August 2018

Australian renewable energy sector exceeds 500 projects

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Sustainable Energy Research Analytics (SERA)

 SERA Tracker: Up to date, detailed, and comprehensive database of solar, wind and storage assets in Australia

• SERA product updates: in July 2018, 8 assets operated by 6 companies were added to the SERA Tracker, accounting for 1.3 GW of capacity. Of the 8 new projects, 6 are solar, 1 is wind and 1 is storage. Data for a further 48 projects, covering 6.4 GW, was updated in the Tracker.

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During August 2018, we passed an important landmark in the Australian renewable energy project pipeline. The local renewable energy sector now has over 500 utility scale solar, wind and storage assets, reflecting a remarkable expansion in renewable project development.

At the time of writing, we have 501 projects in our SERA Tracker database, and this continues to expand rapidly, as it has from the day we launched the service back in October 2016.

The majority of Australian renewable generation assets are now utility-scale solar projects with 287 projects logged, reflecting the enormous growth in this segment of the market over the past 18 months. We have also identified 158 wind projects, and 56 utility-scale storage projects. It should be no surprise that storage is the smallest component given the relative immaturity of the sector, but it is growing quickly as market participants identify opportunities for time-shifting renewable power output.

In terms of capacity, the renewable sector now exceeds 75 gigawatts (GW) AC. To put this into context, total generating capacity across all fuel types in the National Electricity Market (which excludes Western Australia) is approximately 44 GW.

Solar again takes the lion’s share, at almost 37 GW, with wind at 31 GW. Storage projects – which are predominantly made up of pumped hydro, lithium batteries and concentrated solar power – amount to 8.5 GW of power output, or 377 GWh of storage capacity.

Wind projects account for a higher proportion of capacity than the number of projects would suggest, as they are typically larger in size than solar projects. The average wind project in our data set is 195 MW, compared to 128 MW for solar. It is worth noting that the average solar project size is considerably larger than the largest solar asset operating at present (Nyngan, at 102 MW).

We estimate just over 6 GW AC of renewable generation and storage capacity is currently under construction across Australia. The majority of this is wind, at 3.4 GW, given the higher capacity factor and therefore lower breakeven prices of wind projects. But with 2.6 GW AC of solar projects also being built, the rapid decline in solar construction costs is clear. Once the current wave of construction is complete, we expect total generation capacity from wind, solar and storage projects to exceed 12 GW.

With the explosion of projects in the Australian renewables pipeline has come a rush of new participants: over 160 companies now hold equity in local solar, wind and storage projects. And there are an impressive 83 companies involved in operations or construction. French power producer Neoen is the largest owner by this metric, with a strong presence across all three of our energy categories. It is notable that a number of investment funds also feature in the Top 20, including the Powering Australian Renewables Fund (PARF), Elliott, the Dutch Infrastructure Fund (DIF), and Blackrock. 

The Australian renewable energy market is developing rapidly with more new projects and market players coming in. We will continue to keep you updated with developments and insights from the Australian renewables sector, as our dataset continues to expand beyond 500 assets.