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Qld energy minister says rooftop solar will soon be biggest generator

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Queensland energy minister Mark Bailey says that rooftop solar on homes and business premises will soon grow to be the biggest power station, by capacity, in the state.

rooftop solar

“Rooftop solar is already the second largest power station in this state – and soon it will be effectively the largest power station in Queensland,” Bailey told the Queensland Energy Storage Conference in Brisbane earlier this week.

Queensland currently has nearly 1.5GW of rooftop solar – 1,044MW on homes and businesses in the south-east corner and Brisbane operating in the Energex network, and 432MW on 115,000 premises in the Ergon network that covers the rest of the state.

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Queensland energy minister Mark Bailey

That means that within a year – at the current installations rate – the capacity of rooftop solar in Queensland could overtake the largest generator, the 1,650MW Gladstone coal-fired generator.

Bailey says this is a good thing. The Labor government intends to double the amount of rooftop solar to 3,000MW by 2020, as part of its goal to lift the share of renewable energy generation in the state to 50 per cent by 2030.

Bailey said that energy storage would be critical to help networks integrate rooftop solar into their grids, and to help reduce peak demand. In Queensland, the growing peak – much of it from the use of air-conditioners – has caused network prices to surge and accounts for more than half of consumer electricity costs.

“Queensland’s boom in solar PV could be a template for battery storage uptake as battery storage technology costs fall,” he said.

“Battery storage is a game changer. Affordable battery storage technology is getting closer by the day,” Bailey added, although he would not be drawn into any comment on what initiatives, if any, Queensland would implement to encourage battery storage uptake.

Governments in the ACT and South Australia have announced programs to accelerate the uptake of battery storage.

Bailey did, however, announce a $300,000 grant to the state-owned network operator Ergon, to accelerate battery storage adoption and, in particular, to spend $100,000 to fast track the development of battery safety standards.

Australia currently has no standards for lithium-ion batteries for use in households, and there is concern in the industry that “cowboy” operators using cheap imported battery storage devices could create problems.

Queensland is conducting numerous battery storage trials, and Bailey said these were already showing that homes could reduce consumption at times of peak demand, and save money.



He said one trial showed 7/10 participants reduced peak time consumption, while one reported a $200 reduction in their quarterly power bill. “Battery storage has the potential to keep pressure off electricity prices,” Bailey said.

Bailey said that the renewable energy target would help drive development of a low-carbon economy in Queensland. He has appointed a five-person panel to conduct public consultations and develop a plan to meet the 50 per cent target.

The panel – chaired by investment banker Colin Mugglestone and including lawyer Allison Warburton, University Queensland energy expert Professor Paul Meredith, ACIL Allen’s Paul Hyslop and the Climate Council’s Amanda McKenzie – will submit a draft report mid year, before a final report nearer to the end of the year.  

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  • Phil

    Once you introduce batteries does this also introduce smart metering ?. And if so what are the smart metering costs. For example in Victoria alone JUST the smart meter rental cost is over $2 billion and still counting. See here ………….
    http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/victoria/smart-meter-benefits-yet-to-be-realised-audit-finds/news-story/23c393b9a60c3c883272307304c39206

    You really have to ask is it perhaps cheaper to subsidise households , industry and services to go off grid and put in Solar powered streetlights and traffic signals when you also add in the cost of the black saturday bushfires caused by electricity feeder lines failing at $4.4 billion in 2010 alone?

    And we have totally ignored actual deaths here , from bushfires and poor air quality from the lignite coal burnt in Victoria . Not to mention the recent uncontrolled coal fires affecting air quality and entire town evacuations in Traralgon , or the cars and motorcycles that collided with power poles or people coming into contact with power lines causing deaths over decades.

    The total for just fires and smart meters since 2010 alone is already $6 billion plus just for Victoria in 6 years .That’s $2000 per household of subsidy for off grid UP FRONT assuming 2 persons per household average . And the jobs from renewables would FAR exceed the jobs from existing and unsustainable brown coal energy sources.

    An industry of death , misery and limitations versus one of hope , reliability and renewables. No wonder the existing NON renewable industry is lashing out at renewables. A strange world where only the “experts” can make sense of it all and tell us all is well , nothing to worry about here , the future looks great , only we know what works . Tell the Dinosaurs that because that’s where i see the non renewable grid based energy industry

    The future is off grid whether it be home , village , town or city based. Reliability , cost and risk become manageable .Something the current system does not allow and never can.

    The author of this is 100% off grid and has been since 2013

    • JeffJL

      Yes it does appear, looking from afar, that the smart meter roll out in Victoria has been a dud for the consumer. Getting everybody off the grid though would result in a bigger cost to the consumer.

      It will always be cheaper to install one by 50MW solar farm than to install 100 by 5 kW systems. Who will pay the extra cost. The consumer.

      When designing a 100% off grid system you need to size it so that it will cover your usage during low light periods, say 98% of the time. So for 98% of the time the system could be producing power to reduce consumption (including FF produced electricity) but is not. The consumer could get some money for this wasted opportunity.

      Note, this only applies where access to the grid is close and many properties which have to pay big dollars for connections are better off grid.

      • Daniel

        When assessing whether centralised generation is cheaper than distributed generation one needs to remember that the grid costs are usually a far greater portion of the end users electricity price so if starting from scratch the economy of scale benefits of centralised energy may be outweighed by the cost of building a grid to transport it. We do already have a grid in place though..

        *It will most definitely not be cheaper to build 1x50MW than 100x5kW however for the same capacity, i.e. 10,000x5kW then yes you would be correct 😛

        • JeffJL

          I’m only out by two orders of magnitude. I blame Mr Bundaberg!

          I would still think, and there is no way I can back this up or demolish it, that some type of grid would be more efficient than everybody being self sufficient. The trading of excess electricity would reduce capital costs.

          Ahh Mr Bundaberg.

          • Chris Fraser

            I’m just glad that others, in their ‘more reflective’ moments, have a chance to surmise that trading of energy in more densely built grid areas would provide a practical and social benefit. But the key word is trade, and with that, access to the grid on fair terms.

          • Ian

            The articles and discussion on this site have brought many valuable insights to renewables. Hopefully people like Mark Bailey take time to read it. Distributed generation, storage and grid connection requires fair access to the grid and fair trading of energy. Well said. If the government wants an electricity grid in the future it’s got to provide unhindered access to exports to the grid at a fair rates.

            Unfortunately, the only way to achieve this may be going off grid or at least threatening to go off grid. One can leverage the influence of going off grid by demonstrating the cost effectiveness and viability of this option. What I mean is this. If 5 % of urban dwellers go off grid and their systems are cheaper to install and run than remaining on the grid, then the utilities have no choice but to reinvent their business models.

            Given that batteries are the expensive link in going off grid what are the options to keeping the size of batteries as small as possible?

            1. Oversizing solar arrays. Solar panels, relative to batteries are very cheap.

            2. Grade household loads according to critical functioning. For example cooking is probably more important than pool heating. Be generous with the sizing of discretionary loads and shift their use to daytime . Pool pumping, air conditioning, hot water heating, dish washing ,clothes washing and drying are large loads and can be done when the sun shines. Choose very efficient critical loads like LED lighting, cooking, small well insulated refrigerators, home insulation and winter space heating.

            3. Consider a backup power source. This is where creativity comes in. Examples could be fossil fuel generators, standby ( and duplicated) gas cooking, space heating, hot water heating. Electric vehicles- batteries on wheels. plug in hybrids – battery and generator on wheels. Neighbourhood electricity sharing, formal or informal – extension lead over the fence;-)

            As battery costs drop the more extreme measures would be unnecessary. The point is that some fore thought can help improve the economics of going off grid in the urban setting. As said above, for a fairer grid we need to be able to go off grid.

      • Phil

        Hi Jeff , “overpannelling” solves the light issue. You can install 2 or 3 times the Qty of panels you need and they are cheap with a long life .But you must have somewhere to put them . Unless it’s “mushroom growing weather” you will always get a full charge even on cloudy days. Only for a few days in the depths of winter on very dense cloud day is a genset start required.

        My all up off grid costs are $2.30 per day with a 100% sustainable hardware replacement plan and all loan costs (5% interest rate) for a guaranteed 10kwh per day system with 99.9999 % uptime and genset run costs included based on a DIY system. I still believe a commercial system is comparable cost wise as you get subsidies , i used none of those.

        My other option was on grid at $2.70 per day for the 10kwh and $1.60 per day access charge = $4.30 per day inc gst . So it was an easy decision for me to go off grid. Also they wanted $30k up front to connect me to the grid as it’s 120 meters away , not that i was interested and actually chose the block BECAUSE it had no mains grid going past.

        • JeffJL

          30K to connect makes it a no brainer to go off grid. Being alongside the domestic power does not require that cost impost.

          Yes you can add extra panels to gain a lower downtime (but as you admit you have a genset you acknowledge that you need more panels). Would it not be best for society and the environment if on the periods when your batteries were at 100% that your excess electrons were sold to others to reduce their carbon footprint?.

          Not everybody is able to DIY solar systems resulting in higher (much) capital costs. In terms of examples you are not typical and your situation makes it unlikely the majority of Australians can copy your success.

          • Phil

            Yes Jeff i have to agree that for the majority that is the PERFECT solution , sell surplus energy to your neighbours and everyone wins.

            Some “greenfield” housing estates are proposing to use their own underground interconnected home to home power grid to enable sharing of surplus energy.All houses will have batteries designed in for non solar hours use and possibly a communal battery backup on a charged as needed basis for redundancy.

            It appears there are no viable energy sharing solutions on offer yet from the current owners of the existing poles and the wires . So many are forced to regain control by going 100% off grid instead , either alone or interconnected with others as a community.

            Perhaps one day in the near future surplus energy sharing for the majority of users will eventuate. But i think it will be a long wait indeed.

          • JonathanMaddox

            It may be too ambitious to suggest that using a generator for a few hours, a few times each year, means that “you need more panels”.

            For rural Australians without an existing grid connection, it has already been cheaper for some decades just to stay off-grid, than to pay the tens of thousands of dollars to get a grid connection brought even from just the other side of the road, let alone further afield. In fact it was probably already cheaper for most such 40 years ago, when the only option was to run your own diesel generator for all your electricity needs.

            The plummeting price of solar PV and domestic power batteries, and the advent of ever more energy-frugal lights and other appliances, has meant that these off-grid systems have been getting progressively cheaper (hello hobby farms and rural subdivisions) and that diesel generators are needed less and less often — first not in the daytime unless it’s overcast, then with batteries not in the evenings after sunny days, etc. etc.

            Even today, though, adding enough battery storage to cover weeks of overcast conditions with short winter days is still not cost-effective. The generator should be kept around for those circumstances. Renewable-energy purists are free to run theirs on biodiesel 🙂

            In the big grid-connected picture the same applies, actually. We will probably never stop burning fuel to make electricity, but we will burn less and less of it as we install more and more renewable generation capacity on the grid. First we’ll be able to shut down fuel-burning generators altogether for just a few hours on sunny windy weekend days. The number of hours of each year when they’re not required will gradually increase as we add more non-fuel generation and more storage. Zero is a long way off — but once the consumption of fuel is sufficiently low, at least we will have the option of switching to using a modest amount of renewable fuel, in place of a modest amount of fossil fuel.

          • Phil

            Yes that is right Jonathon , my genset use is 30 hours per year = 6 starts and 30 cents per day cost for this includes fuel and genset consumables. So i can get away with a “yumcha chinese” inverter petrol genset which is fine for such light duty , and although low cost has been 100% reliable.

            I think the unsung heroes here are the “off gridders” in rural areas you mention. I call them the quiet achievers as they rarely talk about it and they think being self reliant is normal and not special as I do.

            If not for them we in the more urban areas going off grid would have a more expensive and onerous installation i am certain. They are the trailblazers based on a critical need.

            One thing i have noticed is that the mindset and skillset of MOST of the On grid solar installers is almost totally useless when it comes to Off grid installations. Many simply can’t wear the “2 hats” required for each as they are totally different solar installation technologies , topologies and requirements.And even more amazing they wont spend the time reading up on the numerous Australian standards for off grid installations that cover critical areas such as lightning protection. And they also seem to have no concept of designing in redundancy and eliminating where possible single points of failure.

            Many off gridders will find out the hard way that many so called experienced tradespeople have no idea whatsoever.

  • Concerned

    What is the point of quoting capacity and not the net yearly output?

    • Peter Voight

      Of course, Concerned, total energy is the relevant quantity. Net output data is not readily available, but generally, coal net generation is high relative to capacity, whereas for many renewables, net can be very low.

      True or not, claiming that rooftop solar is to be the ‘2nd largest generator’
      is irrelevant, because the total is produced by a lot of relatively small generators, and where some are soon to be decommissioned.

      To put the Minister’s claim into perspective, here is some data from The Australian Dept industry and Science. Below, are is latest available.

      Electricity Generation by Fuel Type (2013-2014)
      (National) (Queensland)
      (1) Total non-renewable ( 211254.8 GWh) (56674.5 GW)
      (2) Total renewable ( 37042.2 GWh ) (3958.8 GWh)
      (3) Total ( 48297.1 GWh ) (60633.4 GWh)

      The following are are the 3 largest renewable sources. Solar PV, is all PV.
      Bagasse/wood is primarily from sugar cane. There are some smaller contributors that bring the total to that found in (2)
      Solar PV (4857.5 GWh) (1618.0 GWh)
      Bagasse,wood (1876.7 GWh) (1403.0 Gwh)
      Hydro (18421.0 GWh) (820.0 GWh)

      Solar PV contributes 2.66% of Queensland’s total electricity generation.
      Rooftop utilization is variable and indeterminate, so a great deal less will be net. Storing a fraction of that net output in inefficient and low-powered home batteries is a waste of materials, time and money, but it’s a popular idea at the moment.