Australia has 35GW of solar farms in development pipeline

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After a record 2017, there is now more than 1900MW of solar PV farms under construction across Australia, and 35GW in various stages of development.

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Big solar is well and truly booming in Australia in 2018, with new data from the Australian PV Institute confirming that there is a massive 35GW of solar farms in the nation’s planning and development pipeline.

In its latest annual update to the International Energy Agency, APVI says 2018 looks certain to be another another record year for Australian PV, fuelled by a booming big solar market and “outstanding” economic fundamentals for residential and commercial PV.

After a 2017 that saw Australia’s cumulative installed PV capacity sail past 7.2GW, and account for nearly 4 per cent of electricity demand, there is now more than 1900MW of solar farms under construction and 35GW in various stages of development, the report said.

But the report notes that, with the RET due to be met ahead of its target date, and with no new policy incentive to replace it, more than 20GW of PV projects will be searching for an alternative pathway to commercialisation.

APVI, however, doesn’t seem overly concerned about this.

“Though a policy gap may occur, there is acceptance among incumbent electricity businesses and regulators that renewable energy is the least cost source of new-build electricity, and will soon outcompete Australia’s existing generation fleet that are progressively needing refurbishment,” the report says.

On the smaller scale, the report confirms that a world-leading 20 per cent of Australian households host one of 1.8 million PV systems – more than over 160 000 of which were added in 2017.

“Australia’s high electricity prices and inexpensive PV systems means payback can commonly be achieved in 3-5 years, a situation that looks set to continue in 2018,” the report said.

“Momentum is building for further acceleration of commercial PV deployment, and corporate interest in solar PPAs is emerging,” it said.

The average PV system size continued to grow steadily, too, as residential system sizes increased and a growing number of businesses invested in PV.

Panel prices. meanwhile, continued to decline, and system prices reached record lows.

Sophie Vorrath

Sophie is editor of OneStepOffTheGrid.com.au and deputy editor of its sister site, RenewEconomy.com.au. Sophie has been writing about clean energy for more than a decade.

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32 Comments
  1. Steve159 5 months ago

    The LNP must see the writing on the wall, which I guess explains the ridiculous shrill comments about needing more coal stations. As more and more solar farms come online, expect to see even more loud calls for coal-fired power.

    • Paul Surguy 5 months ago

      Hang on Steve159 we need at least one dirty stinking filthy coal fire power stations in Australia not a HELE power station,our trees need some carbon to breath in jjjjjust one

    • MaxG 5 months ago

      The buffheads can’t read… based on having observed their grade 1 slogans; like “axe the tax”… :))

      • solarguy 5 months ago

        How does ” KILL COAL” effect ya?

  2. Ray Miller 5 months ago

    This if fantastic news, although the extra RE will need to be matched with a combination of efficiency, storage and load management for us all the maximise the value to the customer. The Tesla battery trial appears to have a great deal of synergy for the increase in variable renewables.

  3. Hettie 5 months ago

    Just asked Dr Google to make sure, and she said total demand is a bit less than 45,000 megawatts. That’s 45 gigawatts, yes?
    So with 35 gW of solar in development, on top of what is already commissioned, unless there is really rapid uptake of EVs, pushing requirement up around ?25%?, coal can soon confidently start weeping all the way to bankruptcy.
    And with EV uptake, perhaps a year or two later.
    When do we start celebrating? Or have I got something badlywrong?

    • Phil Shield 5 months ago

      We will need more than 1 GW of solar to replace a GW of coal, but yes I think existing coal generators won’t be able to complete. They will make a disorderly exit from the market and be gone by 2030.

      • Hettie 5 months ago

        Damn. I forgot about that. Solar cf around 20, 25%?
        Rat’s. It made me so happy.

    • MacNordic 5 months ago

      Hi Hettie,
      nothing wrong with your assumptions about coal, but solar PV will need more than the currently installed and pipeline capacity to cover all of the midday load.
      Why?
      – Well, first of all, not all systems feed into the grid – take the Genex Kidston farm, which will most likely supply the bulk of its generation to the pumping operation on site.
      – Similar with the Simec for Whyalla, which will cover additional demand currently not on the grid.
      – Plenty of people will (hopefully) try to shift their consumption to the solar generation hours such as hot water heaters.
      – There will be plenty of batteries charging off those solar panels in a few years, lowering the max. feed- in at midday (if charging grid- friendly) while at the same time covering the evening peak, lowering that as well.
      – Purely technical reasons: not all PV systems generate at the same time nor at the nameplate capacity at midday – typically, you can expect around 1/2 to 2/3 of nameplate capacity to be reached at noon, depending on temperature, orientation, cloud cover and so on. (Example: Germany has around 41GW of PV installed, in mid- summer, they get peak generation of around 20GW on average – and 32GW max*. Should be slightly higher in Australia – less cloud cover – but not much, as heat decreases effectivity again). Above refers to power (GW). Below to energy (GWh).

      Rule of thumb – for fully replacing FF generation (GWh) with RE – is you need 2.5- 3 times the nameplate capacity in order to replace it completely with PV and onshore wind. Between 2 and 2.5 for offshore wind; 1:1 for biomass and hydro. For a mix, something in between;-)

      [*source: https://www.agora-energiewende.de/en/service/recent-electricity-data/chart/power_generation/15.06.2018/16.07.2018/%5D

      • Hettie 5 months ago

        Thanks, Mac. I had forgotten that PV CF is low. I had read as low as 20 %, though I doubt that. Still, I recognize that my perceptions are skewed by the stellar performance of my 5.3 kW rooftop system.
        Midwinter here, and for each of the past four days it has produced 29 kWh, +/- 0.1. Clear, sunny cold days, fixed panels, facing 4• west of solar north, pitch 24•, a little low for the 31• S latitude, but with that output who’s complaining.
        Australia is so vast, and we have a wide variety of climates, so calculating an average CF for the whole country would not be easy.
        The arid areas get very hot indeed, but have clear skies most of the time, which I suspect would more than compensate for the heat.
        In any event, at the present rate of investment in RE, we will be retiring dirty, costly coal fast. To the chagrin of the coal lobby. Kodak, anyone?

      • solarguy 5 months ago

        Yeah I won’t argue with that.

      • Shilo 5 months ago

        Hello MacNordic, Which way is the German Average, meaning what is the higher frequency, above 20GW or Below 20GW?.

        • MacNordic 5 months ago

          PV alone definitely below 20GW, generation above that is only achieved in spring and early summer – April to June, typically – due to the long and dark winters.

          You can access more detailed info on the linked page – bottom right you can change the timeframe shown. Winter average PV generation is well below 5GW – with a (exeptionary, last winter was unusually clear) peak of around 10GW:
          https://www.agora-energiewende.de/en/service/recent-electricity-data/chart/power_generation/01.12.2017/31.12.2017/

          But things are always on the move with added new solar and wind generation to the tune of 7-11GW per year for the last few years:

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/1fa04ce50dcf4ee541b09d0bc4709d226c3dbd201535162c752d971ad07f1ca0.jpg

          [source: https://energy-charts.de/power_inst.htm?year=all&period=annual&type=inc_dec%5D

          • Shilo 5 months ago

            Thank you very much for the information, So in Australia I would guess the diff between winter and summer will not be as great, and in fact due to temps maybe the two in-between periods will in fact be our peak times?.
            But my main question i suppose is this, in your opinion, will solar in Australia end up the vast majority of the power source?. I just cannot see that wind could really compete with it on price. Yes i am assuming batterys in my question, that can store large amounts of power well. Which i doubt will be Lithium ion, in the end?.

          • MacNordic 5 months ago

            A pleasure!

            Would guess the peak PV production in Australia would also be in spring and autumn due to temperature and daylight influence. But I have no data to corrobate that. Generally, PV panel output is rated at 20°C or 25°C – for every degree above that, effectivity drops. Some sources suggest a fall between 0.7 to 1.5% (of total max possible production) per degree above that.

            As to the future generation mix, I am sure it will be a mix of several different generation techs, as that offers redundancy, negative correlation and system benefits.
            Solar PV can generate around 40% of the time (ground mount with trackers) in Australia. Generation time is during the peak load times as well.
            Wind is mostly during the night, covering the (lower) night load and offering generation capacity for PHES.
            Batteries offer smaller scale (and time) buffering, PHES and Hydro the ability to smoothe output peaks and lows as well as covering peaks.

            All comes down to future price development – at the moment, wind still has the edge price wise (in most instances), but PV costs are coming down fast. Same for battery tech, although future development is hindered by capacity constraints in manufacturing, which in turn is down to a slower scaling than demand expands. Add in the uncertainty about the future technology (other than LiIon?) as well as current commodity price hikes. PHES takes longer to build and is also more expensive up front, but offers significantly lower long- term cost due to long lifetime.

            As PV can only generate around 40% of the time, you would have to add storage cost for time- shifting for the rest of the time. These two cost blocks are currently well above wind cost. Much comes down to how much load can (will) be shifted to PV production times.

            A wild guess to the future*: I can see PV reaching around 40-50% of generation, covering the bulk of daytime demand as well as at least part of the evening peak via (household) batteries (which cover around 5-10%). Around half of PV generation is coming from household PV installations.
            Wind covers around 30% of load, mostly during peak generation at night. Hydro and PHES cover a bit less than 20%, mostly for demand peaks or generation lows of wind and PV – or via interconnectors from out- of state (Tasmania, Snowy). All other tech is below 5%, possibly below 2%, just offering a backup.

            *assumes RE only grid; no “heroic” assumptions on not- yet prooven tech; an electricity economy, FF in transportation and heat completely displaced.

          • Hettie 5 months ago

            You have long dark winters in Victoria, but the northern part of NSW up into QLD HAS dry, sunny winters. Fixed panels producing 5X rated value per day. Day length midwinter is 10 hours, midsummer 14 hours. These things make big differences in output between north and south Australia

    • solarguy 5 months ago

      45 gigawasps is correct.

      Look, just unscrew the lid on the Brandy, pop the cork on the Bolly and cheer on regardless, after all it can’t hurt can it sweetie, err marm.

      • Hettie 5 months ago

        Dingbat.

        • solarguy 5 months ago

          “Dingbat” Please explain.

    • Ian 5 months ago

      That’s in planning and development. Plans, like the Ceres wind farm, don’t always eventuate . Those clever @#$’s in government have had a way of spoiling the best of RE plans.

  4. solarguy 5 months ago

    Come next federal election we have the opportunity to bomb the COALaltion back into the stone age. Yeah, well I know their already there…….enough said then.

    • Barry Alternative Fact Covfefe 5 months ago

      Have voters learned their lesson or will they vote again for more right wing failure?

      • solarguy 5 months ago

        Well Barry, how long is a piece of string? This carbon war, has taken more tacs than Australia II did, back in 1983. Sadly, the is more than enough f ..k wittedness to go around that even Dean Mackin, Alan Jones and Andrew Bolt can conjure up.

        • Barry Alternative Fact Covfefe 5 months ago

          I don’t get what your trying to say

          • solarguy 5 months ago

            Well it’s not exactly cryptic Barry. The dickheads that I mention above, love to spread misinformation to keep the unengaged weak heads thinking coal is king and that climate change is bullshit, brigade.

          • Barry Alternative Fact Covfefe 5 months ago

            All that goes without saying.
            I just could not decipher your post, though i am also sleep deprived (not in Australia)

  5. Barry Alternative Fact Covfefe 5 months ago

    Would not 35GW obliterate all other generators during the day time? When will this 35GW be in operation by?

    This would lead to a very messy situation, since coal cant be throttled down there will be a huge amount of curtailment or power generated then thrown away (how is a good question when dealing with GW of unused juice). But coal will still be needed outside of sunshine hours meaning little carbon will be saved, just lots of thrown away power. That said pumping hydro will eat some of the coal output and reduce it a bit. Gas can be shut off as well. Wind will help but is not able to completely power outside of sunshine hours either, there are times in SA that wind provides >100% of demand and other times at zero percent (not as frequent but often well under 20%).
    In the end batteries will be needed by the truckload.

    • solarguy 5 months ago

      Wind runs into the night Barry. And that’s what storage is for regarding excess power gen.

      • Barry Alternative Fact Covfefe 5 months ago

        I know this, yet its variable to the hilt, 100%+ some nights and even days, under 20% often and close to or even hitting zero percent on others.
        I also know what storage is and what it does, i am saying that if 35GW of solar came online very soon it will cause chaos as not enough storage is deployed yet to manage without coal or the currently available gas.
        Australia has a lot of hydropower which is essentially storage which works in your favour, but not enough to run the entire grid in combination with available gas.
        You need enough hydro/battery to run the whole country in order to be fully decarbonized, for how long is a good question, 24 hours, maybe only 12 will do the job? The idea being that at night if the wind is not blowing there are no blackouts.

        Tesla powered a (tropical) island with solar/battery, iirc the battery had 72 hours of storage and could be recharged in 6 hours of full sunlight hence they should almost never have a blackout.

        • Hettie 5 months ago

          Barry, my reading of the article is that the new solar will come to commissioning over the next two to three years, maybe longer. As you point out, it is important that increased ways to use the excess power are ready. That means PHES ready to go as the solar projects come on line.
          I recoil in horror at the thought of coal being used to pump water up hill. That is clearly a job for renewables. Let coal chug along, until it trips out, and then the pumped hydro, batteries and functioning wind & solar take up the slack. Gas will play a part, but let’s hope that part will get progressively smaller.

          • Barry Alternative Fact Covfefe 5 months ago

            I know what you mean by recoil in horror. All of us progressives would like to see coal gone yesterday but when it comes to energy storage we are not that far along yet in deployment.
            The way i see it right now new solar/wind takes out gas at present not coal. But if a coal plant were closed then renewables will pick up much if not all the slack bringing some or all of that gas back when the sun/wind is unavailable. This is finally a net reduction of the dirtiest carbon. The problem with all solar now is that in the daytime coal is redundant but after the sun sets it would be needed again. Gas can be scaled up or down, coal can’t so coal would run in the daytime even if it becomes unnecessary for X hours a day but with nothing to do with it. Solar would be curtailed because it can.
            Long term battery storage plus renewables will run the grid but if the cart is put before the horse its going to be false savings and lots of right wing mud slinging (and people believe lies). Not to say the right won’t act crazy anyways but if things work well its less believable then a temporary mismatch.

        • solarguy 5 months ago

          What madam has said below will suffice.

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