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Solar Energy and Grid in Australia

The energy market in Australia is extremely interesting (well, where is it not?). What makes it different from all other countries in Europe, Asia, North America, etc. is the dispersed population of 24 million people, across an exceptionally huge mass of land. This translates to around 3 people per square km. In contrast, the US has a population density of 35.7, Europe has 55 and Asia has 80 people per square km.

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What this translates to is a huge potential, in terms of land available, however extremely challenging, in terms of developing the infrastructure for energy transportation. As an example, central Australia is a huge red desert. This means lots of wind and lots of sun. However, due to the same harsh conditions, the area is mostly uninhabited, and therefore, no infrastructure available to transport this electricity produced to major cities. Now there is work around this with upcoming technology (for example liquid Hydrogen), however, we haven't reached there yet.

Distributed Energy Resources, a.k.a DER, have put in another big variable into the mix. These are all the rooftop solar on residential and commercial buildings. Due to these DERs, the peak demand from big generators has been disrupted and thrown AEMO off its historic well-tested tracks, to unknown territories. This uncharted territory for AEMO does not help the businesses, investors, government or the people. This means more constrained and time-consuming connection agreements, less confidence in businesses from investors and therefore, not too good for the overall grid. In saying this, however, Australia has been intelligent with its policymaking in the past 10 years. It has incentivised investors to put their money into renewable projects which have led to a huge boom in the number of projects producing power, and new projects being constructed.

The aging coal plants pose another threat to the grid. These power plants also have 30-year-old infrastructure built around it that needs upgrading. New solar and wind energy projects need new transmission lines around some remote areas. All these requirements and constraints add to the problems faced by the energy market in Australia.

Keeping aside the above-mentioned challenges, Australia still has extremely viable solar and wind projects already connected to the grid, as well as continuously popping up near major cities including Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide. Queensland now boasts a total of 2.1 GW of renewable energy, which is approximately 21 percent of the state's total energy production.

These challenges obviously present great opportunities for people and businesses who can make the current process even slightly more efficient or reliable and future proof. There are already some whispers on having blockchain technology radicalizing the industry.

Therefore, I invite you to join us in these challenging but extremely interesting times within the energy market and help us build a brighter Australia.

Khalid Beg's picture

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Nov 8, 2019 12:38 pm GMT

What this translates to is a huge potential, in terms of land available, however extremely challenging, in terms of developing the infrastructure for energy transportation. As an example, central Australia is a huge red desert. This means lots of wind and lots of sun. However, due to the same harsh conditions, the area is mostly uninhabited, and therefore, no infrastructure available to transport this electricity produced to major cities. Now there is work around this with upcoming technology (for example liquid Hydrogen), however, we haven't reached there yet.

These are interesting points-- is hydrogen the only tech that you think is coming along to try to plug into this problem? Can energy storage play a role? Perhaps combined with some sort of HVDC network?

Khalid Beg's picture
Khalid Beg on Nov 8, 2019 1:14 pm GMT

That is certainly a consideration. However, the cost of building the HVDC network across more than 1000 km for even a gigawatt plant is not financially feasible, even though it will be considerably cheaper than HVAC lines. Therefore, the only way to get around it is through technology such as liquid hydrogen. This is a challenge unique to Australia and hopefully gives enough incentive for the leaders in the energy market to push for innovation within Australia. 

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