Panels in Australia – Cost, Pricing, Brands.

According to new IKEA Australia boss Jan Gardberg, the Swedish furniture company will sell solar panels ‘at cost’ in Australia as part of a strategy to increase their market share across the country. We reported on IKEA solar panels in the UK last August and reached out about a timeline for Australia, but didn’t get a response back. But now we know!

Ikea Solar Panels in Australia

“We have already introduced (solar panels) into the UK market and in Poland and something similar in Japan, and I and the team would like to find a way to introduce that to the Australian market,” Jan Gardberg, the new boss of IKEA Australia, told Channel 9. 

“It would actually be cost-neutral because we believe this to be another positive way that we, as a big company, can contribute for the sustainable life at home for the many people in Australia”he continued – which sounds like fantastic news for consumers given solar panel technology is increasing so rapidly and energy storage becoming so commonplace the price is becoming a lot more reasonable.

But what are the ramifications for the smaller solar companies when they’re already in a race to the bottom in terms of discounting? If a company with almost bottomless pockets is selling solar as a loss-leading strategy there’s going to be some interesting days ahead. Keeping in mind the customers will still need to pay for inverters and installation there’s still money to be made for those shrewd enough to piggyback on IKEA’s plan – but along with shrinking STCs it’s definitely tough times for those in the retail solar game, where profit margins are already razor thin. 

Natalie Collard from the Clean Energy Council was positive about the Ikea solar panels:

“We expect IKEA will respond quickly to any concerns about installation quality or performance from the systems that are being sold in-store. IKEA is continuing the trend of large mainstream businesses adopting renewable energy, and this will only strengthen in the years ahead.”

“The Clean Energy Council’s Approved Solar Retailers have all committed to excellence in customer service, a minimum five-year whole-of-system warranty and ethical marketing practices. A list of these businesses can be found at www.approvedsolarretailer.com.au.”

Ikea Solar Panel Price

Ikea Solar Panels
Ikea Solar Panels (source: noco2.com.au)

RenewEconomy have reported that the UK IKEA solar panel offerings are from Solarcentury, and they currently have three separate offerings for solar panels:

  1. 3kW solar system for ~$7,800 AUD
  2. Customisable solar system (from 3kW) starting at around ~$8,700 AUD
  3. Customisable solar system with ‘seamless roof integration’ (from 3kW), starting at around $10,900 AUD

Since August 2017 IKEA also sell battery storage to the UK market – with their batteries coming from SonnenBatterie and LG Chem, both well respected and very highly performing brands. 

They also offer a 3,5, or 15 year loan to ‘spread the cost of solar’ if you’re so inclined. 

No news on how much these panels will cost in Australia or if they’ll be the same as in the UK, but as soon as we have any information we’ll update this article! 

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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.

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Aurora solar thermal plant receives DA.

The Aurora solar thermal plant in Port Augusta, South Australia, received developmental approval today and the $650m, 150MW project will commence construction later this year. It’ll be built by Santa Monica based company SolarReserve, also responsible for the 110MW Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project solar thermal power plant.

Aurora solar thermal plant

Chris Picton, the acting energy minister in South Australia was unsurprisingly effusive in his praise for the project:

“It’s fantastic that SolarReserve has received development approval to move forward with this world-leading project that will deliver clean, dispatchable renewable energy to supply our electrified rail, hospitals and schools,” Mr Picton said in a press release yesterday. 

Natalie Collard, the executive GM of the Clean Energy Council, told Fairfax Media, “the price that the government will pay for power is remarkably low, considering solar thermal is a very young technology in Australia.

“The state has taken a series of positive steps towards greater energy independence which are really starting to pay off. And it has already met its target of 50 per cent renewable energy almost a decade early,” she said in a statement.

More Info

The Aurora solar thermal plant will look like this one in Spain (source: AdelaideNow.com.au)
The Aurora solar thermal plant will look like this one in Spain (source: AdelaideNow.com.au)

We’ve previously written about the South Australian solar thermal power plant back in August – so you can follow that link for more information. After completion, the Augusta project will be a global leader – the world’s biggest single-tower solar thermal power plant.

Rotating mirrors known as heliostats focus solar energy onto a single central tower and utilises molten salt technology to store this heat, which it then uses to create steam which turns a turbine to generate energy. 

It’s important to note that this isn’t just regular solar thermal – the molten salt storage solar thermal helps renewable baseload energy a lot more effectively as it can deliver energy faster than regular solar thermal. With the closing of traditional power stations like the Hazelwood dirty coal station earlier this year, ensuring reliable and cheap baseline power energy is a key piece of the Australian energy puzzle. 

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