What Is Solar Power in Australia

Solar power in Australia is a relatively recent phenomenon. Currently, it has over 3,200 megawatts (MW) of installed photovoltaic (PV) solar power (February 2014),[1] and 700 MW of PV was installed in the preceding 12 months. At a capacity factor of 14 percent, this would contribute 1.1 percent of Australia's electrical energy. The amount of installed PV capacity in Australia has increased 10-fold between 2009 and 2011. Feed-in tariffs and mandatory renewable energy targets designed to assist renewable energy commercialisation in Australia have largely been responsible for the rapid increase.

In South Australia, Premier Mike Rann introduced a solar feed in tariff for households and an educational program that involved installing photovoltaics on the roofs of major public buildings such as the Adelaide Airport, State Parliament, Museum, Art Gallery and several hundred public schools.[2] In 2008 Premier Rann announced funding for $8 million worth of solar panels on the roof of the new Goyder Pavilion at the Royal Adelaide Showgrounds, the largest roof top solar installation in Australia, qualifying it for official "power station" status.[3] South Australia has the highest per capita take up of household solar power in Australia.

The first commercial-scale PV power plant was opened in 2011, the Uterne Solar Power Station, a 1 MW capacity grid-connected solar photovoltaic system located 5 km south of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory.[4] The second opened in 2012 at Greenough River Solar Farm with a capacity of 10 MW.[5] The price of photovoltaics has been decreasing, and in January 2013, was less than half the cost of using grid electricity in Australia.[6]

The country has been criticised for producing very little of its energy from solar energy, despite its vast resources.[7][8][9][10]

Solar Potential in Australia?

The combination of Australia's dry climate and latitude give it a high benefits and potential for solar energy production. Most of the Australian continent receives in excess of 4 kWh per square metre per day of insolation during winter months, with a region in the north exceeding 6 kWh/day.

Australia's insolation greatly exceeds the average values in Europe, Russia, and most of North America. Comparable levels are found in desert areas of northern and southern Africa, south western United States and adjacent area of Mexico, and regions on the Pacific coast of South America. However, the areas of highest insolation are distant to the country's population centers.

With an installed photovoltaic capacity of 3,300 megawatts by the end of 2013, Australia ranks among the world's top ten solar countries.