Energy Management

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Initiative Title: Energy Management
Category: Infrastructure Initiatives

How the Manly Hospital Site future use might leverage Energy Management

One of the options which could be considered for the vacated Manly Hospital site is the extensive use of PV solar panel or tiles on all buildings, supplemented with a large battery power storage and backup facility. The site is well placed, because of its northerly aspect, to leverage solar powered energy.  

Energy Management spans a wide spectrum of industry components:

  • Source of energy – water (thermal, dam generation, wave), fossil fuels (oil, coal, gas), sun (solar), wind (turbine), uranium, etc.
  • Supply of energy generation – thermal, hydro, wind turbine, solar panel, nuclear, battery etc.
  • Distribution of energy – poles, lines, sub-stations, mains, etc.
  • Availability of energy – meter boxes, power-points, etc.

As well as tapping into national grid’s baseline energy from traditional electricity supplies, today it is also possible to supplement or replace this with locally sourced energy from the likes of solar and battery storage sources. 

In Energy Management communities are beginning a revolution, driven by necessity, sustainability, affordability and technology. People are purchasing solar panels, smart meters, energy efficient lighting, heating and cooling devices and shopping around for better deals to reduce their electricity bills. The balance of power is shifting to ordinary people. Ordinary people are being empowered to shape the way Energy Management is to take place, both now and in the future.  Herein lies the opportunity for the Manly Hospital site to become a trial site as a community hub for solar and battery power.

The reality is that there is a solar goldmine under our noses that hasn’t been tapped.  A study commissioned by the NSW Government into the “City of Sydney” has revealed that 25% of community roof surfaces could be equipped with PV (photovoltaics) Solar.   With less than 1% of current rooftops having solar PV installed, this installation capacity amounts to about 6.7 megawatts compared to between 393 – 619 MW being available if this 25% deficit were available.   To attain the lower availability level of 393 MW, Mike Roberts at NSW University estimates this would cost about $475 million, which in turn would deliver an estimated saving of $70 million/year and an annual saving of 400,000 tonnes of carbon emissions. 

Per head of population, Australia has one of the highest concentrations of solar power in the world. The beauty of solar is that (like the internet) it can readily evolve from a singular implementation outwards, its unit cost is continually reducing, the power output per space is increasing and it is becoming more and more affordable.  Plus it has a zero carbon footprint that contributes significantly towards reduced air pollution and climate change.  The main down side is that when the sun isn’t out it is not possible for power to be produced and that is where battery storage comes in.  During time when the sun is shining and excess power is being produced from solar energy, this excess over usage demands can be stored in various forms of batteries to be drawn down on when solar power is dormant or excess demand (over available supply) exceeds your solar capability.   

Advanced in modern technology also has a role to play.  For example, Mirvac has created renewable energy-sharing technology that allows individual apartments in a complex to access solar energy and reduce their electricity bills by up to 40%.  Their partner Allume Energy install solar panels on the rooftop of medium-density housing complexes for distributed use by those apartment dwellers wishing to reduce their reliance on the electricity grid to reduce their electricity bills.  In 2018 Mirvac secured $90mill. in funding from the Federal Governement’s Clean Energy Finance Corp. to create state-of-the-art clean energy homes.   According to Mirvac’s Stuart Penklis this innovation will “dramatically change the occupancy costs” for owners and renters, especially in medium-density apartments because they typically have bigger roof areas.   Allume Energy’s Cameron Knox claims “our distribution technology feeds solar to those apartments using the most energy, maximising the reduction in electricity bills.”.  The use of solar and battery technology could serves as a community hub to both share any excess solar power into the broader community or in the reverse situation tap into any excess supplies available from nearby homes producing excess solar energy back into the ever broadening community supply.    All in the knowledge that the national grid is available to supplement supplies in the event of the clean energy source supplies have been exhausted.      

The bottom line is driven by community concerns for the intermittency of solar PV, rising cost of their energy supply, guarantee of supply, the associated impact upon our environment and the sustainability of our fossil fuel supplies. For these very reasons, electricity consumers are destined to play an increasingly active role in the where and how their energy is produced, supplied and consumed. For example, back in 2007 around 3,000 ordinary Australians had solar panels. Today this number is in excess of 1 million. Solar panels continue to sell at the rate of 200,000 new systems a year, despite government subsidies for solar now being turned off. In some suburbs the penetration rate of solar energy is approaching 50% (eg. Adelaide & Brisbane). South Australia and Queensland are near saturation point with their take up of solar panels, with 14% of their energy consumption being sourced from solar panels.

There is an irreversible power shift going on in the generation and management of energy.  It’s being put into the hands of ordinary people (like Manly consumers).  Utilising the likes of affordable PV Solar panels, households and commercial organisations have increased their capacity to generate and manage power as well their consumption, through the likes of smart meters. The combination of technology, innovation and access to relevant knowledge about energy generation and consumption, is empowering the consumer like never before.   The traditional energy retail players are only just beginning to take an active role in this technology/innovation driven revolution as they see this shift as a threat to their core business (especially organisations like AGL).  New players are emerging, offering consumers new innovative products that allow them to be a player in electricity generation and trade in stored energy between homes, businesses, retailers and the grid.  

New start-ups abound, like Redback Technologies, based in Brisbane who have developed a Smart Hybrid Solar Inverter system.  Their product integrates a solar inverter, solar battery and cloud-based energy management software into a scalable unit that can be installed within the home or outside a large business operation. 

Australia was originally the world’s most advanced developer of solar technology. But sadly today it’s probably China that products the cheapest high quality solar panels. Solar panel acquisition is not about getting the cheapest available but that which is of the highest quality in terms of reliability, safety and longevity.  The main strength of solar is its ability to obtain its energy from a source outside of earth (our sun). Its second most compelling capability is its scalability – from a chip sized solar panel used by the poor inside an Indian humpy in a standalone home use to massive Solar Farms uses for large scale generation certificates (LGC) into the wholesale grid market. Not only is solar becoming competitive for wholesale LGC, it’s become competitive with wind power. Some of the latest solar panel farms developed in Queensland projects have seriously reduced construction and unit solar panel costs due to increased competition. Without subsidy, LGC solar energy production is approaching the break-even point of $69 per mega-watt hour. To illustrate just how far this production cost can be reduced, in Chile and Dubai this cost is now down to $38.75 per mega-watt hour, nearly half the break-even point.

One of the common limitations to the wider take-up of key renewable energy sources (such solar, wind & wave) is the gap in electricity supply arising when the sun isn’t shining, the wind isn’t blowing and the water is calm. There is now a way to store excess energy, produced during ideal conditions of peak supply and off peak demand, by accumulating this excess energy for use during peak demand periods. The most favoured technology is “battery storage”. Excess electricity production can be stored and subsequently made available to the community or the grid, especially during periods when energy demands cannot be met from intermittency energy sources (like solar, wind and wave).

Batteries are the most popular form of energy storage used in both electric vehicles and early energy-storage systems. Lithium is produced from either brine-based (salt) deposits or from hard-rock deposits. Australia has a healthy concentrate of lithium brine-based deposits (Pilbara Minerals, Galaxy Resources and Neometals in WA), which have inherently lower costs and tremendous economies of scale. Over the past 12 months global lithium demand has surged with Chinese conversion plants searching for lithium feed-stocks of the brine-based variety found in Australia.

Vanadium batteries are another option for solar panel energy backup, which all originated in Australia. Vanadium is a base metal (V, atomic #23) mainly used in the creation of alloys and steel. Because of its superconductor qualities, in 1985 the University of NSW invented the first “all-vanadium redox flow cell”. An innovation which has been refined for energy storage associated with solar power. An Austrian supplier (Gildermeister) has developed vanadium batteries which demonstrable advantages over traditional lithium-ion batteries in terms of life span, durability, re-use and lower unit cost for large scale sites. 

Much more research into this subject is required, starting with being able to identify the amount of power able to be produced in daylight by having PV solar panels/tiles on all the buildings in the complex.  Once this is known, it then becomes possible to calculate the amount of battery power storage required to support the complex say for 2 to 3 days of normal power usage to address periods of little sun light and possible power outages imposed by a failed national grid.  An initial capability test would be to take the current power load required to run the current hospital (24×7) and equate this to that required to run a Manly Community Health Care Facility of equal capacity and compare this with the capacity able to be produced by having PV solar on all the building roof (coverage area).  This would provide an early indication as to whether a contribution from the national grid would be required on an on-going basis or merely as a backup along with battery power.

Consumer-led energy management means starting with the consumers’ needs and pains as the focal point of retailers’ innovation efforts.   AGL’s innovation trialled use of “blockchain” software has been used to trade electricity between 20 Busselton (South of Perth) households within a National Lifestyle Village retirement facility, where some householders have solar panels and some are without.  Here the blockchain-based system verifies, records and settles transactions virtually, in parallel with the Energy Retailer.   Householders still pay a fee to their retailer for using the national grid network to transfer power, but in this instance the retailer doesn’t make such a large profit on the electricity itself.  This is a small but seismic step towards a future consumer-led energy management system. 

This Australian innovation has more recently been taken up by LO3 Energy Brooklyn, New York.  Their micro-grid involves a community of solar energy users coming together as a collective to either sell access energy either back to the grid or other community users seeking cheaper electricity through the use of smart meters.  The smart meters act as nodes for LO3’s blockchain-based systems, allowing neighbours to produce, buy and sell energy amongst themselves through the use of dynamic prices and contracts.  This system went live across 500 households in April’17.  This is planned to operate as an approved “shadow market” until a licence is obtained to legally buy and sell electricity across New York.  A similar trial is being conducted in Renmark, South Australia trading energy generated by a local solar-and-battery provider, Redmud Green Energy, by making the lowest cost energy available to consumers at all times and allowing pricing to alter in line with demand.  There is now 6 gigawatts of such distributed solar power in Australia today.


Contact Name: Darryl Dobe
Contact Email Address:
Start Date: 20-Jun-2017
End Date: 21-Dec-2018
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