Australian Solar Industry Update – Monday Oct. 25 2021

Published: 25 October 2021

This week in solar: Investments into renewable energy and the price of solar panels.

Read on to learn about Australian solar industry updates for the week commencing Oct 25, 2021.

Australia currently has the world’s highest solar capacity relative to its population. According to a recent study from SolarPower Europe, the country has 826 watts of solar power per capita. Germany and the Netherlands are in second and third place, respectively, with 652W and 603W per capita. The growth of solar power in Australia can be expected to continue for many years: major investments in renewables were announced last week (October 18 – 23), including 39 solar farms with hydrogen-based energy storage in Victoria and NSW.

The Australian Energy Market Operator reported record levels of renewable generation between July and September 2021, and the combined average output of wind and solar power was 3,984MW. At the same time, coal generation is steadily decreasing.

Upcoming investments in renewable energy and hydrogen technology

Last week, the Providence Asset Group and the Commonwealth Bank of Australia signed a $33 million agreement to develop green hydrogen facilities, powered by 10 solar farms in regional Victoria and 29 solar farms in New South Wales.

  • These solar power systems will have a capacity below 5 MW each. 
  • They will be equipped with Lavo Heos energy storage units, which are capable of storing hydrogen in a metallic alloy.

There was also a promising announcement from billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes, founder of Atlassian and a key supporter of the Tesla big battery in South Australia. On October 21, he and his wife Annie announced a total of $1.5 billion in donations and investments for climate projects. A total of $1 billion will support businesses who develop and use green technologies, while $500 million will fund charity organisations and scientific research. Cannon-Brookes also announced that Atlassian has moved its net zero deadline from 2050 to 2040, and the company will use 100% renewable energy by 2025.

The Australian mining industry is also investing in renewable energy, which reduces both operating costs and environmental impacts. Rio Tinto, one of the largest mining companies in the world, announced 7 gigawatts of wind and solar capacity to power their operations in Western Australia, replacing natural gas power.

  • These projects will include electric trucks and energy storage (Rio Tinto has not specified the technology yet).
  • The company will be investing $10 billion by 2030, reducing their greenhouse gas emissions by 50%.

Solar panels are pushing wholesale power prices to zero

As mentioned above, Australia has the highest solar capacity per capita in the world, and the total output of solar panels is considerable in the hours around noon. Wholesale energy prices are frequently pushed to zero in places with a high solar uptake, according to RenewEconomy.

  • In Victoria, solar power now sends wholesale prices to zero on a daily basis. This normally happens around noon, when solar panels are more productive, and zero-price intervals of up to six hours have been reported.
  • In Queensland, solar power is pushing coal generation to record lows, especially around noon. There are now more than 4 GW of rooftop solar capacity in the state.

Large energy storage projects are underway in Queensland, and they will benefit from the abundance of solar generation. These projects include two utility-scale batteries and a pumped storage hydroelectricity station.

On October 22, the Australian Energy Market Operator published the Quarterly Energy Dynamics report for July-September 2021. The Q3 report highlights the record levels of renewable generation, while coal is essentially being displaced from the National Electricity Market (NEM). During this quarter, black coal generation dropped to 10,969 MW, the lowest reported value since the NEM was created in 1998.

Unlike gas power plants, which adjust their production based on supply and demand, coal power plants cannot increase or decrease their output so easily. When you need electricity sources to complement solar and wind power, battery systems and flexible power sources are much better options than coal.

Check back in next week for more Australian solar updates.

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