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Booming solar market to deliver ‘Hazelwood + Liddell’ by 2020

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Wirsol Solar Farm. Photo supplied

Sophie Vorrath

New data has confirmed 2018 as a spectacular year for solar in Australia, with a total of 3,775 megawatts (MW) installed of large- and small-scale solar installed over the 12 month period – a near tripling of 2017 installations. And things are not about to cool down.

A new report from Green Energy Markets has forecast Australia’s booming solar PV market will deliver a staggering total of 19 million MWh by 2020, which is 10 per cent of NEM consumption and ‘equivalent to the combined output of the Hazelwood power station (now closed) and the Liddell power station.’

As reported in the final months of the year, 2018 was a record-breaking year across all solar PV sectors in Australia.

But a new report from Green Energy Markets has put some firm numbers to this, including a staggering total of 2,080MW of utility-scale solar installed and commissioned across the year, even outdoing the booming rooftop market by accounting for 55 per cent of all PV installed in 2018.

Across other sectors the numbers are equally impressive, with more than 1.2GW (1200MW) of residential rooftop solar installed for the year; 351MW of commercial solar (15-100kW); and 113MW of ‘small power stations,’ which GEM classes as between 100kW and 5MW.

‘Solar PV is now making a material contribution to Australia’s electricity supply and on a full year’s output amounts to more than 6 million megawatt hours (MWh) which is equivalent to 3.2 per cent of electricity consumed in the National Electricity Market (NEM),’ the GEM report says.

‘To put this into perspective the annual generation from solar PV installed in 2018 is equivalent to 71 per cent of the average output of the Liddell power station in NSW which is due to close in 2022.’

And things aren’t about to slow down, either. GEM says we can expect more than 3,000MW (3GW) of new utility-scale projects to be commissioned in 2019, before a drop in installations in 2020 as the federal Renewable Energy Target is met.

These numbers are not hard to believe, considering this week’s news of plans for a massive 900MW solar farm in the New South Wales Riverina district have been approved by the state government.

GEM says the ‘emergence’ of the utility-scale solar market in Australia has come off the back of a significant reduction in installed system costs, higher wholesale electricity prices and support from the federal Renewable Energy Target, as well as various state-based renewables schemes.

And with the rooftop solar program taking off in Victoria, that market won’t be slowing down too much either.

‘This coming year we expect Victoria will go gangbusters in residential,’ GEM Tristan Edis commented.
‘We can already see a large leap up in installations since October when the state government’s rebate became available. We are hearing of solar retailers who are sold out until mid way through this year in that state due to staff constraints.’

GEM says the continued growth in the residential and commercial solar sectors, each increasing by more than 40 per cent in 2018 has also been driven by households and businesses wishing to take greater control over their electricity supply; and continued high wholesale prices which also flowed into higher feed-in tariffs.

According to the latest update from PV consultancy SunWiz, a total of 1.58GW of sub-100kW PV was registered in 2018, a 47 per cent increase on the previous record from 2017, taking the total past the 8GW mark.

SunWiz notes an end-of-year rush in commercial solar, and in particular in the 30-100kW segment, as you can see in the chart below.

‘Commercial turned the corner in Queensland, Western Australia and the minor states in December,’ SunWiz director Warwick Johnston says in the report, ‘quite likely an affect of the rush to install commercial before year’s end.’

This article first appeared in RenewEconomy and is reproduced here with permission.


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  1. What we need now is for all governments to wake up and introduce large scale energy storage, not just batteries which are expensive and complex, but things like pumped hydro which can be great for night time production when we may lose solar and wind power.


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