From Southbank to the Sunshine Coast, from the Brisbane River to the heart of Brisbane CBD, this city at the head of the sunshine state has lots to be proud of when it comes to solar power systems and clean energy.
Here a few solar stories and achievements that have taken place right here in the heart of Brisbane.
First announced in October 2017, and now ‘practically completed’ (meaning it’s now in use!) is 23,000 solar panels installed over six different sites across the airfield. They cover around 36,000 square metres, some on roofs and some on the ground. At the time of building, the airport said it was the largest single rooftop solar panel installation at an Australian airport.
It’s estimated that the solar panels will supply close to 20 percent of the airports’ electricity needs. This is significant as airports are notorious for having serious energy demands. The carbon offset scheme is estimated to be the equivalent of planting 50,000 trees or taking 1,500 cars off the road each year.
The designers and builders of this project are hoping it can influence other airports as they believe they are the perfect place for renewable energy: the ample amount of open field and roof space makes them perfect for these kinds of installations.
His name is Simon Doble and his invention is called Solar Buddy and it’s helping countless children who live in poverty around the world to live with regular light. These small contained units use solar small solar panels and can last for up to 10 hours.
After a marriage breakdown, the English born man found himself alone in Australia and wanted to transform his pain into something positive. Hearing stories about refugees around the world resonated with him in a deep place and the desire to create an experience of ‘home’ propelled him to create something that might provide that sense for those without access to electricity.
The invention has attracted the attention of the United Nations and Simon is now a key supplier of renewable energy solutions for aid agencies around the world. Also in process is the opportunity for Australian children to learn how to make these lights –learning both new skills and education about those less fortunate.
Just outside of Brisbane, at the University of the Sunshine Coast, a giant chilled water-battery is saving up to 40 percent of air conditioning costs. It’s estimated that this invention will save around $100 million over the next 25 years!
The design won the ‘Out of the Box’ ideas award at the Global District Energy Awards. This comes with a plan for the university to be completely carbon neutral by 2025.
Universities have a large energy footprint and this is a fantastic step toward their goal of 2025.
Lying on the Bremer River, located in the south-west of the Brisbane metropolitan area is the town of Ipswich – renowned for its architectural, natural and cultural heritage with more than 6000 heritage-listed sites and over 500 parks. Now, and as of 2015, it contains one of the biggest solar carports in Australia.
Providing shade for cars while transforming all that glorious sunshine beaming down day after day is a perfect way to not only reduce emissions but gives the possibility to reduce costs for local businesses.
The directors of this project want to be an example for many other such sites that have large car parks such as hospitals and big retailers.
One of the first of its kind in Australia, this completely functional and aesthetically pleasing building is providing quality education with no need to be connected to the electricity grid! We wrote more about this here.
These are just a few of the incredibly inventive ways the beautiful city of Brisbane is leading the charge in the coming world of renewable energy!
Yes, Queensland has been dubbed The Sunshine State as is displayed on every number plate in the state. And Brisbane is the capital of this magically named place.
So it would seem the perfect fit that a city full of sunshine would derive its energy from that fiery ball up in the sky. Is solar power and the sunshine city a match made in heaven? 30% of homes in Brisbane who have already installed solar panels on their roof (one of the highest rates in capital cities in Australia) would probably say yes. So let’s have a closer inspection as to why Brisbane city is the perfect place for rooftop solar.
Sunshine, Sunshine, Sunshine.
Thankfully the capital of Queensland lives up to its reputation by getting ample sunshine all year round. According to the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM), Brisbane averages about 5.2 hours of peak sun per square meter per day. So what does that mean in terms of electricity generation, or in other words, how much usable energy does that translate into?
The answer to this will depend on both the size of your solar power system and how much energy your household uses.
The average Australian household uses anywhere from 15 to 25kWh of energy per day. If you’ve installed a 5kW solar pv system then the energy generated per day will be around 20kWh. A 5kW system is one of the most popular systems as it relatively matches your daily electricity needs while being great value for money.
If your energy demands are higher than this (and you can determine this by looking at your electricity bill) then it can be worth your while investing in a larger system.
Incentives thanks to the federal Renewable Energy Target (RET)
The RET website states that they want to create “a financial incentive for the establishment or expansion of renewable energy power stations, such as wind and solar farms or hydro-electric power stations.” They’re constantly updating their terms and regulations, so it’s worthwhile keeping an eye out on their website for the latest updates.
Currently, the incentive results in up-front discounts on the installation of a solar pv system. How much you can save depends on factors such as the location of installation and the size of the system. However, there’s a good chance that you’ll around 30-40% of the initial installation cost.
In Brisbane, in real terms, for a 5kW system, this means a discount of somewhere around $3,000! It’s not just the sunshine that makes Brisbane a good place to install solar.
The main deterrent to installing a battery storage system at the moment is the expense. For a system that includes battery storage, Brisbane still sits somewhere in the middle of Australian capital cities. Despite Brisbane’s current, relatively low electricity prices, the prices of electricity from the grid only seem to be rising. There’s no doubt that as these prices rise, and battery storage decreases, getting some solar panels on your roof will be even more enticing and lucrative.
A good investment.
Payback periods for Solar systems in Brisbane are relatively short. A 5kW system can be expected to be paid off in around 5 years. Add to that over $1,000 a year in savings from electricity bills, and there’s no doubt you’ve added value to your home.
In saying that, there are some horror stories of cheap and poorly installed systems that fail in a couple of years. To ensure that you are adding value to your home, there’s no room for shortcuts. Make sure you pay for the highest quality product and the highest quality service.
Last year a school in Brisbane became the first in Australia to take a classroom completely off-grid. Relying completely on renewables, this Australian first has set the precedent for many more similar trials around Australia and is an exciting development in solar.
Bracken Ridge State High School trialed the new technology, developed by a company called Hivve, for 5 months last year which relies on rooftop solar panels and a Tesla Powerwall battery system.
These aren’t some kind of backward buildings either: picture laptops, internet and one of the most stylishly designed classrooms you’ve seen. Compared to the somewhat awful looking portables and demountables you most certainly encountered in your young schooling life, these self-sufficient classrooms have a lot to boast about.
The classroom is entirely energy self-sufficient, and this even takes into account those pesky cloudy days. Executive director of Hivve, David Wrench, said that even on successive cloudy and rainy days, the solar battery capacity never fell below seventy percent.
Not only was the trial a success in energy production but it also saved the school money.
Wrench estimated that this classroom alone would save the school $3,000 a year on their electricity bill. Perhaps surprisingly, the cost of installing the solar power system was cheaper than if they had connected to the grid.
However, the trial was made possible thanks to a $370,000 grant from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA). ARENA and Hivve are working in close collaboration to try and change the norm by delivering sustainable solutions to the varying troubles within the Australian schooling infrastructure. This will no doubt require a little bit more support from the Australian government.
It’s happening in NSW as well.
St Christopher’s Catholic Primary School in Holsworthy and Dapto High School were also among the first to trial the classrooms. They are currently in operation and will be evaluated as the year comes to a close.
The trend seems to be moving south too. Amity College in Illawarra, after being shocked at the cost of connecting to the grid to power their new campus, approached Hivve to see if they could work on something together. The result, as of only term 3 this year (yes, 2019)! It is an entire campus that operates on high quality solar.
The system generates more energy than they need during the day, and the ingenious battery system stores the excess overnight. The Director of Finance at Amity is thrilled with the outcome, saving money on installation and energy bills. This is great news for all lovers of sustainability and solar, and will hopefully open new doors for all kinds of construction and infrastructure in the future.
A bit about the Hivve system.
The clean energy system is called Hivve iQ and can be integrated into any school building. The company was started with the desire to create learning spaces with teachers and students in mind, as the research shows how influential the classroom environment impacts learning.
Hivve classrooms are not only completely off-grid, but they also have real-time energy metering, CO2 metering, data capture, and communications. Hivve iQ not only monitors energy use, but the classroom’s air quality is also measured and regulated.
The Hivve project is a true collaboration engaging with partners from ARUP (an international and innovative design and engineering firm), battery storage from Tesla and the government organisation ARENA.
This all-Australian company could, as director David Wrench said, “help schools reduce costs and emissions, while also reducing reliance and demand on the grid.”
With Greta Thunberg and her followers around the world taking on the climate crisis in the latest Climate Strikes, there’s never been a time where sustainable energy is more pertinent. There are no signs that it’s going to stop any time soon either. Wherever there’s talk of sustainability, you can guarantee solar will be close by.
We thought it’d be a good idea to share some of the latest developments within solar in Australia that have taken place in the last year or so.
In June of this year, Tesla’s second-biggest solar battery in Australia – after the 100-megawatt lithium-ion battery in South Australia – was opened in the north of Victoria. The 50-megawatt battery system feeds directly into the state electricity grid and has the capacity to power 16, 000 homes.
This is a big step toward Victoria’s renewable energy target of 50 percent by 2030. It will also provide a boost in energy security for Victoria, as last year’s heatwave, areas in north-west Victoria reached up to temperatures of 49 degrees! Having this integrated system means that the battery will still be producing and providing electricity in even the most extreme temperatures.
This farm may well be the launching pad for up to 8 more large-scale solar farms in the coming years.
Reports of rooftop solar panel systems lasting only 5 years have been regularly reported in Australia. In the rush to save money on electricity bills, it seems consumers in Australia are too often going for the cheapest options, and are being disappointed.
There is a call for higher regulated standards within the energy’s peak bodies. One thing for sure is that not all commercial solar is the same when it comes to installing solar panels it pays to make sure you get a trustworthy company that ensures high quality.
The Northern Territory government has responded to the climate change crisis by aiming for zero carbon emissions by 2050. Recognizing that they are one of the most sun-drenched states in Australia, they can see the obvious advantage hanging right above them: the sun in case you were wondering.
They are seeing this necessity not as a problem but as an opportunity. They believe there are also significant economic advantages and possibilities in making the switch to renewable energy sources. The 2050 zero-emission plan proposed states “a climate change response is a responsible economic strategy”, and they have place solar energy at the heart of that response.
The giant supermarket chain announced that they would buy most of the electricity generated by 3 impending farms to built outside Wagga Wagga, Corowa and Junee, NSW, over the next 10 years.
Steven Cain, chief executive of Cole’s group, wants Coles to be a leader in sustainable energy. They’ve spent up to $40m on energy efficiency over the last two years, and have many more plans in the pipeline.
No doubt they will see this investment returned as the price of solar continues to drop.
Extravagant plans to build the world’s largest solar farm in Tennant Creek, Northern Territory, which could export up to 3 gigawatts of power via a 3,800 km long cable to Singapore, may well be more than wishful thinking.
The 20 billion dollar proposal has already been backed by several Australian entrepreneurs, and will possibly be announced at the end of the year.
Mike Cannon-Brookes –one of the entrepreneurs – believes this could be radical for Australia, and that we may well have one of the most lucrative products possible to export to the world. This will depend on whether such a wild proposal can come into reality or not, obviously. A shift in perspective into the environmental and economic benefits of taking advantage of the unlimited resource we have here down under, burning away every day, may well be in order.
That’s it for now. Keep your ears and eyes open… solar is one of the most exciting industries in the world right now.
While it is not in the mainstream yet, the future of solar power will certainly revolve around batteries. One of the main ‘weaknesses’ of solar panels is that it relies on something that is out of our control. In other words, it relies on the sun shining.
Scientists in the energy industry have yet to discover how to control when and where the sun shines. If the sun has anything to say about it, it will stay that way for some time to come! However, one way, and indeed the main way, around this is batteries.
Tech giant Elon Musk, is one of the main pioneers in increasing solar power battery capacity. In revealing his technology he also believes Australian households may well be one of the first to take advantage of this exciting new technology.
In a trial in Townsville (not so far from Brisbane) a couple found that not only did they stop paying electricity bills, they actually had surplus to sell back. Elon Musk now believes it is possible for some people to live entirely off-grid.
It’s the perfect combination. Solar panels transform the sun’s energy which then have the capacity to power our lives, and the batteries store that energy so that when the sun doesn’t shine, the energy is still available.
As with all new technology, it’s hard to know how long it will take before it becomes the common method of power generation. However, with concerns about climate change and our increasing appetite for technology which uses a lot of power, renewable energy is not only a way of saving money, but is a critical technology for the future of our world.
Solar power batteries are a game-changer.
The battery storage technology relies on lithium-ion batteries – the same that you find in your phones or in electric vehicles. These are not quite up to scratch in terms of being a completely reliable, constant source of energy. They are still limited to how long they can hold on to energy. So places that have a lot of cloud cover or limited daylight will struggle.
There is a similar climate to Southern California in Australia. Particularly in places such as Queensland with cities like Townsville and Brisbane. This is partly why Elon Musk believes Australia is ripe and ready for the future of energy.
How quickly technology improves…
While it’s hard to tell how quickly this technology will come to be the norm in Australia, and indeed the world, it’s pertinent to think about how quickly mobile phones became such a normal part of our lives.
The first iPhone was only revealed in 2007. That’s only 12 years ago! One of the main technologies that made these devices possible was battery capacity. As battery storage capacity increased it also increased the capacity of smartphones. Now where they are replacing our idea of what a computer is.
In a similar way, the future of energy could take a similar path. Battery storage technology gets better and better each year. Who would have thought that electric cars like Tesla could’ve been possible? Now they are becoming so normal to the point we barely even blink when we see one.
Though it might seem far away, with the increasing emergency of Climate change, the brilliant minds like those of Elon Musk and the ever increasing cost of living, Solar power batteries may well enter our lives sooner than we think.
There’s never been a better time to begin to invest in solar power and solar panels. Get in touch to find out more!
Brisbane isn’t the only city with impressive solar power stories. Turns out solar power has its fair share of impressive feats around the world. From the humorous to the mind boggling to the future, here is what solar power is doing around the world.
China and panda shaped solar power stations.
China’s Green Panda Company has produced a field of solar panels that from the sky is in the shape of a panda. This project is a rather showy example of China’s commitment to ramping up their use of solar energy and renewable sources of energy.
They achieved the image by using a combination of darker monocrystalline silicon cells and lighter thinner ones. A sure attempt at PR, it’s also aimed at getting kids attention to understanding solar power and renewable energy.
France and solar powered roads.
In the village of Tourouvre-au-Perche, Normandy, world’s first solar powered road has been built by the french. This 1km stretch of road was developed over a five year period and it will power all the streetlights in the village. As cool as this is, at this stage it is not completely cost effective, but who knows what the future holds!
America and transparent solar panels.
Researchers at Michigan State University have developed a solar panel that mimics glass. These can be placed on a window without obstructing the view. In the future, you’ll be able to soak up the sun in your favourite sunroom while also producing clean energy!
Attempts at this have been numerous however never to this effect. Previous attempts left the panels tinted which were not favourable for households. The potential for this is near endless, particularly when taking into account skyscrapers that receive a lot of sun like in Brisbane.
While currently the efficiency of these solar panels are only one percent, compared to 15 percent of more opaque panels, continued development will no doubt see the efficiency of these improve. What the future may hold here is exciting to say the least.
India and the world’s largest solar power plant.
In Kamuthi, Tamil Nadu, the Indian have built a solar power plant that covers ten square kilometres and has a capacity of 648MW! Previously, the Topaz Solar Farm in California was the biggest at a capacity of 550MW.
In terms of power for houses, it’s estimated that it will have enough energy for 150,000 houses.
India is the perfect place for solar energy with its hot climate, and they have plans to make use of that. India’s aim is to produce enough solar power for 60 million homes by 2022. They hold the world’s 3rd largest solar market behind only China and USA.
Tesla and the running of an entire island on solar power.
Tesla owns the island of Ta’u in American Samoa otherwise now known as Solar City. This island produces so much solar power that it can run the entire island from it. It’s not just the solar panels that achieve this. Tesla has invented what they call Powerpacks. They are a battery of sorts that can store enough energy to last 3 days without receiving sunlight.
This has both long-term environmental impacts and immediate benefits. Previously remote islands had to be run on petrol generators burning huge amounts of petrol each day. Solar power in this case (an island with plenty of sunlight) is more reliable than fuel power. Periodic outages were common before the investment into extensive solar power.
The future of bright sunny islands is bright it seems!
The UK and solar power records
One of the curious side impacts of increasing heatwaves in UK is that energy produced by the sun is being captured at record rates.
In May 2017, with a temperature of 28C, 8.7 GW was generated in one lunchtime. This added up to 24.3% of total generation across the UK. This is only likely to increase in the future.
From Brisbane to China to France, stories of solar energy are increasing. What’s your solar story going to be?