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Energy created by the heat and light of the sun is called solar energy. Solar power is produced when energy from the sun is converted into electricity or used to heat air, water or other substances. Solar energy can also be used to create solar fuels such as hydrogen.
At the end of 2017, there was 398 GW of solar PV installed around the world, meeting around two per cent of global electricity demand. More solar photovoltaic energy is added each year than any other type of energy generation, thanks largely to the rapid cost reductions that have been achieved in recent years.
Batteries are an energy storage technology that uses chemicals to absorb and release energy on demand. Lithium-ion is the most common battery chemistry used to store electricity. Coupling batteries with renewable energy generation allows that energy to be stored during times of low demand and released (or dispatched) at times of peak demand.
Unlike many other forms of energy storage and generation, batteries are particularly valuable because they provide flexibility. They can respond faster than other energy storage or generation technologies, and help maintain grid stability by turning on and off in fractions of a second.
Batteries can be located in a range of areas and installed in small or large quantities for different uses. For example, a large number of batteries installed together, known as grid-scale or large-scale battery storage (LSBS), can act as a large-scale power generator connected into the electricity transmission system.
Smaller-scale batteries can be installed in homes to provide backup power, but can also be operated as a collective in what is called a Virtual Power Plant (VPP). Due to the technology’s versatility and falling costs, the use of batteries for renewable energy is expected to increase over the coming years.
Solar photovoltaic (also known as solar PV) converts sunlight directly into electricity using a technology known as a semiconductor cell or solar PV cell.
The most common form of solar PV cell is typically encased in glass and an aluminium frame to form a solar panel. One or more panels can be installed to power a single light, cover the roof of a house for residential use, or be assembled into a large-scale solar farm generating hundreds of megawatts of electricity.
Solar PV panels are currently the most widespread type of solar PV technology, however other types of solar PV are being developed for targeted applications including PV that can be integrated into buildings, flexible PV and even PV paint.
Solar PV generated 3.1 per cent of Australia’s electricity in 2016-17, the majority of which came from small-scale rooftop PV. More than two million, or 21 percent, of Australian households now have rooftop solar PV, with a combined capacity exceeding 10 GW (visit the Australian PV Institute’s Live Map for live solar PV data). Installations continue to rise and the APVI’s SunSpoT online tool shows there is still plenty of potential on Australia’s remaining roofs.
Large-scale solar farms are also on the rise in Australia. At the end of 2018, large-scale solar farms operating in Australia generated over 1824 MW. It is expected that around 61 additional large-scale solar farms will be built in Australia during 2019.