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 generation 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 support the global transition to net zero emissions by accelerating the pace of pre-commercial innovation, to the benefit of Australian consumers, businesses and workers. 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.
We share knowledge, insights and data from our funded projects to help the renewable energy industry and other projects learn from each other’s experiences.
New testing platform aims to integrate renewables faster.
How can Indigenous communities equip themselves to best take advantage of the global energy transition? The First Nations Clean Energy Network is full of ideas.