Solar power in Australia

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Broken Hill solar plant, New South Wales

Solar power in Australia is a growing industry. As of July 2017, Australia had over 6,216 megawatts (MW) of installed photovoltaic (PV) solar power,[1] of which 814 MW were installed in the preceding 12 months. In addition, 23 solar PV projects with a combined installed capacity of 2,034 MW are either under construction, constructed or will start construction in 2017 having reached financial closure.[2]

PV contributed to 2.4% of the country's electrical energy for 2014-2015.[3]

The installed PV capacity in Australia has increased 10-fold between 2009 and 2011, and quadrupled between 2011 and 2016. Feed-in tariffs and mandatory renewable energy targets designed to assist renewable energy commercialisation in Australia have largely been responsible for the rapid increase. In South Australia, a solar feed-in tariff was introduced for households and an educational program that involved installing PVs on the roofs of major public buildings such as the Adelaide Airport, State Parliament, Museum, Art Gallery and several hundred public schools.[4] In 2008 Premier Mike Rann announced funding for $8 million worth of solar panels on the roof of the new Goyder Pavilion at the Royal Adelaide Showgrounds, the largest rooftop solar installation in Australia, qualifying it for official "power station" status.[5] South Australia has the highest per capita take up of household solar power in Australia.

The first commercial-scale PV power plant, the 1 MW Uterne Solar Power Station, was opened in 2011.[6] The second opened in 2012 at Greenough River Solar Farm with a capacity of 10 MW.[7] The price of photovoltaics has been decreasing, and in January 2013, was less than half the cost of using grid electricity in Australia.[8]

Australia has been internationally criticised for producing very little of its energy from solar power, despite its vast resources, extensive sunshine and overall high potential.[9][10][11][12][13]


Solar potential in Australia

The combination of Australia's dry climate and latitude give it high benefits and potential for solar energy production. Most of the Australian continent receives in excess of 4 kWh per square metre per day of insolation during winter months, with a region in the north exceeding 6 kWh/day.

Australia's insolation greatly exceeds the average values in Europe, Russia, and most of North America. Comparable levels are found in desert areas of northern and southern Africa, south western United States and adjacent area of Mexico, and regions on the Pacific coast of South America. However, the areas of highest insolation are distant to Australia's population centres.

With an installed photovoltaic capacity of 5,440 megawatts by the end of 2016, Australia ranks among the world's top ten solar countries.


Cumulative capacity – End of year cumulative installed PV capacity in megawatts since 2001[14]


The Australian Government provided a rebate program that offered up to A$8,000 rebates for installing solar panels on homes and community use buildings (other than schools), through the Solar Homes and Communities Plan.[15] However, on 8 June 2009, this program was phased out, to be replaced by the Solar Credits Program, where an installation of a solar system would receive 5 times as many Renewable Energy Certificates for the first 1.5 kilowatts of capacity under the Renewable Energy Target (see below)[16]

Schools were eligible to apply for grants of up to A$50,000 to install 2 kW solar panels and other measures through the National Solar Schools Program beginning 1 July 2008, which replaced the Green Vouchers for Schools program.[17] Applications for the program ended 21 November 2012. A total of 2,870 schools have installed solar panels.[18] The output of each array can be viewed, and compared with that of up to four other schools.[19]

Feed-in tariffs[edit]

A number of states have set up schemes to encourage the uptake of solar PV power generation involving households installing solar panels and selling excess electricity to electricity retailers to put into the electricity grid, widely called "feed-in". Each scheme involves the setting of feed in tariffs, which can be classified by a number of factors including the price paid, whether it is on a net or gross export basis, the length of time payments are guaranteed, the maximum size of installation allowed and the type of customer allowed to participate. Many Australian state feed-in tariffs were net export tariffs, whereas conservation groups argued for gross feed-in tariffs. In March 2009, the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) started a solar gross feed-in tariff. For systems up to 10 kW the payment was 50.05 cents per kWh. For systems from 10 kW to 30 kW the payment was 40.04 cents per kWh. The payment was revised downward once before an overall capacity cap was reached and the scheme closed. Payments are made quarterly based on energy generated and the payment rate is guaranteed for 20 years.[20][21] In Germany, a guaranteed PV tariff means that Germany now has the highest PV capacity per capita – at 10 W for every person in Germany compared to Australia at 2.6 W per capita.[22]

Mandatory renewable energy target[edit]

In 2001, the Australian government introduced a mandatory renewable energy target (MRET) designed to ensure renewable energy obtains a 20% share of electricity supply in Australia by 2020. The MRET will increase from 9,500 gigawatt-hours to 45,000 gigawatt-hours by 2020. The scheme lasts until 2030.[23]

The MRET requires wholesale purchasers of electricity (such as electricity retailers or industrial operations) to purchase renewable energy certificates (RECs), created through the generation of electricity from renewable sources. These sources include wind, hydro, landfill gas and geothermal, as well as solar PV and solar thermal, providing a stimulus and additional revenue for these technologies.

Subsidy funding[edit]

The Solar Flagships program sets aside $1.6 billion for solar power over a period of six years.[24] The government funding is for 4 new solar plants that produce coal plant scale power (in total up to 1000 MW - coal plants typically produce 500 to 2,000 MW). This subsidy would need additional funding from the plant builders and/or operators. As a comparison Abengoa Solar, a company currently constructing solar thermal plants, put the cost of a 300 MW plant at 1.2 billion euros in 2007. In 2009, the Arizona state government announced a 200 MW plant for 1 billion US dollars.[25][26]


Status by state[edit]

The list of solar power projects below is not complete as there are many more sites that have solar power or hybrid solar/wind systems to generate their own power needs. Projects with a power rating less than 1 MW are not listed.

State Project/​Location Coordinates Capacity (MW) Status LGA Company Notes
QLD Aramara Solar Farm 140 2017 - Construction planned to commence 2017 Woocoo Eco Energy World Photo­voltaic, single axis tracking. [27]
QLD Ross River Solar Farm 19°24′45″S 146°43′15″E / 19.41252°S 146.72089°E / -19.41252; 146.72089 [28]148 2017 - Construction commenced May 2017, expected completion by May 2018[29] Townsville ESCO Pacific / Palisade Photo­voltaic, single axis tracking. [30]
QLD Sun Metals Refinery Expansion 19°20′04″S 146°52′46″E / 19.334383°S 146.879413°E / -19.334383; 146.879413 116 2017 - Construction planned to commence April 2017 Townsville Sun Metals CdTe thin film technology.[31] Capacity: 116MWAC (140MWDC)[32]
QLD Susan River Solar Farm 125 2017 - Construction planned to commence 2018

2016 - Development approved.

Fraser Coast Regional Council ESCO Pacific Photo­voltaic[33]
QLD Rollingstone Solar Farm 110 2017 - Construction planned to commence 2018

2016 - Development approved.

Townsville ESCO Pacific Photo­voltaic[34]
NSW Nyngan Solar Plant 31°33′23″S 147°04′53″E / 31.5563°S 147.08152°E / -31.5563; 147.08152 102 2015 - Fully commiss­ioned in June. Commiss­ioned in stages. Bogan Shire AGL Energy CdTe thin-film technology. Is the largest solar PV plant in the Southern Hemisphere. Capacity: 102 MWAC.[35][36][37][38]
QLD Clare Solar Farm 19°50′27″S 147°12′43″E / 19.840836°S 147.212082°E / -19.840836; 147.212082 100 2017 - Construction commenced 2017[39] Burdekin Shire Council Fotowatio Renewable Ventures (FRV) Photo­voltaic, single axis tracking. Capacity: 100MWAC (125MWDC) [40]
QLD Clare II Solar Farm 19°50′27″S 147°12′43″E / 19.840836°S 147.212082°E / -19.840836; 147.212082 45 2017 - Development approved Burdekin Shire Council Fotowatio Renewable Ventures (FRV) Photo­voltaic, to be built adjacent to Clare Solar Farm[41]
QLD Lilyvale Solar Farm 100 2017 - PPA signed, construction planned 2017-2018 Central Highlands Regional Council Fotowatio Renewable Ventures (FRV) Photo­voltaic, single axis tracking. Capacity: 100MWAC (125MWDC) [42]
QLD Tieri Solar Farm 96 2017 - Development approved Central Highlands Regional Council Fotowatio Renewable Ventures (FRV) Photo­voltaic, to be built adjacent to Lilyvale Solar Farm.[43]
NSW Moree Solar Farm 29°33′58″S 149°50′55″E / 29.56621°S 149.84853°E / -29.56621; 149.84853 56 Full power achieved March 2016. Moree Plains Shire Fotowatio Renewable Ventures (FRV) Photo­voltaic, single axis tracking.[44]
NSW Broken Hill Solar Plant 31°59′19″S 141°23′05″E / 31.98871°S 141.3846°E / -31.98871; 141.3846 53 2014 - Commiss­ioned July. Full power output achieved on 14 October 2015. Broken Hill AGL Energy CdTe thin-film technology. Capacity given in AC (53 MWAC).[45]
ACT Royalla solar farm 35°29′24″S 149°08′42″E / 35.490°S 149.145°E / -35.490; 149.145 20 2014 - Commiss­ioned September Canberra Fotowatio Renewable Ventures (FRV) Photo­voltaic[46]
QLD Valdora Solar Farm 26°33′35″S 153°01′32″E / 26.5596°S 153.0256°E / -26.5596; 153.0256 15 2015 - Council DA Approval required early 2015. Tender due in first quarter 2015.[47] Sunshine Coast (Tender) Photo­voltaic[48]
ACT Mugga Lane Solar Park 35°23′56″S 149°08′49″E / 35.39898°S 149.14687°E / -35.39898; 149.14687 13 Awarded feed-in tariff via ACT reverse auction. Expected completion 2016. Canberra Maoneng Group Photo­voltaic[49]
WA Greenough River Solar Farm 28°53′20″S 115°07′05″E / 28.889°S 115.118°E / -28.889; 115.118 10 2012 - Commiss­ioned October­[7][50] City of Greater Geraldton Verve Energy and GE Financial Services Photo­voltaic
NSW Liddell Power Station[51] 32°22′29″S 150°58′44″E / 32.374851°S 150.979013°E / -32.374851; 150.979013 9 Complete, but idled[52] Solar Heat and Power / Macquarie Generation Solar thermal
NT Darwin International Airport 12°24′57″S 130°53′28″E / 12.415746°S 130.891191°E / -12.415746; 130.891191 5.5 2017 - Stage 2 (1.5MW) under construction

2016 - Stage 1 (4MW) commiss­ioned August­[53]

City of Darwin CAT Projects / Coronium The installation is the largest airside PV solar system in the world.

Q-CELL photo­voltaic panels. [54]

NT Uterne Solar Power Station, Alice Springs 23°46′06″S 133°52′05″E / 23.768382°S 133.868033°E / -23.768382; 133.868033 4.1 2011 - Commiss­ioned 2011 (1000)
2015 - added 3100
SunPower Corporation / Power and Water Corporation / Epuron Photo­voltaic[6][55]
SA Jamestown Wastewater Treatment Plant 33°12′17.82″S 138°34′45.07″E / 33.2049500°S 138.5791861°E / -33.2049500; 138.5791861 3.5 2015 - Commiss­ioned April Northern Areas Infratech Industries Floating, tracking photo­voltaic[56]
SA Tonsley 3 2014 - Announced Zen Energy Photo­voltaic[57]
NSW Lake Cargelligo Solar Thermal Power Station 33°18′37″S 146°24′37″E / 33.31015°S 146.41024°E / -33.31015; 146.41024 3 2011 Lachlan Shire Graphite Energy / Solastor Concen­tra­ting solar thermal, graphite block technology [58][59][60]
QLD Weipa bauxite mine 12°38′51.92″S 141°51′32.47″E / 12.6477556°S 141.8590194°E / -12.6477556; 141.8590194 1.7 2015 - Commiss­ioned (1.7 MW), opportunity to expand to 6.7 WM with storage Rio Tinto Group, First Solar Photo­voltaic[61]
SA Sundrop Farms 32°33′5.91″S 137°50′36.34″E / 32.5516417°S 137.8434278°E / -32.5516417; 137.8434278 1.5 2016 - Commiss­ioned Port Augusta Sundrop Farms Concentra­ted solar thermal (35 MW Thermal)[62]
SA Yalumba Winery 1.4 2017 - Under construction Barossa Council Photo­voltaic[63]
NSW ING Real Estate Various Sites 1.3 2010 - Completed Todae Solar Photo­voltaic[64]
NT Casuarina Square 12°22′29.67″S 130°52′53.60″E / 12.3749083°S 130.8815556°E / -12.3749083; 130.8815556 1.25 2015 - Practical completion City of Darwin GPT Group Photo­voltaic[65]
NSW Stockland, Shellharbour Shopping Centre 34°33′50.7″S 150°50′20.5″E / 34.564083°S 150.839028°E / -34.564083; 150.839028 1.22 2015 - Completed Todae Solar Photo­voltaic[66][67]
QLD University of Queensland St Lucia campus 27°29′52″S 153°00′46″E / 27.4978°S 153.0128°E / -27.4978; 153.0128 1.22 2011 - Completed July Brisbane City Council Ingenero, Trina Solar, RedFlow Photo­voltaic[68][69]
SA Adelaide airport 1.17 2016 - Completed Photo­voltaic[70]
SA Adelaide Showgrounds 34°56′43″S 138°35′12″E / 34.945355°S 138.586626°E / -34.945355; 138.586626 1 2009 - Completed Built Environs and Solar Shop Australia[71] Photo­voltaic[72][73]

Australian Capital Territory[edit]

A new 20 MWp solar power plant has been built on 50 hectares of land in Royalla, a rural part of the Australian Capital Territory south of Canberra. It is powered by 83,000 solar panels, and can power for 4,400 homes. It was officially opened on 3 September 2014. It is the first solar plant facility in the Australian capital, and at the time of building the largest such plant in Australia. The facility was built by a Spanish company, Fotowatio Renewable Ventures (FRV).[46][74]

Northern Territory[edit]

There are 30 solar concentrator dishes at three locations in the Northern Territory: Hermannsburg, Yuendumu and Lajamanu. Solar Systems and the Federal government were involved in the projects.

The solar concentrator dish power stations together generate 720 kW and 1,555,000 kWh per year, representing a saving of 420,000 litres of diesel and 1,550 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.[75]

The solar power stations at these three remote indigenous communities in Australia's Northern Territory are constructed using Solar Systems' CS500 concentrator dish systems. The project cost A$7M, offset by a grant from the Australian and Northern Territory Governments under their Renewable Remote Power Generation Program.[76]

The project won a prestigious Engineering Excellence award in 2005.[76]

The Federal Government has funded over 120 innovative small-scale standalone solar systems in remote indigenous communities, designed by Bushlight, incorporating sophisticated demand side management systems with user-friendly interfaces.

South Australia[edit]

The largest rooftop solar PV array in South Australia is located at Adelaide airport, with a generating capacity of 1.17 MW. Sundrop Farms concentrating solar power plant has a generating capacity of 40 MW, and is the first of its kind to be commissioned in the state. Both projects were completed in 2016. Adelaide Airport's solar PV array is expected to be surpassed by a 1.4 MW system installed at Yalumba Winery at three separate sites in early 2017.[77] A floating array of solar PV panels is in place at Jamestown wastewater treatment plant, with a generating capacity of 3.5 MW.


The 100 MW PV Mildura Solar Concentrator Power Station, formerly expected to be completed in 2017, is now cancelled.[78] It was expected to be the biggest and most efficient solar photovoltaic power station in the world. The power station was expected to concentrate the sun by 500 times onto the solar cells for ultra high power output. The Victorian power station would have generated electricity directly from the sun to meet the annual needs of over 45,000 homes with on-going zero greenhouse gas emissions.[79]

Western Australia[edit]

Western Australia's largest solar power farm, the Greenough River Solar farm, is at Walkaway, 70 km SE of Geraldton. It was opened in October 2012. The 10MW field has 150,000 solar panels.

Solar cities program[edit]

Solar Cities is a demonstration program designed to promote solar power, smart meters, and energy conservation in urban locations throughout Australia.[80] One such location is Townsville, Queensland.[81][82]

Renewable Energy Master Plan 2030[edit]

The Council of Sydney is attempting to make the city run 100% on renewable energy by 2030. This plan was announced earlier in 2014 with the blueprints made public on their website.[83] This ambitious plan was recently awarded the 2014 Eurosolar prize in the category of "Towns/municipalities, council districts and public utilities".[84]

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]