Energy Australia: Solar Power in the Solar System

The global community is currently looking at ways to combat climate change. Many believe that focusing on green energy is the key to achieving sustainable living.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), ‘green energy’ is defined as ‘energy sources and technologies that result in lower emissions of greenhouse gases compared to traditional energy sources’, with the potential to provide 100% of the world’s energy needs, and as such, offer a ‘silver bullet’ for climate change mitigation.

One of the greenest nations in the world is, of course, Australia, which recently enacted the ‘Green Energy Future Plan’, launching an ambitious round of renewable energy investment, with a particular focus on solar power.

Here, we answer some common questions about solar power in Australia.

Is Solar Power Technology Cost-Effective?

The cost-effectiveness of solar power is certainly a selling point, given that clean energy is, generally speaking, cheaper than traditional energy sources. As things stand, it is even cheaper to purchase solar power in Australia than it is to buy a new car.

The global market for solar power is valued at roughly US$16 billion and is expected to rise to over US$26 billion by next year. The cost-effectiveness of solar power is the driving force behind its popularity around the world, as many see it as a long-term investment that pays for itself. As things stand, solar power in Australia is a highly cost-effective way of generating electricity, with the Sunnyside solar farm in NSW recently achieving revenue parity with the price of electricity on the National Energy Market (NEM), the main electricity market in Australia.

How Big Is The Solar Power Industry In Australia?

The solar power industry in Australia is undergoing something of a revival, with over 60 new solar projects either under construction or planned for 2020. The country’s solar industry employed over 6,400 people as at mid-year 2019 and has a market value of over A$10 billion.

According to market data from ClipperData, Australia is currently the 42nd largest market for solar power globally, with installed capacity of 16.8GW. The country’s solar industry is expected to grow by up to 13GW in 2020 and 24GW by 2025.

How Is The Government Regulating The Solar Power Industry In Australia?

The Australian Government’s role in the solar power industry is primarily one of enabler, setting the policies and regulations that make solar power economically and technically viable. This includes policies such as:

  • Mandatory solar power for new homes
  • Feed-in tariffs for renewable energy
  • Residential rooftop solar power
  • Net Metering
  • Zero-waste to landfill and recycle targets
  • Support for renewable energy technologies

While the above policies offer much-needed support for the renewable energy industry, they also present certain challenges. One of the biggest challenges is how to manage the increasing complexities of energy generation and storage, as technologies develop and innovate to meet the needs of the 21st century.

What Kind Of Rollout Have We Seen So Far, And How Is It Changing Power Generation In Australia?

Australia has one of the most advanced solar power rollouts in the world, with over 80% of the country’s electricity supply currently generated by solar power. The majority of this supply is provided by large-scale solar farms that provide clean, green energy to regional centres and remote communities across the country.

These solar farms were initially developed to provide enough power for their own operations, with the average installation size being around 10MW, but have since evolved to incorporate some of the most cutting-edge technology, incorporating battery storage and other methods of enhancing solar power.

The introduction of solar power into the energy mix has had a dramatic impact, with wholesale electricity prices dropping by up to 40% and emissions decreasing by 7-13%. These reductions in cost and emissions are expected to continue as more and more solar farms come online.

Are Solar Farms A Permanent Feature On The Australian Energy Map?

While solar farms undoubtedly provide a valuable service to the country, they are by no means permanent fixtures on the Australian energy map. In fact, the country’s current energy minister, Angus Taylor, believes that the industry is undergoing a ‘transition period’, as existing coal and gas generators face increasing pressure to upgrade their technologies and practices, and so too, do energy storage providers, who must ensure that their devices can seamlessly integrate with solar power. Indeed, the renewable energy sector is expected to grow its share in the country’s power generation from 22.2% to 28% by 2040.

This presents a problem, given that the more electricity that is generated by solar power, the more that is available to the wider community, thus reducing the value of this power as a reserve mechanism, for example, during peak periods when demand surpasses supply. This is where batteries come in, as they can store energy for later use, reducing the impact that fluctuating demand has on the power system. As things stand, emerging technologies such as battery storage and demand response are offering new and innovative ways to improve the way that we generate and consume power.

What Kind Of Storage Capacity Does The Australian Energy System Need?

The majority of Australia’s large-scale electricity generators have some form of battery storage, with more than 70% of the country’s nuclear reactors also having this capability.

This is certainly a valuable addition to the power network, ensuring that electricity can be dispatched when needed and reducing the impact of wind and solar power fluctuations on the energy system. The government has also provided support for battery storage costs and capacity, making this component more affordable.

According to market data, the global market for energy storage is valued at around US$16 billion and is forecast to rise to over US$26 billion by next year. Australia is one of the world’s largest markets for energy storage, with the country’s energy providers needing to ensure that their energy is reliable and available when needed. With the correct planning and management, this can be achieved.

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