Here’s a wrap-up of all the key news across solar and other renewables last week. Grab your coffee, here’s the industry must-knows for the week (08/05/2023 edition):
• According to Chris Bowen, Australia’s Federal Energy Minister, the initial auctions aimed at securing significant investment in storage capacity – a critical component of the country’s shift to renewable energy – will commence later this year for the main power grids. These auctions are anticipated to attract, in Bowen’s words, “gigawatts of storage”.
Bowen told the Smart Energy conference in Sydney that there is already an agreement in place with state ministers over the timing and scale of the rollout. The initial timetable and targets, and funding support, will likely be revealed in the federal budget to be released next week. (Renew Economy)
• Australia’s largest electricity grid is experiencing record low levels of fossil fuel-fired generation as renewable energy output surges, leading to a significant drop in wholesale prices.
The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), which runs the national electricity market covering the eastern states, said power prices had tumbled in the three months to the end of March.
Average prices were $83 a megawatt hour for the period, a 10.5 per cent decrease compared with the previous three months, and a whopping 62 per cent lower than the September quarter last year. (ABC News)
• Central Coast Council is urging the Federal Government to provide more information and further consultation before a decision is made about the future of wind turbines proposed for the Hunter Offshore Renewable Energy Area (HOREA) in the Pacific Ocean off the Central Coast and Hunter. The wind turbines would potentially extend from Port Stephens to Norah Head, 10km off the coast, with turbines standing 250m above sea level.
Submissions for the project closed on April 28 but Council says it is premature to declare the HOREA until consultation is recommenced and further updated information is available on how it will affect the community and environment, and people have the opportunity to provide informed feedback. (Coast Community News)
Council wants the wind farm proposal to go back out for community consultation | Coast Community News
Image: Coast Community News
Solar farming can help reinvigorate the earth’s biocrusts. But what is biocrust and what role does it play in ecosystem sustainability?
• Biocrusts, short for biological soil crusts, are communities of microscopic organisms that live on the surface of soil in arid and semi-arid regions. Biocrusts are essential for soil health and ecosystem sustainability, but they’re at risk due to human activities like agriculture, urbanization, and off-road vehicle use, with long-term consequences for fragile environments.
So how can solar farming help? Ferran Garcia-Pichel and his students at Arizona State University propose an innovative approach using new and existing solar energy farms as nurseries for generating fresh biocrust. Underneath solar panel arrays, like beachgoers under an umbrella, biocrusts are protected from excessive heat and can flourish. These biocrusts can then be used to restore damaged or destroyed arid lands. Read more in this article by Arizona State University. (phys.org)
In the gentle shade of solar panels, desert restoration gets an unexpected leg up | Anthropocene
• A record number of new renewable technology apprenticeships are set to be offered by Energex and Ergon Energy across Queensland in 2024.
Around 160 new apprentices will support the rollout of advanced technologies, including batteries and systems to support rooftop solar and electric vehicles (EV). This follows an announcement to increase apprentice intake numbers by ten per cent each year for ten years as part of the Queensland Energy and Jobs Plan. Applications for the apprenticeships open in mid-2023 and will be for various positions with the electricity distribution networks around the state. Read more about the new apprenticeships here and find application details here. (Energy Magazine)
Energex and Ergon are looking to increase their number of apprentices by 10 per cent each year, doubling the current apprentice numbers from 460 in 2022 to 900 by 2030. | Morten Daily
Image: Morten Daily
• Going, going, gone. Australia’s oldest coal-fired power plant Liddell retired completely in the last week of April 2023 after 52 years. But how did the National Electricity Market (NEM) cope in the aftermath of such a large unit going offline?
Take a closer look at what compensated for the void of Liddell in New South Wales (NSW), the trends in imports and electricity prices of NSW, and the impact on neighbouring states. (PV Magazine)
Impact of Lilddell’s closure on energy generation and prices in NSW, Victoria and Queensland.
Image: Cornwall Insight Australia
• Have your say on proposed changes to the data management provisions in the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage (Resource Management and Administration) Regulations 2011. The proposed changes are to the data management and reporting provisions. Have your say here. Submissions close on 11 June 2023. (Industry.gov.au)
• Submit your feedback on activities for phase 1 of decommissioning the Northern Endeavour that enables towing. This consultation is an opportunity for you to comment on the proposed actions, activities and documentation. Have your say here. Submissions close on 12 May 5pm. (Industry.gov.au)
• PV panels – from waste to asset. Reclaimed PV Panels report by CPVA and The University of Queensland identifies multiple solutions and opportunities for used PV panels. Their joint research project – Reclaimed PV Panels Market Assessment Industry Report, explores the end-of-life landscape for used PV panels.
The growth trend is clear and is supported by data provided by the Australian PV Institute which shows an ongoing upward trend of installed solar energy generation capacity in Australia since 2010. | Circular PV Alliance
Image: Circular PV Alliance
Funded by Energy Consumers Australia, the report identifies multiple solutions and opportunities to drive a sustainable solar energy industry, particularly in the push to achieve Australia’s Net Zero targets. You can find the report and read about the potential solutions here. (Circular PV Alliance)
Treasurer to announce tax relief scheme for small businesses | 9 News Australia
Small business energy scheme – New tax break for energy-efficient companies.
Finding Ways to Help Biocrust Will Benefit People and Nature | The Natural Conservancy
A bold experiment is underway to help the desert’s “skin.” Biocrusts are communities of lichens, mosses and cyanobacteria. Healthy biocrusts reduce erosion, prevent dust storms, increase soil fertility, capture carbon, and sustain soil moisture.
The winds of change powering a more sustainable network | NBN Australia
Our photo of the week (from the Meralli archives) shows team members hard at work at the Junee Solar Farm, located in Junee NSW. April marked the completion of the build component of the 2.3MW DC solar farm. This innovative project is designed to slash energy costs for a local agribusiness with significant daytime demand and reduce its CO2 footprint.