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Transgrid gets 6,000MW solar proposals in 2017, sees 95% renewables by 2050

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Transgrid, the owner and operator of the main transmission line in New South Wales, reports that is has received “enquiries” about more than 6,000MW of large scale solar so far in 2017.

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The figure, revealed by business development manager Gustavo Bodini at the Large Scale Solar conference hosted by RenewEconomy and Informa earlier this week, is more than a six fold increase over 2016, and highlights the huge interest in solar as it matches wind on costs and beats new gas (and new coal) by a significant margin.

Of course, not all that 6,000MW will be built, or even get to development approval stage, but large scale solar is clearly the energy source of choice at the moment, accounting for at least half of new projects for the renewable energy target – a share that is likely to increase in coming years.

Amy Kean, the renewable energy advocate for the NSW government, showed this slide (below) at the conference, indicating the amount of large scale solar already installed, under construction, and those in the pipeline and the “stealth” projects, which may well refer to the Transgrid enquiries.

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The first line of completed projects represent those – such as Nyngan, Broken Hill and Moree – that were funded by the initial big grants from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

The second line – current build – is mostly the half dozen projects partly funded under ARENA’s solar auction program. But ARENA says solar costs have now fallen to the point where support is not needed for “vanilla” projects, and those in the “planning approved” and “planning system” categories will be a test of their ability to compete in the market.

So, where is all this heading?

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This graph above from Transgrid’s Bodini is the most striking – because it predicts that by 2050, 95 per cent of the demand will be delivered by renewable energy – some 65 per cent from large scale renewables like wind and solar and hydro, and another 30 per cent from “distributed energy”.

That’s why, says Bodini, we need to get out and test new technologies, such as battery storage, to see how they operate and integrate with the grid.

There is some grace. There will be enough synchronous generation, Bodini says, within the whole National Electricity Market by 2030 to provide the inertia required to keep the grid stable. From that point, as more of the legacy coal and gas plants retire, it will be up to new technologies to take over.

The grid of the future, he says, will focus on better ways of managing peak demand, energy efficiency, widespread deployment of distributed generation (mostly solar), network based storage and new market rules to allow this to happen and one that promotes “genuine competition” and protects consumers when there is ineffective competition.  

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  • Robin_Harrison

    To only reach 95% renewables by 2050, we must assume Bodini expects the energy transition will slow to a crawl. That doesn’t sound like something exponential growth is renowned for.

    • brucelee

      Great comment, ha ha

  • Bob Fearn

    Sounds good however it is too little too late.

    Tragic that most global leaders focus on $$ instead of a viable future.

    • Miles Harding

      This is the fundamental issue.

      The real question is how do we replace the present economy, that maximises dollars, with one that preserves the environment that sustains us while maximising happiness and well being?

      • michael

        the environment seems to be best protected in the highest GDP per capita countries, strange that… and it’s dollars from other activities which has allowed renewables to be supported through their development, but don’t let that get in the way of your story

  • james gibson

    It’s really good to see solar replace wind. Wind is controversial because it destroys viewsheds and harms species like birds.

    In a country with as much sun as Australia, solar is the way to go. Future RET expansions should make wind ineligible.

  • Miles Harding

    Interesting comments about solar costs.

    Perhaps, we can read that the RET is now redundant and there is little a COALition government can do, apart from direct interference, to slow the transition.

    Policy and planning are going to be extremely important to keep pace with, what could be a solar avalanche coming our way, not by 2050, but by 2020. Certainly, storage and backup generation are going to be very important.

    It would be a folly to over-emphasise solar to the detriment of a diversified renewable energy portfolio that makes best use of the energy resources we have. Diversification is also necessary to reduce the amount of costly storage and backup generation needed.

    The solar projects described here could well be the start of a ‘solar mania’ that will sweep the energy sector and substantially increase costs in the medium term, as regulators struggle to keep pace, redundant fossil generators are forced to close much earlier than planned and storage and short term (peak to a week**) generators are hurriedly built to bridge gaps when the ‘sun don’t shine’.

    ** Original?

  • Mike A

    We need to repeat this mantra over and over until everybody accepts the truth. Solar is cheaper than carbon based power with no subsidies and that does not take into account how filthy and unsustainable carbons based power is. Tell everybody you know until it is accepted, then change will happen more quickly.