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Solar Energy

As one of the sunniest continents in the world, there is considerable potential for solar energy generation to make a significant contribution to electricity production in Australia. With ample open space, and there is an unrealised potential for Australia.

There are two main methods of converting the sun’s energy into electricity. Photovoltaic and Solar Thermal.

Photovoltaic (PV)

More than 2 million Australian households now have solar hot water systems or solar photovoltaic (PV) systems on their rooftop.

The majority of solar PV installations are roof top and grid-connected. However solar PV also has a long history of supplying reliable ‘off grid’ power to remote and regional Australian communities.

A number of larger commercial Solar PV projects are being currently developed, including 43MW capacity within the ACT – 20MW Royalla Solar Farm, 13MW Mugga Lane Solar Park and 10MW OneSun Capital Solar Farm.

Solar Thermal

Solar thermal energy harnesses the sun’s power to generate electricity by using lenses and reflectors to concentrate the sun’s heat. The concentrated heat is used to heat a fluid such as water or oil which is then used to drive a turbine. Across the globe, in countries such as Spain, Germany and the USA, solar thermal is being deployed on a large scale. Much research is being conducted into storage systems  for the energy generated via solar thermal.

There are several common types of solar thermal collectors including:

Compact Linear Fresnel Reflector (CLFR) – modular flat reflectors focus the sun’s heat onto elevated receivers containing water. The concentrated sunlight boils the water in the tubes, generating high-pressure steam for direct use in power generation and industrial steam applications without the need for costly heat exchangers;

Trough system – array of linear parabolic concentrator to focus the sunlight into a collector pipe that then pipes the fluid to a central point;

Tower System – a field of tracking mirrors reflects the sunlight onto a centrally located tower containing the fluid; and

Parabolic dish system – an array parabolic dish concentrators that focus the sunlight to a point at the focus of each dish to heat a fluid.

See below for an infographic that ARENA has published:

ACT Government Policy

The ACT Government released its Climate Change Strategy – Action Plan 2 in 2012, focusing on the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through introducing a bold ‘renewable electricity consumption target of 90% renewables by 2020’. The Strategy outlines how to - ‘transform Canberra and the Capital Region into a hub of clean energy innovation’. 

With the uncertainty surrounding the future of the national RET, the ACT Government’s commitment is providing much-needed momentum within the industry. Updated modeling since the release of AP2indicates that around 550 megawatts (MW) of new large-scale renewable energy investments will be required to achieve the 90% renewable energy target.

As at January 2016, the ACT Government has already awarded 40MW of new large-scale solar PV projects and 300MW of new wind energy capacity utilising a reverse auction process. 

Information above from a variety of sources including www.cleanenergycouncil.org.au and www.environment.act.gov.au/energy

Click here to access a video on how Solar PV works

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