Scotch College Solar | Perth School Solar

Scotch College, a private school founded in 1897 in Perth, has installed 512kW of rooftop solar across multiple rooftops on its premises with the goal of saving around $235,000 a year on energy costs. Another great step in the right direction for solar schools! 

Scotch College Solar System| Perth School Solar

Scotch College Solar System
Scotch College Solar System (source: Verdia.com.au)

Scotch College installed a large-scale PV solar system at their school, with 1,280 photovoltaic solar panels (enough to cover 10 tennis courts) now currently generating 512kW of solar power. According to an article on One Step Off The Grid, this 512kW is expected to cover 26% of the school’s energy needs. 

It has been installed by Verdia , who were also responsible for financing a 1.7MW, $3.2 million PV solar system at the CSU Wagga Wagga campus late last year, and are helping Stockland Shopping Centres out with their gigantic commercial solar rollout (they’ve worked on Stockland Merrylands and Stockland Caloundra most recently). 

“It’s cheaper and cleaner than grid power and is a working example to students of a 21st century distributed power system,” said Verdia CEO Paul Peters.

“The 512-kilowatt rooftop solar system has been installed across multiple buildings within the senior, junior/middle and maintenance school areas. It will replace about 26% percent of grid electricity use on-site with emission free, renewable power.” he continued. 

According to an official post about the Scotch College Solar System on the Verdia website, the solar project is expected to pay for itself in just under five years and it will save the school $4m in reduced energy costs over the life of the assets. 

If you’re interested in learning more about the options for adding solar power to schools and classrooms, you can also read our article from earlier this year about the Hivvee solar powered school classrooms currently being trialled in NSW. 

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Dunsborough Community Energy Project – Virtual Power Plant

The  Dunsborough Community Energy Project is currently offering no upfront cost solar in Western Australia – all for the flat fee of $35/week – inviting south-west Western Australia residents to join their 6.5MW virtual power plant. 

Dunsborough Community Energy Project

Dunsborough Community Energy Project
Dunsborough Community Energy Project (source: dunsboroughcommunityenergyproject.com.au/)

This Dunsborough Community Energy Project has been established as a joint effort between Perth-based company Redback Energy, investment outfit SUSI Partners and Perth law firm Jackson Macdonald. It already has over 60 signups to their virtual power plant and hope to reach 1000 by the end of the year. The goal of their project is to allow all members to be 90% renewable inside their homes. It’s a realistic goal, and they have partnered with some fantastic companies to deliver a really powerful product offering:

According to a post on RenewEconomy, people who sign up to the Dunsborough Community Energy Project will receive:

  • 7kW of solar PV (Suntech panels)
  • Redback 5.5 KVA inverter
  • 9.6kWh Pylontech (LiFePo4) batteries

The community’s goal is to reach 1,000+ Redback solar and battery storage systems in the area (Dunsborough and Yallingup). Over the 10-20 year lifespan of the project ‘additional income and dividends’ are expected to raise up to $8m which can then be spent on lowering energy costs further or giving back to local community projects. 

The official website states that Redback Energy will give $250 towards a ‘community fund’ for each system sold. This fund will then be distributed “…to fund local community projects in schools, sporting clubs and or other projects such as a Dunsborough community pool.” A great idea and fantastic to see Redback supporting the local economy in more ways than one!

Click here to view the official website of the project and learn more about it. 

You can also learn more about Virtual Power Plants or Community Solar across Australia by clicking!

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Fremantle solar farm faces NIMBY opposition.

The proposed Fremantle solar farm, which is going to be the first major (industrial scale) solar farm in urban surroundings and is being championed by a Greens-led council, has been experiencing pushback from local residents. Myriad complaints, most of them vexatious at best, have been put forward and about 350 people have signed a petition calling for the project to face an audit by the Western Australian EPA (Environmental Protection Authority).  

Fremantle solar farm

The farm, which is to be located over 8 hectares and will be built and operated by Epuron, will produce around 4.9MW and can help Fremantle reach its goal of being 100% renewable powered by 2025. 

The problem lies in the fact that it’s going to be built on the site of a former rubbish dump (which is presumably preferable to the farm’s detractors) and, according to the Australian, the “heavily contaminated site contains ash, tyres, car bodies, marine bilge oil, hydrocarbons, ­asbestos, batteries, chemical drums, mercury and lead”. Sounds like a solar farm would be a better alternative, right? Well, some of the residents complaining are concerned about airborne contaminants during the initial land clearing phase, which could be exacerbated by strong beachside winds. There’s also anxiety about the ‘glare’ and even ‘electromagnetic radiation’. It makes sense that residents, especially those with children, want to keep them safe – but their concerns seem a little far-fetched.

Fremantle Solar Farm - Dr Brad Pettitt
Fremantle Solar Farm – Dr Brad Pettitt (source: fremantle.wa.gov.au)

Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt is happy with the farm’s initial DA and advised that a site management plan will be prepared by an independent consultant, which they’ll have to strictly adhere to. 

According to The Australian, The Department of Water and Environmental Regulation said it would review an updated site management plan in response to the concerns. 

“We will only do the project if it can be done safely,” Dr Pettitt said.

Solar Farm Opposition

This is far from the first time we’ve seen this sort of reaction from people in proximity to solar farms – however they generally have to lean back on arguments about ‘agricultural land’ being misused. In lieu of this given that the Fremantle solar farm will be urban, they’ve come up with some interesting new reasons to ‘support solar, just not in my backyard’. Here are some of the other solar farms currently facing opposition from residents, if you’re interested in reading more:

  • Shepparton Solar Farm –  “…concerns about the science, about amenity, about the alienation of agricultural land”
  • UQ Solar Farm – it represents “environmental vandalism” to put install solar panels on “good agricultural land”
  • Brewongle Solar Farm – “…people coming into Bathurst will see it from the railway line”
  • The Collie Solar Farm – “eye sore” (sic) which will lead to a “disastrous situation” if the farm is approved.

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Gov’t Owned Synergy Enters WA Market

Government-owned Synergy has entered the market in Western Australia for the sale and installation of solar and battery storage systems. This has caused an uproar – with many existing small businesses calling it ‘blatantly unfair competition’ and decrying the fact that a government-owned corporation with substantial competitive advantages will compete directly with small businesses. 

Synergy and the Potential Conflict of Interest

Synergy to enter domestic solar market in WA
Government-owned Synergy to enter the domestic solar market in WA

Synergy is a Government-owned corporation (website here), fully owned by the Government of Western Australia. Synergy, Verve Energy, Horizon Power and Western Power were created in 2006 as a result of the breakup of Western Power Corporation. On 1 January 2014 the retailer (Synergy) merged with the state-owned generation business (Verve Energy). They have a legislated monopoly to buy/sell all energy generated by PV solar systems on residential premises for the whole of Western Australia. According to Wikipedia, Synergy is Western Australia’s largest energy retailer and generator with more than one million industrial, commercial and residential customers, generating total annual revenue of more than $3.2 billion (14/15 financial year).

They recently entered the market for the sale and install of domestic solar/storage systems (which generally cost between $3,000 and $10,000,) competing directly with small businesses.  

Garry Itzstein and the National Electrical and Communications Association

A letter written by Garry Itzstein to the Small Business Minister, The Hon. Paul Papalia, is currently doing the rounds. Mr Itzstein is the Executive Director of the NECA (National Electrical and Communications Association) in Western Australi, which is a peak industry body representing the interests of electrical and communications contractors Australia-wide.

Mr Itzstein’s letter advises that the NECA WA “strongly urges the government to reconsider the previous government’s decision to allow Synergy to compete in the solar and battery storage installation market”, citing already increased competition and declining demand severely affecting existing small businesses. 

According to the letter, Synergy would be able to use their ‘monopoly status, financial strength and government subsidies’ to:

  1. 1 . advertise heavily to its existing customer base (which is the entire retail market of electricity consumers)
  2. leverage considerable purchasing power over equipment suppliers
  3. leverage considerable purchasing power over installers (in the end, these systems must be installed by a licenced electrical contractor)
  4. apply its vast marketing budget
  5. undertake pricing that borders on predatory

We’re inclined to agree – it seems unfair that Synergy are able to enter the domestic solar and storage market in WA and compete against existing businesses, given their huge and unfair advantages. What do you think? Sound off in the comments…

Click to read: Garry Itzstein and the NECA’s letter to Paul Papalia re: Synergy

 

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WA Solar – Installs rising, but so is ‘energy inequality’.

The Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre has created a research report on WA solar entitled Power to the People: WA’s Energy Future. It highlights the rapidly rising trend of solar power in Western Australia but also a more sobering statistic – so-called ‘energy poverty’ where those in a lower income bracket are spending up to and over 15% of their income on energy (with the average household energy (electricity, gas, and heating) bills no more than 4%). 

WA Solar Overview

WA Solar Installation Predictions 2017
WA Solar Installation Predictions 2017 (source: theconversation.com / CER)

Western Australia’s rooftop solar PV capacity is set to reach 2000MW by 2022 – a figure larger than every power station in WA bar one. According to the ‘Power to the People’ report, WA rooftop solar PV has increased by a massive 37% over the past 18 months. 

Western Australia solar power installers have been hard at work – with around 25% of suitable residences having solar panels installed – which brings WA to third place in Australia, behind Queensland (32%), and South Australia (31%). 

Energy Inequality in WA

WA Today also reported on the ‘energy poverty’ situation – according to the Power to the People report, low-income families pay almost $1,791 per year for energy. This is up $440 since the last year – and the report also revealed that at least one in ten single parents are spending a massive 15.1% of their yearly wage on energy. Around 25% of them spend more than 10% of their income on energy bills – while middle-income families only pay around 3% of their annual income. 

Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre director and author of the report, Alan Duncan, noted that it’s common for those on a lower wage to be renting, and at this current point in time there’s little reason for owners to install solar panels on their rental properties: “However, there is a need to revisit incentives for new solar installations, with landlords having little financial motivation to install solar on rental accommodation, and homeowners deterred by the initial upfront costs involved.”

As stated before, in WA 25% of suitable dwellings have rooftop solar installed. However, in lower socio-economic areas, only 7.4% have solar panels installed. What’s the future to combat this and try to find a way forward so we can install solar power for rental properties? Technology upgrades, government incentives, or something else? Soon enough we will reach critical mass for owner/occupiers and need to find ways to bridge the rental gap. Can the Government come up with something to help? Watch this space…

 

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