Thanks to its abundant sunshine, South Australia was able to have PV generation meet all of its electricity demand for one hour on October 11 of last year. Soon afterward, the state achieved another major feat of being powered completely by renewables. The Energy Transition Hub, which is a project launched by the University of Melbourne, has been tracking the distribution of energy sources in Australia using a data collection tool known as OpenNEM. It has found that solar PV and wind power accounted for 99.6% of the electricity in South Australia’s grid on December 27 of last year, a just a few days before the end of the holiday season.
Situated in the Southern Hemisphere, Australia has a hot and dry Christmas instead of a cold and wet one that is celebrated in North America and Europe. During this holiday, Australians usually spend their time drinking beer, eating seafood, and engaging in water activities such as surfing. The Christmas of 2020 was very different compared with the previous years as the dangers of COVID-19 forced the Australian government to restrict travel and social gatherings. However, the weather was still hot and sunny during that time.
Pierre Verlinden, who previously served as VP and Chief Scientist at Trina Solar, stated via a post on LinkedIn that the penetration of renewables in the electricity market of South Australia has been on a stable rise over the past 13 years, with the annual rate of absolute increase hitting 4.5%. The average contribution of renewables to power generation in the state was 59%. The share figure is projected to reach 63.5% this year and grow to almost 100% in 2030.
The above chart is generated by OpenNEM and shows the distribution of energy sources in South Australia’s grid on December 27. The colors bright yellow, dark yellow, green, blue, apricot, and orange respectively represent rooftop PV systems, utility-scale PV systems, wind turbines, battery energy storage systems, combined-cycle power plants, and gas-fired power plants. As indicated, renewables were dominant during that entire day.
Rooftop PV systems have been playing a vital role in the development of the Australian market for renewables. Individually, they do not offer a lot of installed capacity. However, the continuing strong demand from Australians for this type of energy solution means that they add up to account for the majority share of the country’s total installed capacity for solar PV. Various media outlets have reported that nearly a third of Australian homes have PV modules installed on their roofs; and just in 2020, the number of rooftop PV systems installed in the country came to 2,500 units.
Favorable weather conditions have been the consistent driver of installation growth as they make PV generation sustainable and profitable. Hence, solar PV was able to meet all of the electricity demand from South Australia for a single hour between noon and 1 p.m. on October 11, 2020.
Last November, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) released its South Australia Electricity Report for the fiscal year of 2019/2020. The report stated that the penetration of renewables in the state reached 59.6% in 2019/2020. Out of the 59.6%, wind and solar PV made up 42.9% and 15.7% respectively. Furthermore, rooftop PV systems comprised 11.6% of the 15.7% that was attributed to solar PV.
Verlinden pointed out that a good strategy for making the full transition to renewables consists of diversification of energy sources, deployment of battery energy storage systems, and improvements in interconnection of grid assets. He also noted that wind power and solar PV complement each other very well in South Australia.
AEMO’s report mentioned that the installed capacity for solar PV in South Australia grew by 35% annually for 2019/2020. All in all, the contribution of solar PV to Australia’s electricity supply is getting larger and harder to ignore. On the other hand, the dramatic fluctuations in the performance of PV systems have also become a noticeable issue as the total installed capacity continues to expand. Depending on weather condition, PV systems can generate too little or too much electricity to meet the demand of specific periods. In Australia, there are increasing calls for regulations that will mandate centralized disconnection of rooftop PV systems from the grid in certain incidences so as to maintain grid stability.
(Credit for the photo at the top of article: Unsplash.)