Egg farmers harnessing the sun to hatch a cleaner future
Egg farmers definitely aren’t chickening out when it comes to solar energy. Instead, they have started hatching plans to power ahead with the new technology. With the country’s largest egg farming group Pace Farm investing $3.2 million in three large solar projects across its NSW properties over a six month period recently, the egg industry is joining the growing number of farmers making the switch to renewable energy. The annual output across the three sites is expected to hit 2.7 million kilowatt-hours. That’s enough electricity to power more than 400 average homes.
“Every kilowatt-hour of energy produced by the sun is a kilowatt hour you don’t have to buy, and with energy prices rising the way they have it made good business sense to us,” General Manager Paul Pace as quoted in the Australian Financial Review.
Sink your teeth into an orchard full of sunshine
Burgi’s cool store and fruit orchard facility located in Melbourne’s north-east has made the switch to solar as a way to drive down the cost of power and move their businesses to more sustainable and clean power sources. The business installed a 25 kW system with 100 panels in 2015 which was set to generate up to 38 per cent of the orchard and cool stores power needs.
“Our philosophy is to leave things better than we found them. And part of that philosophy is to use solar energy,” Owner Terry Burgi as quoted by Origin Energy
No rotten tomatoes for Sundrop farms
Sundrop Farms, situated 300 KM north of Adelaide is turning the traditional greenhouse on its head. The innovative farming business is churning out 15,000 tonnes of tomatoes per year and leaving those that still use fossil fuels to do so, as they put, it in the prehistoric era with the dinosaurs. The 20-hectare greenhouse facility uses solar thermal technology for power and desalinated water for irrigation, heating and cooling. The farm has enough energy and water on site to last for 10 days.
“We knew considering the world’s increased population that we had to address the food storage, the water storage and the energy storage… creating a benefit for the environment and restoring ecosystems, rather than depleting them,”Chief Executive Philipp Saumweber as quoted in The Weekly Times
Credit: Sundrop Farms Facebook
Match made in manure
With 240,000 pigs on a farm and a power bill that totalled $350,000 annually, pig farmer Tom Smith from KIA-ORA piggery created a system to combat this, by using waste products from the pigs themselves the farm now generates their own electricity. The recycling system collects 120,000 tonnes of pig manure annually and through an effluent treatment and recycling system transforms it into biogas. The piggery has seen an emissions reduction from 16,598 tonnes to just 3,121 with the business producing 15 per cent above the site’s power needs. This allows the piggery to now sell the energy they don’t use back into the grid as a greenhouse gas offset.
“We should have had it done years ago purely because of the cost of our electricity,” Owner Tom Smith told the ABC
Milking it with solar
Capel Farms, a family dairy and cattle farm in WA, has made the switch to solar energy after feeling the heat from power bills that have risen about two thirds since 2008. The farm installed a 100 kW solar system on an existing shed at the property in July 2014 and since then have seen a reduction in the electricity consumption from the grid by 31 per cent and a decrease in the cost of electricity by 41 per cent. Solar for dairy farmers is becoming increasingly common, with many such as Binowee Dairy farm in NSW taking their own action to combat rising power prices.
“The solar quote looked too good to be true, so we tried it – and it was pretty good,” Manager Greg Norton as quoted on the ABC
A little bit of extra wind between the ears
In mid-2017 Global Power Generation Australia (GPG) signed an agreement with GE for 28 wind turbines that will form the 91 MW Crookwell Wind Farm. The lucky farmer on the list to house the project was Charlie Prell, a sheep farmer cross wind power activist that runs around 800 ewes and, has waited 17 years to make this a reality. The turbines will be located on parts of his property that are not suitable for farming, like the top of ridgelines or rocky outcrops. The wind farm which is expected to be online in 2018 will generate 300,000 MW hours of energy per year, enough to power 41,600 homes. The grid gets more renewables coming online and Charlie ensures the income is ticking over consistently throughout the year, it’s a wind-win.
“It’s a game changer… it gives you the financial flexibility to change your stocking rate, to spell pastures, to manage water courses much more sustainably and environmentally because you’ve got the passive income stream,” Owner Charlie Prell as quoted in the Goulburn Post
Credit: Lynne Strong, Art4agriculture
Fromage and renewables, what a cracker!
Meredith Dairy in Melbourne’s west is turning traditional cheese making on its head with a catalogue of conservation activities. The dairy farm purchases clean energy to power their operations and when available uses Biofuel. In addition, their hot water systems are powered by solar power. Like we needed another excuse to eat more cheese, but this dairy farm is making the choice a little bit more guilt-free.
“Sustainability to us is about making sure that the lifestyle, the farm, the business, is there for this generation and the generation to come and the one after that,” Owner Julie Cameron as said in this video
When choosing an inverter for a project, always consider whether the inverter can perform global maximum power point tracking. While most inverters on the market today perform maximum power point tracking (MPPT), not all perform global MPPT. If shade is present on the project site, choosing an inverter that performs global MPPT can help increase energy production.
The power-voltage curve shows the point (or points) at which the power output is maximized (the MPPT). As shown at right, an array can have multiple MPPTs when it is partially shaded. Image courtesy of Aurora Solar.
In addition to converting DC power to AC power, another key function of string inverters is determining the voltage and current levels at which the array operates (its operating point). MPPT refers to an inverter’s ability to identify the operating point that maximizes the output power of a PV array (i.e., it finds the maximum power point of the array).
When conditions are the same across all modules (identical irradiance, temperature and components), an array will have a single maximum power point. However, if part of the array is shaded, there will be multiple operating points that maximize power output. This is due to the impacts of bypass diodes within modules that allow the inverter to “skip over” shaded sections instead of operating at their lower current.
As a result of the behavior of bypass diodes, there are two distinct operating points at which power is “maximized” for shaded arrays. Global MPPT refers to the ability of an inverter to sweep across the full range of current and voltage levels (within its operating voltage limits) to find the point at which power output is globally maximized and avoid picking local maximum power points.
Inverters without global MPPT functionality can make sense for sites without shade, because during the times that the inverter is searching for the maximum power point, it is not actually operating at that maximum power point and the array is not producing as much energy as it could. If the maximum power point is unlikely to change because bypass diodes will not be activated due to shade, then using an inverter without global MPPT can be beneficial. However, for sites with shade, global MPPT capability can help increase the system’s energy production. Analysis of a shaded solar installation by Aurora Solar found that global MPPT increased production by over 5% annually.
Whether the selected inverter performs global MPPT should also be factored into estimates of how much energy the system will produce. Modeling energy production based on the assumption that an inverter performs global MPPT when it does not can lead to underperforming systems. Similarly, failing to account for global MPPT when the inverter does perform this behavior can lead to oversizing a system relative to the customer’s needs. When using software to simulate energy production, it is important that the software models inverter behavior in accordance with the manufacturer specifications for each inverter model.
Impact International, a manufacturer of squeeze tubes for food, cosmetics, personal care and pharmaceutical industries, has officially launched a first-of-its-kind industrial solar farm in Sydney at its Smithfield facility.
The 290kw installation will supply 100% of the power for the manufacturing site, eliminating 300 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually and generating 395 MWh’s of electricity per year, enough to supply all the power needs of 90 Australian homes.
The solar installation is part of a sustainability program that has seen Impact International update motors to more energy efficient models, re-design its factory layout to improve production efficiency, install smarter lighting and change how it schedules production to further reduce energy consumption.
“Our decision to boldly invest in green energy comes from our commitment to our customers for whom sustainability deeply matters. Our customers choose Impact because of our quality, product knowledge, service and the superior barrier properties of our tubes. In other words, they care greatly about the quality of the tubes they use. By extension the energy that is used to produce these tubes really matters. We want to add to our customers’ story of quality and care—our ground-breaking solar farm does exactly that,” said Impact International managing director Aleks Lajovic.
The solar farm occupies more than 800 square metres and is designed so customers and other visitors can tour the installation to see the system at work. Smart Commercial Solar installed and will monitor the efficiency of the 5B Maverick solar array, a world-first technology developed and manufactured in Alexandria, Sydney.
“Impact has shown that solar is not only commercially viable for industrial operations but also has critical benefits for the entire supply chain. Increasingly being able to say that your energy was generated on-site from the sun is becoming a sought after business benefit,” said Smart Commercial Solar founder Huon Hoogesteger.
The Maverick system is also readily compatible with energy storage, so businesses can save the extra energy they produce.
“Our technology makes it easier and more affordable than ever for industrial users to include solar in their energy mix,” said 5B CEO Chris McGrath.
“Coupled with increasingly affordable energy storage, it will help remove some pressure from a business’ bottom line.”
The first thing to do if you’re interested in installing a solar system is check whether the company is accredited.
The industry body for the designer, installer, and the actual products is the Clean Energy Council. Make sure your system is designed by a Clean Energy Council accredited designer. Double check that your installer is also CEC accredited. If you’re not sure, the CEC have a list of Approved Solar Retailers you can choose from.
Solar Scams – Choose a CEC Accredited Installer (source: CEC)
Double check that your panels and the inverter are accredited and meet Australian standards. If they aren’t CEC accredited, you won’t get your rebates aka Small Scale Technology Certificates (STCs) – this rebate is generally around $2,000 for a 3kW system. Click here to read more about STCs from the Clean Energy Regulator or click here if you want to use their online STC calculator.
How do I pick the right solar company to avoid solar scams?
Ask if the person designing your system is qualified to do so. According to Choice.com.au, this will shrink your retailer list by 90% and weed out all the designers who will do a poor quality job and leave you with an under-performing solar system.
Avoid anyone with pushy sales tactics and avoid anyone that uses door-to-door sales as a sales technique. If they’re using language like ‘never pay a power bill again’ or trying to hurry you along by saying that the government rebates are about to end, avoid them again.
For price, make sure you get 4 quotes at minimum. Watch out for dodgy T&Cs that allow suppliers to swap out for ‘equivalent’ models, upselling, surcharges, and so on. Don’t be afraid to stop a salesman from steamrolling over you. This is a big financial decision and you should do your due diligence before committing.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) have a page about consumer rights for solar powerthat you should also check out (especially if you have a problem).
What information do I need on the quote?
- A proper, printed out quotation showing the company’s name, address, and ABN.
- A timetable of operation.
- Model numbers, brands, and quantity for the panels, inverter, and battery (if applicable).
- An estimate of the system’s performance.
- Product and installation warranty for the inverter.
- Installation warranty, product warranty and performance warranty for the panels.
- Any additional funds that may be payable.
- STCs should be included in the quote. This is a big one! Be wary because if you’re not careful some dodgy companies can just claim them without mentioning it to you.
If Saving With Solar can give you a hand to help pick the right solar company, please feel free to get in contact with us and we’d be happy to help.
The former head of Australia’s most notorious brown coal generator – the soon-to-be-retired Hazelwood plant – says solar PV and battery storage already represent a cheaper alternative to gas-fired generation.
In yet another clear signal that Australia’s energy markets are on the cusp of a radical reshaping, Tony Concannon, the former head of GDF Suez Australia (now Engie), says solar and battery storage already beat baseload gas on price, and its costs will continue to fall rapidly.
In a submission to the Finkel review, Colcannon – now head of Reach Solar Energy – cited a recent quote given to the company for a large solar farm (100MW) with a significant amount of battery storage.
“Reach received estimates in late December 2016 for solar PV and energy storage (40MWh to 100MWh) which translated into a tariff between $110/MWh to $130/ MWh,” Concannon wrote.
“This is already competitive with gas-fired CCGT and costs are expected to reduce further.”
The opinion from one of the hardest noses in the Australian energy industry – and his real-life example – fits in with similar claims by the likes of Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Zen Energy Ross Garnaut, Carnegie’s Michael Ottaviano and numerous others.
It is also a blow to those who insist that gas generation is the only alternative as a transition fuel to a high renewasbles grid – a position given huge amplification by the Murdoch media and prominent ABC journalists such as Andrew Probyn and Chris Uhlmann.
Reach has received approval to build 300MW of large scale solar PV near Port Augusta, the home of the recently closed Northern power station. Already it has a contract from Origin Energy for two 110MW solar farms at the Bungala project, 10kms from the town.
South Australia, meanwhile, is looking to install 100MW of battery storage in a fast-tracked tender by the end of the year, and will also likely install a further 50MW of battery storage in association with a new emergency back up gas generator.
The falling cost of battery storage is taking most people by surprise, having fallen 40 per cent last year and with the head of Enel Green Energy, one of the largest renewable energy companies in the world, with a battery storage division, predicting it will follow the plunging cost curve of solar PV, as many have predicted.
Meanwhile, in his submission, Concannon noted that despite all his years (a decade) running a major coal plant, it was now clear there was no appetite for new coal-fired generators “of any technology type” in Australia, despite the insistence of many in the Coalition that this is the right way to go.
“Europe and the USA are exiting coal-fired generation and it is understood the World bank continues to not support coal projects and nor does any financial institution that has signed onto the Equator Principals which includes most global and Australian commercial banks,” he wrote.
He added that even if the government provided an immunity against a future carbon price, banks and investors would still see this as risky because they would fear that that immunity could be diluted or repudiated, just as the carbon price was junked by the Coalition government in 2014 and the renewable energy target was also cut.
“(These acts) have set the precedent in Australia,” Concannon wrote. In effect, he is arguing that the Coalition killed the prospect of new coal-fired generation because of the sovereign risk of not respecting policy. (No wonder they were celebrating, see pic below).
And despite the insistence of many that fossil fuels are key to provide “grid stability”,Concannon writes that grid stability services will be increasingly provided by new technologies.
These included even faster acting asynchronous inverter technologies and/or aggregated consumer generation, controlled load shedding (financial options paid to willing consumers), installation of frequency control on interconnectors (e.g. Murraylink), and synthetic inertia from wind turbines.”
Concannon says although they are asynchronous, and have little or no inertia, they can provide:
- most ancillary services, especially in response to over-frequency events and reactive power;
- are very fast acting (much faster than conventional plant) and this is anticipated to dampen the rate of change of frequency under severe network disturbances which in turn may reduce the amount of system inertia required to maintain the frequency;
- and a re able to remain connected at very low short circuit ratio in the order of 1.5 to 2 (typically seen with weaker networks).
“Reach consider system inertia is important and will be provided by synchronous generation in the near-term, but will be increasingly provided by near instantaneous response from new technologies in the future,” he writes.
“These solutions are likely to include even faster acting asynchronous inverter technologies and/or aggregated consumer generation/loads, controlled load shedding (financial options paid to willing consumers), installation of frequency control on Murraylink, and energy storage/synthetic inertia from wind turbine.”
Even though solar and storage costs are chepaer than gas, Concannon says the market barriers are significant, and many developers will wait for market signals that recognise the services they can offer. This will require significant rule changes that are currently being resisted by existing fossil fuel generators.
“It will become increasing more difficult for a centralised system operator to manage a system which is becoming more opaque with behind the meter generation and/ or sophisticated aggregation of demand/ generation in the future,” he says.
Installing solar panels is about to become even more attractive in the Australian state of Victoria – and existing solar owners also have cause for celebration.
Victoria’s Essential Services Commission (ESC) has set a minimum feed-in tariff rate of 11.3 cents per kilowatt hour for surplus electricity exported to the mains grid – more than double the current rate of 5 cents.
The announcement comes as a pleasant surprise given the increase is far larger than the 20% more forecast in October last year.
3.8 cents of the increase is a result of wholesale market price increases and 2.5 cents is attributable to the avoided social cost of carbon. .6 cents is attributed to the value of avoided distribution and transmission losses and .1c to avoided market fees and ancillary service charges.
The new rate comes into effect from July 1 this year.
“With this new feed-in tariff, the Andrews Labor Government is ensuring that households with solar panels are more fairly compensated for the power they send back into the grid,” said Victoria’s Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio.
“This is a great win for the 130,000 solar households all over Victoria, we promised a fairer system and that’s exactly what we have delivered.”
Solar Citizens welcomed the announcement, saying Victoria has set an example for other states.
“Solar Citizens congratulates the Victorian Government and the ESC for this decision, a decision that’s in the best interests of all consumers,” said Shani Tager; who also stated the advocacy group has its sights set on encouraging other Australian states follow Victoria’s lead.
“We hope to see other regulatory bodies in Australia correcting the market failure that is seeing, in some states, solar producers being paid next to nothing for the power they produce.”
Low solar feed-in tariffs in Australia have been part of the reason there’s been so much recent interest in solar batteries. Solar power system owners have been looking to extract the most from their arrays; preserving their high-value electricity for self- consumption.