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Broken Hill solar plant, New South Wales

Solar power in Australia is a growing industry. As of December 2017, Australia had over 7,024 MW of installed photovoltaic (PV) solar power,[1] of which 1,190 MW were installed in the preceding 12 months. In 2017, 23 solar PV projects with a combined installed capacity of 2,034 MW were either under construction, constructed or due to start construction having reached financial closure.[2] PV accounted for 2.4% of Australia's electrical energy production in 2014/15.[3] The installed PV capacity in Australia has increased 10-fold between 2009 and 2011, and quadrupled between 2011 and 2016.

Feed-in tariffs and renewable energy targets designed to assist renewable energy commercialisation in Australia have largely been responsible for the rapid increase. In South Australia, a solar feed-in tariff was introduced for households and an educational program that involved installing PVs on the roofs of major public buildings such as the Adelaide Airport, State Parliament, Museum, Art Gallery and several hundred public schools.[4] In 2008 Premier Mike Rann announced funding for $8 million worth of solar panels on the roof of the new Goyder Pavilion at the Royal Adelaide Showgrounds, the largest rooftop solar installation in Australia, qualifying it for official "power station" status.[5] South Australia has the highest per capita take up of household solar power in Australia.

The first commercial-scale PV power plant, the 1 MW Uterne Solar Power Station, was opened in 2011.[6]

The second opened in 2012 at Greenough River Solar Farm with a capacity of 10 MW.[7] The price of photovoltaics has been decreasing, and in January 2013, was less than half the cost of using grid electricity in Australia.[8]

Australia has been internationally criticised for producing very little of its energy from solar power, despite its vast resources, extensive sunshine and overall high potential.[9][10][11][12][13]



Solar potential in Australia

The combination of Australia's dry climate and latitude give it high benefits and potential for solar energy production. Most of the Australian continent receives in excess of 4 kilowatt-hours (14 MJ) per square metre per day of insolation during winter months, with a region in the north exceeding 6 kilowatt-hours (22 MJ) per square metre per day.

Australia's insolation greatly exceeds the average values in Europe, Russia, and most of North America. Comparable levels are found in desert areas of northern and southern Africa, south western United States and adjacent area of Mexico, and regions on the Pacific coast of South America. However, the areas of highest insolation are distant to Australia's population centres.

With an installed photovoltaic capacity of 5,900 MW at the end of 2016, Australia ranks among the world's top ten solar countries. The installed capacity in 2015 was 5,070 MW.


Cumulative capacity – End of year cumulative installed PV capacity in megawatts since 2001[14]


The Solar Homes and Communities Plan was a rebate provided by the Australian Government of up to A$8,000 for installing solar panels on homes and community use buildings (other than schools).[15] This rebate was phased out on 8 June 2009, to be replaced by the Solar Credits Program, where an installation of a solar system would receive 5 times as many Renewable Energy Certificates for the first 1.5 kilowatts of capacity under the Renewable Energy Target (see below).[16]

Schools were eligible to apply for grants of up to A$50,000 to install 2 kW solar panels and other measures through the National Solar Schools Program beginning on 1 July 2008, which replaced the Green Vouchers for Schools program.[17] Applications for the program ended 21 November 2012. A total of 2,870 schools have installed solar panels.[18] The output of each array can be viewed, and compared with that of up to four other schools.[19]

Feed-in tariffsEdit

A number of states have set up schemes to encourage the uptake of solar PV power generation involving households installing solar panels and selling excess electricity to electricity retailers to put into the electricity grid, widely called "feed-in". Each scheme involves the setting of feed in tariffs, which can be classified by a number of factors including the price paid, whether it is on a net or gross export basis, the length of time payments are guaranteed, the maximum size of installation allowed and the type of customer allowed to participate. Many Australian state feed-in tariffs were net export tariffs, whereas conservation groups argued for gross feed-in tariffs. In March 2009, the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) started a solar gross feed-in tariff. For systems up to 10 kW the payment was 50.05 cents per kWh. For systems from 10 kW to 30 kW the payment was 40.04 cents per kWh. The payment was revised downward once before an overall capacity cap was reached and the scheme closed. Payments are made quarterly based on energy generated and the payment rate is guaranteed for 20 years.[20][21] In Germany, a guaranteed PV tariff means that (as of 2006) Germany now has the highest PV capacity per capita – at 10 W for every person in Germany compared to Australia at 2.6 W per capita.[22]

Renewable energy targetsEdit

In 2001, the Australian government introduced a mandatory renewable energy target (MRET) designed to ensure renewable energy achieves a 20% share of electricity supply in Australia by 2020. The MRET was to increase new generation from 9,500 gigawatt-hours to 45,000 gigawatt-hours by 2020. The MRET requires wholesale purchasers of electricity (such as electricity retailers or industrial operations) to purchase renewable energy certificates (RECs), created through the generation of electricity from renewable sources, including wind, hydro, landfill gas and geothermal, as well as solar PV and solar thermal. The objective is to provide a stimulus and additional revenue for these technologies. The scheme was proposed to continue until 2030.[23]

Subsidy fundingEdit

The Solar Flagships program sets aside $1.6 billion for solar power over six years.[24] The government funding is for 4 new solar plants that produce coal plant scale power (in total up to 1000 MW - coal plants typically produce 500 to 2,000 MW). This subsidy would need additional funding from the plant builders and/or operators. As a comparison Abengoa Solar, a company currently constructing solar thermal plants, put the cost of a 300 MW plant at €1.2 billion in 2007. In 2009, the Arizona state government announced a 200 MW plant for US$1 billion.[25][26]


List of largest projectsEdit

Projects with a power rating less than 10 MW are not listed.

State Project/​Location Coordinates Capacity (MW) Commissioning LGA Company Notes
NSW Nyngan Solar Plant 31°33′23″S 147°04′53″E / 31.5563°S 147.08152°E / -31.5563; 147.08152 102 2015 June Bogan Shire AGL Energy CdTe thin-film technology. At the time of its construction, it was the largest solar PV plant in the Southern Hemisphere. Capacity: 102 MWAC.[27][28][29][30]
NSW Moree Solar Farm 29°33′58″S 149°50′55″E / 29.56621°S 149.84853°E / -29.56621; 149.84853 56 2016 March Moree Plains Shire Fotowatio Renewable Ventures (FRV) Photo­voltaic, single axis tracking.[31]
NSW Broken Hill Solar Plant 31°59′19″S 141°23′05″E / 31.98871°S 141.3846°E / -31.98871; 141.3846 53 2014 July Broken Hill AGL Energy CdTe thin-film technology. Capacity given in AC (53 MWAC).[32]
QLD Kidston 1 18°52′48″S 144°09′04″E / 18.88009°S 144.1510°E / -18.88009; 144.1510 50 2017 November Genex CdTe thin-film technology Single axis tracker.[33]
VIC Gannawarra Solar Farm[34] 35°43′48″S 143°46′16″E / 35.7300°S 143.7711°E / -35.7300; 143.7711 50 2018 March[34] Gannawarra Wirsol and Edify Energy[34] Photovoltaic, single axis tracking.[34]
QLD Barcaldine Solar Farm Stage 1 23°33′05″S 145°19′09″E / 23.551457°S 145.319066°E / -23.551457; 145.319066 25 2017 January[35] Barcaldine Elecnor Australia Photovoltaic, single axis tracking[36]
ACT Royalla Solar Farm 35°29′24″S 149°08′42″E / 35.490°S 149.145°E / -35.490; 149.145 20 2014 September[37] Canberra Fotowatio Renewable Ventures (FRV) Photo­voltaic[37]
QLD Hughenden Solar Farm 20°51′16″S 144°10′34″E / 20.854401°S 144.176086°E / -20.854401; 144.176086 20 2017 October Hughenden Lighthouse Solar Photovoltaic, single axis tracking[38]
WA Emu Downs Solar Farm 30°29′07″S 115°24′56″E / 30.485196°S 115.415687°E / -30.485196; 115.415687 20 2018 March[39] Dandaragan APA Group Photovoltaic, single axis tracking[39]
QLD Valdora Solar Farm 26°33′35″S 153°01′32″E / 26.5596°S 153.0256°E / -26.5596; 153.0256 15 2017 July[40] Sunshine Coast Sunshine Coast Regional Council and Downer Utilities Australia Photo­voltaic[41]
ACT Mugga Lane Solar Park 35°23′56″S 149°08′49″E / 35.39898°S 149.14687°E / -35.39898; 149.14687 13 2017 March[42] Canberra Maoneng Group Photo­voltaic[43]
QLD Lakeland Solar Project 15°52′07″S 144°51′42″E / 15.868645°S 144.861765°E / -15.868645; 144.861765 13 2018 February[44] Lakeland Conergy Photovoltaic
ACT Williamsdale Solar Farm 35°34′35″S 149°07′48″E / 35.576384°S 149.130123°E / -35.576384; 149.130123 11 2017 October[45] Canberra Impact Investment Group Photovoltaic, single axis tracking.[46]
NSW Gullen Range Solar Farm 34°36′43″S 149°27′44″E / 34.612056°S 149.462287°E / -34.612056; 149.462287 10 2017 October[47] Bannister Goldwind Photovoltaic[48]
WA Greenough River Solar Farm 28°53′20″S 115°07′05″E / 28.889°S 115.118°E / -28.889; 115.118 10 2012 October[7][49] City of Greater Geraldton Verve Energy and GE Financial Services CdTe thin-film technology. Photo­voltaic[50]
WA Degrussa Solar Power Project 25°33′00″S 119°18′57″E / 25.549923°S 119.315924°E / -25.549923; 119.315924 10 2016 June[51] Doolgunna Sandfire Resources NL, juwi Renewable Energy Photovoltaic, single axis tracking.[51]

Australian Capital TerritoryEdit

A new 20 MWp solar power plant has been built on 50 hectares of land in Royalla, a rural part of the Australian Capital Territory south of Canberra. It is powered by 83,000 solar panels, and can power 4,400 homes. It was officially opened on 3 September 2014. It is the first solar plant facility in the Australian capital, and at the time of building the largest such plant in Australia. The facility was built by a Spanish company, Fotowatio Renewable Ventures (FRV).[37][52]

Northern TerritoryEdit

There are 30 solar concentrator dishes at three locations in the Northern Territory: Hermannsburg, Yuendumu and Lajamanu. Solar Systems and the Federal government were involved in the projects.

The solar concentrator dish power stations together generate 720 kW and 1,555,000 kWh per year, representing a saving of 420,000 litres of diesel and 1,550 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.[53]

The solar power stations at these three remote indigenous communities in Australia's Northern Territory are constructed using Solar Systems' CS500 concentrator dish systems. The project cost A$7M, offset by a grant from the Australian and Northern Territory Governments under their Renewable Remote Power Generation Program.[54]

The project won a prestigious Engineering Excellence award in 2005.[54]

The Federal Government has funded over 120 innovative small-scale standalone solar systems in remote indigenous communities, designed by Bushlight, incorporating sophisticated demand side management systems with user-friendly interfaces.


A 50 MW solar PV plant has been built on the site of the Kidston Gold mine. This is phase 1 of a planned solar energy and pumped storage combination.

South AustraliaEdit

The largest rooftop solar PV array in South Australia was installed in 2017 at Yalumba Wine Company across three Barossa locations. Total generating capacity is 1.39 MW generating approximately 2,000 MWh per annum.[55][56] Previously the largest installation was at Adelaide airport, with a generating capacity of 1.17 MW.[57] Sundrop Farms concentrated solar power plant has a generating capacity of 40 MW, and is the first of its kind to be commissioned in the state. Both projects were completed in 2016. A floating array of solar PV panels is in place at Jamestown wastewater treatment plant, with a generating capacity of 3.5 MW.[58]

On November 29 2017 the state government announced a new round of finance for renewable energy projects which included a Planet Arc Power - Schneider Electric development of a $13.9m solar PV and battery project at a major distribution centre in Adelaide’s North. The project includes a micro-grid management system optimising 5.7MW of solar PV coupled with 2.9MWh of battery storage. UniSA will develop 1.8MW of ground and roof mounted solar PV at their Mawson Lakes campus. At the Heathgate Resources Beverley mine there are plans for a relocatable 1MW of solar PV paired with a 1MW/0.5MWh battery which will be integrated with an existing on-site gas power plant.[59]

The Aurora Solar Thermal Power Project and Bungala Solar Power Project are also proposed for near Port Augusta, both on the north side of the town. Auroroa has a contract to supply electricity to state government offices when it is completed in 2020. Bungala is under construction and has a contract to provide electricity to Origin Energy. Riverland Solar Storage has development approval to establish a photovoltaic solar power farm near Morgan. The developer expects it to begin operations in late 2018.[60]


The 100 MW PV Mildura Solar Concentrator Power Station, formerly expected to be completed in 2017, is now cancelled.[61] It was expected to be the biggest and most efficient solar photovoltaic power station in the world. The power station was expected to concentrate the sun by 500 times onto the solar cells for ultra high power output. The Victorian power station would have generated electricity directly from the sun to meet the annual needs of over 45,000 homes with on-going zero greenhouse gas emissions.[62]

The Gannawarra Solar Farm is a 60.0 MW DC single-axis tracking project located west of Kerang in north-west Victoria. It is the first large-scale solar farm to be constructed in Victoria.

Western AustraliaEdit

Western Australia's first major large scale solar farm, the Greenough River Solar farm, is at Walkaway, 70 km SE of Geraldton. It was opened in October 2012. The 10MW field has 150,000 solar panels. The 20 MW Emu Downs solar farm became the largest solar farm in WA when opened in March 2018. Emu Downs solar farm is co-located with the Emu Downs Wind Farm.

Solar cities programEdit

Solar Cities is a demonstration program designed to promote solar power, smart meters, and energy conservation in urban locations throughout Australia.[63] One such location is Townsville, Queensland.[64][65]

Renewable Energy Master Plan 2030Edit

The Council of Sydney is attempting to make the city run 100% on renewable energy by 2030. This plan was announced earlier in 2014 with the blueprints made public on their website.[66] This ambitious plan was recently awarded the 2014 Eurosolar prize in the category of "Towns/municipalities, council districts and public utilities".[67]

See alsoEdit


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  2. ^ ""2017: Biggest year for Australia's Renewable Energy Industry"". 
  3. ^ "2016 Australian energy statistics update" (PDF). 
  4. ^ Centre for National Policy, What States Can Do: Climate Change Policy, April 4, 2012
  5. ^ June 2, 2008. "Adelaide Showgrounds to have nations biggest solar power project"
  6. ^ "Account Suspended". Archived from the original on 25 January 2012. 
  7. ^ a b Australia's Greenough River Solar Farm Opens Amid Renewable Target Debate, Reuters, Rebekah Kebede, 9 October 2012
  8. ^ "Solar Electricity Now Under Half The Cost Of Grid Power For Australian Households". CleanTechnica. 
  9. ^ Sunniest places in the world, Current 
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  12. ^ "US solar giant quits Australia". Renew Economy. Retrieved 17 August 2014. 
  13. ^ Byrnes, L.; Brown, C.; Foster, J.; Wagner, L. (December 2013). "Australian renewable energy policy: Barriers and challenges". Renewable Energy. 60: 711–721. doi:10.1016/j.renene.2013.06.024. 
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  15. ^ Solar Homes and Communities Plan
  16. ^ "Office of the Renewable Energy Regulator". 
  17. ^ "The National Solar Schools Program is on the way". 
  18. ^ "National Solar Schools Program". Retrieved 19 April 2016. 
  19. ^ " :: Data Monitoring". 
  20. ^ "ACT Govt. Feed In Tariff factsheet" (PDF). 
  21. ^ Matthew Bulat. "Solar Power Calculator". 
  22. ^ Supply side options for WA stationary energy: An assessment of alternative technologies and development support mechanisms in the Final report to WA Greenhouse and Energy Taskforce by Next Energy on 26 September 2006
  23. ^ Australian Government: Office of the Renewable Energy Regulator Archived 26 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
  24. ^ "Budget 2009 10: Climate change and energy". Parliament of Australia. 2010. 
  25. ^ "GreenMode Sustainability Developments: Big Solar for Oz". 
  26. ^ "404". Archived from the original on 13 May 2009. 
  27. ^ "AGL - Nyngan Solar Plant". 
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  29. ^ Peter Hannam. "False dawn for solar giant?". The Sydney Morning Herald. 
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  36. ^ "PROJECT | Barcaldine". Retrieved 2017-10-13. 
  37. ^ a b c 'Australia's largest' solar farm opens at Royalla south of Canberra, Jonathon Gul and Kathleen Dyett, ABC News Online, 3 September 2014
  38. ^ "Lighthouse buys second solar farm in Queensland". RenewEconomy. 2017-07-25. Retrieved 2018-03-05. 
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  40. ^ "Sunshine Coast Council stays true to its name by opening its own solar farm in a local government first". ABC Australia. 24 July 2017. Retrieved 13 October 2017. 
  41. ^ "From sugar to solar: Qld council to build 10MW solar farm". Renew Economy. 
  42. ^ Lawson, Kirsten (2017-03-02). "Mugga Lane solar farm opens, bringing ACT to 35 per cent renewable energy". Canberra Times. Retrieved 2017-10-13. 
  43. ^ "Mugga Lane Solar Park". 
  44. ^ "Lakeland Solar & Storage flicks the switch - Conergy". Conergy. 2018-02-19. Retrieved 2018-02-27. 
  45. ^ "Impact plans second solar investment fund as Williamsdale opens". RenewEconomy. 2017-10-04. Retrieved 2017-10-05. 
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  54. ^ a b "Solar Systems - Solar Systems" (PDF). 
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  56. ^ "AGL and Yalumba: Australia's largest winery solar installation in five facts - AGL Solar". 20 March 2017. 
  57. ^
  58. ^ Beattie, Andrea (10 February 2016). "Floating Solar Panel System Changes The Energy Game For Communities Affected By Drought" – via Huff Post. 
  59. ^ "Next wave of energy storage projects announced - Jay Weatherill, Premier of South Australia". 
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  61. ^ Tom Arup: "Sunraysia's huge solar farm up and running", in The Age, 17 July 2013
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  63. ^ "Solar Cities". 
  64. ^ "TOWNSVILLE SET TO BECOME A SOLAR CITY". Retrieved 19 April 2016. 
  66. ^ "Renewable Energy Master Plan". Sydney City Council. 
  67. ^ "Winners of Eurosolar Prize 2014". EUROSOLAR. 

External linksEdit