What is large-scale solar?
Large-scale solar (LSS) is probably best known as a solar farm, which can generate anywhere from hundreds of kilowatts to thousands of megawatts of solar power. Other terms used for LSS include solar power plants and utility-scale solar.
How does large-scale solar technology work?
LSS typically use solar photovoltaic (PV) technology to generate electricity from fields of solar PV panels.
The solar panels convert the energy from sunlight into direct current (DC) electricity, then inverters convert the power into alternating current (AC) that can be integrated into the electricity grid.
Large-scale solar in Australia
LSS generation has grown rapidly in Australia and continues to hold an increasing share of Australia’s total energy mix. As at March 2021 almost 7,000 MW (DC) of LSS generation1 has been connected to the Australian electricity grid. This is more than 20 times the amount of LSS capacity connected when ARENA announced its Large-Scale Solar Funding Round recipients in 2016.
More than 100 LSS projects have been accredited by the Clean Energy Regulator as registered generators, with 80+ of these connected in 2018 or later. The capital cost of LSS projects in Australia decreased by 25% between 2015 and the end of 2020 (from $1.87 to $1.39 per watt) according to the Clean Energy Regulator.
The LSS industry in Australia has been a remarkable success, and played a significant role in achieving the Australian Government’s mandated Renewable Energy Target by 2020. However, the scope of the opportunities and challenges for the industry are arguably as great now as they were in 2016. Today the industry is striving to build generation capacity faster than ever, while constantly improving efficiency. These improvements are critical to Australia’s ambitions to transition to a low-carbon electricity grid, and establishment of a green hydrogen supply chain.
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How are we supporting large-scale solar projects?
Our purpose is to improve the competitiveness of renewable energy technologies and increase the supply of renewable energy through innovation that benefits Australian consumers and businesses. By connecting investment, knowledge and people to deliver energy innovation, we are helping to build the foundation of a renewable energy ecosystem in Australia.
As of 2019, our grant funding had contributed to the creation of 1.5 GW of new grid-connected solar farms across Australia. This includes almost $90 million of grant funding provided to 12 LSS projects in NSW, Queensland and Western Australia, which unlocked almost $1 billion of commercial investment in large-scale solar.
Our support has helped to close the cost gap that existed between large-scale solar PV and other commercially competitive forms of power generation. As a result, utility-scale solar is now cost competitive with wind energy.
Learnings from the LSS projects supported by us have helped stakeholders throughout the renewable energy industry by providing information on challenges that are unique to solar, as well as informing regulators on how to best incorporate solar into the grid.
We share knowledge on a range of topics, from construction techniques, solar forecasting and capital costs, to operations and maintenance (O&M) practices and grid impacts. Sharing this data and knowledge can increase efficiency, reduce risk, and drive further cost reductions in LSS.
Some of the biggest names in Australian music are helping to build renewable energy projects through a newly launched investment fund.
The Business Renewables Centre – Australia is off to a flying start, launching an online marketplace to connect renewable energy buyers with project developers.