Three big energy transition milestones hit in a single week

A calendar with three lithium-ion batteries on it, depicting milestones in the clean energy transition
Graphic: Sean Creighton/The Progress Playbook

In the last week of September, the world hit three significant energy transition milestones — one in the US, one in Europe, and one in Australia.

    1. Homes & businesses take it all:

    In the early afternoon of September 23, South Australia’s rooftop solar panels produced enough electricity to power the entire state for the first time, with their share of the electricity mix reaching a record 101%.

    Rooftop solar refers only to panels installed on homes and businesses, and excludes grid-scale solar farms.

    When including solar and wind farms, renewables were at 114% of demand. The excess was sent to other Australian states, used to charge big batteries, and had to be curtailed in some instances.

    Yes, but: Even though there was more than enough power from solar panels to supply the entire state, some gas generators remained on to ensure system strength.

    For now, gas’ share in the electricity mix cannot dip below 4%. But that’ll change as more big batteries come online, and after the state introduces a green hydrogen power plant.

      1. Batteries make their mark:

      California’s big, grid-scale batteries — the kind that Tesla makes — delivered a record 5.2GW of instantaneous power into the grid during the evening peak on September 24.

      That’s the equivalent of five typical nuclear plants (albeit temporarily).

      The batteries were charged up mainly on solar power earlier in the day, before discharging that energy when it was needed most.

      The chart below, via the system operator, shows the contribution of batteries during the morning and evening peaks on September 24.

      Comparing that to the same day five years before, it’s clear that solar and wind have displaced the need for imports (the maroon line) during the day, and batteries have reduced the need for imports in the evening.

      Yes, but: The state still has a long way to go to muscle gas out the mix.

        1. The wind in Ireland’s sails

        On the night of September 25, strong winds, combined with recent grid upgrades, saw the share of wind in Ireland’s electricity mix exceed 100% for the first time.

        The chart below is courtesy of Irish Energy Bot:

        Yes, but: In nearby Scotland, this is already a regular occurrence.


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