Sustainable power sources such as wind and solar are often called an unrealistic approach to power, incapable of providing energy on a large scale. Because wind power, evacuated tube solar, PV panels and other sustainable materials require significant investment due to the current prevalence of fossil fuels, they have gotten an unjustified reputation for only being applicable on a small scale.

However, it is becoming more and more apparent that sustainable energies can, in fact, be a huge resource for powering the homes of millions. On 30 September, South Australia powered the homes of its 1.7 million residents completely by wind during the entire working day.

South Australia’s energy sources

South Australia is admittedly exceptional in its ability to harness energy from renewable sources. Australia’s weather is more conducive to solar power than that of some other countries. The state of South Australia in particular is home to about half of the country’s wind energy resources, and 1 in 4 South Australia homes get some of their power from PV solar panels. According to the Department of State Development, 27 per cent of South Australia’s power comes from wind, and 4 per cent comes from solar.

A renewables-only trial run

On 30 September, officials cut off all energy supply from South Australia’s thermal power stations, leaving the state 100 per cent dependent on renewable energy sources.

The consensus? Success! Pitt & Sherry, an energy consultancy that analysed the results, reported that the state had more than enough sustainably sourced energy to power its communities. In the days leading up to the experiment, in fact, there were peak wind periods in which the grid harnessed more than enough green energy to satisfy demand.

“The Pitt & Sherry report identified that on the 30th, that the ‘true’ demand by consumers (the amount of electricity being used by consumers), was in fact considerably higher than NEM demand – up to 20 per cent according to the Australian Photovoltaic Institute – because of the contribution of rooftop solar to total electricity supply,” Energy Business News stated.

Looking toward the future

The Department of State Development maintained that South Australia hopes to continue its progression toward more sustainable technologies. In fact, thanks to the recent success of its sustainable energy efforts, the state has changed its renewable energy target from 33 per cent to 50 per cent by 2025.