Australia’s renewable energy transition is well underway, but an impending shift in the reliability of solar due to climate change could impact generation capacity and the management of the electricity grid.
Modelling conducted by researchers from UNSW Sydney predicts changes in the availability of solar across different regions of Australia under a warmer climate.
The findings, published in the journal Solar Energy, have implications for future solar power infrastructure development in Australia, including the world’s largest solar infrastructure energy network.
Australia is a prominent solar hotspot, with several notable large-scale grid-connected solar power systems – or solar photovoltaics (PV) plants – in operation or development. However, the sensitivity of solar power generation to weather-induced variability can limit its ability to deliver a consistent and dependable energy supply.
Managing grid stability due to inherent variability in solar energy generation due to factors like cloud cover, seasonal cycles, and location – all of which will be impacted by future warming – is possible with proper forecasting, power storage and load controls. But, if left unmanaged, it can lead to power deficits that can result in outages or even complete grid failures.
“Modelling future changes in solar availability is crucial for maintaining stable power generation as Australia increases its reliance on large-scale solar,” says Shukla Poddar, lead author of the study and a postdoctoral research fellow at the School of Photovoltaics and Renewable Energy Engineering.
“As the climate warms, managing these weather-induced power fluctuations will be a growing challenge, so we need modelling to help better predict and prepare for these changing dynamics.”