Recent efforts by solar activists to force the South Australian government to replace the current coal-fired station at Port Augusta with a solar thermal power station appear to have borne some fruit. Last week SA Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis announced the setting up of an inquiry into the feasibility of building a solar thermal power plant to replace the ageing fossil fuel plants that currently supply 40 percent of SA’s energy. [Read more...]
If you live in Adelaide and want to learn what the pollies are spending your taxes on then come along to the Australian Solar Energy Society, South Australia Branch’s public meeting tomorrow 29th Feb in Goodwood and say hello!
SOLAR CITIES – PUBLIC MEETING
Speaker: Dario De Bortoli, Adelaide Solar City Program Manager
When: Wednesday 29 February 2012 commencing 7:00 pm
Where: Goodwood Community Centre, 32-34 Rosa Street, Goodwood 5034
(Location Map: http://is.gd/ZrLFfX. Car Park, Tram, Train and Bus services all conveniently serve this venue)
Cost: $5.00 payable at venue door – all welcome! (AuSES Members – Free)
Reservations: To assist with catering, please provide your name and the number of people in your party via email to AuSES.Adelaide[AT]yahoo.com.au
This presentation will discuss the background to the Solar Cities Program, the expected benefits, targets and progress to date, community engagement strategies, the solar trial, the cost reflective pricing trial, energy efficiency initiatives and the home energy assistance program.
Presented by: Dario De Bortoli, Adelaide Solar City Program Manager
Dario is an employee of Origin Energy Ltd and is responsible for the management and ongoing delivery of the $65 million Adelaide Solar City project.
Well South Australian solar customers can hold their heads high. A report released earlier this week by the Essential Services Commission of South Australia (ESCOSA) has found that around 80,000 electricity customers in the state will have installed rooftop solar systems by December of this year.
This accounts for around 10 percent of all small electricity customers in the state, says the report, as South Australians look for ways to offset their ever-increasing electricity bills.The ESCOSA report found that the average household energy bill in the state had risen from $1165 to $1680 in the past three years.
The study found that the take up rate of rooftop solar panels responded well to solar bonus feed-in tariff bonus schemes offered by the state government.
“The incidence of rooftop solar photo-voltaic (PV) electricity generators is increasing in South Australia, in response to government financial incentives.”
However this draws the big question: will South Australians still flock to solar energy now the government’s bonus tariff incentive is being phased out? As the report states: “The current feed in tariff will be phased out for new customers over the next two years. Customers who connected by 30 September 2011 will receive 44c per kWh until 30 June 2028. New customers who connect PV cells between 1 October 2011 and 30 September 2013 will receive 16c per kWh until 30 September 2016.”
Will South Australians take what’s left of the state’s solar financial assistance package, combine it with the federal moolah on offer as part of the passing of the carbon tax legislation and continue to put solar panels on their roofs? Or will they back away as the state’s feed-in tariff rides off into the sunset?
Guess we’ll all have to wait for the Commission’s next report.
Feel free to discuss this either here or over at our Facebook Page.
This week’s column will take you into the realms of fantasy (if you’re a talk radio shock jock or anti-renewable pollie). Yes folks we’re treading into the dangerous territory of the concept of solar energy as baseload electricity.
For years one of the constant carping criticisms aimed at renewable energy in this country has been that it won’t provide baseload power resource in the same way as good ole fossil fuel-derived power. The argument goes that when the sun stops shining, or the wind stops blowing, renewable energy cannot deliver.
While the criticism may well have been a smokescreen thrown up to keep high polluting coal plants in operation, the point is valid: how can you rely on a source of energy if the power it creates cannot be stored?
Obviously storage is a vital factor and this is where we bring in an unlikely source — the Playford and Northern power stations in Port Augusta, South Australia. The Playford coal-powered station is considered to be the most polluting of its type in the country and one of those targeted under the government’s carbon pricing policy. Efficiencies forced on power stations such as Playford should make them almost unviable and the plant’s owners Alinta Energy have confirmed that they have tendered under the government’s “Contract for Closure” program.
However rather than be de-commissioned or converted to a slightly less polluting power source such as gas, a radical plan have been suggested from the not-for-profit organisation Beyond Zero Emissions. If implemented, this will see the Port Augusta plant turned into a concentrated solar power station similar to the Gema solar plant recently opened in Spain.
Here’s where the baseload solar power comes in as the plant in Spain has the ability to store heat from concentrated reflectors in a molten saline solution. Gemasolar made history when it opened earlier this year by becoming the first thermosolar power plant in the world to supply uninterrupted power for a 24-hour period.
A series of mirrors reflect sunlight onto a tower containing the fluid which heats to a level of 500 degrees C before cooling to 300 degrees C as the energy is released. The steam is stored to produce steam to drive generators.
According to Beyond Zero Emissions Strategic Director Mark Ogge, interviewed on the ABC’s Stateline South Australia program, the technology allows for the ability to generate energy whenever it is required.
“It is able to store [the] energy as heat…it’s essentially baseload or dispatchable power. You can’t get that with wind or solar PV because they’re variable,” he said.
Beyond Zero’s aim to replace the Playford fossil fuel-powered site with this new technology is in line with their plan to develop models for a renewable energy future in Australia. Crucially the model has received support from the owners of the plant as well as Joy Baluch, mayor of Port Augusta, who has praised the plan as visionary.
A 2009 joint study carried out by Greenpeace International, the European Solar Thermal Electricity Association and The International Energy Agency found that solar thermal has the potential to power 25 percent of the world’s energy needs by 2050 (see full report here under publications — Concentrating Solar Power).
Australia, like world solar thermal leaders Spain and the United States, would appear to be very suited to CSP with our wide spaces and abundance of sun. Does Beyond Zero Emissions project appear to be the right answer to de-commissioning the worst of our polluting fossil fuel-powered stations? What do you think of CSP as an alternative for our coal-powered stations?
By Rich Bowden
South Australian investors in rooftop solar energy have been left shaking their heads after events in the state capital this week saw the solar feed-in tariff retained at 44c instead of the promised increase to 54c.
On a positive note though, the decision sees the lower rate extended for two years past its original end date later this year.
In a June 24 press release which appeared to blame everyone but his party for the turnaround (the title LIBERALS AND GREENS BETRAY SA HOUSEHOLDS was a giveaway) South Australian Energy Minister Michael O’Brien offers an explanation of sorts.
“The Government reluctantly accepted the [Opposition] amendment to get the legislation through parliament and to give certainty to industry and consumers going forward.”
However far from bringing certainty to South Australia’s solar industry, the decision has left the industry and solar consumers wondering what to expect next. Particularly in light of the same minister’s words in April when he assured all in a media release that “South Australian households and small customers will be guaranteed a payment of 54 cents for each kilowatt-hour of electricity fed into the grid.”
In truth the Labor government was pressured by the Opposition and Greens to extend the scheme past its original concluding date of September 2011 to avoid a sudden massive reduction in demand for rooftop solar panels after the close of the scheme.
South Australia’s Clean Energy Council CEO Matthew Warren said that, while the extension of the term was a welcome move, it underlined the challenges facing the solar industry in South Australia and its knock-on effect on small business.
“… there should be no misunderstanding about the serious impact this legislation will have on the economic viability of many solar installer companies,” said Mr Warren. “Much of the South Australian solar industry is made up of small businesses.”
Warning of tough times ahead for those (especially small) businesses reliant on the demand created by the solar feed-in tariff he added “…some will find ways to adjust to the lower levels of support, many will not.”
Mr Warren did accept the Government’s argument though that the amendments would help to avoid a spectacular falling off in demand after the original cut off date — the so-called “boom and bust” scenario that has dogged the solar industry in Australia.
“This is important for South Australian consumers and the industry. There’s no doubt the industry is disappointed with the severity of the changes, but we are appreciative the Government was open to significantly improving its original legislation,” Mr Warren said.
“Without these amendments there would have been a huge spike in demand for solar after the proposed increase in the feed-in tariff, followed by a big slump when it ended later in this year.”
Clearly the solar industry in South Australia, as elsewhere in Australia, needs some kind of certainty and consistency from its state government so that investment in the future of the iconic renewable industry can be made.
As pointed out by the Clean Energy Council, many small businesses and their employees are reliant on the correct signals of support to come from their government.
The Clean Energy Council of Australia is excited about the green energy prospects for Port Augusta, SA, and with good reason, because according to Rob Jackson the general manager the discovery of a bed of rocks that are naturally heated-hot rocks- in Port Augusta paves the way for increased geothermal production. [Read more...]