South Australia leading the country in renewable energy

The renewable energy landscape in Australia, much like the country itself, is one of contrasts. While we have seen announcements from some State Governments that appear to be in favour of maintaining the current energy mix, or reducing renewables, other states have actively embraced the social, economic and environmental benefits of renewable energy.

South Australia is leading the way, with figures showing wind power provided 26% of the state’s energy in the year to June 2012.

Wind has now overtaken coal as the second largest energy source in South Australia, 3,349 GW to 3,091 GW respectively, although natural gas is still dominant. The wind power industry in South Australia received a further boost from the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), which upgraded the volume of installed wind energy “firmly available” to meet maximum demand from 5.0% to 8.3% for the summer period and from 3.5% to 7.5% for winter demand.

In addition to this, wind farms comprise 18 out of the 24 publicly announced projects for potential energy generation plants in the state. The additional wind farms will further increase capacity by at least 2,215 MW and possibly in excess of 2,607 MW. Of the remaining 6 potential plants, there are 3 gas plants, with the expected energy potential of 695 MW. There is also a strong grassroots movement in the state for Port Augusta‘s 2 ageing coal-fired power plants to be replaced with a concentrating solar thermal (CST) plant of equivalent capacity, but only time will tell if this plan will come to to fruition.

Solar PV in South Australia

The AEMO report puts solar PV’s contribution in meeting South Australia’s energy needs at 2.4% during the 2011-2012 period. Rooftop solar PV, in combination with reduced industrial activity, has been credited with reducing the state’s energy demand in the past two years and energy forecasts going into the future.

Solar PV plays an important role in bridging the gap between the available wind energy and demand. In addition to the potential wind farms, a solar farm is currently being lobbied for and, the AEMO project an increase in rooftop solar capacity despite changes to incentives within the state.

The positive news from the renewable sector in South Australia may give hope to the solar industry in Queensland as it awaits the final report from the Queensland Competition Authority. The South Australian renewables sector is a great example of how to integrate renewable into the energy mix, and how reasonable incentives and Solar Feed-in Tariffs can continue to stimulate growth.

© 2012 Solar Choice Pty Ltd

Rebecca Boyle