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Conversations on renewable energy

Luke Osborne – CEO Reposit Power – levelling the field for domestic and business solar installations

Bulletin reporter Graham Franklin-Browne recently spoke to renewables champion Luke Osborne about the benefits of wind power in our region, the outlook for domestic solar, and the future of renewables in Australia.

Luke is a currently a director of the Canberra company Reposit Power Ltd, and previously was Director of the CooNooer Bridge Wind Farm project and prior to that, Chief Operating Officer for Windlab.

He is also a Director in the Australian Wind Power Alliance with a long career of building wind turbines all over the world.

Luke Osborne lives locally, and is committed to helping us keep our lights on in a renewable way.

District Bulletin: Renewables are often blamed for adding instability to our ageing energy infrastructure.

Are there any ways in which renewables can actually stabilise the grid?

Currently there is a push for smaller community energy projects designed to put energy into the lower voltage grid, however the most obvious game-changer at the moment is the uptake of residential battery storage for solar energy producers.

Battery storage capability in the grid will provide ‘synthetic inertia’ and enable it to react extremely quickly to changes of frequency.

It will also benefit wholesale and ancillary service markets and reduce the need for load shedding.

Residential solar producers are currently at a disadvantage compared to the big energy producers. Their market is set up so that they are forced to pay more for power they take from the grid, than what they are paid for putting power in.

Battery storage, combined with ‘gateway’ technologies such as Reposit power is a major game-changer. It will create an opportunity for residential solar producers to participate equitably in the energy market and they could potentially become the biggest energy generation sector.

Wind power: win for farmers and neighbours become important stakeholders

Bulletin: Tell us more about Reposit

Reposit technology can be installed on existing PV solar systems or can be offered to consumer/producers as a PV and battery package.

The technology automatically detects, and takes advantage of energy price fluctuations in the market.

It will monitor an owner’s grid-draw at a rate of 20 times per second, and ensure that power does not leak back to the grid at a price which is disadvantageous to the producer.

The system will trade a residential producer’s excess power from the battery for ‘grid credits’ at the best price for the producer.

Conversely, If there is a solar shortfall, it will seamlessly charge the owner’s battery overnight from the grid at the cheapest rate.

Bulletin: How do the business models for windfarms work for local farmers, and for the community?

There are two basic business models in rural Australia for large scale wind power generation, corporate ownership and community ownership.

Both are dependent on capital return on energy produced and for this reason geographic location is vital. Wind farms must be in exposed places, which mostly means they will be highly visible in the landscape.

As a rule, the biggest independent power producers do not want to own the land which hosts their towers. They would prefer to rent the land. It provides a steady income for farmers and the community, and it means that they do not have to use capital for land purchase.

However they do need secure, long-term tenure, at least for the 20 year design life of the wind towers.

This means that neighbours then become very important stakeholders, and the most successful outcomes will happen when community trust is established early in the project.

This is helped when economic benefits flow quickly back to the community during construction, either through direct employment of local construction workers and trades, and later through flow-on benefits once the project is operational.

Bulletin: Detractors frequently employ aesthetic arguments for resisting the development of wind power.

What is your perspective on the aesthetics issue vs a clean energy future?

Much of the controversy and fear surrounding how wind towers look in the landscape can be traced back to the huge early windfarms in southern Cailifornia.

Early generation wind towers were smaller, and required substantial and not very elegant structures to support the turbines. Because they were smaller, many more of them were required.

Newer generation windmills have increased in size, and although they are still very visible in the landscape, they are more elegantly designed and less of them are required at a given location.

This is one of the ways that the economic drivers for wind energy can align with the aesthetic values of the community.

Bulletin: Do you have any advice for decision makers regarding the future of Australia’s energy market?

  • Avoid over-regulation
  • Ensure that all systems support the grid
  • Allow switching and don’t lock consumers into contracts
  • Prevent product-specific arrangements
  • Pay people fairly for the energy they produce, and
  • Buy out existing Feed-in Tariff Schemes (FITS)

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