Just 400MW of new wind and solar capacity is needed to meet Australia’s 2020 renewable energy target, after two years of exponential growth in 2016 and 2017 – almost half of which was came from large-scale solar.
Mark Williamson, the executive general manager of Australia’s Clean Energy Regulator, said on Tuesday that Australia’s solar PV industry was on track to crack its biggest year yet in 2017, with record growth in both the small and large-scale markets, and was headed for a “much bigger” 2018.
“The large-scale renewable energy target, the 2020 target, is within reach, and solar currently tracking at 42 per cent of the pipeline,” he told the Large Scale Solar and Storage conference in Sydney co-hosted by RenewEconomy on Tuesday.
“Cumulatively, there’s no doubt this will be the biggest year of construction of completed solar projects at all levels, from households through to utility, but next year will be much bigger.”
Of the around 5,589MW of large-scale renewable energy projects firmly announced over the past two years, he said, around 2349MW was large-scale solar – about 42 per cent of the mix.
Added to the total of more than 1GW of rooftop solar that is almost certain to be added for the year – the total is currently sitting at around 800MW – and you have a year of bumper solar growth.
“So I think this year will probably be the biggest year for accredited capacity, both wind and solar, large-scale.
“But next we could be looking at over 3GW that will be accredited… of which 2GW could be large-scale solar.
Wiliamson said that applications for the small-scale renewable energy scheme had doubled year on year from 2015, and didn’t look likely to slow down any time soon.
“We are in a true exponential growth rate, with installations anywhere between 1-100MW growing exponentially,” he said, particular with the rise of the commercial solar sector in Australia.
But he noted that the latest Bloomberg New Energy Finance New Energy report had predicted that it would be industrial-sized systems that would really take over the market, as big energy users install solar arrays of a similar size to what we are currently seeing at a utility-scale.
And he cited the example of Sun Metals – “the outlier in terms of commercial industrial” – which as we have reported is developing a 120MW fixed panel solar plant to generate its own electricity.
“This is the first truly … big utility-scale sized system purely for industrial use,” Williamson said. “This is the vanguard project, with plenty of prospects for large-scale industry to hedge their electricity prices.”