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Pilot studies for Intermittent Dynamic Electrowinning using renewable energy

Element 25 to trial making metal using renewable energy

On behalf of the Australian Government, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has today announced $490,000 in funding to mining and metals company Element 25 Limited (E25) to examine the viability of using renewable energy in their metal production process.

In a first-of-a-kind project, E25 will test the extent to which renewable energy solutions such as wind and solar could be used to power the electrowinning processes in the production of Electrolytic Manganese Metal (EMM) without reducing the quality of the product.

Electrowinning is an upgrading process where an electric current is passed through a metal salt solution causing the metal to be deposited in an electroplating process.

Manganese is used in the creation of specialty steel but also can be used in the creation of lithium ion batteries.

The process traditionally relies on grid connected power sources that can provide a steady and continuous flow of energy. E25 will investigate the impact on the electrowinning process utilising high levels of variable energy supply from wind and solar, requiring the process to respond dynamically to the changes in generation being output.

The project will involve lab scale tests to assess how EMM responds to variable renewable energy, field studies to collect solar and wind resources and a pilot study to examine how EMM production will respond to actual solar and wind data collected in a full scale test.

The study will be part of E25’s Butcherbird development, Australia’s largest onshore manganese resource to be located 130 km south of Newman, Western Australia. Pre-feasibility studies are being carried out for the project.

ARENA CEO Darren Miller said the project could open up new opportunities for renewable energy integration into the metals processing and export markets.

“The resource processing sector is an area in which there is currently low penetration of renewables. ARENA is helping to grow the potential of renewables providing viable alternatives to traditional methods through funding the demonstration of integrating new and emerging technologies.

“The use of renewables could be expanded to other types of metal processing, increasing the opportunities for Australia to export renewable energy or emission-free resources to the world,” Mr Miller said.

“Australia is currently the third largest producer of manganese ore and if the project shows that renewables are a viable option, it could help to revolutionise the way metals are produced, even creating a new industry in Australia where ore is processed right here using Australia’s low cost renewable energy sources, rather than have the raw product exported and processed offshore using fossil fuel based energy,” he said.

Element 25’s Executive Director Justin Brown said: “Element 25 welcomes ARENA’s involvement in the groundbreaking Butcherbird High Purity Manganese Project. The funding that ARENA has committed will help put Element 25 at the forefront of the integration of renewable energy into the downstream processing of high value ores in Australia.

“Making metals with renewable energy makes sense. If successful, this work will have a significant impact on our project economics, but will also pave the way for other Australian companies to integrate renewable energy into their resource projects to add value right here in Australia,” he said.

ARENA media contact:

0410 724 227 | media@arena.gov.au

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AEMO and CSIRO find renewables cheapest

Australia’s energy market operator and leading scientific research agency have released a report concluding that wind and solar are clearly the cheapest new form of electricity generation.

Providing estimates of the cost to generate electricity from new power plants, the inaugural GenCost report was released in the days before Christmas 2018 as a resource for decision makers.

Acknowledging the need to factor storage into new wind and solar projects, the study found that even when variable renewables are backed up with two or six hours of battery or pumped hydro storage, the renewable generators were able to undercut their competitors.

Looking ahead to 2050, the models show the gap widening further with the cost of solar predicted to fall dramatically.

The resource has been developed through a collaboration between AEMO and CSIRO and will be updated annually to reflect the changing costs of technology.

As well as finding that solar and wind provide the lowest levelised cost of electricity (LCOE), the report foreshadows the growing need for storage as the supply of energy from variable renewables increases ‘towards or beyond’ 50 per cent.

The study draws on earlier work by ARENA into the levelised cost of different generation technologies.

GenCost 2018 also predicts that the electricity sector will draw more deeply on demand response to maintain the stability of the system and reduce costs.

The projections show that the cost of solar PV is continuing to fall faster than other technologies, which the authors expect will make solar one of the largest contributors to electricity generation by 2050.

Cost reductions in wind, batteries, pumped hydro and carbon capture and storage are also expected as the technologies are increasingly deployed around the world.

CSIRO Chief Energy Economist and report lead author Paul Graham said he expects the cost of low emission generation to continue to fall.

“Our data confirms that while existing fossil fuel power plants are competitive due to their sunk capital costs, solar and wind generation technologies are currently the lowest-cost ways to generate electricity for Australia, compared to any other new-build technology,” Graham said.

“At a global level, the investment costs of a wide range of low emission generation technologies are projected to continue to fall, and we found new-build renewable generation to be least cost, including when we add the cost of two or six hours of energy storage to wind and solar,” he said.

AEMO Group Manager of Forecasting Nicola Falcon said the “reports will act as the foundation for initial discussions with stakeholders when we commence our modelling inputs and scenario consultations for the next Integrated System Plan.”

Read the full report here.

Electricity demand drops as solar surges

AEMO’s latest quarterly report has revealed that rooftop solar has helped to drive demand for electricity from the grid to its lowest level in 16 years.

In the new report, AEMO says the average level of demand across the NEM dropped to the lowest level since 2002 in the fourth quarter of 2018, and that South Australia set a new all-time minimum demand record on October 21.

It attributes the drop in demand to the growing uptake of rooftop solar, as well as improvements to efficiency and a decline in energy intensive industries.

The lower demand did not translate to lower wholesale electricity prices, which reached record levels during the quarter in all regions except Tasmania.

AEMO say a range of factors can be blamed for the high prices, including the closure of 4,000 MW of coal power generation in recent years, unplanned outages at Victorian brown coal power stations during the quarter, and high gas prices.

In a sign of the challenges the market has ahead as more solar and behind the meter assets come online, Queensland also set a new record for peak demand on February 14.

ARENA is supporting work that integrates consumer-owned small scale assets – known as distributed energy resources -into the electricity network, recently announcing nearly $10 million in funding for 12 new projects and studies.

There are already more than two million rooftop solar installations nationwide, up from just 14,000 a decade ago.

According to Green Energy Markets December Renewable Energy Index, these rooftop solar systems provided for more than six per cent of Australia’s electricity during December. As a share of the total generation mix, rooftop solar is rapidly catching up to hydropower.

By 2050, this is expected to increase to up to 45 per cent of all generation, according to forecasts by AEMO and CSIRO.

In late 2018 ARENA CEO Darren Miller launched the Distributed Energy Integration Program – a collaboration between energy sector peak bodies and industry and consumer associations.

Revolutionising the energy network, one LED light at a time

Could something as simple as switching to LED lighting help to drive the transition to renewables?

Sydney electricity distributor Ausgrid says it can, receiving $1 million from ARENA to work with households and businesses to become more energy efficient and install solar panels.

ARENA’s funding will expand the Power2U program to 15 suburbs across Sydney, including Bankstown, Alexandria, Glebe and Pyrmont. The City of Sydney is chipping in an additional $750,000, bringing the project’s total budget to $3.5 million.

The project falls under ARENA’s work to improve energy productivity – an investment priority that aims to support projects that manage demand as the transition to renewables accelerates.

Targeting people in the community that have been slow to adopt renewables and are hard to reach, the program aims to reduce the need to replace ageing electricity infrastructure. This will be achieved by lowering demand on the grid, with a particular focus on permanently curbing energy use during the day.

What kind of impact can efficient devices and LED lights have, in conjunction with rooftop solar panels?

Ausgrid CEO Richard Gross says Power2U will help to reduce energy use, while making the grid more sustainable and providing hip pocket relief.

“Our network has the second lowest rate of solar take-up by customers due to the high number of apartments and businesses in our footprint,” Gross said.

“This project could realise a solution that would possibly increase the number of solar installations on apartment buildings and leased commercial properties.”

Ausgrid will install rooftop solar panels as part of the Power2U program

For a growing country like Australia, there are a spectrum of opportunities to make better use of the energy we generate. Global energy transition experts the International Energy Agency say the importance of improving efficiency cannot be underestimated – they believe it will be a vital element of the transition to renewables, if we have any hope of meeting global emission reduction targets.

The numbers show how important it will be to do more with less across the energy network. Data from Australia’s Bureau of Statistics shows that our population has grown by 3.75 million people in the last decade, and we are the only country in the developed world to have enjoyed uninterrupted economic growth for 27 consecutive years.

Despite the rising population and increased reliance on digital technology, Australia’s energy demand has been in decline since 2009.

The Australian Energy Market Operator’s March forecast predicts that demand is likely to remain relatively flat for the next twenty years. Despite our growing population, AEMO expect that residential demand will actually fall, thanks largely to new energy efficient appliances and rooftop solar.

The story is similar with energy demand from business. AEMO predict this will also remain flat, partly because of advances in energy efficiency, but also due to weakening demand for energy from the manufacturing sector.

How does this help with the transition to renewables? Reducing demand by enhancing productively will help to make the switch an energy system underpinned by renewables cheaper, easier and faster. In practice, using energy more efficiently could allow investments in expensive and unnecessary infrastructure to be delayed, or avoided altogether. Using energy more wisely could reduce peaks in demand, smoothing usage across the day.

One home shifting to efficient light globes won’t make a noticeable difference at a network scale, but everybody working together across a city or state can put a dent in demand, particularly when efficiency measures are partnered with solar panels. Reductions in demand for grid electricity as a result of the growth of rooftop solar are already apparent, according to AEMO.

 

ARENA CEO Darren Miller said the scheme will show the potential for efficiency technology to be combined with renewables to reduce energy costs and reduce load on network infrastructure.

“The project will provide Ausgrid and other distribution network service providers around Australia greater confidence in the ability of renewable and efficiency solutions to offset network expenditure, which has traditionally been very difficult to address with demand management.

“Ausgrid’s program will encourage greater uptake of low emission technologies and solutions, reduce energy costs for participating consumers and reduce demand on Sydney’s grid,” he said.

Schools set to shine with solar in 2019

In the Northern Territory, schools look to be set for a renewable energy revolution when they go back this year.

Last month, the Northern Territory Government embarked on a $5 million project to put solar PV on up to 25 schools, which is expected to cut energy bills by as much as 40 per cent.

Solar PV installed on a school building

Schools are ideally suited to solar energy, as their energy usage is highest during school hours during the day when the sun is shining. Unlike households where demand spikes as people get home in the evenings, demand for energy in schools drops off when class finishes in the afternoon.

The first round of the program has already allocated $1.5 million to kick off the planning process at the first ten schools. Eight are expected to be completed by the end of the financial year, with a further six scheduled for the second round in 2019/2020 and five more in 2020/2021.

The schools have been selected based on their energy consumption, with priority given to the highest users. Government primary and secondary schools are among the 19 included in the initial announcement.

The $5 million solar schools program is part of the government’s Roadmap to Renewables plan.

Making the announcement, Territory Minister for Renewables and Essential Services Dale Wakefield said the government is working towards a power system with more solar and less gas.

But it isn’t expected to be all plain sailing. In late 2018 ARENA hosted an A-Lab in Alice Springs to workshop ways to accommodate all the incoming renewable energy into a grid that is already straining with just eight per cent renewable penetration.

Themed “small enough to manage, big enough to matter”, Alice Springs was identified as a test case to overcome challenges facing the National Electricity Market  as more distributed energy and more renewables come online in the grid.

HIVVE TAKE CLASSROOMS OFF-GRID

Territorians aren’t the only ones looking at how renewable energy could help ease energy costs and reduce demand on the grid for schools.

Western Sydney-based HIVVE have developed an innovative way to provide the benefits of solar to schools using solar powered portable classrooms.

With $368,000 in funding from ARENA in late 2017, the start-up has installed state-of-the-art modular relocatable classrooms, powered by rooftop solar PV and battery storage.

In November, the third HIVVE classroom was officially opened at Bracken Ridge High School in Brisbane’s northern suburbs.

Unlike their first two classrooms – located at Dapto High and St Christopher’s Primary in NSW – the newest relocatable will operate entirely off-grid. With energy generated on the roof of the classroom stored in a Tesla Powerwall 2 battery, the system is able to generate 7600 KWh of electricity beyond its own requirements.

The excess energy will be utilised across other school buildings with a behind the meter connection, reducing the school’s overall reliance on grid power.

When the Bracken Ridge portable was launched, HIVVE co-founder Richard Doyle said solar power has an energy profile perfectly matched to the demands of a school day.

He sees an opportunity for their technology to be rolled out widely, with the management system able to be retro-fitted to existing school buildings and relocatable classrooms.

While the Territory are focussed on solar energy to power schools, the potential for HIVVE portables to be equipped with batteries to run off grid can avoid the need for schools to pay significant upfront connection costs as schools expand or are redeveloped.

HIVVE believe their renewably powered classrooms could help to meet a NSW Government pledge to spend $500 million installing air conditioning at 1000 schools, without draining the grid.

Doyle said their system could have particular value given “many schools on the Eastern seaboard are currently at capacity on grid connection.”

Alice Springs – a testbed for the future energy market?

The central Australian town of Alice Springs inspires many images. There are the surrounding attractions of the rugged MacDonnell Ranges, the mystical shapes of the Devils Marbles and the majesty of Uluru, and the thrill of outback adventures among remote communities.

To those within the energy sector, Alice Springs represents an unique opportunity and one that could be of great significance to the National Energy Market.

With a population of 25,000 and a mix of residential households, commerce, industries and an airport, the town has an electrical grid that is of a size and complexity that makes it an ideal testing ground for ideas that could lead to a successful transition to a clean energy future.

Alice Springs. Image: Tourism NT

Along with the rest of the Northern Territory, it faces the daunting challenge set by the Territory government’s pledge that 50 percent of the power supply would be sourced from renewables by 2030.

With this in mind, 50 industry representatives from across the Northern Territory and the country, came together in Alice Springs at the latest ARENA A-Lab workshop to examine the local grid and discuss ways for how this could be achieved. The gathering was co-hosted by the Intyalheme Centre for Future Energy.

The theme that Alice Springs was “small enough to manage, big enough to matter” pointed towards the town’s position as a test case for challenges that would be faced in the wider market as greater levels of renewables were fed into the system.

“It is a system that has a lot of the characteristics of many places in the NEM itself, and also the broader Australian system, but it’s at that scale where you really can test and trial and innovate and a scale that’s meaningful but not too cost prohibitive,” said A-Lab’s project lead Phil Cohn, an investment director in ARENA’s Business Development and Transactions team.

“Really importantly you’ve got government and community buy-in for progressively driving on renewable energy as well. That mix of the scale and the physical characteristics alongside the community buy-in make it a great place to trial new ways of working the grid.

“Alice Springs has this history of being a bit of a leading light nationally. They were a solar city a decade ago and they’re wanting to retake that initiative … to show how you can run a grid with high penetration renewables.”

Need for innovation

Intyalheme general manager Sara Johnson said renewables penetration in Alice Springs stood at eight percent, while for the Territory it was only four percent, although that would be doubled by the recent commitments to solar farms around Darwin.

“It’s a really ambitious target particularly when you consider the physical challenge they have in terms of the grid configuration,” Cohn said.

“It’s actually a series of relatively small individual grids, there’s a Darwin-Katherine system, the Alice Springs system and a lot of isolated micro-grids and communities, and they’ve set themselves a target to hit 50 percent by 2030.”

Another challenge faced by the Territory’s energy sector was is the limited diversity of renewable resources available, with solar currently the only viable option. Rebecca Mills, general manager of major projects at Territory Generation said without alternative energies, – such as wind and hydro – achieving the target would be reliant on “oversizing solar systems” and storing the energy which was currently a costly process.

So how can the Northern Territory hit its 50 percent target?

“We’ve undertaken some modelling that really shows the first 30 percent will be reasonably achievable as long as some of the network constraints [can be] dealt with, but that’s really just matching supply and demand during the day-time hours.

“It’s possible but it will be challenging.”

Jim McKay, Power and Water Corporation’s chief engineer of power services, said it was good to have an ambitious target, but a number of issues must be resolved with the Alice Springs stand-alone grid before it could be achieved and “not being connected to other jurisdictions, these problems come upon us pretty quickly”.

ARENA’s Phil Cohn at A-Lab

For example, Alice Springs’ grid needs to find new ways to stabilise and smooth frequency fluctuations from variable solar generation.

“Some of the challenges that places like South Australia are facing now, in regards to inertia, we’ve always had underlying in our network and with the advent of additional PV those problems have to be resolved before we’re able to achieve the really high levels of penetration,” McKay said.

“We won’t be able to reach the target (particularly in Alice Springs), without some innovative thinking.”

“We’re not inter-connected and we can’t rely on other people to help support the network or get by when the sun’s not shining or those sort of things.

“We have to find solutions from start to finish completely within our boundaries.”

However, Intyalheme general manager Sara Johnston said the local industry players were committed to reaching the target and working through these challenges.

“Everyone’s really engaged and onboard and wants to be part of the solution,” she said.

A-Lab workshops

Sara Johnston said Intyalheme was established by the NT government to promote collaborative solutions. It was, in a sense, a recognition that the target would not be reached through individual stakeholders pursuing their own agendas.

It is a philosophy that has a natural synergy with ARENA’s A-Lab mission to create cross-sector partnerships and innovative projects to transform Australia towards a clean energy future.

The A-Lab workshop was held over two days. The participants, which included senior industry representatives, toured key power system locations on the first day before they participated in a workshop designed to identify pathways to the desired future of 2030.

The participants developed proposals and designed pitches that were presented to an expert panel, known as the ‘Dolphin Tank’ (a friendly ‘shark tank’), that included the Northern Territory Minister for Renewables and Essential Services, the Hon Dale Wakefield, MLA. The intention is for Intyalheme and ARENA to work with the participants to fully develop and put the selected ideas into action.

“You go from a group of people who don’t know each other and facilitate conversations about the key questions, issues, barriers and opportunities around the future shape of the energy system in the Northern Territory, and then converge on specific project opportunities to help us realise that future,” Phil Cohn said.

 

“That culminated in the pitch presentations with the real intent for both Intyalheme and ARENA to take a look at those ideas and work with those key stakeholders to potentially take some of those forward to implementation.”

Rebecca Mills said the A-Lab sessions demonstrated that everyone was on a similar path.

“We have some different views about how to get there but it’s good to have those discussions and have the likes of ARENA and Intaylheme, who can focus on bringing it altogether over the next couple of years or putting into place an action plan for us,” she said.

The ideas that were pitched included:

  • New ways of forecasting the impact that clouds will have on PV production through the entire grid, and balancing that impact by matching it against flexible loads.
  • Using waste-to-energy technology at a water and sewerage treatment plant that would generate energy but also treat water that could be used for agriculture. This would be particularly valuable in Alice Springs which has a limited water supply.
  • Using solar power to create hydrogen which can be stored in the existing gas network.
  • Exploring ways for the large transient workforce and low income and rental communities to access solar energy by buying a share of a community-owned solar farm that also uses battery storage.

Sara Johnston said Intyalheme has already began early planning on a project based on the ideas of the A-Lab sessions that would include a suite of actions over the next three to four years.

Oil and gas giant embraces renewable energy

In a sign of the times, oil and gas giant Santos has begun the process of transitioning its fleet of beam pumps to run on renewable energy.

The unlikely alliance will see Santos convert 56 of its crude oil pumps to run on solar PV and battery storage systems in the Cooper Basin – a remote resources vein running from north-east South Australia across the border into Queensland.

The sun drenched, off-grid location is a perfect match for solar, proven by
a pilot solar beam pump that has operated continually since August. The success of the trial has shown that the renewable energy can withstand the harsh desert environment and paved the way for the rollout of new solar pumps.

The solar array powering the pilot pump

Santos say the project will reduce emissions and waste from the oil production process. Converting the pumps to solar is predicted to save 140 barrels of oil every day and lay the foundations for Australia’s second-largest oil and gas producer to swap a further 151 Cooper Basin pumps to run on renewables.

With a total of 3.2 MW of solar PV to be installed across the remote pump sites, the $16 million project will deploy battery storage at each location to supply the oil pumps with 100 per cent renewable energy.

Santos Managing Director and CEO Kevin Gallagher said renewable energy will reduce costs by cutting fuel consumption and eliminating the need to transport fuel to remote wells.

“Our own consumption of fuel in the Cooper Basin is equivalent to about five per cent of east coast domestic gas demand, so if we can extend our use of renewables across our operations, we can also free up more natural gas for sale, which is a good way to put downward pressure on gas prices,” Kevin Gallagher said.

The rollout of solar pumps is ARENA’s first off-grid application of renewables in the oil and gas industry. Aiming to prove the reliability of renewables for this type of operation, the project could provide a blueprint for other resources companies to follow.

ARENA is providing $4.3 million towards the project, which ARENA CEO Darren MIller says will complement ARENA’s previous work with the resource sector.

“Assisting the resources sector in turning to renewable alternatives is something we’re extremely proud of,” Darren Miller said.

“Santos will be ARENA’s first off-grid project with the oil and gas industry, building upon our previous support for implementing renewable energy at mining operations around Australia, reducing reliance on diesel and oil,” he said.

Delivering renewable energy to remote communities and mines to replace diesel was one of the first ARENA initiatives, launched soon after the agency’s inception in 2012.

In 2014, ARENA supported Rio Tinto to build a 6.7MW solar farm at remote bauxite operation in Weipa, Queensland. The first example of renewables powering an off-grid mining operation, the project has helped to insulate the mining giant from fluctuations in diesel prices.

In 2016, a solar-diesel hybrid system was commissioned at Sandfire’s Degrussa Copper Mine, utilising a solar-hybrid system backed up by battery storage. Saving about five million litres of diesel every year, the world-leading project has led the way for other mining companies to embrace renewables.

Creating a secure supply of energy is emerging as a key motivator for resources companies like Sandfire and Rio Tinto to embrace renewables. Providing a buffer from the fluctuating cost of grid power or diesel, without the risks of network outages or practical realities like flooded roads in the wet season, renewables are taking off in a sector where cost is king.

Integrating renewable energy into the oil and gas industry

Australian oil and gas company Santos will begin converting the pumps on their oil wells  to solar and battery power, as part of an Australian-first trial that will reduce emissions from oil production.

On behalf of the Australian Government, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has today announced $4.2 million in funding to Santos to convert 56 remote crude oil beam pumps to solar and batteries after a successful Australian first pilot installation.

Solar PV – totalling 3.2 MW – and batteries will be installed at the 56 oil wells across the Cooper Basin in South Australia and Queensland to supply each site with 100 per cent renewable energy.

The trial is the next step towards commercialising the technology by providing adequate scale needed to achieve supply chain and execution synergies, and allowing the trial multiple suppliers to reduce unit costs.

The $16 million project will be ARENA’s first off-grid project with the oil and gas industry, and ARENA’s first off-grid project that involves switching to 100 per cent renewables.

If the ARENA-funded trial is successful, Santos will look to convert an additional 151 pumps across the Cooper Basin to solar and batteries. By converting all 208 sites, this would save 140 barrels of oil a day currently used to fuel the pumps.

The project could see increased confidence that renewable energy provides the reliability required for resources applications and see other companies follow suit.

ARENA CEO Darren Miller said the project would complement ARENA’s previous work with the resource sector, and could also have broader applications in remote areas.

“Assisting the resources sector in turning to renewable alternatives is something we’re extremely proud of,” Mr Miller said.

“Santos will be ARENA’s first off-grid project with the oil and gas industry, building upon our previous support for implementing renewable energy at remote operations around Australia.

ARENA has previously supported a solar farm at Weipa and a solar and battery project at the Degrussa Copper and Gold Mine, and has funded a range of other off-grid projects.

“The project paves the way for Santos to convert further crude oil engine beam pumps in the Cooper Basin area, resulting in a significant part of their operations run entirely on renewables and providing a broader opportunity and test case for deployment to thousands of other sites in the Australian oil and gas sector as well as in other sectors in remote areas,” he said.

Santos Managing Director and CEO Kevin Gallagher said this Australian-first idea came from the company’s Energy Solutions team, which is dedicated to finding innovative ways to reduce Santos’ carbon footprint and prepare the business for a lower carbon future.

“The solar beam pumps will reduce emissions and waste from oil production with 140 barrels more per day saved,” Mr Gallagher said.

“Our own consumption of fuel in the Cooper Basin is equivalent to about 5 per cent of East Coast domestic gas demand so if we can extend our use of renewables to our gas operations, we can also free up more natural gas for sale, which is a good way to put downward pressure on gas prices.”

“The solar beam pump is also a perfect demonstration of Santos’ strategy to become Australia’s safest, lowest cost onshore operator in action,” Mr Gallagher said.

“Renewables will help reduce costs over time not only by reducing our fuel consumption, but also by eliminating the costs of transporting fuel by road over long distances to the oil wells.”

ARENA media contact:

0410 724 227 | media@arena.gov.au

Download this media release (PDF 117KB)

Rooftop solar passes two million milestone

Australia’s renewable energy sector has passed another milestone, with new Clean Energy Regulator data showing more than two million households have installed rooftop solar.

The milestone has been reached just five and a half years after Australia passed the one million mark, with predictions that installations will ramp up on the back of new state-based schemes supporting household solar and storage.

This year has already eclipsed 2017 for total numbers of solar systems installed, as consumers embrace renewable energy to take control of power bills. The rise in solar comes as panels become more affordable than ever before – modelling shows the upfront cost of an installation can now be repaid within five years in all Australian capital cities.

Solar roof

Queensland leads all states for solar uptake, where 30 per cent of all households have made the leap to save money and soften their environmental impact. The new data shows that more than 2.3 GW of solar capacity has been installed across nearly 600,000 Queensland rooftops, with Bundaberg, Hervey Bay, Caloundra and Toowoomba holding four of the top five places on the national solar leaderboard.

South Australia’s solar uptake is also strong, with almost one third of all homes making the leap and installing rooftop systems. Penetration in Victoria and New South Wales is lower in comparison, where just 15 per cent of households have installed solar panels to date.

The latest figures are based on an analysis of Clean Energy Regulator data undertaken by the the Clean Energy Council, with support from solar energy consultants Sunwiz.

Clean Energy Council Chief Executive Kane Thornton said homes with rooftop solar are saving on average of about $540 per year on their electricity bills.

“An average of six panels per minute are being installed in Australia, with the Australian Energy Market Operator estimating an average of 10-20 panels per minute if large-scale solar projects are factored in,” he said.

“Along the way a new industry has been created – thousands of sparkies have specialised in solar power, and it’s hard to find a group of people with as much passion for what they do,” he said.

As Australia passes the latest solar milestone, work is underway to prepare for the increasingly distributed energy future.

The Distributed Energy Integration Program was recently launched to find ways to maximise the value of customers’ DER for all energy users.

Under the new initiative, ARENA will collaborate with government agencies, market authorities, industry and consumers associations to ensure the energy system works for everybody as it undergoes its greatest transformation to date.

Redesigning the electricity network won’t be easy. As solar soars, electric vehicles become a mainstream option, smart appliances take off, and new efficiency and demand management technology takes off, the energy system of the future will be unrecognisable from today.

With predictions that up to 45 per cent of electricity will be supplied by behind the meter assets by 2050, there is no time to waste finding ways to integrate all the distributed energy resources into the grid.

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