Pro-coal MP to open off-grid solar+storage project

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As Australia’s energy sector continues to reel from recent weeks’ endless controversy and antics surrounding the National Energy Guarantee, Australian energy politics continues to astound. Not only did Sunday’s cabinet reshuffle see a strong opponent of wind energy, Angus Taylor, appointed as Energy Minister, a pro-coal minister is set to open a solar project.

In a media release announcing the launch of a major commercial off-grid project in North Queensland, Federal Member for Dawson, George Christensen, an anti-renewables and openly pro-coal Liberal-National Party MP, has been confirmed as the guest of honour.

Just weeks ago, Christensen sought to encourage investor interest in the establishment of a new coal-fired power plant in Australia, while on a junket to Japan funded by the coal industry. No sooner had the new ink dried on the press release announcing the new federal front bench, the LNP member tweeted his keen anticipation of the government underwriting new coal generation. 

Christensen will now be seen at the opening of the behind-the-meter project by Linked Group Services, consisting of solar panels mounted on various buildings throughout the complex, including a solar carport, an EV charging station and a battery.

Project in detail

The Linked PowerHouse project, described as an off-grid power solution for commercial businesses, features around 100 kW of solar and a 100kVa/190kWh Tesla battery, as one of the first Tesla PowerPack off-grid installations in Australia. For back-up, there is a Capstone C60 Microturbine, which runs on natural gas.

The company has decided to go off grid and set an example for other medium and small businesses across Australia to do the same. The project economics stack up for Linked Group Services, which expects to offset its power costs in six and a half years.

According to Jason Sharam, Linked Group Services Managing Director, Linked PowerHouse showcases a range of solutions that can be used to gain control of power bills and ensure a reliable power supply.   

“This type of solution can give an opportunity to small and medium-sized enterprises like us that are paying quite substantial network and distribution fees to be connected to the grid,“ says Sharam.

Although keen to sell the Linked PowerHouse solution to all business, the company says it does not advocate for businesses to disconnect from the grid unless it makes economic sense.

“We will remain off grid for a minimum of 12 months, this will prove the economics, reliability and quality of our supply,“ says Sharam, adding that the company then plans to assess the opportunity to export excess energy back to the grid – dependent on the economic value offered by retailers at that time.

When asked to comment in relation to the unlikely guest at the project launch, Sharam said Christensen has been assigned to the company as a government representative to be present at the project launch.

“We received dollar-for-dollar federal funding grant from the Regional Jobs and Investment Package through AusIndustry. As part of the funding we had to hold an opening ceremony and a Government Official, being George Christensen, was assigned as our representative,“ Sharam says.

“In actual fact, George has actually been very supportive of our project and instrumental in us gaining the funding, but we disagree with his advocacy of coal-fired power. We obviously advocate for renewable energy sources and wish to promote what we have done as sustainable alternative for SMEs in our region and across Australia.“

Linked Group Services specializes in mobile solar and battery storage solutions, solar shading structures like the one featured at the Linked PowerHouse solar carport, and solar powered portable accommodation.

This article was updated on 28/8/2018 to reflect the Linked Group Services’ response to pv magazine Australia’s questions regarding Christensen’s attendance at the launch.