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Solar power in Australia: a historical snapshot

Sun on the Bush
This page deals with solar power in Australia and major Australian solar power projects.
It is independent of any company, lobby group, or government.
Some significant recent developments in solar are in Solar Power 2.

This page is on no longer updated
Written 2008/09/05, modified 2011/01/17
Contact, David K. Clarke – ©
About these pages


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

In spite of these advantages, Australia is one of the slower developed nations in taking up solar energy; for example, relatively cloudy Germany has 10 Watts of solar photovoltaic power per-capita while the corresponding figure for Australia is 2.6W (figures for about 2008). This has been due to plentiful and cheap coal and short-sighted government policies being influenced by a very strong fossil fuel lobby.

Where this page deals with specific solar installations I have concentrated mainly on those of greater than one megawatt (about half the power output of a single modern, large, commercial wind turbine). According to Wikipedia there are very few projects even proposed in Australia above 1MW at the time of writing (2008/09/05). I will list only a few of the more interesting smaller projects.

Solar well pump
A well with solar powered pump in northern South Australia

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.

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.

Also see the section Off-beat applications.

Australian solar power in general

There are many scattered installations of solar photovoltaic power in Australia, on isolated homesteads, homes of environmentally conscious people scattered across the nation, powering the long optical-fibre telecommunication cables that criss-cross the land, powering local equipment on railways or pumps on wells and dams, supplementary power in remote tourist attractions and towns, etc. These range in capacity from a few Watts to a few hundred kilowatts.

Solar power in Australia by states

Solar power in Australia by states
Solar by state
Extracted from Dept. Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA) data, 2009/02/20.
The chart at the right shows approximate installed solar power by states and territories (from DEWHA, 2009/02/20). These figures are the totals of the listed solar power installations on the downloadable DEWHA spreadsheet; and does not include any installation less than 3kW, which would exclude most domestic photovoltaic installations.

The DEWHA data also mention that total Australian photovoltaic in 2005 was 60 600kW; presumably this includes domestic installations.
Total12 278

The DEWHA data listed the Liddell station as 25 000kW solar; so far as I can find out the actual figure is 2000kW. This makes a huge difference to the NSW total; I have used 2000kW for Liddell here.

12.3MW of installed solar power would generate about 26GWh/yr, 60.6MW would generate about 127GWh/yr.

Note that the 60 600kW (60.6MW) figure for solar power generating capacity in Australia is very small compared to the installed wind energy capacity (at January 2009) of 1494MW.

Record of domestic power consumption and generation; on my house as it happens.
Elecrical record

An example case

The pink symbols on the graph above shows the power consumption record for a 30-year-old electrically boosted solar water heater in Mid-North South Australia (200km north of Adelaide). This 16-month record shows that the solar energy is sufficient to heat all the water required in the home for all but two or three months in winter.

The yellow curve is power sold-back to the grid from a 1kW set of PV panels - see domestic photovoltaic generation, elsewhere on this page.

Solar water heating

Solar water heating has long been popular in Australia, although its take-up has varied from place to place, not necessarily with any relationship to the local availability of sun light. It is most often used on private homes, but also on hospitals, camping ground toilet blocks, hotels, and other public buildings. It can also be used for heating swimming pools and has industrial uses.

There is generally some backup heating combined with the solar water heater so that hot water continues to be available in very cold weather or when the sun doesn't shine. The backup, in Australia, is usually gas or electric, but sometimes wood-fired. Electric backup is being discouraged by government in order to reduce greenhouse gas production (most Australian electricity is generated by polluting coal-fired power stations). Wood-fired water heating combines well with solar because the wood fire will generally be used in winter when the solar water heater is at its least effective.

Some solar water heaters use a pump to move the water (or some other heating fluid) through the solar panels to the hot water storage tank. Research has shown that the power used by such a pump can be quite significant and therefore negates, to some extent, the point of using solar heat; this depends on the design of the unit.

Solar water heater rebates are discussed elsewhere on this page. Wikipedia has many articles on Solar hot water and related subjects.

Record of my domestic power consumption and generation
Electrical record

Domestic Photovoltaic generation

The yellow symbols on the graph at the right shows the record of the power fed into the electrical grid from a home with 1kW of solar photovoltaic panels on its roof (in SA 200km north of Adelaide). The blue and pink symbols record the electricity being drawn from the grid.

Interestingly the amount of sell-back in this case is fairly constant year-round. It seems that while the power generated by the PV panels must be lower in the cloudy winters, with their shorter days, this is offset by lower power consumption in the house by the refrigerator and freezer at that time of year; and of course there is no need for air-conditioning in the winter. I use wood-fired heating and have practically no need for electrical heating.

Photovoltaic rebates are discussed elsewhere on this page.

Off-grid photovoltaic generation

An example case, Wilpena - 0.1MW

Off-grid photovoltaic generation installation in a national park
Wilpena in South Australia
Wilpena power station
The Wilpena solar power station in its beautiful setting

Wilpena PV array
A part of the Wilpena solar power station
Diesel generators are in the containers in the background
The combined diesel and photovoltaic power station at Wilpena in South Australia's north is an example of solar power in use in an environmentally sensitive area.

The South Australian (Olsen) Government constructed it as a demonstration project. It was commissioned in December 1998 and is now (2008) owned and operated by AGL.

The photovoltaic part of the power station generates up to 100kW, the diesel generators can produce several times that amount and are used whenever the solar power is insufficient to provide the needed generation.

AGL has a page on the power station, in which they say that it has an estimated output of 100MWh; one would assume that this is per year. (Interestingly, if one calculates five hours per day at 100kW, which seems conservative, the year's total is 183MWh.)

The Array consists of 1250 panels, each with a capacity of 80 Watts.

Off-grid photovoltaic applications

Off-grid photovoltaic applications in a national park
Wilpena in South Australia
Wilpena well pump power
A tracking solar power unit for a well pump.
(The panels are rotated about the diagonal axis through the day to follow the apparent movement of the Sun across the sky.)

Wilpena telephone Wilpena street light
Solar powered telephone
Solar powered street light
Solar photovoltaic power has been used in many places in Australia. Often it is used because the point where the power is needed is a relatively long way from a power line; sometimes it is used because the local power supply is limited and expensive to generate; sometimes because sunlight is locally abundant, the application requires little power, and it is cheaper than connecting to the local grid.

The applications in the photographs on the right are used because of a combination of all these things.

Some of the uses to which off-grid PV power has been put to in Australia are:

  • Home/homestead power;
  • Water pumping from wells and dams;
  • Powering communications equipment including public telephones and repeater stations on fibre-optic cables;
  • Railway signals;
  • Street lights.

Truth in advertising

If you buy 5kW (5000 Watts) of solar panels in Australia don't expect them to generate 5kW of power that you can use or feed into the electrical grid most of every sunny day. They may get up to near 5kW in the middle of a sunny day in November if you are lucky. If you have an off-grid system and will be charging batteries the situation is even worse.

What retailers will sell you as 5kW of panels are, I believe, capable of generating 5kW under ideal conditions; the conditions under which your panels will be working are rarely, if every, ideal.

Is this 'truth in Advertising'?

Off-beat/innovative/developing solar applications

Solar & wind-powered shipping
Skysails - credit GmbH
Windship - credit Knud E. Hansen

Sterling engines in solar dishes

While this bit comes from the USA it is very applicable in Australia. The following was extracted from Wikipedia.
"Sterling Energy Systems is building a 4,500-acre (18 km2) sun farm to supply 500 MW by 2012. Output will go to Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas and Electric. Annual output is expected to be 1,047 gigawatt-hours (GWh)."
The heat produced by the solar dishes is converted into electricity by Sterling engines and generators.

Solar or wind powered shipping

ABC On-line news reported on 2008/10/29 that the Sydney-based renewable energy company Solar Sailor had contracted to supply two Chinese commercial ships with high-tech energy generating sails. The sails are shaped to harness wind energy and are covered with solar PV panels to generate electricity.

Government involvement


Photovoltaic rebate
Water heater rebate
Feed-in tariffs
Transmission lines
Mandatory renewable energy target

Australian governments have encouraged the fossil fuel industries in spite of the harm they have done to our atmosphere. The coal industry in particular is still advantaged by subsidies totaling billions of dollars per year. Even now, in 2008, Australian governments continue to protect the coal industry, when they should be doing the opposite.

Photovoltaic rebate

Solar power and heat
Solar photovoltaic panels and 30-year old solar water heater on an Australian house (mine, as it happens).
Appearance to the contrary, the tree does not shade either PV panels or water heater significantly.
The Australian Federal Government introduced a solar-photovoltaic rebate for systems installed on private homes and community use buildings (other than schools) several years ago. It has had a faltering and inconsistent history. At first it was capped at $8000, this was later reduced to $4000, then progressively reduced to $3500, and raised again to $8000. The Rudd Government put in place a means-test, limiting access to the rebate to those having a household income of less than $100 000 per annum. Schools can receive grants of up to $50 000 to install solar power "and other measures".

The old rebate is now to be replaced by the Solar Credits Scheme (which has dubious carbon accounting connotations).

Solar water heater rebate

A Federal Government rebate of $1000 is available "in eligible circumstances" for the installation of a solar or heat-pump water heater. One of the criteria is that it must replace an existing electric storage hot water system; for the full criteria use the 'rebate' link above.

Several states provide a rebate payable to anyone installing a solar water heater in addition to the Federal Government rebate. Solahart has a useful site that provides details about the rebates provided by various state governments. According to this there are no rebates available for the territories or for Queensland or Tasmania. The maximum rebates in the other states are...

State/TerritoryMax. rebate
New South Wales$1200
South Australia$500
Western Australia$700

I have not gone into details on the above rebates because it is probably better if you get it from someone nearer the source of the information.

At least two local governments, Whyalla in South Australia, and Brisbane City Council in Queensland, offer a further rebate on solar water heating.

Feed-in tariffs

There is a description of what a feed-in tariff is in the glossary; it also explains the difference between gross and net tarriffs.

All Australian states and territory governments other than NSW have either promised or implemented feed-in tariff schemes at the time of writing (October 2008). The Clean Energy Council, Australia's peak renewable energy body, is pressing for a national feed-in tariff.

ABC On-line News reported on 2009/03/13 that the ACT will pay "a 'gross' feed-in tariff where the property owner is paid 3.8 times the retail price for all electricity produced from solar panels up to a 10 kW capacity."

The Northern Territory situation is more complicated. Alice Springs residents can receive a net feed-in tariff rate of $0.45/kWh. In other areas of the Northern territory, the rate is $0.1438 (14.38c).

The New South Wales government is not offering a feed-in tariff.

In South Australia $0.44 will be paid for each kWh fed from a domestic solar installation into the electricity grid; the legislation is for a period of 20 years. This is a 'net' tariff.

Queensland's scheme provides for a payment of $0.44/kWh to domestic generators.

Tasmania currently has a net tariff of $0.20/kWh.

Victoria's feed-in tariff will begin operation in 2009 and will be set at $0.60/kWh net.

Western Australia has just gone through an election at the time of writing and has changed to a Liberal-National coalition government. I believe that the Liberals, when in opposition, promised a feed-in scheme.

Much of the information in this section was extracted from the Energy Matters Net page.

Transmission lines

The areas with the greatest solar power potential are in the drier, less populated areas of Australia. In general there are few high-capacity power lines in these places. Power transmission lines at government expense have been used to encourage the development of major remote mines and governments have traditionally financed the building of power lines to fossil fueled power stations; they should also be willing to build high-capacity power lines where needed for sustainable power development, but so far seem not to be.

This subject is covered in more detail in my page on sustainable energy in Australia.

Mandatory renewable energy target (MRET)

The Rudd Federal government has promised a renewable energy target for electricity of 20% by 2020, but has not yet put this, or the very important intermediate targets, into law (as of October 2008). The previous Howard Government refused to increase MRET from a pathetic 2%.

I have dealt with the MRET in greater depth in FailAust.


Major projects

In this section I intend to concentrate on projects of at least one megawatt installed capacity. This is about half of the power output of a typical utility class wind turbine of the type being built in 2008.

Also see the table listing solar power stations 25kW and greater below.

Australian Capital Territory

Proposed - 33MW

The proposer is Actew-AGL and the intended capacity is 33MW. As of March 2008 no site within the ACT had been chosen.

The expected cost is $100 million and it is expected that the plant will cover around 100ha. The study should be finished in July 2008 and the plant by mid 2009; the technology used could be either photovoltaic or solar thermal.

The source for the above is Wikipedia, Solar Power in Australia.

Buronga solar chimney

Speculative - 50MW

Solar tower
Artist's impression of the proposed solar tower/chinmey
Acknowledgement Wentworth Council Net page
This proposed solar chimney (or solar tower) project may be built around 100km ENE of Mildura in south-western NSW. The proposal seems particularly speculative. Wikipedia states that "Technical details of the project are difficult to obtain and the present status of the project is uncertain."

The company concerned is Melbourne-based EnviroMission, a public comapany that listed on the Australian Stock Exchange on August 6th, 2001.

The principal has been proven in a 50kW pilot plant in Spain that operated for several years, but it has never been developed to the utility scale. It is discussed in greater depth in the Glossary. Engineering challenges would be involved in the tower (up to 1000m tall) and the unprecedented size of the 50MW wind turbine.

Wikipedia, Solar Power in Australia places the project at Latitude S34.035°, Longitude E142.33°.

The Wentworth Council, in whose district Buronga is situated, has a page on the solar tower project.


Cloncurry Power Station

Proposed - 10MW

This project is proposed by SMEC and Lloyd Energy Storage. Importantly, for a sustainable energy generator, large amounts of energy will be stored and taken from the system as required.

Cloncurry is 100km east of Mt Isa and 1500km NW of Brisbane; approximate Latitude S 20.70°, Longituded E 140.50°.

Quoting from SMEC/LES pdf document, Cloncurry Solar Thermal Storage Project...

"Solar energy is collected by tracking heliostats (mirrors) focusing the sun's rays directly into Lloyd storage boiler unit. The thermal energy is stored in high purity graphite inside the unit with low losses. The thermal energy is turned into electricity on demand by passing water through tubes embedded in the graphite to make steam. The steam drives a turbine to generate electricity."
Summary data for the Cloncurry solar power station
Solar energy collection Mirrors - total 60 000 square metres
Thermal storage 54 modules, 540 tonnes, 80 000kWh (electrical)
Electricity generation capacity 10 000kW for 8 hours per day

The pdf document by SMEC/LES is not specific about the configuration of heliostats and towers, but it seems that it will be something like the following. Each module will consist of between 100 and 350 mirrors capable of tracking the sun as it moves across the sky. The mirrors are arranged around an 18m tower on the top of which is the graphite heat storage unit, with the tower being either at one corner of the square array of mirrors, or within the array.

It is expected that Lloyd and financiers will raise $24 million dollars and the Queensland government the remaining $7 million dollars of the total $31 million dollar cost.

An article posted on ABC On-line News stated that this power station could supply all of Cloncurry's power needs and that work was expected to start on the project early in 2009. Lloyd Energy System's Chief executive Steve Hollis was quoted as saying that agreements had been signed to commence the project and that discussions with the local council were under way.

Wikipedia has an entry on this project.

Liddell Power Station

Operating - 1MW, proposed 38MW

Fresnel concentrators
Fresnel concentrators, Liddell power station
Photo origin unknown
Fresnel concentrators
Fresnel concentrators, Liddell power station
Photo origin unknown
Liddell Power Station is a coal-fired power station in the Hunter Valley of NSW (at Latitude S32.375° Longitude E150.979°).

The solar installation is a 1MW solar thermal system in which the heat from the solar collectors is used to pre-heat water for use in the coal-fired boilers of the power station, thus reducing coal consumption. It has been proposed that the capacity of the solar installation be increased to 38MW.

ABC Online News announced that the NSW Government had granted $9.25M for expansion of this installation in its first round of renewable energy payments (2008/11/26). It was stated that three more mirror arrays would be built covering nearly three hectares.

This type of solar collector, at least in this application, has been called 'compact linear Fresnel concentrator' or 'compact linear Fresnel reflector'.

The owner is Solar Heat and Power together with Macquarie Generation.

The source for most of the information above was Wikipedia, Solar Power in Australia and Wikipedia, Liddell Power Station.

Macquarie Generation has an 'update' (dated 20th Oct. 2006!) on this project. The update states that "Stage 2 is planned to produce 4 400MWh of renewable electricity annually." This suggests an installed power of around 2MW.

(Added to this page 2009/02/24.)


Mildura-Swan Hill

Proposed - 154MW
Proposer, Solar Systems, is in receivership (Bendigo Advertiser, 2009/09/12)

This $420 million concentrator photovoltaic installation may be built in north-western Victoria. The power station is expected to concentrate the sun by 500 times onto the solar cells for ultra high power output. At the time of construction it may be the biggest and most efficient solar photovoltaic power station in the world. It is presently (Sept. 2008) in the preparation stage. Solar Systems is the expected developer.

The source for the above is Wikipedia, Solar Power in Australia.


Operating - 665kW total

The Olympic Village for the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games athletes in the suburb of Newington consisted of about 665 homes each with a 1kW photovoltaic system on the roof. It has been called the World's largest solar powered suburb.

Updated 2010/05/20

Sustainable city: Whyalla

Whyalla is building a $15m demonstration solar power station; construction started in late June 2009.

It was announced in mid May 2010 that the Federal Government had promised $60m toward a larger 300 dish, 40 megawatt, $230m project. Whyalla News on-line carried an article on 17th May 2010 containing the following:

"Mr Zawadski [CEO of Wizard Power, who own the project] said the 300-dish plant would be capable of generating enough clean energy to power the "residential load" of the city. He said work was expected to commence immediately. "It will take about nine months for the community to see construction on site,". He said the project would take up to two and a half years to complete. Mr Zawadski said the company would first go through the approval process and detail planning. He said the factory-in-the-field would be constructed first. "There are various reasons as to why Whyalla is the ideal location," he said. Mr Zawadski said it was not only because Whyalla had "great sun" but there was a need for clean energy to support the large local mining industry. "It is good for business and Whyalla has good grid access," he said. About 180 hectares has been allocated for the project, however Mr Zawadski said only half of this land would be used. Mr Zawadski said Wizard Power had received "magnificent support" from the Whyalla community. Currently, Wizard Power has 12 hectares near the Whyalla Industrial Estate and is in the process of building a small scale energy storage power plant. Mr Zawadski said the plant has only four dishes but demonstrates the ability to store solar energy to meet peak demand, on demand, and will eventually deliver base load power from solar energy.
It is significant that where the remaining $170m was to come from was not mentioned.

Mandatory solar water heating on new houses

The Whyalla council wanted to make solar water heating mandatory of new houses, but the South Australian minister for Planning vetoed the plan. (This is typical of actions by the SA government, which tries to look environmentally progressive, but in fact is all about symbolism and talk.)


Speculative - 250MW to 8500MW

On August 12th 2008 WorleyParsons Ltd., possibly Australia's biggest engineering company, was reported to be studying the feasibility of building up to 34 solar thermal installations, each of 250MW and each costing around one billion dollars. If built, the project would be the biggest solar power project in the world, and probably also the biggest sustainable energy project in world.

It was reported that an initial 250MW unit may start up in 2011. Peter Meurs, managing director of WorleyParsons' EcoNomics unit, said that $34 billion of projects may be built by 2020, by companies including BHP Billiton Ltd and Rio Tinto Group.

WorleyParsons has gathered a consortium of Australian companies to develop the project. The list includes: BHP Billiton, Woodside Petroleum, Rio Tinto, Fortescue Metals Group, Wesfarmers Ltd, Sydney Water Corp., Delta Electricity, Western Power Corp, Water Corp, and Verve Energy. Potential locations include the Pilbara region of Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland and New South Wales.

WorleyParsons wouldn't have "an interest" in any of the 34 plants that could be built by 2020, Meurs said. Construction of any projects depends on other companies taking an initiative to invest, he said. Some of the companies are "champing at the bit" to start a bankable feasibility study for a project and the first venture may be approved for construction early next year and start up in 2011, he said.

The information above came from a report by Angela Macdonald-Smith of Bloomberg in Sydney (


Minor projects

This section deals with projects that are no more than one megawatt; roughly half the power of a typical modern utility size wind turbine. The section does not attempt to list all such projects.

Also see the table listing solar power stations 25kW and greater below.


Why these expensive projects (financed by Australian tax-payers) have been built in Adelaide rather than in locations with higher rates of insolation is a question that should be answered by the Rann Government, or possibly the Australian Government.

Goyder Pavilion

Promised - 1MW

The Rann South Australian Government has announced an $8 million investment in 10 000 square metres of solar panels on the new Goyder Pavilion at the Royal Adelaide Showgrounds. It has been reported that the installed capacity of this system will be around one megawatt.

I have found very little useful information on this proposal on the Internet. I emailed Mike Rann's office on 2008/09/25 seeking more information, but as of late February 2009 I had not received a reply.

Adelaide Airport

Operating - 0.114MW

The South Australian government paid for the installation of 114kW of solar photovoltaic panels on the roof of the privately owned Adelaide Airport building.

BP Solar announced on 2008/03/10 "that it would immediately commence work to manufacture and supply Australian made solar panels to Adelaide Airport so that the state's largest commercial solar photovoltaic system could begin operating by the middle of this year."


Alice Springs

Illparpa Solar Power Station Proposed - 0.65MW

ABC Online News carried an article about this solar power station that will consist of 26 stearable dish concentrators on 26th November 2008. It will generate about 1800 megawatt hours of electricity a year and is expected to cost $6.6M, half of which will be paid for by the Federal Government.

The installed power above was not stated in the press release, but can be calculated based on the 1860MWh given asuming a 33% capacity factor and also by supposing that each dish has a 25kW capacity like those at Umuwa.

The Illparpa power station is expected to start feeding power into the Alice Springs grid by early 2010.

Crowne Plaza Proposed - 0.305MW

Claimed to be Australia's largest building-mounted solar panel system, this array is scheduled for completion in early 2009. It is expected that the installation will generate about 530GWh each year.

Most of this came from Sustainability Matters; the full URL is " news/27309-Building-mounted-solar-panel-system-to-be-established".

Coober Pedy

Proposed - 0.65MW


Note December 2021

So far as I know this was never built. Several wind turbines were built instead. See Coober Pedy Wind Farm.
This $7.1M dollar project was announced jointly by Peter Garrett (Federal Minister for the Environment) and Mike Rann (Premier of South Australia) on 19th February 2008. It will consist of 26 stearable dish concentrators and the press release states that "it will generate about 1860 megawatt hours [of electricity] a year - 13% of Coober Pedy's total electricity requirements". It is expected to be completed by the end of 2009.

The installed power above was not stated in the press release, but can be calculated based on the 1860MWh given asuming a 33% capacity factor and also by supposing that each dish has a 25kW capacity like those at Umuwa.

The Australian Government is providing $3.55M and the SA Government $635K of the cost. Solar Systems Pty Ltd, the District Council of Coober Pedy and Wesfarmers subsidiary Energy Generation PL. are also involved in the project.

King Island

Operational - 0.11MW

I received the following from Peter Kempster (who lives on King Island) on 2009/03/03:
"The King Island Solar Installation is no longer under construction, it was completed 12 months ago. Six photovoltaic units with a total capacity of 110kW."
I believe that there were six carbon (graphite) blocks proposed for heat storage and later recovery; it seems that these are on hold for the present. Such blocks are used with solar thermal power stations, not with photovoltaic, so I don't see how these relate the the King Island installation at this stage.

Murdoch University

Operational - 0.026MW

Murdoch University in Perth installed 26kW of solar photovoltaic panels at a cost of $200 000. The installation, made up of 192 solar panels, is claimed to be Perth's biggest grid-connected solar array.

Is this really the biggest solar energy installation in Perth? If so it seems that the people of Perth should be trying a bit harder.

Marble Bar and Nullagine

Proposed - 0.5MW

On 2008/12/12 Energy Matters posted an article about two solar farms that are to be built at Marble Bar and Nullagine in the WA Pilbara region. The towns both have a population of about 200.

The cost is expected to be $25 million and it is expected that the annual greenhouse carbon dioxide savings will amount to 1100 tonnes. There will be over 2000 high efficiency Sunpower microcrystaline solar panels giving the project a total of 500 kilowatts of installed capacity. The panels will be mounted on a tracking system to optimise their angle to the Sun through the day. The Energy Matters article stated that it was expected that the solar farms would generate about a gigawatt of renewable energy per year (they no doubt meant a gigawatt-hour per year).

The project is a partnership between Horizon Power, PowerCorp, and SunPower Australia.


Umuwa solar power station

Operating - 0.250MW

Solar power station, Umuwa
Solar power station, Umuwa
Two views of Umuwa solar power station, northern South Australia
About May 2003
In the Anangu-Pitjantjatjara Lands in NW South Australia, approximate location, Latitude S26.5° Longitude E132.0° this concentrator photovoltaic installation, while being small in capacity (250kW) is important in that it was large for the time of its construction (2002).

There are ten dishes each of 25kW capacity.

It feeds electricity into the local grid that supplies Ernabella, Armata, Mimili and Kenmore Park.

(I had a periferal involvement in the project.)


Other minor projects

NameLocationStatusMWMWh/yearTechnology CompanyLink/Contact
WindorahQueenslandOperating?0.175 360 (estimated)Dish concentrator photovoltaicErgon Energy

Solar power stations 25kW and greater in Australia

Extracted from Dept. Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts data, 2009/02/20

NameState OwnedTechnology kWCommis. CommentsStatus
Adelaide AirportSouth AustraliaAdelaide Airport Ltd Photovoltaic 1142008 Proposed installation of 760 solar panels at Adelaide's new airport terminal. Potential to save up to $50 000pa. Commissioning due July 2008 Under Construction
Adelaide Showground South Australia Adelaide Show Photovoltaic 1 000 2009 The new $42M Goyder Pavilion will have a 1000kW solar system saving about $80 000 in power bills. Under Construction
ANU Australian Capital Territory Australian National University Solar Concentrator 56 2006 ANU and Rheem Industries have developed the Combined Heat and Power Solar (CHAPS) solar concentrator system. The $1M has been installed in new residential colleges at ANU (209kW of thermal energy)Operating
Bradshaw Northern Territory Department of Defence Photovoltaic 113 2005 Bradshaw Defence Training Facility situated about 630km south west of Darwin. A $2.5 million 112.5kW flat plate photovoltaic solar array that replaces diesel fuel for power generationOperating
Brisbane Queensland Forrester Kurts Properties Photovoltaic 60 Unknown Building integrated with 80kW PV system. The Hall Hadwick Centre, 120 Edward St. The roof design incorporates 60kW of solar panels generating 80 000kWh of green power each year Operating
Broken Hill New South Wales Australian Inland Energy Photovoltaic 1 000 2000 1MW PV concentrator dishes power station (42 x 24kW)Operating
Broome 2 Western Australia Broome Aboriginal Corporations Photovoltaic 40 Unknown Aboriginal Corporation solar PV system Operating
NameState OwnedTechnology kWCommis. CommentsStatus
Building 46 New South Wales Sydney Olympic Park Authority Photovoltaic 64 2007 Building 46 Solar Newington Armoury originally commissioned 1999 and refurbished 2007 Operating
Bulman Northern Territory NT PowerWater Photovoltaic 56 2002 A $0.9M PV system that saves 25 000 litres of diesel per annum. A peak lopping, remote, stand alone, diesel grid system providing power for Weemol and Bulman communities. Commissioned Nov 2002Operating
Canberra Australian Capital Territory Australian National University Steam Turbine 45 1995 Solar Thermal Dish experimental only Operating
Carnarvon Park Queensland Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service Photovoltaic 80 Since 2000 Since 200, 8 new 10kW solar PV systems have been installed at remote ranger stations. Displaces 225 000litres of diesel per annum. Nominally located at Carnarvon National Park Operating
Coconut Is Queensland Ergon Energy Photovoltaic 25 1996 Torres Strait Operating
Dubbo New South Wales Country Energy Photovoltaic 50 1998 Western Plains Zoo; Provides power to the centre of the zoo and the kiosk Operating
NameState OwnedTechnology kWCommis. CommentsStatus
Emerald Queensland Public Photovoltaic 36 2004 Emerarld State School is the nominal location for 12 solar systems at Q'ld schools. Also, schools at Kingaroy, Gladstone, Bowen, Chinchilla, Hervey Bay, Maryborough, Miles, Bundaberg, Thuringowa & BarcaldineOperating
Ernaballa South Australia Umuwa Community Photovoltaic 350 2003, 2008 Ten reflective parabolic dishes with photovoltaic cells. Grid connected electricity for Pitjantjatjara communities of Pukatja, Umuwa, Watinuma & Yunyarinyi. Located at the foot of the Musgrave Ranges. Upgrade in 2008 from 220 to 350kW (efficiency increase Operating
Franklin Street Bus South Australia Adelaide City Council Photovoltaic 50 2008 Opened 29 March 2008. A $1M Tindo solar powered bus will use a $0.5M PV array on the Franklin St Bus StationOperating
Greater Melbourne Victoria Private Homeowner/Citipower Photovoltaic 200 2001 Citipowers 100 Photovoltaic Roofs Project in Greater Melbourne area (nominally located on Epping). Operational Dec-2001. Assumed 2kW capacity per household Operating
Hamersley Iron Western Australia Hamersley Iron Photovoltaic 151 2003 Includes 7 telecommunications repeater stations, 50 wayside rail line sites and the company's pastoral station, Hamersley Station. Nominally located at Tom Price Operating
Hamersley Station Western Australia Hamersley Iron Pty Ltd Photovoltaic 31 2005 A solar/diesel hybrid system icludes 260 solar panels and a 53kVA diesel generatorOperating
NameState OwnedTechnology kWCommis. CommentsStatus
Hermannsburg Northern Territory Hermannsburg Community Photovoltaic and mirrors 192 2005 Saves about 89 000 litres of diesel per annum. Installation of 30 solar dishes at Hermannsburg (8), Yuendumu(8) and Lajamanu(12) costing $6MOperating
Homebush Wetlands New South Wales NSW Waste Water Management Authority Photovoltaic 642000 Covers an area of 587sqm and is used to circulate water in the fresh water Homebush wetlands that were constructed to form the overflow floodway at Haslams CreekOperating
Huntingwood 2 New South Wales Cadbury-Schweppes Photovoltaic 100 2008 100kW BP Solar array of 640 panels at the Cadbury-Schweppes plant. Part of the Solar Cities Program Operating
King Island - solar Tasmania Hydro Tasmania Photovoltaic 110 2008 Six photovoltaic units with a total capacity of 110kW. Also includes six carbon block energy storage units Under Construction
Kings Canyon Northern Territory NT PowerWater Photovoltaic 241 2003 $2.9M project supplying electricity (saving 105 000 litres of diesel/annum) & water pumping facilities to 2 sites including the tourist amenities & the Information Centre at Kings Canyon National ParkOperating
Kogarah New South Wales Kogarah Council Photovoltaic 200 2003 Major building demonstration site for solar energy. The Commonwealth Government provided $1.6M under the Living Cities Program for Kogarah Town Square Development. Saves 145 tpa of Greenhouse GasesOperating
NameState OwnedTechnology kWCommis. CommentsStatus
Lajamanu Northern Territory Lajamanu Community Photovoltaic and mirrors 288 2005 Solar dishes. Saves 171 000 litres of diesel per annumOperating
Laverton Western Australia WA Department of Justice Photovoltaic 32 2006 Outback Energy Supply commissioned the off-grid solar power station at the Mt Morgan work camp. Expected to save 30 000litres of diesel and 89 tonnes of greenhouse gases per annumOperating
Liddell New South Wales Solar Heat and Power Pty Ltd Solar Concentrator 25 000?? 2004 in 2009 a proposed 38MW Compact Linear Fresnel Reflector (CLFR) array is to be constructed at the Liddell power station. Thermal energy supplied to reheat cycle to existing power plant Operating
Lingarra Northern Territory Public Photovoltaic 28 2001, 2007 A 280x75W solar array supplying power to 10 households, two community buildings and streetlights. The Walangeri Ngupinku Community Government Council administer Lingara. Saves about 36 500 litres of diesel per annum. Upgraded to 28.39kW in 2007 Operating
Lucas Heights New South Wales CSIRO Solar Concentrator 40 2004 Solar thermal dish produces hydrogen at the rate of 40kWOperating
Melbourne University Victoria Melbourne University Private Photovoltaic 46 2002 Solar panels have been integrated into the cladding a new $60M building in University Square. The installation is likely to produce 46kW peak or approximately 40 000kWh per annum.Operating
NameState OwnedTechnology kWCommis. CommentsStatus
Mornington Western Australia Australian Wildlife Conservancy Photovoltaic 32 2007 Solar array at the Mornington Wildlife Sanctuary. 192x165 watt panels with generator back-up. Commissioned November 2007Operating
Mount House Western Australia Mount House Homestead Photovoltaic 26 2006 158 panel system at the Mount House Homestead Operating
Mt Newman rail line Western Australia BHPBilliton Photovoltaic 75 Unknown Solarex modules that power signalling at +70 sites Operating
Newcastle - CSIRO New South Wales CSIRO Energy Centre Photovoltaic 102 2003 The $34M Energy Centre houses CSIRO's Energy Technology laboratories. Has 102kW's of solar panels (3 different types), 160kW's of windpower and 2x60kW Capstone microturbines. PV cost $1.35M Operating
Newcastle - CSIRO New South Wales CSIRO Solar Concentrator 500 2005 The National Solar Energy Technology Centre will have a high concentration solar array that uses 200 moirrors to generate about 500kW of energyOperating
Newington New South Wales Private Photovoltaic 665 2000 Solar powered Olympic Village for 2000 Sydney Olympic Athletes. Now the suburd of Newington consisting of about 665 homes each with a 1kW PV system on the roof. World's largest solar powered suburb Operating
NameState OwnedTechnology kWCommis. CommentsStatus
North Keppel Island Queensland Education Queensland's NKIEEC Photovoltaic 30 1996 & 2004 North Keppel Island's Environmental Education Centre situated on a National Park island. Cost $425 000. (1996 4kW's installed)Operating
North Terrace South Australia South Australian Museum, Art Gallery & State Library Photovoltaic 59 2002, 2003 & 2005 In 2002 19.8kW's of solar panels were installed on north-facing roof of main Museum building. In July 2003 an estimated 20kW's was installed on roof of the Art Gallery of SA (129 PV panels at 6 sites). In 2005 18.6kW of PV installed on roof of State Libr Operating
Nullabor Western Australia UnknownPhotovoltaic 74 Unknown Solar Sales supplied solar powered systems for 16 fibre optic telecommunication sites across the Nullabor region of southern Australia. Included 616 only 120 watt solar modules. Nominally at LoonganaOperating
Oak Valley South Australia Oak Valley Community Photovoltaic 41 2003 Solar PV systems consisting of 342 panels producing up to 72 MWh of electiricity per annum for the Oak Valley Community 170km NW of Maralinga in the Maralinga Tjarutja Lands Operating
Olympic Boulevarde New South Wales Sydney Olympic Park Authority Photovoltaic 150 2000 Lighting for Olympic Boulevade Operating
Parliament House NSW New South Wales NSW Government Photovoltaic 25 2008 Solar PV array on roof of NSW Parliament House Operating
NameState OwnedTechnology kWCommis. CommentsStatus
Public Schools NSW New South Wales Integral Energy Photovoltaic 204 1999 to date About 34 NSW Public Schools have had solar PV panels installed by Integral Energy. Each installation is enough to run17 computers (350W per computer). Nomially located near Bellingen Operating
Public Schools Qld Queensland Queensland Government Photovoltaic 51 2000-03 The Cairns Scool of Distance Education (5kw's) is the nominal location for 17 solar systems at Qld schools under the EPA's Solar Schools Program. The EPA aims to install 50 more over the next 5 yearsOperating
Public Schools SA South Australia SA Government Photovoltaic 148 2004 & 2005 Port Augusta nominally selected as location for South Australia's $1.25M Solar Schools Project. 74 schools now use solar power and a further 300 schools are planned to go solar over the next 10 yearsOperating
Pyramid Hill Victoria Pyramid Salt Solar Pond 60 2000 60kW thermal heat equivalent (660kWh/ann). Produce 3 000tpa of salt. AGO funds of $0.5M helped to construct a 3 000 sqm pond up to 5m deep. A preheater for salt dryer using a heat exchanger Operating
Queanbeyan New South Wales Country Energy Photovoltaic 50 1999 Yass Rd Depot solar plant Operating
Queen Victoria Market Victoria Melbourne City Council Photovoltaic 200 2003 The nearly 200kW system is expected to produce up to 250MWh of electricity per annum. The $1M project is due for completion in March 2003. 1300 PV panels cover one third of the north facing roof area Operating
NameState OwnedTechnology kWCommis. CommentsStatus
Singleton New South Wales Energy Australia Photovoltaic 400 1998 Upper Hunter Valley near Singleton Operating
Sunbury Victoria Urban Land Council Photovoltaic 30 2004 - Operating
Sydney Superdome New South Wales Energy Australia Photovoltaic 70 1999 Individual modules 60 watts peak; 1176 solar panels Operating
University of NSW New South Wales University of NSW Photovoltaic 42 2005 Located at the University of New South Wales Quadrangle Building (Kensington)Operating
White Cliffs New South Wales Aust Inland Energy/Solar Systems White Cliffs Solar Dish 42 1998 14 dishes output of 42kW (from refurbished ANU system)Closed
Whyalla South Australia Wizard Power Solar Dish 400 2010 $16M Proposal to demonstrate a solar storage system using 4 solar dishes. Due to start construction Oct08 Operating
NameState OwnedTechnology kWCommis. CommentsStatus
Wilpena Pound South Australia AGL Photovoltaic 100 1998 Wilpena tourist resort in Flinders Ranges Operating
Windorah Queensland Ergon Energy Solar Concentrator 35 2008 The $4M project consists of 5 mirrored solar concentrators 14m in diameter. Would save about 100 000 litres of diesel per annum and 350 000tpa of CO2Under Construction
Yuendumu Northern Territory Yuendumu Community Photovoltaic and mirrors 192 2005 Solar dishes. Saves 121 000 litres of diesel per annum Operating
Total PV in Australia South Australia (nominally) Private and Public in Australia Photovoltaic 60 600 up to 2005 Cumulative installed PV power in Australia is now (2005) 60.6MWp with 8.3MW's installed in 2005 Operating

New developments

Solar powered evaporative air cooling
Reported on ABC Radio National 2009/01/30

Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) researcher Steven White, of the Solar Cooling Research Unit, has developed a new concept in evaporative air cooling. The system will allow solar energy to be economically used to assist evaporative air cooling in areas with high humidity.

The system uses a desiccant - such as silica gel - to take the humidity out of the air so that the, then dry, air can be used in a conventional evaporative air cooler. A solar panel very similar (or identical) to those used for solar water heating collects heat from sunshine. This heat is then used to drive the moisture out of the desiccant so that it can be recycled and remove more moisture from the air that is to go into the air cooler.


The Rainbow Power Company has a page on Solar Panel FAQs.

Wikipedia, Solar Power in Australia

Other links are embedded within various sections



Concentrator photovoltaic A Photovoltaic system in which the sunlight is concentrated, usually by mirrors, before being directed onto the photovoltaic panels.
Feed-in tariff A feed-in tariff is a payment for solar power generated. A 'net' tariff is a payment for the power generated and fed into the grid, ie. it is only when the power system is exceeding power consumption in the home (or school or whatever) and the excess power is going into the grid that a tariff will be generated. A 'gross' tariff is a payment for solar power generated in a grid connected system, whether or not that power is fed into the grid.
Photovoltaic A system in which sunlight is converted to electricity directly, usually when the sunlight falls on silicon panels.
Solar chimney
or solar tower
The solar chimney concept uses a large 'greenhouse' to convert solar radiation into warm air. The air is then allowed to rise up a very tall chimney, turning turbines and generating power as it rises. Unlike some other forms of solar energy this can produce electricity at night and for limited periods under clouds due to the heat stored in the 'greenhouse'.

To maximise efficiency solar chimneys must be very tall (around 1000m) and the 'greenhouse' must cover a very large area (around 20 square kilometres). There is an artist's impression of a 50MW utility scale solar chimney in the Buronga solar chimney article. While a small (50KW) trial station has run in Spain for some years, the technology has never been proven on a commercial scale.

Scaling up from the 50kw pilot to 50MW is a very big step. One wonders whether one or more intermediate steps might be wiser.
Solar thermal A system in which sunlight produces high temperatures which then are used to generate electricity. Usually water is boiled, directly or indirectly, and the steam is used to run a turbine.

Australian Insolation
Australian insolation
Acknowledgement WorlyParsons - EcoNomics

Solar power in SA

At the end of 2007 more than 2000 solar photovoltaic systems were operating in SA. Total installed capacity was in excess of 3500kW and more than 2GWh were being fed into the grid annually.

South Australia has a target of sourcing 20% of its electrical energy from renewables by the end of 2014. Premier Rann stated that the target will be met by 2010.

The SA Government gave $1 million to the Adelaide Airport Authority for installing solar panels on the roof. It has announced an $8 million investment in 10 000 square metres of solar panels on the new Goyder Pavilion at the Royal Show Grounds.

Some of the above information was contained in a circular letter from SA Premier Mike Rann, August 2008.

Considering the insolation map on the right one might wonder why the Australian taxpayers' money has been spent on solar power in Adelaide rather than somewhere like Roxby, Wudinna, Ceduna or Port Augusta where the cost/benefit ratio would be much better. The obvious conclusion that one might come to is that it has more political impact in Adelaide.