Building a power station: electrons or steam? Options in solar thermal technology Running an electricity network Some hypothetical alternatives Building a technical Nepal Painstaking progress in the third world Central Victoria turns on to solar power What a difference a solar city makes
Solar 2013 Conference & Expo Speakers and events
The Official Journal of the Australian Solar COUNCIL
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38 Australian Solar Council
News and views
Foreword by ASC CEO and Solar Progress Editor 2 Solar project financing tour of Taiwan 6 SOLAR 2013 CONFERENCE & EXPO PROGRAM18 SOLAR 2013 CONFERENCE & EXPO KEYNOTE SPEAKERS 20 State Branch activities 49 ASC Membership listing 60
If I ran an electricity network Alan Pears reviews the 2012 Energy White Paper 12 Illawarra Flame at Solar Decathlon ‘energy olympics’ 22 Swedes aim high in transport renewables34 Central Victoria Solar City – changing the landscape38 Building a technical Nepal Peter Freere’s vision materialises 44
Australia China partnership Pain versus Gain Nigel Morris assesses solar industry’s vital statistics Local and global solar news
Yingli, Urban Group Energy, Refusol, Solar Inception, SMA, SunTrix and Schneider Electric 42 Solar company profiles 52 A listing of prominent solar entities
Solar advances and research Solar thermal technology <50 MW Carbon reduction Ventures – into CSP CSIRO’s Solar Forecasting project
Australia’s Solar Installations 100 kW +
Tech guru Glen Morris on PV maintenance 36
Advertorials: Solar products and services
Shadow Minister Greg Hunt outlines the Coalition’s energy policy 4
SOLAR PROGRESS is published by CommStrat for the Australian Solar Council (ASC). Solar Progress subscriptions: contact Anna Washington Executive Assistant, ASC firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0409 802 707
ditor Dr Bill Parker Phone: 0403 583 676 email@example.com Contributors: Peter Freere, Rob Fuller, Greg Hunt, Glen Morris, Nigel Morris, Wayne Smith, Nick Underhill Contributing editor Nicola Card National Sales Manager Brian Rault Phone: 03 8534 5014 firstname.lastname@example.org
Design & production Annette Epifanidis CommStrat Melbourne Level 8, 574 St Kilda Rd Melbourne 3004 Phone: 03 8534 5000 Australian Solar COUNCIL CEO John Grimes PO Box 148, Frenchs Forest NSW 1640 www.solar.org.au ABN 32 006 824 148 CommStrat ABN 31 008 434 802 www.commstrat.com.au Solar Progress was first published in 1980. The
magazine aims to provide readers with an in–depth review of technologies, policies and progress towards a society which sources energy from the sun rather than fossil fuels. Except where specifically stated, the opinions and material published in this magazine are not necessarily those of the publisher or AuSES Ltd Trading as Australian Solar Council. While every effort is made to check the authenticity and accuracy of articles, neither ASC nor the editors are responsible for any inaccuracy. Solar Progress is published quarterly. www.solar.org.au
SolarProgress | 1
Bill Parker Editor
John Grimes Chief Executive, Australian Solar Council
Dramatic Energy Changes The way we generate, transmit, use and store energy is changing at a dramatic pace. Energy efficiency measures, a switch to renewable energy (solar and wind), increased distributed generation (like solar PV), and the prospect of battery technology at the household or local level (including in electric vehicles) are all having a dramatic impact. An Industry Protected from Change For almost 100 years the energy companies have not changed their business models. There was no reason to. Their charter was to deliver ever more energy to an energy hungry nation. In return they worked as monopoly or semi-monopoly providers. Better still when they spent money they put their prices up by a set margin that was guaranteed by government. A sector with a government guaranteed rate of return on all expenditure, which was not subject to outside influences and competition for over a hundred years. What a great business! The Right Response So the energy industry’s response to competitive change, outside pressure, and new technology has been predictable. At first ignore. Then attack. Then undermine and set up barriers. This is the phase we are currently in, and it has become increasingly polarised and political. In my view this will only end badly for the incumbents. Think Kodak, Chrysler and any newspaper you care to name. The sector needs to change, and change fast. We need to strike a new deal. A deal where we put a value on energy efficiency and align our interests. Where solar, and storage are integrated sub-station by sub-station to strengthen the grid and reduce costs. Where we plan for a transition to distributed renewable energy. The solar industry is the only industry worldwide which has continued growing and creating new jobs in the period since the GFC. As we transition to a 100% renewable energy system it is time for the incumbents to start embracing the new reality. Change is coming, ready or not.
John Grimes 2 | ISSUE 2 • 2013
I spoke about the extremes of weather in our last edition, as it was actually happening. Now, the Climate Commission has released its report (http://climatecommission.gov.au/report/extreme-weather/). The term extreme weather or climate event refers to “an occurrence of a value of a weather or climate variable beyond a threshold that lies near the end of the range of observations for the variable” (IPCC, 2012). You do not need to be reminded of the severity of weather patterns in the past few years, whether that is drought or flood or extremes of heat. The challenge is now one of adaptation. If you have the good fortune to live in a home designed for your local climate, it may not now be as effective at maintaining comfort as it was. Since design for the climate implies the use of climate data it follows that adjustments need to be made for new designs. At the other extreme of flooding, the planning of new residential developments must take into consideration the effect of flooding and building on low lying coastal areas or river flood plains. None of this is technically hard, but it requires well–informed local governments to enact sensible planning policies. On a domestic note, my last electricity bill was another extreme event. Enough was enough. I have placed an order for a system, thus joining the 1,000,000 and rising who are financially motivated to install PV. Of course, as some readers may know, this is not my first experience with PV but there is a massive difference now in the market compared to that of 1998. Then, at the time of installation there was about 4 kW total grid connected PV in WA. Now there is more than 275 MW. As long as the electricity retailers keep hiking up prices, that number will grow, even with a grossly unfair buyback tariff of 8cents/kWh. More on this in our next issue.
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Coalition’s support for the solar sector Solar Progress asked Greg Hunt, Shadow Minister for Climate Action and the Environment, about the Coalition’s energy plans. Solar power will have a growing role to play in providing Australia’s energy needs into the future, both on a small and large scale. One million roofs across Australia now have a solar system installed. It is an important milestone and an indication of the Australian community’s support for solar. It has taken significant time to reach this level and there have been more than a few hiccups along the way, with a range of changing federal and state policies that have created significant uncertainty for the industry. That is why I am extremely mindful of the importance of providing much needed stability and sustainability for the industry. The Coalition has been very upfront and transparent about the policies it is taking to the next election, including our commitment to the Renewable Energy Target (RET), reducing Australia’s emissions and specific support for the solar sector. It is important to recognise that there is agreement between the two major political parties on the need to reduce Australia’s greenhouse emissions by five per cent by 2020. There is bi-partisan support for both the targets on climate change and the RET. The point of difference is how you get there. The Coalition has consistently argued that a Carbon Tax, which primarily drives up the cost of electricity, is the wrong approach. If it was being judged on its environmental outcomes alone, then it would be scrapped immediately because on the Government’s own figures, Australia’s emissions will increase from 560 to 637 million tonnes by 2020 under the Carbon Tax. On the key criteria for which it should be judged, the Carbon Tax fails.
The Direct Action Plan In contrast, the Coalition’s Direct Action Plan will cut emissions and will do it without a $9 billion a year tax on business and families. Our policy is to focus on emissions reduction by purchasing abatement at the lowest cost via a market mechanism. In that way we achieve our five per cent target but within a capped budget and with local environmental benefits, such as cleaning up landfill gas, revegetation or via energy efficiency in buildings. Also included in Direct Action is our promise to deliver One Million Solar Roofs. While Australia has now hit the one million mark, we still believe there is opportunity to further expand the market in a sustainable way. In response to concerns within the industry about programs that have been rushed out then scrapped, the One Million Roofs will occur through a staged roll out. The program will be delivered with a cap of 100,000 per year over the next decade. There will be a focus on low income earners to provide them with a means of combating rising electricity prices. The program will cover solar PV, solar hot water and heat pumps. Staging it over ten years provides the industry with a structure for planning and is an attempt to bring to an end the highs and lows that have traditionally plagued the sector. 4 | ISSUE 2 • 2013
Greg Hunt (right) expresses support for the Australian solar industry The Coalition remains committed to the 20 per cent Renewable Energy Target. It is a position we have re-stated following the recent review. As already mentioned, the Coalition is very much aware of the importance of providing certainty for the renewable energy sector and that any significant change would create sovereign risk. The RET was introduced by the Howard Government and we have been consistent in our support for the scheme, which assists in reducing Australia’s CO2 emissions. It is the RET that has been the driver of solar investment, along with the significant drop in costs, and will be into the future.
R&D We also know there is a role for research and development and so have given our support to the role of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency. While there have been some significant disappointments in regards to the Government’s flagship projects, we believe with rigorous assessment ARENA does have a role to play. However we do not agree with the Government’s allocation of $10 billion to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. The Coalition remains critical of this process for it is putting $10 billion of borrowed taxpayers’ money on the line, without producing one extra watt of renewable electricity as it will still fall within the RET. As far as we are concerned, it doesn’t pass the sound financial management and policy test, particularly in the current context of a major budget shortfall. The Coalition has a strong track record on the environment and in its support of the solar sector. What we want to be able to deliver, if elected, is a policy that provides sustainability and a long-term future for the industry without constant chopping and changing. Solar has a key role to play in the energy sector and we encourage the industry to continue to invest and expand. The Hon Greg Hunt MP is Shadow Minister for Climate Action and the Environment.
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Taiwan Solar Financing visit a success Australian Solar Council CEO John Grimes presents insights into the value of a recent visit by delegates to Taiwan, which boasts a massive solar industry. In March the Australian Solar Council coordinated a Solar PV and Solar Project Financing tour of Taiwan, the second largest solar manufacturing centre in the world. Delegates were introduced to pre-qualified solar financing contacts, as well as a selection of the best solar industry players in Taiwan. WINAICO was the primary sponsor of the trip, and we worked closely with Austrade and the Taiwanese Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) to make sure the delegates got the most out of the visit. The unanimous feedback from delegates has been that the trip was definitely worth the effort, with the level of contacts and introductions exceeding their expectations. Delegates’ feedback to the Council indicates that all are now in detailed discussions with prospective partners.
China Visit Building on the success of this visit, the Australian Solar Council will lead a delegation to China in September. After visiting and meeting with around 100 companies in China over the past year, we have picked the best to include on the tour. We will send a more detailed program out shortly, and if you would like to express interest in joining the tour, or sponsoring the event, please send me an email at email@example.com
Not on our Mailing List? If you are not on our email alert database, but would like to be, please visit www.solar.org.au Top: Delegates at the opening briefing session – John Grimes is centre front row, yellow tie Below: Factories Tour
Top: WINAICO Visit - Delegates get ‘up close’ to solar manufacturing Below: One on one Meeting Forum
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Do you want
electrons or steam
with that power station? One of the recommendations in last year’s ASI report (“Realising the Potential of Concentrating Solar Power in Australia”) was that Australia should think small when it comes to solar thermal power. This begs the question of how small is small? Bill Parker spoke to Rob Coltrona, the Managing Director of Carbon Reduction Ventures, about his move into solar thermal technology.
Australian CSP had its origins in the outback at White Cliffs with a 25 kW multiple dish plant. This plant can regarded as the birthplace of CSP in Australia, and from it came the Big Dish at ANU in Canberra, a 400m tracking plant. This has so far proved to be a challenge to transfer the technology to full commercial operation. Using the same basic starting point - that focusing the sun’s heat on to a receiver enables the production of steam - another pioneering venture began at Lake Cargelligo (500 kilometres west of Sydney) with the origins of the technology commencing in the late 90s with the work of Bob Lloyd. This 3 MW plant uses large graphite blocks mounted on a tower with an internal heat exchanger and a field of heliostats deployed to focus on the block. In theory, it could be ideal to supply a reliable quality of electricity to a “fringe of grid” or isolated township or mining camp.
8 | ISSUE 2 • 2013
Fast forward to another venture. The intention here is to build a 1.5 MW plant at Morawa in Western Australia. Carbon Reduction Ventures, the company intending to build this small plant are using the same technology as at Lake Cargelligo under an agreement with Solastor Pty Ltd. But how was CRV conceived? Rob Coltrona has a background in technology development, a scientist by training, who chose to surround himself with a team of people with backgrounds in project management, utility experience and engineering. It grew from his experience in R&D commercialisation management at Murdoch University. But just how do you make the transition from R&D at a university to taking on a barely tried, as yet not commercial, new technology? Coltrona’s main driver was energy storage. His business interest was piqued by the model of SunEdison (a successful US company started in 2003 and supplying commercial, government and utility customers via
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small PV plants). But since PV had no viable large scale storage option at the time, the focus for him was on finding a new solar technology with storage potential. Pointing at production curves for PV versus thermal storage, he asks: “Why pay for a spikey output curve when you can have the reliability of a consistent flat result? The key issue is actually heat, and that’s a useful commodity; easy to capture, can be used very efficiently and with low impact.” In 2009 when CRV was just an idea, the options for technology development were few in the solar space, and an approach to Lloyd Energy’s Steve Hollis in 2009 proved fruitful. Hollis was keen to see the deployment of the graphite block system in WA. The work in New South Wales was underway to the point of delivering an output but at that stage had progressed no further. > 10
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In 2012 CRV was successful in winning a WA Low Emissions Energy Development (LEED) $3.775 million grant and the interest of the Shire of Morawa. Morawa is situated on the fringe of the South West Integrated System and one of the WA towns with poor electricity delivery. The company is now busy with the final feasibility study and construction may commence later this year. This technology is different from the now familiar CSP projects. In this case, heat is stored directly in a large graphite block. The block contains a heat exchanger circuit that delivers the steam. Otherwise, it is not all that different from other CSP plants in principle.
Beyond the “Flange” – the opportunities The standard steam turbine is commonly used for CSP plants. However, CRV are proposing to use the Organic Rankine Cycle technology because it allows power generation at lower capacity with higher efficiency and at a lower steam temperature, hence the possibility for lower-cost, smaller scale decentralized operation becomes more feasible. Rankine was a 19th century Scottish engineer and physicist. He was a founding contributor to the science of thermodynamics who developed the theory of the steam engine, but it wasn’t until the 1960s when Harry Tabor (a well known ISES personality) developed the Organic Rankine Cycle engine. WA had an ORC plant at Meekatharra with the first outback ORC installation, not ultimately a success story (wrong place, wrong time and not enough local experience). Now, with work of Mario Gaia at Turboden in Italy the ORC technology is mature and suitable. (The Cargelligo plant uses a simple steam turbine.) Rob Coltrona is quite sanguine about the process and talks about the numbers in blunt detail. “We have 100% heat in, 25 to 30% out as electricity; the rest requires further inputs to be cooled. But how much parasitic demand is there? How much cooling required?” he asks. “I can see the challenge being how to use that waste heat beneficially, and an example would be absorption chilling. The trade off between “valuable water” and electrons is a choice, so we need to manage the system to balance the technology to make the most of available water versus possible electrons”. There is no doubt that the CRV team will address that question in a creative way. In fact, such a plant could just as easily be used to rectify poor quality groundwater, for which there is a need in WA’s agricultural areas, Morawa included.
10 | ISSUE 2 • 2013
Like the construction of anything, be it a hotel, building or swimming pool or a 1.5 MW graphite block solar thermal plant, many approvals must be obtained for the construction, and such processes are not normally fast. The project will also require approval from the WA Development Assessment Panel as it is over $5 million in value. Just another building for the building inspectorate to evaluate and make recommendations to the local councillors for a decision. However, establishing a functional proof of concept providing a better quality of electricity supply to an outback town could be the route to win hearts and minds of miners, indeed anyone wanting a regular, reliable process that produces electrons … or was that just plain heat? An argument that has endured for decades – PV or Thermal – is also played out right here. Short term, PV at megawatt scale wins financially, and if the end user wants proof, visit the Walkaway solar farm or one of the larger installations across Australia. Operation and management costs may be lower for PV (two people at Walkaway), but local employment may see benefits from CSP. Mirror cleaners in Spain have jobs where they never had any employment at all before CSP, with heat being an added benefit! Perhaps the biggest challenge will be optimisation. Beneficial use of waste heat is one aspect. Configuring the plant to maximise electron production or steam is another. Despite long–term costs of diesel being relatively stable, they are rising and there is a forward security issue, thus diesel displacement is a market, especially in WA.
Staying connected with the research bench It is hardly surprising that Rob Coltrona values his strong connections with the University sector. He sees this as an opportunity to generate more trained higher degree students and to maintain the link between operational technology and R&D. “The central question for them is about cycle efficiency, from the heat collection to the electron,” he says. We look forward to this technology being firmly embedded in all the markets that can benefit. Further Information www.carbonreduction.com.au
The ORC plant at Meekatharra
If I ran an electricity network… Alan Pears takes a different viewpoint on the Energy White Paper 2012.
We have seen the release of the final Energy White Paper and the report of the Senate inquiry into electricity pricing. The final white paper was substantially improved from the draft. But it still rates a ‘fail’. The core scenario on which future energy policy is based is the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) ‘New Policies’ scenario, which is pretty much our past growth trajectory. The IEA’s ‘450 ppm scenario’ to limit global warming to around two degrees is largely ignored. The brief discussion on page 204, titled ‘Integrating a Changing Climate into Energy Planning’ focuses on climate adaptation and climate impacts on energy infrastructure. The overall position is that cutting emissions is not the responsibility of the energy sector, but is dealt with by other government agencies and COAG councils! So the Energy White Paper 2012, Australia’s energy transformation fails to confront fundamentals such as the IEA view that, if we are to limit global temperature increase to near two degrees Celsius, and global coal consumption will decline by 30% by 2035. Less than a third of the fossil fuel industries’ proved resources could be burned without exceeding climate limits. The white paper encourages people to explore different scenarios with the online eFuture model, developed by CSIRO. Unfortunately, this only allows consumption growth scenarios to be explored. Among other things, the paper argues that fossil fuels are not being subsidised, and that the generous taxation incentives simply reflect the varying risk profiles of different activities. An interesting interpretation. As usual, energy efficiency is dealt with last, in 16 of the 227 pages of text. Overall, this will be an interesting document for historians to look back at when they try to explain to future generations how misguided our society was, and why we failed to manage climate change.
Senate inquiry into electricity pricing This report is a thoughtful discussion of the shambles that is our electricity market. It has some useful recommendations and is well worth a read. But the Hansard records of the inquiry hearings are much more entertaining. Hansard shows how, on one hand, the existing energy sector is unanimous that there have been problems but that they are well on the way to fixing them, so they should just be left alone. On the other hand, they blame each other for the problems and express concern about the lack of information on which to base decisions. For example, the head of the Energy Department’s energy division admitted that his department
12 | ISSUE 2 • 2013
had done no analysis of demand-reduction activities and their relationship to electricity prices (Hansard 25/9/12). How can the department advise its minister for resources on energy policy without doing this? Those outside the mainstream energy sector were unanimous that the problems are serious and will require substantial change. For example, demand management expert Dr Paul Troughton estimated that $16 billion had been spent unnecessarily on electricity supply (Hansard p.67 27/9/12). The depth of the cultural problem in the energy sector is reflected in a comment by Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) chair, John Pierce, in the hearings (Hansard 25/9/12). He drew upon a football analogy, suggesting that the energy sector was just one specialist player, and that there were other specialist players responsible for environmental, social and other policy areas. He suggested that it was ridiculous for other players to try to tell a specialist player how to play as part of a team. He saw the role of AEMC as focused on economic efficiency: others should deal with other issues. He saw AEMC’s role as being “to inform other parts of government what the effect on this efficiency objective is of things they are thinking about…” He, like others in the energy sector, interpreted the energy market objective in very narrow economic terms and saw no role for energy policy people to help other agencies to develop joint policy. No wonder energy policy conflicts with other policies. While the inquiry and its recommendations are a very useful step, the big question is whether the energy sector will retake control of the agenda through management of the detail of ongoing changes. Or will they review their approach so it meshes with other government policies?
energy efficiency, fuel switching and demand management – so they are able to exert unfair market power. Networks are also paid based on the size of their assets and the amount of electricity supplied through their wires. The main risk networks now face to their businesses is that use of their capital-intensive networks will decline, while peaks become more significant. Unless regulators agree to them extracting higher charges from consumers or separating payment from electricity flows, this will reduce their profitability.
“So if I ran a network, I would broaden its activities into the competitive areas of the energy markets, both wholesale and retail, as well as the energy services market.”
If I ran an electricity network… Electricity network operators are the whipping boys of the industry, with some justification. But how could networks become part of the solution instead of part of the problem? At present, the core business of an electricity network is seen as ensuring reliable and safe supply of electricity to consumers from large power stations and measurement of electricity use for billing purposes. They have no direct links to consumers and their culture is based on building and maintaining poles and wires. Regulators treat networks effectively as regional monopolies – although as I have pointed out before, this is incorrect, as they compete with distributed generation,
SolarProgress | 13
So if I ran a network, I would broaden its activities into the competitive areas of the energy markets, both wholesale and retail, as well as the energy services market. I would install regional electricity storage systems, which I could use to store low cost electricity and sell it at premium prices. This technology could be located strategically to also store exports from PV and other distributed energy systems locally, before they complicate the operation of the main network. This would allow ‘smart’ consumer technologies to interact better with existing ‘dumb’ grids, reducing the need for high risk investment in networks. I would seek a licence to bid demand management into the wholesale electricity market and set up a subsidiary business to develop this market capacity. I would minimise additional investment in the existing network so that depreciation and other allowances in tax rules would allow reducing returns from them to be managed. I would set up another subsidiary business to sell in-home and inbusiness displays and smart controls, on-site electricity storage, PV and stand-alone power systems, initially for fringe-of-grid customers, people in high fire-risk areas and where networks are under stress. This would include allowing consumers to share use of backup generators and storage within local areas. This could include leasing these technologies and providing ongoing fee-based maintenance and monitoring services, so that those with on-site equipment need not be deeply involved in running their energy systems. It might also include using under-utilised grid capacity to provide low cost backup. For the existing business, I would develop more sophisticated network pricing schemes so that PV, other distributed generators and energy efficient consumers gain benefit from avoiding demand or exporting electricity at times and places of most use to the network.
High risk areas in the Hills east of Perth. Poles and wires buried in the bush. This would encourage PV owners to consider orienting their panels to generate more in the afternoon or to install storage to allow them to complement the grid. This might be done through adding to existing feed-in tariffs at certain times of day or by offering rebates on energy bills based on actual avoided peak demand/exports at critical times. Remote management of specific equipment such as pool pumps and air conditioners and voluntary limits on peak demand, in exchange for discounted prices, could also be part of the new business model. Partnerships with welfare groups, community groups and other businesses, as well as separate subsidiary businesses, will be necessary to overcome lack of consumer trust in network operators, cultural barriers and limited internal marketing and sales skills within the network business. Some elements of this model depend on changes to energy market rules. But government policy makers should be supportive, as the alternative is higher consumer energy costs and potential business failures among network operators. Alan Pears has worked in the energy efficiency field for over 20 years as an engineer and educator. He is Adjunct Professor at RMIT University and is co-director of environmental consultancy Sustainable Solutions Reprinted from RenewEconomy of March 27 2013 with kind permission of article author Alan Pears
14 | ISSUE 2 • 2013
The Official Journal of the Australian Solar Council