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Solar leading the charge on energy transformation

When it comes to Australia’s renewable energy transition, solar continues to play a leading role.

13 May 2022
Simon Pollock

Asia Pacific

Australia

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Along with wind, solar projects represented the first wave of green energy development. And while the gap between project approvals and assets in operation is still too wide, solar is paving the way for our clean energy, low carbon future.

Here’s why…

Solar has an impact no matter the scale

According to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), more than 30 percent of Australian households now have rooftop solar, with a combined capacity of more than 11 GW. When you add utility scale solar to this, you have a situation where more than ten percent of our nation’s energy is already generated by the sun.

I’ve been fortunate enough to work with a wide range of renewable energy clients to deliver strategies and approvals for projects up and down the east coast. I’ve consulted on huge installations of up to 2.5 GW, and I’ve also been part of bespoke behind-the-meter projects that offset energy costs, reduce emissions, and add green energy back into to the grid at a relatively small scale.

Solar projects don’t have to be huge to have a positive impact, but the potential is astronomical when we go big.

Home solar panels
Home solar

Solar is a stepping stone

Solar was a first mover in the Australian market. I’d be lying if I said we have achieved the perfect investment and regulatory conditions for large scale solar development – more on that here.

However, we have gotten to a point where there’s enough faith in project viability, delivery, and long-term operations for solar to act as a gateway for the development of new renewable technologies, and serve as a roadmap for renewables regulation and planning moving forward.

Many of the clients I work with are now integrating battery storage solutions with their solar farms as standard – some are even making the batteries operational ahead of the PV installations - and we are even helping organisations explore how hydrogen solutions could be delivered in tandem with solar.

hydrogen alternative fuel storage integrated with renewable generation assets - wind turbines and solar panels

Solar is ready and waiting

In speaking about large scale solar from my own experiences as a project approvals specialist, I’ve often talked about the challenges that come not from solar itself, but from the transmission network on which its success relies.

As an industry we have seen many good, viable, approved projects left undeveloped due to capacity issues with the grid. But we are starting to see the tide turn as coal-fired power station closures create renewed conditions of demand.

In Victoria, we are seeing more interest in utility scale solar than ever before with coal power station closures creating extra space in the network. And with announcements for the early retirement of major plants like Eraring and Liddell, solar is a tested solution that could help meet demand in New South Wales.

Solar has become a feature of our energy landscape here in Australia, and as technology evolves it’s becoming cheaper and easier to deliver. There’s a way to go to create the perfect conditions for solar project approvals and investment, but the future is bright for Australia’s solar industry.