The combined output of rooftop solar, large-scale wind, and large-scale solar reached 50.2% of the 25GW of power being produced on the National Electricity Market this month. It's the first time more than 50% of renewables have been used.

By Ian Horswill

Posted on November 7, 2019

Australia’s main electricity grid was powered by 50% renewable energy for the first time.

The encouraging news was reached at 11.50 am AEST on Wednesday as the combined output of rooftop solar, large-scale wind, and large-scale solar reached 50.2% of the near 25GW being produced on the National Electricity Market, which includes Queensland, NSW, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia. Western Australia and the Northern Territory are not part of the National Electricity Market.

Renew Economy reported the amount of renewable energy use might have been even higher as four out of five solar farms in Victoria are being constrained to 50 per cent of their output, along with the Broken Hill solar farm in NSW. Another solar farm in South Australia, Tailem Bend, was switched off due to low prices.

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The Australian Energy Market Operator decided to reduce the allowable output from five solar farms in Victoria and NSW by half due to issues over “system strength”. The solar farms involved are Broken Hill in NSW, and the Karadoc, Wemen, Bannerton and Gannawarra solar farms in north west Victoria. The constraint limiting them to just half of their nominated capacity came into effect at 12 pm on Friday

Dylan McConnell of the University of Melbourne’s Climate and Energy College who helped develop online tool OpenNEM that measures real-time usage, said that the National Electricity Market grid was powered by 50% renewables for about 10 minutes. Over the entire day renewables contributed 31.2% of the electricity used across the five states.

“We will start to see this happening more frequently. It was just a snapshot in time, but it’s indicative of an underlying trend in the system,” McConnell told The Guardian.

McConnell said spring months have generally been times of high renewables output, when demand was not being driven either by customers wanting to heat or cool homes.

A continuous rollout of rooftop solar electricity was a key driver for the 50% renewable energy, McConnell said.

The milestone reflects a rapid acceleration on renewable energy deployment across Australia in recent years that has seen record-breaking levels of investment.

Rooftop solar was providing 23.7% of all the power demand, followed by wind at 15.7%, large-scale solar with 8.8% and hydro at 1.9%.

Coal remains the largest provider of electricity on the grid, with power stations fed with black coal generating 35.7% and brown coal plants at 13.5%.

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