Ready to have your mind blown?
If we were able to harness all of the solar radiation available across Australia each year, the energy produced would be about 10,000 times our current total energy consumption!
Or, to put it another way, less than one ten-thousandth of the amount of solar radiation that hits Australia could power everything for all of us.
It makes you wonder why solar accounts for such a small percentage of our energy production.
The good news is that’s on the rise – and we’re all for it.
What is solar energy?
When you think about solar energy you’re probably picturing a bank of photovoltaic (PV) cells, possibly on a roof, that convert sunlight directly into electricity.
The technology behind the manufacture of PV is improving all the time, making it more and more versatile. We now see cells being integrated into building designs and even used to power vehicles.
Then there are the large-scale power plants with many more much bigger cells, often on a pivoting mechanism so they can track the path of the sun, which produce many megawatts for distribution.
There’s also another sort of solar energy, thermal, which sees the solar radiation used to heat air or water either directly for space heating or to generate electricity using steam and turbines.
Why is solar a good thing?
There are quite a few benefits to increasing our use of solar energy but, without getting too technical, here are a few of the most obvious ones:
- It’s a clean source of energy which generates no waste.
- It’s quiet.
- It’s compact enough for photovoltaic cells to be installed on residential roofs.
- It’s reliable (unless you happen to be somewhere the sun doesn’t shine for days on end).
- It outputs power at the source, making it ideal for rural and isolated places.
- It’s renewable, so there’s always going to be more where that came from!
By the way, silicon, which is the major component of solar cells, is the second most abundant element in the earth’s crust and even the manufacturing of solar cells produces 90 per cent less pollutants than conventional fossil fuel technologies.
How does Australia rank?
Australia is in the top ten countries in the world for capacity of installed photovoltaic cells, with Germany way out in front, followed by Italy – firmly in second place – then China, the USA and Japan. Australia is trying hard to keep pace with other European countries, including Spain, France and Belgium.
Those figures include all solar, whether large-scale installations, businesses or homes.
But Australia leads the world in the proportion of households with rooftop solar panels, with penetration of over 16%, or close to one in six homes.
In 2001, only 118 Australian homes had solar panels installed. In March 2013, that number passed one million and our latest figure tops 1.5 million.
The Clean Energy Australia Report found that in early 2016 rooftop solar power generation passed five gigawatts in capacity, enough to power all the homes in Brisbane and Perth.
About six months ago, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) announced plans for the construction of 12 new large-scale solar power plants, which would provide enough energy to power 150,000 average homes.
That’s enough facts!
Your head is probably spinning about now, and we don’t blame you. There’s a lot to get a handle on, but we think the bottom line is pretty simple: GloBird Energy wants to see more rooftop solar panels!
If you’re ready to get serious about solar, you need to read how to get paid more for solar.