Reinventing renewables

Thursday, 20 July, 2017


Renewable energy provided 17.3% of Australia’s electricity in 2016, according to the Clean Energy Australia Report 2016. The report stated that three wind farms and seven solar power plants became operational in 2016, including the Fotowatio Renewable Ventures Moree Solar Farm — the second largest in Australia.

The report also stated that installation of rooftop solar systems was steady in 2016, with 135,370 systems installed throughout the year. This has accelerated in 2017, with the industry posting its largest ever March quarter for rooftop solar, and the biggest of any quarter since August 2012.

Australia’s renewable energy target of 23.5% by 2020 is much lower than New Zealand’s target of 90%; however, Australia’s transition to renewables is unique given its traditional coal-fired power plant reliance and lack of political certainty. This target does appear achievable with further investments expected in renewables and storage, as well as energy efficiency and demand response. The Clean Energy Finance Corporation has investment commitments of almost $2.1 billion in 2016–2017 over 35 transactions.

While traditional forms of solar and wind technology currently dominate the market, it continues to evolve with some disruptive innovations. Wind turbines are expected to become bigger and higher, for example, with the technology being enhanced by big data and the IoT.

Airborne wind energy is a design concept that uses kites or drones to tap into the winds above conventional wind turbines. These winds are said to have four times the power of conventional sites. The drone versions can even rise through zero wind at ground level to tap into strong winds. The IDTechEx report ‘Airborne Wind Energy (AWE) 2017-2027’ includes details on this market.

JinkoSolar is collaborating with SERIS on new bifacial solar cells — high-efficiency, mass-producible cells — with the target of achieving 20% more energy output in outdoor applications compared to conventional silicon solar cells. IDTechEx Chairman Dr Peter Harrop said the argument is that solar cells have become so cheap relative to an overall solar power installation that it is now economically viable to add a second layer of cells that will work at one-fifth the efficiency level of sun-facing cells. If a solar system costing $3/W at 16% efficiency makes sense, then an install at $3.20/W will make great sense at 19–20% efficiency, he said.

Electrically active transparent smart glass will be a $6.5 billion market in 2028, growing rapidly, according to an IDTechEx report. Some of the technologies include building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV), organic photovoltaics (OPV), transparent luminescent solar concentrators (TLSC) and light-guiding solar concentrators all for windows. With progression of the energy-independent electric vehicles (EIV) market, infrared harvesting from under a vehicle and solar windows in vehicles are also under development.

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