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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Zero Mass Water and the portable Source Hydropanels

American company Zero Mass Water have received a grant from ARENA to trial their solar powered clean drinking water in Australia. The technology involves the usage of portable Source Hydropanels which dehumidify the air (literally pulling moisture from it) and then purifying and adding minerals to it. They’re able to create up to five litres of potable (drinking) water every day. 

Zero Mass Water – Portable Source Hydropanels

Zero Mass Water Source Hydropanels Solar Powered Water Filter
Zero Mass Water Source Hydropanels Solar Powered Water Filter (source: zeromasswater.com)

ARENA (the Australian Renewable Energy Agency) will provide around $420,000 in grants to help Zero Mass Water set up 150 water systems across Australia as a trial. It’s estimated that this will result in 20,000 plastic water bottles not being used over the 15 year length of the project. ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht was excited about being able to provide some assistance to this great tech: 

“This pilot project can produce reliable drought-resistant water sources to remote communities while simultaneously reducing the number of plastic bottles that end up in a landfill,” Mr Frischknecht said.

“Using a combination of solar photovoltaics with solar thermal technology, Source’s ability to create clean drinking water could be utilised to achieve positive solutions around water supply. The potential benefits of this technology to the environment are important.”

“The project will demonstrate the technology not yet seen in Australia – a product that produces clean, renewable, infrastructure-free drinking water extracted from the air using solar energy,” he continued. 

Vice President of Zero Mass Water, Rob Bartrop, explained why the Source Hydropanels and solar powered clean drinking water trial was a great fit for Australia:

“It’s a really good fit for Australia as it needs no additional infrastructure to operate so it overcomes a lot problems with remote operations,” he was quoted in Fairfax Media.

The panels are 1.2 x 2.4 metres and each one can handle 30 litres of water, which has been tested to Australian drinking water contaminant guidelines. 

The trial will commence in Sydney, Adelaide, Perth and a bunch of smaller, regional towns. Remote communities that also have trouble with drinking water will also see the pilot project installed so we’re excited to see how cheaply we can use the sun to filter and purify water and anticipate this proving a big deal, especially for remote areas and developing countries.

 

 

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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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Tesla Battery Power in Victoria – Powerpack

Tesla Battery Power in Victoria will be installed in regional Victoria this year, in time for the 2018/19 summer. The Turnbull government has committed up to $25m to Victoria’s first foray into large-scale, grid-connected batteries.

Tesla Battery Power in Victoria

Tesla Battery Power in Victoria - Tesla Powerpack
Tesla Battery Power in Victoria – Tesla Powerpack (source: tesla.com)

The Age is reporting that ARENA (the Australian Renewable Energy Agency) and the Turnbull government will contribute $25m to the $50m project, which will be located in Western Victoria. The area has been identified as having a ‘vulnerable’ energy transmission network and will benefit immensely from the project. The other $25m of funding will come from a consoria led by Spotless Sustainability Services, according to PV Tech.

The batteries will, similar to the South Australia Tesla battery plant, use Tesla’s lithium ion Powerpacks, but in slightly different configurations and with separate manufacturers. 

There will be two separate batteries – 

  1. A 25MW/50MWh Powerpack solar battery in Kerrang, supplied by Tesla, owned by Edify Energy and Wirsol, and connected to the Gannawarra solar farm in north-west Victoria.
  2. A 30MW/30MWh grid-connected Powerpack in Ballarat, supplied by global energy storage giant Fluence (a conglomeration of Siemens and AES), owned by AusNet and and built at a nearby station in Warrenheip. 

Both batteries will be operated by EnergyAustralia and a PPA (power purchase agreement) has already been signed. 

“ARENA is excited to be demonstrating the capabilities that these new batteries will provide in securing reliable electricity for western Victoria and to facilitate the Victoria’s transition to renewable energy,” ARENA’s Ivor Frischknecht said in a statement.

Victoria has a RET (renewable energy target) of 25% by 2020 and 40% by 2025. 

Minister Josh Frydenberg said: “Storage has been the missing piece of the energy jigsaw for a long time. Whether it’s Snowy 2.0 in New South Wales and Victoria, the Battery of the Nation projects in Tasmania or various initiatives, including a 30MW battery, in South Australia, we are expanding, exploring and funding energy storage right across the country.”

Back in January we wrote about the Bulgana Green Power Hub – a 194MW wind farm and a 20MW / 35MWh battery storage facility which will be built by French renewable energy developer Neoen separately to the Gannawarra solar farm Tesla battery or the Ballarat terminal station Powerpack. So there’s plenty on the horizon for energy storage in Victoria – it’ll be great to see how this affects some of the weaker parts of regional Victoria as it’s already had a fantastic effect in South Australia. 

 

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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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