For 100 years, we’ve burnt things to produce energy. Since the first solar farm came to life in 2012 near Geraldton, Western Australia, utility solar has fought an uphill battle to take its rightful place in Australia’s energy mix. Facing roadblocks at every turn including a fossil fuel-favored policy environment, lengthy grid connection delays, export curtailments, and the resulting investment uncertainty, the sector took longer to build momentum than should have been the case.
That all changed in 2017, when installations >10MW jumped by more than 500 percent, despite these challenges remaining unchanged.
Fast-forward to today and Australia has more than 380 large-scale PV assets amounting to 8.4 GW of capacity at or beyond financial close (Rystad). In 2020, it contributed 10.9% of Australia’s renewable energy generation. And in May 2021, large-scale PV generation exceeded gas for the first time. As Australian demand for utility-scale solar has grown, so too has Nextracker. 91% of utility PV in Australia uses solar tracker systems. Since Nextracker Australia was established in Manly NSW, in May 2016, we have supplied 79 live and committed assets to date and are now approaching 5GW of installed capacity. This market is tremendously important to us and we see this milestone as a reason to pause and acknowledge what is driving it, and that is everyday Australians – people who see the value in solar, are staking their bets on it and ultimately, investing.
Solar – The Energy of Choice for Regional Australia
Driven by all the benefits that come with clean, locally sourced power, regional industries and communities are recognizing the opportunities presented by solar and pushing ahead regardless of the challenges they face. The Moree Solar Farm, initially scoped to be the biggest in Australia at the time but forced to downsize, went on to provide critical energy security during sweeping heat waves that could have otherwise resulted in outages. Bomen Solar Farm was surrounded by other solar farms that were being crippled by grid congestion and curtailment. It now provides the local community with clean, low-cost daytime power and is hedged by offtake agreements with Westpac and Flow Power to purchase 95% of the farm’s energy production in its first five years of operation. Located in a remote cotton and wheat growing region in New South Wales, Nevertire Solar Farm exports energy to the national grid and has an offtake agreement with Australia’s peak science body, the CSIRO, helping it to halve its carbon emissions.
Then there’s farming. No single cohort feels the impacts of climate change more than farmers, and no one wants climate action more than our primary producers who feed and clothe the country. Farming and renewable energy go hand in hand for so many reasons – enter the term agrivoltaics. The sheep and solar combination is a movement unto itself, with many studies such as this one from Oregon State University, showing massive increases in land productivity.
Farmers are also turning to solar as a means to shore up their energy supply and future-proof themselves from rising power prices, which represent yet another volatile threat to their businesses. With solar, farmers can not only become self-sufficient, but also to diversify their business by exporting to the grid, and even leasing their land to solar developers who are willing to pay generously for the use of their property. Between farming, agriculture, mining, and manufacturing, regional industries are calling for more renewables, and it’s this demand that’s driving utility PV.
Beyond the Burn: A Photographic Expedition
Solar’s growth is Nextracker’s growth, and our driving purpose behind this expedition is to connect with local communities and the industry at large to celebrate solar’s triumphant success in Australia and reaffirm our commitment to this market. Our commitment to you is to continue to push solar to its greatest potential, through continuous innovation of our hardware and software solutions, unparalleled partnership, and exceptional project outcomes. Because when solar wins, everyone wins.
So we’re embarking on a photographic expedition. See press release, here. Supported by the Smart Energy Council in collaboration with the solar industry, Beyond the Burn will tell the story of solar’s triumph by capturing the solar farms powering Australia’s clean energy future, and the people behind them. The expedition will be led by acclaimed Australian Geographic photographer, storyteller, and adventurer, Ralph Alphonso.
Join us as we journey through rural Victoria, Queensland, and New South Wales stopping at Bomen, Nevertire, Warwick, Jemalong, Bannerton, and Karadoc, meeting the workers and sharing stories along the way. Follow the expedition via Nextracker’s Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram pages, and we look forward to sharing our stories with you. Click here to follow the campaign.
Peter “Pete” Wheale is the VP of Sales for Nextracker’s Australia and Asia Pacific markets. As a first-mover in the Australian market, Pete has built a strong local team and sold over 5 gigawatts of tracker systems for both the utility-scale and commercial & industrial applications.