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South Australia: a global solar & wind pathfinder

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Andrew Blakers's picture
Professor of Engineering, Australian National university

Andrew Blakers is Professor of Engineering at the Australian National University. He founded the solar PV research group at ANU. In the 1980s and 1990s he was responsible for the design and...

  • Member since 2021
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  • Nov 4, 2021

The state of South Australia derived 73% of its electricity from solar PV and wind during the month of October. The average price on the wholesale spot market was US$31/MWh. For the preceding 12 months, the solar/wind fraction and price were 62% and US$44/MWh respectively. The South Australia grid displays excellent stability.  


On one day in October, South Australia derived 100% of its electricity from solar and wind. On most days, the solar/wind fraction exceeded 100% or even 120% for at least a few hours, as shown in the graph for the last 7 days of October (yellow is solar, green is wind). The rooftop solar fraction exceeded 85% at times and is expected to surpass 100% at times during the approaching summer.


South Australia has a population of 1.7 million. Its electricity comes mostly from solar and wind. The balance is generated from fossil gas with a small fraction (~1%) of net imports/exports. South Australia has no hydroelectric, coal, bio, geo or nuclear generation. South Australia is part of Australia's National Electricity Market but is relatively weakly connected to the other states. Transmission capacity is ~0.9 GW compared with average and peak demand of 1.6 GW and 3.2 GW respectively. South Australia hosts about 0.3 GW of batteries, and this is expected to rapidly increase. Four new synchronous condensers have been installed.


South Australian solar and wind is rapidly increasing. It is expected to average more than 100% by the mid-2020s, which will coincide with the completion of new transmission capacity to the eastern states.


Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Nov 4, 2021

South Australian solar and wind is rapidly increasing. It is expected to average more than 100% by the mid-2020s, which will coincide with the completion of new transmission capacity to the eastern states.

What do you see as the most likely offtaker of excess renewable when the time comes-- Australia has been the global hotbed for large-scale energy storage, but will something like hydrogen or even more off the beaten path like desalination come into play? 

Andrew Blakers's picture
Andrew Blakers on Nov 4, 2021

South Australia will export to the eastern states, and could readily reach 150% after the new transmission comes on line. There is a lot of hydrogen hype, but whether it bears fruit is an open question.

Philip Flowers's picture
Philip Flowers on Nov 8, 2021

I live in the USA southwest.   We have a lot of sunshine and are working toward all renewable by 2050.  I am very distressed to know your power costs are so high.  I pay $15.00/Mw US for my power at this time.  This means my electric bill will go up 2 to 3 times to get where you are now.  Not looking forward to renewable power.

Philip Flowers PE

Retired Power engineer. 

Andrew Blakers's picture
Andrew Blakers on Nov 9, 2021

I really doubt you pay $15.00/Mw US for your power. Normally people purchase energy, not power, although there may also be a maximum-power fee in there as well. On top of that is all the fixed charges, much of which should properly be assigned to energy or power fees, and these disguise the true cost of energy. Then there are dramatic failures due to under-investment.

Philip Flowers's picture
Philip Flowers on Nov 11, 2021

My last bill was $48.06 for 301 kwh including all taxes, access fees and other costs not related to the cost of power.  I worked for utilities for the last 40 years and know what the cost of power is.  The last place I worked could make a profit on power if  cost was above $25.00 MW.  They shut the place down and demolished it this year because the power was too expensive.  See TMPA Gibbons Creek plant demolition on utube.

Philip Flowers PE

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Nov 9, 2021

Andrew, in your extension above I notice you have conveniently disregarded a linear projection for increasing imports, when SA will be forced to import gas- and coal-fired electricity to keep the lights on. Is the renewables plan to leave SA residents in the dark when it's neither windy nor sunny, or to export your emissions to neighboring states?

Andrew Blakers's picture
Andrew Blakers on Nov 9, 2021

Net imports/exports hover around zero +/- a few %. When it is sunny/wind there are exports. On gloomy windless days there are imports. Strong interconnection between states reduces storage needs 5X compared with each state going it alone. Texas is an example of a state that needs to strongly interconnect. Not only would this reduce the risk of another blackout, but the excellent solar/wind in Texas can then flow to other states.

Andrew Blakers's picture
Thank Andrew for the Post!
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