Solar power in Australia (2)
Contact, David K. Clarke – ©
I, David Clarke, the writer of these pages, am independent of any company, lobby group, or government.
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.
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.
I have lumped the ACT in with NSW because it is not easy to separate the two based on postcodes.
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.
Several methods of collecting solar power are (the links are to examples illustrated on this page):
Several of the above methods have been brought to the stage of commercial viability, the others have gone only to the pilot stage.
"Australian developed solar technology that aims to tackle the dominance of diesel generators in the temporary power market will be tested at the 1 MW scale in New South Wales, off the back of a new grant from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.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.
Earlier news releases had stated that the solar farm would occupy 800ha of land owned by the Bungala Aboriginal Corporation. It will be about 8km nor-nor-east of Port Augusta (not 12km east as stated in the RenewEconomy article). It will use tracking solar pannels.
I believe that, at the time of writing, Nyngan Solar Farm, at 102 MW, was the biggest in Australia. Bungala will more than double that (if and when the whole thing is built).
Getting thereI visited Bungala on 2018/05/10. While Yorkie's Crossing Road (the road to the lower left of the solar farm on the map on the right) goes very close, nothing of the farm is visible from Yorkie's Crossing Road. To get to the farm from Port Augusta take Carlton Parade which leads onto Depot Creek Road – the road shown to the lower right of the farm on the map.
Two photos of Bungala under construction is below. Note that you won't see much from the ground.
Also known as Mildura Solar Farm
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.
There seems to be remarkably little on the Internet about the project,
but Solar Choice has a page
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:
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?
ARENA (Australian Renewable Energy Agency) has partly funded this development in the recognition that the take-up of renewables in the mining industry needed a kick-start.
The solar farm is 10 MW, 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°
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.
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."
Solar Power Today has an article on the Lake Cargelligo project, which it says is a 3 MW 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."
As of 2016/06/27 the 56 MW project has a power purchase agreement with
Origin Energy in place and it had begun feeding electricity into the
Australian national electricity grid.
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 230 000 MWh of electricity per annum.
Also see here for my visit to Nyngan solar farm in 2017.
Port Augusta solar thermal
On 2017/08/14 South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill announced that a
solar thermal power station would be built 30 km north of Port
Augusta, around 330 km north of the state capital, Adelaide.
It seems that the government's commitment is to buy most of the power that they need from the solar power station; there is expected to be excess that will be sold to other consumers. Government will pay a maximum of $78/MWh for the power it purchases.
Solar Reserve, who will build and operate the solar power station, have a net page on the project.
Sophie Vorrath wrote an interesting
article in RenewEconomy.
It seems that some political dealing by Senator Nick Xenophon was involved in
making the project financially viable.
(Nick has a mixed past in regard to renewable energy, having made many
foolish and ill-informed statements
about wind power.)
|On the steps of Parliament House, Adelaide, at the end of the Walk for Solar in 2012.|
The people with the blue shirts are some of those who did the walk.
I put together an album in Flickr shortly after the Walk for Solar.
Of course the heat can be easily and cheaply stored for later use.
RayGen's Head of Sales, Will Mosley, claims that the RayGen system can provide 1MW ac electricity together with 2MW thermal energy for 8¢/kWh and Aus$8/giga-Joule (GJ).
RayGen have a 250kW commercial demonstration project running in Newbridge, Victoria with a further 500kW expansion planned. Newbridge is about 30km west of Bendigo. There is also a 250kW commercial demonstration in Zhuozhou, China.
This seems to me to have great potential.
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.
The highly innovative project uses seawater and a 40 MW solar thermal power station 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:
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
|The whole Sundrop Farm development|
During construction of Bungala Solar Farm near Port Augusta, SA, there were major dust problems because much of the natural vegetation had been cleared, exposing the soil in this very dry area to wind erosion. Surely it would have been better to leave the majority of the local arid-land vegetation in place rather than bulldozing everything?
The solution best suited at any solar farm will depend to a large extent on the local climate, in particular, the amount of rainfall. In hotter and drier areas the shading from the panels could be advantageous to plantings, by keeping soil temperatures down and allowing soil moisture to be better conserved.
It seems to me that in Australia in cases where native arid-land vegetation is present it would probably be best to leave it in place as far as possible. Even if the natural vegetation is badly damaged during construction it would be much easier getting it re-established from that state than from bare ground. Bare ground is always an attraction to weeds.
Beyond that, grazing sheep beneath and between the panels could often be the best option. No treatment is without its disadvantages, but sheep grazing would have to have fewer disadvantages than most other treatments. (Goats tend to be browsers while sheep tend more toward grazing. Goats would be far more inclined to chew electrical insulation than would sheep.)
If sheep grazing is to be used careful consideration must be given to the weed seeds that might come with the sheep; weed seeds can remain viable in a sheep's gut for several weeks and germinate when passed from the sheep. Weed seeds can also be carried in the sheep's wool.
The other solutions discussed in the Abakus Solar article all have disadvantages covered in that article. Keeping vegetation entirely out of the solar farm seems not to be a viable, or an environmentally attractive option; it would require heavy use of chemicals and would likely result in erosion and problematic amounts of water runoff following heavier rainfall events.article titled "Solar farms, land use and the rise of solar sharing", that is interesting, informative and useful.
An article titled "Doubling up crops with solar farms could increase land-use efficiency by as much as 60%" written by Emma Bryce and published by Anthropocene Magazine 2017/12/01 is informative. It relates to research in Germany; the shade provided by solar panels could be much more advantageous to crops and grazing animals in Australia than in Germany, because of the former's higher temperatures, lower rainfalls and higher levels of insolation.
There is a lengthy document on the Landscape Management Plan for a solar farm at Parks in NSW, but while it deals at some length with screen plantings of trees it seems to say little or nothing about the treatment of the ground beneath and between the panels.
The top graph shows that installation of solar photovoltaics in Australia reached around 770 MW 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.
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.
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?
"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.
The mining industry is starting to realise that renewable energy is not some sort of greeny conspiracy. An organisation called Energy and Mines is helping spread the word that there is big money to be saved by remote mines changing from diesel-powered generation to solar PV. They see Australia becoming the Global Centre for Renewables for Mines.
South Australia's success in adopting renewable energy
Index3.7% in SA in 2012/13
Other pages relating to agrophotovoltaics
Beneath the solar panels
Broken Hill solar farm
Bungala Solar Farm
Carwarp Solar Farm
Cost of PV declining
DeGrussa copper mine solar farm
Greenhough River solar farm
Jamestown floating solar
Lake Cargelligo solar farm
Mildura Solar Farm
Mobile solar power stations
Mount Majura Solar Farm
Mugga Lane Solar Farm
Nyngan Solar Farm
Pt Augusta solar thermal
RayGen; solar power with a difference
Royalla Solar Farm
Solar power by states
Solar PV, water heating and wind energy
Types of solar power
Williamsdale Solar Farm