The share of renewable energy on Australia’s main grid hit a record high of 59.8 per cent on Sunday morning, continuing the anticipated spree of records that have impacted renewables and coal this spring.
The record of 59.6 per cent was set at 11.55am on Sunday, when the share of wind and solar alone reached a record 57 per cent, and would likely have easily been more than 80 per cent had numerous wind and solar farms not switched off or dialled down output due to negative prices.
Indeed, total wind and solar curtailment around that time amounted to around 3.5GW, according to NEMLog, compared to total large scale wind and solar capacity producing at the time of around 5.7GW.
Still, the new benchmark easily beats the 58.3 per cent record set just after noon on Thursday, September 9, which was interesting because that record was established on a weekday when demand is generally higher due to more industrial activity.
Records for the share of renewables in individual states and across the main grid, as well as Western Australia’s separate grid, have been tumbling in recent weeks amid mild temperatures and sunny conditions, and thanks to the addition of nearly 5GW of wind and solar (half of its rooftop) in the last 12 months.
Solar alone contributed 41 per cent at the 11.55am per, with wind adding another 16 per cent. The biggest single source of generation (32.1 per cent) was rooftop solar – spread across several million rooftops – and there were expectations that this could lead to a reduction in “operating demand” to a record low on Sunday.
“Spring is the season for records to bloom!” the Australian Energy Market Operator said in a tweet on Friday. “Forecast mild temperatures and sunny weather in NSW and QLD on Sunday may see rooftop solar drive down energy demand from the grid to a new record low!”
It was not clear at the time of publication if this had eventuated, but it will have gone close.
AEMO is predicting that rooftop solar could meet up to 75 per cent of demand at certain times over the next six years, and is preparing the grid to accommodate times of up to 100 per cent wind and solar by 2025.
It is also expecting rooftop solar alone to reach 100 per cent of demand in the state of South Australia some time this spring – most likely in October – which would be a first for a gigawatt-scale grid in the world.
For large scale wind and solar, grid constraints in some regions have also been relaxed, although some wind and solar farms still suffer when output is high.
Many choose to switch off to dodge negative prices. Wholesale prices are usually bid below zero by coal or gas generators ensuring they are dispatched and not forced to switch off.