WEDNESDAY 04 DECEMBER, 2013 |
Australia Hits 3GW Of Solar Capacity
A sea of solar rooftops has formed across Australia, with uptake driven not by
large companies developing major solar farms; but by households looking to slash
their electricity bills.
Analysis performed by SunWiz shows 1.2 million homes now have solar
- approximately 14% of dwellings in Australia.
Queensland has the largest number (360,000) and capacity (986MW), with South
Australia being the state with the highest saturation (25%).
While there has been a substantial drop in the number of installations in the
last 18 months, households are continuing to join the rooftop revolution as affordability
is better than ever
"The consumer is getting a bargain, and using the low prices to up-size
their system to now average 4.3kW in capacity, and the most popular system size
has leaped from 1.5kW to 3kW or 5kW depending on which state you live
in," says SunWiz
It's not just households increasingly cottoning on to the fact solar provides
power cheaper than from the mains grid. Commercial
is also taking off, with 5% of recently installed systems larger than
The Clean Energy Council says that according to figures from the Clean Energy Regulator, the 3 gigawatts of solar power installed will
generate more than 4000 gigawatt-hours of electricity over the next year.
National solar provider Energy Matters
says the systems will collectively save owners over $1.1 billion on their
electricity bills a year based on current electricity prices - or more than $3
million a day.
In addition to helping to rein in the price
of wholesale electricity
, these solar power systems will also significantly reduce strain
on mains grid infrastructure during the most energy intensive time of the year - the summer
months when air-conditioning
places massive demand on networks.
More than $11
billion has been spent
on energy infrastructure in Australia that is only
used four days out of every year - primarily due to the impact of
SolarReserve Sets Up Shop In Australia
SolarReserve has announced the company's international expansion into Australia through the opening of
an office in Perth.
The company says its Australian operations will focus on large-scale concentrating solar power (CSP) and photovoltaic (PV) projects,
particularly in the off-grid mining sector.
"In Australia, the best solar resources are commonly found in remote areas where mines operate,
presenting the off-grid mining sector with a substantial opportunity to offset the high price of electricity
generation in these remote locations with a solar energy alternative," says
SolarReserve’s CEO Kevin Smith.
There are more than 1,000 operating mines in Western Australia - and many of
those are powered by high-priced and polluting diesel fuel.
"In the face of impending policy decisions by the Australian government related to
renewable energy and carbon emissions, solar energy for the mining sector is a win-win: good for
business and good for the environment."
The company was one of the participants
in a meeting
earlier this year in the gold mining city of Kalgoorlie in
Western Australia to plan the Goldfields' renewable energy future.
SolarReserve is the company behind the 110 megawatt Crescent
Dunes Solar Energy Plant
; located in Nevada. It features advanced molten salt power tower technology with integrated
storage. Once completed, the facility will generate 500,000 megawatt hours of
electricity annually and power up to 75,000 homes during peak electricity periods.
First generation of electricity is scheduled for mid-2014.
SolarReserve is also developing the Rice Solar Energy Project
in California. The 150 MW solar thermal facility also incorporates molten salt
Globally, SolarReserve’s portfolio of large scale solar projects has a
collective capacity of 5,000 MW.
The company was the recipient of the "Solar Award for Excellence:
Technology" for its molten salt power tower technology, an award which was received at the Solar
Industry Awards Ceremony on October 1st, 2013 in France.
Unsubsidised Solar Competitive With Gas By 2025
The cost of unsubsidised solar power looks set to become competitive with natural gas by 2025, according to a new report from Lux Research.
In a study of 10 global regions, the report examined whether energy sourced from cheap and abundant natural gas
- the forecast “golden age of gas” - would force solar to the fringes of the generation market.
However, by using a levelised cost of energy (LCOE) analysis, researchers found that by 2025, the cost of installing grid-scale solar power, without government assistance, will have fallen below the most-likely price of gas.
Utility-scale solar system costs are predicted to fall by 39 percent, meaning the LCOE from unsubsidised solar power closes the gap with electricity from combined cycle gas turbines (CCGT) to within
USD $0.02/kWh worldwide in 2025.
Anti-fracking policies in Europe and prohibitive set-up costs associated with natural gas in South America will help drive down the cost of solar. The report forecasts a likely gas price of $7.60/MMBtu along with increases in module efficiency resulting in a solar power price of $1.20/Watt by 2025.
"On the macroeconomic level, a ‘golden age of gas’ can be a bridge to a renewable future as gas will replace coal until solar becomes cost competitive without
subsidies," said Ed Cahill, Lux Research Associate and the lead author of the report titled,
Cheap Natural Gas: Fracturing Dreams of a Solar
He says natural gas would help solve intermittency problems at large-scale solar farms and form an invaluable part of hybrid gas/solar power systems.
"Solar’s eventual cost-competitiveness means increased gas penetration actually benefits it, by enabling hybrid gas/solar technologies that can accelerate solar adoption without subsidies and increasing intermittent renewable penetration without expensive energy storage or infrastructure
improvements," the report reads.
But the transition from subsidised to unsubsidised solar won’t happen overnight, and is bound to be problematic. According to the report, standalone solar won’t be competitive before China, Japan, and the U.S. begin phasing out subsidy regimes and companies looking to invest in utility-scale projects should look at areas with scarce gas resources or
develop hybrid systems that can take advantage of low gas prices.
Direct Action And Solar Power - More Details
Environment Minister Greg Hunt provided more detail of the solar component of
Direct Action in a speech delivered at the Clean Energy Council National
Conference in Melbourne on Tuesday.
In addition to incentives under the Renewable Energy Target (which will come
next year); the Direct Action plan includes support for solar power through
the Coalition's One Million Roofs, Solar Towns and Solar Schools programmes.
Minister Hunt says the Government will provide $500 million for the One Million Solar Roofs programme and a further $50 million each for the Solar Towns and Solar Schools programmes.
The Solar Roofs programme will provide $500 rebates for installing one million rooftop
over the next decade and will also extend to solar
hot water systems
However, it still seems the rebate won't be available to everyone and the focus
appears to have changed from solar PV to solar hot water.
"Priority will be given to low-income households and solar water heaters. In addition, the energy needs of remote indigenous communities will be carefully considered under the
programme," said the Minister.
"The potential for including energy storage linked to photovoltaic systems will also be examined. Around 10 per cent of the rooftop systems will be allocated to not-for-profit organisations as part of the Community Solar programme."
The Solar Towns programme will support at least 25 projects with a maximum of $2 million per
town and the Solar Schools programme will support a minimum of 100 schools with a maximum grant of $500,000 per school.
Minister Hunt said the three initiatives will commence in the 2014-15 financial year. Given
the uncertainty surrounding next year's Renewable Energy Target review, it
remains to be seen if Direct Action, if implemented, will be a case of giving
with one hand and taking with another.
The full transcript of Minister Hunt's Clean Energy Council National Conference speech
can be viewed
Fraunhofer Achieves 24% Efficient n-Type Silicon Solar Cell
Fraunhofer ISE has set a new record efficiency for an n-type base silicon solar cell.
Most solar cells currently commercially available are manufactured from boron-doped p-type
silicon; but phosphorus-doped n-type silicon is considered a superior material
as it has the potential to achieve higher conversion efficiencies. An example of
a module using a n-type silicon material is the Yingli
Solar 270 Watt 'Panda' solar panel
One of the challenges in reaching these higher efficiencies relates to the patterning scheme of the rear contact;
a challenge that Dr. Stefan Glunz at Fraunhofer ISE says has now been overcome.
"We have now developed a simple rear contact without any patterning, with which we have achieved an excellent efficiency of 24 percent for an n-type solar
cell," he says.
Dr. Martin Hermle, Head of Fraunhofer's High-Efficiency Silicon Solar Cells
department, says the team developed a selective passivated contact that allows the majority carriers to pass and prevents the minority carriers from
Called "TOPCon" (Tunnel Oxide Passivated Contact), it's an
ultra-thin tunnel-oxide and a thin silicon layer. With the TOPCon structure, the
entire rear area of the solar cell is in contact, while achieving excellent surface passivation and
keeping resistance losses to a minimum.
The research work on the development of TOPCon contacts was supported by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety
With a staff of more than 1200, Fraunhofer ISE is the largest solar energy research institute in
Europe and the second largest in the world. Its founder, solar pioneer Professor Adolf Goetzberger,
celebrated his 85th birthday last month. In 2009, the European Patent Office
awarded Professor Goetzberger the title "European Inventor of the
Year" for his life’s work.
SolarWorld Acquires Bosch Solar Energy Manufacturing Facilities
SolarWorld AG has announced the acquisition of Bosch Solar Energy’s solar cell and panel factory in Germany, raising the company’s manufacturing capacity to over one gigawatt
(GW) and making it the largest solar cell producer in the world outside China.
Subject to pending antitrust approval and other closing conditions, SolarWorld
will acquire Bosch’s Arnstadt plant, retaining roughly 800 employees, in February 2014.
The plant has a production capacity of around 700 megawatts (MW) of solar cells along with 200 MW of solar panels each year. This capacity, combined with SolarWorld’s other facilities in Germany and the United States will form the largest solar group in the
western world, according to Dr.-Ing. E. h. Frank Asbeck, CEO of SolarWorld AG.
"With the locations of Arnstadt/Thuringia, Freiberg/Saxony and Hillsboro/United States, the gigawatt manufacturer arises that was long called for in the solar industry by European politics. With the best technology and the best quality, we will assume a leadership role in the solar industry. We are going to implement the energy transition in
The company has been heavily involved in the so-called solar trade wars
in which solar manufacturers in the U.S. and Europe have sought to curb the
"dumping" of cheap Chinese photovoltaic materials by pressuring lawmakers to impose higher import tariffs on China’s solar producers
who allegedly gain an unfair market advantage through domestic subsidies.
The merger is a ray of light for the 1,100 Bosch Solar Energy employees who were told in March they faced the axe when the company announced it was abandoning production of crystalline
"This makes it likely that we can offer jobs to roughly 1,100 of our presently 1,500 associates in Arnstadt. Instead of closure, our aim was to find purchasers with a viable industrial concept and a good reputation, and that take a long-term view that offers prospects for the future. With today’s signing, we have reached an important
milestone," said Dr. Volkmar Denner, Bosch chairman.
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