Bushfires curtail solar and wind farms in South Australia and Victoria

February 2020

Bushfires curtail solar and wind farms in South Australia and Victoria


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RenewableCube: Up to date, detailed, and comprehensive database of solar, wind and storage assets in Australia, India and SE Asia

Renewable product updatesIn January 2020, five Australian assets developed by five companies were added to the RenewableCube, accounting for 148 MWac of capacity. Of the five new projects, four are solar and one is hydrogen electrolyser. Data for a further 24 projects, representing 2129 MWac, was updated.

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The Australian bushfires present several challenges for renewable developers as they threaten critical transmission infrastructure. On the afternoon of 4 January, bushfires caused a loss of transmission in the Snowy region of southern New South Wales (NSW) linking the state with Victoria’s electricity grid. This resulted in 900 MW of supply to New South Wales being cut off, and wholesale prices in the state jumped to the market cap of A$14,700 per MWh. The impact for renewables developers was felt in Victoria and South Australia as 831 MW of wind and 181 MW of utility PV generation was switched off. Companies that had to reduce the output of their assets by over 50% were Palisade (Snowtown 2), Tilt (Saltcreek/Snowtown 1), John Laing (Kiata), Engie (Willogoleche) and Neoen (Numurkah).

Utility PV development hotspots to shift in 2020
In 2020, Rystad Energy expects to see a shift in the location of utility PV asset developments after 2019 yielded some valuable lessons for developers. Operating experience in 2019 highlighted the critical importance of site selection with respect to system strength, state/market selection (negative pricing) and commissioning challenges. With last year’s lessons learned, Rystad Energy expects utility PV development to shift location in 2020 from west to east in Victoria, from south to north in New South Wales and from north to south in Queensland. 

What to expect in 2020?
Rystad Energy expects 3.6 GWac of utility wind and PV to complete commissioning in 2020, up from 2.6 GWac in 2019 and another record year for the industry. This year will also see new markets begin to open, with the off-grid sector (mining and oil and gas) starting to invest in renewables as well as pilot hydrogen projects coming on line. Yet the market moves into 2020 with a cautious sentiment given the recent slowdown in projects breaking ground. The number and capacity of new utility wind/PV projects to start construction in the third and fourth quarters of 2019 were the lowest of any quarter in the last three years. However, Rystad Energy expects the industry bounce back in the second half of 2020 as construction starts on projects with power purchase agreements (PPAs) and winners of government auction schemes and grants. We will also see developers shift to more favorable parts of the grid in Victoria, New South Wales (NSW) and Queensland, and projects lining up to replace the Liddell coal-fired power plant in central and northern NSW.