Renewable energy continues to eat into the pie previously reserved for coal and gas, and what made the biggest difference this summer was the extra solar PV capacity added to both rooftops and in large solar farms.
On the back of the record growth of solar seen across all segments in 2018, with more than 2 GW of large-scale PV added and over 40% increase in residential PV, solar grew to supply more power than gas and brown coal across the 9am to 5pm time period, according to new analysis from Green Energy Markets. Solar output exceeded gas over every hour in this period except for the hour between 4pm and 5pm, and it was greater than brown coal until 3pm.
With solar capacity on track to double in the next three years, the analysts expect solar to overtake gas and coal across the entire 9am to 5pm period by the summer of 2021-22.
Overall, renewable energy produced 128% more megawatt-hours of electricity than gas and 23% more than brown coal this summer.
Renewables ready to replace old coal clunkers
In the run-up to the imminent closure of ageing coal-fired power stations, renewables are building up and stand ready to pick up the slack in the period of peak demand. The pace of wind and solar energy additions over the last two years has allowed it to almost entirely replace the lost output from the Hazelwood power station during summer.
While in the first summer the gap in supply left after the retirement of the 1,600 MW coal-fired power station in the Latrobe Valley in Victoria was filled by growth in black coal and gas output, with a small additional contribution from renewable energy, this summer wind and solar output was 2,821 GWh higher than the summer prior to Hazelwood’s closure. Renewables almost completely made up for the fall in brown coal output of 2,908GWh compared to the pre-closure summer of 2016-17, GEM finds.
Renewables made up 21.1% of the electricity generated in Australia’s main grids in February with the help of 1,071 GWh generated by rooftop solar and 345 GWh generated by large PV, the report shows.
Large-scale renewables pipeline is looking heathy with nearly 8 GW under construction, including 3.5 GW of solar, the report shows. This is providing jobs for nearly 20,000 people, 8,355 of which are in the solar sector. There were 22,709 rooftop solar systems installed across Australia in February, enough to power to power 47,710 homes.