For that reason, he has said the center, of which he has been the director since July 1, will be focusing its attention on how renewable energies like photovoltaics (PV), wind power and energy storage can work together to offer a more holistic renewable energy package.
Our approach is basically that there is no single solution for everything, he explains to pv magazine. We dont believe that only wind or only solar can solve the problems, but rather a mix of technologies. Solar energy, especially in Australia, is very attractive, because we have a lot of sun. Wind is equally attractive, because we have a lot of wind (…) So we are trying to understand the energy mix of the future from the engineering and technology points of view, as well as from the point of view of sciences, social sciences, economics, regulation and policy in a holistic way.
Does he believe this is the way forward in renewable energy research? Yes, states Agelidis. We are confident about that and we have evidence as well as research publications where we have studied the complimentarity of the energy resources coming from the wind, as well as solar. For example, at night it can be windy, but the solar is not producing. And during the day it can be cloudy and windy at the same time, so what is very important to see basically is that there are complimentary functions for wind and solar, especially in Australia. He adds that when working together, it will be possible to deliver a better renewable energy system to the grid, which is continually powered. Storage will also play an important role in terms of capturing excess energy, in order to use it at times when there is no sunshine or wind.
But, since Australia is hailed for its PV research, will attention not be drawn away from this area, if the center is focusing on other renewable energy sources? Agelidis believes not. It will enhance it, he tells pv magazine, because we are now looking at taking the solar PV technologies into the grid systems. He goes on to explain that the Australian Government has made a significant amount of funding available in order to kick-start the deployment of utility-scale solar. Under the countrys Solar Flagships program, AUD$1.6 billion has been set aside: currently, four companies are bidding against each other in the hope of being able to install the countrys first 150-megawatt (MW) solar PV farm. The program also involves a large solar thermal plant of up to 200 MW and around AUD$200 million will be invested into solar energy research infrastructure.
It was announced last month that the state of Victoria introduced feed-in tariffs (FITs) for utility scale projects for the first time. Are there plans to roll this out on a larger scale? Every state has different rules, in order to exchange power with the grid when it comes from solar, explains Agelidis. We do have an attractive environment for this kind of investment, but of course there are other obstacles. He says that, for example, the time to get approval for projects is a challenge. But I think, as a country, we are overcoming these problems, he says. Does he believe that a FIT model, like the European one, would work in Australia? Yes of course. Anything that helps the renewable energy technologies to move forward into the mainstream would be very good indeed.
In terms of the challenges and opportunities facing the country, Agelidis says that whilst it is clear solar manufacturing technologies will not be based in Australia, due to the fact that places like China and India can manufacture solar products at a lower cost, he does believe the country will remain a world leader in PV innovation, research and development, and in the transferal of technology to the industry.
The way we see it, solar energies are at the center of attention at the moment when it comes to renewable energies in Australia and will remain so for many years to come, concludes Agelidis.