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2017 – Australia’s record-breaking year for solar power. 1GW already commissioned

2017 has been a year of records for Australian solar power, and the year’s not even finished yet. Here are some of the highlights of the 10 records that have been broken in 2017 (some of them multiple times):

Before we do, if you don’t already subscribe to our Insights service, then a) you’re missing out on regular updates like these, and b) now is the perfect time to get our 2016 Year in Review – which includes a 3 month subscription to Insights that means you’ll also automatically receive the 2017 Year in Review

  1. Fastest time to reach 1GW of commissioned solar in a calendar year. There’s only been one year where Australia has commissioned more than 1GW of PV – this was in 2012, where there was 1.01GW of sub-100kW PV and 1.06GW of PV commissioned in total. 
    Analysis of the 2017 STC market shows that 972MW of sub-100kW PV has been registered in 2017 – however, 79MW of this 2016 installations that registered STCs in 2017. Therefore our current total is 893MW of sub-100kW PV commissioned in 2017 – a figure that looks set to reach 1.05GW once the final tally is in. 
    SunWiz’s Large-scale Lookout tracks every system above 100kW that is mentioned publicly. It shows that over 114MW of systems over 100kW have already been commissioned in 2017 (of which Kidston Solar Farm contributed 50MW). Our current tally is therefore 1.00 GW by the end of November.  
  1. Record volume of solar commissioned in a calendar year. The figures above show that we are certain to exceed our previous best of 1.058GW in 2012. December’s STC registration alone will undoubtedly exceed 60MW, on top of which there will be 2017 installations that register STCs in 2018, plus further 2017 LRET systems that we discover in coming months.
  2. Record volume of PV rooftop commercial commissioned. Already by November there has been 285MW of commercial installations commissioned in the 10kW – 1000kW range. This beats the previous best in 2016 of 228MW.
  3. Record volume of sub-100kW solar registered in a month. In November 2017, 122MW worth of STCs were registered, beating the previous record held in 2011. Unfortunately, the CER is yet to audit all of these certificates, so its likely this record will be unbroken next month. Still, its a stellar result, and its worth noting that both October and November will be in the top 5 months of registration, regardless of the CER audits outcome, and that 2017 has seen record monthly volumes set for any March, September, October, or November (previous years have been much quieter in the tail-end of the year).
  1. Record volume of sub-100kW solar registered in a month. In November 2017, 122MW worth of STCs were registered, beating the previous record held in 2011. Unfortunately, the CER is yet to audit all of these certificates, so its likely this record will be unbroken next month. Still, its a stellar result, and its worth noting that both October and November will be in the top 5 months of registration, regardless of the CER audits outcome, and that 2017 has seen record monthly volumes set for any March, September, October, or November (previous years have been much quieter in the tail-end of the year).
  2. Record volume of PV registered in NSW in any month. After the intense rush to install solar before the cut-off date of its gross FiT in mid-2011, NSW’s solar installations languished. This all changed in 2017 with exceptional growth, to the point where over 30MW was of sub-100kW PV was registered in NSW. Again the CER auditing process may roll back the figures to below-record levels.

6.Record average system size in the sub-100kW market- which in October hit 6.7kW/system. This is an indication of both the growing size of residential systems (which are now as commonly sold in the 6-8kW range as they are in the 5kW range), and the increasing volume and proportion of the market that is commercial.

Battery boom hears off-grid demand: BYD

Battery boom hears off-grid demand: BYD

As more battery makers enter Australia to get a bit of the action, Chinese giant BYD has found traction especially with consumers who just want to get off the grid.

It’s been a busy year in battery storage but good business attracts more participants and that’s what’s happening in Australia, says global sales director of BYD batteries Julia Chen.

The Chinese industrial giant launched its B-Box high- and low-voltage lithium battery range here in February, pitching storage solutions suitable for the residential market and commercial and industrial applications. Seven months down the track BYD has installed more than 1,500 storage solutions in Australia, Chen told EcoGeneration during the All-Energy conference in Melbourne in October.

What’s been interesting for the new entrant is the number of sales made to buyers installing off-grid systems. Families in remote areas that rely on air-conditioning and are suffering soaring electricity charges are moving towards energy independence, and batteries are a must-have. A customer in Victoria has installed 25-30kWh of storage to support critical load (read, air-con), and a joint project with wholesaler RFI has seen storage installed in 200kWh commercial system – just two examples.

 

“In the market everybody has a unique solution to support,” she says. “We are happy talking to installers who are looking for solutions that support back-up and off-grid functions, and can help design systems.”

Off-grid residential systems in remote areas are about 30kWh, in BYD’s experience so far, where residences often also support farming activity. One job included three air-conditioning systems. SMA Sunny Island inverters are often used and BYD works with the inverter maker to engineer optimal solutions using minimum battery units.

Residential buyers have a lot to learn about storage, and so do installers. BYD has run more than 50 training sessions for wholesalers and installers so far this year, says Chen, pointing out the modular BYD system – which is a bit like a stack of Lego blocks – can take as little as 30 minutes to install because there are no cable connections. The B-Box system is scalable from 2.5kWh to 442kWh. “Installers are quite smart, it’s just that they are not used to battery systems,” she says. “And some need support.”

The residential market is in transition from early adopters to the next level, and inquiries will only accelerate.

BYD has massive industrial capacity in China, including electric vehicles and monorails, solar farms and sustainable transport solutions. In 2010 it signed a joint-venture with Daimler to launch electric car brand Denza. It also makes batteries for many mainstream phone and IT brands.

One cheap energy scenario seldom mentioned is that you don’t actually have to own a solar PV system to get use out of a battery. Renters, for instance, or apartment dwellers without roofspace can buy a small battery and smart meter and straightaway push costs down by buying off-peak from the grid and using that energy during peak times. Not many people do it in Australia, yet, but it’s quite popular among small business owners in China, where Chen is based.

“Some [owners] will use a battery to avoid peak power, where the electricity price is extremely high for industrial charges; so they use a battery to reduce the peak and can easily cut their bills,” she says. A well-designed storage-only solution, she says, can pay for itself within about three or four years. (BYD runs a 40kWh batteries-without-solar system in Shenzhen.)

“In China it’s mostly storage without solar. We don’t have a lot of space to build solar on the rooftops.”

The Sunshine Coast Solar Farm

The Sunshine Coast Solar Farm

A 2018 National Federation Awards Winner

Queensland’s Sunshine Coast Solar Farm was announced the winner of the Environmental Leadership and Sustainability category at the National Federation Awards last Thursday.

The National Federation Awards are run annually by Local Government Professionals Australia. The body represents local government professionals, senior managers and emerging leaders of more than 500 local councils across Australia.

“To win the national award for environmental leadership and sustainability speaks to the very heart of what Sunshine Coast Council is all about and underpins our commitment to becoming Australia’s most sustainable region,” said Sunshine Coast Mayor Mark Jamieson.

According to the facility’s live data page, the solar farm had generated 29,577.9megawatt-hours of electricity as at early this morning.

“This game changing project has delivered day after day since it was switched on in July last year, to a tune of $1.7 million so far,” said Mayor Jamieson. “Every dollar we don’t spend on electricity is a dollar better used delivering the services and facilities our region needs.”

In July we reported the solar farm, which features Trina Solar panels and SMA inverters, had saved more than double the amount Council had hoped for in the facility’s first year of operation.

The project was constructed by Downer, which was also contracted to deliver initial operation and maintenance services.

Other recognition for the Sunshine Coast Solar Farm include a Planning Institute of Australia Award for planning excellence, the Wendy Chadwick Encouragement Award for innovation and the Local Government Managers Australia (Queensland) Award for Sustainability Excellence.

Sunshine Coast Lives Up To Its Name

As well as saving Council (and subsequently, ratepayers) a bundle of bucks, Sunshine Coast Solar Farm appears to be popular with residents of the region – as is solar powergenerally. Economic Development and Innovation Portfolio Councillor Stephen Robinson states forty per cent of households in the region have installed solar panels.

Across Queensland, the estimated percentage of dwellings with PV installations sits at around the 32.2% mark according to the Australian PV Institute (APVI).

APVI puts the Sunshine Coast figure close to 41% (40.9%), with 45,266 <10kW installations representing a total installed capacity of 165,115kW (165.12MW). As well as residential PV, small commercial solar systems (10-100kW) have a significant presence, with 629 installations in place representing 12,212kW (12.21MW). APVI‘s figures indicate only one installation with a capacity 100kW+ – and that’s Sunshine Coast Solar Farm at 15MW. It should be noted that APVI’s information is somewhat dated, current as at 31 March, 2018.

QLD, NSW And Victoria Facing Major Electricity Price Rises

QLD, NSW And Victoria Facing Major Electricity Price Rises

Already expensive electricity will rise

Lack of significant Government intervention in the gas market could lead to households in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria facing hefty electricity bill increases says the McKell Institute.

While Australia may become the world’s largest producer of LNG this year, the report states up to 70 per cent of East Coast LNG is exported; leaving shortfalls here at home and boosting the price of gas locally.

“It is ironic that Australia, as the eminent world leader in gas exports, is subject to the world’s highest gas prices,” says the new report from McKell.

The Institute states the impact of wholesale gas prices on consumer energy costs is greater than gas-fired power generation’s contribution to Australia’s energy mix as these generators are often the marginal supplier and as such, set prices.

In June last year, the Federal Government announced reforms intended to address domestic supply issues – the Australian Domestic Gas Security Mechanism (ADGSM). However, the McKell report states the reforms to federal gas policy have not translated into price reductions and there are concerns the ADGSM isn’t nimble enough to meet immediate shortfalls.

“While the introduction of the ADGSM is one step towards guaranteeing more certainty in the Australian domestic gas market, it is likely insufficient in providing long-term certainty, and is certainly not a panacea for escalating wholesale gas prices on the East coast,” states the report.

Based on ACCC advised figures of where the wholesale gas price should have been last year, current Government policy settings and price and consumption trends, McKell forecasts the following increased annual electricity costs over “realistic and desired rates” by 2019.

  • New South Wales: +$434
  • Queensland: +$312
  • Victoria: +$254

Under a worst-case scenario (gas at $19/GJ) , the outlook is much grimmer:

  • New South Wales: + $660
  • Queensland: +$579
  • Victoria: +$443

To avoid this scenario, further action is required to guarantee domestic supply and put downward pressure on gas prices say the authors.

The McKell Institute report, commissioned by the Australian Workers Union, can be downloaded here (PDF).

The report is at odds with the Australian Energy Market Commission’s outlook published in December last year. The AEMC believes electricity prices should drop in the three states over the 2017/18 to 2018/19 and 2018/19 to 2019/20 periods.

In related news, RenewEconomy’s Giles Parkinson reported yesterday the Tesla big battery in South Australia is already bringing Australia’s gas cartel to heel.