Global investment in solar power in 2017

The United Nations are reporting that global investment in solar power in 2017 was substantially higher than any other energy source, with a massive 45% of the investment coming from China. Let’s investigate this a little deeper and see what some industry professionals have to say.  

Investment in Solar Power

In a record-breaking year, the 98GW of new solar capacity is higher than any other tech, including other renewables like wind or water turbines, nuclear or fossil fuels. There’s 6GW of this going to Australia – Iain MacGill from UNSW discussed the massive increase in Australian domestic solar via the ABC:

“We have the highest [per capita] rooftop residential solar market in the world, and by quite a big margin,” Dr MacGill said.

“A large proportion of Australia’s investment has gone into South Australia [and that means] we’re at the leading edge of working out how to integrate that renewable power into the electricity market.”

Professor Ulf Moslener from the Frankfurt School UNAP Centre discussed China’s huge $126 billion investment in solar power, where air pollution currently kills around a million people per year:

“The costs are still falling which makes the dominance in investment terms in China even more thrilling,” he said.

The director of ANU’s Energy Change Institute, Ken Baldwin, said there’s still plenty of room to grow and that the next ‘decade or two’ will see the closing of all Australian coal-fired plants: 

“What will be interesting to see is whether this can be maintained,” Professor Baldwin said.

“There was 6 gigawatts of solar, both residential and commercial installed in [Australia] in 2017.

$380m Gunning Solar Farm proposed for NSW

Photon Energy are proposing to build a $380 million, 316MW PV Gunning solar farm – about 75km north of Canberra and 50km west of Goulburn.

Gunning Solar Farm Development

The ABC are reporting that Photo Energy have already lodged their initial plans with the NSW Department of Planning. The plans are set on 590 hectares and will encompass ‘hundreds of thousands’ of solar panels. It’s currently going through permit approvals and grid connection processes – according to RenewEconomy they are in discussions with Transgrid with regards to the construction of a 300MW (AC) substation to connect to their (Transgrid’s) network (which is 330KV).

The current largest operating solar PV setup in the southern hemisphere is the Nyngan Solar Plant in western NSW – it is able to generate 104MW. The Sunraysia Solar Farm, currently in pre-development stage as it was approved last month, is slated to generate 200MW – so the Gunning Solar Farm is a huge proposition and we hope that Photon Energy are able to get it over the line.

Photon Energy - Gunning Solar Farm
Photon Energy Logo (source:photonenergy.com.au)

Photon Energy’s MD, Michael Gartner, was quoted in the ABC discussing Australia’s transition to renewables and the Gunning Solar Farm’s role to play in all this: “The reason we’ve gone to that scale is because we see the need to build very large-scale solar generation systems to supplement the energy requirements of the power grid, as we’ve moved forward to the energy transformation away from coal to renewable energy.”

Photon Energy, founded in Prague in 2008 and publicly listed in Poland since 2013,  are hoping to begin construction of the solar farm in 2019, pending DA approval. They’re currently developing multiple solar projects in NSW, have approximately 50MWp of PV plants commissioned in five different countries, and have their own portfolio of 26MWp in three countries. Having operated in Australia for several years already and with successful developments under their belt, it’ll be exciting to see how the Gunning solar farm development goes.