Australia installs over 800 MW in small-scale solar in 2014

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Excluding regional schemes, Australia’s large scale solar market has remained depressed in 2014. The appetite for solar amongst households and small businesses however remains strong, with around 185,950 small solar systems being installed throughout the year, with a combined capacity of 816.64 MW.

Renewable certificate trader Green Energy Markets released these figures in its December 2014 monthly report.

On the PV power plant front, the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) remains the geographic highlight, with 21 MW of solar being deployed in the state. This is largely the Royalla Solar Farm, developed by Fotowatico Renewable Ventures and connected to the grid in September. An unexpected highlight came in the form of Western Australia, where larger installations, presumably commercial rooftop arrays, saw 11.5 MW added in the form of larger arrays capacity.

On the smaller installation front, the northeast state of Queensland remains the powerhouse. The state accounted for 33% of all installations for 2014, followed by Victoria with 21%, New South Wales (NSW) 17%, South Australia with 13% and Western Australia with 12%. The less populous Tasmania, the Northern Territory and ACT attributed for 3%, 0.7% and 0.6% respectively.

Grid impacts

Earlier this week, Green Energy Markets also released its review of the National Electricity Market – the network connecting Australia’s eastern states. It found that electricity consumption in the NEM continues to fall.

In 2014, electricity consumption on the NEM fell 1.1% YoY. This was true across all states except Queensland, where it rose by 0.9%.

Solar was a key driver of falling electricity consumption, according to the report, with solar PV and energy efficiency being responsible for 89% of the fall in demand – or 1.877 GWh of electricity.

Despite falling demand, the scrapping of Australia’s carbon price lead to an increase in emissions in 2014. Generation from hydro became a less competitive generation source when the carbon tax was removed, resulting in an decrease of 25% within the generation mix. This was partly offset by an increase of 6.4% from wind generation, however brown coal and gas-fired generation increased by 4% and 11.5% respectively.

The decrease in electricity demand in the NEM was also due in part to the closure of the Point Henry aluminum smelter in Victoria. The smelter was close in July 2014.

A number of fossil fuel generation assets were closed or mothballed during 2014. The Redbank and Wallerawang black coal power stations in NSW ceased generating during the year, worth 150 MW and 500 MW respectively. In Victoria the 195 MW Morwell brown coal power plant closed, as did Queensland’s 385 MW Swanbank E gas fired plant and the 208 MW Tamar Valley gas facility.

Despite these closures, greenhouse emissions rose by 1%. Emissions from electricity generation increased by 2.1% throughout the year, to 0.809 tons/MWh.

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