Switch for Solar pilot program commences in Adelaide

Switch for Solar, a $4.25m scheme announced in February which will provide low-income homeowners in suburban Adelaide free solar systems, has begun rolling out today. Let’s take a look!

Switch for Solar guidelines and application

An official statement on the South Australian government website has spelled out further information about the scheme and how the community will profit from it. Based on 4,000kWh/year of usage, families who have the 4.4 kilowatt solar PV system installed (no word on brand yet) will save $210-$665, compared to the energy concession and Cost of Living Concession they currently receive (you have to give these up if you’re selected for the program).

Energy Minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan said those eligible would be contacted directly, starting today (May 18). 

“We want to be able to help this cohort of people access cheaper electricity,” van Holst Pellekaan said.

“For many people, the cost of installing solar on their homes is out of their reach, so what we are offering is people who receive low-income and energy concession opportunities from the government to swap those.”

The pilot program will encompass 19 Adelaide suburbs:  Hope Valley, Banksia Park, Tea Tree Gully, Vista, Modbury, Modbury Heights, Modbury North, Felixstow, Campbelltown, Newton, Paradise, Athelstone, Dernancourt, Holden Hill, Highbury, Redwood Park and Ridgehaven and Goolwa and Hindmarsh Island in regional SA.

According to the press release, the Switch for Solar program will be partnered with local solar companies Zen Energy and Sharpe Energy Hub.

Free solar system scheme a ‘win-win’

Switch for Solar Logo
Switch for Solar – free solar systems in Adelaide.

Minister for Human Services Michelle Lensink urged eligible South Australian concession holders to consider the new deal.

“Our new Switch to Solar pilot is a win-win for everyone,” said Minister Lensink.

“Not only is the Government injecting money into the economy and supporting vital jobs through the purchase of 1000 new solar PV systems, our concession holders will get big bill savings off their energy bills.

“There is no doubt this is huge bill relief for the households that take part in this program.”

Interested in learning more? Click here to download the Switch for Solar factsheet in PDF form. The SFS program will be available for up to 1,000 concession households or up to May 2022, whichever comes first.

Apply for a Switch for Solar Assessment here or by calling the program hotline on (08) 8226 3100. To apply you’ll need your Centrelink Customer Reference Number (CRN) or Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) File Number. You’ll need to own your own home in one of the 19 suburbs, and also not already have solar power installed. If you’re one of the lucky 1,000 to get a free solar system, you’ll get a call from Zen Energy/Sharpe Energy Hub and you can go from there!

Have you got a call and are one of the lucky ones? Let us know about your experience in the the comments – it’s a fantastic initiative and we’d love to see how you get on with it!

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Adani’s Whyalla Solar Farm greenlit

India based energy company Adani have received development approval for a $200 million, 140MW Whyalla solar farm. The farm will consist of PV solar modules and operate on a single axis tracking system. 

Adani’s Whyalla Solar Farm

Whyalla Solar Farm Adani
Whyalla Solar Farm (source: @AdaniAustralia on Twitter)

The solar plant will be located 10km north of Whyalla’s centre, on the Port Lincoln Highway. It will originally generate 100MW and the potential capacity of the solar plant will be up to 140MW. According to AdelaideNow, grid connection will be via the 132kv network between the Whyalla Centra and Cultana substations.

Although the original development application didn’t include any information about battery storage, this is an option that Adani is also investigating. 

No PPA (Power Purchasing Agreement) has been signed yet, but as soon as that is sorted out we will see a starting date for construction of the farm – which is expected to be some time in 2018. The plant should be generating renewable energy by 2019. The construction phase of this solar farm is expected to create 350 jobs and could be “just the tip of the iceberg” for Whyalla, Giles MP Eddie Hughes told news.com.au last year. 

“Since 1998 Whyalla has wanted to become the solar capital,” said Mr Hughes. “It’s the realisation of the dream to have a major proponent come to us.”

Other Whyalla Solar Projects

News of Adani’s solar farm comes off the back of Zen Energy approving a $700m solar, battery and pumped-hydro storage project to power Zen Energy owner Sanjeev Gupta’s Liberty OneSteel works in Whyalla. The project is expected to provide 1 gigawatt (1000MW) and also  100MW/100MWh battery storage. Hopefully, this will also provide some help to the real estate market in Whyalla, which has dropped by 21% in 2017 so far. 

Adani also has another $100m solar farm in Moranbah awaiting DA from the Isaac Regional Council. 


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Lyon Solar announce $1b solar-battery farm for South Australia in 2017

Lyon Solar (the Lyon Group) have announced massive news today, releasing a press release stating they’re going to build a $1b solar+storage farm in South Australia’s Riverland by the end of 2017. The farm, which will consist of 330 mw of solar (cost of around $700 million) and a 100mw lithium-ion battery farm with 400Wh capacity (i.e. four hours of storage) costing $200-300m. It will probably connect to the grid on some scrubland near the small town of Morgan – land has already been secured on where to build the farm. It’s been announced that the system will boast 3.4m solar panels and 1.1m batteries. The solar power generation will qualify for existing renewable energy subsidies of $84/MWh (in addition to the wholesale market price).

About The Lyon Group

The Lyon Group is a Brisbane based partnership run by David Green and backed by Mitsubishi of Japan and the Unite States hedge fund Magnetar Capital. Private equity firm Blackstone, through Magnetar, are among the companies backing the project. Green stated that “We have the capital. That’s already secured,” he said; noting that players like Blackstone don’t “come in behind something that’s ill-considered”. Lyon will be partnered by AES Energy Storage who were instrumental in the emergency roll-out of large-scale battery storage in California last year. Also involved are Tesla and Greensmith (ZEN Energy‘s supplier).

The Lyon Group’s Current Australian Projects

Below is a map of Lyon Solar’s current Australian projects – they’re a big player in the market (have a closer look at their current 120mw Kingfisher project)  and we’re very excited about the  potential of the new Riverland project, which is 100% equity financed and will commence construction around June, employing 270 workers. This solar-battery farm will be the world’s biggest and is extremely exciting for those of us following the energy storage revolution.

Lyon Solar's Australian Projects
Lyon Solar’s Australian Projects (source: AFR.com)

With Wednesday’s shutdown of Victoria’s 1600mw ‘dirty coal’ Hazelwood plant, the project, whilst not a panacea, could go a long way to help solving South Australia’s current and Victoria’s impending energy problems. As Riverland and other large scale projects launch, maybe it’s time to start thinking about upgrading the SA-VIC and creating a new SA-NSW interconnector so as to increase energy flow between the states? Wonder what Jay Weatherill would think?

If you want to hear more straight from the ‘horse’s mouth’ (sorry David) – David Green from Lyon Solar will be speaking at the Informa Large Scale Solar Conference hosted by RenewEconomy in Sydney next week, April 3-4.

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Renewable Roadblock: The ‘Settlement Rule’ Power Companies Won’t Budge On

It’s probably not overly surprising that the transition to renewable energy involves myriad complex challenges (such as investigation of the ‘settlement rule’) – especially in the energy marketplace itself. Australia’s thermal power generators wield a lot of clout and their lobbyists have been working overtime to keep storage at bay for as long as possible, given the potential for lost profit it represents.

One of the core factors of the electricity market is a ‘settlement period’ – power generators bid to supply electricity in five minute blocks but their actual invoiced price is averaged out over 6 x blocks (30 minutes). This is set up to benefit coal and gas generators (they get a larger return over a longer period) – but batteries, which can be turned on and off at will without long/expensive startup times, are disadvantaged. Since the power companies have invested hundreds of millions on ‘gas peakers‘ (power plants that run ‘on demand’ i.e. in peak hours so they can command a premium price – as opposed to base load plants) they are, unsurprisingly, strongly motivated to get as much of a return on these as possible. Would changing the settlement rule move the goalposts and unfairly discriminate against these companies and the contracts they have already signed?

AEMO Investigate the Settlement Rule

Dr Tony Marxsen of the AEMO (Australian Energy Market Commission)  said earlier this week that the main challenge in changing the settlement rule is that it will “affect adversely the business model of investors in gas peaking plants” who have entered into contracts based on the current system. The AEMO have just extended a review into the situation (for the second time).

Dr Tony Marxsen of the AEMO (source: LinkedIn)
Dr Tony Marxsen of the AEMO (source: LinkedIn)


Zen Energy’s Richard Turner gave the example of 22.03.17 in Adelaide which had four 30 minute periods when, in the first five minutes (of the 30minute averaged period), the bid for wholesale electricity hit $14,000 / mWh – he noted that, ‘when those events happen, the big generators power up to meet that demand. Even if the price is negative in the final few minutes of that 30-minute window, the generators receive the average price for that 30 -minute period of, say, $2500.’

Turner said if there were ‘true’ five minute blocks (i.e. no 30 minute averages) ‘the battery would just come in, grab that demand and eliminate that pricing event’, rather than waiting for generators to ‘fire up and get going’.  With that said, there needs to be alternatives to the current crop of renewables for when there’s no sun or wind – how would changing these rules affect the marketplace and feasibility of running plants?  It’ll be interesting to see what the AEMO review finds and recommends as current technology dictates that we do need to find a common ground while renewable technology improves over the short-mid term.

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Carnegie Clean Energy developing a 10-megawatt ‘battery ready’ solar farm in Western Australia

Carnegie Clean Energy have announced the development of a 10MW solar farm in Northam, east of Perth in Western Australia. This project will be the first of what is planned as a nationwide rollout. Carnegie’s wholly owned subsidiary ‘Energy Made Clean’ and Lendlease will work together on the project after inking a clean energy partnership in December 2016.  The project is expected to cost between 15 and 20 million dollars, as per RenewEconomy. Funding has not yet been secured.

MD and CEO of Carnegie Clean Energy, Dr. Michael Ottaviano said “…ability to add utility scale battery storage is a new product offering we will integrate into our own solar farms and also to developers of utility scale solar farms as the technology costs continue to decline in the coming years.” The plant will include 34,000 solar panels over 25 hectares of land and will produce enough energy for 3,800 homes.

According to SBS construction will start later on this year and the farm will be operation by the end of 2017. On the back of this news, Carnegie Clean Energy Ltd (ASX:CCE) continue their strong performance on the ASX in 2017 – at close today (20.03.17) they are up 6.76% to 0.079.

Carnegie and the South Australian Energy Crisis

Carnegie have already been in the news this week as Dr. Ottaviano confirmed they were in talks with the SA Government over the spiralling energy crisis. Ottaviano said his talks with the government were in regards to developing a ‘…home grown, utility scale battery energy storage solution to the State of South Australia, and indeed to other State Governments across Australia’. Other local companies such as ZEN Energy and Lyon Solar Group have been linked to the project after Tesla’s boss Elon Musk advised his company could delivery the system within 100 days or it would be free.

Carnegie Clean Energy managing director Mike Ottaviano.

Dr. Mike Ottaviano of Carnegie Clean Energy – credit: https://thewest.com.au

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