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POSITIVE ENERGY

South Australia continues to lead the country in smashing renewable energy production records.

RECORD HIGH: 64 PER CENT OF SA POWER FROM ROOFTOPS

The Australian Energy Market Operator says South Australia’s push towards “net 100 per cent renewables” is accelerating rather than slowing down, with the 2018-19 contribution of wind and solar providing 52 per cent of the State’s total generation.

The State, since closing its coal generators in 2016, has become a net exporter rather than an importer, the report says, while emissions have fallen to their lowest levels ever, and wholesale prices in the last few months have been the lowest in the country.

The rise and rise of rooftop solar in the State has been the most astonishing, though, and at one point last year – on 10 November – accounted for 64 per cent of the State’s ‘operational demand’, when the combined output from solar panels on homes and small businesses totalled 832MW.

Within four years, AEMO expects the output of rooftop solar to reach 100 per cent of operational demand, with the installation on big industrial roofs and some ground-mounted, behind-the-meter installations tracking at, or even above, its most optimistic forecasts.

AROUND $1 PER WATT FOR SOLAR ROOFTOP

Longtime solar rooftop price comparison site, Solar Choice, has updated its figures for the start of 2020. The figures show that the actual out of pocket cost of a 10kw solar rooftop varies between $8,550 for Sydney and as high as $11,320 for Hobart. This is a large system and reflects the long-held belief of experts like Matthew Wright of Pure-Electric, that householders should ‘super-size’ their pv rooftop arrays (if possible) to maximise their generation during peak sunshine hours.

These prices include both the upfront incentive available for small-scale systems through the Renewable Energy Target (STCs) and GST – they represent the total out-of-pocket cost of the system to the customer.

Solar Choice have now removed 2kW options from their comparisons and added 6kW due to the rise in popularity of 6kW systems. Meanwhile, average prices for popular 5kW systems are $0.9/W, or about $4,500 out-of-pocket. ‘Premium’ and ‘microinverter‘ options for the same size system are coming in at about $5,650 and $7,000, respectively. Search Solar Choice’s ‘Solar Quote Comparisons’ for more details or to obtain three quotes.

SA’S BIG BATTERY TO EXPAND

The Tesla Big Battery in South Australia — the largest grid battery in the world — is to expand by 50 per cent. In its first year of operation, the existing battery saved SA consumers more than AUD$50 million. The expansion, which will be completed in the first half of 2020, will see these savings continue to grow. The 50 MW/64.5 MWh expansion of the Hornsdale Power Reserve (its official name) will further showcase the complete benefits that grid-scale batteries can provide to the National Electricity Market (NEM) and Australian consumers.

Alongside additional power system reliability and continued cost savings to consumers, the expansion will provide an Australian-first, large-scale demonstration of the potential for battery storage to provide inertia to the network — which is critical to grid stability and the future integration of renewable energy. This will ensure South Australia can continue to harvest its world class wind and solar resources and support the transition to net 100 per cent renewable energy generation in the 2030s, and further drive down electricity prices for all consumers.

The South Australian Government is committing AUD$3 million per year for five years in grant funding toward the expansion through its Grid Scale Storage Fund, to secure the delivery of the inertia benefits greatly needed by the grid.

The Hornsdale Power Reserve expansion is the first project to receive support from the fund; established in November last year to accelerate the deployment of new storage projects capable of addressing some of the key challenges that are having cost and security impacts on the South Australian power system.

SOLARSHARE: CANBERRA’S COMMUNITY SOLAR

The ACT remains on track to become home to Australia’s largest community-owned solar farm after early site preparation works including test pitting for Aboriginal artefacts recently commenced for the 1MW project north of Canberra Airport.

Canberra’s SolarShare raised over $2.36 million from more than 400 Canberra-based community investors for the community solar farm, with the investment based on a long-term power purchase agreement with the ACT Government. SolarShare also secured an $800,000 loan from local renewable energy developer CWP Renewables.

Lawrence McIntosh, SolarShare’s Principle Executive Officer, said recently: “We hope that learnings from this project can be applied in other parts of Australia to help other communities build their own solar farms. This is just the start. Our vision is to have a string of solar projects, opening the investment pool to more people. We work with owners of large rooftops as well as land. SolarShare can offer to install solar panels free and sell you cost-effective clean energy.”

SolarShare principal executive officer, Lawrence McIntosh, who is head of the new community solar farm at Majura in the ACT.

EVS TO DRIVE 20-FOLD INCREASE IN BATTERY STORAGE

Major Australian energy generator and retailer AGL has signalled a new focus on the ‘shared economy’ in electricity and transport, with the prediction that electric vehicle uptake will drive a 20-fold increase in behind the meter battery storage capacity in the coming decade.

AGL expects EVs to account for half of all new car sales in Australia by 2030 – adding a major new source of demand for electricity, and increasing distributed battery storage capacity to a forecast total of 40GWh.

AGL’s head of distributed energy, Dominique Van Den Berg, says the shift to EVs is inevitable, given the expected arrivals of more models, increased range, and projected decreases in cost.

“Half of all new cars sales will be electric vehicles,”Van Den Berg said.“The principle of orchestrating a home battery is exactly the same as for a mobile battery. But when, where and how we charge is more complex. We are looking at more than 7000MW (of storage). That’s the equivalent of 28 open cycle gas turbines,” she said. “In many respects we have to manage these assets in the same way as we manage gas assets.”

AGL wants to be able to manage these assets in much the same way as it does larger assets on the wholesale market, and one of the big targets will be the “solar duck curve” which is lowering demand and prices in the middle of the day. Price variations are increasing and the company intends to use this price signal, and the need for dispatchable and flexible capacity as more coal plants exit the market, to invest in batteries and pumped hydro power station.

EVs, like the new Hyundai Kona, to account for half of all new car sales in Australia by 2030.

PLAN FOR 90 PER CENT RENEWABLES BY 2040

The Australian Energy Market Operator has warned the national grid will need at least 30GW of new wind and solar capacity to replace outgoing coal power plants over the next two decades, and could require up to 47GW if governments got serious about climate change.

The figures were unveiled in January in AEMO’s draft Integrated System Plan, which details grid transformation scenarios ranging from ‘slow change’ through to ‘step change’ – what must happen if we listen to scientific experts and try to keep average global warming as close as possible to 1.5°C.

In this scenario,AEMO outlines a plan to reach around 90 per cent renewables by 2040, via at least 30GW of new wind and solar – and up to 47GW – and significant amounts of dispatchable capacity.

The bulk of this new capacity would come from large-scale wind and solar, AEMO says, supported by distributed (mostly rooftop) solar, hydro power, and ‘dispatchable’ technologies like big batteries, and ‘virtual power plants’. Black and brown coal, meanwhile, are virtually eliminated from the grid, and gas is priced out by cheaper and more efficient storage technologies.

Whatever the scenario, the key message is that urgent action is needed. The draft plan identifies a series of urgent actions needed to accommodate the inevitable switch to wind, solar and storage, even if the pace of that transition differs in varying scenarios.

“The Draft 2020 ISP sets out how to build a least-cost system for Australia,” AEMO chief Audrey Zibelman said in a statement accompanying the report.