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 it work?
Large-scale solar farms 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 is growing rapidly in Australia. By December 2018, over 3000 MW of LSS generation had been connected to the grid. The contribution of LSS generation to Australia’s total energy mix nearly tripled in a year, from 0.3 per cent in 2017 to 0.8 per cent in 2018.
The cost of large-scale solar PV has fallen dramatically in recent years from $135 per megawatt hour (MWh) in 2015 to an expected $44.50 – $61.50 per MWh in 2020. This reduction was driven by a combination of international and local improvements and is expected to continue. International cost drivers include the cost of manufacturing, and local costs include the cost of finance and construction.
ARENA’s purpose is to accelerate Australia’s shift to affordable and reliable renewable energy. 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, ARENA’s 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.
ARENA’s 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 large-scale solar projects supported by ARENA 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.
ARENA is sharing 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.
Reports from our large-scale solar projects can be found in ARENA’s Knowledge Bank.
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