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.
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.
We now live in an era where Elon Musk is a household name, Tesla is the coolest company in the world and solar power is on everybody’s lips.
From governments to people taking to living the #vanlife, to the everyday suburban family who wants to save on electricity bills.
So how did Tesla – a car company – become the world leader in the move toward sustainable, clean energy?
The history of Tesla.
Tesla Motors was founded in 2003 by two Americans, Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning. The name came from the Serbian American inventor Nikola Tesla – whose inventions profoundly influenced the way we live.
The company was originally formed to develop a sports car – a major contributor to the funding for this was none other than Elon Musk. They successfully developed The Roadster which was found to have efficiency ratings equivalent to a petrol mileage of 57 km per litre!
From 2007 – 2008 both Eberhard and Tarpenning left the company which left the door open for Mr. Elon Musk to take over as CEO. Batteries were always a key focus in the development of these cars, from the Model S Sedan to the Model X. It was this focus on batteries that led naturally to the technological shift to solar battery storage systems.
The shift to solar energy.
The solar panel company SolarCity was bought by Tesla in 2016, in 2017, the company changed its name to “Tesla, Inc” to reflect the fact that it no longer just sold electric cars. In fact, their mission was and is to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy – to replace the world’s reliance on mining and burning fossil fuels toward a solar electric economy.
A major invention has been the solar roofing tile. This one caught a lot of attention particularly because you could see the definite influence of the stylish cars that had come before. One of the reasons some people might be slow to take up installed solar systems is because, well, they kind of look like something The Jetsons might have. But we’re not living in space… yet.
The combination of style and practicality, while maybe seeming superficial, is actually really important for the simple reason that we still live in a consumer society. Elon understands that it’s the consumers that can turn this sustainable energy-matter around, and consumers want to know they’re getting a good product. He certainly delivers on that front.
Tesla’s most recent innovation is a solar rental service. For just $50 a month, with no long-term contracts, people can have a solar system installed on their roof. It is an initiative that could be seen less about making a quick buck, and more as an investment into changing the way the world relates to energy generation.
A giant such as Elon Musk is certainly having a huge influence on the energy industry in Australia, and around the world.
Elon Musk and Australia.
Elon has had a particular impact on South Australia. When SA found themselves in an energy crisis a couple of years back, Musk made the offer that he could provide a 100MW battery storage system within 100 days. He put his money where his mouth was and said if he didn’t make the deadline he would give it for free.
He delivered. South Australia now has the ultimate battery pack: the backup power will get them through any kind of summer that threatens to take out traditional means of power generation.
South Australia seems to have quite a thing going on with Elon: Last year at least 50,000 homes in SA were proposed to be given solar panels and batteries. The trial is a way for people’s homes to generate energy for the grid, which would also result in significant savings in their energy bills.
In Western Australia, 6 farmers, sick of power constant power outages, took a leap of faith to try living off the sun and lithium batteries. The results have been nothing but positive: “good, clean, reliable power” was reported back by the owners of the new systems.
More and more it’s reported that Australians around the country believe solar batteries are the future. The main reason is to reduce power bills and there is an expectation that large-scale batteries like the one built by Elon Musk in South Australia will become the norm.
A country like ours with seemingly endless amounts of sun, it would seem crazy not to.
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?
The concept of Sustainability is more than just installing Solar Panels…
Solar energy is an incredible technology which is just one source of renewable energy amongst others. Renewable energy as a whole is an exciting venture. We’ve written about this before – here.
Renewable energy however, is really just one part of a much bigger issue known as Sustainable living or Sustainability. One reason solar energy is exciting is because it contributes to relearning how to live in harmony with our planet. Living Sustainably is taking that energy and applying it holistically to your lifestyle.
Why do we need to be sustainable?
Sustainability is important, and becoming increasingly so, simply because we live on a finite earth with finite resources. Keep expanding infinitely and don’t have infinite resources? Something is going to have to give way at some stage. Of course, it’s more complicated than that – it’s becoming such a significant concept you can now even get a degree in Sustainability.
A good definition of sustainability is:
The study of how natural systems function, remain diverse and produce everything it needs for the ecology to remain in balance. It also acknowledges that human civilisation takes resources to sustain our modern way of life.
Every living thing requires resources to remain alive: sharks need fish, trees need soil, humans need comfort, shelter and food. Sustainability isn’t about how to not impact the environment at all – if that were the case we wouldn’t be here. Rather, how we can get what we need to live and thrive without damaging or destroying our environment. Namely, the only home we have.
How do we become more sustainable?
Solar panels and using solar energy is just one example of this more relational and sensitive living. There are countless other ways of how we can live in better harmony with our natural environment. It’s easy to research countless lists on how to live more sustainably, like here!
Sustainable living is a relatively new concept in human history. For most of our history we’ve been consumers. Contrary to the romantic notion we have of our hunter-gatherer history, these ‘societies’ would regularly move from one place to another because they had used up all the resources. Soon enough, we became able to live in more permanent settlements due to new technologies and skills. However the demand on the environment became greater. It’s only been since WW2, that the understanding of our need for sustainable living has become clear.
The majority of climate scientists are now warning of the dangers of unsustainable living. It has become a more important issue than just a simple preference of lifestyle.
It’s about changing lifestyles..
Although how one lives is a huge part of sustainability – even though it may not be as in your face as the warnings of climate change – one of the toughest aspects of living sustainably is when it conflicts with people’s lifestyle desires. Getting solar panels is easier to understand, perhaps because it comes with a real economic benefit. However some changes are harder to adopt, such as a Permaculture Philosophy of Living, because requires new education, and a lot of time. So for someone who enjoys spending their weekends relaxing doing nothing, or who always eats out, sustainable living might not seem only too hard, but also undesirable. A part of sustainability is also the gradual shift of one lifestyle to another, or simply becoming open to different ways of living.
Our ‘Consumerist Society’ often seems at odds with sustainable living, and capitalism gets a bad rap as if it’s the source of the problem. But perhaps we have been consumers for a long time and it’s only very recently that our growing population is starting to outweigh the resources we have to support our lavish lifestyles.
Solar energy is at the forefront of new ways of living to support our lifestyles, while also being in harmony with the natural world. The more innovative ways like this that we can adopt the more we will be able to continue to thrive and enjoy this precious planet.