BlackwattleSolar Merchandise

Woohoo! After a thrilling recovery procedure following a post-office parcel mix-up, we have received our modest stock of merchandise for the BlackwattleSolar team.

In an effort to increase stakeholder engagement and promulgate project awareness, we have decided to enhance our public presence with some branded t-shirts and caps.

These are the designs and prints:

BlackwattleSolar T-shirt

Notes from meeting on 19th March

The Barbecue on 8th April

  • Alex will complete the Flyer (see Appendix 4) and Neil will organise its printing at Officeworks.
  • Neil will organise to have three corflute display boards to be printed at Officeworks, one with the aerial photo of Block A with panels over the whole of the unshaded area, one with the Embedded Network diagram from the WattBlock Powerpoint Presentation, and one listing our Principles.
  • Luci will set up a generic address through which we can be contacted by owners and other interested parties, he will also pursue the printing of Team T-shirts and investigate the possibility of doing a slow mo film of the brekky from above. Luci will check with Peter Steen to ascertain where we can obtain a Barbecue.
  • Neil will provide a table and 5 deck chairs.
  • Luci will purchase the food (rolls from the Vietnamese baker in GPR), Alex will do the cooking.
  • Alex will prepare a questionnaire to test interest, preferences for meeting, etc.

 

WattBlock

  • Paul will chase Nik again re the release of the next tranch of the grant so we can start the consultants on their next phase. He will also ask Nik to send the questions we need to address in the new application.
  • Neil will call to follow up the questions he sent following our meeting and those sent subsequently by Alex who will send them his amended spreadsheet for use as part of the tender requirements on the financials. Neil will reiterate the invitation for the consultants to attend the brekky and seek to have a meeting with them during the w/b 26/03.
  • We need to get a better handle on the likely cost of the ENM as it could affect the viability of the project.
  • We need to set new deadlines for WattBlock that will ensure we are in a position well ahead of time to work on our new Grant application. First cut – Tender requests out by 01/05, received by 01/06, First cut at Grant application by 18/06, meeting with Council advisory staff by 25/06, final Grant submission by 17/07.
  • Given that Grants are not determined by Council until November, our goal for choosing successful tenderers installation should be by 01/03/19

 

Our innovation pitch for the next Grant application

  • Our attention to the engagement process; stress our adoption of guiding principles to reflect our vision for sustainability, community and economy. See the set above drafted by Alex in his draft justification for the next Grant application
  • Our investigation of Billing difficulties and potential solutions (note the idea of pre-payment a la Tolls) and
  • We need to identify potential by-laws issues for Stratas; Neil will take this up with the Exec Committee as they seek new legal support on by-laws.
  • Our future-proofing for owners regarding the potentially emissions-increasing charging of EV’s and our offer to power public charging stations if compensated.

Thinking about our pricing policies

  • We can emphasise that at the very least, by combining, we can negotiate a much better electricity price than the wholesale price from the Grid
  • In order to determine pricing:
    • We must contribute to the initial capital cost and the required up-grades.
    • Cover the cost of the Embedded Network Manager
    • Provide for maintenance, cleaning and unforeseen circumstances
    • Provide for replacement over 25 years
    • Cover insurance
    • Allow for CPI and interest foregone by the Strata Sinking Fund
  • Taking account of all the above we should be able to arrive at price figure for (a) solar alone, and (b) solar plus battery.

Next steps

  • Neil will attempt to arrange a briefing meeting with the Exec Committee during the week after Easter because it is important to both have them in the loop and able to give a supportive lead to the rest of the Owners.

Team Meeting on 7th March

After the excellent briefing session we had a debrief the next day.  At this point we became clear that we wanted to recommend to our Owners that we design and install an embedded network that was future-proofed by adding solar panels to completely fill the unshaded area of Block A.  Together with the requisite storage batteries this would enable us to provide Electric Vehicle charging in owners garages and even to offer the Council two public charging stations outside our property in the adjacent streets, Sheehy and Cook.

This thinking fed into our focus on the potential for us to add demonstration innovation to the City of Sydney’s Sustainable Futures programs.  Alex began work on this.  We also decided to re-label our project ‘BlackwattleSolar’.

Council focuses for next innovation grant process

  • Renewables and low carbon energy

o overcome regulatory and market barriers such as energy trading barriers

o accelerate or facilitate large scale (>99kw) renewable or low carbon energy systems (e.g. solar PV)

o lead to accelerated uptake of renewable energy storage that best builds on existing network infrastructure.

 

  • Energy efficiency 

o support buildings or occupants to meet or exceed 6-star NABERS rating or equivalent.

Shaping our next Grant Application

Suggestions from WattBlock as to Innovative ideas likely to attract SCC support included:

  • Just being a first (or early) cab off the rank demonstrating possibilities for Strata communities c.f. the Stucco Cooperative. Particularly as we differentiate with a communal sharing alternative model to the widely known White Gum Valley Individualistic Trading Model; also including tackling the potential by-law implications (e.g., separate EV charging via ‘downstream’ batteries in garages and the need for amps limits) – probably requiring that we keep making a big thing of our emphasis on involvement/education processes; wrt our own first steps within the Blackwattle community the idea that we hold informal discussions in our Mews with some attractive/interesting displays of the options and our preferences. Maybe including a revived community barbq.  Our argument in favour of seeking 100% support can be based upon the design of our embedded network providing consumers with the option to opt out if they choose so there is no need to vote against the installation of the network.  After this ‘warming up interest’ phase we need to also sound out the Owners as to their preference for where and when to hold a more formal decision-making meeting which WattBlock would attend to answer any concerns.
  • Placing some emphasis on the issues surrounding the imminent arrival of Electric Vehicles and the extreme energy supply demands they make, therefore, justifying our choice to go straight to battery the storage option in Model 5 with microinverters to allow relatively easy expansion of the number of panels on both Block D (A) and B plus offering to incorporate in our installation the provision of public charging stations on Cook and Sheehy Streets.
  • Need to give some thought to the possibility of including innovation in the design of our Billing System (note the emergence of Blockchain promoted by PowerLedger and Jemma Green in Perth).
  • Need to examine how our system would offer support to the Demand Response system proposed by the AEMO (?).
  • Need to build into our development costs the replacement of our Main Board and the installation of Smart Meters in each Unit. (? the possibility of a Smart Apartments Grant to provide new meters).
  • WattBlock suggest we need to allow 6 weeks for the tender process seeking quotes for the installation of the Solar Panels, cabling, meters etc. Do we tender separately for the Embedded Network Manager/Licensed electricity retailer?  When and how do we conduct the Owners’ vote on the selection of this manager?
  • If we can create attractive summaries of the long WattBlock Report we can provide these to Strata communities that we will stimulate to explore their own possibilities.
  • We could consider widening the examination of types of battery beyond Tesla Powerwall and Enhance (used at Stucco) in order to encourage and support the growth of Australian capacity in this technology.
  • Need to consider our starting governance model and how we enable it to evolve over time, for instance, who regularly monitors the performance of the system, how often we go to the market, what kind of rental agreements, etc.
  • We could consider further surveying of our community wrt the future likelihood of technologies that will increase demand, e.g., induction cooktops, air conditioners, further reinforcing the justification of starting with a system that is flexible enough to expand easily wrt both panels and roof spaces.

We then wrote the following email to the consultants:

Hi Brent

We were very pleased with our session on Tuesday, thanks for the thorough and well-informed way you worked with us.  We met again yesterday and have some more thoughts for your consideration.

 Looking ahead and in the hope that we will receive further support from the Council, we want to include an option in which we fill the unshaded area of Block D with solar panels from the start giving us expansion possibilities without the need to use a crane again.  This could perhaps be seen as Model 5A. Therefore, would you include this option with attendant costs?

 With regard to the Block designations, the Strata Plan has your Block A as D and vice versa, the Blocks B and C are as on the plan.  Would you please go through the report and change D to A and vice versa to avoid confusion ? There are a number of other changes needed in the Report: we will send a marked up copy in a few days.

 So as to reassure owners, we will need to develop 10-year cash flow projections for several models. Could you do that? We can provide the models, which are variations on your options 4 and 5.

As we mentioned during the meeting, we wish to commission you to develop and run the tender process, subject to receiving the remaining grant funds which we expect imminently. We want to do that on the extended Model 5, following our finalisation of its specification when we receive the cash flow projections from you. That process will provide us with the necessary 3 quotations for the demonstration grant application.

In the new tender process I presume we are looking for two different contractors, one to handle the technical installation side and one to be the Embedded Network Manager/Licensed Electricity Retailer.  In the case of the latter we expect to ensure that it includes Billing management and we want to ensure that we retain access to the data base.

 So far as Battery type is concerned we would like to require that the tenderer cover a range of types beyond just Lithium/ion and indicate that we have a preference for Australian produced.

 Finally, we have foreshadowed with our community our intention to hold an informal introduction of information about the project at a Brekky Bar B Q on Sunday, April 8th.  If you and Ross are able to attend that would be terrific but is not essential .  We are thinking that shortly after that, after checking to ascertain interest and depending on attendance, we will offer a slightly more formal meeting, either at the community centre or here on site where folk would have the opportunity to hear from and quiz you guys.  On both occasions we plan to follow your recommendation that we encourage people to see the development as representing gains for them in both reduced energy costs and property values and worthy of 100% community support since anyone who wants to can opt out of direct involvement.

 We would welcome your advice and assistance on ways to present the information and choices that is attractive and easy to follow.  We will work on producing a one or two-sided flyer as a take away.  We have decided to brand ourselves ‘BlackwattleSolar’ – we wanted BMSolar but the Blue Mountains have already claimed it.  By the way did we mention our website, Luci has done a great job on it I think http://blackwattlemews.sydney/ 

And, finally in this long email, we have drafted our demonstration project justification which we would like to share with you next week. Any comments/improvements would be appreciated!

Warm regards,

Neil

At the same time Alex began to look ahead to envisage our next stage and its potential as a candidate for a City of Sydney Innovation Demonstration Grant.  The first draft of this can be seen at Appendix 2.

Meeting with WattBlock, 06th March, to consider their response to our tender

Present: Ross McIntyre and Brent Clark from WattBlock, Luci, Alex, Paul, Neil and Peter Steen from the Strata Executive Committee

As noted above the consultants had previously provided us with several documents that had been folded into the substantial (72 pages) report embodying their advice and recommendations that we received by email yesterday.  These are available in Appendices to this Blog.

In our Request For Quote document we had asked for examination of four models ranging from 18 separate solar installations to one servicing all 18 as one.  In an earlier conversation it was agreed to cover a fifth model which is solar + battery.  Brent expanded on the advantages and disadvantages of each model in turn including the solar system size required, estimated costs and savings, and the time for payback of the up-front cost.  This analysis led them to recommend in the first instance our Model 4 incorporating an Embedded Network covering the whole complex because it showed the shortest payback time of 4.1 years and the best financial payback as a stand-alone investment. This would mean leaving the installation of battery storage to a subsequent stage.

The cost of the embedded network would be $19.2K while the solar panels delivering 18.2kW would cost $27.48K, a total of $46.68K.  This system would deliver $10.976K of savings, while reducing energy consumption by 23,690kWh p.a. which is the equivalent to 25.1 tonnes of carbon emissions.  This model is attractive to us because it provides a community solar system and reinforces our espoused principles such as it recognises that the rooftops are collectively owned, the model enables opt-out and opt back in by customers who want it, it is more efficient and cheaper than the status quo, and it is flexible enough to provide future options as technology and regulations change.

In further conversation it became clear that, notwithstanding that the consultants see this as the preferred model we in the Blackwattle Team prefer to go straight for Model 5, that is, the embedded solar network with battery storage.  Due to the current cost of batteries this would mean the overall payback time would be increased from 4.1 to 6.7 years at an estimated total cost of $94.84K.  The energy savings for Model 5 are, however, estimated at 35,145 kWh p.a. with carbon savings of 37.3 tonnes per year, quite a significant improvement.

The key features of an Embedded Network are that a ‘parent’ or gate meter is placed between multiple consumers (the embedded network), each with a ‘child’ meter, and the poles and wires of the national grid.  This will allow the 18 townhouses to ‘bulk-buy’ energy together and get better electricity rates up to 30% cheaper than normal commercial rates.  In conjunction with the community solar system, a second advantage is that a single ‘user pays’ billing system can be used providing an equitable solution for all owner occupiers and tenants.

Analysis of the solar access to rooftops over the seasons revealed that Block A (labelled Block D in the consultants’ report) on our Strata Plan has by far the best solar access year round. It is therefore recommended that the solar panels all be placed on the roof of Block A.  It is further recommended that microinverters be attached to each panel so that individual panels can output power independently increasing system output and enabling the system to be expanded to add more panels if required in the future.

After the excellent briefing session we had a debrief the next day.  At this point we became clear that we wanted to recommend to our Owners that we design and install an embedded network that was future-proofed by adding solar panels to completely fill the unshaded area of Block A.  Together with the requisite storage batteries this would enable us to provide Electric Vehicle charging in owners garages and even to offer the Council two public charging stations outside our property in the adjacent streets, Sheehy and Cook.

This thinking fed into our focus on the potential for us to add demonstration innovation to the City of Sydney’s Sustainable Futures programs.  Alex began work on this.  We also decided to re-label our project ‘BlackwattleSolar’.

 

We then wrote the following email to the consultants:

Hi Brent

We were very pleased with our session on Tuesday, thanks for the thorough and well-informed way you worked with us.  We met again yesterday and have some more thoughts for your consideration.

 Looking ahead and in the hope that we will receive further support from the Council, we want to include an option in which we fill the unshaded area of Block D with solar panels from the start giving us expansion possibilities without the need to use a crane again.  This could perhaps be seen as Model 5A. Therefore, would you include this option with attendant costs?

 With regard to the Block designations, the Strata Plan has your Block A as D and vice versa, the Blocks B and C are as on the plan.  Would you please go through the report and change D to A and vice versa to avoid confusion ? There are a number of other changes needed in the Report: we will send a marked up copy in a few days.

 So as to reassure owners, we will need to develop 10-year cash flow projections for several models. Could you do that? We can provide the models, which are variations on your options 4 and 5.

As we mentioned during the meeting, we wish to commission you to develop and run the tender process, subject to receiving the remaining grant funds which we expect imminently. We want to do that on the extended Model 5, following our finalisation of its specification when we receive the cash flow projections from you. That process will provide us with the necessary 3 quotations for the demonstration grant application.

In the new tender process I presume we are looking for two different contractors, one to handle the technical installation side and one to be the Embedded Network Manager/Licensed Electricity Retailer.  In the case of the latter we expect to ensure that it includes Billing management and we want to ensure that we retain access to the data base.

 So far as Battery type is concerned we would like to require that the tenderer cover a range of types beyond just Lithium/ion and indicate that we have a preference for Australian produced.

 Finally, we have foreshadowed with our community our intention to hold an informal introduction of information about the project at a Brekky Bar B Q on Sunday, April 8th.  If you and Ross are able to attend that would be terrific but is not essential .  We are thinking that shortly after that, after checking to ascertain interest and depending on attendance, we will offer a slightly more formal meeting, either at the community centre or here on site where folk would have the opportunity to hear from and quiz you guys.  On both occasions we plan to follow your recommendation that we encourage people to see the development as representing gains for them in both reduced energy costs and property values and worthy of 100% community support since anyone who wants to can opt out of direct involvement.

 We would welcome your advice and assistance on ways to present the information and choices that is attractive and easy to follow.  We will work on producing a one or two-sided flyer as a take away.  We have decided to brand ourselves ‘BlackwattleSolar’ – we wanted BMSolar but the Blue Mountains have already claimed it.  By the way did we mention our website, Luci has done a great job on it I think http://blackwattlemews.sydney/ 

And, finally in this long email, we have drafted our demonstration project justification which we would like to share with you next week. Any comments/improvements would be appreciated!

Warm regards,

Neil