Australian installations of small-scale rooftop soared to yet another record in the month October, with Victoria emerging as the latest hot spot and Western Australia becoming the fourth state to reach the 1GW benchmark.
Data compiled by industry statistician Sunwiz reveal 158MW of small scale rooftop solar (sub 100kW) were installed in October, which was 15 per cent above the previous record set in August.
“It was a record month, a massive surge across the board,” said Sunwiz director Warwick Johnston.
It takes the total for the year to 1.25GW (1,250MW), already well ahead of the 2017 total, and suggests that the 2018 total could meet 1.5GW. This does not include bigger rooftop solar installation (above 100kW) and utility scale installations.
The remarkable trend in the latest month is the performance of Victoria, where volumes surged 40 per cent to 37.6MW for the month, just trailing NSW (39MW) as the hottest market in the country, and relegating Queensland to third place.
The Victoria market surge could be underpinned in the interest generated by the state-government’s additional rebate announcement, the first stage in a program that will deliver another 2.6GW of rooftop solar in that state over the next 10 years should the Labor government be re-elected in this month’s election.
But the increase was widespread, with more than 150,000 homes and businesses adding solar over the month.
This is possibly due to some panic buying caused by threats to abolish the small-scale solar scheme, which is being gradually wound down in any case over 12 years but which still offers a rebate equivalent to around 30 per cent of the cost of modules.
Despite strong calls by the ACCC and utilities such as Origin Energy and EnergyAustralia, the federal government resisted calls to abolish the rebate scheme and said it had no plans to change it.
It may also be due to the ongoing political debate over energy prices, and the realisation that for all its tough talk and sloganeering about “fair dinkum energy”, the federal government can do little to arrest electricity prices without a sensible energy and climate policy.
The grand total for the Australian market now stands at 7.74GW, on more than 1.97 million homes and small businesses.
Queensland still leads with 2.27GW, followed by NSW (1.75GW), Victoria (1.46GW) and now W.A. with 1.01GW, after adding a record 20MW in the last month.
As the Australian PV Institute reported earlier this week, the latest surge in rooftop solar means that the total capacity of solar – rooftop and utility scale – is now more than 10GW.
A version of this story was first published in RenewEconomy’s sister site One Step Off The Grid.
As part of his Energy announcements this week, Minister Angus Taylor has finally heeded calls from solar consumers led by Solar Citizens to rule out axing the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme.
‘Energy consumers are tired of being taken for a ride by electricity retailers, which is why Australians are installing solar at record rates so that they can take the power back into their own hands,’ says Solar Citizens National Director Joseph Scales.
‘The Small-scale Renewable makes investing in rooftop solar affordable,’ explains Mr Scales.
The ACCC gave a misguided recommendation to cut the SRES 9 years early or even immediately.
‘The cost of rooftop solar would increase by approximately 30% by axing Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme,’ describes Mr Scales.
Today, representatives of Solar Citizens are in Parliament to lock in this announcement with our open letter which collected nearly 10,000 signatures. Solar Citizens will be meeting with Minister Taylor’s office, and with Labor’s Shadow Minister Mark Butler and Greens’ spokesperson Adam Bandt.
Solar Citizens mobilised thousands of solar consumers to call on the Federal Government to rule this out:
- Nearly 10,000 signed our open letter to the Energy Minister (jointly with Smart Energy Council);
- Hundreds of constituents contacted their MP asking them to join our call to rule out axing the SRES; and,
- numerous people wrote to their local papers and had letters to the editor published which explained the benefit of the SRES.
‘This is a huge win for solar consumers around the country – saving the SRES will keep the installation of rooftop solar affordable so that more Australians can enjoy the benefits of solar and lower their energy bills,’ concludes Mr Scales.
The Abbott Government also backed down from cutting the SRES and the RET in 2015 when Solar Citizens delivered petitions with 28,000 signatures to the Government.
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.
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
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
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
The road to China’s autonomous-driving future is paved with solar panels, mapping sensors and electric-battery rechargers as the nation tests an “intelligent highway” that could speed the transformation of the global transportation industry.
The technologies will be embedded underneath transparent concrete used to build a 1,080-meter-long (3,540-foot-long) stretch of road in the eastern city of Jinan. About 45,000 vehicles barrel over the section every day, and the solar panels inside generate enough electricity to power highway lights and 800 homes, according to builder Qilu Transportation Development Group Co.
Yet Qilu Transportation wants to do more than supply juice to the grid: it wants the road to be just as smart as the vehicles of the future. The government says 10 percent of all cars should be fully self-driving by 2030, and Qilu considers that an opportunity to deliver better traffic updates, more accurate mapping and on-the-go recharging of electric-vehicle batteries—all from the ground up.
“The highways we have been using can only carry vehicles passing by, and they are like the 1.0-generation product,” said Zhou Yong, the company’s general manager. “We’re working on the 2.0 and 3.0 generations by transplanting brains and a nervous system.”
The construction comes as President Xi Jinping’s government pushes ahead with a “Made in China 2025” plan to help the nation become an advanced manufacturing power and not just a supplier of sneakers, clothes and toys for export. The 10 sectors highlighted include new-energy vehicles, information technology and robotics.
China also has a separate plan for developing its artificial-intelligence industry that calls for the nation to be the world’s primary AI innovation center by 2030.
Part of that effort involves building what the government calls an intelligent transportation system. Coordinating the development of autonomous-driving cars and intelligent-road systems is a focus, said Yuan Peng, the deputy head of the transportation ministry’s science and technology department.
“The ministry will help offer smart roads for the smart cars that are coming,” Yuan said.
Step one makes up a section of the expressway surrounding Jinan, an old industrial hub of about 7 million people that’s home to China National Heavy Duty Truck Group, which is also known as Sinotruk and includes Volkswagen AG’s MAN SE as a minority shareholder. Zhejiang Geely Holding Group also has a plant there making Geely brand cars.
The road has three vertical layers, with the shell of see-through material allowing sunlight to reach the solar cells underneath. The top layer also has space inside to thread recharging wires and sensors that monitor temperature, traffic flow and weight load.
The solar panels spread across two lanes, which feel no different to a driver than the regular road, and are thinner than a 1-yuan coin standing on its edge. The test road is too short to deliver wireless recharging at the moment, Zhou said.
“From the angle of the technology itself, charging is not a problem,” Zhou said. “The vehicles that can be charged wirelessly aren’t used on roads yet.”
Qilu Transportation didn’t give a time frame for installing the sensors to transmit data and power to EV batteries. The road has an estimated life span of 15 years, matching that of traditional asphalt highways.
“The solar expressway does have market opportunities,” said Xu Yingbo, an analyst with Citic Securities Co. in Beijing. “The key things that need to be addressed are costs and reliability, as well as how quickly it can have the compatible system in place.”
In 2016, French construction company Bouygues SA started testing a 1-kilometer road in Normandy with solar panels layered on top. Tests of the Wattway road since have expanded to 20 locations, said Etienne Gaudin, who oversees the project at Bouygues’ Colas Group road-work division.
Wattway’s focus is generating electricity, and the company has no immediate plans to charge moving EVs, he said. Colas will start selling the project next year, prioritizing smaller locations such as charging stations and parking lots where traffic won’t block sunlight, Gaudin said.
China will have 30 million vehicles with different levels of autonomous features by 2025, said Yu Kai, founder of Horizon Robotics Inc., a Beijing-based startup developingsemiconductors for those types of cars.
The stretch of road in Jinan cost about 7,000 yuan per square meter to build, Zhou said, making the total cost about 41 million yuan ($6.5 million), according to Bloomberg News calculations. The threshold for mass adoption of the technology is about 3,000 yuan per square meter, the company said.
The initial costs are high because Qilu’s research-and-development team developed the technology and made the materials in its own laboratories, and the costs should come down as the components are mass produced, Zhou said. Qilu is owned by the government of Shandong province, which includes Jinan.
Researchers started working on the project 10 years ago. Construction took 55 days on an existing part of the highway, and the road opened to traffic in December. Solar-powered heating elements keep the section snow- and ice-free.
“In the future, when cars are running on these roads, it will be like human beings,” Zhou said. “The road will feel and think to figure out how heavy the vehicles are and what kind of data is needed.”
Qilu said it is cooperating with several domestic automakers on the technology but declined to elaborate.
China accounts for half of all EV sales worldwide. It surpassed the U.S. in 2015 to become the world’s biggest market for electric cars, with sales of new-energy vehicles—a category that includes battery-powered, plug-in hybrid and fuel cell cars—possibly surpassing 1 million this year, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.
The government set a sales target of 7 million NEVs by 2020.
“The future of transportation is coming to us much faster than we expected,” Zhou said. “We need to make sure that roads are evolved to match the development of autonomous-driving vehicles.”
When choosing an inverter for a project, always consider whether the inverter can perform global maximum power point tracking. While most inverters on the market today perform maximum power point tracking (MPPT), not all perform global MPPT. If shade is present on the project site, choosing an inverter that performs global MPPT can help increase energy production.
The power-voltage curve shows the point (or points) at which the power output is maximized (the MPPT). As shown at right, an array can have multiple MPPTs when it is partially shaded. Image courtesy of Aurora Solar.
In addition to converting DC power to AC power, another key function of string inverters is determining the voltage and current levels at which the array operates (its operating point). MPPT refers to an inverter’s ability to identify the operating point that maximizes the output power of a PV array (i.e., it finds the maximum power point of the array).
When conditions are the same across all modules (identical irradiance, temperature and components), an array will have a single maximum power point. However, if part of the array is shaded, there will be multiple operating points that maximize power output. This is due to the impacts of bypass diodes within modules that allow the inverter to “skip over” shaded sections instead of operating at their lower current.
As a result of the behavior of bypass diodes, there are two distinct operating points at which power is “maximized” for shaded arrays. Global MPPT refers to the ability of an inverter to sweep across the full range of current and voltage levels (within its operating voltage limits) to find the point at which power output is globally maximized and avoid picking local maximum power points.
Inverters without global MPPT functionality can make sense for sites without shade, because during the times that the inverter is searching for the maximum power point, it is not actually operating at that maximum power point and the array is not producing as much energy as it could. If the maximum power point is unlikely to change because bypass diodes will not be activated due to shade, then using an inverter without global MPPT can be beneficial. However, for sites with shade, global MPPT capability can help increase the system’s energy production. Analysis of a shaded solar installation by Aurora Solar found that global MPPT increased production by over 5% annually.
Whether the selected inverter performs global MPPT should also be factored into estimates of how much energy the system will produce. Modeling energy production based on the assumption that an inverter performs global MPPT when it does not can lead to underperforming systems. Similarly, failing to account for global MPPT when the inverter does perform this behavior can lead to oversizing a system relative to the customer’s needs. When using software to simulate energy production, it is important that the software models inverter behavior in accordance with the manufacturer specifications for each inverter model.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A tech startup on a mission to make modern commercial and housing estates energy neutral has outfitted the headquarters of a Dutch bank with the world's first commercial, fully transparent solar-power-generating windows.
The windows have solar cells installed in the edges at a specific angle that allows the incoming solar light to be efficiently transformed into electricity.
"Large commercial estates consume a lot of energy," said Ferdinand Grapperhaus, co-founder and CEO of the startup, called Physee. "If you want to make these buildings energy-neutral, you never have enough roof surface. Therefore, activating the buildings' facades will significantly contribute to making the buildings energy-neutral."
The windows could generate 8 to 10 watts of power, according to Grapperhaus.
"This enables the user to charge a phone per every square meter [11 square feet] two times a day," he told Live Science.
The first installation of Physee's PowerWindows was unveiled in June in Eindhoven, in the south of the Netherlands. The headquarters of Rabobank, the Netherlands' biggest bank, has been fitted with 323 square feet (30 square m) of the PowerWindows. The bank's employees will be able to plug their smartphones into the windows using USB ports to charge their batteries, according to Physee.
Other buildings in the Netherlands are already lined up to receive the innovative solar technology, which has won Physee a place on the World Economic Forum's Technology Pioneers 2017 list.
At the end of June, the headquarters of the Amsterdam-based charity the Postcode Lottery were fitted with the PowerWindows. After that, Physee will move forward with its first large-scale project: a 19,000-square-foot (1,800 square m) installation in a large, newly built residential complex in Amsterdam, the Bold tower.
"I believe that every new type of glass needs power," Grapperhaus said. "Either for the glass to be tinted electrically or heated or inside windows there are these solar blinds, which are electrical and can go up and down but also more and more you can see video glass."
Grapperhaus said that the cost of the wiring that brings power from the grid to such windows is considerable in large commercial estates, and investing in power-generating windows would, therefore, make commercial sense.
Physee is already working on the next-generation technology that would triple the efficiency of the PowerWindows. The surface of the second generation of PowerWindows will be coated with a special material that transforms incoming visible light into near-infrared light, which is then transported toward the solar cells in the edges of the windows.
"It works similarly to a [glow-in-the-dark star]," Grapperhaus said. "The difference is that the glow star emits the green wavelength, but the coating on our windows emits light in near-infrared wavelength."
The coating is based on the rare-earth metal thulium. Grapperhaus, together with his friend Willem Kesteloo, discovered the ability of thulium to transform a broad spectrum of light into near-infrared light in 2014, during their studies at the Delft University of Technology.
"Over time, our efficiency will improve further due to the development of better solar cells but also because of the economies of scale," Grapperhaus said. "Right now, we are looking for iconic projects all over the world to show that a large glass building can be made energy neutral in an aesthetic way."
Physee was among 30 early stage technology pioneers highlighted for 2017 and selected by the World Economic Forum for their potential to change the world. The list, announced June 14, consisted of firms developing various technologies, including artificial intelligence, cybersecurity solutions, and biotechnology.
Physee's presence on the list shows that the world is starting to take climate change seriously, Grapperhaus said.
"Ten years ago, sustainability was something that wasn't taken very seriously — not by venture capitalists, not by many governments and neither by large corporations," Grapperhaus said. "What I have seen over the last three years is that corporations are becoming more and more responsible, governments are becoming more and more supportive, and venture capitalists are becoming more and more interested" in sustainability.