Australia rates a zero as Big Solar booms around the world

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New utility-scale solar commissioned in 2014 totalled 14.2GW, almost double 2015, and equal to global total at end 2012. Australia’s contribution? Zero.

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Figures released on Friday by utility solar analysts Wiki-Solar.org show that global capacity of utility-scale PV generating capacity at the end of 2014 reached 35.9GW.

The data shows that new plant commissioned during the year totalled 14.2 GW, almost doubling the record of 7.4 GW set the previous year – and equal to the entire installed capacity up to the end of 2012.

Worldwide utility-scale photovoltaic power generation is now fairly evenly split between the three leading continents; Asia, Europe and North America. 2014 is the first year when Africa and South America started to show meaningful contributions.

But where is Australia?

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As you can see in the charts above, every continent increased its volume compared to 2013 – except Australia, which rates zeros on new annual capacity and cumulative operating capacity. (Actually, on cumulative capacity it would rate at 30MW – the Royalla and Greenough River solar plants – but that is 0.03GW, and Wiki-Solar only goes one decimal point).

“Even Europe returned to growth, after declines in 2012 and 2013,” said Wiki-Solar founder Philip Wolfe.

“Performance at the national level is however more variable. Europe’s resurgence – after the 2012 policy changes in the traditional powerhouse of Germany – has been fuelled mainly by a buoyant British market.”

Wiki-Solar predicts that the UK will this month leapfrog India, and maybe even Germany, to become the world’s third or fourth largest market; driven by a flood of projects racing to beat legislative changes. The country then risks following other European markets into a period of stagnation.

Meanwhile Germany is trialling a new approach to utility-scale solar, which may see growth re-starting in coming years.

“Only the US, China and India can claim consistent longer-term growth”, says Wolfe; though he believes that the drivers in countries like Chile, Japan and Canada look relatively stable.

“I am hoping they too will become sustainable markets for the industry.”

According to Wiki-Solar, the installed capacity of utility-scale power plants in the leading countries at the end of 2014 was:

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Wiki-Solar expects to see all of these countries, apart from Ukraine, in the ‘gigawatt plus club’ by the end of 2015. Australia ranked in the 30s.

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11 Comments
  1. barrie harrop 5 years ago

    About zero ,expect Aust PM is so pleased.

  2. Bella49 5 years ago

    Even if the Libs dump Tony Abbott, as is universally expected to happen in the near future, there is still an urgent need to winkle out the hand-picked climate deniers, economic flat-earthers and carbon industry partisans he has placed in key positions of influence. Abbott broke all previous conventions when he sacked the Head of Treasury and installed his own man, who must be the last econocrat left on earth who still worships Margaret Thatcher and her brand of economic mis-management that nearly crippled the UK during the 1980’s. I don’t know if anybody in Australia is still listening to anything Maurice Newman has to say, or the compliant Tony Shepherd (whose mercenary “Commission of Audit” identified the “fiscal black hole” that was used to justify bringing in all the “reforms” that they promised not introduce before the last election). The whole lot have to go!

  3. john 5 years ago

    In Australia there is a disconnect.
    It is one of the few countries that is blessed with huge Solar and huge amounts of wind energy resources.
    England is like in a latitude lower than Tasmania how on earth can they possibly capture any more that a few hours of power from the sun per day?
    From an energy efficiency perceptive Australia is in a good place most countries with the same amount of intellectual capacity are not so blessed.
    However those in not exactly good latitudes are trying to utilise the weak amount of free power that is available this astounds me.
    Perhaps I made the connection between intelligence and latitude to obtuse.
    To put it simple Australia is front and centre more so that Italy, England, Germany or the USA they have pretty poor outcomes compared to AU.

  4. Ronald Brakels 5 years ago

    Fortunately Australia doesn’t need any utility scale solar to get half or more of its total electricity use from solar. Australia apparently now has the lowest rooftop installation costs in the world and our high retail prices make it the most competitive source of electricity in the country. We should be concentrating on what we’re good at and going hell for leather expanding our rooftop capacity and we should not tolerate rules such as those in Queensland that limit the export of solar electricity from rooftop solar as burning coal while clean solar electricity is going to waste is evil. In a stochastic sense at least, it kills children. If someone wants to build utility scale solar, that’s great – wonderful in fact. But they are going to have difficulty with our low daytime wholesale electricity prices, which is something that is not really a problem for rooftop solar.

    • wideEyedPupil 5 years ago

      that’s why concentrated solar thermal with molten salt storage is so valuable in a 100% RE economy as it can dispatch (and profit from) the evening shoulder when PV ramps off. high capital costs mean the companies deploying this technology on every other continent in the world except Australia (and Antarctica) need PPAs or some other mechanism like Contracts for Difference from governments to enter the market. the value of dispatch power with minimal ramp periods should attract support from grid managers and the government.

      • Ronald Brakels 5 years ago

        Australia has very high retail electricity rates and very low feed-in tariffs. As a result we may see a widespread adoption of on grid home and energy storage. This combined with our existing hydroelectric capacity and two pumped storage facilities, and wind power, may be sufficient to meet night time demand without fossil fuel use.

        Also, as rooftop solar continues to decline in cost people with have an incentive to install larger systems to reduce the amount of expensive grid electricity they use on cloudy days or periods of high electricity use. This results in more electricity being available for export to the grid and will result in lower daytime electricity prices. Besides the obvious opportunity this gives to charge pumped storage in the middle of the day, frequent low or zero costs for electricity in the day time could result in the building of thermal storage without a solar component but using electrical resistance heating instead. This would be inefficient, but cheap. Other more efficient forms of storage not involving thermal solar power could also be used.

        So it is not clear to me that we will end up with any significant amount of solar with thermal storage in Australia. But we will see what happens.

      • Mike Westerman 5 years ago

        Pumped storage is a significantly cheaper way to store solar energy than solar thermal. And once there are sufficient EVs being parked during the day in solar sheltered carparks, and able to supply power to the grid during evening peaks, base load at least for domestic loads is no longer an issue.

        • Alastair Leith 5 years ago

          I’m not so convinced EV owners will sacrifice a full tank (think range anxiety) for the good of England whenever the grid operator deems it worthwhile. They’d be wanting a good recompense I think. Evening time is drive home time too.

          Pumped storage is cheaper and MSI wrote a report on suitability of locations in Australia (http://www.energy.unimelb.edu.au/documents/opportunities-pumped-hydro-energy-storage-australia ). But none has been built for 30 years. There’s few rivers left to dam and damming rivers is bad environmentally, so perhaps that is why none for 30yrs. Off-river is much better. There are evaporation issues but maybe a solar panel covered lid for the high dam can help with that. I guess there needs to be the market opportunity and with cheap old dirty coal stations chugging away the peak-premiums to build storage will be harder to find.

          • Mike Westerman 4 years ago

            There are a number of very large PH sites (2000MWx7days) near Armidale that assume off stream storage. These would serve as support for Brisbane and Sydney. In some ways it’s not a bad thing for the PH to be “close” to the load, so as to support voltage/frequency/reserve at these loads, with the generation being in the best insolation locations. If there is to be any thermal storage, the obvious is at the point of use ie if no-one is home, use the solar to create chilled water for use when the occupants come home. This is very cheap energy storage. Likewise centralised chilled water systems such as they have in Middle East storing water over night for use during the day operate so much more effectively at night that the improvement in COP often outweighs the losses from the large tanks. There are also significant water and sewerage pumping loads that could operate intermittently on solar if there was sufficient water storage. All adds up!

        • wideEyedPupil 4 years ago

          yes it is, although suitable PH locations tend to be 100s of km away from good insolation locations.

  5. Raahul Kumar 5 years ago

    I would expect the United States to get knocked off its perch at No 1 by both Bharat and Zhonghua. What with the 100 GW being built by both our nations, there’s no way other countries can match that build.

    Australia is a big disappointment, I hope state and local governments can step in where the Federal Government has failed.

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