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Australian Solar Power Reaches Grid Parity in Some Places, While Production Moves to China

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Others may not brag with it, but some parts of the New South Wales (NSW) in Australia can say they’ve achieved grid parity and even more – meaning that solar power got cheaper then coal-fired power – a proof subsidy plans can work to achieve the ultimate goal: giving up on fossil fuels.

Andrew Blakers, the director of the centre for sustainable energy systems at the Australian National University, said: ”If you look at the prices being paid today, we have already reached grid parity in a lot of places except Melbourne and Hobart.”

”A 1.5 kilowatt system in Sydney is probably going to be cost effective next year or the year after, depending on whether we get a carbon price,” said Muriel Watt, the chairwoman of the association and a senior lecturer in renewable energy engineering at the University of NSW.

The former Australian government instated a $1.9 billion bonus scheme for those who would install solar panels on their rooftops, paying subsidized tariffs for the energy uploaded to the grid. Now, the current government halted any new application for the program, as a total of 371 megawatts are already installed, as a result of 38,000 applications.

Australia’s only solar cell producer, the Silex plant at Homebush in Sydney, has just announced that they would outsource the photovoltaic production to China – bad news for the workers, but that may mean even further reductions in the price that the end user will have to pay for solar cells. However, they’ll still keep assembling panels, but a large amount of workers will get left on the outside.

“This type of silicon flat panel technology was actually invented here in Sydney at the University of NSW – that’s the sad thing. Now it’s all gone offshore,” Michael Goldsworthy, Silex CEO, said about the decision of outsourcing solar cell production to China.

This is the second time the workers at the Silex factory suffered layoffs, after BP Solar took the same decision. However, things could be saved if energy companies used more of the incentives provided by the Australian government. If, for example, Lumo Energy (former Victoria Energy) would implement their solar grid connection program at a higher extent, things would surely be better for the Australian industry (imho) and the NSW electricity grid will diversify its palette of energy sources by a lot more. But who am I to judge?

[via smh]

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