Australia Getting on the Solar Map
Up till now, Australia has not really featured in the solar power news. It was a region that, up until now, could afford to be ignored. That looks to be changing.
Three big new utility-scale solar projects Down Under, totalling more than 400 megawatts, are now in the news.
The grid-connected market in Australia grew by more than 480 percent in 2010, from 73 megawatts to 379 megawatts, according to the Australian National PV Status Report. This was driven by the country's Solar Homes and Communities program, solar credits, feed-in tariffs, photovoltaic (PV) price drops, and a favourable dollar exchange rate.
Most of the solar incentives have been aimed at small-scale residential systems, but that looks to be changing as well.
There have been three large solar announcements in the past few months, one of which was just made this week.
1. The first utility-scale PV project in Australia, the Greenough River Solar Farm, is underway, and it's being built to offset the energy usage of a seawater desalination plant. The 10-megawatt (AC) project will use 150,000 First Solar panels and is targeted to be operational in mid-2012. State-owned power utility Verve Energy and GE Energy Financial Services will each own half of the power plant. First Solar will provide EPC and O&M services. Western Australia requires new desalination plants to use power obtained from renewable sources.
2. The Australian Government picked a consortium led by Fotowatio Renewable Ventures (FRV) to develop, build and operate a 150-megawatt solar PV facility in New South Wales, the Moree Solar Farm. Consortium partners include BP Solar and Pacific Hydro. Independent power producer FRV is the majority shareholder and BP Solar is the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor.
3. Areva Solar announced the Solar Dawn project which, at 250 megawatts, will be the largest solar-natural gas hybrid plant in the world when completed. It uses the same CLFR solar thermal technology demonstrated at Areva's Bakersfield, California Kimberlina plant - technology that came from Areva's acquisition of Ausra. In April, Areva North America CEO Jacques Besnainou told Greentech Media that big deals were on the way. Solar Dawn will blend AREVA Solar’s CLFR solar steam generators with a gas boiler back-up, allowing it to provide around-the-clock power.
20.8% of German Power From Renewables
Germany is one of the world's leaders in the proportion of energy it derives from renewable sources, reports Spiegel Online. But the story is not that simple.
In 2011, so far, 20.8 percent of Germany's electricity production came from renewables, including solar (3.5%) and wind (7.5%).
In contrast, the U.S. portion of power from renewables is 11.9 percent in the early part of this year, according to the EIA.
The German figures, from Spiegel Online, are:
Anthracite, 19 percent
Lignite, 24 percent
Natural gas, 21.8 percent
Nuclear, 22 percent
Renewables: 17 percent
However, Germany burns a lot of lignite, the lowest-quality coal. If Germany is going to turn off their nuclear plants, they will need to burn a lot more of that low-quality fuel, despite their green credentials.