Solar Battery Storage could rise 10x – AEMO

The latest Electricity Statement of Opportunities by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) forecasts a potential 10x increase in solar battery storage uptake. The statement of operations is produced annually by AEMO and helps them plan for projected installation of solar panels, batteries, and their capacity as the technology increases and Australia continues its march towards our Renewable Energy Target for 2030.

Solar Battery Storage and the AEMO

Solar Battery Storage (source: AEMO/RenewEconomy)
Solar Battery Storage (source: AEMO/RenewEconomy)

AEMO’s 2017 Electricity Statement of Opportunities helps us project the next 10 years of energy generation and runs simulations for different scenarios (changes in solar battery technology or peak demand, for example). It’s worth reading the whole thing but here are some interesting tidbits we picked up around the place:

An interesting note that Renew Economy picked up on is that peak demand (with an average of around 3,700MW for the last ten years) was at its second lowest level since 2009 in 2017 – largely in thanks to the high numbers of rooftop solar systems installed throughout the country. Being able to manage peak demand means that infrastructure won’t be as expensive and we simply don’t need as much energy – so it’s a great result!

Cameron Parrotte, the boss of AEMO in Western Australia, discussed the situation and what it means for Aussies:

“While there have been recent retirements of some fossil-fueled generators, new renewable generation capacity is enabling the RCT to be met within the defined reliability standard, and with significantly lower excess capacity than historically recorded”

There’s also some great news for Western Australian solar power, where the grid includes a ‘capacity market’ – making it a bit different than the other states. The report projects that the current amount of live and committed generation resources will meet forecast peak demand in the state’s South West interconnected system (SWIS), despite around 400MW of coal, gas and diesel being replaced by approximately the same amount of rooftop solar, large-scale wind and large-scale solar. If you want to read more about the Wholesale Electricity Market in Western Australia please click here.

Some great news for Australia’s energy future. There’s no doubt that we’ll see more and higher capacity solar batteries installed in houses over the next ten years, let’s see how accurate those projections are!

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CSU Solar System at Wagga Wagga

CSU Solar – Charles Sturt University at Wagga Wagga is launched its 1.7MW, $3.2 million PV solar system yesterday – the country’s largest ever solar panel installation on a single site. The solar panels have been installed on the rooftops of 17 buildings around campus and it’s expected they will generate enough renewable energy to power 20% of the university’s electricity requirements. It was constructed over a six month period. 

CSU Solar System at Wagga Wagga Launch Party Cake
CSU Solar System at Wagga Wagga Launch Party Cake (source: CSU Green Facebook)

CSU Solar and Renewables

According to the CSU website, in 2016 they became the first carbon neutral university in Australia. Their 1,774 kW (1.7MW) solar installation will generate 2,620,000 kWh in its first year of operation – this is equivalent to the generation of 2,330 tonnes of CO2. Head contractor for the project are experienced large-scale solar installers Todae Solar, who have been responsible for a 1.24MW solar plant at the Brisbane Markets in Rocklea, 1.22MW at Stockland in Shellharbour, a nationwide 2.3MW Aldi rollout, and many more. 

Ed Maher, the manager of CSU Green, says the installation will serve two main roles – for CSU to keep leading in carbon neutrality, and also to ease their heavy reliance on the electricity network. It’s been financed through independent energy services firm Verdia and the tender was managed by Solar Choice late last year. As a result, the install is expected to save money starting from year one – “This is despite our existing low electricity tariffs and the absence of any unique government subsidies or grants,” Ed Maher said. “Given these early savings, I believe it marks a new phase in the financial viability of renewable energy on a large commercial scale which is another step towards a clean energy future.”

A lot about university solar this week – it’s no surprise that our universities are leading the renewables charge, and amazing to watch how quickly it progresses. 

If you’re interested, a drone-shot shot of the solar installation is available to watch below!

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Nowingi solar+storage to shake up the market.

In the face of rapidly rising electricity prices (where the wholesale price has doubled over the last few years since the carbon tax was axed) – there’s a desperate need for a solution Australia wide – and the brand new $660m Nowingi solar and battery storage plant, whilst being far from a panacea, is certainly a step in the right direction. Built by the Lyon Group who are also responsible for a proposed $1b solar battery farm in South Australia to be finished by the end of the year, this plant, built by private investment, looks like it will be an iconoclastic undertaking – read on to learn why.

The Nowingi Solar + Storage Project

Nowingi Solar Farm Artist Impression
Nowingi Solar Farm (Artist’s Impression – source: lyongroup.com.au)

According to Lyon partner David Green (Lyon are a private equity firm backed by Mitsubishi of Japan and the Unite States hedge fund Magnetar Capital) to the Australian Financial Review, the project is one one of three which amount to almost $2 billion in investment (AUD). These three projects will be offered to utilities, retailers and end users by using a ‘world-first’ tender model. Green took a swipe at the bumbling government and their inept policies of the last 10 years and said “These things are happening despite governments, not because of them,” Mr Green said. “The private demand for renewable energy can’t be denied.”. They’ll initially be 100% financed by equity to facilitate rapid development, but at some point they will likely be refinanced with some debt capital (Green noted that one of Australia’s ‘big four’ banks approached them voicing interest). Lyon told the AFR that “We are seeing a really significant shift in sentiment in private sector capital.”

As of next week the Lyon Group will seek expressions of interest from market participants (generators, network owners, and energy users) for contracts and other services which will be able to use the 60Mwh of storage capacity the three projects, located in Queensland, South Australia, and Victoria, will create. The 250MW Nowingi Solar Farm (Nowingi is around 50km south of Mildura) is going to use 2.3 million panels to deliver power and also charge an 80MW (160Mwh) battery – and users will be able to bid for access to storage at the facility where in other circumstances they may have to buy at a much higher rate on the spot market. That is to say they’ll bid before (i.e. energy price arbitragethe inevitable power shortages / heat waves / high price times – thus protecting themselves from the extremely volatile wholesale price (a very powerful proposition for businesses, network owners and utility companies alike – anyone whose business relies on using high amounts of energy).

Despite (perhaps as a result of?) Canberra’s weak and ineffectual policy, private capital is coming to solar energy in a big way – just yesterday we discussed this on a smaller scale with Complete Office Supplies’ private solar investment – and last week we had a look at Eco Energy World’s solar projects and their intent to offer energy directly on the spot market without signing a Purchase Power Agreement (PPA) with any utility groups. This plant is the natural progression of such offerings – and it’s great to see private companies stand up and offer solutions, rather than pandering.

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Telstra Energy – Solar farm built with RES Australia

Telstra Energy are backing a solar farm which will be built near Emerald in North Queensland at the cost of $100m. The telco have entered into a long term PPA (purchase power agreement) with RES Australia, who will operate the facility when it is built.

Telstra Energy & The Emerald Solar Farm

Telstra Energy
Telstra Energy

The single axis tracking farm will be built on 160 hectares and generate a huge 70MW of power – enough for 35,000 homes. The deal was announced yesterday – Telstra will buy the output (and the resulting renewable energy certificates (which act as a form of currency when validated)) from the farm, which will be completed in 2018. The Rnewable Energy Certificates (LGCs) are currently trading around $80/MWh and will help mitigate the cost of buying the solar power, given that wholesale electricity prices in QLD are around $100/HWh at the moment and, according to RenewEconomy, the cost of solar farms in QLD is around $70/MWh.

James Gerraty heads up strategy for the newly formed Telstra Energy division and told RenewEconomy that (the Emerald Solar Farm PPA) “…is about risk management. It makes a lot of sense for us.”. Meanwhile, Head of Telstra Energy Ben Burge (previously of Powershop Australia) gave the AFR some idea as to how they plan to use the power, saying “It’s a highly distributed, highly responsive source of energy which over the coming years we will look to make better use of in order to improve our resilience but also to address extreme wholesale prices in the market,”. No doubt they will use the backup power to sell when prices surge on the wholesale market and simultaneously protect themselves from larger fluctuations in energy pricing – a very astute risk management strategy. This will no doubt prove to be a sound investment and it will be interesting to see how far Telstra Energy take this new direction – they account for nearly 2TWh (2,000 gigwatt hours) of electricity per year so protecting themselves against rising energy costs whilst harnessing the falling cost of renewables is a no-brainer.

“We certainly will be looking at harnessing our own standby energy capacity in the wholesale market,” Mr Burge said, who said that, for example, he could see opportunities in the energy market for $300/MWh cap power contracts.

Watch this space for more news on Telstra Energy!

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Solar Power in Australia reaches 3.2% in 2016

The Clean Energy Council released figures on Tuesday that show Australians’ energy needs were powered by renewables to the tune of 17.3% in 2016 – the highest since Snowy Hydro was completed 50 years ago. 3.16% of this 17.3% renewable energy was from solar power in Australia – a massive jump of 29% from 2015. According to RenewEconomy, it’s expected to grow considerably in both small and large scale solar PV production – putting us well on track to reach our Renewable Energy Targets (RET) for 2020.

Solar Power in Australia

Clean Energy Council Chief Executive Kane Thornton advised that 10 major wind and solar farm projects were completed in 2016 and there are 20 more in the pipeline; he’s confident that we’ll reach our RETs with time to spare.

“Every month brings new project announcements. While total investment in large-scale renewable energy was $2.56 billion last year, $5.20 billion worth of projects have secured finance in just the first five months of 2017 and have either started construction or will begin this year,” Thornton said.

“Innovation continues right across the renewable energy supply chain and new technologies such as energy storage are beginning to get their time in the sun,” he was also quoted as saying. We assume the pun was intended.

Solar Power in Australia 2017
Solar Power in Australia 2017

The Australian Renewable Energy Target 2020

Some more takeaway statistics from the report:

  • Renewable energy provided 17.3% of all Australia’s energy in 2016 – up from 14.6% in 2015.
  • 6,750 battery systems were installed in 2016, 13 times the number installed in 2015.
  • Hydro is still far and away the biggest contributor to Australia’s renewable energy, comprising 42.3% of the total amount.
  • In 2017, building a renewable energy plant is now cheaper than coal and gas-fired power plants.
  • About half of the projects already underway or set to commence in 2017 are for large-scale solar, due to price per kWh nearly halving in the last two years.
  • Approximately 17,500 GWh of renewable energy was created in 2016 – as the Renewable Energy Target is 33,000GWh we still have a way to go but progress is looking positive.
  • Large scale solar is almost 50% of its cost two years ago and is slated to play a huge part in reaching our RET in 2020.

Click here to read the Clean Energy Australia Report 2016 in full at the CEC website.

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