The fertile crescent of Australian solar farms now tops 30GW

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Latest update on solar projects presents striking image of development across the country. In total, more than 250 solar projects representing more than 30GW.

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SunWiz and RenewEconomy’s latest update to the Large Scale Lookout service reveals a striking image of solar farm development across the country. Proposed Solar Farms cut a swathe across the country that resembles a ‘fertile crescent’ of solar development.

Most of the activity is located in Queensland, where one northern postcode has 6 publicly announced projects totalling 770MW.

In South Australia, there’s a large number of projects concentrated around the Port Augusta region, whereas those intended for NSW are distributed across much of the state.

The map above shows only the projects that are operating. This reveals the huge amount of activity that is planned for the next few years.

There are few solar farms currently operating in north Queensland, only two very small solar farms  in South Australia, and there’s plenty of gaps to fill in within NSW before the fertile crescent is harvested.

All in all, SunWiz & RenewEconomy’s Large-Scale Lookout is tracking over 250 Solar Farms that now exceed 30GW of total capacity.

You can find out more by emailing [email protected]

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15 Comments
  1. Stephen 7 months ago

    Hi, I’m a bit confused, judging by the live supply and demand NEM graph, australia’s total usage during the day is less than 30 gigawatts, and solar generation is about 3 gigawatts at its peak.

    When this article says it’s tracking 30 gigawatts of solar, is it implying that almost all of our mid day energy will be coming from solar with projects that are currently in development?

    • Giles 7 months ago

      If they were built then yes. We not saying they will all be built – these are the projects that are being put together. much will depend on policy, prices, connections, financing, local resources etc etc.
      But AEMO already predicted that rooftop solar alone will account for all demand in south australia on same days wishing 7 years, and in WA shortly after that.

      • Stephen 7 months ago

        A right, thanks for the clarification.

        Love your work by the way!

        • Mike Westerman 7 months ago

          The pumped hydro industry is starting to be approached by wind and solar developers who realise that when you have more capacity available then demand, the price will drop to zero. That in turn will drive continuous generation out of the market but will also be a strong disincentive for “uncovered” solar and wind, tho low prices will also drive new demand. So putting your RE output into a pumped hydro will be the way to maintain returns, hastening the move to 100% RE. If storage amounts to half the peak demand, the solar required to charge it will exceed current peak demand by several times ie 20GW/120GWh of storage will require some 80GW of installed solar. The current pipeline shows this is quite attainable, but will require clarity of policy lacking at the Federal level.

          • Stephen 7 months ago

            From everything I’ve read though I really don’t see how large scale pumped hydro will be profitable in the near term (next decade), without a significant change in government policy.

          • Mike Westerman 7 months ago

            It’s true that government policy doesn’t support the large scale pumped hydro that would accelerate RE to allow a quick transition, just as the same is preventing a rapid transition in transport electrification.

            But it makes sense for a solar developer when levelised costs drop to <$40/MWh to find sites that provide for <$70/MWh LCOS, as that is competitive with gas for evening peaks, but more importantly has a declining future cost curve. It also has a "virtuous" forward price curve for evening peaks because low prices during the day eat into the viability of inflexible power sources, leaving the price to be determined in the evening peak by increasingly expensive gas. As long as behind the meter costs of self generation continue to drop, the incentive to overbuild solar will continue, especially since the LCOE of solar is already well below use of network charges and falling.

          • GlennM 7 months ago

            If you look at the NEM watch for yesterday you will see that at the later afternoon Power demand peak Hydro was 2340 MW but late at night only 1038 MW. So clearly hydro has the ability to ramp by at least 1000MW. Therefore the current system can handle at least another 1000MW RE in the middle of the day without ANY pumped up hydro storage….you simple turn the tap down on the Dams and save the water for another day, or month. Therefore i do not see the need for “more storage” for quite some time !

          • Mike Westerman 7 months ago

            Our current hydro on the mainland can supply 4GW but is limited in how long it can do that by alternative demands on particularly Snowy water for irrigation and environmental releases. With pumped hydro having a gestation period of 3-4y you need to be estimating what the evening demand will be like in 2022-23. By then there will be a significant increase in solar which will squeeze out more coal during the day and eventually out of the market. Old coal stations are sensitive to falling capacity factors as we saw in SA. It won’t take much for the existing hydro to cease being able to cover the evening peak, the high priced period will broaden and the hydro will back off and run for longer. That opens up the top of the curve for pumped hydro.

          • David D 3 months ago

            The SEAust grid has almost 7.6GW of hydro including all the NSW irrigation dams – once thru of course:
            4GW in the Snowy (AEMO counts Murray 1 & 2 in Vic’s total)
            2.3GW in Tas – if only we had a 110% reliable Basslink.
            700kW in Vic
            But only 2.5GW of that is PHES.
            Altho’ Origin has expressed interest in amplifying Shoalhaven to 500MW – the dams and water are there – just need pipes (penstocks) and a PHES station. That wld bump PHES to 2.8GW. Possibly with only one large station rather than the two they have now – but that’s a detail.
            Just need some top end policy (currently clarity is lacking) to push the industry towards PHES to absorb all the midday solar the media is clucking abt.
            The current domestic rooftop and utility solar are performing well for midwinter (July 2018).
            Just need lots more of the same: solar + PHES and wind when you can get it, to replace the current 25GW thermal and 9GW GT (CCGT & OCGT).
            From an interested layman POV, with more and more domestic rooftop and eventually behind the meter storage, we can prob need less than the amount of utility scale PSs we have now.

          • stucrmnx120fshwf 6 months ago

            You’re getting it, lower prices, leads to higher demand, half of the price of carbon emissions based power, consumption quadruples, in 2023; a quarter of the price per kWh, consumption increases by sixteen fold, in 2028. Electric vehicles, magnetic levitation trains, improved city night lighting, high rise agriculture, means tested basic minimum income, larger houses, more parks. Solid state power requires little maintenance, electric vehicles, 1/10th of the maintenance, magnetic levitation trains have no grinding parts, almost no maintenance; LED, aeroponics, software robotic agriculture, also requires little maintenance. So after the construction, production phase, comes the market saturation point, where the need for means tested basic minimum income comes in.

    • Steve Applin 7 months ago

      I’ve worked in construction for most of my career as an accountant.

      I don’t get excited about any project that is planned/proposed/etc until the proponent is talking about a due date for final investment decision (FID). As much as I’d personally like every single one of these projects to be completed, I very much doubt we’ll see too many more progress to FID with the current federal government.

  2. George Darroch 7 months ago

    WA really stands out by its absence here. That’s an incredible pipeline, and extremely exciting.

    It also highlights how much harm is caused by keeping our coal power stations open. If they were to be shut progressively over the next few years, we’d have a tremendous amount of new energy to replace them.

    • Steve Applin 6 months ago

      It’s not all doom and gloom.

      WA has 30 MW of large scale solar that doesn’t show up on NEM Watch,140 MW of solar coming online in the next few months, and 150 MW that has achieved financial close and will come online in mid 2019. With rooftop PV, peak PV output in the summer of 2019/20 should hit about 1 GW.

      Badgingarra Wind Farm have applied to co-locate a 50 MW solar farm with their wind farm which is currently under construction, on top of the other 185 MW of proposed utility scale PV which might or might not happen.

      • George Darroch 6 months ago

        Definitely not doom and gloom. Just a lot of imminent potential.

  3. Eric 6 months ago

    Is it possible that pumped hydro may fall away with the coming announcement of a 1GW Lithium ion battery from Tesla.
    We know how quickly these batteries are built and installed. They are extremely versatile and very little maintenance.
    Presumably other companies will be chasing Tesla’s advantage. So we could be seeing the solution to renewable storage solved very quickly.

    3 years ago no one would have predicted how quickly this is all moving. The possibility of 1 GW Lithium Ion grid storage was laughed out of town. Although, Elon Musk did tell us it was coming back then.

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