Australia solar costs hit "extraordinary" new lows – $50s/MWh | RenewEconomy

Australia solar costs hit “extraordinary” new lows – $50s/MWh

ARENA says Australia utility-scale solar prices has plunged to “somewhere in the $50s” today, while BNEF says China module surplus could lower prices further in Australia by end of the year.

Hamilton Solar Farm. Source: Wirsol Energy.

The cost of building new large-scale solar energy generation in Australia has fallen to an “extraordinary” new low, the head of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency has said, citing industry reports of numbers down around the $50/MWh mark.

Australia’s PV price plunge has seen the cost of utility-scale solar fall from around $135/MWh when ARENA launched its first auction in 2015, to “somewhere in the $50s” today, or $1/W, ARENA chief Ian Kay said on Wednesday.

“So we’ve gone from $1.60/W …. to, I think you’ll actually find that people are now talking about, by the next round of projects that are being developed, due to be financed in the next 12 months, bidding under $1/W,” Kay told the Large-scale Solar & Storage conference in Sydney, co-hosted by RenewEconomy.

“And that’s then translating into … dollars per megawatt-hour of numbers starting with a five, so somewhere in the 50s, dollars per megawatt-hour for solar.

“Which is just extraordinary… an extraordinary achievement for the industry,” Kay said.

Kay’s comments firm up reports of recent power purchase agreements locked in at sub $55/MWh, such as the PPA obtained by Origin Energy for the 530MW Stockyard Hill wind farm in Victoria, and also for some solar projects.

And it confirms that solar is now well and truly the cheapest form new energy generation, and is well under the cost of wholesale electricity in Australia – even with the cost of storage added.

Kay’s comments were echoed by Leonard Quong, an analyst with Bloomberg New Energy Finance, who told the conference: “The costs are coming down faster than I can update my charts.”

Quong noted that the emerging over-supply of Chinese modules – estimated at more than 20GW – could start to have an impact in Australia by the end of the year, pushing the cost of large scale solar projects down further.

“The cost of renewables is well below the wholesale electricity cost – and will remain lower for at least the mid term,” Quong said. This included no price for LGCs going forward, because of the anticipated over-supply of renewable projects.

“The electricity price alone will be enough” to justify construction, he said.

However, both Kay and Quong noted that storage remains a key issue – both the balancing of the grid, and to deal with negative pricing events in the wholesale market in the middle of the day, which are already being witnessed in Queensland.

ARENA’s Kay said that even with the added cost of what is becoming known in the industry as “firming,” the cost of solar is beating the current wholesale electricity market in Australia.

“From a cost perspective, LCOE (levelised cost of energy) is decreasing dramatically,” Kay said. “But what’s important is not the absolute cost of PV, but the cost of integrating into system.”

Kay says the cost of balancing that solar, when renewables take up a much larger share of the electricity market in 2040 is expected to add another $20-$30/MWh.

But even then, he said, “the cost of renewables plus firming is actually under the price of where we are now on the spot market.”

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  1. Grumpybum77 2 years ago

    “And it confirms that solar is now well and truly the cheapest form new energy generation, and is well under the cost of wholesale electricity in Australia – even with the cost of storage added.”

    Would it be possible for someone to point me in the right direction or elaborate on the cost comparisons for renewables. I’m sure this has been debated to death but I’m new to the “argument”.
    I’ve struggled with understanding how renewables and in particular solar fit supply a demand profile across a state or region.

    A gas fired plant will provide you a unit of electricity for a full 24hrs and cost $x install plus $y operating cost.
    To provide the equivalent unit of electricity over 24hrs, a solar plant requires a battery / concurrent wind install / pumped hydro / whatever else. The cost of the total system is therefore $a install and $b operating cost

    • john 2 years ago
    • john 2 years ago

      Perhaps these figures from Lazard may be of help.

      • Grumpybum77 2 years ago

        John – sort of. Thanks.
        Maybe I wasn’t clear on my query. I’ve read a few articles on this site but I’ve still struggled to understand how solar and wind in particular compare at the grid scale on a cost perspective.
        I understand the distributed power concept (e.g. it is windy in one area but not the other), I also see articles such as this that talk about solar being relatively cheap.
        While in concept I’m pro-renewable, I’ve struggled to put together in my brain is how it all ties in. Complaints about big business and politics aside, I’m trying to understand why aren’t we doing it at a wider scale and can only assume it is economical.
        E.g. assuming limited demand management:
        Scenario 1 – a coal fired power station provides consistent power @$100MWH (from Lazard – approx. midpoint). To “meet” demand you also need 3 gas power stations @$60MWH. System is fairly consistent.
        Scenario 2 – majority of power sourced from distributed solar + wind @$50MWH. However due to anticipated fluctuations in that supply even with distributed wind you need to add a large battery + 3 gas power stations. Meaning the total cost of the system is far greater than 1 coal + 3 gas.
        (This is most likely entirely incorrect – just trying to demonstrate what I’m trying to understand).

        • Andy Saunders 2 years ago

          “why aren’t we doing it at a wider scale ”

          I think the whole point of the article (and the other on reneweconomy today) is that we are – there’s a lot of rooftop solar, and grid-scale wind/solar coming soon…

          The amount of storage is perhaps a lot less than you are assuming. As you imply, there’s (anti-)correlation between different RE technologies and regions so less storage is needed, so most MWhs don’t need to go in and out of storage – they go direct to the customer. So simply adding the cost per MWh as you seem to have done is incorrect.

          • Hettie 2 years ago

            Okay, but take BTM batteries. Round trip loss, store/retrieve, is what, 10%?
            Value loss if exported to grid is 55% to 70%, depending on price and FiT.
            So whining about efficiency loss with BTM batteries is a bit hollow. And for grid level batteries, which are charged when the price is lowest, maybe even zero, for discharge when the price is high, it’s just silly.

          • Andy Saunders 2 years ago

            Wasn’t whining.

            Article is mostly about grid-scale, so FiTs aren’t relevant.

            The loss of energy due to efficiency is a bit higher than than, perhaps 20% when transmission losses are taken into account. Depends on the exact installation.

            Energy loss isn’t irrelevant, the original energy still has to be generated, and if the marginal (or load-following) generator is fossil then the energy losses directly cause extra emissions (compared to zero-loss batteries)

          • Hettie 2 years ago

            Now you are being silly. Grid scale Batteries and PHES are *specifically* aimed at firming the supply from wind and solar. Using the *unsaleable* output from production peaks when demand is low. When the energy use to charge the battery or push water up hill has *no other value* efficiency is irrelevant.
            Getting use from something otherwise useless is, to me, 100% efficient. There is no other, more efficient, way to use it.
            Wasting it is, after all, 100% IN efficient.

          • Andy Saunders 2 years ago

            Hettie, I don’t believe I’m being silly. Indeed, I gave you a very reasoned argument. Might be silly to ignore that argument.

            In an electric system, every last bit of energy is used (OK, some is wasted in unavoidable transmission etc losses). That’s the physics of it.

            If you notice the Hornsdale battery, it has been charged at low-priced times, not zero-priced times. Some of the generators running at those times were fossil-fuelled. Even if the price was zero or even negative (has happened in the past) then it’s not “wasted” – it’s just a price. The negative price is even logical for the market participants – renewables collect LGCs so will rationally bid prices down to minus the LGC price, fossil generators cost quite a bit to cycle off and on, so often calculate it’s better to run for a while even at negative price to avoid a much higher stop/start cost.

            Battery round-trip efficiency *is* important (at least, if the price paid during charging at least some of the time is positive). If you are Neoen, you’re paying for the energy used to charge – including the round-trip losses. Eyeballing what they’ve done lately, they seem to be getting an arbitraged/achieved price of roughly double their cost (I’m not sure whether this cost includes the losses) – so getting a gross margin of roughly 50%. Even 10% losses (most likely it is actually higher) means a significant reduction in margin, especially as they can assume that the margin will likely drop as future storage comes on-line. I can assure you they will care greatly about the losses.

          • Hettie 2 years ago

            1. Your initial statement is wrong. Incorrect. False. Not all the available power is used. For example, Wind farms get curtailed when demand is low. And there are transmission losses.

            2. Have you never heard of the concept of “The cost of doing business? “

          • Andy Saunders 2 years ago

            Hettie, wind-farm curtailment in SA (worst case…) was 1.2% in Q1, hardly a big number. And that was due to a temporary (since lifted) requirement to couple with gas generation (and Pelican Point was down…).

            If Hornsdale is waiting for curtailed wind farms I suspect they will very rarely actually get charged anywhere near full. And certainly won’t make money.

            “Have you never heard of the concept of “The cost of doing business?”. I do – I advise businesses all the time. Do you? Your comment doesn’t bear much relevance, it seems.

          • Mike Westerman 2 years ago

            I don’t think we are far away from significant curtailment unless we ramp up storage, especially when sunny days coincide with windy weather – quite common in winter when demand is also low during the day. I think the reason Snowy is in the market for PPAs from wind and solar (only 400MW but enough to get their toe in the water) is precisely because they see a future where little or no wind is traded as merchant, and all is locked into firming agreements, mainly thru hydro of some sort. Solar has more choices – excess can be stored as chilled water in places needing summer cooling or HW or steam in cold regions, as well as being sold to short term PHES, batteries both BTM and grid.

          • Andy Saunders 2 years ago

            You may be right, but Snowy is the wrong side of the SA interconnector. If that isn’t upgraded then Snowy will have little effect on SA curtailment.

            There’s quite a bit more battery storage on the way in SA, as well as maybe some PHES. The economics of these will be interesting, including their decisions about FCAS vs energy arbitrage.

            (None of this really changes the argument about storage operating as a profit centre rather than simply a wind-farm sponge)

          • Mike Westerman 2 years ago

            The reference to the Snowy was the market tactic rather than implying their impact on SA. SA PHES could be interesting, with some schemes easily able to cover 10-12h with little or no additional cost, and so will be able to offer caps in addition to arbitrage. For a highly gas dependent state with constrained alternatives (Heywood limit) it makes it very interesting.

            I would put the proposition the other way around – I don’t see wind or solar in the longer term able to stand alone or act as other than a cost centre for storage profit centres!

          • Andy Saunders 2 years ago



            Although the storage margins will come down as the capacity gets built. Depends on the build-out speed of (mostly) wind vs storage, I’d guess.

        • john 2 years ago

          Gr b 77
          The links I gave you explain the situation.
          Notice how solar and wind are cheaper than any other type of power and putting that with storage which Australia has SFA of is a problem.
          I do not recall but Concentrated Solar and Storage is another factor into this equation.
          Because of the high power factors of solar resources in Australia Concentrated Solar and Storage has to be considered.
          Just remember that a researcher from the ANU identified over 2000 sites for PHES in the country.
          Perhaps I should post a copy of what the Monash Group have as their cost of power and it is pathetic in the extreme or mind they have had this published in the Murdoch Papers as truthful information.
          What is says is that solar is about $140 mWh and coal is $50 or and wind is $120 or some such rot.
          Lazard are international and as you looked at their cost it tells a story.

          • Hettie 2 years ago

            I thought that was 22,000 PHES sites?

          • john 2 years ago

            Actually I seem to think you are correct ms Hettie.
            As usual i get it wrong yes you are on the money.

          • Hettie 2 years ago

            Those figures are just plain wrong.
            COAL with CCS is $140 and rising, solar is $50 ish and falling, and wind about the same but not falling as fast as solar.

          • john 2 years ago

            They are the Lazard figures.
            Yes conservative as i pointed out was it this site the cost of gas at $4.00 I do not think so.
            These are the figures that planers take into consideration an they still show that Solar or Wind and with PHES and with Battery Storage to carry over until Wind takes over are compelling evidence for a shift.

          • Peter F 2 years ago

            Hettie New Coal without CCS is getting to $140 at current coal prices. CCS who knows because there isn’t a successful Coal CCS plant working anywhere. If you would like to Google the US $7.5 bn Kemper project you can find out what a disaster it is or

          • Hettie 2 years ago

            Thanks Peter. Somewhere I read existing coal $80 ish. With CCS $140. As you say, that’s daft because there is solid, $8 Billion evidence that it doesn’t work. Investors walking away from an $8 bill stake saying “no more” is pretty convincing.
            Except to Coalition ideologues.

        • MacNordic 2 years ago

          I´ll try to answer your question:
          The easy part: why we are not doing it on a wider scale has been answered by Andy; I would like to add politics and system inertia (the political/ economic system, that is) – no changes that could upset existing arrangements and established business ties. What has happened to enterprising spirit?

          The more difficult part: Electricity system with renewables.
          First it is important to understand you have a load and a generation side*.

          Most of the load is during the day, with the daily low after midnight, typically a third to half lower than the peak load.
          The low is kept up artificially by placing dispatchable loads like hot water heaters in this timeframe, otherwise the load would go even lower. (Great visualisation in the open NEM widget – upper right corner of this page)

          Traditionally the generation side has been divided in “low- cost” (at the time of build) baseload (coal) plants, supplying all generation below the low- load threshold, which is around 20GW in the NEM. Baseload plants are rather bad at ramping up and down (brown and black areas in widget), so the generators were mostly left producing at a constant rate. Black coal is a bit better at ramping to a certain extent, so you have slight bumps in black coal generation during. Gas and hydro provided the rest of the required daytime load (around 10GW in NEM, blue and yellowish in widget).

          The first point where solar comes in perfectly, is the coverage of the load ramp- up during the day, which was traditionally supplied by hydro and gas. In order to maximise solar coverage, you can also shift the dispatchable load (hot water heaters, pumped hydro) to the solar peak generation time or even flexibilise it to soak up gluts of RE generation. Wind is often inversely correlated, blowing faster in the evening and during the night.

          Traditional thinking requires taking the load as largely given and tailoring generation to the load.
          The more cost- effective approach would be to identify flexible loads, that can be shifted to high RE generation times (without negatively impacting lifestyle and business, just lower rates at billing time!) and thus adapt load to generation, minimising the need for back- up generation while keeping cost down. Existing inequalities between load and RE generation can be covered by hydro, which would need to be more flexible timewise (otherwise just the same, so just a different timing).

          That way, cheap solar could provide all/ most of the daytime generation, with a contribution from equally cheap wind, whenever available. Any gaps left can be provided by existing hydro. Batteries can come in handy for FCAS/ artificial inertia and in some parts of the grid, but are mostly not required in large numbers.

          Existing gas generators can be kept on hand during the transition period as safety- backup. No need for new additional gas peakers, if done correctly and planned from non- industry tied designers according to quite a lot of studies.

          If new generation/ backup is indeed required, go for (pumped) hydro like identified in the ANU- study last year.

          Transition will have to be managed (best done by a truly independent commission) of course.

          Hope this answers (some) of your questions!

          *Most likely you will know that – just started with it for the sake of clarity;-)

        • Peter F 2 years ago

          The difference is in the fuel cost and capital cost. Nobody actually needs constant power 24/7 so a hypothetical grid might have two 500 MW coal units at $1.5-2 bn each and three 200 MW gas units at $220-250 m to supply an average 900 MW for a capital cost of 3.6-$4.7 bn
          The coal units vary from 50% output to 100% and average 70% as per Australian average. The gas units from zero to 100% and have an Australian average CF of 25% Peak capacity with 15% reserve margin is 1,360 MW. Annual production 6,100 GWh from coal 1,400 from gas, 7,500 GWh total. Annual cost for coal include fuel, O&M and finance and depreciation @ $115/MWh works out at $675 m/yr. Gas cost at about $140/MWh=$185 m/yr.or a total cost $860 m/y or an average cost of $110-115/MWh
          These costs are higher than the Fossil fuel advocates will use but if they use current fuel and capital costs and realistic capacity factors, they are on the low side

          Alternatively build a simple wind/solar/pumped hydro system and keep the gas. To guarantee 6,100 GWh after storage losses from a 50/50 wind/solar mix with current generation wind turbines you need about 900 MW of wind and 1,400 of tracking solar. At current costs of $1.8 m/MW for wind and $1.1 m/ MW for tracking solar say a bit under $3.2 bn.
          Then you want to guarantee 1360 MW peak power with 15% reserve. It turns out wind and solar are never zero at peak demand times so before storage there is about 600 MW from gas and 200 from the wind and solar leaving 560 from the storage +140 for reserve margin. i.e. we need 800 MW of pumped hydro which will cost another $1 bn plus the gas plants for a total of $5 bn

          Interest and depreciation over 25 years works out at about $400 m per year. Operating and maintenance costs are about $16/ MWh (more for wind less for solar and PH) about $120 m/y. So total annual cost of about $520 m + $185 m for the gas roughly $ 700 m ($93/MWh) vs $ 860 m ($110/MWh) for the Fossil Fuel system.

          a) Spinning reserves are related to the size of the largest unit on the system, it turns out a coal based system requires more spinning reserves to match the 500 MW generator than the wind solar pumped hydro system.
          b) We currently don’t cost cooling water or waste disposal (some coal plants produce 100 tonnes of waste per GWh)
          c) financing costs for FF plants are higher because of longer construction times and fuel risks (price/delivery/future carbon tax etc)
          d) wind and solar plant prices are falling quickly and in practice demand response is cheaper than pumped hydro

          Therefore the real world cost differential will be greater than that shown above

          • Ertimus J Waffle 2 years ago

            You failed to mention geography and how much of Australia is suitable for wind and pumped storage given transmission losses. To my knowledge just about every major load center in Australia has a near by port and large amounts of sea water for cooling making it suitable for the construction of a coal fired power station even if the coal mines are a long way away. I haven’t seen any science or engineering making it possible to transport “wind” or sun light when it gets cloudy any where but I could be wrong. As for pumped hydro from when you start pumping it’s all about loses and turning 1MWh into less than ,5MWh.As for batteries it’s the same its all about getting a lot less out than you put in and after ten years who wants hundreds of tons of poisonous metals dumped in their back yard. But what ever you do don’t delve into the down side of Renewables and their impact on the landscape or the environment

          • DoRightThing 2 years ago

            > “Down side or Renewables and their impact on the landscape or the environment”

            Do tell… we’re all ears….

            The future is clear. If you’re invested in fossil fuels, get out now or go down.

          • Joe 2 years ago

            The coal hugging Trollies will love that picture….’beautiful coal’ in all its glory….NOT.

          • Peter F 2 years ago

            Funny you should mention that Ertimus. The NEM + SWIS in Australia cover about 1.5m square km. Germany’s grid covers about 350,000 square km. Roughly 45% of Germany’s surface is covered with forests, lakes, buildings and infrastructure. The comparable figure within Australia electricity grids is less than 20% . Therefore we have 8 times the grid connected area available for renewables. From wind and solar alone Germany will generate 115 TWh from wind and about 45 TWh from solar this year.

            Within the respective grids annual solar radiation in Australia is 40% more than Germany. Wind speed is 20% higher. Now if the wind speed is 20% higher, because of the cube law you can generate 70% more generation at below rated wind speeds so 20-50% more overall say 35% on average. So with the same technology that Germany has and the same density of wind turbines and solar panels that they have we can generate 115*1.3*8 = 1,200TWh from wind and 45 x 1.4 x 8 = 500 TWh from solar i.e. seven times our current power demand assuming no improvement in technology.

            When one then allows for that fact that new solar panels are double the power of the average German solar panel and new wind turbines because of better design taller masts and longer blades generate on average 4 times the average German wind turbine you can see we have something like 26 times the required resource.

            The combination of grid controlled loads and a couple of dozen small pumped hydro systems (no Snowy II) could easily eliminate coal generation in Australia within 10 years if wind and solar generation continues to be added at the same rate that it is today.

            Furthermore most of the generation will be within 150km of the load, including about 1/3rd to half behind the meter so transmission losses will be actually less than they are today

          • Hettie 2 years ago

            Great work, Peter.
            Now, just for me, tho Waffles might learn too, do you have numbers, not formulas, that would complete this sentence.

            One newest technology wind turbine in wind speed 20 kmph will generate ×× kW. Or watts.

            For example, I know that 20 solar panels on my roof = 5.3kW.
            SO one of those panels in full sun gives 265 watts.
            Pretty please.

          • David Osmond 2 years ago

            Hi Hettie, the Vestas V136 turbine is a commonly installed modern turbine. If you look at its power curve on the attached link, you will see at 5.5m/s (20km/h), it will generate 645 kW. Note that most modern wind farm sites in Australia have an average wind speed exceeding 7m/s.

          • Hettie 2 years ago

            Terrific. Thankyou.
            Um… that link comes back to this article. No such graph. But it was the absolute number I wanted anyway. The wind speed response curve stuff makes my head hurt, and as I have a cold with headache now, I am unwilling to risk upsetting my poor neurons further.
            The point, for Waffles and his troll family, is that even at low wind speeds, output is substantial.

          • David Osmond 2 years ago
          • Hettie 2 years ago

            Wow! That is one very steep wind speed/output increase curve. My poor fuddled brain can’t cope with converting m/s to kph tonight. I’ll have another go tomorrow.
            It just shows how unlikely is any claim of zero wind output. Anabatic/catabatic and onshore/ offshore winds are not really weather dependant, are they, because there is always diurnal temperature variation. And valleys form natural wind tunnels to increase wind speeds as long as the airflow is in vaguely the same direction as the run of the valley. I’m thinking aloud here, just wittering, really. Better go and have a brandy. Then I’ll be totally scrambled. Better tomorrow, please dog.

          • Peter F 2 years ago

            Hettie it is complicated because there are at least four variables, The simplest is blade diameter: as the power generated is proportional to the area increasing turbine diameter from 90 m to say 126 practically doubles the power increasing it to 155 m which is rarely needed in Australia would increase it almost 3 times.
            The next variable is hub height, over the sea or flat featureless land like the American Great plains, increasing hub height beyond 80-90 m only increases apparent wind speed by about 0.1%/m or less but in hilly or forested country the increase can be around 0.4% so a 30 m height increase can increase apparent wind speed from say 15 km/h to about 17 km/h. That doesn’t sound much but the output is proportional to the speed cubed i.e. double the wind speed is 8 times the power. Thus increasing wind speed from 15 km/h to 17 km/h increases output by 45%. even though the ground wind speed might only be about 10-12 km/h
            Combining the two factors means the output of a typical 90 d/3 MW/90 h turbine from 2012 replaced by a fairly standard 126 d/3.4 MW 120 h from 2018 would increase power from about 600 kW to about 1,700 kW in the same 10-12 km/h ground wind speed.
            There are some pluses and minuses of course because the cut out speed is a bit lower and any increase in wind speed beyond about 30-35 km/h ground speed on the new machine doesn’t increase output because it has already reached maximum power. But wind speeds of 10-12 km/h are much more common than 30 km/h plus so overall the new turbine would be expected to generate 40-50% more power per year than the 6-7 year old model. In addition because it is generating for longer and the output in medium to high wind speeds is much smoother the new wind farm is much easier to integrate into the grid.
            Another big plus of the new designs is that they can be economical in areas where wind speeds were too low or turbulence too high for old designs so the NREL has shown that the area of the US suitable for 40%+ CF has grown from about 10% to 40-50%

          • Hettie 2 years ago

            Thank you so much! While the context is different from, for example the blood flow factors I am sort of familiar with, the concepts of doubling one factor producing a fourfold increase in throughput is familiar. Rheology and aerodynamics would be closely related, I think.
            So although I do not expect to retain the detail of your very clear exposition, the principles make perfect sense to me.
            The impact that the better performance of the new turbines has on storage requirement is very impressive.

            I just wish to whatever that the renewables industry had lobbyists who understood that to deal with the intransigence of the present idiots in Canberra, a head on approach is useless.
            Health, air pollution, tourism, kudos on the world stage, all these would get far more attention as reasons to support the transition to clean energy than the facts that have been so resoundingly rejected.
            There is now too much ego invested in those rejections. Lateral thinking is required!

          • Alastair Leith 2 years ago

            one note on your calculation, when larger rotors are deployed spacing of turbines increases roughly equivalent to the extra power being drawn from the wind resource.

          • Peter F 2 years ago

            Correct but as we only need 8-12,000 across the NEM in some future fully electrified society and Germany already has 24,000 in 1/4 of the area it should not be a problem

        • Ertimus J Waffle 2 years ago

          You are on the money with renewables you still have to have the coal fired power sitting there waiting if the wind stops. Right now in the renewable capital of the world South Australia with their 100% renewable wind and solar they are paying around $300 MWh because the wind aint blowing and all their power is coming from gas, kerosene burning gas turbines, and brown coal. But the renewable loonies will only tell you about Billy Dumb ass and his magical $1 a KWh solar cell that is only on a research bench in some Chinese solar panel export company.

          • Peter F 2 years ago

            I don’t think I have ever heard anyone so spectacularly keen to show off his ignorance on such a regular basis.
            You don’t have to have the coal sitting there just as the UK, Canada, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal etc are in the process of demonstrating by 2025 they will have none.
            The $1 a Watt is the installed cost of a solar farm not on a lab bench in China. Maybe that is a bit optimistic today but they are certainly being built for $US1 a Watt and with panel prices already falling and 1,500V operation reducing cabling and inverter costs, A$1 Watt will be common within 12 months.
            As for SA running on gas diesel and Victorian Brown coal, of course it happens (no kerosene by the way) SA only has about half the installed capacity it needs for a reliable 100% renewable grid however just as you find times where there is virtually no wind (never zero) and zero solar there are times where wind and solar are supplying more than the total demand and at these times it reduces spending on gas and in fact exports power often to NSW via Victoria because NSW coal and OC gas is more expensive than the SA mix of wind and CC gas.
            The net result is that over the last year according to the AER SA has exported more clean power than it has imported dirty power.
            Another small point for your consideration, emissions of CO2 from a modern gas turbine even running on Kerosene or diesel are about half that of most Australian coal plants and emissions of PM2.5/ heavy metals, SOx, NOx etc are between 1,000th and 1/5th that of the coal plant

          • Mike Westerman 2 years ago

            Nothing sadder than a troll with a very big mouth but no ears!

          • Hettie 2 years ago

            Peter, do you think Waffles can get his tiny mind around your chemical symbols, or understands the significance of particle size? I fear you are overestimating his capacity.

          • Grumpybum77 2 years ago

            Peter – I’m not sure I want to give Waffle more air time, but I’m not 100% sure I agree with what you have written.
            I still can’t get my head around the entire situation.
            It strikes me that the SA / NSW scenario is a good indicator. Yes there are times SA exports to NSW, but to avoid blackouts it still relies on some combination of fossil fuel whether that is gas or coal.
            Solar on its own can’t supply the grid. Solar and wind go closer, but still can’t do it all. Based on South Australia as an example it still needs some fossil fuel backup as you have pointed out. If indeed as part of the renewable solution you have to install that fossil fuel backup anyway, then why spend additional capital on solar?
            (I’ve neglected pumped hydro and battery storage for the time mainly out of ignorance but I saw it as a short term supply mitigation – e.g. a battery can’t keep the lights on for an extended period)
            This is what I was trying to educate myself on.

          • Hettie 2 years ago

            Grumpy, don’t lose sight of the fact that apart from ACT, SA is unique among the mainland States in having no coal, and 50%+ renewables, as well as very variable demand. I have no idea why the demand is so variable, but accept that it is. So SA has days when it exports clean energy, and days when it has to import dirty energy, but the balance will change over time, and the Port Augusta thermal storage will kick in, and some PHES will be built, and the price of power Will go down and down.
            For the rest of the NEM, coal, black or brown, still supplies the bulk of the power, and will continue to do so *for long enough that the multiple small scale PHES projects can be built.* It’s starting now, with Kidson.
            The immediate problem is finance. The policy uncertainty makes lenders nervous. What we need is a billionaire to offer to fund a few projects ( hi Elon, Warren, Bill) or an election with a resounding defeat for the Coalition, and rapid, decisive policy to support RE. In the meantime, resounding State rejection of NEG and support for IES would help.
            There is no immediate need for full scale firming. By the time it is needed, it will have been built, and the coalers will close because they can’t sell their product.
            I suspect that some gas peakers will remain for a while, but even they will be pushed out when there is enough PHES to cover prolonged dark, calm weather.

          • Grumpybum77 2 years ago

            Hettie – you are starting to answer my question. Unlike others I’m not sure that the government is totally inept (maybe just a little). From what I can see, the consumer driver is to get cheap power which they can from rooftop solar or equivalent. The government’s driver is to get a generation system that reliably provides power all of the time at the lowest price.
            I certainly agree that solar is cheap when it operates. In the retail environment that is set up, it allows a company to sell solar to the grid cheaply and get a return on their investment even though it only operates x hours per day.
            I’d imagine the government is trying to negotiate their way around the other part of that equation – keeping the lights on continuously.

          • Hettie 2 years ago

            Sorry, Grumpy, but by all objective measures the current government is the worst since FEDERATION, and totally dishonest.
            Their opposition to renewable energy and refusal to accept that we are faced with a climate emergency is little short of a crime against humanity.
            So please stop giving them any credit for motivation other than short term self interest. They patently don’t even care about maintaining a habitable planet for their
            own children and grandchildren.
            I know that sounds harsh, but look at the evidence.

          • Joe 2 years ago

            Nothing harsh at all in what you say. The COALition are ‘Climate Criminals’ with their puppet masters The BCA, The MCA, The Farmers Federation, Rupert and his newsrags all in their as well.

          • rob 2 years ago

            Hence my comment yesterday about the dying Murray Hettie. By the way some of your ideas in your post back to me will be implemented…..however you failed to address my major bug bear which was the environment. cheers rob

          • Hettie 2 years ago

            Was it not my comment on the water theft that prompted your story about the difference between SA and Melbourne water? My position on environmental degradation has been often stated. Cold fury would be the best description. OK?

          • Hettie 2 years ago

            To all the good people who are giving serious answers to Waffle’s spectacularly daft assertions, I am wondering if he is sitting at his computer laughing his head off while he dreams up ever madder stuff to write, and wondering how long it will take for you all to realiise he is just having a lend of you.
            i think he is an adolescent kid, playing silly games. because he can.
            Could be wrong. of course. I often am wrong, but this has gone on so long with no evident learning that it must surely be a sendup.

          • Mike Westerman 2 years ago

            No doubt Hettie you are right. I can’t imagine anyone being so serious bereft of anything intelligent to add to an otherwise informative blog.

            Giles – if you read this perhaps you could serious consideration to blocking this blowfly – winter is here and he really should have been put out with the compost by now.

          • Hettie 2 years ago

            His absence would be a relief.

          • Hettie 2 years ago

            And so say all of us!
            Your first sentence, especially.

    • Ertimus J Waffle 2 years ago

      And just a small problem here can you point to any State in Australia that runs on 100% renewable power 100% of the time without any coal fired back up.?????

      • Mike Westerman 2 years ago

        Yep – Tasmania. Waffle your mouth’s got the better of your brain again.

  2. john 2 years ago

    More Solar more batteries more PHES.
    With daytime production from PV producing excess electricity this gives an opening to pump up that water at low cost so the evening peak can be mitigated before wind cuts in to take over.
    Lots of PHES adjacent to large population load areas would be ideal.
    As more and more RE is introduced the figures to sustain a new build Coal Generator are becoming a pipe dream.
    There may be some opening for Gas in the mix before enough PHES or solid state Li battery does come to market.
    There is a paper on solid state battery recently published.
    As per usual wait until it comes to market however the scant details do show some potential progress.

    • Alastair Leith 2 years ago

      The SEN modelling for 85% RE by 2030 on the SWIS grid (Western Australia’s island grid around Perth in the South West of WA) shows that meeting demand and testing against historical weather data, an optimised grid of 85% RE would use a third of the fossil gas used today to balance the variability of renewables and demand. That’s assuming some modest amounts of DSM, storage and PHES. The costing based on real world prices bid for new projects in Australia is the same as continuing with coal and gas and replacing old with new as they reach design life end points.

      The ramping being forced on coal by increasing penetrations of RE are likely to exacerbate problems at coal units increasing maintenance costs, reducing plant like and increasing the risks of catastrophic failure in boilers and pipes.

      • Hettie 2 years ago

        Coalers safety compromised by ramping. May have to close early.
        Oh what a terrible shame!

    • hfrik 2 years ago

      Also you can expand the grid – China builds a 3284km HVDC power line which transports 12GW on two wires. I think it’s cheaper than Snowy hydro, and two of them connectin Australia from one end to the other with half the power would smooth demand, wind output a lot, and expand the output of solar also for some time. Combine this with the proposed cables to indonesia and especially malaysia, where connection to tthe interconnectes Eurasian / african grids exist, and storage is something nice to have, but not neccesary.

      Grinds can transport a lot more power much longer distances with a lot less losses than most people think.

      • DoRightThing 2 years ago

        I look forward to the World Wide Grid – a multipath HVDC grid around the world which would function as a Internet of electrons, where everybody can contribute and consume without destroying a single hydrocarbon molecule in the system.
        The sun is always shining somewhere and the wind is always blowing somewhere, and its energy can be harvested from whoever can supply and stored and distributed to wherever it’s needed as the Earth turns.

        Perhaps then we will be closer to deserving the description of being an intelligent species.

  3. Dee Vee 2 years ago

    Shame consumers aren’t seeing anything like this 5c per kw/h electricity in their bills, and that it only works when the sun shines.

    • Catprog 2 years ago

      Only if you ignore the cost to build the coal plant in the first place.

      • Hettie 2 years ago

        Not even that, Cat.
        New Solar is now cheaper than existing coal. The older the coalers get, the more expensive their maintenence becomes, and if that maintenance is skimped, the risk of failure jumps. 59 coalers failed this year. So far. Huge loss of generation. Big costs to get them going again. Up goes the cost of production.
        Solar farms? Fuel cost, zero. Failure rate? Off line overnight every night, but entirely predictable, and zero repair cost involved. Maintenance costs? Minimal. An occasional wash down, regular check of connectors and tracking mechanism if in place. Replacement of broken panels if an aircraft falls out of the sky, but that doesn’t happen every year.
        Wind, again, fuel cost zero. Failure rate? Low. And if a turbine does falter, that single turbine can be repaired without bringing the whole wind farm to a halt. Failure of the wind? Should be infrequent if the site is well chosen, and is predictable because we have pretty good weather forecasting.
        Wind patterns vary from place to place. Having many wind farms widely spread around the country smooths the variability.
        And pumped hydro storage, needed now as penetration of solar and wind grows, is starting to take off.
        Coal produces too much overnight, so the ripple controlled off peak water heating was invented to use the excess.
        Solar produces too much in the middle of the day, so the excess can be used to push water uphill, and the falling water powers turbines whenever needed.
        Wind can also be used to push water uphill if the power produced is not immediately required.
        Either can also be used to produce Hydrogen from water, for fuel cells or industrial purposes.
        The energy so used has zero cost, because at the time of production it is unsaleable. So efficiency doesn’t matter.
        And batteries.
        Now, any eight year old child should be able to understand all that.
        If I have made any errors, will one of our resident boffins please make the necessary corrections.

        • Catprog 2 years ago

          Yep. I was being very simplistic.

          H + CO2 => CH4 . CH4 + heat => C + 2H2 is my favorite Hydrogen process.

          • Hettie 2 years ago

            Re-Reading just now.
            I did not intend to suggest that you are at the reading level of an 8 year old, Cat. Only that when it is boiled down, the principles are not hard to understand.
            Waffles, now – either he is spectacularly stupid, or he is a silly adolescent , trolling for a lark. Probably a silly adolescent.

        • Ertimus J Waffle 2 years ago

          Another expert. You obviously know that it takes 20 years to pay off a coal fired power station then the next twenty years it’s all profit. economics 101. Have a look at the AUstralian grid right now 27,000MW of which 600MW is renewable energy 20,000MW coal fired and you dreamers keep saying coal is dead and renewables are the future ROFL.

          • DoRightThing 2 years ago

            Yes, all profit… after you subtract the the following costs:
            Healthcare for those with black lung and asthma
            Lost agricultural production due to heatwaves, droughts, floods
            Lost lives, property and forestry due to wildfires, extreme weather.
            Reduced biodiversity, increased spread of disease.
            Collapse of the Great Barrier Reef due to global warming and ocean acidification.
            Beachfront property price collapse, loss of land and salination of aquifers due to sea level rise.
            Increased migration and climate refugees.
            Water and resource wars.
            The list of threats and consequences to human civilization caused by the unmitigated greed of the fossil fuel industry is endless.

            Good thing the fossil fuel industry doesn’t have to pay a penny in compensation for these things. Yet.

          • Joe 2 years ago

            …and the costs of catastrophic oil spills like the Exxon Valdez at Prince William Sound and Deepwater Horizon in The Gulf of Mexico that no amount of $’s can ever repair.

          • Hettie 2 years ago

            You are forgetting the costs of labour, fuel and maintenance. $400 mill to bring Liddell up to scratch, which is why AGL have decided to replace its output with renewables and a bit of gas.
            Not to mention insurance. Fortunately we have not had a coal plant boiler explode in Australia, but it has happened often enough overseas, with significant loss of life and horrific burns of survivors. Insurance premiums would reflect that risk.
            All those costs contribute to the selling price of the power.
            Coal fired power will never again be able to compete with renewables. Get used to it.
            As long as the NEG is blocked, RE growth will be exponential. Doubling every couple of years.
            2018, 10%
            2020, 20%
            2022, 40%
            2024, 80%
            Then it will flatten out, but it is reasonable to expect that the uneconomic, aging coalers will be retired early as their maintenence becomes ever more costly, and their owners finally recognise the inevitable, unless, like Kodak, they choose to remain blind, and prefer bankruptcy to diversification.

        • Gregory J. OLSEN Esq 2 years ago

          Spot on Hettie. But we are preaching to the converted. How do we get this message across to the vested interests, politicians who are dependant upon financial support from fossil fuel companies, ignorant people or the perfidious brigands who know the truth but refuse to accept it, such as the private media moguls and presenters who misinform most of the population (only because they listen to them). 🙁

          • Mike Westerman 2 years ago

            Pester your pollies, chat to your neighbours and drinking buddies…don’t buy The Australian or listen to 2GB!

          • Hettie 2 years ago

            We use different arguments. The obvious ones gave not worked.
            Is not repeating a course of action and expecting it to deliver results different from what has always occurred in the past, one of the definitions of insanity?

    • juxx0r 2 years ago

      I completely agree, a grid that was intended to provide us with cheap power, has taken 5c/unit power and retails it for 6 times the price.

      The grid has failed us, our leaders have failed us. Diesel generators are now cheaper than the grid. How perverse.

      And yet you can make your own for 4c/unit.

    • Steve Applin 2 years ago

      The cost of generating the electricity is only one part of the cost of grid supplied electricity. Nobody seems to want a coal plant next to their house, so you need a transmission and distribution network – much more expensive than the generation of the electricity.

    • David Osmond 2 years ago

      Newcastle thermal coal price is currently $150/tonne. That works out as over $60/MWh at typical coal power station in Australia, just for the fuel. Coal power isn’t cheap anymore, unless you can get your hands on coal at well below export pricing.

      • john 2 years ago

        As they do because contracts were put in place to ensure they got coal at a very low price somewhat forward think for once.

        • CU 2 years ago

          Thinking for once, when will these low price contracts expire?

          • john 2 years ago

            That i can not tell you but CoomaDoug would more than likely know.

    • john 2 years ago

      Actually there is some reprieve for consumers a few states are deducing the retail cost of energy. Well the privatized retailers are at least and was that not a stupid idea 14 retailers with the same over heads as one.

    • My_Oath 2 years ago

      That 3.5c doesn’t include the costs off the coal emissions.

    • Glynn Palmer 2 years ago

      Dee Vee, I would be interested in reading your source for information on the coal wholesale price being $35/MWh.

      The current AEMO Queensland wholesale spot price is $68.50/MWh. We are currently generating 82% or 6,400MW of total from coal and this is enough to supply our demand of 6379MW. The other 18% is being exported to NSW.

      In this recent article,
      ANU’s Professor Blakers and Research Fellow Stocks quoted $70-$90/Mwh for new build coal. They sourced their estimate from Australian Power Generation Technology Report which was published in November 2015.

      Could you please post a link to your reference for $35/MWh for coal.

      • Joe 2 years ago

        Glynn the Dee Vee is doing his Trolling again. He is a serial pest in the very fine pages of Renew Economy.

  4. George Darroch 2 years ago

    The good news is that the distribution of projects is beginning to become more balanced, with large solar and wind supply across the entire NEM, allowing hydro to fill in more of the gaps, and ever increasing solar PV located where the demand is.

    • Marcelo 2 years ago

      Decentralisation is emerging. This makes for a healthier, more sustainable and stable electricity supply system.

      “Those left holding investments in fossil fuel companies will find their investments becoming more and more risky over time.” – Michael Brune

  5. Robert Johnson 2 years ago

    If you are willing to build a utility scale solar project with tracking and tier 1 equipment for AUD$1/W and stand behind an energy guarantee for 12 months and timely completion via a Bank Guarantee of $0.10/W please post your contact details below as a reply.

    • Robert Johnson 2 years ago

      no takers? [not surprised]

      • john 2 years ago

        And your point is ?
        It is the cost to produce that power Robert and utility scale solar project is the lowest cost and wind is close. Nothing else comes close.

        • Robert Johnson 2 years ago

          my point is if the input assumption on cost to build is lower than reality, then the cost/price of the energy produced is higher.

          • Hettie 2 years ago

            But the figure you propose is mad.

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