This has traditionally been the dominant form of renewable energy; it has a long history with nation-building schemes such as the Snowy Mountain Hydro-Electric Scheme.
Over 100 hydro-energy generators exist, with a total capacity of more than 8,000 megawatts. There are still a few new projects underway but the renewable energy policy is moving on to other forms, such as wind, solar, bio, geothermal and tidal. Hydro energy has also suffered from the long period of drought Australia has experienced over the last 20 years.
The total number of large-scale wind parks is set to more than double between 2011 and 2016, to well above 100. By that time these farms will produce 3%-5% of the total energy capacity. Under the Renewable Energy Target (RET) this will increase further and by 2020 will produce just over one-third of all renewable energy.
The largest projects include the Silverton Windfarm in New South Wales; Clements Gap, Waterloo, Robertstown, Stony Gap and Hallet 4 in South Australia; Sidonia Hills in Victoria; and Musselroe in Tasmania.
Increasingly smaller wind turbines are also being installed on the roofs of private homes.
The average amount of solar energy available in Australia is approximately 15,000 times the average national energy consumption. More than 90% of the continent receives more than 1950Kw/h per square meter per year.
There are close to 300 large solar projects around the country – nearly all of these being photovoltaic. A steady growth of new installations will also come on line in the future.
One interesting project is the Solar Flagship program, which is making significant investments in new solar technologies, including Solar Thermal, for which five large solar energy generators are able to deliver 250 megawatts each.
Since the latter half of the first decade of the 21st century significant growth has occurred in government and business building installations, both as part of local energy provision and for telecoms, railways, navigation facilities, utilities-based infrastructure projects, road infrastructure and remote locations.
Diesel generators are progressively being replaced with renewable energy sources, with diesel and gas being used for backup only.
New plans are underway to use renewable energy sources in remote smart grid operations for indigenous, mining and other remote communities, as well as individual farms and other premises. Pilots also include the delivery of telecoms facilities to create a smart grid for the management of energy in these places and such smart grid operations can be used for the delivery of broadband services to these remote areas.
The most significant development over the last few years has been the explosion in private solar panel installations. Government-supported projects such as ‘Solar Credits’ have seen uptakes approximately ten times higher than predicted. Soon certain premises, and even small communities or streets, will produce more energy than they consume. This is creating some anxiety among electricity companies – for financial reasons (less revenue) and in relation to the management of their grid.
Smart grids are important because they allow for much better management of solar-based energy production sources into the overall network.
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