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Rooftop Solar: Australia's Next Major Power Supplier

Tuesday, February 03, 2015 8:51am

Australia is poised to become a world leader in the solar power revolution. With wide open skies and abundant sunshine, we can truly show the world the benefits of this safe, environmentally friendly, renewable resource. New data shows that Australia’s solar switchover is happening even more rapidly than some had predicted.

On Boxing Day 2014, we set a new record for the percentage of total power that was contributed by rooftop solar panels. The Australian Photovoltaic Institute’s Solar Map for that day also showed that rooftop solar power has fundamentally changed the overall power grid in several important ways.

Total Demand and Grid Peak Changes

During the summer, we typically experience a spike in demand in the middle of the day. Even at that peak time, rooftop solar provided more than 30 percent of the total power demand in South Australia on Boxing Day. Even more fundamentally, the solar map shows that the contribution of solar power has changed the overall structure of the power grid.

While demand has historically spiked in the middle of the day, adding solar power pushed that peak demand to later in the day. Our traditional highest-demand time is now recognised by the grid as an off-peak time. Rooftop solar is also reducing the breadth of demand and minimising peak-demand stress on the grid.

Analysing the grid map by individual types of electricity sources shows even more impressive results. When taken together, rooftop solar and wind power contributed more than 50 percent of the total power demands on December 26, and roughly two-thirds of the total power needs during the daytime hours. Although analysts are careful to note that the day was both a holiday and a relatively mild summer day, so total demand was not as high as it could be, these results show the tremendous impacts that renewable energy can have.

Economic and Environmental Impacts

The interconnectedness between states helps bring costs down for everyone. When states in sunny South Australia generate surplus solar power, those in neighbouring states benefit from slightly lower prices. Because South Australia has the highest penetration of rooftop solar in the country, at around 23 percent, one of the state’s two coal power plants is currently mothballed, while the other is only open part of the time. The main gas plant is also on track to shut down to half capacity.

Minimising South Australia’s reliance on fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas has far-reaching impacts on the entire country. Clean, safe, renewable energy creates a healthier environment, brings prices down, and encourages the rest of Australia to follow suit. With South Australia leading the way, our nation can become a valuable model for the rest of the globe.

Looking Towards the Future

South Australia’s government has set a target of meeting 50 percent of its total power demands through solar and wind power by the year 2025. With an annualised 40 percent of demand already met by those sources, however, it is likely that by 2025, we will have far outstripped that target.

Battery storage has already proved to be a viable, economical solution to the variability of renewable power, and technology is only expected to improve. Meanwhile, consumers are becoming aware of their power usage and making smart choices to become more green by trading out inefficient appliances and switching to environmentally-friendly LED lighting.

Some industry analysts predict that in coming years, our entire grid system will change. Founded on hyper-local microgrids, the energy network would encourage the installation of rooftop solar and other renewable energy sources. Private individuals could then buy and sell stored power as needed, with the network acting as a facilitator rather than a provider.

While this concept is still slightly science-fiction in nature, the seeds have already been planted. If you generate more power than you need, you can sell it to the existing grid. It is likely that this sort of arrangement will continue to expand in the future.

With so many financial and environmental benefits, solar power is a smart choice for many homes and businesses. Corospark provides a free site survey and proposal, along with numerous financing models including $0 up front options. Make an appointment today to take the first step in energy independence.

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