Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Things Commercial Solar Customers Should Keep in Mind When Installing a Solar PV System on their Rooftop

The output of the photovoltaic modules is proportional to the amount of solar radiation that is received. The modules produce electricity when the photons pass through silicon cells and excite the electrons which creates voltage and current. When photons hit the PV cell, some electrons get excited thereby generating incremental amount of electricity. Where obstacles such as trees or other roof structures cast shadows on the panels, energy yields are reduced - sometimes close to zero until the shadow has passed.

Hence, businesses which want to install a solar PV system on their rooftop, should first note that anunobstructed exposure to sunlight all through the year is vital. Any obstruction in its way is going to create a shadow. Small or partial shading of solar molecules can also cause a significant reduction in the output.  Modern micro inverters or DC controllers can alleviate the impacts, however a reduction in yield still occurs.

The installer will have to select a proper site with minimal or no shading or have to be up front about yield losses if he/she finds some shading that can’t be avoided.

Other risks include structurally unsuitable roof types which cannot safely withstand forces or ‘loads’ which the panels will exert through its weight and wind loads.

To reduce the risk of sub-optimal system design, a good approach is to have an independent solar assessment undertaken by an expert solar consultant. The consultant will identify the best location within your roof for the solar panels, and exclude unsuitable areas. 

You can contact a professional solar consultant in Australia like Enhar to undertake a thorough assessment of your rooftop, prior to inviting solar installers to quote and install. A solar consultant can check your site for the shading obstacles and recommend the best location for the solar panels to optimize energy yield through the whole year. 

Evaluating the shading profile at the installation site is an essential part of solar design as well as installation. Actually, the entire system’s performance may be greatly diminished & investment of home owners considerably undermined if shading effects are underestimated.

Today, a lot of Australian PV developers are conscious of the shading issues and many manufacturers are even making use of bypass diodes.

However, if you have a solar photovoltaic system installed and a neighbor proposed for constructing a new structure, which may impact your site, you must be able to object formally based on a reduction in your income from the solar array.

Again, a solar consultant can assist you with a shading impact assessment so you can seek suitable compensation for any yield lost through shading from newly constructed neighboring buildings.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Government Grants for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy have Stimulated a Fascinating Range of Projects in Australia

Grant funding in recent years includes federal schemes such Clean Technology Investment Program (CTIP) and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).  CTIP has been very successful in stimulating industrial energy efficiency and solar photovoltaic projects throughout Australia. A list of funded projects is provided on the Ausindustry website.

Energy related grant programs are generally designed to
  • Increase the efficiency and therefore competitiveness of businesses
  • Increase the use of latest efficient technology and migrate away from outdated, more wasteful technology
  • Create pioneering examples demonstrating successful use of new efficient technology
  • Increase confidence among Australian market sectors in the use of new more efficient technology
  • Create improved environmental outcomes

If a business has a project in mind which achieves these kinds of goals, it may be that a grant exists which can suit the project.

Finding the right grant to suit the business project involves being aware of all currently active government schemes.  Since grant programs come and go over time, keeping abreast of what is available can be challenging.

Expert companies which specialise in energy efficiency grants and renewable energy grants can be very useful for identifying which grant opportunities suit the business and the project.

Once a specific grant opportunity has been identified, the quality of the application is key to success.

The proposed project must meet the aims of the grant program in order to be awarded funding.  Some grant funding seeks to avoid certain types of projects which are deemed to be already competitive without grant funding. While grant guidelines normally spell out clearly the criteria, sometimes it can be helpful to understand the remit and aims of the grant-awarding body.  Political priorities normally precede a grant program, and sometimes a change of government or policy can change the course or move the goalposts.

State Governments also support energy efficiency and renewable energy through grants, rebates and certificate schemes in Australia.

In Victoria, Sustainability Victoria has provided a number of schemes that are related to energy efficiency grant in Victoria over many years. In 2013-2014, the ‘Smarter Resources Smarter Business’ SRSB scheme supported hundreds of small and medium businesses to improve efficiency.

Application forms are usually clear and often allow supporting attachments.

To succeed, projects must be well planned and have concrete price quotations in place for the specific work being proposed.

Proponents must be prepared to work with the grant approving body’s timeframes, including pausing their project while they await the grant decision.  If a project cannot be postponed then the organisation should consider not applying for a grant in order to have the freedom to proceed at its own preferred pace.

The process of applying should be done methodically. Again, expert assistance from specialist companies such as Enhar Pty Ltd www.enhar.com.au  can make the process smoother and increase the chances of success.

Monday, 15 December 2014

A Breakthrough in Solar Energy Has Been Announced By the Australian Scientists

Researchers in Australia have developed a new way of configuring commercial solar panels, which has broken records for conversion of sunlight into electricity – at costs which may be affordable.

The new PV system is created by the researchers of UNSW (University of New South Wales). It converts over forty percent solar energy into electrical energy, which represents a fifteen percent increase over other top panels.

The lab tests have proved that the solar cell process can convert up to forty-six percent of the energy of the sun into electricity. The new method works with the regular commercial PV cells stacked to absorb different wavelengths. This breakthrough could makesolar plants more competitive with low cost sources of energy including coal.

Martin Green, the professor of UNSW said, “This is the highest efficiency ever reported for sunlight conversion into electricity. We used commercial solar cells, but in a new way, so these efficiency improvements are readily accessible to the solar industry."

Green also said that the production of traditional solar energy only makes use of one solar cell, whichrestricts the conversion of sunlight to electricity to about thirty-three percent. But the new technology that has been developed by UNSW distributes sunlight into four various cells, therefore increasing conversion levels.

The advancement involved two important steps-3 solar panels were stacked for capturing the energy from sunlight of various wavelengths and then excess light from cells were reflected by filters and mirrors and directed to the 4th PV panel. Hence, earlier unused sunlight was used and contributes to the increased level of efficiency.

Solar researchers of UNSW have made many advancements in solar energy in past 40 years, including the first PV system for achieving a conversion rate of more than twenty percent in 1989. However, the latest development doubles that achievement.

This new technology can be used with PV power towers, which make use of sun tracking mirrors for focusing the sunlight on a tall collector building. Green however, hopes to use this technology on domestic solar panels on homeowner’s roofs in the future. Domestic solar panels presently have only fifteen to eighteen percent efficiency. “The panels that you have on the roof of your home, at the moment they just have a single cell but eventually they'll have several different cells... and they'll be able to improve their efficiency to this kind of level,” Green said.

ARENA (Australian Renewable Energy Agency) is providing funding to solar energy researchers at UNSW. Ivor Frischknecht, the CEO of the agency said in a statement, “We hope to see this home grown innovation take the next steps from prototyping to pilot scale demonstrations. Ultimately, more efficient commercial solar plants will make renewable energy cheaper, increasing its competitiveness."

ARENA is an independent Commonwealth authority, supporting the innovations, which increase the competitiveness of renewable energy technologies and improve the renewable energy supply in Australia.  ARENA has narrowly escaped abolition thanks to the intervention of the Palmer United Party whole leader made a public pledge alongside climate hero Al Gore.

For installation of solar PV on homes and businesses, the Australian Renewable Energy Target (RET) is still in place, offering 15 year ‘deeming’ for projects below 100kW.   Businesses in Australia wanting to benefit from a solar installation are pushing ahead to have their solar feasibility confirmed and purchase and install systems before mid 2015, which is likely to be the earliest date the Coalition government could reduce the RET scheme.

For energy efficiency projects, there are various financial support programs presently available in NSW and Victoria, including rebates, energy efficiency grants in Victoria and subsidies that support energy audit services such as Future Proofing Geelong.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

How to Find the Best Energy Audit Company for Your School in Melbourne?

Do you operate a School in Melbourne? Conducting an energy audit is highly recommended to improve your sustainability and reduce costs.  Engage an expert to complete an energy audit to determine when, where, how and why energy can be saved in your school and to find cost effective opportunities for improving efficiency.
You can find many energy efficiency consultants in Melbourne offering energy auditing services. But you should get in touch with the best energy auditor to get the best outcome for your project. Here is what you need to do (a 2-step process) to find the best energy audit company for your school in Melbourne.

Look online
Type in the search box of the major search engine like Google with the keyword ‘energy audit company in Melbourne’ and you will find a number of results below. Have a look at the websites of those companies, go through them and compare them.
The online directories can also be helpful. They enlist the names of hundreds of energy audit companies in their sites.
Whether it is the directories or the search engines, all you need to do is compare the different companies and narrow down your search.

Interview the auditor
After you have narrowed down your search to only 4-5 companies, get in touch with each one of them. Find out the name of the person who would actually be undertaking the audit for your school in Melbourne. Talk directly over the phone or arrange an F2F meeting with the auditor. Remember, the quality of the energy audit will actually depend on the ability of the person conducting the audit on the site.
Keep in mind to use this interview checklist for conducting an effective interview. The main things that are covered in the checklist include:

The person who will perform an energy audit of the site must have a strong exposure and a technical understanding of the building services equipment. The person must also be an expert mechanical or electrical engineer with excellent problem solving abilities. 

Past work

Discuss with the auditor about his or her past work. The examples that the person gives must not be the work of other employees of the firm. Moreover, the example energy audits must preferably be same as that of your building type and function. 

Ask the person when did he or she last perform an energy audit and who was the client? Ask to give the contact details of a few of his or her clients. Contact the customers and investigate how satisfied they have been with their energy audit service. 

Comprehensive audit

Find out if the auditor has the technical capability of analyzing and providing suggestions for saving energy with regards to all the aspects of the school premises. The aspects may include lighting, building fabric, air conditioning, school appliances and computers, etc. It is very common to mistakenly appoint an auditor who looks only at one or two aspects, resulting in partial or incomplete energy audit.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

The Steps Involved in Developing a Wind Farm in Victoria

Wind farm development in Victoria requires careful planning and adherence to local regulations. Most of the wind farms take a considerable amount of time (5 years or more) from land negotiation to commissioning. The process of development starts with site identification, land negotiation, design, wind resource assessment, through wind farm planning approval in Victoria, financial close, then the construction phase and then its operation. The following write-up indicates the steps that are typically involved in developing a wind farm. Each step can be considered a hold point at which the decision to proceed to next step is made.

Step 1

Initial research (1st year)

The desktop study identifies the windy regions with potentially appropriate access, topography and environmental overlays, and feasible connection to the electricity grid.

Decision point: Find a landholder(s), commence negotiations.

Step 2

Getting in touch with the landholder, data gathering as well as constraint mapping (1st and 2nd year)

Short-term contracts are sought with the landlords to enable exclusive access to the properties for wind measurements, initial environmental studies, understanding the limitations and other such works. The agreements may include long-term lease options as well, which are to be activated when the project reaches the construction phase or step 7.

Decision point: Refine the design and continue with more in depth wind and environmental studies

Step 3

Refine the project area, complete environmental assessment (2nd and 3rd year)

The area where the wind farm is supposed to develop in Victoria is refined and a thorough landscape, environmental, noise and such other assessment studies are done. These inform the development of the draft management and building plans and, with the community input and landholder liaison, help identify the prospective locations for turbines, access tracks, electrical connection lines and other layout details of the project.

Decision point: Move on to the submission of the planning application and formal grid connection application

Step 4

The submission of development application development (3rd year)

A complete development application document is produced for consideration by the community and the suitable planning authorities in the statutory development assessment procedure. The assessment process gives everyone the chance to make formal submissions concerning the final application, prior to it being evaluated. This process of assessment can see the application approved with or without conditions or even refused.  In Victoria, planning regulations around wind farms may change over time depending on the State government attitude towards wind farms.

Decision point: The result of the application development process considered

Step 5

Wind turbine tenders and the final agreement for the grid connection (3rd and 4th year)

If the application is approved with conditions accepted, a contract is made with the electricity network for the future grid connection. Tenders are also sought for the turbines, balance of plant and construction.

Step 6

Financial Close: Making the investment decision (4th year)

Following the approvals as well as the tenders, the people planning to make the investment, then consider whether to make expenses for construction and operation of the wind farm. It generally involves investing 2- 2.5 million dollars per MW installed. The final decision of whether to proceed or wait depends upon several business and economic issues.

Decision point: To build or not to proceed.

Step 7

Wind Farm Construction (4th and 5th year)

If the decision is made is to move ahead with the construction, orders are to be placed for turbines and transformers at this stage. A construction company is also engaged in developing the wind farm in Victoria. Long-term agreements with the landholders are made and a Community Fund is created it is commenced.

Step 8

Generation (5th year)

The wind farm that has been developed in Victoria starts to generate electricity for the national grid.