Australian Rooftop Solar Reaches 3 GW

by Giles Parkinson.

Australia goes Distributed Solar
Australia goes Distributed Solar in a Big Way. Image by sunwiz.

Originally published on RenewEconomy

Australia has passed through another significant solar milestone, reaching 3,000 MW (3 GW) of solar PV this month, as Queensland nudged the 1 GW mark and states such as South Australia reached household penetration rates of 25 per cent.

“Solar power is reshaping Australia’s electricity market,” says Warwick Johnston, the head of solar research group SunWiz, who compiled the data. “This is a milestone as note-worthy as the one millionth solar power system that was installed in April.”

The growth in solar PV in Australia is quite remarkable, given that Australia’s capacity was barely more than 180 MW in 2009. Much of this growth came as a result of generous feed in tariffs, but the growth continues as a new generation of households look to solar to hedge against the rising cost of grid-based electricity, to make a statement about green energy, or to do both.

Australia is almost unique in the world in having its solar installations almost exclusively in rooftop solar PV. That, according to Johnston, now totals 3 GW on its own, mostly residential but also on a growing number of commercial rooftops, such as wineries.

Australia has only one solar PV array above 1.2 MW, the 10 MW Greenough River solar farm in Western Australia, although three projects have begun or are about to begin construction in the ACT, and the 102 MW Nyngan project will also begin construction in January. Others are in the wings. To put this into comparison, the Japanese market is expected to install 9 GW of solar in 2013 alone, much of it at commercial or larger scale.

Sunwiz Australia solar

Some other striking figures in the latest data release from SunWiz include the penetration rates in individual states.

Johnston says that nationwide, 14 per cent of dwellings host solar power systems; and one in four dwellings in South Australia have rooftop solar. Queensland has a penetration rate of 22 per cent, and WA 18 per cent.

This is having an impact on Australian electricity markets. Here’s another interesting statistic: At midday on Sunday, September 29, solar power contributed to 9.4 per cent of electricity demand in the National Electricity Market, and 28 per cent in the state of South Australia.

Over the winter months, solar power contributed to 1.4% of total power consumption in the National Electricity Market, reaching a daily peak of 2.75% of energy NEM-wide production on September’s “Solar Sunday”, Johnston says. (See the graph below).

Screen Shot 2013-12-03 at 9.24.26 pm

The solar market is having an impact on incumbent fossil fuel generators, and network operators. That’s because solar reduces demand from the grid, and also takes away revenues on what has traditionally been the most profitable part of the day for generators.

Queensland state-owned generator Stanwell Corp blamed solar for most of its woes, the decline of base-load generation and its inability to return a profit from generation last financial year. As Hugh Saddler remarks in another story today, some of its generators are operating at less than 50 per cent capacity. Many industry experts suggest solar is having such an impact on electricity markets that it is causing a near equal amount of fossil fuel generation to be mothballed or closed.

The SunWiz report says that the solar market has contracted from its giddy, FiT-inspired peaks in the middle of 2012, but it is now stable. However, profitability for industry players remains a challenge, although the customer is benefiting. The months of October and November both recorded around 75 MW of installations.

The average rooftop system has jumped to 4.3kW, the most popular size is now between 3kW and 5kW (depending on the state and its solar resources) up from 1.5kW, and 5 per cent of systems are more than 8kW (the average in the US).

South Australia boasted an average size of 4.8kW and that state overtook Queensland to be the largest market in Australia over the last two months. Localities such as Hilton, Lonsdale, Rosewater and Emu Flat set records for installations.

More information on the SunWiz data can be found here.

This article, Australian Rooftop Solar Reaches 3 GW, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Giles Parkinson

Giles Parkinson is the founding editor of RenewEconomy.com.au, an Australian-based website that provides news and analysis on cleantech, carbon, and climate issues. Giles is based in Sydney and is watching the (slow, but quickening) transformation of Australia’s energy grid with great interest.

Graph: Australian Wind Farms Break Record

Originally posted on Renew Economy by Sophie Vorrath

In our Graph of the Day on Monday, we looked again at the record-breaking week of August 10-18 for wind energy in Australia.

As it turns out, the entire month of August 2013 was a record breaker, all round – for the National Electricity Market (NEM), and for the individual states of South Australia, Victoria, Tasmania and NSW.

As the graph below shows, NEM demand generated by wind in the month of August reached a record high of 8 percent (up from 5.7% in July), while in South Australia, demand generated by wind during hit a smashing new high of 37.9 percent, up from 31.2 percent in August last year.

Tasmania notched up a record 11 percent of demand generated by wind (up from 7.5% in July), NSW hit a new high of 1.8 percent (up from 1.5% in August 2012) and Victoria reached 7.9 percent (up from 5.4% in July) which is enough to power the stadium lights at the Melbourne Cricket Ground continuously for the next 44 years, the Clean Energy Council says.

Wholesale wind power generation in Australia -- GigaWatt-hours/month. Image courtesy of RenewEconomy.au
Wholesale wind power generation in Australia — GigaWatt-hours/month. Image courtesy of RenewEconomy.au

All up, the Clean Energy Council says Australia’s wind farms generated 1024 gigawatt-hours in August. And according to the CEC’s infographic below, that is enough wind generated energy to make more than 6 billion (6,144,000,000) toasted sandwiches using your average sandwich press — enough for each person on Earth. Pretty handy. Here’s what else it could do…

Australia Clean Energy Council infographic. Image courtesy of CleanEnergyCouncil.org.au
Australia Clean Energy Council infographic. Image courtesy of CleanEnergyCouncil.org.au

This article, Graph: Australian Wind Farms Break Record, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

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