World First: South Australia Powered by 100% Solar Energy

World First: South Australia Powered by 100% Solar Energy
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South Australia has become the world’s first jurisdiction to be powered 100% by solar energy, after a record-setting hour of a day earlier this month. 

On Sunday, October 11, South Australia saw 100% of its energy requirements met by solar energy, with rooftop photovoltaic cells supplying the majority of power to the grid, with the rest made up by large-scale solar farms. 

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In a world-first, South Australia’s grid was powered 100% by solar energy, with 77% of the demand met by rooftop cells from more than 288,000 homes fitted with solar equipment, and the remaining 23% met by solar farms in Tailem Bend and Port Augusta. 

Rooftop solar provided a record-setting 992-megawatts of power to the grid, while large solar farms provided an additional 313-megawatts. It’s estimated that one-in-three houses in South Australia have been fitted with rooftop solar cells. 

“The AEMO is forecasting an additional 36,000 new rooftop solar systems in the next 14 months, which will mean that South Australia’s grid will see zero demand as rooftop solar alone will be capable of meeting 100 per cent of demand,” Audrey Zibelman, Managing Director of the AEMO

Graphic from the AEMO showing solar meeting 100% of South Australia’s energy needs.

The ABC is reporting that supplemental energy produced from gas-fired plants and wind farms were stored in large batteries as well as being exported to Victoria. 

Audrey Zibelman, Managing Director of the Australian Energy Market Operator – AEMO – has said that the event marks an important milestone for the “domination and successful integration of rooftop solar in South Australia [and] foreshadows the rebuilding of jurisdictional power systems in Australia.” 

“Never before has a jurisdiction the size of South Australia been completely run on solar power, with consumers’ rooftop solar systems contributing 77%.” 

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The previous South Australian record for renewable energy powering the grid stood at 89%, where rooftop solar cells provided 900-megawatts of the grid’s energy needs. 

Ms Zibelman continued to explain that “South Australia is experiencing a surge in rooftop solar installations,” referencing the fact that 2,500 homes constructed in South Australia have been fitted with photovoltaic cells. 

“AEMO is forecasting an additional 36,000 new rooftop solar systems in the next 14 months, which will mean that South Australia’s grid will see zero demand as rooftop solar alone will be capable of meeting 100 per cent of demand. This is truly a phenomenon in the global energy landscape,” she concluded. 

A report from the ABC quotes Paul Roberts, a spokesperson for South Australia Power Networks who has said the addition of rooftop solar power to the state’s grid means that “the system needs management.” 

“In 2009, we probably didn’t have any solar panels connected to the grid; now we have a third of customers with solar on their roofs and this is going to become more of an issue as we go forward.” 

Roberts continued to explain that “it’s an exciting future for South Australia and we have a whole number of things that we are putting in place to manage that.” 

There are currently plans to construct a new interconnector between South Australia and New South Wales to assist with the management of energy in South Australia’s grid and to export clean-sourced renewable energy to Australia’s most populous state. 

Roberts continued to explain that “South Australia could become a net exporter of energy… people are going to be looking at the opportunities that a new interconnector may create for solar farms to export to the NSW market as well as the Victorian market,” he said. 

The AEMO’s chief external affairs officer, Tony Chappel has said that “the grid needs to become increasingly like a set of lungs,” to meet the needs of a changing energy landscape. 

“During the day, the lungs would breathe in and excess energy can be stored and then in the evening when the sun’s gone done, that energy can be fed back.” 

We reported last week that the International Energy Agency had deemed solar the “king” of affordable energy, with a report stating that “solar PV is now consistently cheaper than new coal- or gas-fired power plants in most countries, and solar projects now offer some of the lowest-cost electricity ever seen.” 

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