Jan 4, 2018

The perfect storm – dynamic factors in solar

Niki Waldegrave
6 min
Todae Solar’s Head of Marketing and Strategic Initiatives Landon Kahn reveals how the company is riding the solar coaster
As of July 2017, Australia had over 6,216MW of installed photovoltaic (PV) solar power, of which 814MW were installed in the preced...

As of July 2017, Australia had over 6,216MW of installed photovoltaic (PV) solar power, of which 814MW were installed in the preceding 12 months.

Award-winning commercial solar installer, Todae Solar, has been a significant conduit in this, boasting an 80% increase in the last 12 months. The company has the most experience of multi-site tenders in the country and has rolled out more than 50MW of installation across various industries and companies of all sizes since its inception in 2003.

“In the last three months alone, we’ve been responding to numerous multi-site tenders,” says Todae Solar’s Head of Marketing and Strategic Initiatives, Landon Kahn. “They’re from tier one organisations, with three to 10 sites and between 5-9MW.

“It’s the perfect storm for organisations to really look at solar on a larger scale.”

The company was formed in 2003 when CEO Danin Kahn acquired a smaller sustainability company. With a strong ethos to sustainability and delivering innovative solutions, the company has grown from a team of three to over 75.

Some of Todae Solar’s multi-site projects span healthcare, social assistance, aged care, agriculture, manufacturing and retail – including a mammoth installation for aged care provider Aegis Care, with 3.2MW installed across 26 sites.

The solar giant has also rolled out 2.6MW for Aldi Stores, 2.8MW across 16 sites for St Vincent's Health and almost 2MW across two sites for Australian Vintage.

Todae Solar has carried out thousands of installations across the country and Kahn says with the increase of energy costs, plus the decrease in solar costs, it’s a no-brainer for businesses with numerous locations to get in on the action.

“The Australian market is growing significantly,” he says, “and the main reason why large organisations are choosing multi-site projects is because of that cost reduction.

"Solar components have come down so dramatically – 90% in the last 10 years ­– so there’s been a whole shift in thinking from organisations, from saying ‘we'll do one site and see how solar goes’, to ‘what is going to be the best return for the organisation? Let’s do 20 sites?'"

The first commercial solar system Todae Solar installed in 2006 was at AU$12 ($9.19) per watt and now, depending on the path of installation, area etc, it's anywhere between AU$1.30-AU$1.60 ($1.00-$1.23) for a roof mount installation.

“Because these costs have come down so considerably, basically what you're finding is soft costs,” Khan adds. “So: installation, engineering, project management. Those costs are now taking up a greater portion of the total overall project value.

“And when you can leverage those costs across a portfolio, you're able to bring them down, and therefore get those economies of scale. That makes a very big difference, and that's why the companies are looking at multi-site roll-outs, because it's just getting a better bang for their buck.”

Khan says businesses now investigate the levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) over 20 years, which is how the actual cost per KW/hour of electricity is delivered, and how the larger, sophisticated, international markets like the USA, UK and Europe look at solar.

Australian organisations are now following suit because it gives a more sophisticated understanding of what the actual costs are going to be, and compares them to the current and future costs.

Of course, with all these major shifts, for companies to go down the multi-site route they need ‘safe hands’, and Kahn says that’s where Todae Solar differentiates itself.

“Multi-sites can be particularly difficult because you might have installations in Western Australia, Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria,” he explains. “All of them have different costs associated, different requirements, and you've got to manage installations concurrently. So, you need a lot of experience and capability.

“But we’re more advanced than the majority of the market, and that's our point of difference.”

He claims another growing trend is storage, and cost in the last 12 months is coming down as much as 60% percent for certain manufacturers, which means that within the next 18 months to two years, business cases for storage will completely change.

“It will be much more viable,” he adds, “and that will see solar shift again, because you'll be able to look at certain things that solar couldn't do before, like in terms of things affecting network charges, which was traditionally very difficult to forecast what that would look like.

“We envisage a progression to small scale behind the metre ‘utility projects.’ We’re already talking with organisations about aggregated systems between five to 20MW systems. This will become more common (as we’ve seen internationally) as organisations max out the capacity of their property portfolio and still have significant energy usage remaining. So, we’ll see a shift towards (potentially aggregated) small-scale utility projects to cover the rest of their usage.”

Because Todae Solar is enjoying a major growth phase, and is set to see it continuing over the next few years, it can throw up resourcing challenges, and sometimes be a gap in the skill sets. Todae Solar has addressed these challenges by encouraging staff development up-skilling employees and potential hires from other industries in a similar curve.

“We have had internal staff that when they first started working with us, were working on the smaller projects, so 30KW, 100KW,” he says, “and we've worked at developing their expertise and skills.

“Now, they’re project managers and engineers, with experience in delivering megawatt scale projects across the country, and we’ve ensured they're able to now deliver those projects effectively.”

The business has won more Clean Energy Council (CEC) Awards for Best Design and Installation than any other installer and has been awarded Largest Commercial Installer nationally for the last two years.

While Todae Solar prides itself on having “the biggest and best client portfolio in the country,” Khan says it’s rewarding to still be acknowledged by the industry body for the quality of the work.

“It shows testament that we are leading the industry,” he says. “Solar systems are meant to last 25 years, but a lot of companies said, ‘well, we're just going to sell solar as cheap as possible and we'll reach scale and then we'll be okay’.

“But because of the solar coaster, that just wasn't a realistic possibility. It's about getting the best solution and the quality solution, and being recognised and awarded for that, for us, really exemplifies that it’s important to focus on quality, and ensure that you are providing that to clients.”

While many commercial solar companies have failed in the last few years, Kahn says that this quality, and investment in staff, are the reasons Todae Solar has outlasted many rivals.

“We've always ensured that we want to give the best value to our clients, but we also want to be a sustainable business and grow organically,” he reveals. “In the last 12 months, we've more than doubled in terms of size, maybe an 80% increase, and I can see it more than doubling again.”

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Jul 29, 2021

Carbon dioxide removal revenues worth £2bn a year by 2030

Dominic Ellis
4 min
Engineered greenhouse gas removals will become "a major new infrastructure sector" in the coming decades says the UK's National Infrastructure Commission

Carbon dioxide removal revenues could reach £2bn a year by 2030 in the UK with costs per megatonne totalling up to £400 million, according to the National Infrastructure Commission

Engineered greenhouse gas removals will become "a major new infrastructure sector" in the coming decades - although costs are uncertain given removal technologies are in their infancy - and revenues could match that of the UK’s water sector by 2050. The Commission’s analysis suggests engineered removals technologies need to have capacity to remove five to ten megatonnes of carbon dioxide no later than 2030, and between 40 and 100 megatonnes by 2050.

The Commission states technologies fit into two categories: extracting carbon dioxide directly out of the air; and bioenergy with carbon capture technology – processing biomass to recapture carbon dioxide absorbed as the fuel grew. In both cases, the captured CO2 is then stored permanently out of the atmosphere, typically under the seabed.

The report sets out how the engineered removal and storage of carbon dioxide offers the most realistic way to mitigate the final slice of emissions expected to remain by the 2040s from sources that don’t currently have a decarbonisation solution, like aviation and agriculture. 

It stresses that the potential of these technologies is “not an excuse to delay necessary action elsewhere” and cannot replace efforts to reduce emissions from sectors like road transport or power, where removals would be a more expensive alternative.  

The critical role these technologies will play in meeting climate targets means government must rapidly kick start the sector so that it becomes viable by the 2030s, according to the report, which was commissioned by government in November 2020. 

Early movement by the UK to develop the expertise and capacity in greenhouse gas removal technologies could create a comparative advantage, with the prospect of other countries needing to procure the knowledge and skills the UK develops.

The Commission recommends that government should support the development of this new sector in the short term with policies that drive delivery of these technologies and create demand through obligations on polluting industries, which will over time enable a competitive market to develop. Robust independent regulation must also be put in place from the start to help build public and investor confidence.

While the burden of these costs could be shared by different parts of industries required to pay for removals or in part shared with government, the report acknowledges that, over the longer term, the aim should be to have polluting sectors pay for removals they need to reach carbon targets.

Polluting industries are likely to pass a proportion of the costs onto consumers. While those with bigger household expenditures will pay more than those on lower incomes, the report underlines that government will need to identify ways of protecting vulnerable consumers and to decide where in relevant industry supply chains the costs should fall.

Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, Sir John Armitt, said taking steps to clean our air is something we’re going to have to get used to, just as we already manage our wastewater and household refuse. 

"While engineered removals will not be everyone’s favourite device in the toolkit, they are there for the hardest jobs. And in the overall project of mitigating our impact on the planet for the sake of generations to come, we need every tool we can find," he said.

“But to get close to having the sector operating where and when we need it to, the government needs to get ahead of the game now. The adaptive approach to market building we recommend will create the best environment for emerging technologies to develop quickly and show their worth, avoiding the need for government to pick winners. We know from the dramatic fall in the cost of renewables that this approach works and we must apply the lessons learned to this novel, but necessary, technology.” 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and International Energy Agency estimate a global capacity for engineered removals of 2,000 to 16,000 megatonnes of carbon dioxide each year by 2050 will be needed in order to meet global reduction targets. 

Yesterday Summit Carbon Solutions received "a strategic investment" from John Deere to advance a major CCUS project (click here). The project will accelerate decarbonisation efforts across the agriculture industry by enabling the production of low carbon ethanol, resulting in the production of more sustainable food, feed, and fuel. Summit Carbon Solutions has partnered with 31 biorefineries across the Midwest United States to capture and permanently sequester their CO2 emissions.  

Cory Reed, President, Agriculture & Turf Division of John Deere, said: "Carbon neutral ethanol would have a positive impact on the environment and bolster the long-term sustainability of the agriculture industry. The work Summit Carbon Solutions is doing will be critical in delivering on these goals."

McKinsey highlights a number of CCUS methods which can drive CO2 to net zero:

  • Today’s leader: Enhanced oil recovery Among CO2 uses by industry, enhanced oil recovery leads the field. It accounts for around 90 percent of all CO2 usage today
  • Cementing in CO2 for the ages New processes could lock up CO2 permanently in concrete, “storing” CO2 in buildings, sidewalks, or anywhere else concrete is used
  • Carbon neutral fuel for jets Technically, CO2 could be used to create virtually any type of fuel. Through a chemical reaction, CO2 captured from industry can be combined with hydrogen to create synthetic gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel
  • Capturing CO2 from ambient air - anywhere Direct air capture (DAC) could push CO2 emissions into negative territory in a big way
  • The biomass-energy cycle: CO2 neutral or even negative Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage relies on nature to remove CO2 from the atmosphere for use elsewhere

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