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This page is companion to Wind in the Bush and Sustainable energy.

On this page

Introduction
Solar power by states
Summary table
Insolation
Types of solar power
Mobile solar power stations
Specific solar power stations...
  Bungala Solar Farm
  Carwarp Solar Farm
  DeGrussa copper mine solar farm
  Greenhough River solar farm
  Lake Cargelligo solar farm
  Nyngan Solar Plant
  Jamestown floating solar
  Royalla Solar Farm
  Sundrop Farms
  Uterne solar farm
Solar PV, water heating and wind energy
Cost of PV declining
Citizen's solar
3.7% in SA in 2012/13

Solar power in Australia (2)

Sun on the Bush
This page gives a few of what I think are interesting points about solar power especially as it is developing in Australia.
Solar Power gives a historical snapshot of solar in Australia around 2008 to 2010.
Renewable developments gives a list of the more impressive renewable energy developments in Australia.


Written 2012/04/10, modified 2017/05/05
Contact, email daveclarkecb@yahoo.com
I, David Clarke, the writer of these pages, am independent of any company, lobby group, or government.


About these pages

Google search Ramblings DC

Wikipedia has a page on solar power in Australia.


Introduction

Among developed nations Australia is exceptionally well suited for solar power: it has a location relatively near the equator and mostly clear skies. Australian scientists have been in the forefront of solar power research, some of the most efficient solar photovoltaic (PV) cells were developed in Australian universities.

 

On the cusp?

Large-scale solar PV

In mid 2017 it seems that new solar energy installations are changing from predominantly small-scale domestic roof-top to large-scale energy parks. The Clean Energy Council published a page on 2017/05/02 in which it listed 1.92GW of large-scale solar farms expected to at least start construction by the end of the year. At the time there was only a fraction of one GW operating in the whole of Australia.

Small-scale solar PV

Meanwhile, the number of small-scale PV systems being installed has decreased, but the capacity of each has tended to increase, so the installation amount in megawatts has remained pretty constant.

Solar PV panels are dark coloured

It has been pointed out that the current (around 2000-2012) fashion for slate-grey roofs, which in some cases predominate in large developments, absorb more solar radiation than would light coloured roofs; which would bounce much of the radiation back into space. Once absorbed, the heat is re-radiated or passed to the air by conduction.

A city with predominantly light coloured roofs will therefore be cooler than a city with predominantly dark coloured roofs and a world with predominantly dark-roofed cities will be warmer than a world with predominantly light-roofed cities.

Solar panels are likewise dark coloured and covering large areas with them will have a warming effect (only about 15% of the light falling on a PV panel is converted into electrcity). This is not to say that we should not deploy solar panels, but does suggest yet again that the best way to combat global warming is to reduce our power consumption.

In spite of these advantages, Australia is one of the slower developed nations in taking up solar energy; this has been due to plentiful and cheap coal and government policies being influenced by a very strong fossil fuel lobby.

However, around 2010 things did improve. With Labor governments in most (or was it all) states at that time, schemes were put in place to encourage people to install solar PV on their homes and businesses. The Office of the Renewable Energy Regulator (ORER; since replaced by the Clean Energy Regulator) released a spread-sheet recording the amount of solar take-up for the whole of Australia by postcode. Up to and including September 2011 there were 520 000 small PV installations in Australia. At the time there were around eight and a half million homes, indicating that about 6% of Australian homes had solar power.

Unfortunately, with Labor governments being replaced by Liberal across the country, we can expect little encouragement for renewable energy in the next few years. (I should not forget to point out that Labor's policies on renewables look good only when compared to those of the LNP; Labor too gives far to much to the fossil fuel lobby.)

Whichever government is in power in the future, solar PV is becoming price-competative with fossil fuels and this will see a steadily increasing take-up of solar power; for example, car parks with solar shade will be coming soon.

 
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Solar power by states

This table is based on 'small scale solar installations by postcode' as published by the Renewable Energy Regulator in early March 2015 and 'ranked list of states and territories of Australia' in Wikipedia (2015/04/30). The wind power numbers were my own calculations.

StateSolar MW
installed
Population:
thousands
Solar Watts
per person
Wind power
W/person
NT18.724277 0
NSW+ACT884.97822113 59
Qld1308.04676280 3
SA586.71675350 881
Tas.82.3513160 600
Vic.736.85769128 185
WA456.42536180 190
Aust.4073.823,233175 146

The columns:
1.State or territory name
2.Total megawatts of installed small-scale solar PV in that state
3.Population of that state in thousands
4.Installed Watts of solar PV per person
5.Installed Watts of utility-scale wind power per person, for comparison

I have lumped the ACT in with NSW because it is not easy to separate the two based on postcodes.

 
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Summary table of solar installations

The table below shows the size of the solar installations discussed on this page.

NameInstalled capacity (MW)State or territory
Carwarp1.5 Victoria
DeGrussa mine10.6 WA
Greenough River 10.0WA
Jamestown floating solar 0.4SA
Lake Cargelligo 3.0NSW
Moree56.0NSW
Nyngan102.0 NSW
Royalla20.0 ACT
Uterne4.1NT

 
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Insolation - where the sun shines brightest

World Insolation
World insolation
Acknowledgement WorlyParsons - EcoNomics
The map on the right shows insolation rates on the world's land areas; the units, I believe, are kilowatt-hours per square metre per year. The desert areas get the most sunlight because they have less cloud cover than the better watered areas.

The map indicates that Australia has very high levels of solar power available for development, the SW part of the US is the only other part of a developed nation that comes close.

Insolation in Australia is shown in greater detail below.

Australian Insolation
Australian insolation
Acknowledgement WorlyParsons - EcoNomics
The map on the right, using the same colour-coding as that above, shows insolation within Australia. Any of the areas coloured red would be very well suited for solar power.

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Types of solar power

By far the greatest problem in the economic use of solar power is due to the low intensity at which it reaches the surface of the Earth. Whatever is used to collect it must cover a large area and therefore must be low in cost per unit of area covered. In some applications the radiation is collected direct (eg. the common photo voltaic panels) and in others the radiation is concentrated in some way.

Several methods of collecting solar power are (the links are to examples illustrated on this page):

  • Photo voltaic
    • Flat pannel collectors
      • Crystaline silicon
      • Amorphous silicon
      • Gallium arsenide
    • Dish concentrators (shine concentrated sunlight onto relatively small PV panels that need to be actively cooled)
  • Thermal
    • No concentration
    • Linear concentrators
      • Trough concentrators
      • Fresnel concentrators
    • Array concentrators
      • Power tower (a single collector in a large array of reflectors)
      • Modular power towers (an array of power tower modules)
    • Dish concentrators
      • Repeated modules (many dishes of moderate size)
Photo voltaic systems generate electricity directly. Thermal energy collectors heat something - usually a fluid, but possibly something like a Stirling engine - as an intermediate step toward the production of useful energy.

Several of the above methods have been brought to the stage of commercial viability, the others have gone only to the pilot stage.

 
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This section added 2017/04/20

Mobile solar power stations

By Sophie Vorrath, April 20, 2017; in OneStepOffTheGrid.
"Australian developed solar technology that aims to tackle the dominance of diesel generators in the temporary power market will be tested at the 1MW scale in New South Wales, off the back of a new grant from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

The modular, mobile solar power solution was developed by the Australian arm of UK-based builder Laing O'Rourke, initially as a way to cut diesel fuel costs at the company's own remote construction sites."
The article said that the solar unit, with optional battery storage and backup diesel or gas generation, could be set up or removed in a matter of days.

This could prove to be very important in the future of solar power in Australia and beyond.

 
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This section added 2017/04/11

Bungala Solar Farm

On 2017/04/11 ABC OnLine carried an article that stated that work was expected to start "shortly" on a 220MW solar power station occupying 800ha of land owned by the Bungala Aboriginal Corporation about 10km north-east of Port Augusta. It will use tracking solar pannels.

I believe that, at the time of writing, Nyngan Solar Farm, at 102MW, was the biggest in Australia. This will more than double that (if it is built).

RenewEconomy called this the first two stages of a 300MW solar farm.






 
Updated 2013/12/04

Carwarp Solar Farm

Also known as Mildura Solar Farm

 
Carwarp Solar Farm
Carwarp solar
Google Earth image; downloaded 2013/02/28
ReNewEconomy carried an article on 2013/08/17 noting that this "power plant was officiall opened today", and gave the installed capacity as 1.5MW.

Solar Systems' pdf page on the project stated that it was expected to cost about $1 million, have an installed capacity of 2 MW, and generate 4 to 4.5 GWh per annum.

 
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The Google Earth image on the right shows that a part was in place at the time the photograph was taken. A friend has since told me that it is (October 2013) completed. The installation is about 1.7 km SW of Carwarp, which is about 28 km south of Mildura.

There seems to be remarkably little on the Internet about the project, but Solar Choice has a page (dated 2012/02/22).


 
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Updated 2016/06/29

DeGrussa copper mine solar farm

Juwi Renewable Energy PL has constructed a 10.6MW solar farm at Sandfire Resources' DeGrussa Copper Mine in WA. Completion was announced on 2016/06/08.

This is of particular interest because the mining industry in Australia has been remarkably slow to adopt renewable energy. It has tended to stay with diesel power generation in spite of this being much more expensive than solar PV. Wikipedia gives LCOEs (Levelised Cost Of Energy) from investment bank Lazard as between:
US$50-70/MWh for utility scale solar PV and
US$212-281/MWh for diesel recipricating engine.

Why has the mining industry been so slow to make use of solar PV? Could it be an antipathy to the renewables industry because it is seen as a competitor, or is it because mines generally have a fairly short life while a solar PV system needs a few years of operation to financially justify its capital costs? Perhaps a combination of the two?






 
Edited 2014/06/17

Greenhough River solar farm

Australia's first utility-scale solar farm was officially opened on 2012/10/10, see RenewEconomy.

The solar farm is 10MW, large in solar power terms, but small compared to a typical wind farm. It consists of 150 000 solar photovoltaic panels and is about 50km south-east of Geraldton in Western Australia.

Latitude 28.904°, longitude 115.117°

Google Earth image
Google Earth image
Obtained from Internet on 2014/06/17
Thanks to Matt Kitching for telling me it was available

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Updated 2013/12/04

Lake Cargelligo solar farm

 
Google Earth image
Lake Cargelligo
NSW, Latitude -33.3115°, Longitude 146.4097°
Giles Parkinson and Renew Economy ran an article on this solar power installation and the company that built it on 2013/04/18.

Giles wrote "An Australian solar thermal technology developer says it can provide concentrated solar thermal energy to outback and remote locations for just 8c/kWh, and hopes to sign for its first two commercial projects within the next few months." and "The distinguishing feature of Graphite Energy's technology is that it uses graphite receivers that are mounted on towers to collect heat reflected from a field of heliostats (mirrors), and its ability to store energy via heat exchanges gives it an 'in-built' storage option that delivers 'dispatchable' energy."

 
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I'd like to thank Matt Kitching for allerting me to this. Much of my spare time is taken up in trying to counter the disinformation spread by the anti-wind power lobby and I cannot spend as much time and effort on solar energy as I'd like to.

Solar Power Today has an article on the Lake Cargelligo project, which it says is a 3MW installation. SPT said:

"The company [Graphite Energy] is already in talks with two potential customers for its technology in remote areas of Western Australia. These are probably mining related since it would require a minimum of 15 MW."





 
This item added 2016/06/27

Moree Solar Farm

Fotowatio Renewable Ventures (FRV) has a Net Page on the project.

As of 2016/06/27 the 56MW project has a power purchase agreement with Origin Energy in place and it had begun feeding electricity into the Australian national electricity grid.






 
Edited 2015/06/10

Nyngan Solar Plant

Nyngan solar
An artist's impression on the Nyngan solar power station
Image credit: AGL

 

News

It was reported that the last of 1,366,380 panels was installed on 2015/04/10. On 2015/06/09 it was reported on RenewEconomy that full generation had been achieved and full operation was expected in "a matter of weeks".
RenewEconmy carried an article written by Sophie Vorrath on 2013/12/02 about what was claimed will be the largest solar power station in the Southern Hemesphere, a Aus$300m, 102MW PV installation at Nyngan in inland NSW.

The article said that it was to be owned by AGL, built by First Solar, and that construction was to start in January 2014. Australian manufacturing company IXL Group is to supply major structural components for the project. Completion is expected to be in June 2015.

It is expected that its 1 350 000 solar modules will generate around 230 000MWh of electricity per annum.

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Jamestown floating solar

 
Floating PV panels proposed for Jamestown, South Australia
Floating PV panels
Image credit ABC
A floating solar power plant is expected to be operational in South Australia by early April 2015 (Announcement of 2015/03/05).

At 400kW it is large for a solar PV installation in Australia, but not unusually so; there are a number on this page that are bigger. I have read that the capital cost is expected to be $6.6m.

However, this project has some unique features. The solar array has dual use; it will reduce evaporation on the ponds as well as generating electricity. At the same time, the water will increase the efficiency of the panels by keeping them cool.

The project was originally announced by Geits ANZ around May 2014. They said they were intending to use the power plant to supply 'behind the meter' power to one or more businesses that are at some distance from the installation; in effect setting up a micro grid quite separate from the eastern Australian electricity grid. It will be about 600m from a saw mill and two and a half kilometres from the centre of Jamestown. It will supply cheap electricity that will replace expensive electricity that would otherwise come from the power grid.

It seems that the company in charge of the project in June 2016 was Infratech Industries, who have a not very informative Net page on the project.

 
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Added 2014/09/04

Royalla Solar Farm

 
Royalla Solar Farm
Royalla
Image credit, ABC. Artist's impression
The 20MW Royalla solar farm was opened on 2014/09/03. It is about 17km south of Canberra.

It is the largest so far in Australia (which is pathetic by world standards).

The ACT is the most progressive of the states and teritories of Australia in that it has a policy for 90% renewable energy by 2020. This solar farm is the first of several planned.




 
Updated 2016/06/11

Sundrop Farms

 
Sundrop Farms – the solar power installation
Sundrop Farms solar
Photo taken with my drone
I have mentioned the first stage of the Sundrop Farms development on another page. The proponents have a Net page and a Facebook page.

The highly innovative project uses seawater and sunlight to grow tomatoes in greenhouses on arid saline land near Port Augusta. The only other economic use the land has is fairly low-value grazing land.

The area is attractive for this sort of development because of the:

  • abundant sunlight;
  • abundant (highly saline) water;
  • cheap land;
  • nearby potential workforce;
  • highway connection to markets and suppliers.

The proponents expect that the development will be fully operational some time in the second half of 2016. The solar power tower in the photo on the right started operating around 2016/06/10.

The whole Sundrop Farm development
Sundrop Farms
Photo taken with my drone






 
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This section added 2015/08/21

Uterne

Renew Economy ran an article on this, written by Sophie Vorrath, on 2015/08/20. At 4.1MW it may be the biggest solar PV installation in the Northern Territory and is the biggest in Australia to use sun-tracking technology. The first stage was 1MW, the second stage (commissioned in August 2015) added another 3.1MW.

Sited near Alice Springs, it gives that city "one of the highest solar penetration levels in the country".

Epuron, the owner of Uterne, has a Net page on the project.






 
This section added 2012/04/10

Solar PV, water heating and wind energy

 
Annual installations of solar photovoltaics
Solar PV
Image credit: Climate Spectator
In an article in Climate Spectator Tristan Edis pointed out that the present Labor Government has a far better record in developing sustainable energy than the previous Howard Coalition Government. He produced the graphs on the right. I have discussed the political aspects of this on my page about the Liberal's war on renewable energy.

The top graph shows that installation of solar photovoltaics in Australia reached around 770MW in 2011.

Of course the price of solar PV has been declining greatly over this time span and this is a very important factor, however, there has been little change in the price of solar water heaters and the third graph shows that the installation of these has also increased markedly under Labor.

 
Annual installation of wind power capacity
Wind power
Image credit: Climate Spectator
This graph indicates that installation of wind power in any one year has not been greater than about 510MW, so the amount of solar (PV) installed in 2011 was greater than the amount of wind power installed in any year. This is the first time that this has happened.

It is worth noting that while the 'installed capacity' of solar installed in 2011 was greater than the installed capacity of wind in the same year, the amount of electricity generated from the wind turbines will be greater than that generated from the solar because the capacity factor of wind is about twice that of solar PV.

While assigning exactly when a wind farm should be considered finished is a difficult and somewhat arbitrary matter (they come on line gradually over a period of some months), these figures agree at least approximately with mine that were calculated independently.

 
Number of solar and heat-pump water heaters sold in Australia per year
Water heaters
Image credit: Climate Spectator
The last graph shows installations of heat pump and solar water heaters. (While heat pump water heaters do not necessarily use sustainable energy they were probably included in Tristan Edis's article because they are much more energy-efficient than electric water heaters.)






Cost of solar PV declining

Climate Spectator carried an article on declining prices of solar PV, 2012/05/17, (relating to a paper published on Bloomberg New Energy Finance). The report suggested that "fully installed system cost of $3.01/Watt for 2012 and $2.00/Watt for 2015" and that the cost of power generated by solar PV was now below residential grid-price parity in a number of countries including Australia.

I found the graph below in Quora, 2012/06/12
Solar price long-term outlook
Original source: Deutsche Bank
So, solar prices might reach parity with fossil fuels around 2015-2017

I got the graph from http://www.quora.com/When-will-photovoltaic-solar-panels-become-cost-effective There was a suggestion that it was already out of date and that solar prices were actually lower than indicated. Prices declined greatly in 2011 due to an oversupply of panels. Once the oversupply situation resolves, prices might rise again?

Will solar outstrip wind?

Solar power to 2012 has been more expensive than utility-scale wind power. It seems that the price of solar power is continuing to decline, but present indications seem to be that wind power is not getting any cheaper. Solar could overtake wind power on costs in the next few years.





Citizen's Own Renewable Energy Network Australia
CORENA

Margaret Hender is the prime mover of this great organisation. As Margaret says, it is
"people-powered and donation based. It will enable people all over Australia to get on with the job of building more renewable energy capacity instead of just waiting on government action."
Margaret is a wonderful person, devoted to getting action on climate change in Australia. So devoted, that even though she's no spring chicken (I don't think she'll mind me saying that; I'm even older) she did the 328km Walk for Solar Thermal Power from Port Augusta to Adelaide in September 2012.





3.7% of South Australia's electricity was generated by PV in 2012/13

The 2013 Australian Energy Market Operator's (AEMO) report titled South Australian Electricity Report stated that rooftop solar accounted for 3.7% of SA's electricity generation in the 2012/13 financial year. (Wind generated 27% of SA's power in 2012/13.) The report stated that during the period from 2008/09 to 2012/13 solar PV output rose from negligible levels to 497 GWh per year. It was expected that rapid growth would continue.





Index

3.7% in SA in 2012/13
Bungala Solar Farm
Carwarp Solar Farm
Citizen's solar
Cost of PV declining
DeGrussa copper mine solar farm
Greenhough River solar farm
Insolation
Introduction
Jamestown floating solar
Lake Cargelligo solar farm
Mildura Solar Farm
Mobile solar power stations
Nyngan Solar Plant
Royalla Solar Farm
Solar power by states
Solar PV, water heating and wind energy
Summary table
Sundrop Farms
Top
Types of solar power
Uterne solar farm
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