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Robertson Hopeful About Solar Power Plant

Posted by admin on November 3rd, 2010

The Queensland Government says it would like to see a large solar-power plant built in the state’s north to connect to the proposed Townsville-to-Mount Isa CopperString project.

Minister for Mines and Energy Stephen Robertson says solar technology has improved since previous solar power trials in the state failed.

“It’s been a trial of a solar concentrator,” he said.

“It’s been trialled in both Cloncurry and down in New South Wales.”

“The trials in New South Wales have shown there’s an issue of glare emanating from the solar concentrator which has put this technology in doubt.”

“But I don’t criticise that because that is the nature of early stage research and development.”

Last week, Prime Minister Julia Gillard committed $350 million of funding for a solar plant, if a feasibility study finds the large-scale transmission line viable.

Mr Robertson say the State is considering applying for federal funding to help construct a range of renewable power initiatives in north Queensland.

“We’ve got time over a period of the next five or so years to get respective houses in order to prove up those technologies and decide which is the best way, or best mix to go in terms of combining that CopperString project with one or more different renewable energy technologies,” he said.

Source: ABC News.

ACT Solar Tariff Overhaul

Posted by admin on November 1st, 2010

Tuesday, 14 September 2010 08:53

The ACT Government is overhauling its solar energy policies, dumping a plan to directly fund a solar energy farm.

The Government is now expanding its feed-in tariff to pay businesses and large scale generators to produce renewable energy.

The expansion will happen in two stages. The Government will first open the scheme to medium scale generators.

That means office blocks and shopping centres with panels on their roofs will be able to take advantage of the scheme.

The Government will then open up the scheme to commercial large scale generators.

Energy Minister Simon Corbell says that will provide the incentive for at least one large scale generator to set up in the ACT.

The overhaul means the Government will instead hold an auction to see which large scale company will get the right to generate energy first.

Mr Corbell says that should happen early next year and the Government will then make a decision about future auctions.

He says the new scheme could see several farms spring up in the Territory.

“This will provide for many megawatts of renewable energy generation to be deployed here in Canberra,” he said.

“It allows us to develop at least our first solar farm for the city and will create many hundreds of jobs and significant economic activity.”

Mr Corbell says Kowen Forest has also been ruled out as a possible location for a future solar facility. A site at Ingledene remains available.


ACT Greens Leader Meredith Hunter says the program will provide a good incentive to business and encourage it to establish more solar farms in the Territory.

“It puts it out to the market and it’s up to those companies to put forward what they think is the best way, the best technology, the best approach to be able to get the best price and also with the highest amount of generation,” she said.


The ACT Opposition has slammed the overhaul, saying it is condemning consumers to endless electricity price hikes.

Leader Zep Seselja says it is a recipe for inefficiency and higher electricity bills.

“What we had before was a promise for the Government to find the money through other savings to actually help fund a large scale efficient solar power station,” he said.

“What we’re going to have instead is a number of less efficient solar energy providers which will be subsidised by the taxpayer through their electricity bill.”

Source: ABC News.

ACT Has It Right on Solar

Posted by admin on November 1st, 2010

Monday, 20 September 2010 09:40

The solar energy industry has welcomed the ACT Government’s decision to dramatically expand the solar -feed-in tariff scheme.

Under the scheme, medium scale and commercial generators will be paid for the solar energy they produce.

The ACT Government says the policy will make Canberra the country’s solar capital.

“This is the most progressive policy reform for renewable energy in Australia, from any state or territory government,” said Environment Minister Simon Corbell.

Australian Solar Energy Society CEO John Grimes says the Government has delivered what the industry has been suggesting.

“It’s the first time anywhere in Australia that a government has got it right, they’ve made the framework so the industry can respond,” he said.

Mr Grimes says it is the first comprehensive plan.

“Industry is not looking for a pot of gold and goes through an extensive process to find one winner to build a solar farm,” he said.

“Industry is looking for support over the longer term not just to get one project up but 10, 20, 30 projects up and that’s exactly what this framework provides.”

The Government says the scheme will generate up to 240 megawatts of solar energy.

Large scale generators will have to bid for the right to access the feed-in tariff scheme, with the first auction of 40 megawatts to be held next year.

Mr Corbell says that 40 megawatts could be shared among a number of bidders.

“This will allow us to get the highest level of renewable energy generation at the lowest possible price to consumers,” he said.

Russell Marsh from the Clean Energy Council also welcomes the changes but wants to see the finer details.

“I think they are going to try and get overall 420 megawatts of capacity and they’ve split that down into different sections. It’s not quite clear of how many systems that actually means,” he said.

“What we don’t want to do is end up with only a few systems being installed. It should be about giving long term support and growth to the industry.”

Energy provider ActewAGL says it will bid for a share of the solar feed-in tariff.

Chief Executive Michael Costello says the scheme is sensible and will spread the costs of shifting to renewable energy evenly.

“This is a clever way to do it, because what this means is everyone biding for it has an interest in bidding the lowest possible feed-in tariff,” he said.

Mr Costello says electricity price rises will also be necessary if there is to be a shift away from coal-fired power stations.

“One of the things that surprises me is that there’s a view that costs won’t be passed on to consumers,” he said.

“Whatever way you go to combat global warming, the simple fact is, coal fired power stations – particularly brown coal power stations – are very very cheap energy. The question is do you want to move to something else?”

The Government had promised a $30 million grant to help set up a solar farm in Canberra but that has now been withdrawn in light of the new policy.

“This is a good process we believe this will be able to test the market out there but of course we’ll be pushing government to get on with this,” said Greens Leader Meredith Hunter.

But Opposition Leader Zed Seselja says the changes are a recipe for soaring power bills.

He says consumers are being asked to subsidise inefficient generators.

“They’ve broken their promise, the Greens and the Labor Party have broken what’s in their agreement, and instead they’re going to shift the costs on to households,” he said.

The Government expects the first large scale solar plants to be up and running by 2012.

Source: ABC Premium News.

West Australian Government Signs Deal

Posted by admin on November 1st, 2010

Wednesday, 22 September 2010 09:43

The West Australian Government has moved to improve the state’s energy security, linking a new electricity supply contract that will save up to $1.5 billion and unveiling plans for a new solar energy plant.

WA Energy Minister Peter Collier announced a new electricity supply or “vesting” contract between the state’s power generator Verve Energy and electricity retailer Synergy that will save up to $1.5 billion in subsidies over 10 years.

“As a responsible government, on behalf of the tax payers of WA, we cannot continue to subsidise Verve’s losses,” Mr Collier said.

The previous contract left Verve’s power plants sitting idle and securing Verve’s financial position was essential to ensuring WA’s light stayed on, Mr Collier said.

“Improving the financial position of the corporations may also ultimately reduce the subsidy paid to cover the difference between the cost-reflective price of electricity and the price paid by consumers.”

The new contract would not solve all of Verve’s issues but would arrest the slide of its financial performance and was a step towards strengthening the state’s energy sector, the minister said.

WA’s Liberal government has inherited from the previous Labor government an energy sector “in tatters” after a “totally flawed” disaggregation process, Mr Collier said.

The state’s opposition energy spokeswoman Kate Doust said disaggregation had been aimed at attracting investment and diversity in WA’s electricity market, but the new vesting contract did not provide incentives for private investment in the space.

“Electricity prices are crippling Western Australian households and changes to Verve and Synergy’s arrangements are not likely to lead to any relief for families or small business,” Ms Doust said.

Also on Tuesday, Mr Collier said the WA government would foot one-third of the bill for Australia’s largest grid-connected PV solar power plant to be built at Geraldton in the state’s mid-west.

Mr Collier said the $58 million project would generate up to 10 megawatt hours of electricity a year.

This could be expanded to 40MWh as transmission capacity became available and component costs were reduced, with both production scale and improvements in PV technology.

“This facility will become the biggest solar PV project in the nation, testing and demonstrating the technology in WA on a commercial scale,” he said.

Ms Doust took a swipe at Mr Collier’s track record on renewable energy, saying he had signed off on the re-start of old coal power plants.

“The oldest and most inefficient coal turbines in Australia have been re-fired at Muja,” Ms Doust said.

Source: AuSES.

VIC Govt. Pledges $100 million for Solar Plant

Posted by admin on November 1st, 2010

Wednesday, 22 September 2010 10:31

Victoria may become home to the nation’s largest solar energy plant, with the state government pledging $100 million for the proposed development.

But the Mallee Solar Park near Mildura in the state’s northwest will become a reality only if TRUenergy wins federal funding under the Solar Flagships program.

“The eventuality of the Mallee Solar Park project is only feasible with the support of both the state and federal governments,” TRUenergy managing director Richard McIndoe said in a statement on Tuesday.

Premier John Brumby said the project would create 200 new jobs during construction and there would be 20 ongoing positions.

The plant would generate 345 gigawatt hours of electricity a year, enough to power 60,000 homes.

“The TRUenergy proposal will utilise world’s best practice to create jobs in regional Victoria, cement the northern part of our state as a key solar energy region in Australia and will make a valuable and lasting contribution to our clean, green energy supply,” Mr Brumby said.

A separate two-megawatt solar energy pilot plant, operated by Solar Systems, is slated to be built near Mildura in 2012.

The building of a $420 million, 145-megawatt solar energy plant, for which the state government has committed $50 million, is contingent upon the success of the pilot project.

Solar Systems was placed in voluntary administration in September 2009 but was bought out by Silex this year.

Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu said the coalition had always supported a solar energy plant in Mildura.

He said the Labor government had promised a solar plant in Ballarat before the 2002 election and a plant in Mildura prior to the 2006 poll.

“Now we have another promise, which even on the announcement today is unlikely to proceed until after the next election,” Mr Baillieu told reporters.

“I’d just like to see a solar plant proceed with a degree of certainty – that’s not what we are getting.”

Mr Brumby said the government aimed to support the development of 5 – 10 large scale solar plants in regional Victoria by 2020, he said.

Under the TRUenergy plan, a solar plant would be built by Bovis Lend Lease in four stages from 2012 to 2015 on a 600-hectare site about 10km south of Mildura.

The proposal is among several projects short-listed to receive funding under round one of the Solar Flagships program. The successful projects are expected to be announced in the first half of next year.

Source: AuSES.

Will Solar Rise in the West?

Posted by admin on November 1st, 2010

Monday, 27 September 2010 11:34

The Climate Spectator has an article on concern in Western Australia that it is missing out on federally funded solar power projects – Will Solar Rise in the West?

The solar energy industry has virtually given up on the federal government providing a mechanism for the roll-out of utility-scale solar installations across the country, and is instead focusing its efforts on individual states.

Buoyed by the recent decisions of Victoria and the ACT to offer large-scale feed-in tariffs (FiT), a new coalition of solar technology companies, renewable energy groups, engineering companies, universities and regional councils, is calling for WA to do the same. Other states are likely to be similarly lobbied.

The WA coalition argues that the state with the best solar radiation in Australia should be leading the country in solar generation and argues that a 5 per cent solar target for 2020, underpinned by an FiT set by auction, would unlock more than $4 billion of investment to install some 1060MW of capacity.

This particular group has been frustrated that none of the 10 WA-based proposals – many of them around 200MW each – made the federal government’s Solar Flagships shortlist, and it fears now that Victoria and the ACT will steal the initiative and projects will be forced to migrate to less ideal conditions in the eastern states.

The group, which comes under the folksy banner of “the sunniest state, the solar state,” is going public this week after failing to gather much traction in their private lobbying efforts with the WA government.

“If you are looking at the renewable technology that works best in WA, it has to be solar,” says Richard Harris, the head of Midwest Energy. “The south-west grid is very, very peaky. We don’t have as much heavy industry, it’s very much summer oriented, day time peak that’s geared for solar power.”

Harris says a solar-gas hybrid could be particularly effective in the state, including in the Pilbara for mining projects. In any case, he says, it’s embarrassing that the state with one of the best radiation levels in the world has just 100MW of installed solar capacity, when countries such as Germany have more than 8000MW.

Source: Peak Energy.

Networks, Not Solar, Driving Rising Electricity Costs

Posted by admin on November 1st, 2010

Wednesday, 06 October 2010 11:17

Australia’s clean energy peak body says the cost of supporting residential solar power is a drop in the ocean compared to billions of dollars in network costs that are driving big increases in electricity prices in NSW.

In relation to claims by the electricity generators today, Clean Energy Council Chief Executive Matthew Warren said it was ridiculous to hang the rising price of electricity in NSW around the neck of the solar industry.

“The Australian Energy Regulator estimates the cost of improving the electricity network in NSW at more than $14 billion over 5 years. Based on the 50MW installed under the NSW Solar Bonus Scheme, the cost of solar electricity from the current scheme is less than 4 per cent of this,” Mr Warren said.

“Solar power systems will help reduce electricity costs for householders, and as the cost of this clean energy continues to fall more households will be able to immunise themselves from rising electricity prices,” he said.

Mr Warren said solar power was helping to transform the way Australians think about energy.

“Effectively the NSW Government is building a peak load power station across the rooftops of NSW, which is co-funded by householders and the network,” he said.

“It’s a different way of generating energy. It’s what a clean energy future is going to look like.”

“The people of Australia want action on climate change and cheaper clean energy. Solar feed-in tariff programs are about developing the solar industry, making use of Australia’s abundant sunshine.”

Mr Warren said NSW required the use of solar installers accredited with the Clean Energy Council. This scheme requires the use of qualified industry professionals and licensed electricians, helping to ensure solar power systems meet Australian standards.

Source: Clean Energy Council.

Blowouts in Solar Scheme Rubbished

Posted by admin on November 1st, 2010

Monday, 11 October 2010 10:13

Alleged cost blowouts in the NSW government’s solar bonus scheme are tiny and will not be noticed by households, say renewable energy experts.

The solar bonus scheme was attacked recently by the NSW coalition climate change spokeswoman, Catherine Cusack. She said the scheme cost bungle was a Keneally government that would ensure a blowout in energy prices for seven years.

But the director for the Institute of Environmental Studies at the University of NSW, Mark Diesendorf, said the costs of the scheme were dwarfed by the huge increase in electricity bills necessary for new infrastructure.

“They won’t be noticed in the noise,” he said.

Household bills are expected to rise by $250 to $600 a year by 2013 to pay for investment in the electricity network.

In comparison, the total cost per household of the solar bonus scheme was initially estimated in a report to ministers at about $7.50 per year.

The chairwoman of the Australian PV Association, Muriel Watt, said solar energy offsets the demand for electricity during peak periods, which reduces the need for expensive network infrastructure. “People are getting hysterical about something that is trying to alleviate why those costs are happening in the first place,” she said.

Opponents of the scheme have criticised it for providing income for the rich – those who can afford solar panels – at the expense of those who cannot.

But Dr Watt said there was no evidence to indicate that installations are skewed towards those on higher incomes. “It’s like saying those who don’t have children subsidise those who do. The benefits of reducing our carbon intensity accrue to everybody,” she said.

By August, more than 30,000 households had signed up to the scheme, attracted by the $1,500 a year that a household, with an average 1.5kW solar electricity system, can earn until the end of 2016.

Source: AuSES.

Rising Power Bills Spark Move to Solar

Posted by admin on November 1st, 2010

Friday, 15 October 2010 09:06

As Gold Coasters struggle to cope with the first power price rise, the Queensland Competition Authority (QCA) is already starting to think about the next one.
QCA chairman Brian Parmenter recently indicated the last jump of 13.29 per cent would probably not be repeated, but there would be an increase in 2011.
“We are looking at a new methodology and are about to start discussions on it and the price,” he said.
The comments came after the Bligh Government this week urged the QCA to consider the impact of price rises on household budgets when determining next year’s prices.
Minister for Natural Resources, Mines and Energy Stephen Robertson said the Government had concerns about the process the QCA was intending to use to determine electricity prices from next year.
“The QCA is about to begin its process of determining annual regulated electricity prices,” he said.
“But we are urging the QCA to re-consider some aspects of its proposed approach in how it intends to determine what price Queenslanders pay for their electricity in 2011-12.”
The hikes in power prices have pushed Gold Coasters towards green energy solutions in the past few months, with a spike in interest in solar hot water systems and solar panels.
The solar industry is booming on the back of such price rises with many business expanding massively and reporting growth of 600 per cent or more!
Source: AuSES.

Solar PV Installation Workshops Booked Out

Posted by admin on November 1st, 2010

Wednesday, 20 October 2010 11:12

In response to imminent changes to PV installation inspection regulations the Australian Solar Energy Society, in conjunction with the Solar Energy Industry Association, is hosting a series of PV Installation Best Practice Workshops across Australia.

To be held in Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide respectively the workshops will review the new Solar Acquittal Inspection Regime developed by the Federal Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, and outline other recent market developments in the PV sector.

Registrations for all of the workshops are booked out, and currently Australian Solar Energy Society is inviting corporate sponsors to help defray the additional rental and catering costs involved in accommodating more delegates.

Conference Locations and Dates:

  • Brisbane – 20th of October, Level 3, C Black, Bracken Ridge Training Centre.
  • Melbourne – 21st of October, Champions Room, Melbourne Sports and Acquatic Centre.
  • Perth – 25th of October, Central Institute of TAFE, eCentral Campus.
  • Adelaide – 28th of October, Goyder Mezzanine, Adelaide Event and Exhibition Centre.
Subject to additional funding there will be a workshop in Sydney.
Source: Eco Generation.
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