Blog Post Monday 04 May 2020
Renewable energy sources like solar and wind are often seen as unreliable or intermittent due to their reliance on weather conditions. So is it true renewables can’t generate enough energy to cover household needs in peak periods like winter and summer? We take a look at renewable energy in Australia and consider whether renewables can, in fact, meet baseload requirements.
Renewable energy as a whole is a major contributor to Australia’s total energy usage, accounting for 24% of electricity generation around the country. Australia is the global leader when it comes to the growth of renewable energy per capita, with capacity growing 10 times faster than the world average. As an indicator of the growth of renewables, in 2019, Australia’s main electricity grid (excluding WA and NT) was briefly powered by 50% renewable energy.
While geothermal is still in its early days, solar, wind, and hydro are already supplying a significant percentage of our electricity needs.
The myth that renewables can’t provide baseload power is persistent, but studies suggest they can fulfil power requirements 24 hours per day if properly implemented. Renewable options like biomass, hydro, and concentrated solar thermal power with storage are highly reliable and counter the stereotype of unreliable, intermittent power. Wind and solar intermittency can be managed by connecting power plants so drops in production can be quickly offset by peak-load plants using biomass, natural gas, or other sources.
The transition to 100% renewable energy production could be possible within a few decades. By scaling up renewable generation, improving storage technology, and improving the energy efficiency of homes, there’s no reason why renewables can’t provide baseload power for Australians even in winter, when solar might be less abundant.
For individual homes, renewable options include solar and wind turbines.
Renewable energy produces less greenhouse gas emissions and pollution compared to fossil fuels. This can help support better public health and tackle climate change. Residential renewable systems like solar can end up saving you a lot of money on energy costs over the longer term, and rebates and incentives can reduce the initial outlay. Your household can become completely self-sufficient in creating all the energy you need. If you create more than you need, you could even end up with a credit on your energy bill with feed-in tariffs.
For individuals, options like solar panels can significantly reduce energy costs. As a country, renewables help us diversify our energy supply, lower dependence on imports, and minimise the risk of energy shocks and price hikes. Finally, an expanding renewables industry creates a lot of new jobs for Australians, in areas ranging from installation to manufacturing.
A 5kW solar PV system costs on average $5,100, including installation, but prices can vary depending on your location, your system, and your installer. Wind turbines can cost anywhere from $7,000 to $20,000 installed, and a 5kW micro-hydro unit will likely exceed $10,000, excluding civil works.
Generating your own energy from renewable sources like solar is a great idea, but whether you should make the shift depends on your own circumstances. A solar panel system requires an initial outlay, but if you’re clear about how much it will save you and understand considerations like the payback period, you could make the switch with confidence going solar is right for your household’s priorities.
Australia could be powered by 100% renewables as early as the 2030s. With millions of households already opting for solar, the shift isn’t just being driven by the renewable industry and government policy. Solar is the most accessible option for Australian households, and declining prices and constant improvements in technology, including storage options, making solar a great option. Whether you’re powering some or all of your household requirements, renewables like solar could potentially meet all of your energy needs during peak periods of the year, including the winter months.