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Surely no-one can complain about a solar power plant?

By johnboy - 15 May 2009 37

Simon Corbell has braced himself for your complaints over the possible locations for a solar power plant here in the ACT.

    “The Government has identified two potential sites for the solar facility, one within Kowen Forest and other within the former Ingledene Forest,” said Mr Corbell.

    “Naming two possible sites for the facility does not in any way preclude potential solar power facility proponents coming forward with other suggestions, but the site must be located within the borders of the ACT,” Mr Corbell said.

    “Any sites in this project must be scrutinised through a community consultation process as well as satisfying ACT planning regulations including lodging a development application.

I gather Ingledene Forest is to the south of Tharwa which should at least cheer Val Jeffreys up with the possibility of customers in his store.

At the same time Simon is also asking for industry to put its hand up to build and operate the thing.

    The Government will commit $30 million towards the facility, with the nature of the contribution to be finalised in consultation with the preferred proponent.

    “We are prepared to make a substantial contribution towards establishing this facility and to building a firm foundation for renewable energy generation in the ACT.

    “Through the EOI we are seeking proposals for a solar power facility that uses commercially proven direct solar technology, is capable of providing power to at least 10,000 homes, is located within the ACT, is commercially viable and meets the scheduled generator requirements under the National Electricity Market.

What’s Your opinion?


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37 Responses to
Surely no-one can complain about a solar power plant?
monomania 2:40 pm 15 May 09

shutterbug said :

Correct, an entry level system will typically cover 25% of a household’s energy demands. City wide, that is around a 25% reduction in energy use which is a far better reduction than any other plans out there such as light rail.

If the government were to put in $2 billion, the same as light rail would cost, I’m sure each home could get a full 5KW system that covers 100% of their demand.

Fore those cloudy days, green grid connected options can be called upon.

Rubbish. On present day costs the figure for PV would be 4.5 – 5.5 billion for domestic and about the same for government and industry. At present PV is very expensive and micro generated PV is it’s most expensive configuration. Why use it if there are cheaper alternative renewables and other alternatives to reducing carbon emissions.

shutterbug 2:19 pm 15 May 09

monomania said :

shutterbug said :

johnboy said :

Power generation scales.

Small scale stuff is almost never competitive.

That could change if pholtovoltaics become genuinely economical but for now a great big single plant will give a much better return.

Not sure about that.
National Resources Defence Council’s research states that while coal and gas power costs around 4c per kW/h, concentrated solar energy from solar power plants can cost over 10c per kW/h (in US currency). The US also has far larger solar plants serving more homes with greater economies of scale.

Current predictions are that by 2020, concentrated solar will cost around the same as coal and gas.
And with concentrated solar, Canberrans will still be paying for electricity.

If an Average home solar installation starts at around $8000, and many larger homes cost around $500 per quarter to power from traditional sources, I think in the long term, solar would be the more cost effective one for households. Once the panels are paid back to the government, Canberrans will enjoy free energy.

Well we aren’t talking about 2020. We are talking about now. There is nowhere in the world where solar power is being produced for 10¢/kWh.

How much for present day solar on roofs of Canberra houses.
Feds pay $8000 + $980
Over 20 years x 1800kWh for a 1kW generator that is 25¢ for each kilowatt hour the panel will produce.
ActewAGL is made to buy this for 50.05¢/kWh under the feed-in tariff scheme.
That is 75 cents per kilowatt hour. And it will still be nearly 60¢/kWh for a less cost ineffective 5kW generator under the new rules that apply in July.

What else is wrong with your logic.
The $9000 generator only produces 1800kWh a year which is only a quarter of the electricity most households need.
The system requires a convertor (DC to AC) which costs thousands of dollars and needs to be replaced every 7 years or so.

The commercial generator probably solar thermal will need an upfront subsidy of at least 60% to make any profit or a lower subsidy with a tariff of at least 25c/kWh which will make it more expensive that todays Green energy which costs the consumer less than 16.5¢ but is in short supply.

Commercial solar per kWh will cost less than half what micro-generation on the roofs of houses.

A 22MW generator providing for 10000 homes will provide maybe 4% of current ACT electricity consumption. So we would need 25 to 30 of them to be carbon neutral in electricity alone by 2020. Figures like these make the aspiration of nett carbon emissions by 2020 seem like empty retoric.

The Government should make sure the first commercial plant is built and make the feed-in tariff for domestically produced PV electricity the same. About 25¢/kWh. Then we will see who is committed to have solar panels fitted to their homes.

I think you’re getting about a dozen wires crossed.
10c per kw/h is in US currency and is the cost for concentrated solar power, that is power from a solar power station servicing 80,000 homes. By 2020, the solar power should cost around the same in the US.

I said an entry level system will only do 25% of a household’s needs, but that will still deliver a greater carbon reduction than any light rail network. And think about it, the solar system will last 20yrs with occasional maintenance, how often and how much will it cost to maintain a light rail network that cost 2billion to start with? Heaps.

If every home had a 5KW solar system, most days it would produce energy to be self sufficient and perhaps make a little surplus sold back to the grid (to those in NSW who can buy it). On days when the sun is obscured, energy would be taken from the grid which will hopefully become more dependant on hydro and wind power in coming years.

And DC-AC convertors don’t cost thousands.

shutterbug 2:10 pm 15 May 09

Spectra said :

If an Average home solar installation starts at around $8000, and many larger homes cost around $500 per quarter to power from traditional sources, I think in the long term, solar would be the more cost effective one for households. Once the panels are paid back to the government, Canberrans will enjoy free energy.

In addition to what fnaah has already mentioned, there’s also the minor detail that your typical $8000 PV installation won’t actually supply you with enough power for the whole house. Nor do we have any kind of storage infrastructure to deal the the minor problem of cloudy days or, you know, night time.

I’m not against solar or anything, indeed one of my plans in the next few years is to get it installed myself, but we have to be realistic about what we can and can’t achieve with it.

Correct, an entry level system will typically cover 25% of a household’s energy demands. City wide, that is around a 25% reduction in energy use which is a far better reduction than any other plans out there such as light rail.

If the government were to put in $2 billion, the same as light rail would cost, I’m sure each home could get a full 5KW system that covers 100% of their demand.

Fore those cloudy days, green grid connected options can be called upon.

monomania 2:08 pm 15 May 09

shutterbug said :

johnboy said :

Power generation scales.

Small scale stuff is almost never competitive.

That could change if pholtovoltaics become genuinely economical but for now a great big single plant will give a much better return.

Not sure about that.
National Resources Defence Council’s research states that while coal and gas power costs around 4c per kW/h, concentrated solar energy from solar power plants can cost over 10c per kW/h (in US currency). The US also has far larger solar plants serving more homes with greater economies of scale.

Current predictions are that by 2020, concentrated solar will cost around the same as coal and gas.
And with concentrated solar, Canberrans will still be paying for electricity.

If an Average home solar installation starts at around $8000, and many larger homes cost around $500 per quarter to power from traditional sources, I think in the long term, solar would be the more cost effective one for households. Once the panels are paid back to the government, Canberrans will enjoy free energy.

Well we aren’t talking about 2020. We are talking about now. There is nowhere in the world where solar power is being produced for 10¢/kWh.

How much for present day solar on roofs of Canberra houses.
Feds pay $8000 + $980
Over 20 years x 1800kWh for a 1kW generator that is 25¢ for each kilowatt hour the panel will produce.
ActewAGL is made to buy this for 50.05¢/kWh under the feed-in tariff scheme.
That is 75 cents per kilowatt hour. And it will still be nearly 60¢/kWh for a less cost ineffective 5kW generator under the new rules that apply in July.

What else is wrong with your logic.
The $9000 generator only produces 1800kWh a year which is only a quarter of the electricity most households need.
The system requires a convertor (DC to AC) which costs thousands of dollars and needs to be replaced every 7 years or so.

The commercial generator probably solar thermal will need an upfront subsidy of at least 60% to make any profit or a lower subsidy with a tariff of at least 25c/kWh which will make it more expensive that todays Green energy which costs the consumer less than 16.5¢ but is in short supply.

Commercial solar per kWh will cost less than half what micro-generation on the roofs of houses.

A 22MW generator providing for 10000 homes will provide maybe 4% of current ACT electricity consumption. So we would need 25 to 30 of them to be carbon neutral in electricity alone by 2020. Figures like these make the aspiration of nett carbon emissions by 2020 seem like empty retoric.

The Government should make sure the first commercial plant is built and make the feed-in tariff for domestically produced PV electricity the same. About 25¢/kWh. Then we will see who is committed to have solar panels fitted to their homes.

shutterbug 2:07 pm 15 May 09

fnaah said :

Not so fast. Current PV’s have a limited lifespan (~10 years), their output drops considerably as they age, which means they need to be replaced on a recurring basis. It’s still not as cost effective as current electricity generating methods (if you leave out the less-easy-to-quantify things like cost to the environment etc…)

… but still. We need to stop ignoring those “hidden costs”, or we’ll just consume ourselves into extinction.

Actually, PV panels are now rated to last over 20 years, with many having 10yr warranties and 20yr guarantees against damage from the elements.
The 10 year “limit” and reduced output warnings are outdated idea from the earliest days of PV.
Manufacturers do warn that certain supporting components like AC-DC convertors will need replacement more often (around 8-10 yrs), but the same devices need replacement anyway in large scale plants as they wear and are not very expensive on a consumer level system.

deye 1:51 pm 15 May 09

I bet the airport might object to Kowen forest as being too close to the flight path. Would you want a pilot coming in to land from the North being blinded by reflected sunlight from the panels ? It would depend if the plant uses follow the sun panels.

ant 1:44 pm 15 May 09

I found a dead King Parrot in my garden, and I reckon it’s the Tarago wind farm. They haven’t turned it on yet, but the horizon is bristling with bird-smashers and I reckon they did it.

Spectra 1:31 pm 15 May 09

If an Average home solar installation starts at around $8000, and many larger homes cost around $500 per quarter to power from traditional sources, I think in the long term, solar would be the more cost effective one for households. Once the panels are paid back to the government, Canberrans will enjoy free energy.

In addition to what fnaah has already mentioned, there’s also the minor detail that your typical $8000 PV installation won’t actually supply you with enough power for the whole house. Nor do we have any kind of storage infrastructure to deal the the minor problem of cloudy days or, you know, night time.

I’m not against solar or anything, indeed one of my plans in the next few years is to get it installed myself, but we have to be realistic about what we can and can’t achieve with it.

H1NG0 1:14 pm 15 May 09

shutterbug said :

Here’s an idea, put that $30 million into a partnership with an energy company and start putting photovoltaic cells on Canberra homes. Turn the whole city into a big power station. Surely if they rolled out such panels, we would cover our needs and then sell the surplus power back to the grid.

Infact, lets take that ridiculous $2billion needed for what would be a useless light-rail network, get the Federal government to give it to us on the proviso that we use it to install solar power on every house in Canberra. We’d still have change from that figure and be making a far larger difference to carbon emissions.

That is exactly right! The future of solar power isn’t with power plants, its with users installing the panels on their roof and being self-sufficient. Canberra is the perfect place for it as well with very few shadow casting high rises. Unfortunately I don’t think the Government would be too keen to have it that way because they would lose a very big lump of revenue.

fnaah 1:13 pm 15 May 09

If an Average home solar installation starts at around $8000, and many larger homes cost around $500 per quarter to power from traditional sources, I think in the long term, solar would be the more cost effective one for households. Once the panels are paid back to the government, Canberrans will enjoy free energy.

Not so fast. Current PV’s have a limited lifespan (~10 years), their output drops considerably as they age, which means they need to be replaced on a recurring basis. It’s still not as cost effective as current electricity generating methods (if you leave out the less-easy-to-quantify things like cost to the environment etc…)

… but still. We need to stop ignoring those “hidden costs”, or we’ll just consume ourselves into extinction.

Gungahlin Al 1:03 pm 15 May 09

GCC is keen to pursue the concept of a community cooperative into which local people who perhaps wouldn’t be able to afford their own PV roof system can invest in a larger scale facility, and through it capitalise on the feed-in tariff income.

We have discussed with ACT Climate Change team people, Jon Stanhope, and Simon Corbell the idea of siting such a facility in a high-profile location such as next to the Federal Highway when entering Canberra in the area to be known as Kenny (subject to solar access of course).

ACTEW called us about presenting to one of our meetings about their plans for the $30m for their Tharwa land. But we haven’t heard anything further from them since we said we had designs on some of it…

neanderthalsis 1:01 pm 15 May 09

There is always one single interest lobby group that will be opposed to any proposed development no matter what it is.

Someone will come up with some stupid excuse such as the reflection of light off the panels will blind the poor Norwegian Blue parrot (lovely plumage, the Norwegian blue) causing it to stall, go into a flat spin and crash & burn.

shutterbug 12:53 pm 15 May 09

johnboy said :

Power generation scales.

Small scale stuff is almost never competitive.

That could change if pholtovoltaics become genuinely economical but for now a great big single plant will give a much better return.

Not sure about that.
National Resources Defence Council’s research states that while coal and gas power costs around 4c per kW/h, concentrated solar energy from solar power plants can cost over 10c per kW/h (in US currency). The US also has far larger solar plants serving more homes with greater economies of scale.

Current predictions are that by 2020, concentrated solar will cost around the same as coal and gas.

And with concentrated solar, Canberrans will still be paying for electricity.

If an Average home solar installation starts at around $8000, and many larger homes cost around $500 per quarter to power from traditional sources, I think in the long term, solar would be the more cost effective one for households. Once the panels are paid back to the government, Canberrans will enjoy free energy.

johnboy 12:42 pm 15 May 09

Power generation scales.

Small scale stuff is almost never competitive.

That could change if pholtovoltaics become genuinely economical but for now a great big single plant will give a much better return.

shutterbug 12:39 pm 15 May 09

Here’s an idea, put that $30 million into a partnership with an energy company and start putting photovoltaic cells on Canberra homes. Turn the whole city into a big power station. Surely if they rolled out such panels, we would cover our needs and then sell the surplus power back to the grid.

Infact, lets take that ridiculous $2billion needed for what would be a useless light-rail network, get the Federal government to give it to us on the proviso that we use it to install solar power on every house in Canberra. We’d still have change from that figure and be making a far larger difference to carbon emissions.

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