'We Want To Do Everything We Can': NSW Readies For Renewables Surge

FairfaxPeter Hannam

New solar and wind farms being planned for NSW have twice the capacity of the state's coal-fired power stations, prompting the state government to set aside $55 million to help smooth their introduction.
As of October 29, NSW had 20,000 megawatts of generation capacity either approved or seeking planning approval, worth more than $27 billion in investment, according to government data.
Moree solar farm: a lot of these are in the NSW planning pipeline.
Proposed solar plants accounted for 11,200MW, dwarfing wind farms with 5100MW, and the Snowy 2.0 pumped hydro of about 2000MW. Just 100MW involved coal, with the planned upgrade of AGL's Bayswater power station.
Along with the new plants, some eight large-scale battery projects - all with solar farms - with more than 400MW-hours of capacity are also in the planning pipeline as the industry gears up for the bulge in variable energy sources.
The market, though, is going to need some near-term help to smooth the exit of most of the state's existing power plants - particularly the 10,160MW of coal-fired power stations, said Amy Kean, director of the Energy Infrastructure and Emerging Technologies unit at the Department of Planning.
To that end, the government last week revealed the first details of its $55 million Emerging Energy Program aimed at supporting a portfolio of nascent technologies that will be needed as 70 per cent of the state's generation fleet retires by 2035.
“We’re trying to drive these technologies down the cost curve so they can then complement variable wind and solar technologies,” Ms Kean said.
The surge in renewable energy comes as the federal government has largely vacated the energy policy space after the demise of the Turnbull government's National Energy Guarantee. The states are largely being left to press on with carbon reduction and other power sector goals.
“There is no doubt that our energy future lies in alternative technologies," Don Harwin, the NSW Energy Minister, said.
“We want to do everything we can to unlock the expertise of the private sector to accelerate projects that deliver clean, reliable and affordable energy."
Renewable energy could emerge as a key policy issue at next March's state election. Adam Searle, Labor's energy spokesman said his party planned to "have quite a lot more to say about it", and that the ALP "will do more on new energy than Coalition parties".

Solar catches up with wind
The rapid advance and competitive nature of solar photovoltaic panels, meanwhile, has caught many by surprise.
In September, solar farms and rooftop systems supplied 935.9 gigawatt-hours of electricity to the National Electricity Market, eclipsing wind power's 913.9 GW-h for the first time, said Dylan McConnell, an energy researcher at Melbourne University.

Source: Dylan McConnell

While wind energy dipped during a relatively calm month, the race remains "pretty much neck and neck", Mr McConnell said. "Wind is slowly ticking away while solar is advancing rapidly."
Proof of that advance has been on show lately in South Australia, the state where solar PV penetration is the highest with about 31 per cent of households having systems on their roof, according to SunWiz data.
On October 21, electricity demand from the grid sank to a record low of about 660MW during the middle of a sunny Sunday. In the past, minimum demand would have been more like 1000MW, Mr McConnell said.

Source Dylan McConnell

Govind Kant, a sales manager at Trina Solar one of the largest solar panel suppliers, said commercial customers had lately joined households and utilities as a major source of demand.
Businesses often have large roof space and demand that matched more neatly with supply than homes. Payback time for systems can be down to three years, giving them an annual return on investment of 33 per cent.
"It's not why would you go for commercial solar but when," Mr Kant said.

Farewell grid
For some, such as Andy Hill, the economics of dropping off the grid by adding batteries to the PV are also becoming attractive.
Faced with a $40,000 bill for connecting his new home near Scone in the upper Hunter region to a powerline 50 metres away, Mr Hill opted instead for a $57,500 system of 10kW of solar PV and 40kW-hours of storage.
Despite building a house within 50 metres of power line, the Hill family (Cash, Ryan, Leah and Andy, left to right) near Scone in NSW opted to go off the grid altogether. Credit: Andy Hill
"We always wanted to go off the grid - we're in Australia and there a lot of sun," said Mr Hill, who runs the Our Range Quarter Horse Stud.
He expects the system will pay off the difference in about four years, compared with connecting to the grid, and after that, "it'll be a bonus".
Still, until he sees how his system performs, Mr Hill plans to keep an emergency back-up "emergency" generator: "Just to be sure everything's spot on."


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