All that you need to know about Solar System in Australia
By virtue of its geography and considering that a large part of the country is dry, Australia receives substantial amount of sunshine. As a matter of fact Australia has the highest average solar radiation per square meter compared to any other continent in the world. The amount of solar radiation that Australia is exposed to on an annual basis is in figurative terms about 10,000 the annual national consumption of energy.
Considering this good potential the Solar System in Australia is only set to grow. Australia currently has the largest number of household in the world that harvest power from the sun. There are more than a million households that solar panels installed, which works out to about 1 in 10 residences.
Generation of Electricity by Solar System in Australia
In spite of having abundant solar resource, most of the electricity generation happens from PV installations with most of these being from the off grid systems. Generation from Solar thermal systems has not really taken off in a big way and most of these are small pilot projects. This is set to change with interest in setting Solar System in Australia for large scale generation of electricity.
The reason for Australian households moving onto the PV systems is due to the following reasons:
Ever Increasing cost of Conventional Generated Electricity
Reducing Cost of Solar Panels
Initial Government Payouts towards the surplus electricity pumped into the national grid
Environmental concerns on reducing the Carbon Footprint
Current Consumption of Energy by Solar System in Australia
In Australia of the total solar energy consumed of more than 2TWh, Residential PV contributes about 5.8% of this.
The State wise break up of Solar Energy Consumption is given as follows:
Western Australia 40%
New South Wales 26%
South Australia 8%
Northern Territory 3%
Government Role in Solar System in Australia:
To boost up uptake of RV systems by Household in the early days, the Australian Government offered a feed in tariff of 44c per KWh and with payments made quarterly and guaranteed payments for 20 years. The Government also provide each household a rebate of around $8,000 towards the capital cost of the system. After the program was closed the rates for feed in tariff was reduced. It is currently around 8c per KWh.
The Government is also committed to building Large Scale Solar Power Plants which will have a combined output of around 1000 MW. These will be composed of both PV and Solar Thermal Power Plants. A Solar Institute is also planned in Newcastle whose mandate it is to drive the development of both the PV and Solar thermal technologies.
Challenges in fully harnessing Solar Energy
As the momentum of sustainable energy forming a bulk of the national energy needs, the solar system in Australia will need to form the bulk of the renewable energy consumed. The areas which have a huge potential in harnessing the solar energy are out of the urban and developed areas toward the more arid hot regions. Large Scale Solar Energy plants are planned in the desert regions which need to be connected to the grid. This involves building of large high voltage DC transmission lines to carry electricity over thousands of kilometers. This necessitates a large scale capital investment upfront.
Plans for the future
As solar energy is a free resource continuing into perpetuity, it is only the upfront capital cost that will be resistance for mass acceptance. As the cost of electricity generation of the solar system in Australia will come down, the contribution of solar energy to the grid will increase manifold. This is because it will be competitive to the other current forms of electricity generation.
We will continue to see strides in both development and implementation.