Friday 30 November 2012

Renewable energy sector grows but barriers remain
26 Nov 2012

The Climate Commission's report on the state of the sustainable energy market, titled "The Critical Decade: Generating a renewable Australia (PDF)", was released as world leaders gathered for global climate talks in Doha this week. "Australia has world-class solar and wind power resources in many parts of the country", said the report, adding that investment in solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind power infrastructure could help create jobs, reduce air pollution and save consumers money. "Solar PV and wind could be the cheapest forms of power in Australia for retail users by 2030, if not earlier, as carbon prices rise", the report said.

While China has the most installed renewable energy infrastructure and is the sector's biggest investor, "South Australia's wind power per capita is higher than any major country in the world and wind is now contributing approximately 26% of the state's total electricity production", the report said. Report author and Climate Commissioner , the University of New South Wales' Professor Veena Sahajwalla, said that global investment in renewable energy reached almost $250 billion in 2011.

"A renewable energy future is inevitable we are headed in that direction worldwide", she said. "With these renewable technologies, they are only going to cheaper and cheaper". However, Mark Diesendorf, deputy director of the Institute of Environmental Studies at the University of New South Wales, said the report failed to discuss the barriers to renewable energy sector growth in Australia, which include fossil fuel subsidies to the tune of over $10 billion a year. "obviously they are trying to put a rosy glow on the situation to avoid criticising federal and state governments", he said.

Read More…

Hot rocks cool for geothermal industry
27 Nov 2012

On paper, the potential for geothermal energy in Australia is staggering. Government data suggests that using just 1% of our hot rocks to generate power could meet Australia's energy needs for 26,000 years. But for now it seems the hot rock industry has gone cold. In August, one of Australia's largest geothermal supporters, Origin Energy wrote off its investments in GeoDynamics' Cooper Basin wells, one of Australia's only active geothermal projects. "They lost patience with geothermal", says Graeme Beardsmore from geothermal consultancy Hot Rocks. They haven't seen the returns that they anticipated ten years ago when they got involved. It's a similar story with EnergyAustralia".

In March, TRUEnergy, which recently merged with EnergyAustralia, also gave up its stake in another major geothermal project, the Paralena joint venture in South Australia. Mr Beardsmore says the decisions of both companies have a flow-on effect for all investment in the industry. "Other investors with money look at the project and say 'that project hasn't returned anything in ten years, so why should we believe that we are going to get our money back any time sooner?' "It becomes a difficult business model to raise investment on and that's the case the world-over for geothermal projects. "So the industry is at a crossroads".

Off the back of this difficult investment environment, the Federal Government downgraded the geothermal sector in its Energy White Paper, released earlier this month. Just a year ago it was predicted that geothermal would provide 23% of Australia's total electricity needs by 2050. That figure has now been revised to just nine%. "That probably was always much more realistic", says Mr Beardsmore. "It's certainly not insignificant, but it's not been a good year for the geothermal industry. "But I'm still optimistic-next year's looking much rosier. "I think we should actually have the first power generated from geothermal outside Birdsville".

The geothermal plant currently supplying power to Birdsville in Queensland was the last project to be built in Australia, over 20 years ago. Now, industry talk points to the Cooper Basin as the likely home to Australia's second geothermal power plant. Despite the loss of primary investor Origin Energy, GeoDynamics is expecting to have a new, trial one-MW-plant operational about 11 km from Innamincka by mid-2013. According to Geoff Ward, managing director at GeoDynamics, that's one geothermal project that isn't short of cash.

"We closed out our remaining insurance claims from events in 2009 when we had a well incident, and recieved that payment" he said., "We've also sold two large drill rigs,.. and are well supported by the Australia Renewable Energy Agency, and Sentient and Sunsuper groups. "But we've been exploring for hot rocks in the Cooper Basin for over 11 years now. "We've just completed our sixth deep, hot well, 'Habanero 4', in September, and we're now undertaking a major simulation to test it".

GeoDynamics are also advancing plans to provide geothermal energy to large customers like the Gove alumina refinery in the Northern Territory.

Thursday 29 November 2012

Solar and wind the cheapest sources of energy and could power Australia, the Climate Commission says
25 Nov 2012

SOLAR and wind could become the cheapest sources of energy and almost exclusively power the country in coming decades as carbon prices climb, the Climate Commission says. A report, to be released today by chief commissioner Professor Tim Flannery, notes the vast potential from sunlight and wind and "solar PV and wind could be the cheapest forms of power in Australia for retail users by 2030, if not earlier, as carbon prices rise".

Prof Flannery said improvements had driven down the cost of renewable energy so much that Australia's uptake had increased more than a decade faster than earlier imagined. He said people might find it hard to believe communities could one day be powered almost entirely by renewable energy, but people would never have believed they would one day carry around little computers in their pockets.

"It's like anything, computers or mobile phones, they started off expensive and over time the cost just declines and we've seen that with wind and now with solar,'' he said. But the report The Critical Decade: Generating a Renewable Australia (PDF) has no detail around how renewable energy and fossil fuel prices might compare in the future. Prof Flannery said technology moved so quickly, it was impossible to form concrete predictions. Renewables currently make up 10% of Australia's energy mix and the report says growth was subject to innovation, community acceptance and regulation.

Wind farm study aims for quiet achievement
28 Nov 2012

Researchers are hoping a wind turbine experiment will give them greater insight into the noise problems some people complain about. An University of Adelaide team says it is investigating precisely how the turbines produce noise, especially in the low-frequency range. They hope they can produce findings which will improve wind farm design and noise control efforts. Associate Professor Con Doolan said many questions remained about noise sources, particularly in the low frequencies.

"We have a fair amount of knowledge around the noise generation mechanisms but, particularly in the low-frequency ranges, we don't know a lot about how they combine together", he said. "This project is aimed at getting to the bottom of what is creating the noise that can cause disturbance". The team will build a small wind turbine in the University's wind tunnel in Adelaide and use advanced techniques to measure aerodynamics and acoustic factors.

"If we can understand what's creating these sounds then we can advise governments about wind farm regulation and policy and make recommendations about the design of wind farms or the turbine blades to industry", Professor Doolan said.

Sunny start for energy co-op
18 Nov 2012

New Zealand could be about to gain a new co-operative company in the form of Energyshare, which aims to make the installation of solar power arrays more financially attractive. Chris Olson unveiled Energyshare at the Greenstage Gathering in Auckland yesterday.

Greenstage is an electric vehicle developer. The gathering showcased an array of electric vehicles, including the Tesla Roadster and the GS750V-Greenstage's own lithium iron phosphate-powered electric supercar, as well as a number of other electric conversions based on open-source control platform software called Tumanako. Energyshare is designed to kickstart solar power use in New Zealand.

Olson said NZ was lagging behind Australia, where the one millionth solar array is expected to be installed in the first half of 2013, though admittedly it is sunnier there. One of the biggest barriers to solar adoption is the lack of feed-in tariffs, payments made to small generators for supplying the grid with surplus electricity. In other countries, that's enough to make the difference and encourage solar investment. Energyshare is trying to tackle that problem by reducing the cost of deploying photovoltaic cells.

Olson, whose background is in electricity trading, engineering and business analysis, both here and in the UK, describes Energyshare as an "ethical co-operative" company created to produce and deliver renewable electricity and other energy-related products and services to its members.

While a prospectus, investor statement and other documents are still being prepared, Olson said, the plan is that members will own shares in the business and have a say in how it operates, and the services and products it delivers. Energyshare will purchase, install and own and operate renewable electricity generation systems located at the point of use, so that members can use photovoltaic electricity at a lower cost than buying energy off the grid. Members also get a share of any future profits.

Installation will cost members nothing, but they will pay Energyshare, at below retail rates, for solar electricity consumed. It is planned that further down the track Energyshare will also provide members with retail energy from the electricity market to supplement their solar electricity. The cost of the solar equipment is paid for by Energyshare co-operative investors, who receive a fixed return on their money. Energyshare members can also be Energyshare investors as well.

Olson said, all going to plan, the first arrays should be being installed around February next year. But there are broader benefits from distributed solar power generation. The need for transmission lines is reduced, as is exposure to fossil fuel costs, and resilience of electricity supply will be boosted, Olson said.

Profits will be distributed to the members in proportion to the value of all purchases they make with the co-operative to ensure those who support the operations of the co-operative will be rewarded. Owners of buildings on which the solar equipment is installed will be asked to sign an agreement outlining the commitments regarding "hosting" this equipment long-term. Olson said with electricity prices rising faster than the rate of inflation, the financial benefits of membership are expected to increase over time.

Tilting towards wind energy
21 Nov 2012

AUSTRALIANS overwhelmingly want more renewable energy over the next five years and half of them want the brands they regularly buy to declare the source of the energy that went into making them. That's two of the findings in a study across 20 countries commissioned by Vestas Wind Systems, the world's biggest maker of wind turbines, and Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Almost three-quarters of the 1000 Australians polled prefer to have their energy supplied by renewable sources, and just 5.6% for fossil fuels-almost the reverse of the country's actual energy mix. But while the study had the support of Vestas Wind Systems, its findings also reveal Australians are less enthusiastic about wind as the renewable energy source of choice.

Almost 1 in 6 Australians, for instance, were opposed to having wind turbines ''within visible proximity of their lives'', compared with a 1-in-20 ratio globally. Those strongly in favour came in at 13.7% locally versus almost a quarter internationally. Despite the concerns, wind turbines are expected to continue to expand rapidly because of their relatively cheap cost of power generation. From about 2500 MWs of installed capacity now, the industry is likely to erect turbines with a total capacity of 1000 MWs each year for the rest of the decade, said Ken McAlpine, director of Vestas Wind Systems' policy and government relations.

Several challenges, though, remain. For starters, the government is under pressure from fossil fuel-fired generators to tinker with the renewable energy target, putting at risk $17 billion in potential investment. And New South Wales may follow Victoria in restricting wind turbines to within 2 km of a house without the consent of the owner. ''There's been a lot of interest from developers of projects in NSW, despite the anti-wind movement there,'' Mr McAlpine said. ''We have a lot of faith that the government will take a balanced approach.''

Morten Albaek, Vestas Wind Systems' group senior vice-president, in Australia to launch the Energy Transparency campaign on Wednesday, said the media magnified opposition to wind turbines. Vestas Wind Systems recently helped fund the launch of WindMade, a consumer label identifying products produced using wind power-a concept the company is in talks to introduce in Australia in the March quarter next year.

Participating companies must obtain at least 25% of their electricity from wind sources, a level that many firms-particularly those in South Australia with its soaring wind power supplies-will be eligible to apply for, Mr Albaek said. The corporate shift will be voluntary because large firms ''want to set themselves up to a commercial reality where it comes close to impossible to sell a 'black' product,'' Mr Albaek said. With the completion of two big wind farms in Victoria and Tasmania, Vestas Wind Systems will control about 60% of the wind turbines in the country.

Wednesday 28 November 2012

Call for noise-based wind buffer laws
20 Nov 2012

LANDHOLDERS supporting a proposed wind farm south of Kingaroy have called on the State Government to introduce buffer zone legislation based on the noise impacts in the specific region rather than a blanket exclusion area. The State Government will finalise the approval process for wind farm development early next year as part of its six-month action plan, released in July.

The Department of Energy and Water Supply is examining a range of matters associated with wind farm developments, including those relating to noise and health. Earlier this year, the Department of Energy and Water Supply released a discussion paper for public consultation on technical issues relevant to wind farm development in Queensland.

While the issue of buffer zones has been raised in the discussion paper responses, landholders hosting the proposed AGL Energy's Coopers Gap wind farm project have held recent meetings with several Queensland Cabinet ministers to call for a buffer zone framework based on noise impacts. Among the host landholders is Ian Schafferius, whose 1000 hectare combined horse stud and Wagyu commercial properties will see nine turbines constructed if the AGL Energy project goes ahead.

The 10 host landholders were reluctant to speak up about the positives of the project, fearing most in the region were against the development after an initial outspoken criticism across the small rural community. However, since forming the Coopers Gap Wind Power Supporters six months ago, more than 420 people have joined the group.

Mr Schafferius said the group was formed to publicly address some of the "rumours and untruths being peddled by opponents". He said he strongly believed the majority of the region supported the development of the AGL Energy wind farm. "It's clean and it's green and it is better than a big open cut coal mine", he said. "I think people can see it will bring a lot of benefits to the region".

Debate over wind farms continues to rage across Australia amid concerns over property devaluation, potential health impacts, "shadow flicker'' and "blade glint''. Anti-wind farm advocates claim infrasound sound emissions from wind turbines in frequencies below human hearing range can harm the health of nearby residents.

Despite the concerns, the National Health and Medical Research Council has stated that while a range of effects such as annoyance, anxiety, hearing loss, and interference with sleep, speech and learning have been reported anecdotally "there is no published scientific evidence to support adverse effects of wind turbines on health".

Furthermore, wind power looks set to become a major agenda item in the push for alternative power sources with the Federal Government amending the Renewable Energy Target (RET), which has bipartisan support in Canberra, to provide 20% of Australia's electricity generation from renewable energy sources by 2020. While opposing the Federal Government plan, the NSW government has also pledged in September to triple the amount of energy generated by wind turbines and solar panels over the next eight years.

According to a CSIRO report released this year, community acceptance of wind farms could be increased by developers intentionally adopting a 'social licence to operate' approach, or similar frameworks for transparent and well-structured community engagement. The report found there was evidence that increased community acceptance from such approaches would result in more approvals and installations of wind farms, and would thus increase the possibility of achieving Australia's renewable energy target in a cost-effective way.

Mr Schafferius said he believed AGL Energy had been on the front foot in its interactions with the region. A Community Consultative Committee (CCC) was formed this year which meets monthly to discuss a range of concerns and benefits relating to the project, with academic experts often brought in to answer landholder questions.

He said the host landholders had met with Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney and representatives for Minister for Energy and Water Mark McArdle in recent weeks to discuss the group's preference for a buffer zone based on noise impacts as opposed to a designated distance, such as the two-km distance between any residence and a wind turbine which is being called for by the South Burnett Regional Council.

"The distance of 2 km is excessive when looking at the scientific data available to us from credible technical experts, which you will no doubt be seeing throughout this process", the landholders wrote in a letter to the State Government earlier this year. "If a buffer zone is put into guidelines, we believe that an allowance should be made for an agreement between the resident owner and the developer to allow the turbines to be built closer. "We feel noise levels should be the overriding criteria pertaining to distance from a residence. "Many factors determine how and where noise carries".

Solar cuts should mark end of Renewable Energy Target review

Clean Energy Council
16 Nov 2012

Today's reduction of solar incentives by the Federal Government removes the need for further changes to the small-scale part of Australia's 20% Renewable Energy Target, according to the clean energy industry. Clean Energy Council Policy Director Russell Marsh said the cost cuts stemming from the announcement should effectively mark the end of the review of Australia's 20% Renewable Energy Target.

"The changes remove the effect of the multiplier for solar panels and erode all arguments for further changes to the Renewable Energy Target", Mr Marsh said. "The solar industry now urges the Federal Government to wrap up the current review of the scheme to deliver much-needed stability to the sector". Mr Marsh said the solar industry was disappointed with the timing of today's announcement to halve the level of support for solar panels six months earlier than planned, as it followed considerable reductions in support from state governments over recent months.

"This cut further contributes to massive uncertainty and change within the solar industry. Despite the constant changing of incentives for solar, the resilience of the industry-along with the determination of consumers to protect themselves from rising energy bills-has contributed to ongoing cost reductions for solar panels in Australia.

"We would have expected the government to have more regard for the sense of investor uncertainty today's announcement creates, right at the time when both major parties are seeking to demonstrate that Australia is a reliable place in which to invest, with stable and consistent market rules. "Despite this uncertainty, the solar industry continues to outperform all expectations. While it is appropriate that governments continue to review the level of incentives, it's important that this is handled carefully and timed sensibly", Mr Marsh said.

The costs of supporting schemes for solar have been overstated, according to Mr Marsh. "Just last week the Climate Change Authority revealed that the cost of incentives for small-scale solar (through the Renewable Energy Target) were less than 2% of retail electricity bills. This small cost has delivered both solar panels and solar hot water to over a million Australian homes and helped protect them from rising energy bills".

Welcome momentum provided by renewed Kyoto commitment

Clean Energy Council
9 Nov 2012

Australia's decision to sign on to the second phase of the Kyoto Protocol will give the next round of global climate talks in Doha some much-needed momentum, the Clean Energy Council said today. Clean Energy Council Chief Executive David Green said signing on to the next period of the treaty was an important symbolic move and a demonstration of international leadership on an issue where global agreement had been elusive.

"Although slower than most would like, progress towards a binding global treaty is being made, as can be seen from initiatives such as the next commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol", Mr Green said. "Signing Kyoto 2 will cement Australia's commitment to its bipartisan target of a 5% reduction in emissions below 2000 levels by 2020. This bipartisan support is important and very welcome".

Mr Green said all sides of politics recognised the economic opportunities available through renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies that can create jobs and investment while reducing emissions.

"This new commitment supports the efforts of the Australian clean energy industry to export its knowledge, skills and experience to other countries, and play an important role in the Asian Century", he said. "Australia is not acting alone. Our own 20% Renewable Energy Target is in step with the majority of our trading partners, and more than half of the world's countries have introduced targets of their own.

"Our Renewable Energy Target is currently being reviewed by the Climate Change Authority, and it is vital that this target remains largely unchanged in order to unlock billions of dollars in investment potential between now and the end of the decade. "Signing on to Kyoto 2 and linking our carbon price with the European Union's emissions trading scheme sends a strong message to the international community that we are open for investment".

CEC Media Release: Cleaner, smarter energy system a step closer with Energy White Paper

Clean Energy Council
8 Nov 2012

A cleaner, smarter energy system is a step closer following the release of the Federal Government's Energy White Paper today, according to the Clean Energy Council. Clean Energy Council Chief Executive David Green welcomed the paper's recognition of the central role for renewables and energy efficiency in our energy system out to 2050.

"These new industries provide a rich economic opportunity for Australia, helping manufacturers, households and businesses make more efficient use of the energy we all need to use, while creating jobs and investment for regional areas of the country through clean energy projects", he said. Mr Green said the final white paper also had a welcome focus on providing a better deal for consumers by recommending measures such as smart meters and time-of-use pricing.

"This will ultimately benefit vulnerable households and businesses who are suffering from the spiralling costs of energy, provided it is introduced carefully to ensure it does not inadvertently penalise these groups", he said. "Liberalised energy markets would also increase competition and give consumers more power to make smart choices based on better information about their electricity use".

Mr Green said the Energy White Paper rightly highlighted the need for long-term policy stability if major investments are to be made in cleaner energy. "Stability is required to attract major investment under policies such as Australia's 20% Renewable Energy Target. This policy is currently being reviewed by the Climate Change Authority and, if it is to realise its investment potential, it is paramount that it remains largely unchanged", he said.

"We look forward to working with all sections of the electricity industry and governments of all levels to make many of the important reforms outlined in the Energy White Paper a reality".

Tuesday 27 November 2012

Infigen, Suntech scale back plan for solar farm in Australia
16 Nov 2012

Infigen Energy and Suntech Power Co. cut the size of a solar plant proposed for Australia's New South Wales state to about a quarter of the original plan as they vie for federal funds.

The Australian company and China's Suntech Power want to develop a 35 MW solar project after failing in an attempt to get a government grant for a 150 MW plan, Miles George, managing director of Sydney-based Infigen Energy, said in a phone interview yesterday. The solar plant would be located next to Infigen Energy's 140.7 MW Capital wind farm, George said. "It's significantly smaller, but nevertheless a reasonable-scale project by world standards", he said, declining to provide a cost estimate for the plant.

The Infigen Energy and Suntech Power venture was referred to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency by Resources Minister Martin Ferguson in June after losing a bid for funds in the government's Solar Flagships Program. The government agency is in talks with Infigen Energy and Pacific Hydro Pty, about funding projects as the country moves toward a target of getting 20% of its power from renewable energy by 2020.

While the government in June awarded A$129.7 million to AGL Energy Ltd. and FirstSolar Inc. to build a 159 MW solar project in New South Wales, it scrapped a plan to provide A$464 million to an Areva SA venture after the Queensland government pulled funding for the 250 MW project.

Potential Projects
The renewable energy agency, set up last year to help the industry expand, is targeting smaller, "sensible-scale" solar power projects, George said in an e-mail. The government previously set the 150 MW requirement for solar plants seeking grants, said George, whose company has interests in 24 wind farms in Australia and the US

A program in Australian Capital Territory to develop as much as 40 MWs of solar power is a model, the renewable agency's chief executive officer, Ivor Frischknecht, said in a Nov. 12 phone interview "Smaller, not quite as ambitious, very clear in terms of what's intended", he said.

Infigen Energy has slumped 7.4% this year in Sydney trading following a 50% drop in 2011 as low prices of Renewable Energy Certificates discourage investment in new wind farms. Electricity retailers are required to purchase the certificates from developers of wind and solar plants as part of the government's policy to expand the industry.

Certificate Prices
Infigen Energy shares climbed 14% today to 25 ¢, the biggest gain in 13 months, compared with a 0.3% decline in Australia's benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index. The government last year revised its renewable energy program after an increase in household solar installations led to a glut of the certificates that pushed down prices.

Infigen Energy expects prices will rise next year, allowing some of the company's 1,300 MWs of potential projects to go ahead, according to George. Infigen Energy's plans include the Bodangora, Capital 2 and Flyers Creek wind farms in Australia. The price of Australia's Renewable Energy Certificates is forecast to rise toward A$50 ($52) by the end of the decade from about A$36 currently, Kobad Bhavnagri, a Sydney-based analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said yesterday.

U.K. biggest solar plant cleared for construction at airfield
15 Nov 2012

Lark Energy, a unit of the homebuilder Larkfleet Ltd., won planning permission to develop a 32 MW solar park that will become the UK's largest photovoltaic plant.

The company intends to complete the 35 million-pound ($55 million) plant before April, when subsidies are due to be reduced, according to a statement on its website today. It will install 125,000 solar panels on 150 acres between the runways of a former military airfield in Wymeswold, which is between Leicester and Nottingham in central England.

The project covering the equivalent to about 87 soccer fields has more than six times more capacity than any U.K, solar park in operation. Its development is an indication that the cost of solar panels has fallen so much that developers are working on utility-scale plants too big to qualify for the most lucrative subsidies in Britain.

"Lark Energy has played a leading role in demonstrating how large scale renewable energy can be deployed quickly and with the support of the local community", Jonathan Selwyn, managing director of Lark Energy, said in a statement.

While the scale of the facility is big for Britain, it's less than half the size of the largest plants in Germany and Italy, which are the leading markets worldwide for solar power. The U.K, guarantees above market rates for solar power coming from plants smaller than 5 MWs, a cap intended to limit the cost to consumers of power from utility-scale plants.

Biggest Plants
TGC Renewables Ltd., another developer, said in June that it won approval for an 8 MW project in Devon that at the time was the biggest in the UK. Inazin Power Ltd., Hive Energy Ltd, and Good Energy Group Plc (GOOD), a U.K, retailer of clean energy, have announced plans for projects with 25 to 40 MWs this year, though those don't yet have planning permission.

Projects of this size qualify for two tradable green certificates, or ROCs, for each MW of solar power. The certificates currently pay about 39.5 pounds each during 15 years, which add up to one of the lowest solar subsidy rates in Europe. Under government proposals, solar plants will get 1.5 ROCs from April, a cut that's prompting a surge of larger-scale facilities before the changes come into force.

Lark's Wymeswold solar project received planning approval from Charnwood Borough Council on Nov. 8, the company said. The financing will provided by Hazel Capital LLP, a London-based investment manager. "We are delighted to be involved in this large, first-of-its-kind project in the UK", Ben Guest, Hazel Capital's managing partner, said. "We believe that larger industrial sites make great locations for solar projects going forward in the U.K".

Nanosolar Completes 10.63 MW Solar Installation in Valencia Region of Spain
14 Nov 2012

Nanosolar Inc, today announced its largest solar photovoltaic (PV) installation to date, a 10.63 MW project in the town of Alfarrasi, which is located in the Valencia region of Spain. Developed by Smartenergy Invest AG and Advanta Capital Ltd., the new solar field is now the region's largest PV power plant to date. The plant was energized earlier this month and is expected to produce energy to power 4,000 households per year.

"Our installation supports Spain's national renewable energy action plan, which calls for renewable sources to account for at least 20% of the final energy consumption by 2020", said Stephan Hansen, executive vice president of Global Sales for Nanosolar. "The natural conditions in the Valencia region are excellent for photovoltaic and we expect Spain to be among the first countries to provide competitive solar electricity in Europe".

The Alfarrasi installation will be capable of producing 16,500 MWh per year. The total amount of electricity produced by this Nanosolar project represents a savings of more than 5,528 tons of CO₂ emissions each year, and is equivalent to planting approximately 142,000 trees.

"Nanosolar's innovative Utility Panel design made installation of our Alfarrasi system quick and simple", said Jose-Fidel Roig Agut, CEO of VALFORTEC, S.L., the Castellon, Spain-based EPC. "We were able to achieve a very cost-effective installation because of the unique design of Nanosolar's panels, and the ease with which they can be interconnected".

Bringing Clean Energy to Alfarrasi
The town of Alfarrasi is an ideal location for this solar installation, which encompasses over 50,000 panels across 65 acres of former agricultural land. The region features a semi-arid climate with very mild winters and long warm to hot summers. Solar irradiance is above-average with a typical annual temperature of 22.3° C (72.1° F) during the day and an annual irradiation of approximately 1,650 kW/m2.

"As businesses and consumers look for ways to be more reliant on clean, sustainable energy sources, multi-MW solar installations, such as the one in Alfarrasi, become even more important", said Horst Mahmoudi, senior partner at Smartenergy AG. "Nanosolar has been a great technology partner to work with on this project, providing cutting-edge utility panels with superior energy yields that will enable us to deliver the benefits of abundant solar across the Valencia region".

About Nanosolar Nanosolar designs, engineers, and manufactures innovative thin-film solar cells and panels based on printing CIGS (Copper, Indium, Gallium, Selenium) proprietary inks on low-cost aluminum foil. The company's current product, the Nanosolar Utility Panel, enables competitively priced peak power and installed system economics at utility-scale. Nanosolar operates the industry's first roll-to-roll solar cell printing factory at its headquarters in San Jose, Calif., and a panel-assembly factory in Luckenwalde, Germany. For more information, please visit

Lights fade: $700m Mallee solar park misses out on federal funding
13 Nov 2012

PLANS for a $700 million Mallee solar park, described as one of the largest solar power station projects in the world, may be scuttled after the proposal again failed to attract federal funding. Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) yesterday said it would not pursue the EnergyAustralia (formerly TRUEnergy) project despite an available funding increase of half a billion dollars.

The agency said it was forced to make "tough decisions" to increase renewable energy uptake in regional and remote Australia. Member for Mildura Peter Crisp last month said he was "genuinely worried" about EnergyAustralia's bid to establish the Mallee Solar Park south of Mildura, despite the State Government committing $100 million towards the proposal.

Under the banner of TRUEnergy, the Federal Government had twice rejected funding for the project, which Mr Crisp said would have provided "a very substantial investment in Mildura". Mr Crisp yesterday said he hoped the project would have attracted federal funding.

"But we do have another solar power station under way with Silex Systems, as well as a number of other companies who have shown interest", Mr Crisp said. "The solar park was going to be a pretty major investment, but it was always a concern when it missed out on the main funding rounds. "Naturally, I'm disappointed, but the opportunities and credentials of Mildura are so good that I am confident that someone else will come along.

Monday 26 November 2012

Australia to decide on funding solar projects within six months
13 Nov 2012

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency, which plans to allocate A$2.2 billion ($2.3 billion) in government funds to help the industry, expects to decide within six months whether to invest in two solar projects. The government agency, set up last year, said it's in discussions with Pacific Hydro Pty and Fotowatio Renewable Ventures about funding their proposed solar plant in New South Wales and is talking with Infigen Energy (IFN) and Suntech Power Co. (STP) about another solar project in the state.

While a venture including Areva SA (AREVA) abandoned plans for a A$1 billion solar thermal project in Australia after failing to get funding from the renewable agency, other solar ventures are going ahead as the country moves toward a target of generating 20% of its power from clean energy by 2020. "Why hasn't more solar happened?" Ivor Frischknecht, who started as chief executive officer of the renewable energy agency in August, said in a phone interview yesterday. "Large-scale solar today still needs a subsidy, and various subsidy programs haven't been as successful as everybody would have hoped, but I think we've learned a lot from the past".

FirstSolar Inc. (FSLR) and AGL Energy Ltd. (AGK) in June won A$129.7 million in government funds to build a 159 MW solar project across two sites in New South Wales. Silex Systems Ltd. (SLX) announced last year it would get as much as A$75 million in federal funds for a solar plant in the state of Victoria.

‘Waiting to Happen’
"There are a number of projects out there waiting to happen or proceeding on schedule", he said. Decisions on the solar photovoltaic ventures in Australia's most populous state will be made "as soon as possible", he added. Australia had 1,936 MWs of solar projects using photovoltaic panels to convert sunlight into electricity, including just 19 MWs at large-scale plants, Bloomberg New Energy Finance said last month. A large-scale solar project is defined by BNEF as having capacity of more than 1 MW.

By comparison, Germany and Italy installed more than 7,000 MWs each last year, making them the world's two biggest markets for the technology. The Australian renewables agency released its funding strategy yesterday, seeking to encourage clean energy projects in locations where consumption is forecast to increase and fossil fuel-based generation costs are the highest. "We're trying to further the penetration of renewable energy particularly into diesel-powered areas of remote Australia", said Frischknecht, previously investment director of Australian venture capital fund Starfish Ventures.

Solar PV
ARENA's board decided it wouldn't fund the 250 MW Solar Dawn Project proposed by Paris-based Areva and Wind Prospect Group Ltd, partly because the Queensland government withdrew A$75 million of funding, said Frischknecht, who started as the agency's CEO in August. "The relative cost of PV to solar thermal has moved so dramatically, and that was such a large project, it just didn't seem fantastic value for money", Frischknecht said.

The agency also plans to make smaller investments, potentially A$10 million or less, in emerging renewable energy technologies across the country, he said. "There's a lot of activity at the smaller end of town", he said. "We are getting applications on a weekly basis, if not more frequently, and I would be disappointed if we weren't able to announce some of those in the next few months".

Wind farm blows some good for firefighters
16 Nov 2012

The operators of a South Australian wind farm say it may have provided important information for fighting the bushfire near Port Lincoln. The Cathedral Rocks wind farm was near the fireground, and its operator, EnergyAustralia, says wind farms collect data including wind speed and direction. Steve Brown says his company gave the information to the Country Fire Service and believes it was helpful in the overall effort, particularly with wind change.

"It's important for the CFS to know when the wind is going to change, because you can imagine, they can be fighting a fire on a one-km front and it might have a ten-km tail, but if the wind changes, then it suddenly becomes a ten-km front", he said. "And the sooner they know about that, the more ready they can be to fight it, but perhaps more importantly get out of its way".