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NT to develop competitive electricity market

10 October, 2018
Annie Sherring

The Northern Territory will develop its own competitive wholesale electricity market as part of the state government’s plan to deliver lower power prices.

In the next 12 months, a Northern Territory Electricity Market (NTEM) will be developed, consistent with recommendations made by the independent panel in the Roadmap to Renewables report.

This will ensure the growing interest in renewable energy can be facilitated in the Darwin-Katherine power network in a way that will deliver lower cost generation and reliable power to Territorians.

The Northern Territory Government announced the electricity market reforms to deliver reliable power and meet the state’s target of its 50 per cent renewables by 2030.

NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner said creating local jobs was his number one priority.

“Our election commitment of 50 per cent renewables by 2030 is already paying dividends by creating local jobs in the growing renewable energy sector,” he said.

“We have kept our promise to stabilise power prices after massive hikes under the CLP.

“The fact we have also kept public assets in public ownership means we are perfectly placed to transition to more renewable energy while maintaining system reliability.”

The NTEM is expected to be up and running within 12 months, and government will work closely with stakeholders on design and implementation.

The state government will also begin consultation shortly on a review of supply and feed-in tariffs to encourage behind the meter energy storage for those with rooftop solar photovoltaics (PV) and stimulate greater take-up of energy efficient technologies.

This was also one of the recommendations made by the renewables panel to increase system reliability and enable Territorians to reduce their electricity costs during the most expensive times of the day.

In a major step towards reaching the 50 per cent renewables target, the government has approved a 25MW solar photovoltaic electricity plant to be developed near Katherine.

The power purchase agreement (PPA) between Jacana Energy and Katherine Solar will enable the construction of the $40 million project, create more than 100 jobs during construction and be the largest renewable energy generator in the Northern Territory.

Epuron executive director Martin Poole said the company was pleased to sell its energy to Jacana.

“We look forward to the Katherine solar project moving into construction in the coming months,” he said.

“The NT has great potential for solar energy, and it is exciting to see the Territory Government’s initiatives to enable investors to compete to generate the lowest cost solar power for the grid.”

NT Minister for Renewables and Essential Services Dale Wakefield said the PPA would increase renewable energy use in the Territory by between 3 and 4 per cent.

“It’s a huge step towards our renewable energy target and will put downward pressure on electricity prices,” he said.

“There are lessons learned from the National Energy Market that we have incorporated into the design of this policy.

“This is a common-sense and best practice approach tailored for the Territory’s unique circumstances.”

Australian farmers making the move to renewables

06 September, 2018
Annie Sherring

Egg farmers harnessing the sun to hatch a cleaner future

Egg farmers definitely aren’t chickening out when it comes to solar energy. Instead, they have started hatching plans to power ahead with the new technology. With the country’s largest egg farming group Pace Farm investing $3.2 million in three large solar projects across its NSW properties over a six month period recently, the egg industry is joining the growing number of farmers making the switch to renewable energy. The annual output across the three sites is expected to hit 2.7 million kilowatt-hours. That’s enough electricity to power more than 400 average homes.  

“Every kilowatt-hour of energy produced by the sun is a kilowatt hour you don’t have to buy, and with energy prices rising the way they have it made good business sense to us,” General Manager Paul Pace as quoted in the Australian Financial Review.


Pace Farm

Sink your teeth into an orchard full of sunshine

Burgi’s cool store and fruit orchard facility located in Melbourne’s north-east has made the switch to solar as a way to drive down the cost of power and move their businesses to more sustainable and clean power sources. The business installed a 25 kW system with 100 panels in 2015 which was set to generate up to 38 per cent of the orchard and cool stores power needs. 

“Our philosophy is to leave things better than we found them. And part of that philosophy is to use solar energy,” Owner Terry Burgi as quoted by Origin Energy

No rotten tomatoes for Sundrop farms

Sundrop Farms, situated 300 KM north of Adelaide is turning the traditional greenhouse on its head. The innovative farming business is churning out 15,000 tonnes of tomatoes per year and leaving those that still use fossil fuels to do so, as they put, it in the prehistoric era with the dinosaurs. The 20-hectare greenhouse facility uses solar thermal technology for power and desalinated water for irrigation, heating and cooling. The farm has enough energy and water on site to last for 10 days. 

“We knew considering the world’s increased population that we had to address the food storage, the water storage and the energy storage… creating a benefit for the environment and restoring ecosystems, rather than depleting them,”Chief Executive Philipp Saumweber as quoted in The Weekly Times

Sundrop Farms

Sundrop Farms
Credit: Sundrop Farms Facebook

Match made in manure

With 240,000 pigs on a farm and a power bill that totalled $350,000 annually, pig farmer Tom Smith from KIA-ORA piggery created a system to combat this, by using waste products from the pigs themselves the farm now generates their own electricity. The recycling system collects 120,000 tonnes of pig manure annually and through an effluent treatment and recycling system transforms it into biogas. The piggery has seen an emissions reduction from 16,598 tonnes to just 3,121 with the business producing 15 per cent above the site’s power needs. This allows the piggery to now sell the energy they don’t use back into the grid as a greenhouse gas offset. 

“We should have had it done years ago purely because of the cost of our electricity,” Owner Tom Smith told the ABC

Milking it with solar

Capel Farms, a family dairy and cattle farm in WA, has made the switch to solar energy after feeling the heat from power bills that have risen about two thirds since 2008. The farm installed a 100 kW solar system on an existing shed at the property in July 2014 and since then have seen a reduction in the electricity consumption from the grid by 31 per cent and a decrease in the cost of electricity by 41 per cent. Solar for dairy farmers is becoming increasingly common, with many such as Binowee Dairy farm in NSW taking their own action to combat rising power prices. 

“The solar quote looked too good to be true, so we tried it – and it was pretty good,” Manager Greg Norton as quoted on the ABC

A little bit of extra wind between the ears

In mid-2017 Global Power Generation Australia (GPG) signed an agreement with GE for 28 wind turbines that will form the 91 MW Crookwell Wind Farm. The lucky farmer on the list to house the project was Charlie Prell, a sheep farmer cross wind power activist that runs around 800 ewes and, has waited 17 years to make this a reality. The turbines will be located on parts of his property that are not suitable for farming, like the top of ridgelines or rocky outcrops. The wind farm which is expected to be online in 2018 will generate 300,000 MW hours of energy per year, enough to power 41,600 homes. The grid gets more renewables coming online and Charlie ensures the income is ticking over consistently throughout the year, it’s a wind-win. 

“It’s a game changer… it gives you the financial flexibility to change your stocking rate, to spell pastures, to manage water courses much more sustainably and environmentally because you’ve got the passive income stream,” Owner Charlie Prell as quoted in the Goulburn Post

Charlie Prell

Charlie Prell
Credit: Lynne Strong, Art4agriculture

Fromage and renewables, what a cracker!

Meredith Dairy in Melbourne’s west is turning traditional cheese making on its head with a catalogue of conservation activities. The dairy farm purchases clean energy to power their operations and when available uses Biofuel. In addition, their hot water systems are powered by solar power. Like we needed another excuse to eat more cheese, but this dairy farm is making the choice a little bit more guilt-free. 

“Sustainability to us is about making sure that the lifestyle, the farm, the business, is there for this generation and the generation to come and the one after that,” Owner Julie Cameron as said in this video

Risen Energy starts construction of Yarranlea Solar Farm in May

22 June, 2018
Annie Sherring

To commemorate the start of construction of the 121 megawatt DC Yarranlea Solar Farm, Risen Energy conducted a Ground Breaking Ceremony with Mr Patrick (Pat) Weir MP, LNP, Member for Condamine, and Paul Antonio – Mayor Toowoomba Regional Council.

This ceremony reinforces the importance of the working relationship between the State, Council and Risen Energy in developing such a significant project within the region.

Initially construction will involve bulk earthworks to prepare the site for installation of the solar panels and substation equipment.  Planting of screening vegetation will also be undertaken at this early stage.

As owners of the Yarranlea Solar Farm project, Risen Energy will progress the project from detailed engineering design, through construction, commissioning and ultimately the operation of the solar farm.

Full construction of the solar installation is expected to start mid-year and continue through to early 2019.

Yarranlea Solar will be working with Ergon to develop a switching station which will allow the solar farm to connect to the existing 110kV network.

Around 200 jobs will be created during the construction phase of the plant which will have approximately 400,000 solar panels installed at the site.

The Yarranlea Solar management team is currently finalising accommodation arrangements within the town of Pittsworth.

Yarranlea Solar Farm is located near Pittsworth, approximately 50km west of Toowoomba on the Darling Downs.  The farm will be approximately 250ha in area and have a generation capacity of approximately 121 megawatt DC, being sufficient to power up to 32,000 homes.

The project will connect to the power grid using the existing Ergon Energy infrastructure, located adjacent to the development site. This will allow transmission of power into the Middle Ridge Bulk Supply Substation for ultimate use in the Toowoomba and Darling Downs area.

Yarranlea Solar Farm will use the latest Risen Energy PV panel technology and eventually integrate battery storage to allow it to supply power to the grid during periods of peak demand. The completed facility will have an operating life of 30 years, with the option for extensions.

At the end of the facilities useful operating life, all physical infrastructure will be decommissioned, and the land returned to its former agricultural use.

The project received development approval from the Toowoomba Regional Council in February 2017. Detailed studies and plans for the project can be accessed through the Yarranlea web site.

Mars goes 100% solar for all six Australian factories

19 June, 2018
Annie Sherring


Barry O’Sullivan General Manager, Mars Petcare Australia picture at the Wodonga factory.

Mars Australia is going 100 per cent renewables, and will source all the power for its six Australian factories and two offices from a 200MW solar farm in Victoria.

Mars announced on Thursday that it has signed a 20 year power-purchase agreements (PPA) with Total Eren to produce the equivalent of all its electricity needs from the new Kiamal solar farm when it is complete in mind 2019.

Mars has contracted for energy – through the solar farm and a “firming contract” from TFC Green – to match the electricity requirements of its six Australian factories (Asquith, Ballarat, Bathurst, Wacol, Wodonga & Wyong) and two sales offices (Melbourne & Sydney).

“Mars is thrilled to be flicking the switch to solar energy,” says Barry O’Sullivan, the head of sustainability at Mars Australia, which makes confectionaries such as M&Ms, brands such as MasterFoods, EXTRA and Pedigree dog food.

“It’s about making a long-term commitment to a sustainable, greener planet that will benefit our customers, our consumers and the local and global community.”

O’Sullivan said the recent big rise in electricity prices in Australia accelerated its plans to join Mars sites in the US, UK and nine other countries in moving to renewable electricity.

“We acted quickly because the price volatility of energy in Australia made renewables the best option for our business, in addition to getting us closer to our commitment to eliminate greenhouse gasses from our operations by 2040.”

O’Sullivan said the company will also be talking to its extensive local supplier network “about how they can help further reduce emissions in our supply chain.”

It is the second innovative deal for the Kiamal solar farm, which is to be built near Ouyen in western Victoria.

Earlier this year, it announced a PPA with PowerShop, which enabled that retailer to announce a fall in retail prices to be passed on to consumers.

Total Eren, partly owned by one of the biggest oil companies in the world, also has council approval for a huge battery installation at the site – 100MW/380MWh – which the company will build once there is a “compelling proposition.”

Total Eren CEO David Corchba said the move by Mars Australia “sends a strong message to the rest of the market that now is the time to capitalise on the opportunities offered by renewable power purchase agreements.”

Total Eren says the success with the Kiamal solar farm means that it can no go ahead with a second solar farm in NSW.

Mars partnered with Commodity Risk Solution, LLC, a global energy market advisor, to structure and deliver an innovative corporate PPA that will provide a lasting economic advantage.

The deal was brokered by TFS Green, which has developed a marketplace for buyers and sellers of renewable energy, along with new “firming” contracts, under a new product known as the Renewable Energy Hub.

Essentially, this allows renewables to be presented as transactional firm contracts to the wholesale energy market, and builds liquidity for renewables to function with the wholesale contract market.

“The future of the renewable energy market will require firming solutions for intermittent generators to transact advantageously, says  Chris Halliwell, the head of renewable energy and environmental markets at TFS Australia.

The electricity from the Kiamal solar farm will be exported to the main grid.  Mars will receive the Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) created by Kiamal Solar Farm, which are transferable for all Mars’ electricity use in all of its Australian facilities.

The PPAs are part of a broader Mars journey to become Sustainable in a Generation, with plans to reduce greenhouse gasses across the supply chain by 67% by 2050.

QLD lights the way for large-scale solar projects

15 June, 2018
Annie Sherring

QLD lights the way for large-scale solar projects

Queensland is leading the national charge towards a record year for the large-scale solar industry, Clean Energy Council chief executive Kane Thornton told a sold-out audience at the 2018 Large-scale Solar Industry Forum.

The current boom in activity is something that will be a key topic of discussion at the Large-scale Solar Industry Forum being held in Brisbane today. The event brings together 450 solar technical professionals from across the country to learn from experts in the field.

According to Thornton 20 projects were actively under construction, would soon start or had already been completed in the Sunshine State during 2018 and the flow-on benefits were helping regional communities in solar hotspots such as North Queensland and the Darling Downs.

“Across the country, projects which are under construction, completed or have secured financial commitment add up to $5 billion in investment, with Queensland investments contributing more than half – 52 per cent, or $2.6 billion. All up, large-scale solar activity in the state adds up to almost 2670 direct jobs and 1400 MW of new clean energy,” said Thornton.

“The technology in the solar industry is forever evolving and maturing and events like the Large-scale Solar Industry Forum allow industry professionals across all levels to network and discuss issues and celebrate achievements for the industry.”

Thornton said the dramatically falling cost of large-scale solar power this decade had sparked a huge amount of interest in the sector from construction companies and major financiers.

“Large-scale solar has gone from an emerging technology in Australia at the beginning of the decade to a genuinely game-changing form of power that is cheaper than new coal or gas. It has exceeded the expectations of even the most optimistic predictions,” said Thornton.

“Along with the national Renewable Energy Target, support from the Queensland Government, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation has helped to make this one of the lowest-cost options we have for electricity today.”

Queensland’s biggest solar farm starts generating to grid

11 June, 2018
Annie Sherring

The Sun Metals solar farm – set to take over Clare solar farm’s short-lived mantle as the biggest solar installation in the state of Queensland – has begun exporting to the grid.

The 124MW (AC) Sun Metals solar farm overtakes the 100MW Clare solar farm as the biggest in the state, and began exporting into the grid late on Wednesday.

The solar farm is notable because it will be used to supply around one-third of the power needed by the Sun Metals zinc refinery, and its low cost (and cost certainty) will likely underpin a $300 million expansion of the complex.

Sun Metals was the first Australian big energy user to turn to large-scale solar, but since then many other companies have followed, including Telstra, Westpac, and most recently Mars Australia, whose six factories will be powered by a solar farm in Victoria.

“Once the solar farm is operational it will enable the refinery to be the largest single-site renewable consumer in Australia,” CEO Yun Choi recently told the Townsville Bulletin.

“The solar farm will be one of a kind in that it will directly power a large industrial user and export electricity into the National Electricity Market – so I think that makes it pretty innovative.”

Other big energy users are now proposing even bigger investments, with UK billionaire Sanjeev Gupta talking of a 1 gigawatt solar investment in South Australia to power the Whyalla steelworks, and potentially more than 10GW of solar around the country.

Construction of the the Sun Metals solar farm was largely completed by contractor RCR Tomlinson a month ago, and the various sections will be progressively commissioned over the next few weeks.

On Wednesday and Thursday the solar farm generated a peak of 36MW, and that output will grow as more connection points are switched on over coming weeks.  

China's latest energy megaproject shows that coal really is on the way out

01 May, 2018
Annie Sherring

China has some of the worst air pollution in the world. In several cities, thick layers of smog are common, resulting in thousands of deaths every year.

According to a 2016 study, the top contributor of air pollution-related deaths in China is the burning of coal. The team of Chinese and American researchers behind the study said that pollution from coal caused 366,000 premature deaths in 2013.

To improve the country’s air quality, the Chinese government vows to spend at least $US360 billion on clean energy projects and create 13 million new renewable energy jobs by 2020. China is already one of the world’s biggest investor in alternative energy sources like solar, wind, and hydropower.

This year marks China’s fourth anniversary since it started a “war on pollution,” and there’s reason to believe the country is making headway. Looking at over 200 monitors throughout China, a new analysis found that Chinese cities have cut concentrations of fine particulates – often considered the deadliest type of pollution – by 32% on average since 2013. The city of Xingtai saw the largest pollution decline at 52.2%. If China sustains these reductions, the average resident could see their lifespan extend by 2.4 years, according to the researchers.

China’s latest energy megaproject – a giant floating solar farm on top of a former coal mine in Anhui – may get the country closer to that goal.

Kevin frayer china floating solar field 14Kevin Frayer/Getty ImagesWorkers prepare panels on the Chinese solar farm.

In 2017, workers turned on the 166,000-panel array, which can generate 40 megawatts of power – enough to accommodate 15,000 homes, according to the South China Morning Post. It’s currently the world’s largest floating solar project and will operate for up to 25 years.

Local energy company Sungrow Power Supply developed the farm on a lake that was once the site of extensive coal mining. After an explosion caused the mine to collapse, a lake formed and flooded it. As The Guardian notes, building solar plants on top of lakes and reservoirs can protect agricultural land and wildlife on the ground. The water also cools the solar panels, helping them work more efficiently.

In December, a unit of China Three Gorges Corp. started building an even larger floating solar farm, which is expected to come online by May 2018. Also in Anhui, this $US151 million plant will produce up to 150 megawatts of power for approximately 94,000 homes.

Kevin frayer china floating solar field 3Kevin Frayer/Getty ImagesA worker carries a flotation device that keep the solar panels above water.

Choosing to develop the Sungrow farm on an abandoned coal mine signals the slow decline of fossil fuels like coal in China and other countries around the world.

In 2015, Sweden started to phase out its fossil fuel usage and bolster investment in solar, wind, smart grids, and cleaner transport. That same year, Nicaragua pledged to increase its share of renewable energy from 53% to 90% by 2020 as well. China is one of the biggest countries to make a significant move away from coal. Last year, the country cancelled 104 new coal plantsthat were in development across 13 provinces.

Kevin frayer china floating solar field 5Kevin Frayer/Getty ImagesStreet vendors and customers gather at a market near the coal plant and solar project in Anhui province, China.

Although the US relies less on fossil fuels in 2018 than it did a decade ago, President Donald Trump has promised to boost the country’s struggling coal industry. In mid-January, Trump announced that the US will administer a 30% tariff on imported solar panels, which will fall to about 15% over a period of four years. Part of his “America First” platform, the tariff could hurt the solar industry in the US.

Today, coal still accounts for over 40% of the world’s electricity production; but within 10 years, energy experts forecast that coal will peak and then fall. At the same time, cleaner sources, like solar and wind, will become cheap enough to surpass it.

Eco Energy gets approval for three more Qld solar farms

14 June, 2017

European renewable energy developer Eco Energy World looks to have passed the half-way mark of its pledge to develop a minimum 1GW of solar projects in Australia by 2019, with the approval of three new grid-connected projects totalling 410MW.


The newly approved Queensland projects, which include EEW’s largest to-date – the 280MW solar farm in Bouldercombe – bring the company’s “ready to build” solar portfolio to a total of 570MW, including its previously secured grid and planning for 160MW.

In October last year, EEW secured planning consent for a its first 140MW solar park near Maryborough, on Queensland’s Fraser Coast, followed by the approval of its proposed 20MW solar park near Chinchilla in the state’s Western Downs region.

As we reported at the time, the projects were believed to be likely to be developed along a “merchant” model, meaning EEW would source revenues from the spot market for electricity and large-scale renewable energy certificates rather than waiting for a power purchase agreement.

In a statement on Tuesday the company said the new solar plants would feed directly into the state grid, but were not limited to supplying Queensland only, with potential also to supply New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.

“Queensland has huge potential for solar energy with its high irradiance, good infrastructure and availability of land,” said EEW chairman Svante Kumlin.

“These projects will contribute to Queensland’s target to reach 50% renewable energy generation … (and) increase the utility solar generation by approximately 410 MW and will create new opportunities for the (Bouldercombe, Yarranlea and Broadlea) communities, including adding hundreds of jobs and services,” Kumlin said.

EEW said all of its solar projects were slated to start construction in Q3 2017, and to be connected to the grid from late Q4 2017 to Q2 2018.