What’s Happening in Solar

National Solar News!

Innovations in Solar: Australia’s Largest Solar Development Begins Construction

Australia begins construction on their largest solar project to date.

From pv magazine Australia.

A project boasting 1.5 GW of solar PV and 500 MWh of energy storage broke ground 100 km north of Brisbane on Wednesday, becoming Australia’s largest solar development to enter construction. While no public announcement was made, renewables industry body the Smart Energy Council posted a photo from the ground breaking ceremony today on Twitter.

Not much is known about the developer, Sunshine Energy, as the plant appears to be its first and only project, judging from its website. According to a company extract from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, Sunshine Energy Australia was registered in 2017 in Mitchell, in the Australian Capital Territory, with a headquarters in Melbourne. Its principle shareholder is Hong Kong-based Eastern Union Limited, and the bulk of its shares are owned by former director Anthony John Youssef and current director Chi Man Li, both of whom have a residence in Australia.

The massive project was given the green light by Queensland’s Somerset Council in mid November, following a review. The council noted the application had been referred to various government departments and agencies for input.

“This was a complex development application put together by Ethos Urban planning consultants, who have been involved in other large infrastructure projects throughout Australia, on behalf of Sunshine Energy Australia Pty Ltd,” Somerset Mayor Graeme Lehmann said at the time.

The plant is set to sprawl across 2,055 hectares east of Harlin along the D’Aguilar Highway, and be developed in three 500 MW stages. It will connect to the 275 kV high voltage national distribution network in Queensland.

Alongside the 1.5 GW solar farm, the project will feature two substations and a 500 MWh energy storage facility to be added later, putting the estimated cost at around $3.5 billion.

“The site has been largely cleared in the past and is within one hour of the 570 MW pumped storage hydroelectric plant at Splityard Creek, which is also in the Somerset Regional Council area,” Lehmann had previously stated, noting the site was attractive because of its proximity to the high voltage power network and Brisbane.

Grid and Economic Boost

According to the project website, the solar farm will be able to generate, on average, around 2,259 GWh of green energy per year and supply around 300,000 Queensland households.

The development is being mooted as bringing an economic boost to the region, with the expected creation of 1,000 jobs – on-site and logistically – plus 30-60 permanent positions.

According to Sunshine Energy, the solar farm is expected to require approximately 6-8 months for the initial site preparation and further 16-24 months to complete construction. It could eventually expand to a whopping 2 GW within 36 months, depending on the suitability and size of the land around the site.

This project dwarfs any other PV plant under construction in Australia, such as Innogy’s 349 MWp Limondale Solar Farm and Maoneng’s 255 MWp Sunraysia Solar Farm in New South Wales or Total Eren’s 256.5 MWp Kiamal Solar Farm, in Victoria.

As for the energy storage component, Sunshine Energy’s website refers to a patented solution called SEA-Power (SEAP). It says each SEAP unit consists of 4 MW of lithium-ion battery storage, a battery management system (BMS), fire suppression equipment, thermal management system, switchgear and other components, housed in a 40-foot shipping container. Sunshine Energy says that the SEAP solution can provide a range of grid services, along with “renewable energy smoothing and power quality management.”

With the capacity of 500 MWh, the Sunshine Energy battery will be among the nation’s largest, including the South Australian Tesla big battery (110 MW/129 MWh) at the Hornsdale Power Reserve and the construction-ready 200 MW solar PV+120 MWh battery project that form part of the Solar River Project in South Australia, the size of which could double at a later stage.

Another gigawatt project was waved through in Queensland two years ago, when Singapore-based Equis Energy secured approval to begin constructing the 1 GW Wandoan South Solar Projects.

Meanwhile, Australia’s other GW renewable energy projects are still awaiting a regulatory nod – a 4 GW renewable energy hub for New South Wales proposed by Energy Estate and MirusWind, and the 11 GW Asian Renewable Energy Hub , which is planned to export power to Southeast Asia via subsea cables and supply big miners and green hydrogen projects in the Pilbara region, in northwest WA put forward by a consortium comprising Vestas, Intercontinental Energy, CWP Energy Asia and Macquarie Group.

Going Solar: Net Metering

What is Net Metering?

Net metering allows residential and commercial customers who generate their own electricity from solar power to feed electricity they do not use back into the grid. Many states have passed net metering laws. In other states, utilities may offer net metering programs voluntarily or as a result of regulatory decisions. Differences between states’ legislation and implementation mean that the benefits of net metering can vary widely for solar customers in different areas of the country.

What Is Net Metering?

Net metering is a billing mechanism that credits solar energy system owners for the electricity they add to the grid. For example, if a residential customer has a PV system on the home’s rooftop, it may generate more electricity than the home uses during daylight hours. If the home is net-metered, the electricity meter will run backwards to provide a credit against what electricity is consumed at night or other periods where the home’s electricity use exceeds the system’s output. Customers are only billed for their “net” energy use. On average, only 20-40% of a solar energy system’s output ever goes into the grid. Exported solar electricity serves nearby customers’ loads.

Giving Customers Control Over Their Electricity Bills

Net metering allows utility customers to generate their own electricity cleanly and efficiently. During the day, most solar customers produce more electricity than they consume; net metering allows them to export that power to the grid and reduce their future electric bills. California public agencies and schools will save $2.5 billion in electricity costs over the next 30 years using net metering.

Creating Jobs & Encouraging Private Investment

Net metering provides substantial statewide economic benefits in terms of jobs, income and investment. Net metering increases demand for solar energy systems, which in turn creates jobs for the installers, electricians, and manufacturers who work in the solar supply chain. Today, the solar industry employs more than 250,000 American workers in large part due to strong state net metering policies which have allowed the solar industry to thrive.

Protecting the Electric Grid

Unfortunately, some utilities perceive net metering policies as lost revenue opportunities. In fact, net metering policies create a smoother demand curve for electricity and allow utilities to better manage their peak electricity loads. By encouraging generation near the point of consumption, net metering also reduces the strain on distribution systems and prevents losses in long-distance electricity transmission and distribution.

Source: Solar Energy Industries Association 

Solar Revolution: Younger Generation Pushes South Africa Toward Solar Energy

A major energy crisis has affected millions of peoples’ livelihoods in South Africa. A decade of mismanagement and corruption has left the national electricity grid close to collapse, regularly plunging much of the nation into darkness.

Widespread blackouts can cost the country’s economy up to $284 million every day. But the energy shortages are also spurring a new generation of entrepreneurs, as renewable energy is increasingly being seen as the answer to the problem.

One thing South Africa has a lot of is sunshine – 2,500 hours a year on average, according to the weather bureau, which makes it ideal for the country’s solar power revolution. It’s a revolution led by a younger generation which has no allegiance to old ways of doing things.

0422-ctm-emafricacleanenergy-patta-1835311-640x360.jpg
With South Africa’s national electricity grid close to collapse, widespread blackouts and energy shortages are spurring a new generation of solar energy entrepreneurs.  CBS NEWS

“For our generation climate change is obvious; we not only experience it, but we’re not threatened by what it means to change the ways of doing business in order to respond to that,” said Fumani Thembi, a co-founder of Pele, a company committed to building renewable energy plants across Africa.

Their plant at Touws River, near Cape Town, contributes enough energy to power 36,000 households. It’s cheap, it’s clean and – unlike coal – in endless supply.

Thembi said, “I think it’s time, it’s history and perhaps also opportunity, for us to finally get on a development path that is sustainable as the African continent.”

Pele has given residents here a 5 percent stake in their company. And it also supplies electricity to the Touws River Primary School. Most of the children here will grow up only knowing solar energy, which not only powers their school but provides them with hidden educational benefits. They’ve cut their electricity bill by half – a huge saving for a school servicing an impoverished community. Deputy principal Sidney Louw said, “It’s cheap, it’s clean electricity. No pollution, and it only uses the sun.”

His 10-year-old students agree. Jo-Marie Matthys told correspondent Debora Patta, “It’s pretty mind-blowing, because it just looks like windows, but it’s actually generators, and it makes its own power from the sun.”

And it’s that power that could ensure the survival of South Africa’s internationally-renowned wine country. In Franschhoek, just outside Cape Town, the switch to solar has been borne out of necessity, on the back of more than three years of drought. Constant power outages have had a dire effect on the farming industry.

One 300-year-old fruit farm uses only renewable energy. Farmer Frans Van der Merwe says it was cheaper to build a floating solar farm – a continental first – than to plant more orchards. “We have taken so much from this Earth, that I think it’s time that we give something back,” he told Patta.

Giving back in a way that’s good for business, and good for Planet Earth.

Check out our Earth Matters blog for more in our Earth Day series!© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Solar Development on Public Lands

Image result for solar on public lands

Solar Development on Public Lands

The debate over developing solar energy projects on public land has proven to be a controversial topic. The article below describes the benefits of solar development on public land.

Article:Wilderness.org

Solar development on public lands offers many benefits, from reducing the threat of climate change to creating green jobs. Large-scale projects can have serious impacts on the land, so it is important that they are built in the right places and the right ways.

By focusing on development in smart places and off-setting or mitigating the impacts, we can:

  • Protect wildlands and sensitive wildlife habitat.
  • Facilitate responsible development by taking advantage of nearby existing roads and power lines. This makes development faster, cheaper and better for the environment, solar developers and consumers.
  • Restore and repair damaged wildlands and wildlife habitats in areas where renewable energy development is occurring.

The Wilderness Society continues to work in collaboration with:

  • Conservation partners at regional and national organizations. 
  • Solar developers. 
  • Government agencies, including the BLM and Department of Energy. 
  • Utilities that manage the power grid and deliver power to consumers.

Going Solar: Installation Process

Solar Installation Process

Installing solar on your home is a big investment. Our goal at Solar Chief is to create a smooth and simple transition to solar. We strive to educate our customers and maintain communication throughout the installation process. We’ll walk you through the options in our Free Site Evaluation and Free Quote, eliminate the options that won’t work, and provide you with a solution that you’ll be happy with.

If you ever have any questions about solar or the installation process, then please contact us at 803-602-3397 where we will be happy to assist you in any way.

Going Solar Steps

Consulting
We’ll walk you through the decision process step by step to ensure the quality of your investment.

Design
Once you’re signed up, we’ll begin the design process of your new solar panel system.

Financing
There are many options available when it comes to paying for your new investment, we’ll help you choose the best one.

Permitting
Permitting must be obtained for your new panels—we’ll assist you to make sure proper permits are received.

Installation
After we’re all set up, it’s time to install your new system for your home or business.

Monitoring
After we install your system and turn it on, we have maintenance packages available to help keep your system in top shape.

Going Solar: Solar Homes Sell for more

Solar Homes Sell for More

A new report published by Zillow found that homes with residential solar systems sell for 4.1% more than their non-solar counterparts.

A common if disingenuous argument against the adoption of residential solar is that not only can systems be expensive, but that expense is a lost cause because solar systems devalue homes and the homes around them. Directly contradicting this, Zillow has released a report stating that homes with solar panels sell for 4.1% more than their generation-naked counterparts.

The premium was calculated by comparing sale prices and listings from March 1, 2018 to February 28, 2019, controlling for bedrooms, bathrooms, square footage and location.

This 4.1% average equates to $9,274 on average nationally, though the monetary mark is much more regionally dependent. For example, Riverside, California’s price premium average is 2.7%, almost 1/3 lower than the national average, however that 2.7% represents $9,926, obviously higher than the average and reflective of higher property costs in California.

The mark that really stands out both as a percentage and a numerical value is New York City. Solar homes in the Big Apple represent a bigger differential national average at 5.4%, which, and it’s well known how expensive property is in the city, translates into $23,989 numerically.

The Zillow report outlines the reasoning for this sale premium is a mixture of investment and taste. On the investment front, some homeowners are willing to pay more for a house with a system, rather than buying a different house and then working out the logistics of installing a system and paying for the materials and installation, which in some places could be more than the pre-installed premium. In other cases, solar systems aren’t the only features that contribute to this premium, as other luxuries like heated floors factor in.

With these variables considered, some buyers just want the system purely to see relief on their electrical bills if they know that they’re high energy users or because they are environmentally conscious.

Source: PV USA

Starbucks launches solar energy test that will power 360 Texas stores

The coffee giant commits to reducing emissions with solar energy.

Starbucks continues its move toward solar energy with the
commitment to power 360 Texas-area Starbucks stores in the Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, Plano and Arlington markets. In total, the Seattle-based coffee giant estimates that the eight farms will reduce their stores’ carbon emissions by approximately 101,000 tons annually.

“Starbucks and other forward-looking companies are carrying out their bold renewable energy targets, and Cypress Creek is proud to provide the innovative and tailored energy solutions needed to bring their vision to life,” Matthew McGovern, CEO of Cypress Creek Renewables said in a statement.

This is not the first major investment Starbucks has made in solar energy. In May 2017, Starbucks announced that 149,000 solar panels would be powering 600 stores in North Carolina, Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington, D.C. The North Carolina project represented a new phase for Starbucks’ green energy investments, while this latest partnership in Texas is another chapter in the company’s reinvigorated commitment.

“Our long-standing commitment to renewable energy supports our greener retail initiative and demonstrates our aspiration to sustainable coffee, served sustainably,” Rebecca Zimmer, Starbucks director of global environmental impact, said in a statement. “Now, we are investing in new, renewable energy projects in our store communities, which we know is something our partners and customers can appreciate for their local economy and for the environment.”

In September 2018, Starbucks announced a“Starbucks Greener Stores” commitment to building and operating 10,000 “greener” Starbucks stores by the year 2025, an initiative expected to save the company upwards of $50 million in utilities costs over the next decade. Each of those Starbucks stores will focus on energy and water efficiency, invest in solar and wind power, reduce waste, and will be built and operated with sustainably sourced materials.

Source: Nations Restaurant News

Your Solar Guide: How many panels is needed for your project?

Transitioning to Solar

Investing and transitioning to solar can seem complex but Solar Chief is here to help. Our company prides itself on educating customers on everything solar. Solar Chief wants to ensure every project is successful in producing the amount of energy needed. Faults can occur when using an online app to calculator the number of panels needed because the app doesn’t calculate all the circumstances. Solar Chief offers FREE proposals and FREE site evaluations to provide an accurate estimate.

How many solar panels is needed for your project?
Depends on the amount of electricity used and location of the panels.

How to estimate your energy needs

Energy Efficiency of Home

Make energy-saving upgrades to maximize efficiency before adding solar. Completing a home energy audit can significantly lower your energy bill. The process is not costly and many adjustments can be done yourself. Local utility companies offer energy saving tips, discounts, and rebates. SCE&G offers free Home Energy Check-ups. Below are some examples of energy upgrades.

  • Inspect doors, windows, roof, and attic for leaks
  • Replace your old bulbs with high-efficiency bulbs (SCE&G Discounts)
  • Update to energy efficient appliances (SCE&G Appliances Recycling Rebate)
  • Install energy-saving smart thermostats (example: Nest)
  • Replace air filters

Assess Solar Potential and Limitation

The location of your project determines the solar potential of the solar array. PV systems use direct and indirect sunlight but the efficiency can be impacted. Look at your areas yearly sun exposure.
The limitations of your solar array can be created by shading (trees or buildings), roof conditions (age, size, material), and HOA (homeowner association) restrictions. Ask Solar Chief to provide recommendations to reach a peak efficiency of your system.

Assess Options of Solar

The solar option chosen could affect the number of panels in your system. Determining your use for solar energy will help configure the amount of electricity your system needs to produce. Price and ownership play a role in planning your array. Some panels can produce more electricity than others. Do you want a rooftop or ground-mounted solar system? Do you want to be connected to the grid?

Estimate Projects Solar Electricity Needs

Estimating the amount of electricity a system needs to produce is the last step. Addressing the efficiency of your home will lower the amount of energy needed to be produced. Solar Chief wants to create the most accurate energy estimation. Analyzing your power bill can determine the number of kilowatts per hour used per month. Then we will determine what your system would need to be in kW in order to meet your kWh needs.

Factors to Consider

Importance of knowing peak usage. Some homes use more energy in summer or winter and you want to have a system prepared for peak loads.

Consider any planned changes. If you will be purchasing an electric vehicle or are planning a home addition, your electricity needs may increase.

Importance of your home’s energy efficiency. If you are continuing to make significant changes to improve your home’s energy efficiency, you may need less electricity than you used in the past.

Net Metering. If you want to sell back power to the electric company, then you need to produce more power than you consume.

There is a regulatory cap on the system KW size permitted on top of your roof.

There are so many factors determining the size of your system. Contact Solar Chief to find out more. Thanks for reading!

Source: Energy.gov

Going Solar: Grid Connection

What is Grid Connection?

There are various factors to consider when going solar. The type of solar setup will determine your electricity connection to the local utility’s electricity grid. The type of system selected is decided by your needs.

Grid Connected Solar System is connected to the local utility’s electricity grid. Excess electricity generated can be exported back to the grid. Supplemental electricity can be transmitted from the grid to meet energy demands.

Grid Connected Solar and Battery System collect solar power from your panels to use and store in your battery for backup use. The system connects to the grid, which brings the advantage of net metering. Net metering is a solar incentive that allows you to store energy in the electric grid. The excess power your solar panels generate is sent to the grid, which is exchanged for the option of grid electricity if your system is under-producing like during nighttime.

Off the Grid Solar System is entirely self-sufficient and has no way to use the grid to supply the household with electricity. Off-grid systems are not joined to any utility power lines. Batteries store the unused solar energy for nighttime use.

Sources: Energy Sage

Innovations in Solar: Solar Powered Stop Signs

Solar Powered ‘Smart Stop Sign’ Developed To Curb Rural Traffic Crashes

A low-cost, self-powered, intersection detection and warning system to alert rural motorists about potential dangers has the potential to improve driver safety and save lives, according to engineers at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) who developed and are testing the new thermal technology.

The warning system, which was announced earlier this month, was designed to detect vehicles and improve the visibility of stop signs. It runs on solar power and is installed on stop signs. It is an important safety innovation, the engineers noted, as according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, more than half of the road crash deaths nationally occur on rural road. And without access to a power supply, rural roads are more likely than others to lack signals and active traffic signage.

“Stop signs on rural roads are difficult to notice, and this leads to dangerous accidents,” Ayetullah Biten, a doctoral candidate in the UTSA Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, said in a statement.

The “smart stop sign” uses a multi-pixel passive infrared sensor that detects a vehicle as it approaches an intersection. When the vehicle is within range, a signal beacon triggers the stop sign’s flashing system.

Compared to current traffic sensing technologies in urban areas, the new system consumes less power, is much less expensive to produce, and offers better accuracy, the engineers said. (The “smart” system, they said, has a 90 % accuracy rate for vehicle detection.)

“Our off-roadway system can be installed on urban or rural roads completely independent of the utility power grid, because it is powered by small solar panels and functions in all weather conditions,” Sara Ahmed, a professor in the UTSA College of Engineering and one the system’s creators, said in a statement.

The project team expects to adapt the “smart stop sign” technology for other uses, including pedestrian detection, vehicle-to-infrastructure communication, and exportation to countries with limited access to power grids.

The potential international reach has wide-ranging implications, Natalie Draisin, the North American director for the FIA Foundation, a nonprofit based in London, told Forbes. 

“Low-cost innovations are important to improve road safety, particularly as 90% of road traffic fatalities occur in low- and middle- income countries.” 

But it is also important to remain focused on existing solutions, like monitoring speed.

“Around the world, we know that prominent signs encourage safer driving, but they must be coupled with proven infrastructure measures, and consistent enforcement to end the 1.35 million roads deaths each year.”

Source: Forbes