Of course WE know that solar is fantastic, but it is nice when the media agrees with us from time to time. This article talks about “big solar” – the Solar Flagship projects.
From John Grimes, article in Australian Financial Review
(see full article here)
The government’s decision to recast its Solar Flagships program has put the spotlight on the future of solar here and overseas. Some may argue the solar dream has turned sour, but the global reality is very different; solar’s time has arrived.
The solar game has changed with two significant developments. The price of solar photovoltaics (PV) has plummeted, and China has risen as the solar superpower.
Last year was a critical year for solar as the cost of PV fell by nearly half, in Australia and around the world. It was also the year that a number of countries, including Australia, broke through the 1 gigawatt mark, installing more than a gigawatt of solar PV generation, and the year the first solar plant produced electricity over 24 hours. The plant stores excess heat in molten salt during the day, and draws it down during the night to power steam turbines. New global investment in clean energy reached a record $260 billion last year, with more than half of that going into solar, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Investment in rooftop solar surged to $74 billion.
That is more than was invested in fossil-fuelled generation last year.
The Chinese solar industry now believes the cost of solar will fall below that of coal-fired power within the next decade. That would be a game-changer for the world’s second-largest economy, with flow-on effects for Australia. China has made a strategic decision to be the solar superpower. Seven of the world’s top 10 solar manufacturers are now Chinese companies, and Beijing has set a target of 100 gigawatts of installed solar capacity by 2017.
Some will argue that big solar is unproven technology, but again the global reality is very different, with an 80 megawatt plant in Germany, a 200 megawatt plant in China and a 100 megawatt plant in Ukraine just some of the most recent examples.
The Solar Flagships program is an important first step in building big solar plants in Australia. The Clean Energy Finance Corporation has the potential to really drive investment in big solar and must be legislated as soon as possible.
Bloomberg New Energy Finance has estimated the corporation, backed by a price on carbon pollution, could help deliver 5 gigawatts of large-scale solar photovoltaics and 2 gigawatts of large-scale solar thermal by 2020, on top of many gigawatts of residential and commercial solar.
It is difficult to build any large infrastructure project in Australia, and big solar is certainly a large infrastructure project. There are challenges aplenty, but there are also reasons for optimism.
China, the United States and India are making strategic investments in solar, and smart investors like Warren Buffett are on board.
Australia needs its own solar strategic plan. After all, we have the world’s best sunshine and a public that backs solar.
John Grimes is chief executive of the Australian Solar Energy Society