Sunday 28 July 2013

Capital's solar buyback slashed
13 Jun 2013

ActewAGL has been accused of not paying customers a reasonable price for solar power with a new scheme about to offer 10¢ a kW hour less than the current arrangement. However, other industry players have suggested the reduced price was inevitable and in line with what was happening in other jurisdictions.

Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury has also called on Labor to honour its parliamentary agreement with the ACT Greens which included a 20 year guaranteed payment for households and businesses installing solar power. Solar power providers are also bracing for a rush for the technology as consumers try to lock into the current ''generous'' solar buyback scheme which ends in the ACT on June 30.

ActewAGL has been buying solar power from customers at about 18¢ per kW through the current solar buyback scheme. Under the new system of net metering, to be introduced on July 1, ActewAGL Retail will buy excess electricity at 7.5¢ per kW hour.

Existing customers will continue their arrangement under the buyback scheme until June 20, 2020 when they will revert to net metering. New customers will be still subject to the buyback scheme if they submit special connect request forms, via an installer, to ActewAGL before the close of business on June 30. ActewAGL said there were 2357 active solar buyback customers in the ACT. There were 93 applications pending for entry to the scheme.

ActewAGL general manager retail Ayesha Razzaq said the change meant instead of ActewAGL paying a tariff for all solar power produced by customers, it would be paying for only the ''excess'' solar electricity exported to the network, taking into account the power used by the customer.

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Four companies join up on solar energy, energy storage tech
12 Jun 2013

A group of four companies plans to pool resources and work to develop solar power storage technology for the military. In time, the technology could be adapted for commercial or residential use. Lincad, Oxis Energy, Pure Wafer and Solutronic are developing a system that combines lightweight solar panels, electronics and a battery energy storage device, according to Power Engineering.

Lincad will lend their battery design expertise, while Oxis will supply the lithium sulfur cell technology. Pure Wafer will supply the military solar panels that will charge the lithium sulfur batteries during the day when the sun shines, and Solutronic will provide electronics that connect the solar panels, batteries and equipment to power.

U.S. photovoltaic power installations rise 33 pct in 1st quarter
11 Jun 2013

New solar photovoltaic power installations in the United States totaled 723 MWs (MW) during the first quarter, up 33% over the same period in 2012, industry analysts said in a report on Tuesday.

GTM Research and Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) forecast that during 2013, the industry will install 4.4 GWs of photovoltaic power facilities-enough to power about 800,000 average American homes. That will rise to nearly 9.2 GW annually in 2016.

As the cost of solar photovoltaic panels declines, solar power is one of the fastest-growing new energy sources in United States "Installations will speed up over the next four years as projects become economically preferable to retail power in more locations", said Shayle Kann, vice president of research at renewable power information company GTM, a unit of Greentech Media.

Kann warned, however, that changes to net metering and electricity rate structures could serve as the market's primary barrier. SEIA is an industry trade group.

The report said the average residential photovoltaic system price fell below $5.00 per watt, while the average nonresidential system price fell below $4.00 per watt. The report also said concentrating solar power capacity is expected to make "major gains" by the end of the year, adding more than 900 MW of capacity.

The report looked at both photovoltaic power, which uses solar panels to generate power, and concentrating solar power, which uses mirrors to concentrate sunlight on a tower or other structure to heat liquid to produce steam to power a turbine. It said the United States now has more than 8.5 GW of installed solar capacity and is expected to add 5.3 GW in 2013.

Some of the biggest solar power companies include units of Abengoa SA, Consolidated Edison Inc, Electricite de France SA, Enel Green Power SpA, FirstSolar Inc, Iberdrola SA, NextEra Energy Resources, NRG Energy Inc, Sempra Energy and SunPower Corp.

Wind Co-Op to study community attitudes
11 Jun 2013

The Central New South Wales Renewable Energy Cooperative which wants to buy a turbine at the proposed Flyer's Creek wind farm near Blayney, says it has a back-up plan if the development is not approved. The wind farm application was lodged in 2008 and Chairman Pat Bradbery says the group will not be disbanded if the wind farm does not get the go-ahead.

"The first is to look at another wind farm that has been approved and preliminary talks have happened about that", he said. "But we will then at the same time look at our other goals, which is that we really want to do what we can to increase the amount of renewable energy being used in the central regions of New South Wales".

He says solar farms and an initiative where businesses can rent solar panels to reduce their energy costs could be considered. "Orange, Bathurst, the Central Tablelands in particular gets a quite a lot of sunlight and so solar power is very do-able. "Also this part of the country is high wind territory so it certainly has the natural resources that are required to produce renewable energy".

The co-op has received a $60,000 state government grant to be spent on a study into community attitudes on wind farms, and a series of seminars. Mr Bradbery says the grant will pay for a study on community attitudes to windfarms being done by the University of Technology Sydney. "They've actually almost finished that.

"We're just waiting on the final report and to run 10 seminars through the region, in which we will present the results of the research and also get feedback about what they think of wind power". Seminars will be held in Orange, Bathurst, Lithgow, Cowra, Parkes, Forbes and Mudgee over the next two months.

Wind-linked disease fails to catch-on amongst scientists
10 Jun 2013

Groups opposed to wind farms are referencing an ailment "vibroacoustic disease" that a new study suggests is not recognised as a genuine health problem in the scientific literature, beyond a single research group in Portugal.

It is claimed by opponents of wind farms that they emit large amounts of low frequency noise (although noise measurement studies suggest this is not the case) which has been found to cause an ailment referred to as "vibroacoustic disease" or VAD.

The Portugese researchers who coined the disease based on studies of aircraft technicians, believe that chronic exposure to low frequency noise greater that 90dB leads to a range of ailments. These include slight mood swings, indigestion and heatburn to more severe problems such as psychiatric disturbances, duodenal ulcers, intense muscular and joint pain and even haemorrhoids.

However a study published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health has drawn doubt over the veracity of VAD as a legitimate disease with little recognition amongst health researchers. The study entitled, 'How the factoid of wind turbines causing 'vibroacoustic disease' came to be 'irrefutably demonstrated' ', undertook a search of the scientific journal literature as well as a search of the internet to determine the prevalence of VAD as a genuine health concern.

The peer-reviewed journal search for 'vibroacoustic disease' retrieved 182 papers. Screening of titles and abstracts resulted in exclusion of 62 articles which used the term vibroacoustic in relation to either fetal ultrasound measurement or occupational measurement of noise. After removal of duplicates, a total of 35 papers were found on vibroacoustic disease. Of the 35 papers, 34 had a first author from a single Portuguese research group. Seventy-four% of citations to these papers were self-citations by the group whereas median self-citation rates in science are around 7%.

In addition none of the 35 papers contained any reference to wind turbines.

Instead, according to the authors of the study-Simon Chapman and Alexis St. George, vibroacoustic disease was linked to wind turbines through a conference presentation case study by Alves-Pereira of a single 12 year-old boy who had "memory and attention skill" problems in school and "tiredness" during physical education activities.

Yet according to Chapman and St George such complaints are very common and further analysis would be required before suggesting they could be attributed to the nearby turbines. They stated,

"there are many other houses in the area adjacent to the turbines [nearby to the 12 year old boy's residence], but her research group conducted no investigations of residents in any of these, as would be expected in any elementary epidemiological investigation. Again, Alves-Pereira asserted that wind turbine exposure was a plausible explanation for the boy's school problems. No other possible explanations were considered in the presentation or apparently investigated".