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Australia reaches nearly two million small scale solar systems

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Clean Energy Regulator says Australia now has 2 million small scale renewable energy systems – enough to power Perth, Hobart, Darwin and Canberra.

Australia has now installed more than 2 million small scale renewable energy systems – reaching the target just eight months after the country achieved its first one million rooftop solar systems.

The announcement came from the Clean Energy Regulator, which manages Australia’s renewable energy target. The total is made up of 1.83 million small scale solar systems (both rooftop PV and solar hot water, and 173,000 air source heat pumps – see graph below).

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The CER said the data underlines the fact that investment in small-scale renewable energy continues to flourish in Australia. Nearly all subsidies have been removed for small scale installations, although rooftop solar and other systems still benefit from renewable energy certificates.

“Assisted by falling system costs coupled with financial incentives derived from the Renewable Energy Target, small-scale systems have become more and more affordable for everyday Australians,” the CER said in a statement on Thursday.

It is estimated that solar PV costs have fallen by more than 70 per cent in recent years, and Australia was the first of many countries that reached retail or “socket parity” – where the cost of electricity generated by rooftop solar is cheaper than that sourced from the grid.

The CER says the two million small-scale installations have a capacity to generate or displace approximately 6,882 gigawatt hours of electricity annually, with 4,182 gigawatt hours generated from small-scale solar, wind and hydro installations and a further 2,700 gigawatt hours displaced by solar hot water systems and air source heat pumps.

It says this equates to the amount of electricity required to power approximately 1.04 million Australian homes for a year. This is enough to power all Perth, Hobart, Darwin and Canberra households combined.

As a point of comparison, the combined output of small scale installations in Australia is more than the combined output in the last financial year of the base-load capacity of Origin Energy – Australia’s largest utility.

The 2,600MW Eraring coal fired power station, and the 600MW Darling Downs gas-fired power station put out a combined 13,539GWh in 2012/13, both operating at around half their capacity.

Indeed, it is estimated that while Australia has more than 3GW of installed rooftop solar capacity, a similar amount of coal-fired generation has been either closed, mothballed, or put on standby as a result of reduced demand for centralized generation.

 

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  • Chatteris

    Makes your PM look a bit like King Canute really!

  • David K Clarke

    Isn’t it drawing a long bow to call air-source heat pumps renewable energy systems?

    • Miles Harding

      It certainly is!
      They are nothing to do with renewable energy, stop it at once or include every air conditioner and fluorescent light bulb in the country!

    • RobS

      A slightly long bow, however the principle of air source heat pumps is to shift heat energy from the atmosphere to heat energy and the heat energy in the atmosphere is derived from solar energy.

      • Miles Harding

        Well… Ok. But it is very tenuous.
        Really these heat pumps are an efficiency measure. To include these as a solar power system invites also including reverse cycle air conditioners that do the same thing to air, which is absurd.

  • Steve McGrath

    Some summary statistics I derived from this, for those who don’t want to pull out a calculator. Assuming the PV systems (average size ~2.7kW) are on family rooftops, roughly 18% of families, or 13% of all households, now have a system, or 1 for every 19.5 people. Per capita PV capacity is 136.5 Watts, generating ~184 kWh/person/yr.

    Great news! I hope this pace can be sustained a bit longer!

  • Steve McGrath

    Another quick statistic. With generation of ~3590 kWh/yr./installation, each household with a system generated about 55% of their annual electric usage, on average.