While the Australian government under Prime Minister Scott Morrison continues to paddle furiously backwards when it comes to promoting renewable energy and addressing climate change, the transition to zero emission electricity is gathering speed throughout the nation. Here are three recent examples of developments that will stick in ScoMo’s craw.
Breaking The Solar Ceiling In Melbourne
In Preston, a suburb of Melbourne, a 52-unit low income apartment block now gets electricity from its own microgrid, thanks to an innovative partnership between the government of Victoria, Housing Choices Australia, the Australian Energy Foundation, the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, and several companies, including Gippsland Solar, Allume Energy, and retailer Ovidia.
The roof of the apartment block now features a 70 kW solar array coupled with a 56 kWh storage battery. Using the Solshare energy distribution technology pioneered by Allume, it connects the 52 apartments and allows for the rooftop generated and battery stored solar power to be shared between them.
The Solshare system is contained in a small box and is designed to work within a building’s existing metering infrastructure to allow solar to be distributed and billed to individual apartments. “52 low-income households now have access to clean, affordable electricity in this world-first integration of shared solar and batteries,” Allume said in a statement published on LinkedIn. “The SolShare ensures solar and battery power is sent to whichever apartment is using energy at that time, to maximize use of solar, and minimize consumption from the grid.”
Lily D’Ambrosio, energy minister for the state of Victoria and perennial thorn in ScoMo’s side, attended the opening ceremonies for the new microgrid, which was funded in part by a $1 million grant to the Community Energy Hubs initiative. That project has the larger goal of installing shared solar and storage systems in three multi-tenanted buildings.
“We’ve made it our mission to help more Victorian households access solar technology — helping to bring down their energy bills, reduce emissions and pump more power back into the grid. Projects like this go the extra mile to ensure low income households and renters can enjoy the benefits of solar,” she said according to a report by One Step Off The Grid.
The rooftop PV system was installed at no upfront cost to the tenants through a 10-year “roof licence” with the landlord. Allume then charges the tenants for the solar electricity on a “pay for the power, and not the panels” basis. A power purchase agreement locks in a rate that is 30% lower than the prevailing retail rate of electricity.
The groundbreaking solar sharing plan breaks the so-called “solar ceiling” that locks people with no roof of their own to mount a solar array out of cheaper, cleaner energy. The success of the Allume system has led to the creation of several new start-up companies and attracted favorable attention from several state and local governments. Not even Scott Morrison and his fossil fuel buddies will be able to stop this revolution now that it has begun.
Solar Hybrid Microgrids For Mine In Western Australia
Australia is an enormous country with a wealth of natural resources. It also has vast areas where there are not enough people and businesses to support the construction of a traditional electrical grid. Like many of the world’s islands, the interior of Australia has long relied on diesel generators to supply electricity.
Zenith Energy specializes in the deployment of remote, off-grid power systems for mining operations in Australia and Papua New Guinea. It currently supplies more than 400 MW of electricity to its customers.
In 2014, the DeGrussa copper mine installed a 10.6 MW solar power plant to supply a portion of its electricity needs. That project was supported by a $20.9 million grant from the Australia Renewable Energy Agency. With that as a starting point, Zenith Energy has recently completed another hybrid solar microgrid for the Nova nickel, copper, and cobalt mines located in the Fraser mountain range of Western Australia and operated by the Independence Group.
The big news is that this system was installed without any government subsidies at all — a first for Australia. The 26.6 MW hybrid solar and diesel facility includes a 5.5 MW solar farm with single axis tracking. The electricity generated by the solar panels will reduce daily diesel consumption by 6,500 liters (1717 gallons), which in turn will eliminate 6,500 tons of carbon dioxide emissions from the mining operations each year. The fuel savings will help pay for the microgrid.
“We are absolutely thrilled with the performance of the system to date. Importantly, this is the first hybrid solar PV/diesel installation that has been funded on a commercial, standalone basis — without any Government subsidies,” Zenith Energy managing director Hamish Moffat tells Renew Economy. “As a local, independent power producer, we are proud to be at the forefront of delivering cost effective energy solutions that improve environmental outcomes for Australia’s resources industry.”
The new microgrid does not take advantage of battery storage, which could reduce the use of diesel generators even more. “The proprietary hybrid system developed by the Company is able to seamlessly manage the fluctuations in solar PV energy production to provide smooth, reliable power, without the need for batteries to stabilise energy delivery to Nova,” Moffat adds.
“Batteries have their place in energy systems, but they are still expensive to deploy for these applications. Our unique locally developed hybrid system eliminates the need for batteries and represents a major step forward in the capital cost optimization, operating efficiency and environmental performance of Solar PV hybrid energy systems in remote locations.”
Last May, the government of Western Australia announced it would commit up to $11.6 million to support the rollout of hybrid solar/diesel projects in remote parts of the state in partnership with Aboriginal corporations. Those installations are expected to reduce the cost of electricity and reliance on diesel generation in six remote communities.
Boosting Battery Storage In Australia
Battery storage may not have found a home in the mountains of Western Australia yet, but it will see an increase in urban areas this year thanks to a partnership between Solar Service Group and energy optimization company Evergen.
Evergen’s technology was developed by CSIRO, Australia’s national science organization. According to One Step Off The Grid, it tracks a home’s power consumption and weather forecasts to decide when to use solar power, when to store it, and when to draw from the grid. “With more than 8,000 batteries installed nationally already, our current and future customers will benefit from Evergen’s world class optimization software,” says Solar SG chairman Rod Woolley.
Together the companies plan to launch a virtual power plant initiative they believe will create the “biggest single fleet” of batteries globally. “Our partnership will enable all Evergen and Solar SG customers to be connected to energy markets, generating additional savings from participating in grid-scale initiatives,” Wooley says. “This will dramatically reduce the payback period for consumers and provide concurrent benefits for the network and other energy consumers.”
For Evergen, the partnership with Solar SG paves the way for a big push into the Australian solar optimization market. “After various trial programs, this partnership puts us in a position to take our proposition nationwide to our combined network of customers,” says Evergen CEO Ben Hutt.
He adds that consumers will enjoy significant cost savings through VPPs by using the excess energy in their batteries to benefit the grid and other energy consumers. “This is a revolutionary way of supporting the grid, unlocking energy savings for customers and helping to lower our carbon footprint.”
“A solar system from Evergen will slash on average 75.7% from your electricity bills!” Evergen says on its website. That may be a bit optimistic, but most utility customers would be thrilled to see even half those savings. More proof that ScoMo has no idea what he is talking about when he tries to steer Australians away from renewable energy. With any luck, he and his sycophants will soon be put out to pasture by the voters so Australia can finally begin to take its rightful place as a world leader in renewables and responsible leadership on global issues.