Rooftop Solar Reaches Record-Breaking Demand in Western Australia


Spring is when renewable energy hits the ground running, specifically solar power. This is because there’s plenty of sunshine and a low demand for solar in the area because temperatures are not high enough to turn on air conditioning units. Spring is also the season when there’s a lower demand for electricity on the weekends. Many Aussie families choose to head outdoors to enjoy the sunshine and the warmer weather.

Western Australia saw a significant increase in the influence of rooftop solar to the largest isolated grid. Solar energy reached 71 per cent of grid demand on Saturday, 10 September and improved to 72 per cent on Sunday, 11 September.

The new records beat the past benchmark set a year earlier when the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) released a peak of 69 per cent. This set Western Australia’s minimum operation demand to a new record on Saturday and Sunday. 

The growing demand in Western Australia

In recent years, WA has gone through unprecedented change, with households switching to renewable energy technology at record rates. Almost 3,000 homes in the state install rooftop solar every month. 

In 2021, WA households added 191 MW of generation capacity to their rooftops, bringing the total residential solar capacity in WA’s main grid to over 1.35 GW. 

With that amount of collective capacity, rooftop solar is the largest cumulative generator in WA, which is over the capacity of the 854 MW coal-fired Muja Power Station. 

Today, over 400,000 homes and businesses in the state have rooftop solar connected to the South West Interconnected System (SWIS). 


Overcoming high-demand challenges

One of the biggest challenges for market operators, network suppliers and government authorities has been rooftop solar management as WA lacks connections to other states. Additionally, its main grid doesn’t have utility-scale storage. Fortunately, the WA government has implemented plans and projects to overcome these challenges.

Project Symphony is one of the main programs designed to arrange and demand output from distributed sources. One such way is to encourage loads to switch on when the amount of rooftop solar pushes grid demand down to levels that are unmanageable to market operators. 

Additionally, the WA government has introduced policies, products and initiatives such as Emergency Solar Management Rules. The Emergency Solar Management Rules are taken from South Australia to let network operators control the output of residential rooftop solar systems that were installed after February 14, 2022. 

From that date, new and upgraded solar PV systems with an inverter capacity of 5kW or less will need to be turned down or off in emergency situations remotely. However, this is the “last resort” measure the government will conduct to control electricity demand to ensure the stability of the SWIS. 

The WA government is also looking into a long-term plan to deal with challenges due to the high-demand for solar energy, which includes investing in battery energy storage. In fact, the installation of WA’s biggest battery in Kwinana began in August by the McGowan Government through Synergy. The 100 mW/200 mW hour battery can power 160,000 homes for up to two hours. 

WA is, indeed, going through an energy transformation, and more of the state’s power is being supplied by decentralised electricity generation sources, such as rooftop solar. Despite the positive shift, it puts an increased strain on the grid. The grid isn’t designedfor the current level of renewables the state is experiencing. 

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