Solar Energy Opportunities for the Australian Nursery Industry

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1 Solar Energy Opportunities for the Australian Nursery Industry Introduction Solar energy is a freely available source of renewable energy that is suitable for utilisation at almost all locations in Australia. Opportunities for the use of solar energy in the nursery industry include: (1) Photovoltaic (PV) Solar Panels for electricity generation and (2) Thermal Collectors for hot water production. Electricity generation and solar hot water production to either offset or replace the electricity used within your nursery operation offers the ability to significantly reduce or even eliminate electricity costs to your business. Reproduced from Basic Principles PV (Solar) Panels PV (Solar) Panels capture light energy from the sun and convert it to electricity using semiconductor material within the solar panel. The generated DC electricity is wired from an array of panels to an inverter which converts it to 240AC you can use in your operations. With the proper meter installed, excess electricity can be sold back to the electricity grid to generate income. Reproduced from Thermal Collectors (Solar Hot Water) The latest generation of thermal collectors contain absorber plates that enable solar energy to heat a carrier fluid to temperatures around 80 C. Evacuated tube collectors provide high performance even in wet, cold and cloudy weather. Reproduced from Page 1

2 Types and Components Solar Panel (PV) The most common solar panels are either monocrystalline or poly-crystalline silicone. A third type, thin film technology, is too inefficient for typical solar energy requirements. Monocrystalline solar cells are more costly to produce, but offer higher efficiencies (12-15%). For applications where available surface area is low, mono-crystalline panels may be employed. Polycrystalline solar panels are less efficient (11-13%), but much more affordable. In the solar energy market poly-crystalline panels appear to be most popular due to the lower cost to purchase. Typical life span of a poly-crystalline solar panel is years while still maintaining 80% of the rated output. Inverters An inverter is required to convert the DC electricity produced from the solar panels to 240ac that is compatible with the Australian mains supply. The inverter will automatically sync to the frequency and voltage of the supply when connected to your currently installed circuits. For production of 3 phase electricity, a minimum of 3 inverters are required; 1 per phase. However, for installations of up to 10kW or 3 phase installations nearing 10Kw per phase it is recommended that multiple inverters are Reproduced from employed such that if one unit fails the system will not be completely offline. Manufacturer guarantees range from 5 to 15 years for inverters. Extended warranties are available from some suppliers to extend the minimum 5 year guarantee out to 15 years. As the lifespan of a typical inverter is years it is an important consideration. Meter To allow you to feed in or export excess electricity generated from your solar system to the electricity grid, your electricity retailer will need to replace your standard analog meter with an interval meter or digital smart meter. Your new meter will supply half hourly readings of the electricity you consume and the electricity you export to the grid. Reproduced from A standard analog meter (left) and a new solar digital smart meter (right). Reproduced from Page 2

3 Thermal Collectors (Solar Hot Water) Solar hot water systems have been around for quite a while in Australia and significant improvements have been made in their efficiency. The current (2 nd ) generation of solar hot water with Evacuated Tube technology are significantly smaller, more efficient and able to produce hot water in all conditions. A solar collector is basically a flat box composed of three main parts, a transparent cover, tubes which carry a coolant and an insulated back plate. The solar collector works on the green house effect principle; solar radiation incident upon the transparent surface of the solar collector is transmitted through this surface. The inside of the solar collector is usually evacuated, the energy contained within the solar collector is trapped and thus heats the coolant contained within the tubes. The tubes are usually made from copper, and the backplate is painted black to help absorb solar radiation. The solar collector is usually insulated to avoid heat losses. Advantages / Disadvantages Please read about the financial incentives available for your business when installing a Renewable Energy source, otherwise known as a Small Generation Unit (SGU) by downloading the companion information sheet Financial Incentives and Subsidies for installing a Renewable Energy System from the NGIA Renewable Energy Calculator website ( Advantages of Solar Power and Solar Hot Water include: Greenhouse Gas Reduction Offset or eliminate your electricity bills 25 years life a minimum 80% output for most solar panels Good return on investment and short payback periods for Solar systems in most areas. The latest generation of Solar Hot Water systems are highly efficient Disadvantages of Solar Power and Solar Hot Water include: Land or roof space required for system installation. Lifespan of a typical invertor is years. Therefore, you will need to cost the replacement of an inverter/s in the life of the solar PV system. Financial incentives and system design can be confusing: Best to engage a reputable supplier/installer who can assist you from design to installation. Also speak with your accountant and the ATO to determine your eligibility for tax incentives. Solar Hot water systems do not qualify for RECs, however, many states and cities offer specific Solar Hot Water rebates. Check with your local council, state government or solar hot water supplier. It is unclear whether income gained from your grid connected solar system is taxable for businesses in Australia. Income from a renewable energy farm would be deemed taxable as the system will have been installed with the intent to generate an income. Page 3

4 Installation Considerations Use only Accredited Suppliers and Installers To be eligible for government rebates, the designer and installer of your solar PV system must be accredited by the Clean Energy Council. The Clean Energy Council keeps a list of accredited installers at the following web address: Sizing your Solar PV System The size of your solar PV system will depend on: The physical unshaded area available for the installation of your panels, How much you are prepared to invest in your renewable energy system, and What portion of your electrical consumption you wish to generate. To enable you to determine the best size system for your business you will need access to at least one year s electricity usage for your site. By using the NGIA renewable Energy Calculator ( you can enter your electricity bill information to see how your energy usage varies throughout the year. By determining the amount of electricity you wish to replace by solar or wind generation you can easily size the system you would need to consider. Other information regarding indicative cost, ROI and payback period are provided as a first step in your solar pv investigations. If the results stack up for your location and energy requirements we suggest you then contact accredited suppliers and installers to have a specific system designed and priced for your requirements. Sitting your Solar PV and/or Hot Water System Many businesses utilise the roof space available on their offices and sheds to install solar pv and hot water systems. Of course in Australia we need to face solar panels north. In most instances this will mean a simple installation on the north side of your angled roof. If you wish to install on a flat roof or at ground level you will require a frame to mount and angle the panels correctly. When mounting your solar panels your installer will face them toward the midday sun at an angle roughly equal to the latitude of your location. Many large installations use solar trackers to adjust the panels to face the sun and thus optimise the amount of energy generated. Generating more than you use Creating an income It is possible to oversize your system so that you generate more electricity in a year than you can use. Of course the larger your system the more it will cost and there are limits to the size of your system that can connected to the grid an still receive the state guaranteed price for your exported green electricity. Page 4

5 Typically the maximum system size is 10kW, though Victoria currently has a 5kW limit. Queensland, South Australia, the ACT and areas of Western Australia allow a maximum 30kW system comprising 10kW per phase (i.e. 3 x 10kW). The FiT in your state will determine the maximum size system you can install and still benefit from the guaranteed price for electricity you export to the grid. Your accredited supplier, installer and energy retailer can provide further information. Renewable Energy & Solar PV Resources Government Departments & Resources Australian Solar Energy Society ( Clean Energy Council ( Consumer Guide to Solar PV ( Info/solarPV-guide) GreenPower - Government Accreditation Program ( Green Building Fund ( d.aspx) Hobart City Council Energy Efficiency Guidelines and Incentives ( es_and_incentives.aspx) Northern Territory Renewable Energy Rebates and Grants ( Office of Clean Energy Queensland ( Office of the Renewable Energy Regulator ( School of Photovoltaics and Renewable Energy Engineering ( Solar Bonus Scheme for NSW ( Solar Bonus Scheme for QLD ( South Australia Solar Feed-in Scheme ( South Australian Renewable Energy Rebates and Grants ( Tasmanian Government Renewable Energy Information ( Tasmanian Solar Hot Water Rebate Scheme ( Page 5

6 Victorian Renewable Energy Target Scheme Victorian Office of Solar Energy Western Australia Office of Energy ( Western Australia Renewable Energy Grants and Rebates ( Nursery Leaders in Renewable Energy & Nursery Resources Provincial Plants and Landscapes ( NurseryFootprint The Australian Nursery Industry carbon footprint calculator ( Nursery Traders ( Please contact the NGIA for further information on nurseries who are or have implemented renewable energy projects by visiting the NGIA Environment webpage at Solar System Suppliers & Installers There are many accredited solar suppliers and installers in Australia. Those listed below are just a few and are listed here as these sites where used for research and images contained within this information sheet. For a complete list of accredited installers please visit the Clean Energy Council Find an Installer webpage at ( ( Cairns Solar Panels ( Energy Matters ( Solar Online Australia ( Solar Energy Direct ( Solar Quotes ( The Solar Guys ( Written by: Troy Symes National Centre for Engineering in Agriculture C/- University of Southern Queensland West Street TOOWOOMBA QLD December 2010 Contact Us Phone: Web: YOUR NGIA NGIA is the peak industry body for the Australian nursery and garden industry and is responsible for overseeing the national development of this diverse and essential industry. Our vision is for a unified Australian nursery and garden industry that is productive, profitable and sustainable. This fact sheet has been funded by Horticulture Australia Limited using the Nursery Industry Levy and matched funds from the Australian Government. Page 6

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