Discuss the objectives of the Australian Solar Cities project and discuss progress, activities and targets in Adelaide and one other city.
Australian Solar Cities
The main objective of Australian solar cities project is to increase reliance on cleaner sources of energy like solar power and cut down usage of energy sources which are emitters of greenhouse gases.
Investment in renewable energy sources like solar power holds the key to a future in which renewable and clean sources of power will be able to cater to the whole power demand of nations like Australia. Only when this is possible, will the humanity be able to reduce its carbon footprint.
Through the Solar cities program the government of Australia has been partnering with the community and industry for conducting trials and encouraging usage of a range of clean energy products and services under real-world conditions in seven cities of Australia (Department of Climate Change and Energy efficiency, 2012).
The Solar cities program was started in 2004. The program started with creating awareness among consumers and retailers about using sustainable energy models through which they can monitor their energy use. Such monitoring of energy usage cut down wastage and increased efficiency in energy consumption. Cutting down on energy usage through more efficient energy consumption is the first step in cutting down emission of pollutant greenhouse gases(Department of Climate Change and Energy efficiency, 2012).
Trials of business models and energy solutions have been undertaken since 2007 under the auspices of Australian Seven cities Solar project. The seven Australian cities which are part of this project are: Perth, Moreland, Adelaide, Alice Springs, Central Victoria, Townsville and Blacktown. These cities were included in the project because of their particular characteristics like presence of diverse cultural, climatic and lifestyle elements.
The project has introduced an array of solar technologies, which include photovoltaic cells, solar thermal technologies, load management, smart meters , cost-reflective pricing, in-house displays and energy audits of large grid-connected sites for tracking their energy consumption (Department of Climate Change and Energy efficiency, 2012).
Australian Seven cities solar project aims at assisting state governments, householders, businesses and industries in identifying effective actions which can minimize greenhouse gas emissions.
The development of market conditions which support the delivery of cost effective sustainable energy options is one of the stated objectives of the project. The solar cities project targets area households and businesses by conducting home energy assessments. Installation of low-emissions cleaner technologies like photo-voltaic cells, solar powered hot – water units and smart meters is part of this project.
The project also provides information on how consumers and businesses can cut down their energy bill by using more efficient and cleaner energy sources. It also provides financial support to solar power generation projects.
The project has a central database which has data and information collected from the seven cities during the trial phase. The data includes demographics on households, the types of electric appliances that the households use, the energy consumption of the households, and the characteristics of the roof-top photo-voltaic cells that have been installed on the roof-tops. Rigorous analysis of this data has helped in identifying ways to improve overall energy efficiency by cutting down on consumption. This data has also helped in informing the government policy on renewable energy sources like solar power. The database is being continuously monitored and updated.
The trial stage of Australian solar city project was conducted under the consortium model. This consortium model involved alliances between local governments, communities and businesses. Every consortium has a lead consortium member who oversees the implementation of the project in a particular city. The lead consortium member also shoulders the responsibility of submitting the progress report to the Australian government every quarter.
Under the Solar cities brand umbrella the project promotes the development of a market for solar equipments like solar heaters and photo- voltaic cells.
Main targets of Australian Solar City Project
The main targets of the solar city project are:
i) Cogeneration: The cogeneration of heat and electricity from a single fuel source.
ii) Community engagement: The objective is to build ongoing, permanent relationships with the community in order to achieve benefits and advantages for the community as a whole.
iii) Cost – reflective pricing system: This system tries to reflect the full capital and operating costs of providing energy. The aim of this system is to ensure adequate rate of return on investments in cleaner energy. Cost-reflective pricing systems will ultimately encourage private investments in solar energy.
iv) Having Iconic photo- voltaic systems: Iconic photo- voltaic systems are PV systems installed on highly visible public infrastructure. Having such iconic PV systems will go a long way in showcasing and promoting the benefits of renewable energy and sustainable living.
v) Promoting usage of smart meters: Smart meters record electricity usage of customers on a half-hourly basis. They can then send this information to the electricity distributors. Customers can also use the feedback generated by smart meters to check the pattern of their energy consumption during a day. Extensive usage of smart meters by customers and businesses will go a long way in achieving energy efficiency and cutting down on emission of greenhouse gases.
vi) Having smart grids: Smart grids can deliver electricity using digital technology. The advantage of using this technology is that it is capable in tracking overall power consumption, which can lead to more efficient energy management.
vii) Extensive installation of photo- voltaic panels: Photo-voltaic panels generate solar electricity when they are exposed to sunlight. The price of solar panels has come down drastically over the years and this has increased their viability on a mass-scale. In 2011 price of solar panels came down by more than 40 per cent. The Australian seven cities solar project aims at promoting installation of photo-voltaic cells on the rooftops of residences and business houses for increasing the usage of solar power.
viii) Increasing energy efficiency of residences and businesses: The seven cities projects aims at increasing energy efficiency of residences and businesses through the promotion of smart meters and solar energy.
ix) Financial packages: Financial support for solar energy plants will encourage private businesses to make investments in solar power.
x) Smart grid systems: Smart grid systems that use digital technology will play a key role in managing energy efficiency in present and future.
Progress, activities and targets of Solar Australia project in Adelaide:
The project delivered the world’s first solar powered bus in Adelaide. The bus known as Tindo is powered by a 50 kilowatt photo-voltaic system. Adelaide is actually Australia’s first solar city. What made the city ideal for solar energy generation was the large number of sunny days that grace it during a year (Adelaide Solar City, 2012).
A 50 KW Photo- voltaic system has been installed on the Detroit Diesel Building. This system also serves to showcase and advertise the benefits of cleaner renewable energy.
The smart metering and communication platform that was developed as part of the Australian Solar city project in Adelaide allows customers online access to data on their regular energy consumption and carbon emissions.
In the second half of 2011 Adelaide Solar City launched its Home Assist Program. This program assists those living in socially and economically backward neighborhoods of the city in achieving their energy needs in an efficient and sustainable way(Adelaide Solar City, 2012).
Photo-voltaic cells have been installed on both businesses and homes in Adelaide. Residency energy efficiency and business energy efficiency programs have been implemented. The project has provided financial support to solar energy projects in the city and surrounding areas.
Solar water heaters have been distributed as part of this project. The local community has been engaged on a continuous basis in order to promote solar energy projects.
Adelaide Solar City project has achieved its targets in promotion and installation of smart meters; installation of photo-voltaic cells at residents and businesses; having iconic photo-voltaic systems; achieving energy efficiency on the residential and business fronts; cost-reflective pricing system; urban development; community engagement; finance packages; monitoring and reporting; and solar hot water systems(Adelaide Solar City, 2012).
The project is yet to achieve its targets in smart grids; cogeneration of solar power; and energy display shop fronts. Of all the seven solar city projects, the Adelaide Solar City project is the most successful one in achieving the targets set.
The key solar projects installed by Adelaide Solar city project are:
i) Adelaide central bus station solar project: This 50 kilowatt solar PV system was installed by BP and it powers Adelaide City Council’s solar bus, “Tindo”.
ii) Golden Grove Recreation and Arts Center: This 4 kilowatt solar PV system has been installed at Golden Grove Recreation and Arts Center – an indoor sport center located in the north eastern suburbs of the city.
iii) Playford Aquadome Solar Project: This 15 kilowatt solar PV system has been installed at Aquadome, a recreation and leisure center. It consists of 90 solar panels installed on the rooftops of Aquadome.
iv) Watershed Solar Project: This is a 4 kilowatt solar PV system at Watershed in Adelaide. The project is unique in that it uses SILVER technology. This technology strives to reduce the amount of silicon used in solar panels, which in turn reduces the unit cost of solar power.
v) Rundle Lantern Solar Project: This 50 Kilowatt solar power system has been installed on the rooftop of U-Park building in Adelaide by BP in partnership with the Adelaide City Council. The system employs more than 288 solar panels.
vi) Keylink Industrial Estate Solar Project: This is the first commercial project of Adelaide Solar City. A 50 kilowatt solar project has been installed at Keylink Industrial Estate at Edinburgh Parks.
vii) Adelaide Central Market: The power needs of the market are being met by 288 panels installed on the rooftops of the market. This project has been installed by the public-private partnership of BP Solar and Adelaide City Council.
Progress, activities and targets of Solar Australia project in Alice Springs:
Alice Springs has one of the highest solar radiation rates in Australia. Four large scale solar generation power projects in Alice Spring were established as part of this project. With the implementation of this project, half of households in the city now use solar hot water systems. The use of these systems has cut down non-renewable energy consumption considerably in the city (Alice Solar City, 2012).
Alice Springs solar city project promotes large scale photo-voltaic systems. Its generation capacity is 1.5 Megawatts (MW). More than 300 homes and businesses have been fitted with rooftop photo-voltaic systems during the implementation of Australian Solar Cities project in Alice Springs (Alice Solar City, 2012).
Of all the seven cities which are part of Australia Solar cities project, Alice Srings boasts of highest concentration of solar energy.
One of the targets of solar energy project in Alice Springs is to integrate solar energy systems into the major community structures of the city. The projected has so far succeeded in achieving this target. Large number of community structures have adopted solar energy systems since the project started. The success of the project on this aspect has also shown that solar energy projects are viable on large scale also (Alice Solar City, 2012).
The Alice Solar city consortium is the only one which is led by a local government body, the Alice Springs Town Council. Through a voucher system, Alice Springs Solar City provides a range of incentives to its residents and businesses for cutting down energy consumption and embracing solar energy systems.
Alice Solar City Consortium is a truly grassroots community project which has succeeded in achieving many of its targets and objectives. Smart meters; installation of photo-voltaic cells at residents and businesses; installation of iconic photo-voltaic systems; achieving residential and business energy efficiency; having a cost reflective pricing system; engagement of the local community in solar energy promotion; monitoring and reporting of the project; promoting solar hot water systems and having energy display shopfronts are some of the targets that Alice Spring Solar city project has achieved.
The project is yet to achieve its targets set on urban development; financial packages to solar energy projects; smart grids; and co-generation.
The key solar projects installed by Alice Springs Solar city project are:
i) Crowne Plaza solar system: The Crowne Plaza hotel project was the first iconic project completed under the Alice Springs Solar City Project. This 304 kilowatt system has more than 1300 photovoltaic modules. This solar system is expected to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of the hotel by more than 420 tones per annum.
ii) Alice Springs Airport: This 250 kilowatt solar project installed at Alice Springs’ airport is likely to meet 28 per cent of the energy demand of the airport. It will cut down the greenhouse gas emissions of the airport by more than 470 tonnes per year.
iii) Alice Springs Aquatic and leisure center project: This solar water heating system uses 275 Helicol solar panels for heating the four pools at Alice Springs Aquatic and Leisure Center. This system will reduce the carbon emissions of the center by more than 350 tones annually.
iv) Araluen cultural precinct project: A 162 kilowatt solar power system will be installed as part of the project at Araluen cultural centre.
v) Uterne Solar Power Station: This 1 Megawatt solar power station has been developed by the partnership of Sun Power Corporation and Power and Water Corporation. This power station was installed at a cost of $ 6.6 million. This solar system is likely to generate 2300 megawatt hours of electricity per year, which can meet the energy demands of around 300 households of the city.
The other Solar City Projects:
The others solar city projects, besides Adelaide and Alice Springs one, are also striving to achieve their targets. The Moreland Solar City project seems to be the least successful till now in achieving its targets. The project has still not achieved its targets in smart meters, residential and business photo-voltaic cells, iconic photo-voltaic systems, cost-reflective pricing, financial packages, smart grid and solar hot water systems.
The Blacktown Solar City Project and Townsville Solar City Project have achieved more than 70 per cent of their targets (Blacktown Solar City,2012). The Central Victoria Solar City Project has achieved around 66 per cent of the targets while the Perth Solar city project has managed to achieve only 60 per cent of the targets.
The Australian Solar Cities Project has laid down the foundation on which solar and renewable energy usage will spread not only in the seven targeted cities but to the whole of Australia. Other nations too can follow the model of this project for creating a cleaner and greener future where countries can meet the obligations of greenhouse cuts made in the original draft of the Kyoto protocol.
The Project has succeeded in achieving many of the milestones that it set for itself. It can be replicated for promoting other renewable and clean energy sources like wind energy. The Australian Solar Cities project is a truly remarkable project which is really acting as a catalyst of change.
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