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Clean Power Australia solar rooftops via Shutterstock

Published on March 29th, 2013 | by Guest Contributor

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Rooftop Solar Could Power All Australia Homes (& More)

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March 29th, 2013 by
 
Reposted from RenewEconomy:

By 

Australia solar rooftops via Shutterstock

Australia solar rooftops via Shutterstock

What would happen if every Australian household installed solar PV on their rooftops? That’s the hypothetical question a new study has set out to answer, with the main aim of proving a solar point (while rattling a few cages along the way): that solar power is a viable solution to Australia’s energy challenges and has the potential to dramatically change the nation’s energy landscape.

The study, conducted by solar provider Energy Matters using government data, found that if every suitable rooftop in Australia was turned into a solar power station, the amount of energy generated would supply more than 134.8 per cent of the country’s residential electricity needs, and would drive down power prices from an average of 30c per kilowatt-hour to 7c/kWh.

According to Energy Matters, there is just under 400 square kilometres of available roof space on residential roof tops in Australia that could accommodate solar panels – equal to the size of inner Melbourne. By the company’s calculations, each one of the suitable houses could theoretically hold an 8kW, 32-panel solar power system. The cost for each system at the current market rate would be less than $14,000.

These houses would then generate 36kWh per day; and with the average household currently consuming 18kWh per day, the excess electricity would earn the household between $2100 and $3,200 per year. This way, the study estimates each household’s solar system would be paid off in between four and six years.

And then there is what Energy Matters describes as the “knock on effect” to factor in, with energy prices and CO2 emissions reduced dramatically, and a huge boon in green jobs.

As for the cost of the installation, the study finds this would represent 8 per cent of Australia’s yearly GDP, or 0.4 per cent per year when amortised over 20 years. This compares to the $15 billion Australia currently spends on electricity each year, which amounts to 1 per cent of it GDP.

What would happen to Australia’s current electricity production facilities under this scenario? “There would be almost no need for base load power stations on a sunny day,” said Brass. “Australia could close down most of its coal-driven power stations overnight, except for those in heavy industrial areas. Under-utilised gas fired peaking plants, which are already in existence, would be called upon to generate Australia’s night time and cloudy day electricity needs. Shutting down Australia’s coal power stations alone would mean our emissions targets would be met almost immediately.”

It all sounds pretty sensational, but according to Energy Matters, who released the results of the study today, the figures it has turned up are “extremely conservative” (the company’s calculations show solar can supply 134 per cent of Australia’s residential needs, but it says the actual figure would be much higher), and its hypothetical scenario of a rooftop solar-powered Australia “could easily become a reality.”

“Our vision is not too dissimilar to Bill Gates’, who predicted every household would have a computer,” says Energy Matters’ Nick Brass. “People at first scoffed at this vision, but the advent of the affordable personal computer changed the world. Energy Matters’ grand plan is to help convert every suitable rooftop in Australia into a solar power station.”

“The idea is for the eligible houses to produce more electricity than they need with the excess supply fed back into the grid in order to power Australia’s residential and non-residential needs,” said Brass. “Further calculations we performed indicate the amount of electricity generated would supply 38.8% of Australia’s total electricity requirements (inclusive of all residential, industry, commercial services, metal production and mining).”

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  • RSMills

    Has Cleantechnica reported on the US market in the same way?

  • Kevin Adams

    Most solar installations (especially the bigger ones >10 kW) will soon need some sort of storage capability to alleviate stresses on the power lines during peak production. Pressurized air and/or batteries along with a internet connected smart meter at select sites would work to control this excess. Germany is apparently already having this problem. Store it and let r loose at night!

    • jburt56
      • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

        Thanks. :D

      • Kevin Adams

        I mean when we go all out with solar, at 100%. Distributed solar should have appropriately sized storage capabilities that are also distributed.

        To quote from your link:

        “To move beyond 40% to 80% renewable power (the target for around 2050),
        Germany could need as much as 14 GW of short-term and 18 GW of seasonal
        power storage to meet its peak power demand of around 80 GW in the
        moderate scenario. At that point, power prices would be roughly 10%
        greater than in 2011, but reaching 100% renewable power will be quite
        expensive indeed. The German engineers estimate that the final 20% will
        triple the need for power storage, raising prices once again by around
        19%.”
        Read more at http://cleantechnica.com/2012/10/09/german-study-not-much-power-storage-or-coal-power-needed-for-40-renewable-power-supply/#pSTSrKwK1kvQ1Yrz.99

        • ThomasGerke

          Whether or not it will be expansive or not in our heavily distorted current energy markets, depends greatly on the world 10/20/40 years from now.

          Some estimates & predictions for the security of supply for fossil fuels are a lot less optimistic than IEA outlooks. If we will continue to allow the socialization of the external effects of the current energy paradigm is also questionable.

          The solution establishing itself as the #1 choice for seasonal storage in Germany is currently the Power-to-Gas conversion to link the power & gas grid (enabling surpluss wind & solar to make use of the existing infrastructure).

          For a 100% renewable energy system it would take 40-60 GW of P2G capacity (in a unrealistic scenario that looks at Germany as an isolated island).

          Since P2G is highly scaleable it can be mass produced (lowering cost) and could be applied in a distributed way. (As a “upgrade” for existing biogas facilities, … )

          According to the Fraunhofer Institute the installation cost of 1 GW of P2G capacity should end up below 1 billion Euro.

          So we are looking at up to 60 billion € for the power to gas capacity… multi-TWh storage capacity already exists in the gas grid.

          Since Wind & solar compliment each other quite well on a monthly timeframe, alot of storage capacity wouldn’t even be neccessary.

          • Kevin Adams

            That solution is quite brilliant. I didn’t know natural gas lines held so much storage potential.

          • ThomasGerke

            It’s propably an infrastructure aftershock from the oil crisis in the 1970s.
            In Germany the reserve capacity stands at about 16% of the anual gas consumption. (That’s 20 billion m³ or approx. 170 TWh of gas)

            According to wikipedia it’s 110 billion m³ in the US. :-)

  • linda518

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