Once upon a time, it was a common assumption in the utility industry and among solar skeptics that solar power couldn’t provide more than 5% of grid electricity or the grid would break. And by common, I mean that was the conventional wisdom except among solar loons. How the times have changed!
In the latest stunning milestone for the rooftop solar world, in Western Australia, rooftop solar power recently provided 72% of power for the grid for a period of time on a Sunday and 71% for a period of time on a Saturday. This is particularly notable since the Western Australia grid is a completely isolated grid — the largest completely isolated grid in the world.
“The new records appear to have beaten the previous benchmark set exactly a year earlier on September 10, 2021, when AEMO’s data shows that the peak of 69 per cent penetration was reached,” Giles Parkinson of RenewEconomy writes.
Due to the high amount of solar power (thanks, spring) and relatively low electricity demand (thanks, spring; thanks, weekend), the grid operator, AEMO, noted that the weekend set minimum operational demand levels for the grid — 759 MW on Saturday and then 742 MW on Sunday.
On top of all this, the grid doesn’t even have a utility-scale battery yet! One is under construction at last, though. For now, demand response systems are critical to managing the grid with all of this rooftop solar power incorporated. “One of its main programs has been what is called ‘project symphony’, which is designed to orchestrate demand and output from distributed sources, including encouraging loads to be switched on when the amount of rooftop solar pushes grid demand down to levels that the market operator says are difficult to manage,” Giles reports. It seems to be working for now. But Western Australia expects more from itself.
“The W.A. government has brought forward the closure of the last of the state-owned coal generators and has vowed to spend $4 billion on renewables, storage and the network upgrades that will be needed.”
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