As Australian solar fans considered what the new year will bring in respect of solar energy, news arrived from over the seas of a spectacular bet on solar from one of the world’s richest men. I’m talking of Warren Buffett, the man considered one of the wisest investors in the land (he’s not known as the “Wizard of Omaha” for nothing folks) and his $US2.5 billion swoop for SunPower’s Antelope Valley Solar Projects. The projects are expected to begin construction in 2015. [Read more...]
Last week we took a look at the rare event of Resources Minister Martin Ferguson putting his hand in his pocket to support a solar power initiative. While the sight of old “Fossil Fuel” Ferguson supporting a renewable energy project after accusations of mismanagement and bias in favour of fossil fuel industries was immense, this week we’d like to concentrate on some of the technology behind the projects. [Read more...]
The purchase of the Southern Hemisphere’s largest tracking solar power plant in Alice Springs raised a few eyebrows this week, garnering a bit of rare (but much-needed) good publicity for the venerable Commonwealth Bank along the way. [Read more...]
The Victorian solar industry and supporters are the latest to suffer what is becoming an event as predictable as Gerry Harvey whinging about online retailers at Christmas time. This was when Premier Ted “The Blade” Baillieu’s government announced a slashing of the state’s feed-in tariff from 25 cents per kilowatt hour down to 8 cents.
However despite being hammered left, right and centre by newly-installed conservative governments across the nation, solar energy in this country has always enjoyed massive support from ordinary folk.
So why don’t the pollies (like video refs) see the game the same as the punters? [Read more...]
Nice to report on a good news story in renewable energy. News this week from ABC Broken Hill of negotiations which will see up to a third of a 600 hectare station to the west of Broken Hill covered in around one million (count ‘em) photovoltaic (PV) solar panels by 2015.
Geoff Luke, the owner of the station, told the ABC the finalised project was the result of protracted negotiations with energy company AGL.
“It would be close to two years now that we’ve been chatting about it and finally it looks like it’s come to fruition,” he said.
The partnership with AGL has been made possible by the opportunities provided by the often much maligned (by solar narks) Federal Government’s Solar Flagships Program. Mr Luke confirmed that the project had been accepted into the Flagship’s program and was ready to er…sail. [Read more...]
Australian waste management group Veolia Environment Services are very proud of themselves this week as they prepare to celebrate the installing of their brand-new, state-of-the-art solar powered energy source at its Arndell Park facility in NSW.
On Feb.23, the company will be hosting a knees-up to mark the recent installation of the 50 kW solar panel system, which has been added as part of the company’s drive towards boosting its renewable energy source. The project — in collaboration with BP Solar and installed by Solar Technology — is a key part of the Blacktown Solar City project, described, a little breathlessly in a company press release of Feb. 14, as being derived from “…a $94 million Australian Government initiative to help lay the foundations of a sustainable energy future.”
News that the Perth-based renewable energy company Hyperion Energy is planning to build a solar tower in mid-west Western Australia sent your correspondent scurrying to the research files this week.
According to the company website, Hyperion have purchased a 127,000 hectare site near the town of Tuckanarra. The site is near mines and an airport and is judged to have a low risk of natural disasters such as earthquakes or cyclones. Chiefly though, the main advantage of the site for the location of a solar tower is the “horizon solar radiation of 2300MJ/m2″ (read huge), according to the company.
The theory behind the solar tower technology sounds simple enough. A flat, large expanse of a greenhouse-like material is spread around the base of a tall tower. When the sun heats the air under the material it rises (remember your science?) and as such has only one place where it can go: the central solar tower (see diagram). The hot air is forced through the narrow space of the tower where it causes a wind which turns a number of turbines inside the tower.
Hyperion points to three key advantages of solar tower technology over other forms of tapping the sun’s energy.
Two of the key issues covered this week at the Solar 2011 conference have been (1) the growing affordability of solar systems for both domestic and commercial outlooks as prices plummet, and (2) the growth of international large-scale solar projects. The first has been made possible by the growth of the Chinese solar energy sector and has made cheap solar panels available to Australian households and businesses.
However are we likely to see massive scale projects backed by the federal government in this country? Well yes if the event organisers have their way. [Read more...]
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?
The federal government has been accused of dragging its feet on solar energy (and renewable energy in general) in comparison to more dynamic regions such as North Asia, Europe and the United States. Innovative and well-targeted government support in these countries has seen the increased takeup of solar power and a boom in their respective solar industries.
However, one feels our overworked and underpaid elected reps (bless ‘em) would be up in arms at the suggestion of neglect of solar initiatives and would point to the key area of the federal Solar Flagships program as proof of this. [Read more...]