Thursday 15 November 2012

Cash rebate for solar panels slashed
4 Nov 2012

NEW research has smashed the myth that solar panels are middle class welfare for the rich as the Gillard government prepares to reduce cash subsidies. From July 1, 2013, cash rebates for solar panels will be slashed in half, an event solar companies traditionally use as a marketing exercise to boost sales. In a bid to urge politicians not to tamper with the rebates, the Solar Council of Australia has ranked every electorate in Australia.

The surprising statistics ranking the penetration of solar panels and hot water systems in every electorate finds that climate change advocate Malcolm Turnbull's electorate of Wentworth has the lowest take up of solar panels in Australia. But Julia Gillard's working class electorate of Lalor in Melbourne's western suburbs scored the Number 2 spot with 25,000 households installing solar PV or hot water systems Independent Rob Oakeshott's regional electorate of Lyne was the top electorate in NSW.

Mortgage belt and marginal seats where families are sensitive to rising electricity prices have embraced solar panels. But in a case of do as we say, not as we do, federal electorates with more Greens voters have fewer solar panels than anywhere else in the country including Health Minister Tanya Plibersek's inner city electorate of Sydney, Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese's electorate of Grayndler. The Greens' only federal lower house seat, Adam Bandt's electorate of Melbourne, has one of the lowest take ups of solar panels in Australia with just 3,000 households going solar.

More apartment blocks and businesses are a big part of the reason why inner city electorates have fewer solar panels. John Grimes, Chief Executive of the Australian Solar Council, predicted support for solar power would be a hot issue in the 2013 election with four million Australians now living in houses with solar panels. "The surprising data in here is the more you earn the less likely you are to install solar,'' he said. "What we've seen is really strong take up in the mortgage belt and the regional areas.

Falling prices of Chinese manufactured panels has kept the cost of installing solar reasonable in recent years despite declining federal cash rebates and state feed-in tariffs. But Rod Sims, the chairman of Australian's consumer watchdog the ACCC and a critic of solar panels on public policy grounds warned families should not be frightened into going solar by the industry. "The original subsidies for solar panels were simply obscene,'' he told the Sunday Telegraph. "It's those subsidies people are paying for in their electricity prices.''

"For an individual, they should do the sums. I don't blame an individual for taking advantage of very high subsidies. But I would say don't assume electricity prices are going to be sky high. Don't fall for an argument they are going up 500% in the next five years.'' Opposition climate change spokesman Greg Hunt said the government had established a system where people phantom credits are being paid for renewable energy that is not being created. "There's a flood of certificates on the market. Some people are waiting up to 12 months to get their cash back on rebates for solar panels,'' he said.

SGI-Mitabu secures funds for 50MW plant in Indonesia
2 Nov 2012

SGI-Mitabu, a company formed by two Australian firms The Solar Guys International and Mitabu Australia, has announced that it has secured the necessary finances to fund the first phase of its planned 250MW PV projects in Indonesia.

Earlier this year, SGI-Mitabu signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Indonesian Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources to develop 250MW of solar power projects across Indonesia under the company's One Solar Watt Per Person programme. The programme aims to deliver one watt of solar power for every person in Indonesia--equivalent to 250MW of PV capacity. SGI-Mitabu is hoping to extend this programme to incorporate other countries in South East Asia.

As part of the first phase, SGI-Mitabu will build a 50MW PV system which represents the company's first utility-scale solar power project in Indonesia. It is understood that the plans are still at an early stage. However, speaking to PV-Tech, The Solar Guys International confirmed that the installation will probably utilise Kyocera Solar's 320W c-Si poly PV modules which are designed specifically for large-scale projects.

The company also confirmed that the 50MW ground-mounted project will be built on a site covering 60-80 hectares in addition to land for a "tourism facility". According to the company, the installation will feature a first-of-a-kind design and will become an iconic installation in the country. As a result, it is expected to act as a tourist attraction.

"We're delighted to be partnering with the Indonesian Government to roll out the One Solar Watt Per Person program in Indonesia that will deliver clean, renewable solar power to this great country", said The Solar Guys International's Director Dane Muldoon. "Our projects are all fully funded under a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) model and every installation will either displace dirty and expensive fossil fuel power generation or bring reliable power to remote communities for the first time".

Mitabu Australia's Director Dr. M Rusydi added: "Many financiers view solar power as just a 'green' product. We see solar power as being the fastest way to deliver the crucial clean energy infrastructure needed in countries like Indonesia".

Solar capability enhanced with battery ‘smoother’
3 Nov 2012

WESTERN Australian based company Magellan Power has developed a unique device to address electricity fluctuations that occur with some alternative energy technologies. Renewable energy sources like solar, wind and geothermal are growing industries in Australia and research is focused on the pursuit of more efficient energy transmission. In particular, solar farms have an issue with power surges and lulls that occur due to changeable weather conditions.

"When the grid experiences large changes in the injection of solar power, for example on cloudy days, the generators work hard to keep up", Magellan Power's Jolleh Abshar says. "If a large cloud passes by, then the solar injection level will suddenly drop and generators will need to work hard to keep the power flowing".

This lack of reliability has caused WA electricity utility, Horizon Power to bring in new specifications, effective from July this year requiring solar farms to have 'smoothing devices'--a relatively new technology, installed. Chief Technical Officer for Magellan Power, Lindsay Meek says their Solar Smoother uses an integrated cell battery management system. "Our system consists of batteries and a bi-directional inverter and the lithium ensures that the batteries aren't compromised by the heavy work load", she says.

It uses similar battery technology to hybrid powered vehicles. A number of similar units called Grid Power Support Systems have already been sold to Ergon Energy in Queensland, to solve issues with their solar power and to smooth electricity flow in old single earth return (SWER) lines. The success of these first commercial placements has seen Magellan Power refining their product to the point where they now also offer smaller residential units (RUSS).

The Solar Smoother is a key solution for a 45KW solar project at the Carnarvon Police and Justice Complex, which is currently under tender. Plans are underway for another project for a local council in the Pilbara, where a Solar Smoother is again the preferred solution. Magellan believes it has the only Solar Smoother specifically designed to smooth solar power. The technology can be applied to both existing and prospective electricity supply sources in Australia and internationally.

Australia's largest battery-based renewable energy storage system to be built on Tasmanian island
1 Nov 2012

Australian energy storage company Ecoult has been awarded the Hydro Tasmania contract to supply the largest battery based renewable energy storage system in Australia for the King Island Renewable Energy Integration Project (KIREIP).

The 3 MW / 1.6 MWh UltraBattery storage system will complement other elements of Hydro Tasmania's KIREIP, the aim of which is to significantly reduce King Island's reliance on diesel fuel to supply the island's energy needs. The storage system will have the capacity to power the entire island for up to 45 minutes.

Ecoult CEO John Wood said the UltraBattery storage system would shift and smooth renewable energy generated on King Island and will help maintain stability of the power grid. "Ecoult's UltraBattery solutions support the utilisation of renewable energy by storing energy in periods where there is excess generation and making it available when it is needed to better match demand", Wood said.

"Ecoult energy storage solutions are an important complement for renewable energy generation and this implementation is another boost for the environment as it will support the overall KIREIP solution that reduces reliance on diesel", he said. Hydro Tasmania's Manager of Renewable Asset Development Simon Gamble said the KIREIP brings together a portfolio of new and existing technologies, combined in novel ways to increase renewable energy use on King Island.

"KIREIP will enable demonstration of a world-leading power system that can deliver more than 65% of King Island's annual needs from renewable energy, and do it without any loss of reliability or grid stability and at a price lower than the diesel power alternative", Gamble said. "As well, the KIREIP will lower CO₂ emissions by 95% through the use of sustainable clean energy sources, including biodiesel".

KIREIP is an initiative of Hydro Tasmania and is being developed with the assistance of the Australian Government's Renewable Energy Demonstration Program and the Tasmanian Government. Formed in 2007 by the CSIRO Australia, Ecoult was acquired by the US-based East Penn Manufacturing Company in 2010. East Penn (founded in 1946) manufactures the UltraBattery Storage Blocks in their manufacturing facility at Lyon Station, Pennsylvania, USA.

Five more suburbs reject coal seam gas mining
5 Nov 2012

RESIDENTS of 25 roads from the five suburbs in the south of the Clarence Valley have declared their communities CSG-free. In a ceremony yesterday at the Kungala/Lanitza RFS Hall, declarations for the roads were handed to Clarence Valley Councillor Sue Hughes. Each declaration said the road was protected by the "will of the community". The event was the end of a long processs of surveying 432 residents (over the age of 16) in Lanitza, Kungala, Braunstone, Wells Crossing and Halfway Creek with the simple question-"Do you want your roads and lands CSG Free?".

CSG-Free Community co-ordinator (Clarence LGA) Lynette Eggins said eight residents said no, six were unsure but 95.6% stated they did not want gas fields in their community. "The CSG Free Communities Strategy is a grassroots democracy process", said Ms Eggins. "The NSW government has failed to protect farmers and communities from invasive gas fields. Now these communities have decided to take charge of their own destiny.

"These declarations are strong statements from the people, declaring their intent to defend their community from an invasive and reckless industry, an industry that poses risks to water, land values, farming land and the health of families".

In accepting the declarations from representatives of individual roads, Cr Hughes said it was fantastic to see the community becoming so active in the fight against CSG. "You don't want it here and I don't want it here. We want our water to be safe from toxins and chemicals".

Cr Hughes said she would table the declarations at CVC's December meeting. Ewingar, in the Upper Clarence, declared itself CSG-free earlier this year. Cr Richie Williamson accepted the declaration at a ceremony in Lismore. "Across the Northern Rivers, communities are running with this grass-roots process", said Annie Kia from Lock the Gate Alliance Northern Rivers, who was instrumental in developing the initiative early this year.

"So far, a total of 11,590 people have responded to the survey in more than 60 communities. "Of these, 96% said yes to wanting their road and community gas-field free. Astonishingly, only 1% said no to going Gasfield Free, with 3% not sure. "This is about self-determination. Communities have a right to protect existing industries, their land, water and health".

Snowtown welcomes windfarm
31 Oct 2012

Communities surrounding the $439 million 90 turbine Stage II Snowtown , Barunga Gap, wind farm are excited to see development begin. At the official ceremony to turn the first sod on Thursday, community members, Snowtown Lions Club representatives and other landowners joined the celebration.

Ros Large and Fay Welke from the Snowtown Lions Club said the support they received from TrustPower's community funding went a long way. "We think the wind farm is absolutely wonderful", Mrs Large said. The Lions Club hosted a number of TrustPower employees and executives last Wednesday night. "No one disagrees with windfarms in this area,.. their community funding helps us with the Lend A Hand program that helps anyone or any organisation who needs it", she said.

Some landowners give up some of their land up for a turbine or two, while others are involved in a less direct way. Colwyn Millard is part of a native grasslands revegitation program. At his South Hummocks property, he is growing native grasses to revegetate the land that is changed for the turbines. Wakefield Regional Council Mayor James Maitland said there was little negativity toward the windfarms in the area and he commended the work and support of New Zealand company TrustPower which built Snowtown I four years ago. TrustPower has appointed Siemens to build Snowtown II wind farm.

Once complete the wind farm will have the capabilities of generating a further 270 MWs of renewable power for South Australia. With the build of the new Snowtown II wind farm, Snowtown as a region will boast a combined renewable energy generation total of up to 370 MWs.

"Snowtown is a perfect location for renewable wind generation. From the time we first considered the Snowtown site we have been delighted with the willingness of landowners, the community and local authorities to work with TrustPower to make this investment in the state of South Australia possible", TrustPower chief executive Vince Hawksworth said.

Siemens Australia CEO and managing director Jeff Connolly said the wind farm took renewable energy generation in Australia to the next level. "The rotor blades are superior-cast in one-piece they are structurally and aerodynamically best suited for strong wind conditions. This combined with the world's most efficient gearless direct-drive wind technology, will deliver a wind farm amongst the most technically-advanced and most economically efficient in Australia", he said.

Mr Connolly went on to say that it was a huge milestone not only for Siemens but in South Australia", he said. Bruce Harker from TrustPower said the company was an experienced developer. "It is the sixth development and will be the largest. Although they are a small company TrustPower will also work hard to ensure their commitment to community projects, they will work hard with the local groups, to give back to the community", he said.

Representing Premier Jay Weatherill, Minister for Industrial Relation Russell Wortley turned the first sod. "Wind power is an increasingly critical part of the world's energy mix and is an accelerator in the move towards the more sustainable new electricity age", he said. A guest of honour at the ceremony was the Danish Ambassador to, Borge Petersen.