GREEN DEALS: PV raises the roof

Rooftop solar the star as renewables near 10 per cent of Oz power mix; Tasmania's would-be largest wind farm gets nod; Vic gets first car-share EV; and MBD Energy wins innovation prize.

Renewable energy provided almost 10 per cent of Australia’s electricity in the last 12 months, boosted by increased wind capacity and an increase in hydro-electricity production after rainfall filled depleted catchments. The latest annual survey from the Clean Energy Council, released overnight, says hydro accounted for around two thirds of the renewable energy generation in the 12 months to the end of September, with wind supplying 22 per cent. The total contribution of renewable energy was 29,302 gigawatt hours, or 9.6 per cent of total generation.

The most dramatic change was in the deployment of solar PV on household rooftops, with nearly half a million households now having rooftop solar systems – a 35-fold increase in just three years, and a near doubling in numbers in just the last six months. The CEC said one million Australians now live in a solar household. “Solar power has come of age and is now a real part of Australia’s energy sector,” it said.

However, the CEC noted that the deployment of industrial-scale clean energy such as wind farms increased more modestly because of uncertainty around the introduction of a carbon price, and the excess of certificates caused mostly by the incentives given to household solar. Only two wind farms of more than 5MW in size were delivered through the year. “Now that we have a carbon price in place, we expect to see many clean energy companies investing in major projects in 2012 and beyond,” CEC director Kane Thornton said in a statement. There are now 7 large wind projects and a 19MW bioenergy project under construction.

Thornton said the Australian clean energy market was worth more than $5 billion in the last financial year (up from $3.3 billion a year earlier) and directly employed more than 8000 people, not including those employed in administration, project management, and sales. “Clean energy is now a major industry employing thousands of people and this represents real opportunity for rural and regional areas in particular,” he said. The report said that cost of renewable energy by 2020, when it will represent 20 per cent of the nation’s generation, will account for between four per cent and seven per cent of the average household power bill.

Musselroe gets nod

Hydro Tasmania has announced the final go-ahead for a 168MW wind farm on the island’s north east, even though it is still looking for a joint venture partner for the $400 million project. The fate of the Musselroe wind farm, which will be the state’s largest, has been uncertain since April, when Hydro Tasmania unwound its Roaring 40s joint venture with CLP Holdings, the owner of the Hazelwood brown coal generator in Victoria, but it has now decided to plough ahead regardless and fund the development from its balance sheet, and will sell some smaller wind assets.
Premier Lara Gildings says the project – first canvassed seven years ago – will employ 200 people, and will use 56 3MW turbines supplied by Danish wind turbine manufacturer Vestas. The wind farm will be the state’s largest but may be surpassed in size if 100-turbine Cattle Hill wind farm, near Lake Echo in the state's Central Highlands, is approved. “This increases our renewable energy capability and is an ideal partner for our hydro capability because clearly we can utilise the wind when its blowing and then we can utilise the hydro capability later and optimise the value of that hydro generation," Hydro Tasmania chief Roy Adair said in a statement. The project is expected to be completed by mid 2013.

Sharing the EV love

Victoria gets its first electric car-share vehicle this week, with the introduction of a Mitsubishi i-MiEV into the fleet at GoGet, Australia’s largest professional car sharing service. The introduction of the GoGet i-MiEV on Tuesday is part of the Department of Transport’s Victorian EV Trial, a collaboration between Australasia EV infrastructure group ChargePoint, GoGet and various community and government organisations, including the Moreland City Council, Places Victoria and Urban Communities Limited. The car will be located at the Nicholson – a six-star energy-rated residential and retail development in East Coburg – and will be recharged through a network-enabled ChargePoint outlet installed there.

ChargePoint CEO James Brown says today’s introduction of an electric vehicle into the GoGet fleet is simply a taste of what is in store in the future. “Electric vehicles will take a increasing foothold in the Australian market in years to come and with them will come increasingly sophisticated infrastructure in support. That is where our company comes to the fore."  ChargePoint currently has networked charging stations installed at more than 50 locations throughout mainland Australia and New Zealand, which it monitors using remote diagnostic checks every 10 minutes, around the clock.

MBD NABs a prize

Australian waste-to-fuel company MBD Energy has won a NAB award for excellence in Innovation in New and Emerging Industries for its work in developing technology for capturing and recycle waste flue gas emissions from large-scale stationary emitters, such as coal fired power stations, into nutritious animal feeds and bio-fuels. The award, part of the 2011 NAB Agribusiness Awards for Excellence in Innovation, was presented at a gala dinner in Melbourne Monday night, with MBD also being announced as a finalist for the Technology and Innovation Award. MBD – which is working on commercial applications for its algal synthesis process including animal feed, food and fuel – is set to begin trialling the production of nutritious algal biomass suited to the manufacture of nutritious low-methane producing feed. Tests using the algal meal are expected to focus on cattle, pigs and poultry. The trials follow MBD’s ground-breaking construction of a one-hectare Algal Synthesiser display plant at Tarong Power Station in South East Queensland. The facility is due to be completed next year.

Andrew Lawson, MBD's managing director, says the award underscores the scale and significance of algal synthesis as an emerging area of growth and investment within the economy. “Not only are innovations such as ours of significant potential benefit to business, they also offer new approaches to tackling fundamental issues related to carbon emissions abatement and Australia’s resources and energy security," Lawson said. "We’re looking forward to commissioning the Tarong Algal Synthesiser display plant in the New Year and determining the potential commercial applications for the technology at a larger scale."

Subject to success with the trials, MBD hopes to use the Tarong one-hectare sub-module as a blueprint for a commercial-scale Algal Synthesiser facility at one or more of the three Australian coal-fired power stations MBD has agreements with. The company says its technology offers a comparatively low cost algae biomass that offers downstream commodities production potential. MBD's systems may also be suitable for retrofit to a wide range of stationary emitter including smelters, refineries and agricultural waste producers.

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