Analysts in Australia believe it may be possible for the country to be operating on clean energy within 2 years. This is down to the pace at which solar power is transforming the national energy market. 22.3% of electricity used throughout the month of June 2019 came from renewable energy sources (wind, hydro or solar). This regularly went past the 30% mark at midday thanks to solar, this is while June is one of the least sunny months. This peaked at 39.2% on 30th of June.
The increase in use of Solar as an alternative power source in Australia is quite phenomenal. In 2018 the amount of electricity generated from new rooftop solar installations was 86% higher than in previous years. Industrial scale PV solar output passed the 1TWh mark in 2018.
In 2016 Solar PV generated approximately 3% of Australia’s electricity, the majority of this came from small-scale rooftop systems. In 2019 it is now estimated that over 20% of households in Australia now have Solar PV installed on their roofs. Records show that by the end of the first half of 2019 there is an installed capacity of 13,000 MW across Australia. On average there were 18,500 new solar installations per month for the first half of 2019.
In the first three months of 2019 the number of new rooftop installations was up nearly 50% on the same time from 2018. In the state of Victoria a new incentive scheme was rolled out, this saw an increase of 90% over the same time from last year. If estimates are to believed, the people of Australia will save $600 million on their energy bills over the next ten years down to these installations. Another benefit of this massive growth has also been seen in a large number of new jobs being created. These have been seen in all aspects from manufacturing of the equipment along with installation and servicing.
While the growth in rooftop installations is impressive it is the growth of large scale installations that has really shown incredible growth. In 2018 the energy from large scale solar farms was up 300% on the previous year. This has also had an impact with close to 8000 people believed to be employed in the construction of one large scale solar projects across the country.
The growth of Solar in Australia and also the acceptance of Solar in Australia are down to one key factor. Australia is one of the best countries on the planet in terms of solar energy available. As a solar resource, Australia has the highest solar radiation available per square meter of any country. If all of the solar energy that is received by the country per year was used, this would be enough to power Australia for 10,000 years.
The Australian Government has set the target of establishing an additional 1000MW of solar power. This initiative will be supported by a number of research and development programmes. The government has a Clean Energy Initiative Solar Flagships Program that is governed by the Department of Resources Energy and Tourism who have pledged $1.5 billion. This investment will aid the construction of four new large -scale Solar farms. These initiatives will be supported by Geoscience Australia and the Bureau of Meteorology who will provide large amounts of research and data prior to the start of these projects.
With the huge growth of solar in Australia and the massive amount of unused solar energy available in Australia, there is now the potential for this energy to be exported to other countries. Sun Cable is a company in Singapore who are looking to use this potential. At present Singapore rely on Liquid Natural Gas to provide 95% of its electricity. This leaves the Singapore electricity consumer in a precarious position with regard to price volatility within the oil and gas market.
Sun Cable are looking to build a 150 square kilometre Solar farm near Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory of Australia. Their plan is to export the power generated to Singapore via a 3800km subsea cable. This would be the largest subsea cable on the planet. The scale of this project is quite phenomenal, if estimates are correct this could provide enough solar power to cover 20% of Singapore’s electricity consumption. This idea is the first of its kind anywhere on the planet, but could be a sign of things to come. This would instantly mean that Australia would be one of the largest green energy exporters anywhere in the world.
This solar farm would be the largest in the world if constructed. As well as providing power to Singapore, they would also be looking to power the city of Darwin. The idea is to provide power 24 hours a day using battery storage to store energy for use between the daylight hours.
With the increase in cost of fossil fuels and the pressure on companies and industries to reduce carbon emissions many of Australia’s mining companies are now looking to Solar and other renewable energy sources. Oz Minerals, one of the largest mining companies in Australia, has been doing vast amounts of research into renewable energy. They believe that it would be possible to operate mines solely on renewable energy. Their data shows that hybrid solutions involving solar and wind would be there best option. Their data shows that higher wind velocities at night are experienced and these could be used to offset the lack of solar during darkness hours. The other option they would have available are batteries. With the ever-evolving technology available in batteries these are reducing in price and increasing in capacity.
With the current rates of growth, the natural resource available and the vast areas of land available, it is not out of the realms of possibility for Australia to be one of the first countries to be operating solely on renewable energy.