Written with contributions from Solar Citizens volunteer Peter Youll, the Bendigo Sustainability group and SolarShare.
According to CSIRO and Energy Networks Australia, up to 45% of the country’s future energy generation will be local and customer-owned. Right across the country we’re transitioning to a more distributed energy system, and everyday people are leading the charge for cleaner environment and lower bills.
Community energy projects help everyone make the most of the renewable revolution – including renters, people living apartments and low-income households that might otherwise miss out on slashing their bills with rooftop solar.
Here are some examples of community initiatives that are helping slash electricity bills and driving Australia’s transition to 100% clean, renewable energy. Communities everywhere are taking action!
Bendigo Sustainability Group
The Bendigo Sustainability Group (BSG) have undertaken many projects aimed at making Bendigo more self-sustaining, including providing advice to individuals and businesses about installing solar systems. The group has been appointed host for the Community Power Hub Bendigo, which is a Victorian Government initiative to foster community energy in pilot locations.
In this capacity, the BSG has also organised the installation of solar systems in the community. They entirely crowd funded the installation of panels on the City of Greater Bendigo library, and more recently, a 30kW system over eight social housing units. The group raised an impressive $30,000 from individuals, local organisations and businesses for just the social housing project.
So how does it work? The BSG owns these installations. The Council pay the BSG for the electricity produced from the solar on the Library, and in the case of the social housing project, the tenants pay for electricity as part of their rent and from now on will pay about $500 less per year.
The group has more community projects in the works – they’re even looking at developing a 2MW community solar farm in Central Victoria!
SolarShare in the ACT is planning to build Australia’s largest community-owned solar farm. SolarShare is a member-owned business with the goal of including anyone who wants to be part of the shift to a renewable energy economy, through owning a share in local renewable energy generation.
A community solar farm is a solar power plant which is co-owned by members of the nearby community. Investors in the solar farm have a closer relationship to local energy, the environment and the community while choosing a sustainable investment with a financial return.
SolarShare allows residents to purchase shares in the solar farm and receive a financial return on their investment when energy is sold to Canberra’s power grid. This project is an opportunity for people to own part of a solar farm, when they may have difficulty getting their own residential solar panels, including those renting, living in apartments or other buildings without a suitable rooftop, or with limited finances.
SolarShare’s flagship project is a 1 MW solar farm that will be built in the Majura Valley, behind Canberra’s bushy Mount Majura. Once complete, the solar farm will generate enough clean energy to power 250 homes, preventing some 1,700 tonnes of CO₂ a year from polluting the atmosphere.
Our climate is changing and so too is our society. This unique project is part of the shift to an economy where communities have an important part to play in our energy choices.
Written by Solar Citizens volunteer Peter Youll.
You may have been hearing reports that solar PV installations are causing dangerously high voltages in the distribution network, particularly in the middle of the day when solar generation is high and electricity demand is low. This effect is being hyped by those who want to maintain the status quo (electricity distributors) as an excuse to restrict grid connected solar installations. There can be no doubt grid voltages are increased by connected solar systems, however there is a readily available solution to this problem.
For decades until 2000, the nominal voltage to be supplied to domestic customers by Australian electricity systems was either 230v or 240v, depending on the state. In that year Standards Australia issued AS60038 and adopted a 20 year plan to change the nominal voltage for all states to 230v, to align with European Standard IEC38. The standard specified a minimum of 216v and a maximum of 253v – 230v -6% to +10%. Subsequently AS61000.3.100 was issued which specified acceptable voltages based on time distribution (voltage to be between 225v and 244v 50% of the time, 216v to 253v 98% of the time) with the intention that it be applied Australia wide. However compliance with this standard varies, depending on the distributor.
Solar systems will cause the voltage in the distribution system to rise. In order to export excess energy to the grid, the system inverter must increase the output voltage to slightly higher levels than present on the grid. As more distributed energy sources are connected, the grid voltage will continue to increase, raising it toward the limit that could cause damage to devices, and possibly causing solar systems to disconnect from the grid in order to protect themselves. At my solar equipped home I have regularly seen grid voltages up to 252v on sunny days, however I have never seen voltages drop lower than 239v at night when there is no solar generation. Obviously one major reason for high voltage in the grid on sunny days is that the grid voltage is already at a high level, way higher than the Australian standard of 230v.
This problem can be solved. In 2017, the Queensland government directed the state owned distributors (Ergon and Energex) to adopt the Australian standard and reduce grid voltage for several reasons, the main one being in order that connection of solar systems would not be unreasonably restricted! The distributors were given a year to get the job done, and as far as I can find out, the task has been largely completed. It is time for the other distributors to stop bleating about high grid voltages caused by solar installations, and reduce the nominal grid voltage to comply with the current Australian standard. I am advised by my favoured solar installer that this adjustment is done at the local area transformer, which could explain why the distributors are reluctant to get on with making the change – there are thousands of transformers requiring adjustment!
Written by Pauline Tan, Solar Citizens intern.
We have been harnessing the sun’s energy to power our homes for over 50 years. Not only revolutionising the energy sector, but with innovative thinking, we are using the sun’s energy in new and exciting ways. Here are some top solar innovations repowering different industries – the future is looking sunny and smart!
Clean power and clean streets! Solar Bins are already found in numerous communities; this bin is specially powered by the sun to compress 5 times the amount of waste in a 120L bin. It reduces the occurrence of overflowing waste, frequency of bin collection and ultimately, waste management costs.
The sun is turning on the tap! Special solar panels are being used to capture drinkable water straight from the air. In a process similar to condensation, the sunlight is used to generate heat in special panels of material, which in turn allows it to absorb moisture from the air.
The panels are currently being trialled in Australia to see if it can help alleviate the dependency on plastic water bottles, as well as to provide fresh water to communities facing water scarcity. Even in arid climates with humidity levels well below 10%, this solar innovation can still extract at least 2L of water from the air.
Forget external solar panel systems! A new method of concrete-laying includes a layer of photovoltaic cells allowing for the concrete to generate solar electricity. This makes the solar panel system ‘invisible’ and less bulky. Maybe soon the concrete under your feet could be generating solar electricity too!
A new twist on being fashion forward! Shirts have been invented with 120 thin solar cells embedded into the fabric. Producing approximately 1W of electricity, these shirts produce enough to charge your portable devices. A hidden battery pack is located in the front pocket, allowing electricity to be stored for when your phone needs some extra juice.
This is a cool method being developed that allows solar cells to be more portable and flexible. Solar cells can now be printed onto flexible plastic films – a process similar to how banknotes are made. This allows the generation of solar electricity to be more flexible and portable. Printing could be a new method that could fast forward the development of other innovations such as solar fashion.
Written by Hyacinthe Uwizera, Solar Citizens intern.
I find it disappointing that the Federal Government is dragging its feet when it comes to repowering Australia with clean, cheap renewable power, especially considering recent survey results that show that 84% of people back renewables over coal-fired power generation.
My name is Hyacinthe Uwizera and I’m an intern at Solar Citizens. I am here through a program from my school, the University of Pennsylvania, and I am Rwandan. I care about the decisions that are made here in Australia because, with so much sun and wind potential, Australia could show the world how it’s possible to transition to clean power.
The Federal Government’s energy policy, the National Energy Guarantee (NEG), is an anti-renewable plan that will be negotiated at the next COAG Energy Council meeting on August 9-10 in Sydney. The policy will directly affect the future of renewables across the country, which is why a range of groups in the Repower collaboration held an action outside of Parliament House in Canberra called the Race for a Renewable Energy Future.
To support renewables and a brighter future, I got up at 4am on a cold winter morning to set off from Sydney to make it to the action. At 8:30am, as the action was about to begin, there were people who dressed up as Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott, coal to represent fossil fuels, and solar to represent renewable energy.
In the stunt, solar and coal were racing. In the beginning of the race solar was ahead, but after some time, solar got trapped in Malcolm Turnbull’s red-tape net. Coal continued but fell down after some seconds. Tony Abbott then injected a $16 billion adrenaline injection into coal. Coal then limped towards the finish line and won the race. The scene was surrounded by a crowd of renewable supporters, like me, and was watched by some politicians too.
The action was highlighting that renewables with storage are the cheaper and better option for Australia, but under the NEG they will be held back with a very low national renewable target. We were there to get our voice heard, and speak for other Australians, asking for a safe environment for the future generations.
As a young person, I care about the environment and my future. We should all care about our environment. We either choose a clean, efficient and cheaper source of energy or the opposite. We should care about our health and the health of the generations to come.
Solar just makes sense. We could power the entire world by harnessing just 1% of the solar energy we get from the Sahara desert. A national plan that holds renewables back is bad for power bills and the planet.
Written by Solar Citizens volunteer Peter Youll.
If you have a smart meter in NSW and are on a standard, flat electricity rate, it might be time to look at changing to time-of-use rates.
Time-of-use rates mean you pay less for the electricity you use during off-peak and shoulder times and more for it during the peak periods.
From the 1 July 2018 Ausgrid, the distributor serving metropolitan Sydney and the Hunter Valley, has changed the hours that peak, shoulder and off-peak charges apply for electricity use. The biggest change is that the hours actually reflect when peak consumption hours occur—amazing— and will vary with the seasons.
For households on the Ausgrid network, there will be no peak hours during autumn (April and May) and spring (September and October), and the winter peak hour will be shorter and apply later than before.
With Ausgrid’s change, it means the higher peak rates won’t be charged by retailers at all for a third of the year.
Is this for you? First up you need to have a smart meter. Secondly, you need to be able to adjust your electricity consumption habits to avoid using lots of power during the peak periods. If you’re home during the day or able to run your appliances on the weekend, it will be easier for you to do things like putting on the dishwasher or washing machine in the middle of the day when you know your solar panels are producing power and not in the evening.
Have a look at the Ausgrid explanation, then check how much power you use and when to work out the changes you should make. Some retailers (Powershop, Origin and AGL) make this easy by providing detailed consumption numbers from your smart meter on demand via their website.
For a detailed explanation about smart meters, have a look at this article from Choice.
Not in Sydney or Newcastle? While Ausgrid are the only distributor who have introduced different peak times for each season, going on to time-of-use rates might still be worth it for your house, have a look at the rates and distribution times.
Written by Abby Bower, Solar Citizens intern.
The storage revolution is here!
And it’s coming to homes across Australia. Home battery storage is looking better than ever - in fact, nearly 21,000 Australian households installed a solar battery in 2017. Both the cost and size of batteries are shrinking, and the variety of makes and models is increasing. It is predicted that Australian households will install 1 million batteries by 2020.
So whether you’re considering installing home battery storage, already have it or you’re wondering what all the fuss is about, here are 10 things you should know about batteries and the storage revolution:
1. Home batteries allow solar owners to store energy generated by their solar PV system during the day
The big appeal of home battery storage is that it makes solar energy available when the sun isn’t shining. Batteries store excess energy produced by a solar PV system during the day, which can then be used at night or at peak times when buying electricity from the grid is more expensive.
This flexibility means battery owners can save money on their energy bills, maintain some independence from the grid and increase their energy efficiency. Plus, with a few add-ons, a battery may also offer protection against blackouts and power outages. Remember, for a solar and storage system to work during blackouts, you need a hybrid system that isolates the installation from the main grid.
2. Home battery prices are dropping
In 2018, the average cost of home battery storage in Australia was around $650 to $2400 per kWh capacity, plus installation. For context, residential batteries usually have a capacity of 3-12kWh, though smaller units are becoming more popular.
Prices are falling, and they're falling quickly. Consumers are already seeing the benefits of these plummeting prices; battery enthusiasts were thrilled when Tesla’s Powerwall 2 stayed the same price as its predecessor while doubling in capacity.
What prices are out there? This table gives 2017 prices for a some popular battery products in a variety of sizes.
3. It’s all about the payback period
With prices dropping, batteries are on the cusp of becoming cost-effective for more and more Australians. In fact, the Alternative Technology Association (ATA) predicted that they would be economically attractive by 2020.
You can determine whether or not installing a home battery makes economic sense for you by looking at its payback period – the amount of time it takes for the savings created by battery storage to equal or exceed the installation cost of the system. Generally speaking, a battery will save you money if its payback period is shorter than its warranty.
Battery warranties are a bit tricky to compare because they’re not standardised yet. While there are a few resources that help you compare warranties in detail, a rough baseline for home battery warranties is three to 10 years. The most common type of new batteries, lithium ion batteries, last about 10 years on average.
Under the right circumstances, payback periods will be shorter than the 10 year average warranty. A variety of factors influence the length of a payback period, including the location of the battery owner, the amount of energy you’re using and when you plan to use it. It’s a good idea to have a think about all of these before you decide on your storage system.
Of course, payback periods aren’t everyone’s top priority. If you’re less worried about the savings and more focused on the other advantages of battery storage, you might want to consider the battery technology that best suits your needs, whether your battery can be wall mounted and how much independence you’d like from the grid.
4. Some cities are more battery friendly than others
Location, location, location! Due to differences in feed-in tariffs, weather and solar PV prices, certain cities are currently more economically favourable for battery storage than others. Australia’s best city for battery storage at the moment is Perth, followed by Brisbane, Adelaide and Sydney. It’s worth doing some research on your town before deciding if battery storage is right for you.
5. Knowing how much energy you use and when you use it will help you get the most out of a battery storage system
In general, batteries make the most economic sense for homes that consume a large amount of electricity. Using Sunwiz’s PVSell software, Solar Choice calculated that households that consume 30kWh of energy per day consistently see better returns and shorter payback periods for batteries than those that consume 20kWh daily. The average Australian household uses about 18kWh per day. You can install a device to monitor how much energy you're using and when, so you can make an informed choice about what battery system is right for you.
It also matters when you use the most energy. Solar Choice also found that consumers who use energy late in the day with an evening peak - likely households with a home office - are the best candidates for batteries.
Source: Solar Choice, March 16, 2017
6. Battery technology isn’t one size fits all
Batteries store electrical energy and then release it through a chemical process, but not all batteries do this in the same way. There are a few different types of batteries on the market. The most common are lead acid and lithium ion (Li-on). A few less commonly used technologies are nickel-based, flow and sodium ion.
In the past, lead acid batteries were the standard for home storage systems and electric vehicles, but they’re being surpassed in popularity by lithium ion batteries.
Lithium ion batteries are made of lithium and a mix of other chemicals that usually includes aluminum, cobalt, nickel or phosphate. They have a high energy density, so they are smaller and lighter than their lead acid counterparts. They are expected to dominate the storage market in coming years due to their versatility, potential for recycling and a projected drop in production costs.
Other technologies are rare in Australia right now, but they’re worth keeping an eye on since battery storage is evolving so quickly.
7. Battery inverters differ from traditional solar inverters
Solar systems change the direct current (DC) power generated by a solar panels into alternating current (AC) power for household use using an inverter.
When you add a battery into the mix, you have to add a battery inverter or upgrade to a solar and battery hybrid inverter. Unlike traditional solar inverters, battery inverters can convert DC power into AC and visa versa, which allows the battery to be charged from the solar sytem and discharged to power the load in your home.
It’s easy to add a battery inverter to many existing PV systems - so you might already be battery ready. If you’re adding a new system entirely, you might consider getting a hybrid inverter that can manage both.
8. A variety of battery brands and products are available in Australia
If you’re in the market for a home battery system, you’re spoilt for choice! More than 150 different products are offered in Australia and there are some great online tools to help you make sense of them all.
There are plenty of professionals who can help you out, too. The Clean Energy Council has a list of accredited installers who can answer your storage questions.
9. Regulations on batteries are being developed right now
Home storage batteries are widely considered to be safe - no riskier than keeping a car with a tank full of petrol in your garage. Batteries do, however, pose the same risks as any other electrical system. You can avoid risks of fire or leakage with regular maintenance and by keeping batteries in well-ventilated areas that are separate from living spaces in a household.
10. The benefits of batteries are still secondary to the benefits of solar itself
Batteries offer a great deal of potential, but they still act as an add-on to PV systems. If you’re not producing any solar power, it doesn’t matter how much storage you have! Batteries don’t generate power on their own, and studies show that batteries are most beneficial for those who are already using their solar systems effectively.
Solar power is already an economic no-brainer in Australia. The standard warranty on a rooftop PV system is 25 years and most solar owners see a payback period of about three years. So if you want to get solar with batteries, you might as well get the panels now and install your storage later, when it makes economic sense for you. Find more info about going solar here and a free tool which estimates the economic feasibility of a solar-battery system here.
So, where does that leave you?
So if you’re already a part of the rooftop revolution, joining the storage revolution might be your next move. For those who aren’t yet ready to become early adopters of home storage, know your battery basics. And keep an eye out, because battery technology is charging ahead!
Alternative Technology Association
Australian Battery Recycling Initiative
Australian Energy Market Operator
Australian Solar Council
Clean Energy Council
Australian Solar Quotes
One Step Off the Grid
Gizmodo Australia Battery Guide
Written by Pauline Tan, Solar Citizens volunteer.
After the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) proposed to cut the benchmark solar feed-in tariff (FiT) in NSW from 11.9-15c/kWh to 7.5c/kWh, the Sydney Solar Citizens group sprung into action to get solar owners a fair go.
With IPART considering slashing the solar feed-in tariff, it’s clear that solar owners and supporters aren’t being listened to. Solar owners are tired of doing the legwork and not seeing any gains. Why should solar households be punished for lowering wholesale power prices and reducing peak demand with their clean power? To make sure that our message was cutting across, we decided to make some noise outside of the NSW Parliament House.
Solar citizens turned out in front of Parliament House bright and early on Tuesday morning to say enough is enough: it’s time to lift the feed-in tariff, not reduce it! The Keep Solar FiT stunt involved performing an aerobics routine in bright, yellow sweatbands and tracksuits to the motivational beat ‘Walking on Sunshine’.
Choreographed by Kristy, the NSW Community Organiser, the dance movements and gym attire were definitely eye-catching. Pumping dumbbells and barbells emphasised how solar owners and supporters are doing the heavy lifting and reducing the cost of electricity for everyone.
To see everyone get involved in the theme of the stunt made getting up early in the cold morning totally worth it. The energy generated from all the volunteers was infectious and actually made you want to do a couple lunges and bicep curls. With all the flexing and ‘blue steel’ looks, solar power has never looked better.
Tamara Smith, the Greens Member for Ballina, and Adam Searle, the NSW Shadow Energy Minister, also came along. Even though they themselves didn’t wear tracksuits, they both demonstrated their support for a fair feed-in tariff. The Greens also took the opportunity to announce their intention to introduce a Private Member’s Bill to mandate a minimum fair price for solar.
With 12,107 signatures on our Fair Price for Solar petition, and the overwhelming benefits of solar power for energy savings, health and the environment, it’s time for the NSW Government to recognise solar owners for their heavy lifting and mandate a minimum fair price for power exported to the grid.
Want to know more about the action? Watch our video here.
We’re excited to report that Solar Citizens has a new National Director!
Joseph Scales has been appointed by the Solar Citizens board as our new National Director and will be starting with us at the end of April.
Joseph has been a champion in the union movement for a just transition for coal communities. He was most recently the Secretary of the South Australia and Northern Territory branch of the Australian Services Union (ASU) since 2013, where he led the ASU work on the Repower Port Augusta campaign. ASU members were directly affected by the crisis of a lack of transition strategy in Port Augusta with the sudden closure of the town's coal-fired power station, and so the campaign pushed to have one of the world’s biggest solar thermal plants with storage built there.
Joseph has also been a long time campaigner for LGBTIQ rights, including for the reform of parenting rights in South Australia, through to marriage equality, including being a YES Equality Campaign senior staffer in the successful 2017 postal survey and legislative reform.
Joseph has many other strings to his bow, and will add enormous value to our small but mighty organisation. He's passionate about solar and renewable energy, and is looking forward to joining all of us from Monday 30th April campaigning for a sun-powered future for Australia.
On March 17, South Australians will go to the polls.
South Australia leads the world in renewable energy, but South Australians are still being ripped off by big power companies. That’s why the next state government can’t afford to rest on South Australia’s renewable energy laurels and must double down on investing in new renewable energy with storage.
Solar Citizens has surveyed and spoken to a range of parties and their leaders contesting the state election about their policies. Below we outline where the parties stand, in no particular order, on a range of key renewable energy issues.
Increasing South Australia’s Renewable Energy Target
South Australia’s Renewable Energy Target sends an important message to the community and to industry that South Australia embraces a renewable future. It’s also important that the target is backed up by targeted funding and support for key renewable and storage projects to manage the transition. The Federal Government and big power companies have constantly attacked South Australia’s existing 50% renewable target because they are worried South Australia will show the rest of the country what is possible.
Both the Greens and Labor have committed to increasing South Australia’s Renewable Energy Target.
The Greens have a 100% renewable energy target by 2025.
Labor have announced a 75% renewable energy target by 2025. Labor also announced Australia’s first storage target of 25% of South Australia’s peak demand (750MW).
SA-BEST have committed to maintaining South Australia’s existing renewable target of 50% by 2025 and are open to supporting an increased target.
The Liberals have pledged that they will scrap South Australia’s target in favour of a national target.
Invest in Renewable Energy and Storage
Backing up renewable energy targets with targeted funds to support building the right combination of renewable energy and storage is a key recommendation of Solar Citizens’ Repowering South Australia report. Making these investments brings online new technologies that will help lower costs and make South Australia less reliant on our expensive gas power stations.
Here’s what the parties have committed to:
Labor established while in government a $150 million renewable technology fund which has funded multiple projects: including, the world’s biggest virtual power plant using 50,000 household solar and battery systems, 25,000 of which are housing trust homes; grid scale battery storage; pumped hydro and renewable hydrogen. On top of the existing Renewable Technology Fund, Labor have committed to:
- A $100 million no interest loan scheme for household solar and batteries.
- Providing an extra $20 million to the Renewable Technology Fund to support reaching Labor’s renewable storage target.
The Greens have supported redirecting funds currently used for gas exploration into renewable energy.
The Liberals have committed to supporting existing solar households to install battery storage with a $100 million battery storage fund. A further $50 million has been pledged to support grid scale storage.
SA-Best have not made any announcement regarding the investment of government money into renewable energy and storage, but have pledged to use the establishment of a government backed non-profit retailer to underwrite a new dispatchable 150MW renewable power station with storage.
Make Sure All South Australians Can Access The Benefits of Affordable, Renewable Energy
Ensuring all South Australians benefit from the transition to renewable energy is a key issue for Solar Citizens. In our Repowering South Australia report, we outlined priority policies including:
- A government owned, non-profit retailer for South Australians on low-incomes.
- Working with Indigenous communities to fund and collaboratively design an Aboriginal Communities Clean Power Program
- Growing a vibrant community energy sector through a Smart Energy Communities program.
Other important areas include targeted programs to support people who are renting access the benefits of solar.
Here’s what the parties have committed to:
The Liberals have committed to:
- Considering proposals for community owned energy projects and exploring the viability of co-designing and funding an Aboriginal Renewables Program.
SA-Best have committed to:
- Establish a government backed, community owned non-profit retailer for South Australians on low-incomes and small business.
- Fund the development of community owned and led energy projects.
- Work with Aboriginal communities to fund and collaboratively design an Aboriginal Renewables Program.
- Provide incentives to landlords and renters to install solar pv and/or batteries, “looking at what makes most sense considering a combination of PV, energy management, energy efficiency, batteries and maybe subject to means testing”.
The Greens have committed to:
- Establishing a publicly-owned, non-profit energy retailer which guarantees the lowest prices for low-income households.
- Expanding the scope and amount of energy concessions to low-income households.
- Installing solar panels and solar hot water on all suitable government buildings and tenanted public housing properties.
- Establishing an Indigenous Communities Clean Power Program to ensure that all Aboriginal communities in South Australia have access to clean, affordable, local renewable electricity.
- Funded the world’s largest virtual power plant, beginning with a roll out of solar panels and batteries to 25,000 public homes and expanding to a further 25,000 homes. Labor has committed to using the trial phase of the virtual power plant rollout to look at ways to strongly encourage uptake in the private rental market.
- Strongly supported non-government groups participating in the virtual power plant retail tender to establish a ‘community retailer’ and have held significant meetings.
- Established the ‘Fund My Neighbourhood’ program and strongly encourage community energy groups to apply for funding through the $20 million program’s second round of funding.
Make South Australia a Renewable Powerhouse for Australia and the World
South Australia has a major opportunity to be a renewable energy powerhouse for Australia and the world by using new technologies to export our solar and wind interstate and overseas.
Here’s what the parties have committed to:
- Developed a renewable hydrogen export roadmap, including export targets
- Funded a range of renewable hydrogen projects, including the recently announced world’s biggest hydrogen electrolyser co-located with a large wind and solar project proposed for Crystal Brook.
- Attracted Sonnen to manufacture batteries in South Australia, who plan to export these batteries interstate and to the South-East Asia Pacific region from Adelaide.
The Liberals have committed to:
- $200 million to build an interconnector to NSW, enabling more of South Australia’s renewable energy to be exported interstate.
- They are also open to considering proposals for renewable hydrogen.
The Greens have committed to:
- Setting a renewable export target of a further 50% of our electricity needs by 2030.
- Establishing a renewable hydrogen export industry.
- Building a state owned interconnector to NSW to enable more of South Australia’s renewable energy to be exported interstate.
- Supporting research and development into renewable hydrogen.
Written by Solar Citizens supporter Kyle Pennell.
Back in 2016, Tesla acquired solar panel installer and manufacturer SolarCity to help it produce a new product, the solar roof. Tesla’s solar roof is made of a series of roofing tiles, some of which have solar cells inside. To all outward appearances, the tiles are identical, and each produces only a small amount of energy on its own. But when joined together, the tiles generate energy at a level that rivals standard solar panels.
When it was announced, the solar roof seemed like a revolutionary idea: a product that offered all the benefits of clean solar energy without the need for big, bulky solar panels. But what few people realized was that Tesla’s solar roof was actually a variation on the solar shingle (sometimes called a solar tile), a technology that has has been available commercially since 2005 and was patented in the 1970s.
Solar shingles consist of three three main layers. Like regular solar panels, each shingle absorbs and transmits the sun’s energy using a solar cell. A thin film known as a louver is placed over the cell. The louver allows light to pass through and makes the solar cell and other components within the shingle invisible from the street level. Finally, the louver and the cell are sandwiched between two pieces of tempered glass.
Compared to regular rack-mounted solar systems, solar shingles offer a number of advantages. Small and lightweight, the shingles are much easier to install than regular solar panels. And since they don’t require a roofing evaluation, the whole installation process proceeds much easier.
Some solar shingles are bundled with longer-than-average warranties. Tesla’s solar roof, for instance, is guaranteed to produce power for 30 years; the standard solar panel warranty is just 25 years. On top of that, the tiles themselves are warrantied for the entire lifetime of the house.
Manufacturers also celebrate solar shingles’ aesthetic value. Standard solar panels are highly visible and jut out visibly from the roof. Solar shingles, on the other hand, are often (though not always) indistinguishable from standard tiles on any other roof.
Tesla isn’t the only company that produces solar shingles. Solarmass, for instance, offers a tile that the company claims has a carbon footprint 136 times lower than that of standard solar panels. Aesthetic Green Power, headquartered in Minnesota, offers two solar tile products and recently partnered with Columbia University and Virginia Tech to improve its production processes. And Redwood Renewables currently manufactures a solar tile that, the company claims, has an energy efficiency rate that exceeds that of standard solar panels by nearly 20 percent.
But before Tesla, Dow was the biggest name in the solar shingle industry. When the technology behind its solar shingle, the Powerhouse, was first unveiled in 2009, Time named it one of the inventions of the year. The company claimed that the Powerhouse would cost 10 to 15 percent less than traditional solar arrays and projected sales of $10 billion by 2020.
But Dow stopped selling it in 2016 after just five years in production. Compared to traditional solar panels, the shingles were both more expensive and less efficient. The final nail in the Powerhouse’s coffin was the merger between Dow and DuPont, which saw both companies reorganized into DowDuPont.
But the company, it seems, isn’t ready to throw in the towel on solar shingles just yet, and recently announced its intention to revive the Powerhouse. In partnership with RGS Energy, the new ”Powerhouse 3.0” will utilise standard silicon solar cells rather than the CIGS thin-film technology that previous iterations of the Powerhouse did. This design decision should boost the shingles’ efficiency and lower their cost. DowDuPont plans on beginning installations this year.
The cost of getting your roof outfitted with solar shingles depends on the particular tile you choose to install and the number of tiles you want. As is the case with regular solar panels, the more energy you use, the more solar shingles your home will need. Tesla’s solar roof, which became available for preorder in Australia last year, will cost about $22 per square foot. According to some estimates, that means that a standard rooftop solar setup will cost about 30 percent less than the average cost of Tesla’s solar roof.
Australia-based Bristile Roofing offers its own solar roofing product which, like Tesla’s, consists of a mixture of solar and non-solar tiles. While it costs about three times as much as a regular solar setup, Bristile’s solar roof boasts efficiency rates on par with standard solar panels.
Tractile offers a somewhat more affordable and more efficient solar roof. Priced at $13,000 for a four-kilowatt system, the Tractile Eclipse is unique in that its tiles are far larger than normal tiles, and resembles a grid of interlocking solar panels more than it does a standard solar shingle installation.
The most affordable Australian option today is from Nulok Roofing. The company’s award-winning “solar inserts” boast efficiency rates of 18 to 22 percent and can cost as little as $8,000 (excluding the cost of an inverter and installation).
But according to PowerScout, a California-based solar startup, the price of solar shingles will continue to decline along with other costs in the solar industry. That’s even more likely now that big players like DowDuPont and Tesla are in the market.
Solar shingles are an especially good idea for anyone building a new home or replacing their old roof. By combining roof replacement and solar panel installation into a single process, homeowners could save money that would otherwise be spread out over two separate upgrades. Thanks to Australia’s generous financial incentive programs, installing a solar roof is both easy and affordable. And like regular solar panels, a solar roof can help you save dramatically on your energy bill while doing your part to lower your carbon footprint.