Has the start of construction of utility scale solar at Nyngan proved ARENA’s worth?

utility scale solar

Coming soon to a field in Nyngan.

The start of construction of Australia’s largest utility scale solar project has demonstrated that the country is serious about large-scale solar. However it throws up an uncomfortable truth in the halls of power in Canberra and the cabinet rooms of their state counterparts.

News that construction had started on the country’s largest utility scale solar power project at Nyngan, in country NSW was a breakthrough not just for the local community, but for the country’s solar power sector. The US-based First Solar, which is one of the world’s leaders in supplying thin film solar panels, began the building of the mammoth (for Australia) solar power plant in January. [Read more…]

Community solar lights up the Blue Mountains

The beautiful blue mountains. Photo flickr/10uta02

The beautiful blue mountains. Photo flickr/10uta02

Shameless plug to start this week’s column readers. August has seen community solar take off in a big way in my region of the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney. This may be due to a combination of the upcoming election and a very strong grassroots realisation of the need for solar energy at a community level.

This remote SQHQ regional outpost has been a flurry of community solar activity as more residents become aware of the need to mitigate high electricity prices, as well as help preserve the beautiful Blue Mountains environment. [Read more…]

Is community solar a way forward for the Australian solar industry?

community owned solar system

Why not pitch in and buy a community solar system with your mates?

While our recent articles on big Aussie banks and respected mining services companies picking up the solar baton have been a huge encouragement for solar fans, news has been not as good lately in what passes for government (and alternative government) policy. Should we therefore be thinking of the burgeoning grass roots community solar movement as another way forward to the Promised Land of a renewable energy Australia?

[Read more…]

Solar Flagships set to sail in country NSW but will it survive?

desert

Juat add 1,000,000 solar panels!

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…]

Dubbo: Solar Power Capital of Australia!

Well done Dubbo solar power installers!

dubbo library clock tower without solar panels

Sunny in Dubbo

If you read the mainstream press in Australia,  you’d think the towns and suburbs with the biggest average take up of solar panels would be the well-to-do inner city suburbs of our major cities. Perhaps Vaucluse, Toorak or the leafy eastern suburbs of Adelaide?

Obviously they’d be more likely where wealth is concentrated right?

Wrong (as you may have guessed by the headline!). In a sign that solar energy is becoming more accessible to mainstream Aussie folk, a recent survey by the Clean Energy Council (CEC) found the central-west NSW city of Dubbo to have the highest average percentage of houses with solar panels.

[Read more…]

Rubbishing the idea that solar power is not commercially viable

Bin with solar panels

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.”

[Read more…]

Solar Power Forecast for 2012: More stability, better forecasts, fewer conspiracies?

solar to grow in 2012?

This year should be the year that renewables start to take off in Australia:

  • We will have a carbon tax in place that will support renewable energy and overseas money is starting to flow in.
  • Large scale solar is finding funding, following the trend from overseas.
  • Chinese production of solar panels is bringing the cost of solar energy rapidly down towards that of fossil fuels.

But there is one factor that governments, both federal and state, need to provide: stability.

The solar industry needs to sense that financial support given in one year won’t be withdrawn the next when the going gets tough or when a newly-elected government reverses the previous government’s solar policy just because they can.

Certainly in the case of solar energy the governments’ efforts to forecast costs got an “F” grade this year. In a New Year’s resolution that we think makes complete sense, the Australian Solar Energy Society (AuSES) has promised to carefully watch over the government’s solar forecasting in 2012 on behalf of the nation’s solar industry. Reading between the lines it seems AuSES is none too pleased with the end-of-year report card for government forecasting agencies.

“As a national voice for Australia’s solar industry, the Australian Solar Energy Society has made a New Year’s resolution: to work more closely with Government agencies to ensure there’s no repeat of the 2011 solar forecast mistakes,” the society said in a recent release.

This brings an image of government forecasters sitting in class rooms watched over by AuSES teachers. The solar forecasters, gazing out into the playground where their fellow  number crunchers are all playing, before looking down and writing: “I must not bugger up the solar forecasts again” 100 times.

Am I being too harsh here? After all a forecast is just as it states: a forecast. But surely it should have some relation to the outcomes?

The AuSES release points to four key areas where forecasts had to be speedily revised to bring them to within a bull’s roar of real outcomes.

1. The Productivity Commission’s overstating of the cost of solar subsidies per tonne of CO2, forcing it to revise down the cost of solar subsidies from $431-$1041 to $177-$497.

2. The Energy White Paper, released by the federal government, which overstated solar’s cost by a factor of three.

3. The Treasury Department’s estimate that the country would have around 9 gigawatts of solar by 2050. However 1.2 gigawatts has already been installed, with yearly installations increasing ten fold since 2009.

4. The NSW Government, led by Barry “The Terminator” O’Farrell, forced to revise the cost of the state’s solar bonus scheme down by nearly a quarter.

Hardly inspiring is it? No wonder AuSES chief executive John Grimes described 2011 as “a horrible year for government solar forecasting”. And why are the forecasts always so against the interests of the solar industry? Is the reason for the solar forecasting simply the innocent result of a culture of excessive drinking and partying in our state and federal capitals? Or are there other motives at work?

There you go folks, a nice little conspiracy theory to kick off the year. Wishing you all a safe, happy and productive New Year.

Silex Solar Closes its Doors and Blames Usual Suspects

Somewhere in between the strenuous media frenzies that accorded the visit of The Windsors and later the Obamas, the Australian media managed to find time to report on the final demise of the (previously) only manufacturer of solar cells in this country.

The Homebush, NSW-based SilexSolar company — previously associated with BP — finally closed its doors this week with the loss of 45 jobs. The news was another body blow to the NSW solar industry which has seen a number of setbacks under the O’Farrell Government.

Sad Silex Solar

For full details of the collapse, see this Sydney Morning Herald article.

Silex chief executive Michael Goldsworthy blamed the usual suspects for the company’s demise doors including an oblique reference to ”… we think we’re seeing dumping” (read China solar panel production here). An interestingly-titled “Interim Operational Update” issued by Silex on the 15th November didn’t hold back.

[Read more…]

Solar Makes Sense Says AuSES Boss as Fallout over NSW Bonus Scheme Continues

“More than ever solar makes sense.”

These were the words uttered by Australian Solar Energy Society (AuSES) boss John Grimes to reporters this week, reacting to the storm created by the NSW Auditor General’s report on the state’s disastrous solar bonus scheme. And his words were like an oasis in the desert of recriminations for the true solar believer in NSW folks.

[Read more…]

NSW Pollies Back Down On Daft Retrospective Solar Feed In Tariff Legislation

By Rich Bowden

The NSW Government’s decision to reinstate the solar fund feed-in tariff to 60c per kilowatt hour has come in reaction to bitter criticism, not just from solar investors and the solar industry but all sides of politics. Opponents of the decision to reduce the compensation to 40c have emerged, not just in the wider community of NSW, but also within the ranks of the NSW Liberal party.

[Read more…]

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