A tsunami of renewables

The AFR reports that Josh Frydenberg and Labor’s Mark Butler had a bit of a love-in when they shared a platform late last month. Ben Potter said they were peas in an energy pod.

    Frydenberg waxed lyrical about the shrinking cost of solar photovoltaic – from $1.6 per kilowatt installed in 2014 to 19 cents per kilowatt last year. Battery storage has also halved in cost and added half as much capacity again in just five years, he enthused, and “demand response” – where customers curtail their usage or offer their batteries and smart appliances to the grid during demand spikes to avert blackouts – has an “incredibly” important role.

    Butler took his cue, noting that the system is undergoing a “massive, profound and irresistible transition which will just continue whether we like it or not”.

Butler said that if anyone could get the Clean Energy Target (CET) through the LNP party room it would be Josh.

Some in the LNP are fretting about how to replace the 2000 MW Liddell power station in NSW and Victoria’s 1480 MW Yallourn plant. Liddell, comissioned in 1973 is due to close in 2022.

Perhaps they should ask AGL, the people who own it. RenewEconomy reports that AGL Energy CEO Andy Vesey told analysts and journalists that it would not be coal or baseload gas:

    but a mix of energy from wind and solar, and various load shaping and firming capacity from other sources.

    This could include battery storage, pumped hydro, demand response mechanisms, and gas peaking plants. It confirmed it is looking at all possibilities but it highlights the shift from reliance on “baseload” power, which as we saw last summer does not equate to reliability, and dispatchable generation.

    Already, the 200MW Silverton wind farm is under construction near Broken Hill, and the 465MW Coopers Gap wind farm in Queensland is expected to begin construction soon. Vesey said this would provide “clean reliable energy” for the grid.

AFR’s Ben Potter again:

    The wave of wind, solar and battery energy investments across Australia is becoming a tsunami, with $11 billion of projects under way or set to begin construction this calendar year.

    AGL Energy and QIC’s blockbuster 453-megawatt Cooper’s Gap wind farm in north Queensland won financial close on Thursday, pushing the combined power of projects in the pipeline to 5661 MW, the Clean Energy Council says.

    That’s close to the 5900MW that Bloomberg New Energy Finance says is needed to meet the federal Renewable Energy Target of about 23 per cent of total generation by 2020.

“There’s no question that 2017 has been a game-changing year for the industry,” said Clean Energy Council chief executive Kane Thornton.

In the rest of the article I will try to link to some of the events streaming by.

    The announcement, following several years of lobbing by the community and an oft-delayed tendering process from the government, will see the first major deployment in Australia of a technology that combines both solar power and storage in the one facility, and the largest such facility in the world.

    Amazingly, the contract will deliver power at just $78/MWh – which is around one-half of previous estimates – and significantly cheaper than the gas generation fleet that currently dominates the state’s power needs.

Essentially it’s baseload solar and is likely to help redefine energy markets in Australia.

  • AGL has secured
    • an off-take price of below $60/MWh through the sale of its 453MW Coopers Gap Wind Farm, between Kingaroy and Dalby in Queensland’s south-east.

      AGL said on Thursday it had reached financial close on the Sunshine State wind farm – which will be one of Australia’s biggest, once completed in 2019 – with the $22 million sale of the project to the Powering Australian Renewables Fund.

  • Origin to add “a Hazelwood” of renewables by 2020, but says CET remains “critical”
    • Origin Energy has reaffirmed its plans to boost the renewable energy component of its generation portfolio to 25 per cent by 2020, up from the current level of 10 per cent, by adding enough new installed wind and solar capacity to replace Victoria’s recently closed 1600MW Hazelwood coal-fired power plant.
  • CEFC backs IoT tech to help consumers control energy use, costs
    • Chalk it up to good timing, but after a week of renewed focus on soaring retail electricity prices, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation has announced two new investment deals in “internet of things” technologies that focus on one of the easiest ways to reduce power bills – managing and cutting energy use.

      In a deal announced on Thursday, the CEFC said it was committing up to $10 million in finance NSW-based company Thinxtra to scale up its monitoring and tracking technology that can connect billions of “low energy” devices to the internet, ensuring they consume as little energy as possible.

  • Pumped hydro opportunities galore in Australia
  • ANU Professor Andrew Blakers said his team had already identified about 5,000 sites across Tasmania, Queensland, the ACT and surrounding parts of NSW, to add to the 185 already found in South Australia. That’s 35 times more than we need.

      Queensland has about 100 times as many sites as it needs, Tasmania has hundreds of times more sites than it needs, the Canberra district has 200 sites more than it needs.

    Installation costs are high, but running costs are low:

      “the total cost of the whole system, including the storage, the power lines, and the wind and [solar cells] is going to be cheaper than simply maintaining the current system.”
  • AEMO trial of wind farm’s ability to stabilise SA grid
    • An Australia-first trial to demonstrate the ability of wind farms to provide crucial grid stabilising services traditionally supplied by “baseload” coal and gas plants, is now set to begin in October.

      The South Australia-based trial, first flagged in February, and originally scheduled for June, will use the recently completed 100MW Hornsdale 2 wind farm, by French renewables developer Neoen, who has put $300,000 towards the trial, alongside another $300,000 from ARENA.

      The trial, which is being conducted in conjunction with the Australian Energy Market Operator, will test the ability of Hornsdale 2 to provide frequency control and ancillary services (FCAS) – a critical component of grid security that is traded on the NEM while remotely controlled by AEMO.

      This will be followed by a NEM trial, which will run for 48 hours to test Hornsdale’s ability to fully participate in the electricity and FCAS markets.

    A word of caution

    Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s Kobad Bhavnagri says that from 2020 to 2025 rooftop solar installations by households and businesses will continue to grow and “crowd out the need for large scale” wind and solar unless the Clean Energy Target recommended by Finkel, or something similar, is adopted.

    7 thoughts on “A tsunami of renewables”

    1. Home and business solar is driven by high electricity retail prices, not too much by clean generation. If retailers don’t lower their prices the incentives for site generated power will continue to rise.
      ‘Would be nice if we could develop a cohesive energy policy and bring some much needed certainty our energy planning. After all, it is a little bit important…

    2. Geoff, yes, I think few do it primarily for environmental reasons.

      Of course, you have to own the house, and have the prospect of staying there for some years, although solar panels could marginally boost market value of the house.

      The Kidston project has done the deal to connect to the grid:

      Genex Power’s world-leading solar and pumped hydro project has cleared another development hurdle, after sealing a deal to connect the Kidston Renewable Energy Hub to the national grid.

      There’s a good pic of the project in the article.

    3. I don’t get what is wrong with rooftop solar growing? (I was going to say ‘please explain’, but no, can’t even joke about her now, too awful.) Anyway can you explain the last paragraph a bit more?

    4. Val, it was just intended as a statement of fact. BNEF are saying that if we don’t adopt a CET, which the current government are stuffing around over, worrying that coal will be deemed ‘dirty’, then the current surge in large-scale renewables will stall while rooftop solar still surges.

      It’s not a negative statement about rooftop solar.

    5. Val

      Perhaps the author thought large scale is more efficient, cheaper per kWh, etc.

      But those who install rooftop solar now have calculated that they can bear the cost now, prefer some independence from retailers, and as Geoff points out, are largely motivated by lowering their own power bills.


      Personally I think it’s good that there are several different, perhaps overlapping motivations to go renewable. Because if one of the motivations diminishes, the others will still be there….

    6. This article on the low level of solar uptake in Darwin has a lot of useful data on a number of states. Current solar uptake ranges from 30% of dwellings down to 10% for the NT.
      Also interesting table on installation costs for various forms of power generation. Roof top solar is the lowest at $1075/kW. (Keep in mind this chart is not comparing apples with apples.

    7. It appears that there are still subsidies available for rooftop solar. I’m not sure whether they are included in the costs cited.

      We are going down the path of investigating whether we should add to the 10 panels we currently have, which have been disappointing in their impact on our power bill.

      We suspect that there are things happening at our place that chew up a fair bit of power, so we are going to spend a bit of time on that and see whether we’d be better off replacing some older appliances etc.

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