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Author: Sarah-Jane Tasker
Date: 24 July, 2013

ADVANCEMENTS in technology will push the increased use of wind and solar power in Australia as improvement in efficiencies helps drive costs lower.

Jason Willoughby, GE Australia and New Zealand’s managing director of sales and project finance, said he could see wind and solar energy playing an increasingly important role in energy supply, particularly as the cost of producing renewable energy comes down.

Mr Willoughby said the key for the future development of renewable energies was technology, which had already been witnessed in the advancement of wind turbines since the late 1990s.

“I think the next step that we’re going to see is not just in the technology itself, but how do we service that,” he said.

Infigen Energy managing director Miles George agreed, saying that the efficiency of wind turbines had improved greatly over the past 10 to 15 years.

“But that pales compared to what has happened in the solar PV (photovoltaic) industry, where the costs of manufacturing of the panels and the efficiency of the panels was reduced just so quickly that it has overtaken everybody’s estimates of what it might do,” he said.

“Last year there was about 1000 megawatts equivalent of domestic rooftop solar PV installed. That’s the equivalent of a big power station just sitting on people’s roofs, and that’s expected to continue. That change is really driving across the technologies for generation in our electricity sector.”

Federal Resources Minister Gary Gray said the country was blessed with an abundance of natural, renewable energy sources, including world-class wind resources and the largest average solar radiation per square metre of any continent. He said his government was committed to seeing renewable energy become a larger part of the country’s energy future, as a way of helping to achieve Australia’s greenhouse gas reduction targets.

“Wind energy is now the fastest growing source of large-scale power … and the growth of the solar PV industry has been phenomenal over recent years,” Mr Gray told last week’s World Renewable Energy Congress.

“In 2013, over 2000 small-scale solar systems are being installed each week, compared to 45 a week in 2007, and employment in the solar industry has grown more than eight-fold.”

The minister, while high-lighting the strength of solar and wind as alternative sources of energy, said to achieve deeper emissions cuts, Australia needed to invest in the research, development and demonstration of low emissions technologies other than wind power and household solar systems.

“However, in order to maximise our opportunities, the government must not be tempted to pick a clean energy winner, we must let the market decide the best energy mix for delivering affordable and readily available energy,” he said.

Origin Energy is both an owner and investor in wind farms. The company’s chief executive of energy markets, Frank Calabria, said wind and solar were the key source of renewable energy that should be part of the mix of Australia’s energy supply framework. “Clearly wind is the key technology that operates under the renewable energy target. The one thing that we’ve actually called for under that target is that the true cost of that be understood,” he said.

Mr Calabria also said the sector should be able to stand on its own feet without the benefit of either feed-in tariffs or rebates available to it.

Read article at The Australian