Queensland rooftop solar to the rescue in record-breaking heatwave

Australian Energy Market Operator

Australia’s Energy Market Operator (AEMO) says Queensland rooftop solar relieved stress on the electricity grid during the state’s record-breaking heatwave.

Temperatures soared to nine degrees above average across the state early last month. In fact, meteorologists had to go back to 1935 to find a day when the state average was above 40 degrees.

However, from February 12 to 16, there were two consecutive days averaging over 40 degrees – a Queensland first. Correspondingly, the demand for electricity to cool homes and businesses rose dramatically.

Queensland heatwave smashes 1935 record

Mike Davidson, AEMO’s Manager of Operational Forecasting, said the state set a new record. Previously, the largest operational demand on Queensland’s state grid was 9,412 MW in January 2017.

Queensland rooftop solar is helping combat our soaring city temperatures.

Rooftop solar is helping combat our soaring city temperatures.

“We saw this record literally being smashed every day during the ‘heat event’, and the new record now is 9,796 MW,” Mr Davidson said. “This is an increase of nearly 400 MW.

“To put that into perspective, it’s roughly the energy required to power a mid-sized town of 150,000 customers.”

Queensland rooftop solar cocoons the grid

Mr Davidson said grid strain in Queensland’s record-breaking heatwave would have been higher without rooftop solar in the mix. That’s because operational demand figures do not take into account the contribution of rooftop solar.

Weather will play increasing role in electricity supply

However, cloud cover affects solar generation, which means power into the grid ramps up and down. That’s one of the reasons why households looking for a solar installation quote are increasingly adding battery storage. Batteries smooth the flow of energy into the grid, while storing excess power when the sun is shining.

But it’s not only households that contribute to the state’s grid in times of high demand, Mr Davidson adds. “Growth in solar generation, that is from rooftop PV and large grid-connected solar farms, for Queensland in particular is forecast to be quite phenomenal over the next couple of years.

“So the impact of weather is only going to become increasingly important in the years to come.”