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 September 2018, Australia had over 10,131 MW of installed photovoltaic (PV) solar power,[1] of which 3,366 MW were installed in the preceding 12 months. In 2017, 23 solar PV projects with a combined installed capacity of 2,034 MW were either under construction, constructed or due to start construction having reached financial closure.[2] PV accounted for 3.8% of Australia's electrical energy production in 2017.[3]

Feed-in tariffs and 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 2018, the Queensland government introduced the Affordable Energy Plan offering interest free loans for solar panels and solar storage in an effort to increase the uptake of solar energy in the state.[5] 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.[6] South Australia has the highest per capita take up of household solar power in Australia.

The installed PV capacity in Australia has increased 10-fold between 2009 and 2011, and quadrupled between 2011 and 2016. The first commercial-scale PV power plant, the 1 MW Uterne Solar Power Station, was opened in 2011.[7] Greenough River Solar Farm opened in 2012 with a capacity of 10 MW.[8] The price of photovoltaics has been decreasing, and in January 2013, was less than half the cost of using grid electricity in Australia.[9]

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.[10][11][12][13][14]

Potential[edit]

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 kilowatt-hours (14 MJ) per square metre per day of insolation during winter months, with a region in the north exceeding 6 kilowatt-hours (22 MJ) per square metre per 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 5,900 MW at the end of 2016, Australia ranks among the world's top ten solar countries. The installed capacity in 2015 was 5,070 MW.

Incentives[edit]

1,000
2,000
3,000
4,000
5,000
6,000
7,000
8,000
2001
2005
2010
2015
Cumulative capacity – End of year cumulative installed PV capacity in megawatts since 2001[15]

Rebates[edit]

The Solar Homes and Communities Plan was a rebate provided by the Australian Government of up to A$8,000 for installing solar panels on homes and community use buildings (other than schools).[16] This rebate was phased out on 8 June 2009, 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).[17]

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 on 1 July 2008, which replaced the Green Vouchers for Schools program.[18] Applications for the program ended 21 November 2012. A total of 2,870 schools have installed solar panels.[19] The output of each array can be viewed, and compared with that of up to four other schools.[20]

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.[21][22] In Germany, a guaranteed PV tariff means that (as of 2006) 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.[23]

Renewable energy targets[edit]

In 2001, the Australian government introduced a mandatory renewable energy target (MRET) designed to ensure renewable energy achieves a 20% share of electricity supply in Australia by 2020. The MRET was to increase new generation from 9,500 gigawatt-hours to 45,000 gigawatt-hours by 2020. 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, including wind, hydro, landfill gas and geothermal, as well as solar PV and solar thermal. The objective is to provide a stimulus and additional revenue for these technologies. The scheme was proposed to continue until 2030.[24]

Subsidy funding[edit]

The Solar Flagships program sets aside $1.6 billion for solar power over six years.[25] 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 in 2007. In 2009, the Arizona state government announced a 200 MW plant for US$1 billion.[26][27]

Projects[edit]

Map all coordinates using: OpenStreetMap 
Download coordinates as: KML · GPX

List of largest projects[edit]

Projects with a power rating less than 50 MW are not listed.

State Project/​Location Coordinates Capacity (MW) Commissioning LGA Company Notes
SA Bungala Solar Power Project 32°25′S 137°49′E / 32.41°S 137.82°E / -32.41; 137.82 (Bungala) 220 2018 May Port Augusta Reach Energy Photovoltaic, single axis tracking.
QLD Daydream Solar Farm[28] 20°30′46″S 147°41′31″E / 20.512804°S 147.691968°E / -20.512804; 147.691968 168 2018 October Whitsunday Regional Council Edify Energy Photovoltaic. 168 MWac, 180 MWdc.
NSW Coleambally Solar Farm[29] 34°45′34″S 145°55′47″E / 34.759494°S 145.929840°E / -34.759494; 145.929840 (Coleambally) 150 2018 September Murrumbidgee Neoen Photovoltaic, fixed tilt.
QLD Ross River Solar Farm[30] 19°25′31″S 146°42′56″E / 19.425305°S 146.715686°E / -19.425305; 146.715686 (Ross River) 148 2018 September Townsville ESCO Pacific, Palisade Photovoltaic, single axis tracking.
QLD Sun Metals Solar Farm[31] 19°26′14″S 146°41′46″E / 19.437318°S 146.696015°E / -19.437318; 146.696015 (Sun Metals) 124 2018 May Townsville Sun Metals Thin-film, single axis tracking.[32][33]
QLD Darling Downs Solar Farm 27°06′43″S 150°52′55″E / 27.1120°S 150.8819°E / -27.1120; 150.8819 (Darling Downs) 110 May–September 2018[34] Western Downs Regional Council APA Group Output sold to Origin Energy who also owns the adjacent Darling Downs Power Station
NSW Nyngan Solar Plant 31°33′23″S 147°04′53″E / 31.5563°S 147.08152°E / -31.5563; 147.08152 (Nyngan) 102 2015 June Bogan Shire AGL Energy CdTe thin-film technology. At the time of its construction, it was the largest solar PV plant in the Southern Hemisphere. Capacity: 102 MWAC.[35][36][37][38]
QLD Clare Solar Farm[39] 19°50′23″S 147°12′38″E / 19.839770°S 147.210550°E / -19.839770; 147.210550 (Clare) 100[40] 2018 May[41] Burdekin Shire Fotowatio Renewable Ventures (FRV) Photovoltaic, single axis tracking.[40] 100 MWac.[40] 125 MWdc[42]
VIC Karadoc Solar Farm[43] 34°13′40″S 142°16′49″E / 34.227904°S 142.280330°E / -34.227904; 142.280330 90 2018 October Mildura BayWa Photovoltaic. 90 MWac, 112 MWdc.
VIC Bannerton Solar Park 34°40′21″S 142°45′01″E / 34.672630°S 142.750362°E / -34.672630; 142.750362 (Bannerton) 88 2018 July[44] Swan Hill CIMIC Group, Foresight Group 88 MWac.[45]110 MWdc.
VIC Wemen Solar Farm[46] 34°48′09″S 142°32′36″E / 34.802590°S 142.543348°E / -34.802590; 142.543348 88 2018 November Swan Hill Wirsol Photovoltaic, single axis tracking. 88 MWac, 110MWdc.
QLD Emerald Solar Park 23°30′32″S 148°07′41″E / 23.508790°S 148.128017°E / -23.508790; 148.128017 (Emerald) 68 2018 October Central Highlands RES Group Photovoltaic, single axis tracking.
QLD Hamilton Solar Farm 20°28′07″S 147°47′58″E / 20.468593°S 147.799484°E / -20.468593; 147.799484 (Hamilton) 57.5 2018 July Bowen Wirsol and Edify Energy Photovoltaic, single axis tracking. 57.5 MWac, 69 MWdc[47].
QLD Whitsunday Solar Farm 20°32′14″S 147°48′17″E / 20.537259°S 147.804750°E / -20.537259; 147.804750 (Whitsunday) 57.5 2018 July Bowen Wirsol and Edify Energy Photovoltaic, single axis tracking. 57.5 MWac, 69 MWdc[48]
NSW Moree Solar Farm 29°33′58″S 149°50′55″E / 29.56621°S 149.84853°E / -29.56621; 149.84853 (Moree) 56 2016 March Moree Plains Shire Fotowatio Renewable Ventures (FRV) Photo­voltaic, single axis tracking.[49]
NSW Parkes Solar Farm[50] 33°06′47″S 148°04′35″E / 33.113056°S 148.076372°E / -33.113056; 148.076372 (Parkes) 55[51] 2018 April Parkes Neoen Photovoltaic, ground mounted. 55 MWac.[51] 66 MWdc[50]
NSW Broken Hill Solar Plant 31°59′19″S 141°23′05″E / 31.98871°S 141.3846°E / -31.98871; 141.3846 (Nyngan) 53 2014 July Broken Hill AGL Energy CdTe thin-film technology. Capacity given in AC (53 MWAC).[52]
QLD Kidston Solar Project 18°52′48″S 144°09′04″E / 18.88009°S 144.1510°E / -18.88009; 144.1510 (Kidston) 50 2017 November Etheridge Genex CdTe thin-film technology Single axis tracker.[53]
VIC Gannawarra Solar Farm[54] 35°43′48″S 143°46′16″E / 35.7300°S 143.7711°E / -35.7300; 143.7711 (Gannawarra) 50 2018 March[54] Gannawarra Wirsol and Edify Energy[54] Photovoltaic, single axis tracking.[54]

Australian Capital Territory[edit]

A 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 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).[55][56]

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.[57]

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.[58]

The project won a prestigious Engineering Excellence award in 2005.[58]

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.

Queensland[edit]

Over 2GW of solar farms were completed or under construction in Queensland as of 2018.[59]

The 100MW Clare Solar Farm, located 35 km southwest of Ayr, in north Queensland begun exporting to the grid in May 2018.[60]

The 50 MW AC Kidston Solar Project has been built on the site of the Kidston Gold Mine. This is phase 1 of a planned solar energy and pumped storage combination. Kidston is owned by Genex and was constructed by UGL

The Lilyvale Solar Farm, with a capacity of 130 MWac, is under construction by Spanish companies GRS and Acciona, after an EPC contract was signed with Fotowatio Renewable Ventures (FRV).[61] It will be located in Lilyvale, which is around 50 km northeast of Emerald, and commercial operations are expected to start in late 2018.[62]

The Hamilton Solar Farm is a 69.0 MW DC single-axis tracking project located a few kilometres north of Collinsville in North Queensland. Its owners are Edify Energy and Wirsol. The solar farm came online in July 2018.

The Whitsunday Solar Farm is a 69.0 MW DC single-axis tracking project located a few kilometres north of Collinsville in North Queensland. Its owners are Edify Energy and Wirsol. The solar farm came online in July 2018.

There are 2 more solar projects under construction by Edify Energy in Collinsville due to come on line in late 2018. The Hayman Solar Farm which is a 60.0 MW DC single-axis tracking project and the Daydream Solar Farm which is a 180.0 MW DC single-axis tracking project.

South Australia[edit]

Bungala Solar Power Project north of Port Augusta is the first grid-scale facility in South Australia. Stage 1 is rated at 110MW. It has a contract to provide electricity to Origin Energy.

Sundrop Farms concentrated solar power plant has a generating capacity of 40 MW, and is the first of its kind to be commissioned in the state. It was completed in 2016. A floating array of solar PV panels is in place at Jamestown wastewater treatment plant, with a generating capacity of 3.5 MW.[63]

The largest rooftop solar PV array in South Australia was installed in 2017 at Yalumba Wine Company across three Barossa locations. Total generating capacity is 1.39 MW generating approximately 2,000 MWh per annum.[64][65] Previous significant installations include Adelaide airport, with a generating capacity of 1.17 MW,[66] and the Adelaide Showgrounds, with a generating capacity of 1MW. The showgrounds array was the first PV station in Australia to reach a generating capacity of 1MW and was expected to generate approximately 1,400 Megawatt-hours of electricity annually.[67]

On 29 November 2017 the state government announced a new round of finance for renewable energy projects which included a Planet Arc Power - Schneider Electric development of a $13.9m solar PV and battery project at a major distribution centre in Adelaide’s North. The project includes a micro-grid management system optimising 5.7MW of solar PV coupled with 2.9MWh of battery storage. The University of South Australia will develop 1.8MW of ground and roof mounted solar PV at its Mawson Lakes campus. At the Heathgate Resources Beverley mine there are plans for a relocatable 1MW of solar PV paired with a 1MW/0.5MWh battery which will be integrated with an existing on-site gas power plant.[68]

The Aurora Solar Thermal Power Project is proposed for near Port Augusta, on the north side of the town. Auroroa has a contract to supply electricity to state government offices when it is completed in 2020. It is proposed to be a solar thermal facility providing thermal storage to be able to generate while the sun is not shining. Riverland Solar Storage has development approval to establish a photovoltaic solar power farm near Morgan. The developer expected it to begin operations in late 2018,[69] but construction is now expected to begin in 2019.

Victoria[edit]

The 100 MW PV Mildura Solar Concentrator Power Station, formerly expected to be completed in 2017, is now cancelled.[70] 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.[71]

The Gannawarra Solar Farm is a 60.0 MW DC single-axis tracking project located west of Kerang in north-west Victoria. It is the first large-scale solar farm to be constructed in Victoria.

Western Australia[edit]

Western Australia's first major large scale solar 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. The 20 MW Emu Downs solar farm became the largest solar farm in WA when opened in March 2018. Emu Downs solar farm is co-located with the Emu Downs Wind Farm. The proposed Asian Renewable Energy Hub would include 3,500MW of solar power along with 7500MW of wind power.[72]

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.[73] One such location is Townsville, Queensland.[74][75]

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.[76] This ambitious plan was recently awarded the 2014 Eurosolar prize in the category of "Towns/municipalities, council districts and public utilities".[77]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]