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ISSN: 0729-6436

Solar Capital ACT embraces Big Solar Harnessing the power of algae Pilbara ponds perfectly positioned Solar Council’s Golden Jubilee conference All the speakers and events Solar Financing Overcoming barriers

10/12 Spring



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Contents SOLAR PROGRESS is published by CommStrat for


the Australian Solar Council (ASC). Solar Progress subscriptions: contact Anna Washington Executive Assistant, ASC or call 0409 802 707

Editor Dr Bill Parker Phone: 0403 583 676 Contributors: Janis Birkeland, Steve Blume, Hugh Byrd, Lyndon Frearson, Nigel Morris, Chem Nayar, Jenny Sharwood and Tristan Simons. Contributing editor Nicola Card National Sales Manager Brian Rault Phone: 03 8534 5014 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 ABN 32 006 824 148 CommStrat ABN 31 008 434 802 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.

Front cover: Designer’s impression of the 20 MW PV plant destined for ACT

26 29 Solar Council Review of solar landscape by ASC CEO and Solar Progress Editor

Special features 2

Solar Council’s Golden Jubilee Conference


East Solar Expo and Conference


ASC state branch activity


ASC corporate members


Steve Blume reviews solar funding sources


Exergy and Auckland city


The Pilbara taps into algae, by Bill Parker 22 Part 3 of Janis Birkeland’s Real Eco Buildings


News and views

Solar advances

Local and global solar developments


First Solar, Big Solar in WA


DKA turns four, by Lyndon Frearson


Pacific atoll Tokelau goes solar


Nigel Morris reflects on 20 years of solar evolution


Power walk for SOLARdarity


The power of hybrid applications in remote locations, by Chem Nayar


ACT embraces Big Solar


Solar storage research: zinc oxide batteries, by Tristan Simons


Products and services Solar Inception 35 RM Solar and Electrical, Si Clean Energy and RFI


SolarProgress | 1

Bill Parker Editor

John Grimes Chief Executive, Australian Solar Council

As we celebrate our 50th anniversary conference, it is a great opportunity to reflect on how far we have come. We are now approaching one million homes with solar PV. Even more successful, over a million homes have solar hot water. Big solar has been born (after a long and painful delivery) with 10 MW operating in WA, and 20 MW to be commissioned in the ACT late next year. And there is a popular groundswell of interest in sustainable housing, solar passive design, and building materials. These are all fantastic achievements. We can all take pride that our mission ‘solar for a sustainable future’ is quickly becoming a reality. But we should not take our success for granted. The Renewable Energy Target (RET), the main driver of renewable energy in Australia, is under review. Plenty of detractors – with their own vested interests – are calling for the RET to be wound back or abolished. This would be disastrous for solar. How the federal government responds to the review is crucial to the success of solar in Australia. And then there is next year’s federal election. We need to make sure all parties have strong solar policies, which take us forwards, not backwards. Now, more than ever, we need to capture the support of ‘solar citizens’ and harness the enormous public goodwill for solar. Given our history I know we will be successful. 50 successful years. Many more than 50 still to come.

The first time I attended what was then an Australian and New Zealand Solar Energy Society conference – “Under one Sun” – was 20 years ago in Darwin. My experience of those three days can be summed up as inspiring and pleasantly surprising. Surprising because I did not expect camaraderie like that. I have attended every annual conference since and with no exceptions always walked away with the same inspired feeling. From my own perspective, I presented a paper at that 1992 conference on the ‘Solar Energy Information Centre’ in South Perth. The centre was a showroom filled with solar technologies and on hand expert advice. The conclusion about interaction with the public was that solar was badly wanted. At the time, people were seeing PV panels for the first time and some asked where the water pipes and tanks were, or why the galvanised iron was painted blue. Two decades have passed and a solar industry based on photovoltaics has emerged – a quantum leap from the odd kilowatt on some early adopter’s rooftops to a national tally of 350 megawatts as at June 30 this year and climbing. Without the dedication and talents of the members of this organisation, it is unlikely that we would have seen such success. Let’s celebrate that too. In the same time frame, I was invited to become editor of this magazine, a job I took on a little reluctantly at first, but it grew on me as have the friendships that grew from it. So it is with pleasure that I will attend Solar 2012 and expect to find the camaraderie once again. Never mind social media (that’s a misnomer if there ever was) just jump in the car or onto a plane and head for Swinburne at Hawthorn in Melbourne’s east. If you are coming by bike, even better.

Bill Parker

John Grimes Printed using FSC® mixed source certified fibre by Printgraphics Pty Ltd under ISO 14001 Environmental Certification.

2 | SPRING 2012

News and views

Victorian solar atlas In early October the Victorian Government released a map of solar energy resources across the state to help investors and developers make decisions about the best sites for solar projects. Time-series data measured at one minute intervals from three ground stations is covered, along with hourly solar and climatic data for five kilometre grid sections across Victoria. The Solar Atlas data is based on satellite measurements originally sourced from NASA, whose data was calibrated and fine-tuned based on information from the ground stations. The Victorian Solar Atlas is described as “a powerful tool” that will help attract solar investment and jobs and encourage the development of new renewable power sources to provide investors, developers, researchers and communities with up-to-date information about what amounts to some of the world’s best solar resource regions. The data will allow users to better predict the potential energy generation of all types of solar energy technology, including solar photovoltaic power stations, solar thermal power generation and solar hot water. For more information visit au/solaratlas

SunPower’s savvy investment In mid October SunPower Corp took a 42% stake in privately-owned, alternative energy project developer and clean electricity retailer Diamond Energy, in a partnership that will foster commercial and utility solar power. SunPower and Melbourne based Diamond Energy are poised to deliver affordable, renewable electricity services that cover everything from the generator to the household electricity meter. Diamond Energy Managing Director Tony Sennitt says the venture will result in the world's most efficient and reliable solar technology being provided to a broad range of households and businesses throughout Australia at affordable prices. For his part, Nigel Morris of Solar Business Services declared the development “Big news … a solar power company taking a stake in an electricity retailer to [help] set the goalposts.” 4 | SPRING 2012

Solar Systems site’s $10 million injection Big Solar has been making big news in Western Australia and in the ACT, but Victoria is also recording a series of impressive advances in the state’s warmer north west climes. The Victorian State Government recently pumped $10 million into the next stage of the Dense Array CPV Solar Systems project, which will see 2 megawatts of demonstration capacity, with an additional 1.5 MW facility being built at Mildura. This latest development is the precursor to the Stage Three 100 MW CPV Solar Power Station in Mildura. “This funding takes Solar Systems one step closer to its planned development of a large scale solar power plant in Mildura that could provide enough electricity to power more than 35,000 households and create high skill local jobs,” said State Energy and Resources Minister Michael O’Brien, whose Government has committed $50 million to the project.

Completed in mid, 2012 Stage One saw a 600 kilowatt capacity solar generating plant built at Bridgewater. The next stage will see a plant sporting 40 concentrating photovoltaic dishes. The unique advantages of this Solar Systems’ ‘Dense Array’ CPV solar conversion system technology includes the use of advanced ‘triple junction’ solar cells currently capable of operating at over 40% conversion efficiency – approximately double the efficiency of today’s best silicon-based cells. Also the use of active cooling maximises power output and lifetime performance from the solar cells. CEO of parent company Silex is Michael Goldsworthy who anticipates the development of additional large-scale solar power stations the USA and the Middle East; already a demonstration facility is under construction in Saudi Arabia. More information: and

Kangan TAFE launches solar training facility In early October Kangan TAFE in Broadmeadows proudly celebrated the launch of its solar training facility, and central to the development is the installation of four rooftop 1.5kW solar arrays. Equipped with a test mode function, the panels can be switched from grid connected to test and learning mode in the classroom. The workstations can be isolated individually, so when not in training they are feeding back to the grid with four position switch control isolating the power with effective automatic AC and DC isolation. Each panel is independently wired through some intelligent PLC controls into the classroom and set up with 24 test ports on 12 workstations all independently supplied at ELV levels “At the launch we were able to demonstrate some very powerful applications that provide real considerations for the quality installations of Solar PV,” said Tony Devlin of Smarter Green. The Kangan TAFE Solar Training facility will be delivering various interactive courses to electrical and solar installers through real-time measurement in any and all weather conditions.

News and views

Looking sunny in the US The US Solar Energy Industries Association reports positive news: the US solar industry recorded its second-best quarter in history and is expected to install as much solar power in 2012 as the ten years before 2010. The industry tally came in at 772 megawatts of solar electric capacity in the second quarter of 2012 which is a sizeable 125% increase on the same period last year. Dramatic cost reductions contribute to the rise in installations – with systems costing 70% of those installed last year, or US$32,400 for an average-sized rooftop PV system. The sunny southern states of California, Arizona and Colorado account for more than 70% of installations.

A first investment The first investment by the Southern Cross Renewable Energy Fund under the Australian Government’s Renewable Energy Venture Capital Fund is being used to boost advances in solar technology in a bid to significantly increase the efficiency of solar panels. An initial investment of $1.5 million, as part of a total $2.5 million commitment, has been pledged to Queensland based Brisbane Materials which plans to commercialise its high-performance anti-reflective coatings for more cost-effective, effective solar panels.

A quote that caught our attention “The Sun's energy isn't only cleaner and safer than gas, it is also 100 per cent free and that probably won't be changing any time soon.” Sarah Hanson-Young, SA Greens Senator (speaking at the press conference at the conclusion of the power walk from Port Augusta to Adelaide).

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Notable PV installations Townsville RSL In late August the Townsville RSL Stadium gained a solar makeover, with 1800 PV panels installed on the rooftops that collectively supply two-thirds of the stadium’s energy requirements. The $2 million clean energy “power station” generates around 1400 kilowatt hours a day which could otherwise meet the daily energy requirements of 75 homes. The solar system is described as the largest of its kind in North Queensland, and is part of the Townsville Solar City Program which to date has overseen more than 1 megawatt of solar PV installed in Townsville, cutting carbon pollution by 64,000 tonnes. Sun shines on Perth Zoo Meantime, the Solar city of Perth has flicked the solar switch on its zoo, which now boasts a 146.5 kW PV array atop a 100 metre long pergola. The system is described as Perth’s largest. All up installations across eight zoo buildings – including the conference centre, elephant barn and reptile house – will add about 91 kW and take capacity to 237 kW which will trim the zoo’s annual power bill by $100,000. Bunbury’s South West Sports facility goes solar Still over in the west, the largest evacuated tube solar heating system in the southern hemisphere was officially opened in mid September at Bunbury’s Sports Facility. The Royalties for Regions funded project consists of 240 solar units, the equivalent of 7200 tubes, which have been installed on the roof to heat the indoor pool's 2700 cubic metres of water, with the evacuated glass tubes generating about 550KW of energy per hour once installed. The circular design means the tubes can harness the sun’s energy throughout the day. The tubes convert solar energy as well as UV light, enabling panels to be in use during overcast days. The evacuated tubes are said to be up to 80 per cent more efficient than flat plate solar collectors which are more commonly used in Australia. The Royalties for Regions funded project has already been shown to reduce pool water heating (gas) costs by 34% over the winter months, and based on performance figures system installer Supreme Heating expects the cost of the project to be recouped in just six years.

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Special feature

Financing Big Solar – overcoming the barriers

In this, the first of a two part series, Steve Blume who is ASC President examines the ways in which the growing solar industry can overcome the financing issues it faces. Australian businesses in new industries have always struggled to obtain finance – and getting finance for a solar project is no different. At one level the challenges faced by proponents of large scale solar generation are identical to any business – they must be able to show an investor a sufficiently robust business plan that would bring the investor on board. This is so for any proposal to generate electricity whether it proposes using coal or gas as fuels, or plans on using wind, solar or some other renewable resource as the input. But large solar generation proponents, whether PV or CSP technologies, confront greater barriers than their fossil fuel competitors.

Why is it so? Solar generation at utility scale is new. Worldwide the growth has been staggering, but commercially operating plants, with a few ‘demonstration plant’ exceptions, have been commissioned only in the past five years. PV technology has been ‘proved’ to those of us in the industry who are aware of the long trackrecord of R&D success, the huge volumes of commercial arrays on rooftops and on-ground in the last 10 and more years and the quality of engineering which has allowed the rapid deployment of the past three to five years. Investors need more. A utility scale power plant, regardless of fuel type, requires large capital investment, typical periods of 20-25 years and an economic life of around 30-40 years. Those numbers indicate significant risk to investors – when greater risk is apparent because the technology has no long–term operational history then two things happen, 8 | SPRING 2012

either a premium is charged for the capital, or the capital is directed to a ‘safer’ alternative. The former creates a higher bar for proponents in developing their business model, the latter, in this case, means the capital moves to gas or wind generation. So what can big solar proponents do to countering this capex barrier? For new industries, all fossil fuels for example, governments around the world have provided great support during start up phases. A recent US report by Nancy Pfund and Ben Healey found that as a percentage of inflationadjusted federal spending, (a) nuclear subsidies accounted for more than 1% of the federal budget over their first 15 years, (b) oil and gas subsidies made up half a percent of the total budget (0.5%), and (c) renewables have constituted only about a tenth of one per cent ie 0.1%. That is to say, the federal commitment to oil and gas was five times greater than the federal commitment to renewables during the first 15 years of each subsidies life, and it was more than 10 times greater for nuclear. The pattern in Australia is not much different and here, as in all countries, there is massive continued support for the mature fossil fuel industry – the world’s most profitable. So there is a solid argument for government support of solar and other renewables. The Australian Solar Council has been advocating for retention of the Renewable Energy Target, but has also been fighting for increased support through Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC). There are other ways for big solar proponents to improve their chances of getting finance

in Australia. One option is to partner with others who already are participants in the National Electricity Market (NEM) and to offer a value-add component to an existing fossil fuel generator. This is the model used in the Kogan Creek Solar Boost project on the Darling Downs in Queensland. Another path was recently taken by SunPower Corp’s investment in Diamond Energy – this is a move to vertical integration with an existing utility already well established in the NEM, and mimics the vertical integration of the ‘big three’ utilities. One world-leading PV manufacturer has partnered with one of the big three so gaining access to the finance resources to back its push into the large scale market – this has had some success.

Nation’s capital moves forward with reverse auction The financing model being used by the ACT Government offers some lessons for deployment of big solar – initially PV, but this could support any renewable technology. The ACT’s ‘reverse auction’ process creates the circumstances for proponents to develop a business plan for investors with ‘bankability’. The basis of the ‘deed’ offered to a successful bidder is an effective ‘contract for difference’ which allows proponents to build a financial model offering a secure return to debt or equity participants for the 20 year finance period on a project with a likely economic operating life of at least 25 to 30 years. This protects taxpayers too, as payments are capped to a maximum, can vary down to zero, but not above the maximum, and in any case are only made for power produced and sent to the grid. The Deed for

One simple disruption that could work

Opposite: Greenough River solar farm, south east of Geraldton WA has 150,000 panels. Right: Aerial view of the 10 MW Greenough River Solar Farm the first 20 MW plant was won by FRV Royalla Solar Farm Pty Limited which will build a facility at Royalla in the South of the ACT. A further 20 MW will be awarded in 2013 with further tranches to follow.

The regulatory and commercial environment The biggest barrier to large scale solar financing in Australia remains the current regulatory and commercial environment which has a small number of players all of whom are following the Paul Keating maxim quoting Jack Lang: ''In the race of life, always back self-interest - at least you know it's trying''. The existing players in a mature industry are doing what all incumbents do when seeing a business threat – fighting the intruders. In this case, as in all such contests where disruptive innovations challenge the status quo, they will lose, but many new entrants offering a renewable alternative will fail in the meantime. Big solar is coming here: it is already wellestablished in the EU and still expanding; it is

growing apace in the USA; India and South Africa are booming; and China is simply way out ahead of the pack. Australia, with among the best solar resources in the world, is playing catch-up. The finance models already exist to take us to the front, and with ARENA and the CEFC the Australian Government has established the tools to realise the potential. The Australian Solar Council will continue to push for strong R&D for the solar industry, but most critically we argue for rapid deployment of the full range of solar technologies we have seen successfully deployed overseas. The reasons are fundamental – the need to move rapidly to a low carbon economy by reduction of greenhouse gas emissions of which Australia is the consistent per capita leader. A further critical reason to deploy solar at utility scale and on rooftops, is that it costs less to act sooner than later and the evidence is clear that even during the GFC, clean technologies were net job creators.

There is one disruption our energy markets that could transform the whole industry, not just the electricity market. It requires no more than a simple “business 101 change” to how we deal in energy. Worldwide companies make a profit by selling the raw products that none of us need or use those products to create energy sources: coal and gas to electricity and oil to petrol, and so on. What if those products were made inputs to the services we actually use – to heat our homes and our hot water, run our cars and other machinery? The answer to that forms the basis of my article in an upcoming issue of Solar Progress. Further information solar_auction innovation

Solar advances

The birth of

Big Solar

in Australia The launch of Australia’s first large-scale solar project attracted the attention it deserved. Solar Progress editor Bill Parker was among several who made the nine hour round trip by car from Perth to Geraldton to hail the event. Wednesday October 10 marked a significant day in solar PV installations in Australia With an audience of some eighty guests, The Hon Peter Collier, WA’s Energy Minister energy officially cut the ribbon on the Greenough River Solar Farm, a 10 MW first stage of what is expected to be 40 MW when complete. The solar farm owned equally by Verve Energy and GE Finance was built by First Solar with investment from the WA state government, GE Energy Financial Services. First Solar will run and maintain the farm. “As the largest photovoltaic solar plant in operation in Australia, the Greenough River Solar Farm demonstrates that renewable technologies can contribute to meeting Australia’s future energy needs on a sustainable, cost-competitive basis. This is a positive first step in validating the bright future that largescale solar represents in Australia,” said Jason Waters who is CEO of Verve Energy. “With this landmark project now complete, partners Verve Energy and GE Energy Financial Services are now evaluating the possibility of expanding the plant to up to 40-megawatts to satisfy growing demand for renewable energy.” The 10-megawatt plant's output will be purchased by the WA Water Corporation to help offset the energy requirements of its Southern Seawater Desalination Plant at Binningup south of Perth.

10 | SPRING 2012

This project marks GE Energy Financial Services’ first renewable energy investment in Australia, adding to the company’s global portfolio of more than US$8 billion committed worldwide for projects generating power from wind, solar, hydro, biomass, geothermal and other renewable sources. “GE is one of the world’s largest renewable energy investors and the Greenough River Solar Farm is just one example of the significant projects we can help turn into reality,” said Matt O’Connor, Managing Director at GE Energy Financial Services. “We see incredible investment opportunities in Australia and look forward to expanding on this successful project and applying our expertise to help the country’s renewable energy market grow.” In addition to supplying over 150,000 of its advanced thin film PV modules and

engineering, procurement and construction services for the plant, First Solar will provide operations and maintenance services for the next 15 years. “First Solar is helping make large-scale solar power a reality in Australia,” said Mark Widmar, First Solar’s Chief Financial Officer. “This landmark project provides a strong foundation for the long-term adoption of large-scale solar projects in the Australian power market. We are delighted to have partnered with local suppliers and contractors to deliver this project and to lead the development of a large-scale solar industry in Australia.” Western Australian state-owned power utility, Verve Energy, and GE Energy Financial Services each own 50 per cent of the Greenough River Solar Farm, with the WA Government having provided A$20 million in funding, including A$10 million from the WA Royalties for Regions program. No debt was raised to fund the project. Although there are plans for a further 40 MW at the Greenough River site, the actual construction will depend on a power purchasing agreement, as well as possible State government finance, and the WA Premier Colin Barnett is not supporting the LRET. Balance of system costs will drop but world–wide experience indicates that government support in one way or another is required.

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Special feature

Exergy and the city Do Auckland’s roof tops have the potential to displace the need for oil based transport with PV? Two researchers at Auckland University think this is possible and take the argument further into expanding the normal paradigms of town planning in the future. Hugh Byrd and Anna Ho review the solar potential of the city and its implications on urban policy. Exergy is synonymous with the availability of energy and, in the context of this research, is the availability of energy generated by photovoltaics (PVs) mounted on roofs across a city. The research was carried out on Auckland city with the aim of answering the questions: 1) How much energy could be produced if a city fully used its rooftops in a practical and efficient manner? 2) If any excess energy is produced, how could this best be used? and 3) What implications will this have on the shape of cities? The purpose of looking at the full potential is that it provides a starting point from which to predict the impact of PVs as they increase penetration into the building stock. The study took a large sample – namely three million square metres of floor area – of various types and uses of buildings from high rise city centre developments through to low density suburbs and everything in between. Figure 1 illustrates the sample that was analysed, and from which the performance of the entire city was extrapolated.

Figure 1 Three million square metres of roof area sampled for study The first stage of the research was to establish the amount of energy available. This involved an analysis of rooftops in order to filter out the optimum orientation and tilts for solar collection. Figure 2 illustrates a solar protractor for Auckland that measures the percentage efficiency based on tilt and orientation. For the purposes of this study, only roofs within 95% of the optimum angle were selected.

12 | SPRING 2012

Figure 2 The Auckland solar protractor High rise buildings performed worse with little available roof area, and vertical surfaces that are relatively inefficient. The roofs are cluttered already and PVs on vertical surfaces can reduce daylight; a more valuable form of solar energy for commercial buildings. Industrial buildings tend to have the most appropriate roof forms but the overall area of these in the city is much smaller than suburban roofs which, although more complex in shape, offer the largest potential surface area. Figure 3 illustrates a simplified version of the analysis which shows (in green) the potential energy available from rooftops across the whole city. The ‘detached dwellings’ category, which is predominantly suburbia, is the largest collector of energy. The ‘attached dwellings’ category, generally compact and higher density housing, is disappointingly low due to the smaller roof areas, and also due to the assumption in the study that households would choose to install solar water heating prior to PVs. (In Auckland, solar water heating offers greater energy savings as around one quarter of energy used in a typical household goes toward heating water.)

Figure 3 The potential energy and energy demand across Auckland’s buildings

Having established the city’s power generation potential, this can then be compared with energy demand of buildings. From data relating to energy demand of different building types and uses, a profile of both daytime and night-time electricity use was established. This is illustrated in figure 3 with the brown bars measuring daytime electricity use and the blue, night-time use. The interesting revelation of this chart is that the excess electricity generated by suburbia is almost the same as the electricity demand, during the daytime, of the rest of the city. In theory, suburbia could power the city. Figure 3 is effectively a ‘net-metering’ chart and can be used to map net metering spatially across a city. This is demonstrated in figure 4 where the orange areas of the city indicate equal supply to demand (zero net energy), the blue areas have a net demand and the yellow areas have a net supply. Not surprisingly, yellow is suburbia and all the compact development is in various shades of blue with little contribution of energy to the city.

Figure 4 The energy regions of Auckland (net zero – orange) Having established the spatial distribution of energy generation by PVs and the magnitude of the supply, the next question is how to best use the surplus generated in the suburbs. New Zealand does not have a subsided feed-in tariff (FiT) and internationally they are likely to be phased out. Therefore, this study did not take account of FiTs. In many cities the logical step would be to use excess electricity by feeding in to the grid and thereby reducing electricity demand from conventional sources. This would also have the benefit of reducing the quantity of greenhouse gases produced by conventional electricity generation.

78% is for recreation, shopping, social visits, education and other activities that frequently occur outside peak PV generating times. Cars could be left at home during the day provided there were reasonable alternatives for travel to work. Energy use for travel was then related to the net density of housing which, in turn, is related to the distance from the city centre. Figure 5 shows the relationship between travel energy and city density. The green curve was produced by Newman and Kenworthy in their comparison of travel energy and different density (gross density) cities. The blue curve is Auckland’s relationship between travel and net density using internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEVs). The red curve illustrates travel energy in Auckland based on a grid charged EV fleet (noting EVs are approximately four times more efficient than ICEVs). However, if EVs were charged by PVs, surplus energy is still available after all travel is accounted for. Hence the orange curve becomes negative.

Figure 5 The relationship between travel energy and density

Technical synergies

Displacing transport fuel with PV?

Clearly the combined actions of PVs, EVs and smart meters could reduce New Zealand’s dependence on oil. Furthermore, in the case of Auckland, a compact city is not necessarily energy efficient or low carbon. Finally, policy decisions on urban form should be based on the technologies of the future and not those of the past or present.

In New Zealand, about 75% of electricity is generated from renewable sources such as hydropower, geothermal and wind. Most carbon in the city is produced from the internal combustion engine. Auckland is a car dependent city and with almost half of the country’s total energy use being oil for transport, displacing the use of oil would be a preferable option for PV generated electricity. The next stage of the study was to investigate the energy required for transportation within the city and evaluate the contribution that could be made by electric vehicles (EVs) charged by PVs. Extensive data on travel patterns in Auckland was analysed. Interestingly, in Auckland, the commute to work comprises just 22% of a vehicle driver’s average travel in major urban areas. The remaining

Co-authors Hugh Byrd has recently been appointed Professor of Architecture at the University of Lincoln, UK, following three years at the University of Auckland where he coordinated the ‘Solar potential of Auckland’ project. Anna Ho completed her architectural degree at Victoria University, Wellington and after working in the profession for a few years returned to the University of Auckland to complete a Masters in Sustainable Design. The authors acknowledge the support of Professor Harvey Perkins and Charlotte Sunde and are grateful to The University of Auckland which funded this study through the ‘Transforming Cities’ thematic research initiative.

The Solar Centre of Australia Desert Knowledge Australia: Bringing credible solar data to the world – downloadable and free of charge. Lyndon Frearson provides the background. On October 1 this year, Australia’s pre-eminent solar test and demonstration facility, the Desert Knowledge Australia Solar Centre celebrated its fourth birthday. The Solar Centre is located in Alice Springs at the Desert Knowledge Precinct, a 73 hectare site that it shares with Desert Knowledge Australia, the CRC for Remote Economic Participation, CSIRO, the Centre for Appropriate Technology and the Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education. With funding provided by the Australian Federal Government, the Solar Centre opened in 2008 with 16 different solar installations, live and online, for people around the world to analyse and assess. The site included some critical firsts, including the first use of Deger Energie Trackers, the first public installation of Trina Panels, and the first use of First Solar panels in Australia. Since that time, the industry has rapidly and substantially changed and so too has the Solar Centre. Over the last four years the Solar Centre has grown from 16 installations to 33, with four more being commissioned over the coming weeks and another eight due for completion in early 2013. This will bring the overall size of the Solar Centre to over 220kWp, a large system in its own right.

A unique website It is not just the size or number of the installations that matter though; one of the unique aspects of the Solar Centre is its website, where all the data is available for viewing in real time as well for download, free of charge. It is the availability, and credibility, of the data that makes the Solar Centre so important to the Australian PV industry. The database is one of the largest publicly available sources of

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information of PV system performance both in breadth – number of technologies and variables collected, depth – the data points are all based on one second samples, with five minute averages sourced from calibrated class 0.5 metres, and length – the oldest system is now four years old and there is a commitment to keep the database operational for at least 15 years. There is also a separate data stream collecting instantaneous power, voltage, temperature and radiation at one second intervals for high resolution analysis. The extent to which the data is valued can be understood by looking at how much it is used: • There are around 20,000 people accessing the live data each month; • There are over 4000 academics, researchers, engineers, investment bankers, venture capitalists, utility staff and policy makers whom have registered to access the detailed historical data; • There are around 300 significant downloads (greater than 10,000 records) of data each month; • The data is being used by people from more than 80 countries In an example of how the data can be used, CSIRO has just released a nationally significant report on the impact of intermittency from PV systems on large grids – their conclusions, although surprising to many of the old guard in the electricity industry, reinforces the view of many of us, that PV can contribute a very large amount of energy to our energy supplies, notwithstanding the intermittency. Importantly, a lot of the data for the project was derived from the Solar Centre in collaboration with CSIRO. The facility has also been recognised with a number of awards, including an Engineering Excellence award for Research and Innovation.

Expanding collaborative research The future of the Solar Centre is no less exciting: over the coming three years a number of related research activities and project will be commencing at the Solar Centre with the support of the Australian Solar Institute. In a partnership between CAT Projects, Power and Water Corporation and DKASC, an array of weather stations across the Alice Springs Region will be installed with a view to building advanced predictive control models for integrating high penetration solar PV into constrained networks; CAT Projects, the DKASC and other national and international partners will be undertaking detailed assessments of the relative merits and reliability of spectral characterisation of PV system performance. This will involve test facilities in Alice Springs, Newcastle and Colorado being linked in order to build a detailed understanding of Cell, Module and System level performance characterisation with respect to spectral influences. These projects will result in new monitoring hardward being installed at the Solar Centre, including Spectral Radiometers, new Pyronometers installed on the plane of the array and on trackers as well as panel mounted temperature probes. The Desert Knowledge Australia Solar Centre is a joint initiative of Desert Knowledge Australia and CAT Projects. See www.dkasolarcentre.

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Solar advances

Image courtesy of IT Power

Island in the sun

Tokelau may be a tiny dot in the middle of the Pacific Ocean but it is making a big splash in solar power, courtesy of a $7.5 million project being implemented by Powersmart Solar in partnership with IT Power.

Fancy a two-day 500 km cruise departing north from Samoa in the sunny South Pacific? It’s a nautical path well trodden – er, sailed – by staff involved in Tokelau’s transition to solar power. The project, which is nearing completion, came to fruition with the aid of the New Zealand government, the brains of IT Power and the muscle of New Zealand-based solar integrator Powersmart Solar. And so it was that in July 2012 the atoll named Fakaofo first flicked the switch on its solar plant. Nearby and nearing completion is a standalone 1152 x 230 Watt solar panels (265 kW) power system on Nukunonu Atoll and completing the solar equation is the installation on Atafu Atoll, which will take total capacity to almost 1 MW. Thus Tokelau which is but a tiny dot on the globe will soon boast one of the world’s largest standalone power system, meeting almost 100% of the nation’s power needs. The plan is for the balance to be derived from coconut oil. Tokelau elder Foua Toloa proudly reported "Probably by the end of the year we will be the first country in the world to meet our needs from renewable energy.” Given the island’s limited infrastructure, the logistics of shipping materials for the PV plants presented a challenge. “There are no wharves so unloading shipments of solar panels and building materials was something of a feat,” said IT Power Managing Director Simon Troman, adding the project was financed through a grant provided by New Zealand Aid. Speaking at the East Solar conference, Troman listed the benefits arising from the solar plant, including the provision of a reliable power supply, with predictable electricity pricing no longer subject to changes in the

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international oil price. These benefits lead to economic growth for the people of Tokelau. Further benefits of the project include environmental outcomes, such as far less diesel being imported in 200 litre drums, and the associated waste. He also revealed that a popular after-hours activity for staff involved in the Pacific island project is snorkelling among the three colourful coral reefs. Unfortunate it is that nearby on the seas floor lies an ugly series of empty, rusting diesel drums, a relic of the island’s erstwhile power source.

Aussie expertise As Australian Solar Council CEO John Grimes pointed out, much of the solar technology used in projects around the globe was invented in Australia and “With a small investment we [Australians] can make a disproportionate impact both on the industry and the lives of the people in the Asia Pacific region.” Indeed.

Tonga too takes to solar Tonga has also turned its eyes to the sun. In mid 2012 King George Tupou VI unveiled a 1 MW solar facility called Ma'ama Mai or ‘Let there be Light’. IT Power was not involved in this project, whose 6000 solar panels will generate 4% of electricity used on the main island, saving the country at least $NZ15 million in diesel over the 25 year life of the PV plant. (The island nation was consuming 13 to 15 million litres of diesel a year, or one litre every two seconds.) For more information: Editor’s note: We hope to bring you more details on Tokelau’s landmark development in the next issue of Solar Progress.

Did you know? The history of the tiny island – whose three atolls occupy less than 11 square kilometres and hover just two metres above sea level – dates back 1000 years. The Polynesian word Tokelau translates as ‘North Wind’. Tokelau is a territory of New Zealand with a population of around 1400 and Queen Elizabeth II as head of state. The government – whose annual revenues clock in at less than US$500,000 against expenditures of US$2.8 million – relies on subsidies from New Zealand. Tokelauans are currently drafting a constitution in preparation for selfgovernment.Brian and Pam’s son James and his partner Kirsty also installed a solar PV system at their property on the outskirts of Colac.

Time lines 1765: Commodore John Byron discovered Atafu and named it Duke of York's Island. 1863: A dark year for islanders, with 253 men kidnapped by Peruvian slave traders. In 1877 the islands were included under the protection of the UK. In 1920 Tokelauans were recognised as British subjects.

1926: The island nation’s administration transferred to New Zealand and its British subjects gained New Zealand citizenship. 30 December 2011: A day wiped out as Tokelau shifted time zones by hopping across the International Date Line at midnight on 29 December to more closely align with New Zealand and Samoan clocks.

Solar Progress Spring 2012 - Sample  

The Official Journal of the Australian Solar Council

Solar Progress Spring 2012 - Sample  

The Official Journal of the Australian Solar Council