ACT swamped by 976MW of solar plus storage proposals | RenewEconomy

ACT swamped by 976MW of solar plus storage proposals

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ACT plan to install 50MW of next generation solar plus storage attracts 30 proposals totalling near 1GW of projects.

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The ACT government says it has been swamped by thirty submissions representing 967MW of potential solar plus storage capacity in response to its call for interest on its next generation solar program.

ACT energy minister Simon Corbell says the huge response signifies the potential opportunity for next generation solar in Australia. The ACT government intends to commission around 50MW of capacity, in what will likely be the first large scale solar plus storage project, or projects, in Australia.

Corbell, however, said the government is yet to decide whether to implement an auction program, which it has used to great success with its first 40MW of solar capacity and 200MW of wind capacity, or negotiate a feed in tariff directly with some participants.

This reflects the varying nature of the technologies proposed, and their likely costs, and their readiness for deployment, either individually or in combination. It could  mean that the ACT – if it doesn’t follow an auction process – may make a technology choice and work out the best way to go forward with that.

vast solar tower

The applications received include a range of options, including solar PV plus battery storage, solar PV combined with pumped hydro, and a range of solar thermal plus storage options, possibly including the likes of solar tower developers Abengoa (Spain), Solar Reserve (United States) and Vast Solar (Australia).

“We have received a tremendous response, reflecting significant industry demand for new opportunities,” Corbell said in a statement. He later told RenewEconomy that the response was “better than expected.”

Corbell said the ACT Government wanted to underpin the widespread commercial development and deployment of next generation solar, while driving the development of the renewable energy industry in the ACT.

“We will now take time now to assess all of those and make decisions on how we proceed,” Corbell told RenewEconomy. This included the potential of direct negotiations with some proposals.

“We are simply keeping our options open. The legislation allows either approach,” he said. He expected his team to report back in a month, after which he will decide how to proceed.

Like the recent wind auction, which saw three wind farms in Victoria and South Australia awarded contracts to supply energy to the ACT, the solar project is unlikely to be built within the capital territory, particularly if the winner is a solar thermal project. That is likely to be built in western NSW, where solar resources are better.

The new labor government in Queensland is also considering a solar auction, to develop a 30MW project, while South Australia is mulling its options in response to the decision by Alinta Energy to close its coal fired generators in Port Augusta, and the local push for solar towers plus storage.

“Solar generation is a mature technology that can be cost competitive with grid electricity for both residential and commercial consumers,” Corbell said.

“Intermittency and reliability of supply remain a key challenge to widespread adoption. Next generation solar, combining solar generation and energy storage technologies, seeks to address those key challenges.

“This is an important time for renewable energy globally. Solar and wind resources are growing rapidly. But for truly widespread adoption and to decarbonise our economy, renewable energy needs to be available as and when we need it, day or night.”

“Next generation solar, combining solar generation with energy storage, will be crucial to the future success and widespread take-up of renewable energy, and will position the ACT at the forefront of this growing industry as an internationally recognised centre for renewable energy innovation and investment.”

Information gathered through the EOI process will be used by the ACT Government to inform the future next generation solar initiative which may include direct grant of a feed in tariff or a reverse auction process.



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  1. John Bromhead 5 years ago

    You might know what Minister Corbell is talking about but I don’t. He surely isn’t proposing a solar power plant that could produce 50MW of power continuously. Or does he mean that the solar source will be 50MW and with some of it stored for one or two hours, that is storage of 70MWh? Even Corbell would not be silly enough to have a solar thermal plant built in Canberra and I can’t see a pumped hydro project getting approval being built in the time allowed.

    And when the ACT has contracted enough windmills and solar farms and Next G Solar by 2015 or 2016 (October election) and is paying for sufficient renewable energy it can pretend that 90% of the electricity the ACT uses is renewable what then for the 20 years as the ACT pays subsidies at the 2010 – 2016 rate. The ACT is stacking all of its large scale renewables at the high end of the cost curve.

    • George Michaelson 5 years ago

      They can site the Solar+Storage anywhere, in or out of the ACT. They can make a commercial decision to lease or buy land in the west of NSW close to transmission lines and pay brokerage for carriage into the net.

      • John Bromhead 5 years ago

        You are right about the siting of Solar + Storage being anywhere. After all a large lump of the generation being contracted so far, 200MW of wind power, is in Victoria and South Australia. The electricity produced there won’t be shifted to the ACT. Just about everything used in the ACT is transported here by truck but the electricity produced by these wind turbines will be consumed in Victoria and South Australia and probably no account will be made for the distance between the source and the ACT.
        However, I haven’t seen the contracts between the ACT government and the new farms or which price will be used to calculate the subsidy paid, the SA price or the Vic price or the NSW price or if there is a carbon price clause etc.
        If the storage solution was battery or pumped hydro, the sensible placement for this would be near the ACT, preferably inside the ACT grid.

    • Ron Horgan 5 years ago

      Corbell isn’t designing the system , simply taking PPA contracts from renewable suppliers. Its up to the suppliers to solve the problems of reliable delivery.

      • John Bromhead 5 years ago

        Well, the experts that Corbell is listening to are designing the mix of renewables that will be used. Then this is approved by the minister. So much wind, so much solar, so much next-generation solar, what ever that means and lastly an electricity-from-garbage generator.
        Not only don’t I agree with the target, I don’t understand why the cheapest renewable resource, wind, is not being used. The ACT government is playing games with the electricity bills of its citizens.

    • Douglas Hynd 5 years ago

      Feed in tariff is normally set as fixed price for twenty years (relative cost as measured by increase in CPI will decline over time)

    • Reality Bites 5 years ago

      Can somebody explain why paying $178 MWh is good economic sense when you can buy it from the grid at an average price in 2014/15 at $35.17. Sure you are locked in for 20 years, but the predictions are the grid price will only reduce. Does that mean ACT is paying a huge premium for the solar contracts?

  2. HarryDutch 5 years ago

    Solar+Storage – I don’t see anything positive in the storage bit. With the environmental impact associated with resource depletion and human toxicity associated with the forecast to manufacture billions of lithium-ion batteries for solar power storage (home and electric car), my view is to drop using batteries altogether and change at a responsible pace the way we live. We can live with non energy storage for solar, wind, tidal, geothermal and hydro power. our children and grandchildren must be able to live in a sustainable and equitable environment? Just look at Denmark: this country really understands renewable energies: by 2035 they expect to use 100% renewable energies, and by 2050 they would not be using fossil fuels at all. Enviable, isn’t it? Additionally, it is surprising to know that it has complete support from the country’s political spectrum, which is very unusual in most countries.

    • Reality Bites 5 years ago

      Denmark has the highest electricity prices in the world and the second highest is Germany. If ACT was a country, it will shortly easily top all of these with the highest in the world by perhaps 3 times the cost in Denmark. At least Denmark has a lot of wind. Harry, maybe you can do all your power needs during the day, but the rest of the world wants heating or air-conditioning and to cook dinner at around 6.00pm, you cannot do that without at least storage.

      • jec 5 years ago

        Wrong! Denmark do not have high costs of electricity. You are manipulating readers. Denmark do have high prices to consumers, but up to 60% of that price is tax to the government, which taxes electricity to force people to save energy. The Danish cost of electricity is below the European average in spite of the highest percentage of wind generated electricity in Europe. To get a fair comparison of costs between countries you need to look at price without vat and taxes but with the green levy.

        • Reality Bites 5 years ago

          What I said was absolutely correct. I said prices not costs. That 60% recovers the subsidies and incentives that are paid to the generators, which include a $75 per MWh subsidy. Anyway I am busy working on how I can get on the ACT gravy train of a guaranteed $176 per MWh for 20 years!

  3. HarryDutch 5 years ago

    @Blind Freddy – as mentioned in my earlier comment, I don’t see anything positive with the storage bit unless they come up with an alternative to current battery technologies. I am a professional engineer involved with mining and high-tech embedded technologies. What I put to the readers is – how close have scientists, engineers, businesses and governments looked at the environmental impact of producing all these (Tesla) batteries? I am against the massive increase (billions) indicated to manufacture batteries especially for solar storage and electric cars. We should not accept this storage technology until questions like what does it take to extract Lithium from nature, how toxic is Lithium and how toxic is the process to purify Lithium after extraction are answered. The fact is that the largest concentrations of Lithium in the world are found in some of the most beautiful and ecologically fragile places on earth. The total annual possible production of Batteries will be limited by the rate of natural resource availability and production, particularly of the rare earth’s and lithium. Lithium resource depletion will happen in the next 25 years. Furthermore Lithium mining carries high environmental costs. Mining companies prospecting lithium in northern Tibet, the salt plains of South America, and Chile as well as lithium at Bolivia’s Salar De Uyuni require extensive extraction operations and water not readily available in such dry locations. Lithium batteries take a tremendous amount of copper and aluminium to work properly. These metals are needed for the production of the anode & the cathode, cables and battery management systems. Copper and aluminium also have to be mined, processes and manufacturing which takes lots of energy, chemicals and water which add to their environmental burden.We cannot have “Green Homes and Cars” that have been produced at the expense of some of the world’s last unspoiled and irreplaceable wilderness. We have a responsibility to rectify our errors and not fall into the same traps as in the past. Long term wise we are doomed if we can’t find a better solution and the rest of the world wants heating or air-conditioning and cook dinner at around 6.00pm.

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