In ‘Upfront’ Category

Austpost eDV

News: Postal deliveries going electric

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As part of its commitment to cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 25% off 2000 levels by 2020, Australia Post is starting to make the move to using electric delivery vehicles (eDVs). Since March last year the company has been trialling a Swiss-made three-wheeled electric scooter; there are now more than 100 delivering mail around the country, in addition to over 1000 electric bikes.


In addition to being battery powered, the eDVs offer two big advantages over a regular postie motorbike: they can carry three times more letters and parcels, and they can be left unattended as the cargo compartments automatically lock when the vehicle is switched off.
Australia Post is also investing in solar to help power its operations renewably, and it’s one of 14 consortium members behind the ground-breaking Melbourne Renewable Energy Project, contracted to buy a third of the projected output of the Crowlands wind farm near Ararat.,

News: Small battery uptick

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Recent figures from the Clean Energy Regulator, outlining the uptake in Australia of small-scale battery storage, reveal a 914% increase (693 to 7032 units) from 2014 to 2018. The figures represent voluntary disclosure of new system installations, and don’t account for those not disclosed nor those that may have been retrofitted, so the real figures are likely to be higher. And although battery system uptake only constitutes 2.5% of total PV systems installed in Australia last year, this is still just over double what was installed in 2016 (1.18%).


On the back of this sort of interest in storage batteries and sales growth, alongside nation-leading renewable energy policy and targets, and incentives promised by both major parties, German battery manufacturer Sonnen will be setting up a manufacturing plant in South Australia and moving its current Sydney headquarters to Adelaide. This will not only create around 400 jobs, but will also provide a cheaper battery storage option for the local market, using locally sourced components (apart from the cells, which are manufactured in Japan) and eliminating the significant cost currently tied up in shipping complete battery units from China or Germany. Sonnen hopes the SA plant will be established and producing its first batteries by the end of this year.,

2014 8 208 3 129 34 5 137 169 693
2015 3 133 1 186 21 6 163 24 537
2016 105 667 6 331 130 18 240 70 1567
2017 183 1742 16 773 445 90 686 204 4139
2018 7 38 0 26 12 0 9 4 96
Total 306 2788 26 1445 642 119 1235 471 7032

New solar PV systems with battery storage by year and state/territory as at 31/1/2018. Note that RET certificates can be created up to 12 months after installation, so 2017+ figures will rise.


News: Innovative water battery

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Pumped hydroelectric storage to help maintain grid stability is not a new approach for the energy industry—indeed, it was first used in the USA in 1930. However, German wind turbine manufacturer Max Bögl Wind AG has introduced an innovative twist, which they showcased at the Energy Storage North America (ESNA) fair in San Diego in August. The ‘water battery’ combines renewable power generation with a modern pumped-storage power plant to be used in periods of high demand. The pumped-storage power plant is available in three performance classes (16, 24 or 32 MW) and can switch between production and storage within 30 seconds.


The first project to use the technology is being developed in Stuttgart, Germany. It comprises a windfarm of four turbines, each of which have tower bases with in-built water storage capacity of 70 MWh. These are connected to a hydroelectric power station with 16 MW installed capacity and a lower reservoir in the valley 200 m below.

Feature image: This windfarm in Stuttgart, Germany, is using wind turbines combined with pumped hydro for energy storage, with water stored at the base of the turbines! Image: courtesy Solar Consulting


Battery storage gets competitive

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It seems the convergence of environmental realities and the economics of renewables is finally escalating apace. While large-scale wind and solar farms have been the big focus of the last few years (and continue to be), large-scale battery storage has become ‘the next big thing’.

Globally and domestically, governments and corporations are rolling out big storage projects that will provide the missing link between renewable energy generation and grid stabilisation/meeting peak demand.


In a few months, Germany will accept delivery of Europe’s biggest battery—a 48 MW/50 MWh lithium-ion unit—that will help provide grid stability in the Jardelund region near the border with Denmark, which currently relies on intermittent wind power. In the USA, its largest battery storage facility, the 20 MW/80 MWh Pomona Energy Storage Facility in Southern California, opened in January this year. India’s first (10 MW) grid-scale battery storage system was also launched in January, and Bloomberg New Energy Finance is slating that 800 MW of storage could be commissioned by 2020.

In Australia, in the wake of South Australia’s recent ‘crisis’ of energy supply, a key response from the SA Government has been to support the construction (by winning tender, before year’s end) of a 100 MW battery —Australia’s largest to date—with $150 m from a renewable technology fund. There have been 90 expressions of interest from 10 countries. [Update: this tender has now been awarded.]

One of the companies competing, Australia’s Lyon Group, has said that, regardless of the outcome of the tender process, it will build a $1 b battery and solar farm—believed to be the world’s biggest—by the end of this year, in SA’s Riverland region: 3.4 million solar panels and 1.1 million batteries will generate 330 MW of electricity and provide 100 MW/400 MWh of battery storage (depending on configuration). The project is fully financed, with grid connection already well progressed. The company’s 120 MW solar/100 MW/200 MWh battery Kingfisher project in SA’s Roxby Downs is also due to start construction in September 2017, to be running by June 2018. A third smaller storage project of 20MW/80MWh is also being developed on Cape York.

The Victorian Government recently announced a $20 m tender, as part of its $25 m Storage Initiative, which calls for proposals detailing the construction of large-scale storage facilities in the state’s west. Applications close mid-June and, from the process, the government aims to deploy up to two projects that will provide at least 100 MWh of battery storage by January 2018.

The ACT’s Next Generation Storage Program is committed to providing around 36 MW of distributed battery storage, through subsidised residential batteries, which plans to see 5000 homes signed up by 2020. And in the Northern Territory, results of a tender for 5 MW of battery storage (the nation’s largest, until the SA and Vic announcements, above) are about to be released.

Feature image: A peek into the Pomona Energy Storage Facility; at 20 MW/80 MWh, currently the largest in the USA. Image: Pomona Energy Storage, courtesy AltaGas Ltd

A hotter, drier Australia

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In late October, the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) and CSIRO launched their biannual report, State of the Climate 2016. It revealed that Australia’s average surface air temperature and surrounding sea temperature have both increased by around 1 °C since 1910. Extreme heat events and fires have increased, while rainfall has decreased in the south and increased in the north. Our oceans have warmed and become more acidic. These trends are all set to continue, bringing increased drought and very hot days, and fewer very cool days.


Another report just published by Australian researchers in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society has also predicted that the extreme global temperatures of 2015 will become normal by 2030. And as for Australia, that record-breaking summer in 2013 will just be the average come 2035.

Australia’s independent Climate Council emphasised that climate change was the key driver behind many of the trends in the BoM/CSIRO report, and Climate Councillor Professor Lesley Hughes said, “Australia’s emissions reduction target of 26% to 28% on 2005 levels by 2030 is not sufficient to protect Australians from worsening heatwaves, bushfires and other extreme weather events.”,,

Independent battery testing project

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In a world-first trial (supported by $450,000 of ARENA funding) at a purpose-built facility in Canberra, IT Power is about to commence a three-year project that will give consumers and industry stakeholders information on lithium-ion battery performance, independent of manufacturer claims. The project will analyse the performance, simulating real-world applications under Australian conditions, of six major lithiumion battery brands, comparing them to existing and advanced lead-acid batteries, to demonstrate how they could operate in large and small electricity grids. Given recent reductions in the cost of lithium-ion batteries and their potential performance advantages over conventional storage options, this timely trial will help people make informed investment decisions. The trial is due to commence in July 2016 and real-time outputs of the eight batteries in the trial will be able to be viewed at

floating solar Infratech 084

Floating solar first

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Australia’s first floating solar system powers a wastewater treatment plant.

Australia’s first floating solar system was launched in late April and powers a wastewater treatment plant in the small town of Jamestown, 200 km north of Adelaide. The 4000 kW system is by Infratech Industries.


By having the panels sited on the wastewater ponds, Infratech director Felicia Whiting says the project has the potential to both reduce evaporation by up to 90% and lift the quality of treated wastewater.

“Blue-green algae is a major concern for wastewater treatment plants, and the shade produced by the floating solar panels combats this problem by limiting the photosynthesis process,” she notes.

Infratech estimates the plant will generate 57% more power than a similarly sized land-based system. The placement of the system on the water counteracts the gradual loss of output caused by overheating solar panels, creating a better-performing and more efficient system. The panels are able to track the placement of the sun, while the high concentration of panels allows light to be reflected back onto other panels and increase the amount of energy captured.

Fifteen Australian engineers and research scientists from Flinders University’s Nano Science and Technology Department were involved in the project’s development. The team will continue to gather data and research the possibility of integrated water and phosphorous treatment systems, and energy storage. Whiting says they are currently working on “on-site battery storage to be able to present a completely integrated solution.”

The privately funded installation is the first in a large-scale $12 million project that will cover five basins of water around Jamestown and Gladstone.

solar finance

Choice solar survey reveals PV ownership facts

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A recently-released Choice survey report (based on 700 members around Australia) has uncovered the following interesting facts about solar PV ownership in Australia:


• on average, owners paid just under $9000 for their system (after discounts and STCs/ RECs), and 15% reported that their system had paid for itself, on average, within 3 years and 2 months
• most systems were below 3 kW, but there has been an increase in ownership of larger systems, with 50% of installations in the last year being over 4.1 kW
• owners of German-manufactured panels and inverters reported fewer issues and greater satisfaction than owners of Chinese manufactured components; however, overall, the average satisfaction rate for both was high, at 84%, and Chinese systems were cheaper
• 25% of owners reported having had problems with their system, with the most common being with the inverter (10% have had to replace theirs)
• a third of owners reported having had issues with their installer, with Origin—the most popular installer—receiving the lowest satisfaction rating.

Read the full report on the Choice solar survey:


Illawarra Flame under construction

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The University of Wollongong is busy working on the Illawarra Flame, its entry in this year’s Solar Decathlon China in August. They are the first Australian team to enter the international competition that sees student teams from around the world competing to design and build energy efficient houses that make more power than they use.


The team is retrofitting an iconic 1950s/60s fibro house, adding technology and design to bring it into an energy efficient future. They want to show industry and the community the possibilities of retrofitting for sustainability.

The design and build is a collaboration between the University of Wollongong, TAFE Illawarra and local industry and support organisations. The project is student-led and includes students from across the university’s faculties including engineering and graphic design.

We wish them luck and will be following the build and the competition in China later this year. They will be displaying the house to the public, fully furnished, in the week beginning the 22 April, 2013 before they ship it to China.

King Island to host big battery storage system

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An Australian energy storage company Ecoult has been awarded the Hydro Tasmania contract to supply King Island with the largest battery-based renewable energy storage system in Australia.


The 3 MW/1.6 MWh UltraBattery storage system will complement other elements of Hydro Tasmania’s King Island Renewable Energy Integration Project (KIREIP). This projects aims to significantly reduce the island’s reliance on diesel fuel to supply its energy needs. The storage system will have the capacity to power the entire island for up to 45 minutes.

Ecoult CEO John Wood said the UltraBattery storage system, a CSIRO invention, would shift and smooth renewable energy generated on King Island and will help maintain stability of the power grid. An UltraBattery is a supercapacitor integrated with a lead–acid battery.

Clean Energy Council says an increase in energy storage likely

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A report commissioned by the Clean Energy Council (CEC) on energy storage has found that Australia might store up to 3000 megawatt-hours by 2030. This increased demand for storage will come from the reduction in the price of storage, such as batteries, and an increased use of renewables.


“If this happens on a large scale it will force a change in the business model of how we fund the poles and wires network, unlock the full potential of Australia’s enormous renewable energy resources and accelerate the shift to a clean energy economy. So while there are obvious benefits to electricity storage, there will also be major challenges to integrate storage into our electricity supply,” says CEC Strategic Policy Manager, Tim Sonnreich.

Mr Sonnreich said storage technology could be built and operated as an add-on to a power station, installed by people in their homes as part of a large and flexible smart grid system, or set up as a stand-alone storage facility, like the data processing centres used by IT companies.

“But should storage be owned and operated by network businesses, retailers, generators, individuals or all of the above? Storage interacts with the market in a very different way to other technologies and it will take policy makers time to consider these and many more issues that will arise as it becomes more common in our electricity system,” he said.

Some common types of energy storage that are in current use include batteries, solar hot water systems, pumped hydro and flywheel storage.

Targeting ghostnet hotspots to save turtles

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Tonnes of fishing nets lost at sea are a threat to marine life, including turtles, as they continue to catch sea life.


These nets are a particular problem in the Gulf of Carpentaria where there can be as many as three tonnes of net per kilometre washed up on beaches.

During a recent cleanup of ghostnets on beaches in the gulf, 80% of animals recorded in nets were marine turtles, including olive ridley, hawksbill, green and flatback turtles.

Working with Ghostnets Australia, CSIRO researchers are combining knowledge of where turtles are found, ocean currents and where the nets wash up onshore to find the best places to direct clean-up operations. Ghostnets Australia is an alliance of over 22 Indigenous communities from coastal northern Australia.

Most of the fishing debris to enter the Gulf of Carpentaria comes from South-East Asia and arrives in the monsoonal season from November to March. These nets then get swept to the western side of the gulf during the southeast trade winds in May to September.

Ghostnets Australia forms clean-up plans where volunteers manually collect discarded nets from beaches and the ocean. These nets are then placed in landfill, made into sculptures or used in other reuse projects.

Earthworker cooperates for solar hot water

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A workers’ cooperative plans to start a worker-run solar hot water system factory in Morwell, Victoria. Called Earthworker, they have set out to raise funds for this cooperative by finding 100,000 members.


Earthworker aims to boost local employment in sustainable manufacturing training and jobs in Australia as well as providing further support to workers by assisting with education, housing, childcare and other social services.

Income from Earthworker will be used to encourage enterprise bargaining agreements benefitting workers and to invest in research, grow the business and fund social justice initiatives.

Tokelau is the first island territory to be 100% solar powered

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In 2012, the Pacific island territory of Tokelau succeeded in generating all its energy from solar power, a world first.


Aided by a $7 million grant from New Zealand, approximately 4000 solar panels (close to 1 MW) have been installed providing solar energy to a population of around 1500 residents over three islands. Batteries store energy for use at night.

Previously energy was provided by diesel generators, providing an unreliable supply and an expense of up to $1 million each year for diesel imports.

Local residents have received training to operate and maintain the system, and Powersmart Solar, the company that installed the system, is temporarily assisting with monitoring.

Dean Parchomchuck, the director of Powersmart Solar, commented that other islands in the Pacific are enthusiastic about solar power but that it may not be practical for larger islands to become 100% solar powered.

Canute – the sea level calculator

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The Canute online calculator maps the future sea-level rise for coastal Australia. It uses the latest scientific models and information in its prediction of the effects of future sea-level rise, tides and storm surges.


Sea-level rise has increased from 1.6 mm/year last century to the current 3 mm/year. The most recent report from the IPCC predicts a sea-level rise of 0.2 to 0.8 metres this century, although recent research suggests that it might be much higher than this.

The Canute website states that “Sea-level rise will be experienced mainly as an increase in the frequency or likelihood of flooding events, rather than simply as a steady increase in an otherwise constant level.”

The calculator gives the probability that an area will be flooded and the expected number of flooding events over a projected period, and generates a map of areas vulnerable to flooding. With a sea-level rise of 0.5 m, the calculator predicts a 300-fold increase in flooding events.

The main causes for this sea-level rise will be thermal expansion of seawater as the global temperature increases and the addition of water from melted land ice.

The calculator is named after the 11th century English king who showed that you cannot stop the oceans.

Don’t blame renewables for electricity price increases

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In a report titled 2013 Economic and Political Overview, written for CEDA (Committee for Economic Development Australia), AGL economists Paul Simshauser and Tim Nelson have named distribution as the main cause of increasing electricity costs. They found that the main drivers of increased energy prices were increases in network costs due to higher capital costs and an increasing peak demand.


Also responsible are increases in coal and gas costs and electricity generation costs using these fuels. Renewable energy costs have increased from 2008 (including costs incurred by FiTs, the small-scale renewable energy scheme and the large-scale renewable energy target), but still remain minor when compared to other distribution and generation costs. 2013.pdf

What will happen if we scrap the Clean Energy Finance Corporation?

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The Coalition has committed to scrapping the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) if elected in this year’s federal election. The CEFC was established to drive innovation through commercial investments in clean energy through loans, loan guarantees and equity investments.


Dylan McConnell from the University of Melbourne, says in an article on The Conversation, “From 2015, the CEFC will have $10 billion to invest in renewable energy, energy efficiency, enabling infrastructure and ‘low emissions’ technology. Half of the fund is quarantined for renewable energy.”

He also adds “scrapping (or even threatening to scrap) the CEFC—currently the main renewable energy deployment policy— would stifle the development of the emerging renewable energy industry in Australia at a decisive point in its development”.



Can we halve the cost of solar thermal by 2020?

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The new director of CSIRO’s Australian Solar Thermal Research Initiative (ASTRI), Dr Blanco, has claimed that his research team can halve the cost of solar thermal in just seven years.


“We will reduce the cost of solar thermal to just 12 cents a kilowatt hour by 2020 and provide zero-emission energy to people when they need it. It’s a technological leap but we will do it. We are working with the best in the world,” said Dr Blanco.

Solar thermal technology uses mirrors that concentrate the heat of the sun onto a central point. This heat can then be used to power a turbine to create electricity. It can also be used to drive chemical reactions that can result in products such as fuel.

The Australian research centre ASTRI is an A$87 million, eight-year international collaboration that aims to transform the energy industry in Australia by bringing down the cost of solar thermal.


Gujarat PV plant

Gujarat Solar Park switched on

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On the 19th of April 2012, the world’s largest solar energy producing park was switched on. With phase one having a capacity of 214MW of photovoltaic panels, the Gujarat Solar Park, in the northern state of India, became Asia’s largest solar PV power plant, beating China’s 200MW Golmud Solar Park. When phases two and three of the park are completed, total generating capacity will be 500MW.


The project was made possible with investment from 21 different companies, including several key investors from the USA. Together they have helped to contribute to India’s long-term goal of increasing overall energy use that comes from renewable energy sources from 6% to 15% by 2020.

Although the Gujarat Solar Park will have a final cost of 105 billion Indian rupees ($US2.3 billion), a further $400 million is being reserved for the increasing of this region’s solar power production capacity, which includes funding for residential support in terms of household solar power production.

In total, it covers approximately 1200 hectares of land which borders the Rann of Kutch (salt marshes found in eastern India). The land on which the solar farm is built is sparse, desert land which would be scarcely of use for anything else (such as farming, comfortably living or raising livestock). The Gujarat land is exposed to abundant strong sunlight, making it ideal for India’s leading solar energy park.

While the activation of the Gujarat Solar Park means big things for global solar energy production, there is talk of an even bigger plant soon to be under way in Tunisia. Known as the TuNur scheme, it will involve a 2000MW (2GW) concentrated solar power (CSP) plant to be operational by 2016.

However, amid all this exciting talk of solar energy projects and production from our neighbouring and not-so neighbouring countries, Australia’s solar energy schemes seem to be significantly dormant. Australia is absent from the list of leading solar energy producers and seems to be falling behind with innovative solar energy projects.

Yet, much of our landscape in central and western states reflects the kind of land that the Gujarat scheme has been built on. It is strange that in a country traditionally famous for its sunshine, our deserts—where the Australian sun is harshest—aren’t being used for solar energy parks.

The extent of India’s solar energy dedication is inspiring, and bodes well for the future of renewable energy plant construction. The Gujarat park makes Australia’s solar energy efforts seem unevolved to say the least.

28MW in just seven weeks

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While the Indians are doing it on a large scale, the Germans are doing it fast.


The 28MW solar park in Amsdorf, central Germany, was built on 55 hectares of former opencast mines and slag heaps, and took less than seven weeks to finish from the time construction commenced, with energy first being generated on 20 April 2012.

The €50 million solar park, owned by GERO Solarpark GmbH, was planned and developed by joint partners Getec Green Energy AG and the Romonta Group, with Q.CELLS as the system integrator.

The park is the latest in a series of multi-megawatt solar parks installed by Q.CELLS, which has now installed over 548 megawatts of photovoltaics in numerous solar parks.