Smart Inverters required under the Victorian Solar Homes Package

Victoria announced some more details of their solar homes package yesterday – and one of the interesting things that came out of this announcement were some specifics on what constitutes a ‘smart inverter’. 

Smart Inverters required under the Victorian Solar Homes Package

Victoria’s Solar Homes Package provides a rebate up to $2,225 or 50% of the price of a solar power system. This is in addition to Australia’s country-wide solar subsidy (STCs). They’re also responsible for solar battery rebates in Victoria and offer an affordable and exciting way to install solar and/or energy storage at your premises. 

“Victorians have been enthusiastic about adopting renewable energy technology, to take charge of their power bills and help protect the environment,” Minister for Solar Homes Lily D’Ambrosio was quoted online as saying. “Ensuring all new systems are equipped with smart inverters will mean we have a more responsive grid that can handle the rapid uptake of renewable energy.”

With the concept of a ‘smart inverter’ being somewhat of a misnomer, in that it’s not really clear what would make an inverter smart. Solar Quotes initially called it a ‘buzzword’, but, with the release of the Government’s Notice To Market, we are now able to discuss the functionalities an inverter will have to have if can be rebated by the Victorian Solar Homes Package:

a) “Enhanced Anti-Islanding”

No inverter is an island. “Normal” anti-islanding refers to turning off the inverter as soon as grid power is lost, as it has the possibility to damage grid equipment and can also be very dangerous for those on the grid trying to fix things up (as it can turn a ‘dead’ power line into something you really don’t want to be working on). A ‘smart inverter’ would have an inverter which complies with international standard IEC 62116, a comprehensive standard to ensure the inverter is able to work well above minimum safety requirements. 

b) Volt-Watt / Volt-Var

These features “facilitate greater penetration of distributed energy sources (DER) by automatically improving power quality”, as per the Victorian Government. This isn’t a major issue as their Notice to Market notes that 95% of inverter installations under the rebate scheme have installed suitable brands with these options, (and, indeed, 95% of the inverters have ‘enhanced anti-islanding’. 

It’s great to get some clarification on this and we’re excited to see how the rest of the solar homes package ends up. 

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Ballarat Energy Storage System | Solar Storage in Victoria

The Ballarat Energy Storage System has been turned on by the Victorian Government today – let’s take a look at this unique battery and see how it will help shape Victoria’s energy future!

Ballarat Energy Storage System

The Ballarat Energy Storage System has 30MW capacity and can output 30MWh – it’s located at the Ballarat terminal station and is owned by Australian energy company Ausnet. The battery storage units are Fluence branded, and were installed by Spotless and Downer Group.

Ballarat Energy Storage System
Ballarat Battery Energy Storage System (source: spotless.com)

ARENA and the Victorian Government will jointly provide $25 million in funding for both this project and the Gannawarra Energy Storage System (GESS). The project (BESS) is expected to end up costing around $35m. 

Lily D’Ambrosio, the minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, made a statement about the Ballarat Energy Storage System discussing the Government’s plans for Australia’s renewable energy future:

“We said we would deliver these large-scale batteries for Victoria, and that’s exactly what we’ve done,” she said.

“This is part of our plan to transition to a more affordable, reliable and clean energy system. We’re modernising our electricity grid, strengthening our energy security and delivering real action on climate change.”

According to RenewEconomy, the battery will be most useful in these three situations:

  1. It can help with congestion on Victoria’s transmission grid (especially as it’s installed at a network terminal rather than a wind or solar farm (which is the norm)). 
  2. It’ll help shore up the baseline load for Melbourne, especially during peak times when air conditioners and deconstructed latte machines are switched on en masse; and
  3. It’ll provide ‘key grid stability services’ like frequency control. 

Lastly, straight from the horses’s mouth:

The battery will store energy at times of relatively low value. The battery will use stored energy and use it at times of relatively high value. The project will also examine providing other grid services such as frequency control ancillary services (FCAS) and, should it be established under the electricity market rules, a Fast Frequency Response (FFR).

It’ll be fascinating to see how this works over the summer – we’ll, of course, also be keeping a close eye on the Tesla batteries at the Hornsdale Power Reserve to see if they’re able to continue delivering massive savings to the SA government. How long until the rest of the states follow suit? 

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Congupna solar farm / Design and Development Guidelines

The Congupna solar farm has been approved for the Shepparton area and will produce 30MW of energy – this is enough to power 10,000 homes in the region.

Congupna solar farm

Minister for Planning Richard Wynne announced the successful Congupna solar farm approval this morning. 

According to Minister Wynne the farm will create over 100 solar jobs for the region: 

“The Congupna solar farm will create more than 100 new jobs and produce 30 megawatts of new, clean energy – helping to drive down energy prices.”

 “We’re working with industry and community to make sure solar farm developments deliver the right outcomes for communities, the environment and jobs” he continued.

The Tallygaroopna, Lemnos and Tatura East solar farm applications has been deferred until further strategic work on Goulburn Murray Irrigation District is completed.

As per the official press release, the Labor Government in Victoria will invest over $1.3b to put solar panels, hot water, and batters in 720,000 homes, as part of their Solar Homes Program.

Minister for Environment, Energy and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio was equally impressed by the project, discussing how they will be able to affect climate change and electricity prices:

“These new guidelines will provide more certainty to the community, and more confidence to invest in major solar farms like the one at Congupna.”

 “We’re creating jobs, driving down power prices and combatting climate change with the biggest investment in renewable energy in Victoria’s history” Minister D’Ambrosio said.

According to Shepparton News, Mr Wynne’s office stressed in a press release that the Congupna facility “will be built on non-irrigated agricultural land” and is projected to create almost $40 million in capital expenditure.

Solar Energy Facilities – Design and Development Guidelines

At the same time, Minister Wynne released a draft version of the design and development guidelines for solar energy facilities. They’ll help councils, developers, and communities ensure they build solar farms suitable for everybody. Although we’ve seen many successful large-scale solar farm rollouts in Australia, solar farm opposition is still a bit of an issue for some developments. Hopefully these guidelines help clear up what is and isn’t suitable for large-scale solar! 

 

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National Energy Guarantee Approval – Next Steps

National Energy Guarantee Approval – the NEG has been approved by the states and territories of Australia ‘in principle’ – allowing it to move to the next step. There’s still plenty of discussion to go before we see anything signed off, but it’s a step in the right direction for those who believe in the NEG and its ostensible goal of cheaper, more reliable power with less carbon emissions.

National Energy Guarantee Approval

National Energy Guarantee Approval - Malcolm Turnbull
National Energy Guarantee Approval – Malcolm Turnbull (source: yourlifechoices.com.au)

As with most political decisions in this country, there is a lot of posturing and point scoring going on – depending on who you ask, it’s either a ‘great step forward’ or the governments ‘withholding support’. Regardless of the case, the Federal Government has now released a draft of the energy bill which will be taken to next week’s party room meeting for approval. If you want to learn more about what happened with the NEG during the week, please click here

The states want to see detailed legislation and some of them have ‘red line’ conditions which must be met before they fit in to the National Energy Guarantee – there’s still a long way before any of this becomes law in Australia.

Victoria were especially strident in their remarks about the NEG. Victoria’s Energy Minister, Labor’s Lily D’Ambrosio, said agreeing to the plan today would be like signing “with a blindfold on”. advising that they won’t support it unless the following four demands are met:

  1. The emission reduction targets can only ever increase and must not decrease.
  2. Targets need to be set in regulation (this one’s going to be a bit of a problem as Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg has already rejected it).
  3. Emission reduction targets must be set every three years, three years in advance.
  4. Creation of a registry which is transparent and accessible by regulators and governments.

The emissions reduction target in the NEG is to bring down emissions in the electricity sector by 26 per cent by 2030.

COAG Energy Ministers will have another discussion after the Coalition Party Room meeting on Tuesday. Watch this space! We’ll keep you posted.

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Latrobe Valley solar: 30 public buildings to get PV.

Latrobe Valley solar energy is set to get a boost with 30 public buildings in the area to have rooftop installed at no cost, thanks to a bit of help from the state government in Victoria.

Latrobe Valley Solar Scheme

Energy and environment minister Lily D’Ambrosio was in Moe last week to discuss the scheme and show the Latrobe Valley residents a list of the public buildings in line for free solar upgrades, including in some cases solar hot water and lighting. One such building is the Toongabbie Mechanics Institute – a building where existing solar has already saved $500 on last quarter’s electricity bill. Toongabbie Mechanics Institute treasurer Roger Ries summed it up very succintly:

“It’s made amazing reductions. It’s cheaper for the recreation reserve users and it will make it cheaper for the hall here,” Mr Ries said.

Minister D’Ambrosio spoke about the impact these home solar energy upgrades will have on the lives of lives of 1000 vulnerable Gippslanders.

“The energy upgrades and solar installations will not only help bring down energy prices for the Latrobe Valley, they will create local jobs in the renewable energy sector,” she said.

According to the Latrobe Valley Express, over 1000 households/low incomes earners are also eligible for solar systems as part of the $5 million Latrobe Valley Home Energy Upgrade Program.  Local businesses Gippsland Solar (who are responsible for the fantastic Camberwell Grammar School Solar System), Sunny Afternoons and Rocky’s Electrical will be used for both programs which will create 10 full-time jobs.

Latrobe Valley Solar Scheme
Latrobe Valley Solar Scheme (source: EPA Victoria)

There’s been some great solar news for the Latrobe Valley / Gippsland area with regards to both end-user solutions and large-scale renewable energy production – with a 70MW solar farm on the outskirts of Morwell announced back in April, to be build by ARP Australian Solar who said the plant will be a hybrid solar and battery farm which create “well over 100 jobs [during construction]” for the area. 

“There would also be a number of ongoing jobs … involving security, electrical testing, monitoring and what have you.”, according to ARP Australian solar director George Hughes. 

Mr Hughes elaborated on a potential timeline for the Morwell solar farm: 

“With everything going according to plan, we’re looking to start construction in January or February next year, early 2019.”

We’ll keep you updated on both the Latrobe Valley Solar Scheme and the Morwell solar farm. Exciting times for Gippsland!

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