Solar Energy in Australia

Australia Renewable Energy
Australia has a rich diversity of renewable energy resources (wind, solar, geothermal, hydro, wave, tidal, bioenergy) with low greenhouse gas emissions. The expected advances in technology by 2030 will allow them to make a growing contribution to Australia's future energy supply. By 2030, renewable energy sources, notably wind, are expected to become increasingly more significant. 
Solar Energy
Australia has the best solar resources in the world.  The best solar resources are largely located in desert regions in the northwest and centre of Australia, commonly in areas that do not have access to the electricity grid, and are distant from the major population centres and key energy markets. To date relatively high capital costs have limited widespread use of solar energy resources but significant investment in research and development is aimed at increasing the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of solar power, including the development of solar thermal power stations.

Solar PV generated 3.1 per cent of Australia’s electricity in 2016-17, the majority of which came from small-scale rooftop PV. More than two million, or 21 percent, of Australian households now have rooftop solar PV, with a combined capacity exceeding 10 GW (visit the Australian PV Institute’s Live Map for live solar PV data). Installations continue to rise and the APVI’s SunSpoT online tool shows there is still plenty of potential on Australia’s remaining roofs.

 Medium-scale solar. Installations between 100 kW and 5 MW continue to grow strongly, with the number of medium-scale solar systems growing by 80 per cent in 2018. There is now 230 MW of capacity in the medium-scale sector, representing an increase of more than 500 per cent over the past five years. The rapid growth has been due to shopping centres, hospitals, schools and commercial buildings installing solar to take back control of their rising electricity costs and increasing their focus on sustainability. 

Large-scale solar farms are also on the rise in Australia. At the end of 2018, large-scale solar farms operating in Australia generated over 1824 MW. It is expected that around 61 additional large-scale solar farms will be built in Australia during 2019. More than two million or 21 percent of Australian households now have rooftop solar PV, with a combined capacity exceeding 10 GW. By January 2019, large-scale solar farms operating in Australia had the ability to generate over 3000 MW, with an additional 2,881 MW either under construction or financially committed.

Increasing trend
Including solar energy, the utilisation of renewable energy will continue to increase significantly to around 2020, reflecting government policies (e.g. the Renewable Energy Target) and falling installation costs. 

● The future domestic energy mix will be shaped by government policy and falling technology and installation costs.

● Energy security, price and reliability of supply are important areas of developing energy policy, particularly in response to the electricity supply and/or network failures occurring in South Australia and Victoria during 2016–18. Policies such as the Renewable Energy Target are expected to drive investment to 2020.

ARENA Action
As a major source of renewable energy in Australia, even small improvements to the technology in solar photovoltaic (PV) cells can translate into large gains as more and more solar panels are installed on rooftops and in solar farms across the nation.

While Australia’s capability in solar PV research and development is world-leading, this position needs support in order to be maintained, and we recognise significant opportunities remain in pursuing even cheaper and more efficient PV cells and panels.

We are therefore supporting innovation in solar PV to drive down the cost of electricity generation in line with the US Department of Energy’s SunShot Goals. The target is a cost of AU 3.9 c/kWh by 2030, which equates to around half of today’s costs. Achieving this cost reduction would not only make the technology more accessible to a wider range of global consumers, but also unlock other ways to use solar energy such as producing ‘green’ hydrogen.

Notes: ARENA is Australian Renewable Energy Agency.
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