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Australia - Moving to Renewable Energy

Posted on 10 December 2018 by Riduna

Solar and Wind­

Australia’s six States and two Territories have always had primary responsibility for implementing policies on the transition away from fossil fuels to renewables as an energy source.  As a result, there has been a significant increase in the number of solar and wind farm applications which have been approved.  Indeed, it is predicted that if the rate of those approvals were sustained, it could see Australia generate over 50% of its national electricity needs from renewables sources by 2025, making it a world leader in this field.  

Meanwhile, the Federal Government – a coalition of the National Party (mostly climate change deniers), and Liberal Party, (with a deeply conservative right wing) are torn between a fervent desire to see domestic use of coal fired generation expanded, meeting their commitments under the Paris Accord to reduce emissions and maintaining electricity delivery to consumers at reduced cost.  How they expect to achieve reduced cost when new coal-fired electricity is far more expensive than renewable energy is not explained.  Nor is the fact that Australia’s emissions are expected to rise despite Federal payments to emitters costing taxpayers $2.3 billion aimed at reducing them.

For their part, State Governments have been approving proposals of investors in solar and wind power so as to ensure a smooth transition from aging coal fired power generators to new, clean, solar and wind farm generators.  The level of investment in grid-scale renewable generators in 2017 reached $1.385 billion spent on completion and commissioning 20 projects comprising 6 wind and 7 solar farms, 1 hybrid, 1 hydro and 4 bioenergy schemes - and the world's largest grid scale battery.  Combined, these projects have capacity to generate 1,013 MW and created an estimated 1,500 jobs during construction.

State Governments have approved 36 additional renewable energy projects on which construction is scheduled to complete in 2018.  These projects, involving investment of $5.664 billion are expected to have created an estimated 4,900 jobs during construction, mostly in rural areas where employment opportunities are often low. When commissioned, these projects will have capacity to generate about 2,742 MW and providing increased competition among renewable energy generators.

Fig. 1 Distribution of projects completed and commissioned in 2017 and 2018.  Note the surge of activity in 2018 completions in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria.  Source: Data published by the Clean Energy Council and other sources.

It should come as no surprise to learn that Queensland – aptly named 'The Sunshine State' – leads the nation in the number (32) and capacity (3.6 GW) of new grid-scale solar farms approved for building in 2018.  The largest, Kidston Solar, has back-up in the form of pumped hydro (250 MW) but few other projects have storage.  At present, coal-fired power stations provide most of the back-up but as these reach the end of their commercial life and cease operating, solar farms will either rely on widely dispersed wind farms to provide back-up or will install battery storage or pumped hydro to do so.

Grid-scale batteries, like the one at Hornsdale Power Reserve in South Australia, re-charge from electricity when it is most plentiful and so at its cheapest, generated by hydro, wind when it blows or the sun when it shines – which invariably occurs somewhere in Australia.  Batteries respond to changes in the Grid in milliseconds ensuring its stability and continuity of electricity supply.

These arrangements mean that renewable and coal fired generators will be able to supply the grid with energy 24/7 with available back-up and do so more cheaply than can fossil fuelled generators alone.  They will be able to continue doing so even when all fossil-fuelled generators have closed, as they inevitably will, either because they are too expensive to maintain or because electricity produced by solar and wind is so much cheaper.  

New Investment

A Pipeline of 125 new renewable energy projects have been approved by State Governments. It presently comprises 82 solar, 28 wind and 15 other projects including 12 storage projects with 1,805 MW capacity.  During construction, these projects are expected to create in excess of 21,500 jobs.  They have an estimated investment value of $26.2 billion and capacity to generate in excess of 20,600 MW.

Many of these projects are expected to complete in 2019, indicating extraordinary exponential growth. As shown below, Queensland has attracted the largest new investment, $9.2 billion to be invested in 42 new projects. New South Wales attracted the second largest investment ($6.561 billion) for construction of 21 solar farms, 8 wind projects and 2 hybrid facilities.

Not included in the NSW estimate is a multi billion dollar investment for development of a 4GW energy hub in New England since a firm proposal has yet to be put to Government. 

 Fig. 2  Distribution of an estimated 125 Pipeline projects, many of which are likely to complete in 2019.  New projects are being continuously added to the Pipeline.  Source: Internet Search, Proponents advice, Clean Energy Council

An odd feature of Pipeline analysis is that the Northern Territory (N.T.) does not appear to have attracted more than 1 grid-scale project, despite its topography which favours location of both solar and wind generators.  Further, the N.T. boasts many remote communities, most of them relying on diesel generators or roof top solar panels to provide their electricity needs.  It is likely that these will be replaced by renewable energy generators feeding into local grids in coming years.

Low new investment in Tasmania is explained by the fact that the State is already 93% self sufficient in electricity generated from renewables, mostly hydro  It plans to be fully self-sufficient by 2022.  

Relatively low investment in renewables in Western Australia arises from the fact that 25 gas fired power stations with 4,000 MW capacity supply the Regions, using gas produced in that State while 4 coal-fired stations supply the Capital and larger centres.  Investment in renewable energy projects will increase as demand increases and renewable generation becomes cheaper than gas.  Future developments may include a massive 9 GW, $20 billion Asian Renewable Energy Hub proposed for building in the Pilbara.

Most renewable energy projects are located in close proximity to the National Grid for ease of connection and to the Local Grid serving nearby cities and towns in which electricity consumers reside, enabling electricity to be fed into either grid in the event of damage to one of them.  The mix of solar, wind and hybrid (with storage) is expected to enable the National Grid operator (AEMO) to purchase sufficient electricity to meet fluctuating demand and maintain grid stability, even in an El Nino year (2019) when prolonged heatwaves are expected and could threaten blackouts during periods of peak heat.

All States – except Western Australia – are connected to the National Grid and to each other by high voltage interconnectors.  Each State seeks to be self-sufficient in renewable generating capacity so as to be unaffected by closure of fossil fuelled generators and have surplus energy to:

(a) ensure continuity of supply by ensuring that generators have capacity to supply the grid 

(b) maintain competition and put downward pressure on price of electricity and 

(c) attract new investment into a large market as it expands.

At present, most electricity (83%) is generated in power houses burning fossil fuels, mostly coal.  They are much more expensive to operate than renewable generators. This is because coal fired generators must pay - and recover - higher capital building costs (new supercritical coal fired generators are as much as x5 more expensive  and take longer to build than renewable generators of the same capacity.  They pay higher operating costs which include the cost of coal, increasing maintenance costs and a sizeable workforce. By contrast, renewable generators get their fuel (wind and sunlight) free, have very low maintenance costs and need a comparatively small workforce to operate.

Australia has 21 coal fired power stations with 25,400 MW capacity.  Investment in renewable energy projects since 2017 and in the Pipeline already provides capacity to generate in excess of 18,450 MW or 75% of existing coal fired capacity.  This makes it possible that by 2025 future investment in cheaper, more efficient renewable energy generators could see the demise of all remaining coal-fired power stations and possibly the end of coal use in Australia.  Demand for electricity in Australia will then be met from gas-fired power stations and renewable energy generators.

Seventy-six Thermal and Turbine Gas-fired power stations operating in the States have capacity to generate 16,000 MW of the electricity generated in Australia and it is possible that more may be built – though that entails a commercial risk.  As shown in Fig. 3 the levelized cost of electricity generated by gas is cheaper than that generated by solar, though the difference in cost is closing.  Electricity generated by wind is already cheaper than gas and it is likely that improvements in solar technology could see gradual closure of most if not all gas-fired power stations, possibly by 2030. 

Fig. 3  Levalized cost of electricity generated by renewable sources and fossil fuels.  Source: Lazards LCOE 11.

Further reductions in the cost of electricity could result from research and development of more efficient photovoltaics, transmission lines and grid design.  Most panels used in a solar farm array have an average efficiency of 18%.  In other words, over 80% of the sunlight falling on a solar panel is not converted into electricity.  However, advances in technology continue to be made resulting in the achievement of efficiencies as high as 38%.   

These advances have yet to be commercialised but it is likely that the best of them will be over the next 5-10 years, making it possible to generate the same amount of electricity from 50% fewer solar panels.  It is also possible that new technology will make it cheaper and more efficient to generate electricity - from photovoltaic cells in film applied to a wide variety of surfaces such as glass, roofing and other materials and that this technology could eventually replace solar panels.

Solar Farms already produce electricity at a levelized cost of less than $50/MWh, below the cost of coal, which generates electricity for around $60/MWh.  However, the cost of generating electricity using combined cycle gas remains cheaper than the cost of grid scale solar though, as shown in Fig 3, more expensive than wind energy.  None of the fossil fuels can generate electricity as cheaply as wind and solar is now approaching parity with wind.


In its rush to renewables, Australia could be creating a significant waste disposal problem – what to do with millions of PV solar panels when they reach the end of their life?

Present technology requires an average of 3,250 solar panels to produce capacity of 1 MW.  Since January 2017, solar farm proponents have installed or intends installing solar panels with capacity of 7,700 MW or about 25 million photvoltaic solar panels, with a life of 20-25 years.  At the end of their life these panels and those installed in the future must be removed and replaced with the latest technology available.

All State Governments need to consider appropriate legislation to provide for orderly recovery and disposal of many millions of solar panels in an eco-friendly manner.  Who will be responsible for paying for retrieval and recycling of this material – or that used for wind turbines made obsolete by advances in technology?  There are going to be a lot solar panels, possibly over 100 million spread over the countryside by 2025.

To facilitate future clean-up, it is desirable that each State maintain a Register of all renewable energy assets with a capacity of over 1 MW.  It is not clear that all States do so 


  •      In 2018, Australia has attracted $19.924 billion of new investment for 90 solar, wind and storage projects with capacity to generate 14.7 GW.
  •      Renewable energy projects commissioned in 2017 and 2018, plus Pipeline projects have capacity to generate 18.450 GW which is 75% of remaining coal fired capacity.
  •      Larger businesses, including smeltinghorticulture and mining have begun installing their own renewable energy generating capacity or are signing supply contracts with renewable generators.
  •      Gas fired power stations with capacity to generate 16 GW could close by 2030 since cost of solar generation is likely to achieve parity with gas by 2020.
  •      Additional investment in grid-scale renewable energy and storage is needed to provide energy security and meet increased demand caused by future economic expansion and transport electrification - likely to begin in earnest by 2023.

Australia is moving in the right direction but, like other greenhouse gas emitters, is not reducing its emissions rapidly enough to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial average global temperature by 2100.  More needs to be done and done more rapidly - particularly in the electrification of transport.

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Comments 1 to 24:

  1. Australia is moving in the right direction


    There seems to be some sort of cognitive dissonance here, last year saw our emissions at the highest they've ever been and 2018 looks to be higher still.  Moving in the right direction ? I'd suggest moving more slowly in the wrong direction is a better representation of what's happening.

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  2. Australia seems idealy suited to a transition to low carbon renewable energy with plenty of sunlight and other energy resources. Grid scale electricity storage also has a number of different options which can be tailored to the required situation. Some like redox-flow batteries are only economical at the grid scale and can have a virtually unlimited lifespan.

    How three battery types work in grid-scale energy storage systems

    Australia also has vast geothermal potential at a relatively shallow depth in much of the central and nothern part of the nation.

    Geothermal power in Australia

    It's good to see that real change is taking place in Australia, but it also seems to be the case that like here in Canada there are still too many policy makers who are saying one thing and doing the opposite.

    The global priority is to phase out all fossil fuels as quickly as is feasable starting with the most polluting like coal and unconventional oils like tar sands bitumen. Then moving on to light crude and natural gas until all energy production is fossil fuel free.

    And yet there are still many who keep demanding we build more coal fired power plants or here in Canada who want to vastly increase the pipeline capacity from the tar sands to get significantly more bitumen to market where it will be burned creating an even more massive carbon dioxide plume than we are producing now.

    I found it a little ironic that a few weeks ago when Australian school kids walked out to protest government inaction on climate change a minister commented that they were wrecking their future.

    Australian kids walk out of school to protest climate inaction

    No one will have much of a future at all if we don't make these essential transitions and as soon as possible. This has been under debate for almost a half century now, the time for talk is long past we need real action that actually significantly reduces carbon dioxide emissions.

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  3. I also think what's going on with these emissions targets is largely a dodge or an outright scam and has been for decades. There's been talk about the need to control carbon dioxide emissions with growing force since the late 1980s when the first Earth Summit took place. In Rio in 1993 I think this was reiterated and 4 years later in Kyoto there was a firm agreement by most nations that it was critical to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to stave off significant impacts. That was over 20 years ago.

    And emissions have kept going up, few nations honored their Kyoto commitments and this is still going on. New Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau made a firm commitment in 2015 to reduce our emissions here and they still remain some of the worst in the world per capita and the uproar in Canada at the moment isn't the existential crisis presented by unmitigated climate change caused largely by the burning of fossil fuels. It's how we're not building enough pipelines to get millions of barrels of tar sands bitumen to market each and every day. And creating the necessary infrastructure to keep the bitumen flowing for decades essentially ensuring that the worst case scenarios of catastrophic climate change really do happen.

    We didn't allow this kind of recklessness with CFCs, there was agreement for an international moratorium that was carried through on. We've limited then phased out things like asbestos mining and manufacturing, controlled access to tobacco products and have strict restrictions on advertizing in many places. Thalidimide isn't perscribed to expecting mothers and the list goes on and on.

    And yet we keep sitting back and allowing phony emissions targets and meaningless international agreements to dominate the production, sale and burning of substances that are rapidly making the entire Earth unlivable for ours and many ofhter species. When we've had alternatives for years like solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, nuclear and more.

    We don't need emissions targets, we need need binding agreements to phase out fossil fuels on strict timetables that stop giving the sector all the room it needs to fudge the numbers and actually increase production at our expense.

    There needs to be zero investment in products that are more destructive conbined than all those other toxins like tobacco, DDT, thalidimide, abestos etc... Fossil fuels are poison for the entire planet, policy needs to reflect this.

    Anything that is going into fossil fuel development instead of renewables like solar and wind isn't just a waste, it is self destructive.

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  4. Doug C @3

    Good points. Efforts to fix the climate problem are painfully slow while we have generally done better with things like the ozone hole and tobacco. The question is why? Here are a few ideas:

    The ozone issue raises the big scary cancer word that gets people attention, and it affects them directly while the climate problem is just perceived to be that little bit further in the future and so easier to ignore. This is frustrating because climate change is so obviously a much greater problem.

    The science for the ozone hole was simpler, and so less easy to cast doubt on that the climate issue. There was a denial campaign from industry but not on anything like the scale of fossil fuels. There were alternative products easily enough available, and the whole thing only affected refrigeration.

    The tobacco issue is a different sort of thing. They are absolutely life threating while the climate problem is more nuanced and complex to grasp, although ultimately a much greater problem because of the range of issues and it affects everyone. However it actually took years before people realised the problems of tobacco and there were years of industry denial before anything was really done and years more before numbers of smokers really fell.

    Tobacco taxes were not exactly popular. And the tobacco issue only affects smokers where fossil fuel use basically affects everyone thus the greater resistance to change.

    None of this  excuses for our poor response to climate change, but it does suggest we might get there eventually, haltingly. I don't see anything fundamentally different with the climate issue and the other issues, it just seems a matter of degree of differences between the factors involved.

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  5. And of course the ozone and tobacco issues didn't become so politicised as the climate issue. Once things become politicised and tribal this slows down progress but this appears to be strongest in America and Australia (ironically). 

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  6. nigelj @4

    The main reason that nothing real has been done for decades in many juridictions as I see it is pure corruption. The fossil fuel lobby pays millions to fund a massive disinformation campaign that is then used as a wedge by politicians they also pay huge amounts of money to who keep implementing policies that prolong fossil fuel use well past the danger zone of catastrophic impacts.

    In some ways the CFC issue was simpler, but it was still based on the evidence presented by scientists of the necessity to phase out CFCs for the protection of humans and natural ecosystems. Scientists have been making the same case with close to the same amount of certainty with fossil fuels and climate change for decades and we get international agreements to limit carbon dioxide pollution based on this science that are essentially meaningless. The same didn't happen with CFCs, we had an international agreement and it was a followed.

    We have alternatives to fossil fuels and every year they become more and more viable. And still far too many policy makers are pretending the existential threat posed by fossil fuel use doesn't even exist. And there seems to be no professional and personal cost to them in doing so.

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  7. Doug C @6, yes the main reason for lack of action on climate change is an underhanded, irresponsible denialist campaign on unprecedented scale. This has clearly worn people down.

    Not only was the ozone issue based on scientific evidence like the climate issue,  it has an international agreement (The Montreal Protocol) and used similar regulatory and cap and trade mechanisms as recommended for the climate problem but the scheme for ozone was robust. Therefore what sets things apart is the size of the denial campaign.

    The refrigeration industry is small and has limited lobbying power. Governments stood up to the ozone industry with a robust cap and trade scheme but not the fossil fuel industry and its hard to escape the conclusion its their lobbying power and campaign donations.

    But there are other significant differences. Developing alternative products was easier with the ozone industry. However the fossil fuel industry like the oil producers could have developed alternatives but have refused to, apart from some window dressing. They have not really even tried and have effectively said the whole thing is someone elses problem.

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  8. Also see this article in Renew Economy

    => Australia in midst of $20 billion wind and solar investment boom

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  9. nigelj @7

    I think that sums it up well.

    When you look at how much money, time and innovation has gone into developing the capability by the fossil fuel sector to go after increasingly hard to access hyrocarbons like tar sands bitumen, gas and oil in rock formations that need to be fractured and oil in reserves thousands of feet under the ocean, it would have been far more efficient, sustainable and ethical to put all of that into energy resources that do not present the harzards of fossil fuels.

    It has been a conscious decision by those at the top of the coal, oil and gas corporate hierarchy to maintain their dominance in energy production no matter the externaized costs.

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  10. "All State Governments need to consider appropriate legislation to provide for orderly recovery and disposal of many millions of solar panels in an eco-friendly manner. Who will be responsible for paying for retrieval and recycling of this material – or that used for wind turbines made obsolete by advances in technology? There are going to be a lot solar panels, possibly over 100 million spread over the countryside by 2025."

    This is a really important point, solar and other renewable energy production shouldn't just be as low carbon as possible, it should have the least waste stream possible.

    Solar panels can be designed to be recycled at the end of their decades long lifespan and perhaps having a deposit attached to each panel would encourage as many people as possible to turn them in for recycling at the end of their useful life.

    Recycling solar panels in 2018

    The issues we now all face go far beyond fossil fuels forced climate change, it is now essential that all our activities be sustainable on a long term basis.

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  11. Humanity's fatal flaw may be greed. If we do not gain control of that basic flaw, I fear we are a dead end species. This flaw is most visible in our constant references to "economic growth" as the reason for not taking effective action on climate change. Should humanity not survive as a species, life on this planet will suffer cataclysmic consequences such as the meltdown of over 400 nuclear reactors as well as the release of all stored nuclear material. The climate will continue to deteriorate beyond our demise. The surviving life forms, if any, are beyond my ability to describe.

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  12. In the last summary list, shouldn't the "MW" be "GW"?

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  13. jbpawley - Quite right.  Error corrected. 

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  14. Trevor-S @1.

    Well, maybe – but the size of the Pipeline (at this date worth >$20bn) suggests more than slowing emissions increase, particularly if followed up with transport electrification. It seems likely that a Labor Government (if elected?) is likely to encourage commitment to mega renewable projects such as those proposed for W.A and NSW – or large industries such as Whyalla steelworks and remote mining operations.

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  15. Doug_C @2

    You are right to call for the appropriate policies, more action and less words. I think such calls will become more forceful as severe climate events intensify, occur more frequently and cause more costly damage– as they inevitably will.

    In Australia – and most other developed economies – the next step is transport electrification which, as described in my essay Problems for Oil is expected to have a disruptive effect on demand for and use of oil and its products – particularly heavy oils. The countries most immediately affected by such disruption: Canada, Venezuela and Indonesia.

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  16. Doug_C @3

    Those who seek to maintain or increase the level of greenhouse gas emissions use all kinds of ploys aimed at excusing such action – for example, calling for emissions to be measured on a per capita basis rather than in absolute terms, or tacitly not condemning misreporting or failure of the worlds’ major emitter to curb emissions until 2030.

    While you are largely right in pointing to the imminent threat on public health as stopping use of CFC’s, as noted in the essay China’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions, although China signed-up to the Montréal Protocol it nevertheless continued its use of CFC’s – and policies aimed at promoting use of coal to generate electricity.

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  17. Riduna @15

    With recent developments in lithium battery technology it's hard to see how ICE vehicles will remain competitive much longer.

    Solid state batteries are likely going to spur a revolution in EV car design, capabilities and sales.

    Milestone for next-gen solid-state batteries to power future long-range electrical vehicle

    "Our results show that we can make solid-state batteries that have the potential to reach the capabilities of wet batteries, and this using manufacturing processes similar to those for wet batteries," says Philippe Vereecken, principal scientist and program manager at imec, "But unlike wet-batteries, our solid-state batteries will be compatible with metallic lithium anodes with a target of 1,000Wh/liter at a charging speed of 2C (half an hour). This, together with their longer lifetime and improved safety, makes them a promising compact battery technology for tomorrow's long-range vehicles."

    The money that is being invested here in British Columbia alone in the fossil fuel sector is staggering.

    - A $10 billion plus hydro-electric project at Site C located in the Montney formation that will almost certainly be used to power oil and gas fracking across NE BC.

    - The $4.5 billion the Canadian government just spent to pruchase the Trans Mountain oil pipeline from Kinder Morgan plus the approximately $4 billion it will take to finish the tripling of line to a capacity of about 900,000 barrels a day.

    - The $40 billion LNG complex in north central BC that has just been approved by the provincial government with substantial tax breaks and subsidies.

    All this is counter-prodcutive to the carbon tax we have had here in BC for years. The purpose of such a tax is to make all fossil fuels less and less competitive as time passes. But our government gives carbon tax exemptions to polluters.

    I would much rather we were taking these significant resources and investing them where first off they won't become stranded assets in the near future and secondly where they don't help drive further climate change that is already highly disruptive and damaging here. And many other places a true global catastrophe in motion.

    There are so many options and they get better all the time as with solid state batteries with longer life spans, higher energy density and far less failure risks. And as you point out in your article "Problems for Oil", battery packs are already nearing the point where they make EVs as affordable as ICE powered vehicles.

    Certainly this will involve a great deal of change, it kind of reminds me of when gas and electric powered vehicles began to replace horse powered transportation. It's hard to imagine cities like New York and many others a little over a century ago with streets crowed by horse drawn carriages and their attendent "pollution".

    We changed then and we'll change now. The air will be cleaner, there will be less geopolitical stress as sunlight is a univerally available fuel source not located in regional trigger points and we'll at least have a shot at mitigating the worst impacts of climate change.

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  18. I think electric cars are great and the way of the future. I would draw a comparison between electric cars and smartphones in terms of the product growth cycle. The early smartphones such as Nokia communicator were actually quite good, but big, ugly looking and not that user friendly, and expensive. Electric cars have mostly been in the same space, a bit dull looking in the main, and unknown quantities with limited range etc so product market penetration has been slow.

    Smartphones took off with the apple models because they were easy to use and looked stylish, don’t underestimate the importance of looks. Then the android models came along, and the price dropped and now everyone owns the things, just about. Growth has been exponential.

    The latest electric car models are much better looking and have good range and great performance and comfort. What is needed is quick charging – don’t underestimate the importance of convenience to the public. It also takes a little time for the public to accept new technology. Then I predict growth will be exponential.

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  19. The advantages to EVs are significant.

    First off your "fuel" can be transported at near ligthspeed hundreds of miles with little risk, pollution and waste stream. And it weighs almost nothing.

    EVs take that energy and deliver it directly and highly efficiently to the wheels meaning only a tiny fraction of the loss of potential energy we have with fossil fuel produced gas and diesel. And with so few moving parts the need for expensive after-market replacement parts is a tiny fraction with EVs compared to ICE vehicles.

    And when the electricity generated for EV transportation is produced with low carbon renewables like solar and wind power that is a major step to an essential reduction of carbon dioxide emissions.

    One of the roadblocks so far has been battery pack cost and technological barriers. Wet lithium ion batteries do remove a lot of the risk associated with wet lithium metal batteries at the cost of about half the energy denisty, longer recharge cycles and shorter lifespan.

    This does cause some incovenience to drivers as they have to plan for shorter range, longer "refueling" and at what speed to drive. The faster you go the quicker you draw down your charge and it drops very fast when EVs are operated at high performance levels.

    What solid state lithium metal batteries will do is eventually significantly increase the energy density, lower the weight of the battery pack, increase range, decrease the recharge time and mostly remove the fire risk with the elimination of the flamable electrolytes in wet lithium ion batteries.

    I think a decade from now there will be no comparison between ICE vehicles and the latest EVs that will have impressive range, much quicker recharging, much longer battery pack life and little of the risk of catastrophic discharge if the battery is damaged in an impact.

    With inductive roadbeds it will be possible to charge your vehicle while driving in some schemes that have already been tested in places like New Zealand and London England.

    The UK is testing out roads that charge electric cars as they go

    Major new investment in wireless electric-charging roads

    The future is electric with power provided by solar, wind, geothermal, biomass and other renewable utilized in ways that will simply drive innovation in ways we can't predict now.

    The future for us all will be exceedingly dark if we stay the course with fossil fuels while the potential with alternatives could be very bright indeed if we choose.

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  20. I can't think of another country that has greater renewable energy resources than Australia combined with a widely spread population that makes distributed energy sourcing a particularly attractive solution to their energy gerneration.  However they will be fighting an uphill battle unless they first sort out the one ring that controls them all.

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  21. A feature of the Pipeline is the dominance of solar farms comprising 82 projects, or 66% of its 125 projects.

    A feature of climate change in Australia is the growing frequency and severity of hail storms.  This gives rise to concern about the vulnerability of the millions of photovoltaic panels which will make up these solar farms, particularly when recent reports are of hailstones the size of golf balls.

    Can solar farm design ernsure that in the event of some damage to panels, ability to generate electricity is maintained?

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  22. Riduna,

    It is my experience that cracked solar panels continue to generate electricity.  I know several people who had cracked panels on home systems (say a hammer fell on them) who continued to use them for several years.  They did not see a large drop in electricity generated.

    I would expect that utility solar farms would have to replace cracked panels after a hail storm but that they would not be out of service completely during the time it took to replace the panels.  Since panels can be replaced in small sections the power of a large facility is only slightly reduced by replacing panels in one block.  As compared to a fossil plant which has to shut down for maintenance.

    I do not see as big a problem with end of lifetime disposal of solar panels as you do.  I have a sailboat that is powered by two panels that are at least 25 years old.  They still produce close to their rated power.  They are not as efficient as new panels and take up more space.

    I would expect that 25 year old panels would be replaced by more efficient panels.  The old panels can then be sold at a discount to developing nations as cheap solar power.  This has already been done with wind turbines in Europe where old turbines are replaced with new technology and the old turbines are refurbished and sold.

    Even if they have to be recycled, most of the panel is aluminum and glass which can be recycled.  There is not currently a big market to recycle panels as a lot continue in use as described above.   

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  23. Michael Sweet

    In 20-25 years time photovoltaic technology is likely to have advanced to the point where to-days massive panel arrays are replaced be cheaper, transparent and more efficient film applied to built and other structures. Such development would probably make to-days panels, salvage value only, probably involving a lot of waste

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  24. N.B.

    This essay was written in November, 2018. I have now updated it by replacing Fig 2 and the first two paragraphs under the heading ‘New Investment’ so that they show Pipeline status at the end of December, 2018.

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