The total global utility-scale solar PV generating capacity was an impressive 45GW by mid of last year, more than twice the amount produced at the end of 2013 according to figures from Wiki-Solar.org.
Remarkably, Australia’s solar is a fairly small player within the larger installations space compared to other leading continents like Asia, Europe and North American which have the highest stakes in the big solar market.
Philip Wolfe, founder of Wiki-Solar says that even then, Australia’s solar ranking has slightly moved up thanks to the large 103 MW Nyngan solar project in NSW. According to the report, Australia came in 24th in global rankings, with about 130MW of the 200MW big solar installed capacity assigned to the Australasia-Oceania region.
Australia’s solar still a minor player on the global scale
Of course there’s some improvement on Australia’s solar ranking of 34 as of January 2014, with just 10MW of installed utility-scale capacity at the time—smaller than even Mauritania, a small African nation. Currently, it has outdone Portugal.
China, which now boasts more than 10GW of installed utility-scale solar, and the UK are so far the only countries with the highest growth for the year. The UK secured a top three position with 2GW of new capacity which was installed during the first quarter of 2015.
Wolfe notes that continuing big solar developments in countries will only further down the top 10 list, with Japan, France and Canada all working to build more capacity.
“It looks to be only a matter of time before they too overtake Spain,” he said.
While Australia as a country continent has no significant big utility-scale solar installed on a global scale, its short-term growth is already driving costs down faster than some of the most sanguine large-scale project developers could ever predict.
Canadian Solar, one of the leading solar module manufacturers in the world, and a renowned project developer, in 2015 predicted a fall in the Australian levellised cost of large-scale solar from about $150/MWh the same year to $75/MWh in 2020.
Falling cost of solar accelerated by finance and technology
The fall in the cost would be accelerated by the lower cost of finance or borrowing, advancements in technology and capacity factors as well as efficient installation and operation.
However, the various initiatives fully backed by the ACT government, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, and the Australian Renewable Energy simply means those accomplishments are happening faster than expected.
Mr. Daniel Ruoss, the head of projects at Canadian Solar says Australia is now more than ever before likely to hit that target by 2018.
Also, there are several big solar projects in the pipeline or whose construction will be starting soon, like the first wind-solar hybrid project set to be constructed near Canberra by Goldwind.
It will be the first combined wind-solar-battery storage hybrid to be erected by Windlab in north Queensland, along with two other solar-battery storage projects – one by Conergy in north Queensland and another by Lyon Infrastructure in South Australia.
There are also mining-focused projects such as the Sandfire Resources in Western Australia, and several other off-grid hybrid projects like that in Coober Pedy and the just completed solar farm situated at the Rio Tinto’s Weipa mine.
To add on this, various investment vehicles are being initiated to invest in utility-scale solar, which has become more appealing hanks to its falling costs and the guaranteed returns, given that generation costs become stable once the plants are established.
“The cost of delivering large-scale solar projects is just going down and down,” said Chris Lock, the head of Impact Investment Group, which has launched a $100 million solar fund.
“We’ve really got an asset class here that is a really predictable source of energy, and a really predictable cash flow over the next 20-30 years – not unlike fixed income or bond-like investments.”
Photo courtesy of Penn State on Flickr