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Queensland Paves The Way For Large Scale Urban Solar Projects

In 2018 Queensland is right on the leading edge of large-scale solar projects in Australia: that’s what Clean Energy Council chief executive Kane Thornton said while speaking at the Large-scale Solar Industry Forum.

His comments at the May 2018 event, come on the back of the approximately 20 solar power projects under construction or already completed in regional Queensland this year alone.

Many of these solar installations have proven to be beneficial for the economy of the communities surrounding them. Not surprising, considering there has been roughly $2.6 billion invested in these projects already this year.

“Large-scale solar activity in the state adds up to almost 2,670 direct jobs and 1400 MW of new clean energy,” Thornton said.

He pointed out that the dramatically falling cost of large-scale solar power over the past 10 years had sparked huge interest in the sector from construction companies and major financiers. They can see that solar’s time has finally come.

“Large-scale solar has gone from an emerging technology in Australia at the beginning of the decade to a genuinely game-changing form of power that is cheaper than new coal or gas. It has exceeded the expectations of even the most optimistic predictions.

“Along with the national Renewable Energy Target, support from the Queensland Government, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation has helped to make this one of the lowest-cost options we have for electricity today.”

Urban Rooftop Solar Farms

It’s already clear that large-scale solar projects in remote Queensland are significantly reducing the reliance on non-renewable sources while also enhancing the local economies. Since this concept has been proven in the outback, the logical next step is to bring the benefits of solar to urban communities.

“Why limit the social, financial and environmental benefits of large-scale solar power generation to remote areas with small populations?” asked Planet Ark Power executive director Richard Romanowski during the 2018 Myriad Festival, Australia’s premier technology and innovation event.

He has a point. Building urban rooftop solar farms on top of commercial buildings across Queensland (and Australia) has clear direct benefits of reducing power costs and carbon emissions for business owners and surrounding communities.

If this were done on a broad scale it would fundamentally shift how power was distributed via grid infrastructure. However, decentralising Australia’s reliance on coal power sources will bring considerable challenges.

These challenges have formed part of the core work Planet Ark Power has been tackling over the past three years. Two of the biggest issues are:

  1. Australia’s electricity grid was designed as a one-way network over 120 years ago! Sending power in the reverse direction creates a plethora of blockages and issues.
  2. Because of these technological limitations, only 15% of the energy used in a suburb can be generated by local rooftop solar.

This is where Romanowski’s organisation, Planet Ark Power (an initiative of sustainability organisation Planet Ark), comes in. Based in Brisbane, Planet Ark Power has developed technology that solves virtually all of the grid-connect and stability limitations facing solar power generation. It means that urban rooftop solar farms are finally viable.

The Planet Ark Power technology means:

  1. 100% of the energy in a suburb can come from local rooftop solar
  2. The two-way flow of electricity can be enabled at no cost to the taxpayer or the grid stakeholders
  3. The return on investment of solar power generation is greatly improved. Often times it is a positive cash flow investment.

These technologies are already operational and surpassing expectations on selected large-scale urban rooftop solar farms around Australia. This is why the team at Planet Ark Power is poised to roll out the technology nationwide. To that end, the organisation is now canvassing for Venture Capital to fund a rapid increase in the uptake of commercial solar. The time is right.

It’s now clear that the technology has finally caught up to the promise of solar power. The industry is quickly gaining momentum. The new green frontier is being colonised.