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Solar fuels South Australia’s total energy demand in Australian-first

South Australia has recorded an Australian-first solar energy milestone, with the state’s energy needs being 100 per cent solar powered for one hour, between 12pm-1pm, on Sunday 11 October.

Mild temperatures and cloudless skies contributed to ideal generation conditions in South Australia, with solar power from the state’s 288,000 rooftop systems providing 992MW and large-scale solar 313MW to power the state.

Rooftop solar is installed on one-in-three homes in South Australia, with 2,500 systems installed monthly in 2020 alone.

AEMO Managing Director and CEO, Audrey Zibelman, said that this milestone affirms the world-leading scale and pace of transition underway in Australia’s power system.

“The domination and successful integration of rooftop solar in South Australia foreshadows the rebuilding of jurisdictional power systems in Australia,” Ms Zibelman said.

“Never before has a jurisdiction the size of South Australia been completely run by solar power, with consumers’ rooftop solar systems contributing 77 per cent.”

The new record follows the previous milestone of 89 per cent of state demand set on 13 September 2020, when rooftop solar output reached 900MW for the first time.

To achieve this level of renewable penetration, AEMO has worked closely with transmission and distribution network service providers throughout the National Electricity Market, including ElectraNet and SA Power Networks in South Australia, to ensure the power system remains secure and reliable.

“AEMO is also working hard to identify technical solutions to replace power system services, such as inertia, system strength and voltage control, traditionally provided by conventional thermal generation in Australia to reach higher penetrations of renewable generation,” Ms Zibelman said.

AEMO’s Integrated System Plan (ISP) forecasts that by 2040, 63 percent of coal generation will need to be replaced with grid-scale renewable energy (26GW) and dispatchable resources (6 to 19GW). Distributed energy sources, such as rooftop solar PV and residential batteries, are also expected to double or triple in capacity by 2040.

“South Australia is experiencing a surge in rooftop solar installations. AEMO is forecasting an additional 36,000 new rooftop solar systems in the next 14 months, which will mean that South Australia’s grid will see zero demand as rooftop solar alone will be capable of meeting 100 per cent of demand,” Ms Zibelman said.

“This is truly a phenomenon in the global energy landscape.”