Queensland Solar Feed-in Tariff: Issues with the grid?

I’ve just written an article about the future of the Queensland Solar Bonus Feed-in Tariff scheme. Most of the state Feed-in Tariff schemes in Australia have either concluded (notably New South Wales and Western Australia) or have been cut back significantly (South Australia and Victoria). Queensland is the last state standing from the original lot, still offering 44c/kWh for solar-generated electricity. This is not insignificant, and it’s keeping the solar industry ticking over in the state. 

Recently, however, there has been some speculation that the scheme may be closed by year’s end or after the next election (which at the latest, will be held in March 2012). There is budgetary pressure (a $6m program to update the state’s healthcare payroll software) ballooned to over $200m, causing quite a bit of negative publicity for the Labour Government under Premeir Bligh. And then an article was published in the Sunshine Coast Daily in which an opposition ‘energy spokesman’ claimed that the electricity grid would not be able to handle a sudden, major uptick in adoption of residential solar power (there will be trouble once the solar grid penetration hits 30% in an area). This is a real issue, but apparently not a major concern at this point in time, with solar penetration at less than 1%.

As grid-tied solar is a relatively new phenomenon, compatibility with the electricity grid is an issues that is going to need to be dealt with as time goes on. Two possible solutions are the deployment of Smart Grid technology and localised feed-in tariffs to promote solar power where it is needed most. Does anyone have any thoughts as to the pros and cons of these two solutions, or perhaps have good ideas for other options?

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I research & write extensively about distributed energy (particularly solar & storage) in the Australian context. Check out my work on RenewableEnergyWorld, Cleantechnica, Solar Choice & elsewhere.

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