Australian renewables thrive despite policy uncertainty

Australian renewables thrive despite policy uncertainty

Goldwind Australia's planned 149-turbine Stockyard Hill Windfarm will generate enough electricity to power 390,000 homes. Photo credit: Shutterstock.com.

Australia’s renewable energy market is thriving despite wavering political support, as wind and solar prices fall and businesses reap benefits from going green.

The latest evidence of the increase in demand for renewable energy — a 305-tonne, 14 m by 5 m Toshiba mega-transformer — arrived at Geelong port in Victoria, Australia, in early February aboard multipurpose/heavy-lift (MPV/HL) carrier AAL’s 31,000-deadweight ton ship AAL Dalian. Shipped from Shanghai by project forwarder Cargo Line International, the transformer is bound for Stockyard Hill Windfarm Connection, operated by developer Goldwind Australia. The 149-turbine wind farm will generate 530 megawatts of electricity annually once completed, sufficient to power 390,000 homes.

Photo credit: AAL

Renewable development is booming in Australia, according to Reuters, thanks to a sunny climate and policies that encourage businesses to invest in wind and solar energy sources. However, Australia’s power grid has struggled to adapt to the realities of intermittent power sources such as wind, and blackouts during periods of high temperatures in 2016 led to finger-pointing and policy uncertainty, according to The Guardian.

Although political tensions have escalated, Australian developers are expected to exceed the government’s installed renewable energy target of 33,000 gigawatt hours by 2020, supplying as much as 29 percent of Australia’s energy needs via renewables including wind and solar, according to a study from the Energy Change Institute at Australian National University. Prices of wind and solar continue to fall, pushing down electricity prices.

According to the study, continued strong government support for solar and wind would be useful but is “no longer critical.” What would be useful, the authors note, is government provision of and support for high-voltage interconnectors to connect across states and renewable energy zones.

Contact Janet Nodar at janet.nodar@ihsmarkit.com and follow her on Twitter: @janet_nodar.