couple in a filed with bright sunlight

South Australia’s status as a world leader in generating renewable power is looking more brilliant by the moment.

It has been a quiet, high-speed revolution, and it’s not over yet. In just a few years of private and government investment and development, South Australia sources more than half of its power generation from renewable wind and solar resources, becoming a net exporter, rather than importer, of electricity on the way.

It is home to the world’s largest battery – shortly to increase in size by 50 per cent – and has an enviable combination of wind and solar resources, much of it still untapped. Even bigger batteries are planned by Neoen at Crystal Brook and Goyder South, at Burra, the latter’s final disposition reliant on the $1.53 billion Project EnergyConnect transmission line to NSW, now on the fast-track with “critical infrastructure” status.

The projects take the state’s total pipeline of renewable and storage projects to more than $20 billion, including solar, wind, pumped hydro, storage and hydrogen energy, putting SA easily on track to meet its target of net 100 per cent renewables in the 2030s.

A 2019 Australian Energy Market Operator report says: “SA has experienced some of the highest instantaneous penetrations of wind and solar generation in the world, second only to Denmark.”

Big battery owner Neoen states South Australia is in the box seat when it comes to renewable energy.

“It’s extremely positive. I think SA has been at the forefront of renewables for quite some time,” Neoen Australia managing director Louis de Sambucy says.

“You have this exciting vision of SA now becoming a net exporter of clean energy. It’s a vision we really adhere to. We see in SA incredible resources. We still believe that now we are reaching almost an average of 70 per cent renewables, and we believe soon we will be close to 100 per cent.”

Renewable energy developer SIMEC Zen Energy, part of Sanjeev Gupta’s GFG Alliance, says South Australia’s raw energy resources are excellent.

“It’s got great solar irradiance levels and a great wind resource and sites where wind can be developed that tie in nicely with how solar generates,” CEO Marc Barrington says.

“What you need is wind that blows overnight and wind that blows on hot days and SA has good opportunities for those. There’s an excellent workforce and the interconnector... into NSW is key to enable the ongoing growth of renewables in SA. With renewable energy that’s firmed and delivering prices that are globally competitive, the aim has to be to bring new industry to SA.”

Minister for Energy Dan van Holst Pellekaan says the State Government’s Home Battery Scheme, Grid Scale Storage Fund and support for the SA/NSW interconnector are driving a renewables revolution in SA.

“We are poised to reap the benefits of being a leader in the worldwide transition to afford- able, reliable renewable energy,” he says.

At South Australia’s Department for Energy and Mining, Richard Day, director of Low Carbon Industry Development, says the group has a mandate to capture the economic opportunities from the state’s clean energy transition.

Energy systems globally are in transition, with improvements in technology creating opportunities. The bulging pipeline of large-scale wind, solar and storage projects in the state will create more energy than SA needs.

“The great opportunity for the state is how do we attract new electricity-intensive activities to be able to unlock the value of our low-cost solar and wind,” Day says. Potential projects include green chemical or mineral operations, green steel or “green data” centres needing huge power inputs.

“The thing that is relatively unique for us is that we have solar and wind together,” Day says.

“This is the crux of our competitive advantage in green hydrogen, where high-powered electrolysers are used to create hydrogen from water when wind and solar power is available, and turned off at the flick of a switch when it’s not.”

Using wind and solar to create hydrogen is seen as a major green energy economic growth opportunity for the state, ex- ported overseas in tankers. To encourage the process, the Government is offering rebates for home batteries and delivering grants for grid-scale energy storage (including big batteries, compressed air and thermal storage), biogas generation and renewable hydrogen production. There are also grants for demand management trials to ensure energy consumers turn on at low-peak times and turn off during periods of high demand.

Originally published in Future Adelaide: RENEWED VISIONS