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!

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.

 

 

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.”

 

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. 

 

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

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. 

Greatcell Get $6m Perovskite Solar Cell research.

Greatcell Solar has been awarded a grant by ARENA (Australian Renewable Energy Agency) to continue their research into producing perovskite cells for solar power generation. We’ve written about perovskite solar cells a few times this year – with the technology showing great potential and shaping up as an inexpensive alternative to conventional silicon cell technology. 

Greatcell and Perovskite

Queanbeyan-based Greatcell, formerly Dyesol, will spend $17.3m on developing a world-class plant which will scale up their manufacturing capability of high quality, large-area perovskite devices. ARENA will fund $6m of the project following a successful previous grant of $450,000 to continue work on the technology.   

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht released a statement on Tuesday about the second grant: 

“This has the potential to expand the applications for which solar can be used and to reduce costs,” Frischknecht said.

“We want to move perovskites closer towards commercialisation. This will help accelerate solar PV innovation in Australia, which is one of our key priorities.”

Greatcell Solar MD Richard Caldwell told RenewEconomy that they are confident in the long-term viability of perovskite in practical situations in the near future: 

“It has the compelling attributes of lower cost and greater versatility than existing PV technologies. In particular, it is suited to real world solar conditions,” 

“In the long term, this technology has the potential to provide a cost competitive and clean energy solution,” Caldwell was quoted as saying. 

Greatcell and Jinko Solar

Greatcell signed an MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) with Jinko Solar earlier this year, which gives Jinko access to Greatcell’s perovskite solar technology. Their goal is to partner up and start manufacturing and selling perovskite-based solar on a large scale. 

Perovskite solar cells and Guanidinium

Greatcell Perovskite Solar Cells
Greatcell Solar Research into Perovskite (source: wikipedia.org)

According to Nature Energy, there’s been another breakthrough with the perovskite cells – incorporating the large organic cation guanidinium (CH6N3+) into methylammonium lead iodide perovskites has helped improving the stability of the perovskites (which are prone to decomposing over time – one of the main problems researchers are facing). 

With the addition of the guanidinium, perovskite solar cells are already working at 19% efficiency for 1000 hours under full-sunlight testing conditions – with silicon solar cells plateauing at around 25% due to the Shockley-Queisser limit. For that reason, we’re pouring money into finding an alternative to silicon solar cells – and it looks like perovskite has the potential to take over. Exciting times – watch this space and we’ll continue following the research and keeping you updated! 

 

Remote NT Solar hits 10 site target.

The Northern Territory government has reached its goal of offering remote NT solar to ten remote Aboriginal communities – saving the usage of over one million litres of diesel fuel and representing a $27 million dollar investment in renewable energy.

Remote NT Solar Overview

‘Tranche one’ of the program has been completed – according to EcoGeneration, it will generate 3.325MW at the ten remote Aboriginal communities – via the installation of 10,000 solar panels. It’s being jointly funded by ARENA (Australian Renewable Energy Agency) and the Northern Territory government; with its estimated cost over the full timeline of the program at $55m – in order to save the usage of 94 million litres of diesel fuel. The project has been managed by Power and Water and is called Solar Energy Transformation Program (SETuP).

Power and Water CEO Michael Thomson was quoted as saying “The completion of tranche one is on the trajectory to transform the way energy is supplied with hybrid solar and diesel power generation – …the state of the art installation of integrated electricity supply will reduce emissions and local pollution with fewer fuel trucks and barges visiting the communities.”

The current remote NT solar farms will provide approximately of 5000 kWh/day to power more than 570 households, with another 12 communities in line to receive panels, Chief Minister of the Northern Territory Michael Gunner has advised. Ivor Frischknecht, the ARENA CEO, said “We’ve seen the benefits of renewable energy off the grid with mining and we know Solar SETuP can deliver the same results for Aboriginal communities”.

Remote NT Solar
Remote NT Solar (source: skynews.com.au)

As the installation of solar energy in the Northern Territory grows (despite receiving an average of nine hours of sunshine every day, year round, they have been lagging behind on solar PV installations), expect to see a lot more stories like this. It’s great to see the government and ARENA helping minimise the usage of expensive and polluting diesel fuel in favour of renewable energy. Have a read about the Dubbo Solar Project if you want to read more about solar power for Aboriginal communities.

Newbridge Solar Plant Upgrade Gets Go Ahead

The Victorian state government has given $1 million in funding to upgrading an existing Newbridge solar plant which will create up to 70 local jobs and represents world-class solar technology.

Newbridge Solar and RayGen Resources

Newbridge Solar Plant - RayGen Resources
The Newbridge Solar Plant –
created by RayGen Resources (source: raygen.com)

The plant will be built by Blackburn-based solar technology company RayGen Resources and the funding was announced by Lily D’Ambrosio, the Energy, Envicornment and Climate Change Minister for Victoria. The funding well come from Business Victoria’s New Energy Jobs Fund and will create jobs in manufacturing, sales, product engineering, and software engineering. This represents another boon for Victorian solar which has been moving along in leaps and bounds over the last 12 months.

D’Ambrosio approved the funding this week and was quoted by the Bendigo Advertiser as saying “This is a fantastic opportunity to strengthen the exports for our growing renewables sector and deliver a positive environmental impact”.

John Lasich and Zhen Mu , along with RayGen’s new CEO, Alex Wyatt, are in charge of the Chinese solar project which is based on the pilot plant which supplied power to a Newstead organic mushroom farm. The energy generated by the new Newbridge solar farm will supply the more than enough to power the business. No word yet on when the plant will be completed but we think it will be within the next 12 months and look forward to seeing the PV Ultra technology utilised in the future.

Australian Renewable Energy Agency Solar Grants – 12 Plants Reach Financial Close in April

Australian Renewable Energy Agency
The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) have reached a significant solar milestone with their funding of PV plants in Australia. As of EOM April 2017 all 12 plants currently receiving grant funding from ARENA have reached a “financial close”. A financial close refers to the fact that all plants are fully financed with council and environmental approvals. They also have agreements in place with regards to grid connection, construction, and engineering. Nine of the plants have already begun construction and, when completed, the 12 plants will generate enough renewable energy to power 150,000 homes. All together, the 12 plants will generate 468.8MW of solar energy – and this doesn’t count at least six more plants being developed without any assistance from ARENA.

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht noted that the total cost of plant production has decreased by 40% over the last three years. The amount of grant funding required to launch large-scale solar projects has also shrunk dramatically – from $1.60/watt three years ago to just 28c per watt in 2017. In addition to this, there are at least six PV plants in advanced stages of development that have received no funding, an indication that the industry has advanced to a level where it’s financially feasible to develop solar plants even without any government intervention and Australia is well on its way to reaching our 2020 renewable energy target (large-scale renewable energy generation of 33,000 GWh)

The 12 plants received a total of $92m in grants from ARENA – in addition to $1bn provided by private investment.

Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) Funded Solar Plants

The Solar Plants ARENA have funded and their capacity:

  1. QLD – Kidston Solar Park, 50MW
  2. QLD – Longreach Solar Park, 15MW
  3. QLD – Collinsville Solar Power Station, 42MW
  4. QLD – Oakey Solar Farm, 25MW
  5. QLD – Darling Downs Solar Farm, 106.8MW
  6. QLD – Whitsunday Solar Farm, 52.8MW
  7. NSW – White Rock Solar Farm, 20MW
  8. NSW – Dubbo Solar Hub, 22.4MW
  9. NSW – Manildra Solar Farm, 42.4MW
  10. NSW – Parkes Solar Farm, 46MW
  11. NSW – Griffith Solar Farm (Neoen), 26.4MW
  12. WA – Emu Downs Solar Farm, 20.1MW