Australia’s main electricity grid was driven by 50% renewable energy for the first time. The combined output of rooftop solar, large-scale wind and large-scale solar reached 50.2% of the near 25GW being produced on the National Electricity Market, which includes Queensland, NSW, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia, although Western Australia and the Northern Territory are not part of the National Electricity Market.
The amount of renewable energy use might have been even higher as four out of five solar farms in Victoria, that are being constrained to 50 per cent of their output, along with the Broken Hill solar farm in NSW. Another solar farm in South Australia, Tailem Bend, was switched off due to low prices.
The Australian Energy Market Operator decided to reduce the allowable output from five solar farms in Victoria and New South Wales by half due to issues over “system strength”. The solar farms involved are Broken Hill in New South Wales and the Karadoc, Wemen, Bannerton and Gannawarra solar farms in north-west Victoria. The constraint limiting them to just half of their nominated capacity came into effect. Dylan McConnell of the University of Melbourne’s Climate and Energy College who helped to develop online tool ‘OpenNEM’ that measures real-time usage.
He said, “The National Electricity Market grid was powered by 50% renewables for about 10 minutes. Over the entire day, renewables contributed 31.2% of the electricity used across the five states.” He also added that they will start to see this happening more frequently. It was just a snapshot in time, but it’s revealing of an underlying trend in the system.
Rooftop solar provides 23.7% of all the power demand, followed by wind at 15.7%, large-scale solar with 8.8% and hydro at 1.9%. Coal remains the largest provider of electricity on the grid, with power stations fed with black coal generating 35.7% and brown coal plants at 13.5%.