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10/11 Spring

CSP sets the pace Molten salt in power towers for 24/7 electricity California’s 400MW landmark development Alice Springs – ahead in solar

ISSN: 0729-6436

The Official Journal of the Australian Solar Energy Society

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John Grimes

Bill Parker Our first issue of the re-born Solar Progress was well received and we look forward to any feedback you may have about this edition. Our focus in this edition is on ‘big solar’ – said by some to be the suite of technologies that will change the energy supply landscape. There is no doubt that these plants change the physical landscape because of their size and remarkable appearance from the air. We have been fortunate to attract some comprehensive reportage and overviews of developments both in Australia and the USA. Not least we have the definitive answer to that perennial question about solar energy – ‘what happens after sunset’. Can there be doubt any longer that our electricity generation, steam supply for industry and chemical conversions are made possible by solar energy and taking their place on the industrial landscape? We are reminded by one of the world’s recognised leaders in the field of big thermal plant research and development – Wes Stein – that Australia needs to defend its competitive edge. AuSES was founded around a core of solar thermal specialists, and their legacy is present today. The challenge for us is to sell the story so consistently and persistently. From that, government has to play its role and we are not there yet. The major difference between Australia and the USA is the funding model. For many years now, projects in the US have been eligible for Loan Guarantees and it is these that have made large projects like Ivanpah a reality. Australia has yet to see the benefits of this sort of legislation. Solar 2011 is just around the corner and is shaping up to be a ‘do not miss’ conference. Our annual gathering is now in its 49th year and this year’s event is being held at the Australian Technology Park just south of the Sydney CBD. Difficult though it might be to visualise what the conference was like in 1962, one thing is for sure, Solar 2011 will be the place to get the full spectrum of solar energy endeavours from basic research to product installation, and more – it is always a friendly gathering of delegates. We look forward to seeing you there.

SOLAR POISED FOR GREATNESS The solar industry is today in a ‘solar recession’, but my prediction is that this is not going to be the case for long. That’s because the economics of power supply will be pivotal in shaping community behaviour. Let’s take a closer look at the bigger picture. Over the past two years 418,000 homes have had solar PV installed, providing a combined capacity of over 1.1GW of new solar generation. This is the real meaning of ‘people power’, people taking their own power needs into their own hands. While in isolation a 2kW solar installation is not world-changing, enough small systems combined can literally change the way we make and use power. In two short years the people of Australia have together built the ‘People’s Power Plant’, the most significant investment in electricity generation nationally for the past 30 years. Importantly it has been a private investment into a resource that provides a community benefit. This unprecedented demand for solar has led to employment, economic growth and economies of scale previously unattainable in the solar supply chain. Combined with a strong dollar and international factors, solar is more affordable today than it has ever been in its history. At the same time we are seeing an inexorable rise in electricity prices. While short term politics have brought electricity prices into sharp focus, the reality is that increased costs are unavoidable. The grid is reaching ‘block obsolesce’, and no amount of political posturing is going to upgrade poles and wires. Taken together this all means the trend towards solar is here to stay. How fast, and how significant the swing to solar is going to be is largely up to us. Now is the time for all of us to be talking about the economic benefits of solar (personally and to the community). Solar has taken its first big steps. Now let’s make sure it keeps putting one foot in front of the other.

John Grimes AuSES CEO

Cover Image: CSIRO’s new solar Brayton Cycle project at Newcastle – a solar tower and field that

Bill Parker

generates electricity from just the air and sun. The heliostats have a lightweight steel frame with a unique, simple design, specially created for mass


production for the commercial market. The units are smaller than many heliostats currently being used around the world, but just as efficient, more cost effective and much easier to install.

2 | SPRING 2011



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Solar society

Special features

Industry comment

Welcome: Solar Progress Editor Bill Parker and AuSES CEO John Grimes ...2 Solar 2011 Conference ...20 AuSES State Branch reports ...26

Big scale delivery: Ivanpah’s mighty 400MW plant takes shape ...8 CSP in all its forms By Wes Stein of CSIRO Newcastle ...12 No town like Alice A Solar City forging a powerful presence ...30 Spanish trailblazers: Molten salt in power towers for 24/7 electricity ...40

Surviving solar-itis: Nigel Morris reflects on community driven changes ...18 Looking toward a powerful solar future Ric Brazzale and John Susa ...24 To be or not to be solar. Debate rages over architectural sustainability ...36

Technical talk Earthing PV Module Frames by Glen Morris PV connectors: beware of counterfeits

...38 ...44

News Carbon tax and the developing world of solar energy


Resources & links AuSES corporate membership list Solar associations Key solar events

...46 ...46 ...47

Printed using FSCÂŽ mixed source certified fibre by Printgraphics Pty Ltd under ISO 14001 Environmental Certification.

Making news

Paying the price for carbon

SOLAR PROGRESS Published by CommStrat for Australian Solar Energy Society Ltd. EDITOR Dr Bill Parker, AuSES Phone: 0403 583 676 CONTRIBUTORS: Garry Baverstock, Andrew Dyer, Sasha Ivanovich, Glen Morris, Nigel Morris and Wes Stein CONTRIBUTING EDITOR Nicola Card MANAGING EDITOR Simon Sharwood NATIONAL SALES MANAGER Brian Rault Phone: 03 8534 5014 GENERAL MANAGER COMMSTRAT ASSOCIATION SERVICES Simon Davis PRODUCTION MANAGER Russell Montgomery CREATIVE DIRECTOR Tim Hartridge GRAPHIC DESIGNER Monica Lawrie COMMSTRAT MELBOURNE Level 8, 574 St Kilda Rd MELBOURNE Vic 3004 Phone: 03 8534 5000 COMMSTRAT SYDNEY Level 12, 99 Walker St NORTH SYDNEY NSW 2060 Phone: 02 8923 8000

Milestones on the recent political agenda: Introduction of GST (July 2000); We say sorry to the Stolen Generations (February 2008); Replacement of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd (June 2010). And now … the imminent introduction of a carbon pricing scheme. November 2011 could well mark Australia’s next significant political event. Wednesday October 12 was the day the nation advanced a step closer to D day for clean energy, albeit by the narrowest of margins. Stating “Australia has a responsibility to respect the science of climate change and to respond with an environmentally effective, economically efficient and socially equitable policy” Climate Change Minister Greg Combet describes the 19 bills comprising the Clean Energy legislation and the Steel Transformation Plan Bill as one of the most important environmental and economic reforms in the nation’s history. He anticipates this will encourage further investment in clean energy and low emissions technologies. Set to cover about 60% of Australia’s emissions, the scheme will be the most broadbased in the world, with about 500 of the

biggest carbon-emitting companies paying a price per tonne of carbon. By the time the ink has dried on this page, it is expected the Senate will have passed the legislation. “Just a formality compared to the Lower House,” said Nigel Morris of Solar Business Services who was one of thousands at the All-Energy Conference in Melbourne where word spread quickly of the Government vote 74 to 72 in favour of reform. In the words of Clean Economy Services Director Wayne Smith: “This is a very historic day for the renewable energy industry. A step forward to a clean energy future.” Indeed, the word ‘historic’ was heard repeatedly throughout the day. And the next. AuSES was swift to issue a statement welcoming the package, with John Grimes declaring the Society “supports actions which foster the generation of renewable energy [and this] will help Australia transition to a sustainable, low carbon economy.” More from Nigel Morris who forecasts a mood swing of a positive kind, believing “A carbon tax will change the solar industry substantially as consumer sentiment will shift toward clean energy.”

Power and water

AUSTRALIAN SOLAR ENERGY SOCIETY LTD CEO John Grimes PO Box 148, Frenchs Forest NSW 1640 ABN 32 006 824 148 The Australian Solar Energy Society is a not– for–profit association that was founded in 1954. It is the Australian branch of the International Solar Energy Society (ISES) based in Freiburg, Germany 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. While every effort is made to check the authenticity and accuracy of articles, neither AuSES nor the editors are responsible for any inaccuracy. Solar Progress is published in July, October, January and April.

4 | SPRING 2011

In late August news broke of Australia’s first larger-than-large solar power project. To be known as the Greenough River Solar Farm, the utility-scale venture will spread over 80 hectares south of Geraldton, WA and be up and running by mid 2012. Producing 10 Megawatts it will eclipse the output of like plants in Australia tenfold, displacing 25,000 tonnes annually of greenhouse gas emissions. Or in old currency: remove the equivalent of 5000 cars from the roads. The solar farm venture involves three parties with First Solar providing 150,000 advanced thin film PV modules plus engineering services, and WA government’s Verve Energy and GE Energy

Financial Services each owning 50% of the farm. Significantly, this is GE Energy’s first foray into Australia’s renewable energy sector. To gain an idea of the appearance of the Greenough River Solar Farm, Solar Progress was supplied with an image (above) of a similar – and we have to add impressively large – solar facility developed in New Mexico. Australia’s solar radiation resource is certainly equivalent. The entire output of the farm will be used to power the Southern Seawater Desalination Plant at Binningup further down the WA coast. The WA Water Corporation says the desal plant will provide close to 50 gigalitres of potable water annually.

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Making news

Yippee for YEPOON

Solar Electricity CONSUMER GUIDE Review by Bill Parker

From left: MP Paul Hoolihan, Viv McLaughlin (secretary), Rhodes Watson of Watt Else, Queensland Energy Minister Stephen Robertson and home owners Liz and Jim Goodsell.

Yeppoon resident and Watt Else co-founder Rhodes Watson has brought the cost of solar power systems within reach of more homeowners through a bulk buying PV program. Watson launched the project back in 2009 and two years later launched Watt Else. Two community groups jumped on the bandwagon: the CapCoast Solar Bulk Buying Group and the Envirolink Bulk Buying Group. With 260 rooftops now putting energy from the sun into the Queensland power grid and another 100 awaiting installation, Watt Else is hoping to spread the solar bulk buying idea throughout the state and across the nation. “Even with reduced Federal Government subsidies the effect of bulk buying makes our prices much lower than the individual solar power systems currently available,” says Watson.

Power in numbers Applicants are asked how much power they use and are presented with suggestion of how usage can be cut, then Watson sources the appropriate sized solar system at an affordable price for individuals which in turn helps reduce 6 | SPRING 2011

– or best case eliminate – their power bill. Watson and Watt Else co-founder Martin Carlin have been supported through a Social Enterprise Fellowship from RMIT SEEDS – a program that helps students develop sustainable social enterprises. Martin Carlin told Solar Progress that in recent weeks “Lots of expressions of interest in PV systems have been received from the community and now that we have a critical mass on a waiting list we’ll scale up on suppliers. “Initially we had just one PV supplier, Con Energy, that was sourced through SolarEquip. The dollar was not as strong then as it is now and prices are down, so we have a tender out this time.” He added that Watt Else anticipates supplying everyone in this, their third group, before Christmas. The home-grown solar success story supported by RMIT University sparked the interest of Queensland Energy Minister Stephen Robertson who in September inspected the 1.5kW system installed by the CapCoast Solar Bulk Buying Group.

When you buy an expensive item for the household the purchase is usually made after consulting friends, neighbours, the Consumer’s Association website or Choice magazine and more. Over years of a product’s presence in the market, reputations are earned and gradually we become aware of what to look for what to avoid and what things cost. We can easily get the information we need. With PV systems, we are in the early phase of a new industry and there is little information generally available, even in the most obvious places. Not anymore. Which Energy’s Solar Electricity Consumer Guide is about as complete a source as anyone could wish for. The guide was written by an expert – Trevor Berrill – who has been involved in the development of PV and spent decades training installers, as an advisor to government, and living a low-energy life. The Solar Electricity Consumer Guide is eighty-six pages of plain language about PV systems, what they do, what they do not do and how they work and much more. Everything I could think of asking is answered. When you invest in PV, you will be making a large investment. As an early pioneer with roof top PV I wish I had read this guide before I signed the cheque. Here is the starting point; get yourself a copy of this guide and be better informed. Just visit When you make your purchase, 25% of the profits go to the AuSES Renewable Energy promotion Fund.

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Big solar


on solar energy’s promise BrightSource Energy Director Andrew Dyer takes us on a virtual tour of the world’s largest solar plant that will transform the desert landscape described by Arnold Schwarzenegger as ‘miles of gold mine’. Sort of apposite, given Ivanpah’s origins as a silver mine. 8 | SPRING 2011

Deep in California’s sun-drenched Mojave Desert, more than 700 workers are constructing the world’s largest solar plant. Called the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS), the 392 megawatt project is setting the bar for utility-scale solar power plants and is offering an example of how thoughtful policy coupled with world-class technology can deliver significant environmental and economic benefits to local communities, while providing clean, cost-effective and reliable power to global consumers of electricity. The project, located on 3600 acres of land managed by the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) includes three distinct power plants that will all come online by the end of 2013. When completed, the project will provide enough electricity to power 140,000 homes and will nearly double the total amount of solar thermal energy produced in the U.S. today. Construction on Ivanpah began in October 2010, following a star-studded groundbreaking ceremony, which included California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and US Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, among many other business, community and policy leaders. During the ceremony, the then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said, “Some people look out into the desert and see miles and miles of emptiness. I see miles and miles of gold mine.” The project, now approximately 15 percent complete, is being built by a consortium of world-class partners. BrightSource Energy, a leading global solar thermal technology company based in Oakland, California served as the project developer and technology provider.

From concept to fruition BrightSource’s LPT solar thermal technology produces electricity the same way as traditional power plants – by creating high temperature steam to turn a turbine. However, instead of using fossil fuels or nuclear power to create the steam, BrightSource uses proprietary software to control thousands of mirrors to reflect sunlight onto a boiler filled with water that sits atop a tower. When the sunlight hits the boiler, the water inside is heated and creates high temperature and pressure steam. The steam is then piped to a conventional turbine which generates electricity. The ability to reach high temperature and pressure steam levels allows for higher efficiencies and lower costs than competing solar technologies. BrightSource’s LPT technology can also be coupled with a molten-salt based storage solution or be hybridised with a fossil fuel, extending the solar day to critical peak generating hours while offering the same reliability characteristics found in conventional power plants.

The extension of power production also improves asset utilisation, translating to reductions in the overall cost of electricity. In addition to providing cost-effective and reliable power, BrightSource’s technology is setting the bar in terms of protecting the environment. The Ivanpah project will avoid nearly 13 million tons of CO2 over its 30-year plant life. It also employs a low-impact design, which reduces the need for significant grading and concrete pads found in competing technologies. By placing poles directly into the ground, the technology avoids areas of sensitive habitat while allowing for vegetation to co-exist within the solar field. The technology also uses a closed-loop dry-cooling system, which significantly reduces water use – an essential approach in desert environments around the world. At Ivanpah, the use of dry-cooling instead of wetcooling means that the project is using 90 percent less water than competing technologies with wet cooling. And while the company believes that this is the right thing to do for the environment, it’s also a competitive advantage. The LPT’s ability to produce high temperature steam allows for more efficient and cost-effective use of dry-cooling than competing solar thermal technologies.

“What is needed in Australia are predictable policies that provide developers, technology providers and investors alike with the certainty to plan and invest in utility-scale solar projects that require significant capital and lengthy development horizons.”

Job creation, construction and consortiums The Ivanpah project is also benefitting California’s local economy. The project already has hired nearly 700 workers ranging from craft labor to engineers. At the height of construction, more than 1400 men and women will be working on the Ivanpah project. The project will also generate nearly $300 million in state and local tax revenues over the 30-year life of the project. During that same period, the project will generate more than $650 million in wages. Bechtel, one of the world’s largest engineering, procurement and construction companies, is building the project. “Ivanpah is a landmark project and the innovative engineering and construction used to build it will help shape the future of the solar power industry,” said Ian Copeland, president of Bechtel‘s Renewable Power division. The project’s investors and owners include Google, which invested US$168 million in the project, and NRG – a Fortune 250 wholesale power generation company – which invested US$300 million in Ivanpah. “We‘re excited to be making our largest clean energy investment to date. With this investment, we‘re helping to deploy the first commercial plant of a potentially transformative solar technology able to deliver clean

SolarProgress | 9

Big solar

deliver additional clean energy to our customers, create jobs for Californians and help advance the state’s renewable energy and economic development goals,” said Fong Wan, Senior Vice President of Energy Procurement, Pacific Gas & Electric Company. Marc Ulrich, Southern California Edison vice president, Renewable and Alternative Power added “We rely on this kind of innovative technology to help us reach California’s renewable energy goals.”

This desert tortoise (the Mojave desert variety of Gopherus agassizii) has been protected during the Ivanpah project, and now Brightsource employs 100 specialists to ensure the tortoises (especially juveniles) are treated properly.

Interest and investment

“At Ivanpah, the use of dry-cooling instead of wet-cooling means that the project is using 90% less water than competing technologies with wet cooling.” energy at scale,” said Rick Needham, Director of Green Business Operations at Google. “Ivanpah will be the largest solar power tower project in the world, capable of producing clean electricity at the highest efficiency of any solar thermal plant. We hope it can serve as a proof point and spur further investment in this exciting technology.” The project also received a $1.6 billion loan guarantee from the US Department of Energy’s Loan Guarantee Program, which provides debt to energy projects using innovative technologies. “The DOE‘s decision to support Ivanpah with a loan guarantee is proof that large scale solar projects are moving to the forefront of our nation‘s clean energy alternatives,” said David Crane, President and CEO, NRG Energy. “Ivanpah is a glowing example of truly sustainable energy—a project that all at once will ensure cleaner air, help in the fight against climate change, drive down the cost of large scale concentrating solar technology and take California one giant step closer toward its goal of producing 33% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020.” The project’s customers include California’s two largest utilities: Pacific Gas and Electric Company and Southern California Edison. “We‘re pleased to be a part of this project, which will 10 | SPRING 2011

Clear and thoughtful federal and state policies are attracting the level of investment required to create these environmental and economic benefits in California. In addition to providing debt through the US Department of Energy’s Loan Guarantee Program, solar projects like Ivanpah are incentivised by the federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC), which provides eligible investors with a tax credit up to 30 percent of the total project cost. The ITC is eligible for all US projects through the end of 2016. At the state level, projects are being driven by a Renewable Portfolio Standard mandate for utilities to produce 33 percent of their generation with qualifying renewable resources by 2020. It’s clear that cost-effective, reliable and clean solar technologies – like the one being deployed at Ivanpah – exist to help reach our global environmental and economic goals. There are leading global private companies who are eager to invest and build these types of projects.

On home turf What is needed in Australia are predictable policies that provide developers, technology providers and investors alike with the certainty to plan and invest in utility-scale solar projects that require significant capital and lengthy development horizons. BrightSource Energy Director Andrew Dyer is based in Sydney and is currently on the board of AuSES. Further information:

What’s in a name? The Californian desert silver-mining town of Ivanpah – believed to mean ‘clear water’ in an American Indian language – was founded in 1869 but within two decades was all but deserted. Ivanpah was never a major settlement; at its peak the township featured 15 adobe buildings that included several small houses, headquarters of the Piute Mining Company, one hotel and two stores.

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The Official Journal of the Australia Solar Energy Society

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