Australia sails past 5 GW of PV

Australia’s stop-go approach to policy support for renewables and PV has not undermined the continuing growth of installed capacity in the country. Data compiled by Australian solar market analysts Sunwiz reveal that PV capacity in the country now exceeds 5 GW, or 23 million solar modules – “a solar panel for every man woman and child.”

The Sunwiz figures are based on both large and small-scale solar arrays registered for renewable energy certificates (RECs), under the country’s solar support framework. Sunwiz notes that the 5 GW may indeed be slightly below the actual solar capacity as some solar installations would not be registered under the REC program and some large-scale systems will not be listed on the REC Registry.

In a particularly encouraging sign, solar was the leading source of new electric generating capacity in 2015, with 913 MW of PV being added. Solar’s growth compares to 774 MW of wind power added to the National Electricity Market network. 230 MW were systems larger than 100 kW in capacity, including the Nyngan (102 MW), Moree (56 MW) and Broken Hill (53 MW) solar farms. 712 MW of systems smaller than 100 kW were added in the same period.

While this solar was being added in 2015, Sunwiz notes that 1.3 GW of coal generating capacity was decommissioned.

Despite these impressive figures and signs of a transformation of Australia’s energy system, Sunwiz is not optimistic for the Australian solar market in 2016. It notes that market growth in 2015 was largely a result of the building out of large scale projects, the development of which began some years ago under the Solar Flagships program.

“Though there are a large number of utility-scale solar farms in early stages of development, most will commence deployment in 2017, meaning contraction in the solar industry is likely in 2016,” writes Sunwiz. The market analysts note that “sizeable opportunities” exist in the commercial market and other “highly favorable niches.”

On a regional basis, the north-east state of Queensland leads the way regarding installed solar capacity (1.47 GW), followed by New South Wales (1.23 GW), Victoria (894 MW), South Australia (635 MW) and Western Australia (554 MW).

Sunwiz also provided a table of completed Australian PV projects larger than 500 kW in its analysis.

Nyngan Solar Plant

AGL Energy

102 MW

Moree Solar Farm

Fotowatio Renewable Venture (FRV)

56 MW

Broken Hill Solar Plant

AGL Energy

53 MW

Royalla Solar Farm

Fotowatio Renewable Venture (FRV)

24 MW

Greenough River Solar Farm

Synergy / GE Energy Financial Services

10 MW

Mildura Solar PV Power Plant

Belectric Australia

3.5 MW

Gatton Solar Research Facility

University of Queensland –

3.235 MW

Uterne 2

Epuron / TKLN Solar

3.1 MW

Moora Solar Power Station

CBH Group

2 MW

Weipa Solar Plant

Rio Tinto

1.7 MW

Mildura CPV Solar Power Station / Mildura Demonstration Facility

Silex / Solar Systems

1.5 MW

Doomadgee Solar Farm

Ergon Energy

1.26 MW

Casuarina Shopping Square

1.25 MW

Shellharbour Shopping Centre

1.22 MW

Newington Athletes’ Olympic Village

1.1 MW

Brisbane Market Ltd

1.06 MW

Greenway Investments

1.029 MW

Uterne 1

Epuron / TKLN Solar

1 MW

IKEA – Canberra

1 MW

Adelaide Showgrounds

1 MW

IKEA – Tempe

989 kW

IKEA – Springvale

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