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By Willow Aliento
June 18, 2018
These are boom times in the renewable energy sector, with recent figures from the Clean Energy Council showing at least 58 large-scale projects either completed, under construction or committed this year. Together, they represent more than $10 billion in investment and will create over 6,141 direct jobs.
While large-scale solar and wind projects represent the bulk of the workload, there are also new developments planned or underway involving biofuels, pumped hydroelectric storage and utility-scale battery storage projects.
Some of the innovations happening in the sector may even change some of the fundamentals of general construction, including the way power is supplied for sites, the fuel in vehicles or the specifications for industrial, water treatment and agricultural developments.
Large-Scale Solar and Ingenious Modular Solutions
Large-scale solar still represents more than half of the investment and job creation in the renewable sector, according to the CEC. Over $5 billion is going into projects, with around 4,300 jobs being created, the majority of them in the construction of projects.
Major projects due to start construction before the end of 2018 include the $400 million 100MW Lilyvale Solar Farm in Queensland, the $500 million 112MW Yatpool Solar Park in Victoria, and the $700 million 330 MW Riverland Solar Farm in South Australia.
On a smaller scale, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) recently announced $289,725 in funding for Canberra’s ECLIPS Engineering to design, manufacture, and test a pop-up mobile solar PV system. The aim is to replace diesel generators as a temporary power supply for construction sites, military operations and disaster relief.
The rapidly redeployable Container Roll Out Solar System (CROSS) is a factory assembled, relocatable solar array. It is designed to fit inside a standard shipping container, and units can be stacked up to seven units high. It was developed to reduce the logistics challenges associated with deploying solar PV generators.
“CROSS units can be deployed in off-grid and fringe-of-grid areas. They can displace or offset diesel consumption and improve the security of existing networks,” ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said.
“These renewable options can reduce some of the barriers to entry for potential renewable power users in remote locations, including short project durations and projects requiring periodical relocation of the power systems.”
ECLIPS Managing Director Shaun Moore said that the original objective for CROSS was to improve power self-sufficiency for defence.
“One of our early objectives was to provide rapidly deployable utility scale PV generators to improve the self-sufficiency of Defence’s deployed forward operating bases,” said Moore. “Diesel consumption related to the provision of electricity can account for up to 70 per cent of deployed forces’ fuel usage and is a significant cost driver. More importantly, deploying CROSS to forward operating bases also reduces the frequency of convoys for fuel resupply, which in turn reduces the threat to soldiers in contested environments.
“These same logistics efficiencies and benefits are transferable to commercial and utility customers in remote areas of Australia,” added Moore.
First Industrial Solar Farm
Another modular solar solution has been used for what is believed to be the first industrial solar farm of its kind in Sydney. Manufacturer Impact International recently installed a 290kW system at its Smithfield facility. The system is capable of supplying all of the power required by the industrial site.
It is actually expected to generate 395 MWhs of electricity annually — enough to power 90 homes.
The solar farm comprises a 5B Maverick solar array, technology developed and manufactured in Sydney. The Maverick system is compatible with energy storage so businesses can save any extra energy produced.
The Impact International array, installed by Smart Commercial Solar, occupies over 800 square metres.
“Impact has shown that solar is not only commercially viable for industrial operations but also has critical benefits for the entire supply chain,” said Huon Hoogesteger, founder of Smart Commercial Solar. “Increasingly, being able to say that your energy was generated on-site from the sun is becoming a sought-after business benefit.”
Who’s Building The Biggest Wind?
Victoria and Queensland are both claiming the honours of having Australia’s largest wind farms under development. However, Victoria may get to hold the title for quite some time, as construction has just begun on the Stockyard Hill Wind Farm in Western Victoria.
The project is being developed by Goldwind, and comprises 149 turbines that are expected to generate 530 MW of electricity — enough to power more than 340,000 households. It is also going to create around 300 local jobs during construction.
More large-scale projects either underway or on the drawing board in the state include Lal, Moorabool, Murra Warra, Bulgana, and Golden Plains.
According to Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, the eight wind farms worth a total of $1.07 billion that have been built since his government was elected, have created more than 2,300 construction jobs. A further nine are under construction, worth a total of $3.2 billion.
Queensland’s candidate for the country’s biggest wind farm is the $1 billion Clarke Creek project, which received final approval recently.
Lacour is developing the 195 turbine project at a site 150 kilometres north-west of Rockhampton. Lacour also has a solar farm project in the Clarke Creek area.
Mark Rayner, Director of Lacour Energy, said the Clarke Creek wind farm would have a power output of over 800 megawatts of electricity.
“It is a unique renewable energy project which combines excellent wind and solar resources at a location directly adjacent to the backbone of the Powerlink 275 kV transmission network,” Mr Rayner said. “We look forward to completing the feasibility study by the end of the year so that construction can begin early next year.”
$4.5 Billion Pipeline of Projects
The project is expected to create approximately 350 jobs during construction, Queensland Minister for State Development Cameron Dick said.
“In addition to building the turbines, associated infrastructure will include substations, temporary workers’ accommodation, staff and operational facilities, and power lines,” Mr Dick said. “This means jobs for the region over the project’s 36-month construction period and more clean energy that our state can tap into.”
In fact, there is a pipeline of projects in the state worth almost $4.5 billion, Queensland Energy Minister Dr Anthony Lynham said.
“Queensland is focused on reaching its 50 per cent renewable energy target by 2030, with more than 20 projects currently either underway or financially committed, creating more than 3,500 construction jobs across the state,” Dr Lynham said.
Renewable Fuels Sector Firing Up
CEO of Bioenergy Australia, Shahana McKenzie tells Jobsite that the bioenergy sector is seeing plenty of new projects getting up and running.
The waste to energy space, in particular, is one to watch. Huge growth in the installation of anaerobic digestion systems can be observed. The installations work by collecting the methane emitted by any form of wet waste such as wastewater, organic municipal waste, or effluent from dairy operations, pig farms or abattoirs.
In one example, an abattoir at Goulburn directs run-off into a pond that has a seal over the top. The methane the wastewater produces is collected and used to generate power for the abattoir’s operation.
Beside a reduction in methane emissions, the technology means the company has halved its previous energy costs. It also eliminates a waste problem.
A lot of wastewater treatment plants are also installing similar systems, Ms McKenzie said. For those looking to design and construct these types of facilities, she said, it means there is a need to look for the best long-term strategic solution that would fulfill its energy needs. Standard gas and electricity solutions may not be the way to go.
Another trend is processing facilities that require a lot of heat to operate converting from gas boilers to biomass-fuelled boilers.
For some, that means using waste generated by another facility, such as wood waste from a sawmill. Others are able to use their own waste, like a macadamia processor that is using the hulls from the nuts to fuel the boiler.
The business case is a sound one, Ms McKenzie said. “Energy independence is also a big thing. It enables industries to set their own energy price. You don’t need to look ahead at what energy prices might be in the future.”
Biofuels for transport are also a growing sector. Ms McKenzie said that the reduction in emissions associated with biofuels is significant; it’s not just the reduction in the carbon emissions but also sulphur and particulate pollution.
The ethanol used in motor vehicle fuels also derives from a waste stream — a large percentage produced in Australia is a by-product of gluten production. Other sources include bagasse, the green waste left after the extraction of sugar from sugar cane. Woodchips can also be a source for biodiesel.
In terms of the uptake of biofuels for transport, the main focus right now is in aviation, heavy haulage, and marine applications, Ms McKenzie said.
Ms McKenzie says a lot of the biodiesels being produced now are “drop-in fuels,” where no modification is required to the vehicle’s engine to use them.
There are also further innovations appearing. In Japan, a hybrid car battery has been developed. It is fuelled with 300ml of ethanol to provide 800kms of driving.
In Queensland, the 24MW MSF Green Power Station, currently under construction, will use bagasse to power a biofuel refinery that will use blue agave and sugar cane waste to produce an estimated 55 million litres of ethanol biofuel annually.
In Western New South Wales, MSM Milling is switching its gas-fired boilers to a biomass-fuelled boiler for its canola processing operation.
The $5.38 million project will involve installing a 4.88MW biomass-fired boiler, fuelled by locally sourced woodchips, such as forestry thinnings, offcuts, and sawmill by-products.
The company has partnered with technology providers Justsen, Uniquip Engineering, and carbon energy expert Ndevr Environmental for the project. It will be documenting and sharing the process of adopting the biofuel technology to encourage further uptake within the Australian manufacturing sector, MSM Milling Director Bob Mac Smith said.
Big batteries are big business
Since Elon Musk switched on Australia’s first utility-scale battery array in South Australia last year, new large-scale energy storage projects have been multiplying. One of the most recent to receive funding is a $50 million Victorian initiative funded jointly by the Victorian government and ARENA.
The two large-scale grid-connected battery projects will deliver a combined 55 MW of power and can provide approximately 80 MWh of energy storage capacity. The lithium-ion batteries are to be located at the Gannawarra solar farm near Kerang and in Warrenheip, Ballarat.
“ARENA is excited to be demonstrating the capabilities these new batteries will provide in securing reliable electricity for western Victoria as well as to facilitate Victoria’s transition to renewable energy,” Mr Frischknecht said.
“Battery storage will play a crucial role in the future energy mix, alongside other forms of storage and in conjunction with variable renewables and demand management.”
The Ballarat project is being delivered by a consortium led by Spotless Sustainability Services. A 30 MW / 30 MWh large-scale, grid-connected battery to be supplied by Fluence will be constructed at the Ballarat terminal station. Energy distributor, AusNet will own the battery.
The second battery is to be built at Gannawarra near Kerang, Victoria. This 25 MW / 50 MWh Tesla battery will be co-located and integrated with the 60 MW Gannawarra Solar Farm and will be owned by Edify Energy and its partner Wirsol.
Also in Victoria, work has begun on the Bulgana Green Power Hub in Stawell, a major new wind farm with battery storage.
The Green Power Hub will comprise a 194 MW wind farm with Siemens-Gamesa wind turbines, combined with a 20 MW/34 MWh lithium-ion battery provided by Tesla. AusNet Services, the owners and operators of the Victorian electricity transmission network, will develop the transmission connection for the project.
Victorian Minister for Energy Lily D’Ambrosio said the project is expected to create estimated 1,300 jobs. The wind farm is due to be completed by late 2019, and it is expected to generate over 740,000 MWh of renewable energy every year.
Can A Whole State Be A Battery?
Pumped hydro is another renewable energy innovation that has a lot of people talking. ARENA has provided more than $21 million in funding for feasibility studies into pumped hydro projects across Australia, including for Snowy 2.0, Cultana and Middleback Ranges in South Australia and Kidston in Queensland.
One of the potential benefits of the technology is its potential to turn disused quarries and mine pits into virtual batteries for storing solar or wind energy.
This technology is also being taken very seriously by Hydro Tasmania. The company has just released a study showing pumped hydro could generate 4800 MW of potential capacity across 14 sites. The 14 high potential sites are located around eight existing reservoirs across Tasmania’s central highlands, north and west coast.As part of the research, around 2,000 sites across the state were assessed
The study estimated the capital cost of implementing the projects would be between $1.1 million to $2.3 million per MW.
ARENA has committed up to $2.5 million for Hydro Tasmania’s ‘Battery of the Nation’ initiative, a bundle of proposed projects that include redeveloping existing hydro-electric power stations, building new pumped hydro plants, and expanding the role of Tasmania in the National Electricity Market using new wind power and hydropower.
The feasibility of a second interconnector across the Bass Strait to transport energy into the mainland grid is also being assessed.
The initiative could see a doubling of the state’s flexible generation capacity and thus enable the state to provide large-scale energy storage for the mainland.
“As Australia’s renewable energy make-up continues to grow, energy storage will be increasingly necessary, which is why this project is so important,” Mr Frischknecht said.
“Tasmania has been identified as the Battery of the Nation for a reason, as it has some of the best wind resources and existing hydroelectric power.”
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