• Solar

    There are two main types of solar-powered electricity generation:

    • solar thermal (concentrating solar) energy systems – concentrate the sun’s energy, using heat used to produce steam to drive a turbine and generate electricity
    • solar photovoltaic (PV) energy systems – convert solar energy directly into electricity by producing an electric current when exposed to sunlight

    Resources in Western Australia

    Australia has the highest average solar radiation per square metre of any continent. Several areas of Western Australia are particularly prospective for solar development:

    • Gascoyne and Pilbara in the North West – some of the best solar resources in the nation with energy demand from mining and resource developments
    • Mid West – good solar resources and potential energy demand from mining developments. Parts of this region have access to the South West Interconnected System (SWIS), Western Australia’s main electricity network
    • Wheatbelt – large areas of clear flat land to accommodate solar equipment, with much of the region being connected to the SWIS

    Current use in Western Australia

    There is a substantial amount of small-scale solar PV system generation capacity installed in the State’s main electricity network, with over 200,000 Western Australian households having installed systems. Many of the isolated power systems in remote areas also use solar PV.
     
    Stand-alone hybrid systems (solar PV with back-up) have been widely installed at large station homesteads, remote Aboriginal communities, small mining operations and for telecommunications applications.
     
    In the Pilbara, Horizon Power commissioned hybrid (solar PV-diesel) generation facilities in Nullagine and Marble Bar. These projects were funded through the Commonwealth Government’s Renewable Remote Power Generation Program, now closed, which was administered by the Public Utilities Office.
     
    The Western Australian Government provided $20 million to Verve Energy to develop the 10-megawatt Greenough River Solar Farm in the Mid West. Construction was completed in July 2012, making it one of Australia’s largest solar PV generation projects.

    Future use in Western Australia

    Solar PV technology has improved over the past decade, driven by increased global demand for rooftop grid-connected systems and remote area power requirements. Efficiency has improved and system costs have decreased significantly.
     
    With rising costs of electricity, many households have invested in roof-top solar PV systems to provide some or all of their power needs and there is growing interest from the commercial sector.
     
    However, solar energy is an intermittent energy source as it is only available during the day-time and cannot guarantee supply at any given time. This creates the potential to pose challenges for integrating large amounts of solar-based generation into existing electricity networks without affecting the reliable operation of the system. The introduction of technology such as battery storage may help to address some of these problems.
     
    Last reviewed: 26 April 2017