South Australia Heading to 80% Wind and Solar by 2021/22

By: Giles Parkinson

South Australia is not just likely to have already met its target of 50 per cent renewables some eight years ahead of time, it is now heading for an extraordinary penetration rate of 80 per cent wind and solar by 2021.

That, at least, is the presumption of the Australian Energy Market Operator in a series of scenarios that it prepared for its submission into the Tamblyn review on the proposed second link from Tasmania to the mainland.

AEMO considered three different scenarios to assess whether that new link to Tasmania would be a good deal, and translated those into its own estimates of how much wind and solar would be built in each state over the next 5, 10, 15 and 20 years.

South Australia was an important factor in the AEMO’s deliberations on the extra link to Tasmania, because it suggested that it would make more sense if there was an extra link to South Australia, to take advantage of that state’s growing wind and solar output.

In two of the scenarios that it contemplated – the neutral one (above) based on current policies, and the ambitious climate goal of a 45 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030 (below) – South Australia’s wind and solar capacity doubled over the next five years, before coming to a halt over the following 10 years.

Consider what that means. Its current capacity of around 1,600MW of large-scale wind energy meets just over 40 per cent of total state demand, and the 720MW of rooftop solar adds another 7 per cent. When Hornsdale 2 is completed later this year, that percentage will go beyond 50 per cent.

AEMO’s forecasts suggest the capacity of wind and solar (now that it is cost competitive with wind) will double to around 3,100MW by 2121/2022. Given that the state’s rooftop solar installation is also expected to soar, this suggests at last 80 per cent of the state’s electricity demand could be met by wind and solar.

That’s not necessarily something to worry about, if properly managed, given that the CSIRO and the Energy Networks Australia canvassed a similar scenario in their Future Grids work, which they said would not affect system reliability, although they were suggesting it would happen more than a decade later.

However, it should be noted that AEMO’s forecasts were completed before the state government unveiled its energy security target, which requires that 36 per cent of its local demand be met by local dispatchable resources, and 50 per cent by 2025 – which suggests that wind and solar will need to come with storage attached.

That looks achievable, given that the state is already holding one tender for 100MW/100MWh of battery storage, and many of the new solar proposals are coming “battery ready”. One developer, Reach Solar, says solar and storage is already cheaper than gas and will be “well below” $100/MWh – the current level of wholesale prices – within a few years.

AEMO has already canvassed the likelihood that rooftop solar, alone, could account for 100 per cent of minimum demand on some occasions within the next five to six years, a situation that is likely to be repeated in Western Australia and Tasmania. Even north Queensland is building so much large-scale solar and wind that its capacity will equate to minimum within a few years.

The only scenario where South Australia’s large-scale wind and solar capacity did not double was in the “low demand” scenario, where much of future demand is met by “distributed energy”, primarily rooftop solar and storage, and energy efficiency.

But this scenario’s impact on wind and solar construction over the next five years is a little hard to understand, given that the “low grid demand” is unlikely to be evident to all within the next few years.


Texas A&M Central Texas Working to Improve Solar Power

By: Andrew Moore

KILLEEN – Central Texas may not have had a big Earth Day march but a local university is quietly making major steps in solar research. Texas A&M University Central Texas is working to make solar more cost effective for cities and businesses though two areas of research and just got a major upgrade to make that happen.

One research area is to make solar panels more efficient. The university installed a $700,000 electron microscope last week in order to study alternate materials for solar panels at the molecular lever. The analysis will help them increase the efficiency limit currently holding solar back.

Conventional solar panels only convert 12 to 18 percent of the sun’s energy to usable power for a consumer. Because of economies of scale, large solar farms can be cost effective for a utility powering part of a city. For businesses and individual users however, there is no uniform solution that can compete with typical utility company costs.

Texas A&M University Vice President for Research and Economic Development Dr. Russell Porter said solar energy only has 1 percent of the national market, but if that 18 percent energy conversion rate went up it would open doors for a larger market.

“When you go from an efficiency of 18 to 30 percent that we have actually got in the lab, that already exists, in two to five years when you have that you can start to get business close to utility costs,” Porter said.

Porter said he believes it is possible to get almost a 50 percent energy conversion rate, but that is up to a decade away.

The university is also researching how businesses could implement new solar technology to close the gap between current electric company costs and the overall cost of implementing a solar system. The research considers not only new technologies but what tax incentives are most effective to help businesses decide on solar power.

The University of Texas A&M Central Texas is working with Texas A&M College Station, The University of Texas at Austin, and Colorado State University to conduct solar research thanks to a four year $1.2 Million grant from the National Science Foundation. Porter said the continued availability of federal funds is important to the research moving forward in the future.


First Nation Charts Brighter Course with 160-Panel Solar Facility

Already invested in wind, solar and food security, North Shore band is increasing its ‘energy sovereignty.’

CONTRIBUTED/TSLEIL-WAUTUTH NATION SACRED TRUST Charlene Aleck, manager of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation Sacred Trust and an elected Councillor for the First Nation, stands in front of a solar energy array installed last year in the North Shore community directly across the Burrard Inlet from Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline terminal.

By: David P. Ball

The sun is about to rise on one local First Nation’s renewable-energy ambitions thanks to a planned 160-panel solar power array it plans to install on a new government and health building under construction.

“It’s been on our minds for quite a while to look at the energy we use,” explained Charlene Aleck, manager of Tsleil-Waututh Nation Sacred Trust.

“This isn’t new: We’ve been trying to be progressive and innovative for a long time, and wanted to look at different sources of energy and to invest in wind and solar. There are so many possible options for us.”

As Aleck tells it, her community took an environmental stand long before it became one of the foremost opponents of the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion, which was approved by the provincial government in January.

The small reserve sits directly across the Burrard Inlet from that pipeline’s terminal, which will see oil tanker traffic increase seven-fold past their traditional territories.

“In our opposition, we’ve been looked upon as the ‘forces of no’ or the ‘face of opposition,’” Aleck explained. “It makes us look anti-development — but that could not be further from the truth.

“All these initiatives – which we’ve had for years before the pipeline expansion proposal — amp up to our ‘yes’ agenda.”

The First Nation already powers its daycare with a rotating solar array that efficiently follows the sun — a donation from the environmental organizations Greenpeace and last year. The nation is also a business partner in a Burnaby wind turbine manufacturer, has members involved in selling large-scale LED lighting, and is increasingly harvesting local food from community gardens.

She said they also reintroduced elk into their area, rehabilitated local salmon streams and have been trying in these ways to “pay respect back to our land.”

Now, she said the band is in the final stages of significantly ramping up its nascent solar capacity — with the construction of a large new building to house its health clinic, several band-owned businesses and its government and administration.

The building’s construction is currently underway — Aleck inspected the facility earlier this week — and with it, plans to install 47 kilowatt-hours of solar power generation.

The new project, set for completing this fall, has the support of a fundraising campaign started by the Great Climate Race, which began as an environmental run but is about to release a smartphone app to continue raising money for Tsleil-Waututh and one other solar project through people’s regular exercise routines.

The initiative raised roughly $15,000 towards the project, but the whole initiative will likely cost between $100,000 to $150,000, said Great Climate Race co-founder Ben West.

“Tsleil-Waututh has been very eager to tell the story that this is not a community that’s simply opposed to everything,” West said. “They’re really committed to creating good jobs and articulating a different way to move forward.

“To me what’s interesting is the story this tells about this turning-point moment we’re at in address climate change — there’s such increased awareness about what solutions are.”

West said that the kilowatt hours — which would make it one of the largest solar facilities in the Lower Mainland, second to the state-of-the-art new Telus Gardens building — are only part of the story. The other is showing that renewable energy is realistic today.

“A lot of people think the solutions are far off in the future,” he said. “But we actually have all the technology we need, it’s cost effective, and we could be well on our way to transitioning.

“This project will play a role in helping demonstrate what’s possible right now.”

According to Aleck, the nation may not even stop at 160 panels, either, and said one day she hopes much of the reserve’s power can come from renewable sources.

“I believe it’s all connected,” she said. “One good move can affect another.

“Having sovereign energy power would be a good thing. We have quite a few panels lined up, but there’s room to grow.”

It will cost a minimum of $100,000 to purchase and install all 160 solar power panels on Tsleil-Waututh’s new health and administration building, to be completed this fall.


Where Apple Stands in its Quest for 100% Clean Energy

By: Jackie Wattles

Apple is producing more than 200 million electronic devices each year. And making all those iPhones, MacBooks and tablets takes an enormous amount of energy.

Courtesy: Business Insider

That’s why it’s a big deal when Apple (AAPL, Tech30) says it wants to be the greenest company on Earth.

The company launched a massive clean energy program in October 2015. The goal was to convert all of its energy use in China to clean power sources.

Apple clobbered past that goal and is now working toward 100% renewable energy worldwide.

“In 2016, 96 percent of the electricity used at our global facilities came from renewable energy, reducing our carbon emissions by nearly 585,000 metric tons. We’re 100 percent renewable in 24 countries — and all of Apple’s data centers,” Lisa Jackson, Apple Vice president of environment policy, said in an annual letter released earlier this year. Jackson served as the administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency from 2009 to 2013.

To go fully green, Apple has said it plans to “generate and source from more than 4 gigawatts of new clean energy worldwide by 2020,” according to a document released this month.

So far, Apple is less than a quarter of the way toward its 4 gig goal, the equivalent of the energy needed to power about 4 million homes. It currently has 485 megawatts of wind and solar projects installed across China.

The company also said last September that it’s committed to making sure all of the companies that supply parts to Apple follow its lead. Seven of Apple’s suppliers have already committed to going 100% renewable by 2018.

Not to mention Apple’s new corporate headquarters, Apple Park, will be powered solely by renewables. And to save trees, the company says 99% of the paper used in product packaging is from recycled materials.

Tom Murrary — the vice president of the Environmental Defense Fund’s EDF+Business initiative — praised Apple’s efforts. He says Apple has been a leading player in sustainable initiatives, and now more than 70 companies have followed suit by committing to use only renewable energy sources.

“For companies like Apple, usually 80 percent or more of the carbon footprint is in the supply chain. That’s why its critical that Apple is looking beyond its own operations and working with suppliers to become 100 percent renewable as well,” he said.


Swedish Solar Brings Solar In To Replace Shutters

By: Steve Hanley

Rooftop solar is great, but it’s not ideal for every home or business. Sometimes the roof faces the wrong way or has the wrong slant. Sometimes the roof is just too small and the owner wants to add more solar panels to cover more electricity usage. Swedish Solar of Orlando, Florida, has a solution.

Inspired by the popular Bahama shutters, founder Olof Tenghoff and his team of engineers have created custom-fabricated aluminum and stainless steel frames that hold up to 4 solar panels. The frames are easily mounted to the outside of any building. Instead of spending money on typical Bahama shutters, homeowners can spend that cash (and probably a bit more) on shutters that generate electricity, saving money that would have gone to energy bills.

Whether Swedish Solar’s product genuinely ends up saving customers money is something each customer has to calculate (or try to calculate) for their own unique circumstances. Either way, though, this product offers an option for people who have maxed out their roof space or don’t want to put solar panels on their roof for some reason.

Swedish Solar’s awning-type installations can hold one to four of the company’s specialized PV panels, which come in two sizes. The installation hides all wiring and controls within the frame for a clean, uncluttered look (see above).

The Swedish Solar system has several additional advantages. The frames are motorized and can be controlled from a remote digital device like a smartphone. The angle can be adjusted to maximize solar power output or set to act as a passive solar device keeping unwanted sunlight and heat out of the interior of a building. When fully closed, the panels perform as storm barriers during inclement weather and protect the occupants from prying eyes — just as Bermuda shutters do.

Many homes in Florida and other sunny locations like Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and southern California have Spanish tile roofs. Conventional solar panels often ruin the look of such roofs (well, that’s a subjective matter, but it’s a widely held opinion) and installing a solar panel system over the tiles may void the warranty. Swedish Solar systems are installed on the exterior walls of a building, giving homeowners with Spanish tile roofs the opportunity to take advantage of clean, renewable, solar power while beautifying the home.

Swedish Solar panels are unique — no other company offers a similar product at this time, according to the company. Full details are available on the Swedish Solar website. The company can also recommend an approved installer in your area. Be sure to watch the informative video above to learn more.