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Solar installs through the roof, as Australians deliver record growth

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Extraordinary figures continue to roll in from the year that was for renewable energy in Australia, but easily the most outstanding so far are the numbers – and “eye watering charts” – that have just come in on national solar PV installations for 2017.

The latest tally from PV market analysts SunWiz has revealed a record smashing total so far of 1.25GW of solar PV installed across 2017, making it out and away the biggest year for the market in Australia ever, eclipsing the former record set in 2012.

Image: SunWiz (click on image to enlarge)

“Our numbers aren’t finalised yet … but our 2017 Australian PV installation tally now sits at 1.25GW,” said SunWiz managing director Warwick Johnston in a note outlining the highlights from the company’s 2017 Year in Review.

“We calculate that 1.12GW of sub-100kW PV has been installed in 2017, though it will take a few months to true-up to this level in the STC registry. We’ve identified at least 138MW of (large-scale certificate) eligible systems.”

But that’s not even the best of it.

As Johnston notes, the truly “outstanding figure” from 2017 is the 50 per cent year-on-year growth in the sub-100kW PV market – the solar installed on Australian homes and businesses.

As you can see in the charts below, while there was an impressive rebound in the residential market (0-10kW installations), it was the late-blooming commercial sector that really put a rocket under PV growth.

Source: SunWiz (click on image to enlarge)

Commercial solar installs made up more than 30 per cent of sub-100kW capacity in 2017, and as the bottom right chart reveals, the year-on-year growth rates of the various size sub-categories are “astonishing,” says Johnston – particularly in the 10-20kW (72 per cent growth) and 75-100kW (82 per cent) segments.

All up, there was more than 60 per cent growth in the sub-100kW commercial solar market and almost twice as much volume in the 101-1000kW range.

On a state by state basis, there was decent growth all round, with New South Wales, the Northern Territory and Western Australia all charting their biggest year on record – NSW topping the charts with 61 per cent growth in installations, year-on-year.

Source: SunWiz (click on image to enlarge)

And Johnston expects that 2018 might be just as exciting.

“2017 was a magnificent, record-setting year for solar installations, and many people were still up on roofs installing over the summer break,” Johnston writes.

“It may actually not be possible to pause to catch breath, as we’re already hearing that January 2018 is notably busier for commercial sales than in past years.”

Johnston says the growth in Australia’s commercial solar market comes down to a number of factors, the major ones – as with residential – being rising power prices and the falling cost of installing PV systems.

“Electricity price rises have been proportionally higher in commercial, as they’re more closely related to wholesale electricity prices, which have skyrocketed of late,” he told RenewEconomy on Thursday.

“Electricity bills have now grabbed the attention of company directors and CFOs.

Meanwhile, he adds, Australian solar companies are getting more experienced and skilled at selling and installing commercial PV. And that job is made easier by falling technology prices.

“Commercial paybacks are down to three to four years in some cases,” Johnston told RE.

“Many of the companies visited (by solar installers) two years ago are calling back now to say ‘is your quote still good, only to find out that prices have gone down and payback’s gotten better.”

And, of course, all of the above bodes well for battery storage installations in Australia, as homes and businesses look to get even more value from their solar PV, and further reduce their exposure to grid power prices.

We haven’t seen data, yet, on final numbers for home and commercial battery installs for 2017, but we will be keeping an eye out.  

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  • Rod

    I hope every installer sent Tony Abbott an Xmas card as we have him and his RET shenanigans to thank for the high energy costs.

  • George Michaelson

    Not wanting to bring on the tar and feathers.. But could I not make a strong case to end the subsidies to home-owners on this? Feels to me like this is an arguable position. I like home solar, and I think rebates and cash for volts is a fine thing, but if I was of a different persuasion, I’d look at year-on-year growth and say “hmmm. cut back the subsidy”

    The best kind of failure is of course, a success-flood. But when you have one, you do sometimes look for a tap to turn off…

    • trackdaze

      Subsidy reduces each year.

    • Patrick Comerford

      The industry and the business involved need certainty in order to continue to invest into the future. What you are seeing now is the result of the political compromise that dragged the Abbort LNP government kicking and screaming to agree to any Renewable Energy Target at all. But you are misreading the article if you think these latest figures suggest that the job is done. It has barely started. Changing the rules just because it’s now looking promising is just short termism at its silliest and would be a betrayal to future generations who are going to have to pick up the bulk of the bill for combating climate change.

    • Joe

      Georg, this is one subsidy that has to be kept in place. The Fossil Fullers have been subsidised from the very beginning of the fossil fuel era and they are still at it whilst at the same time whingeling about subsidies for RE. I say keep the RE tap fully open until the time that FF fully pays its way.

    • Mike Shackleton

      Investment in rooftop solar at the point of consumption avoids costly investment in new grid scale sources of generation and the grid upgrades that are associated with connecting that new capacity to the grid.

      It also brings down the load on the grid in general.

      It makes the owner’s bills cheaper, but it also brings down the bills of everyone else who doesn’t have rooftop solar. That’s partially why it carries a subsidy.

    • phred01

      how about cutting subsidies to coal industry and the coal generators as well

    • WR

      The subsidy is being reduced by 1/15th of the current subsidy per year for each of the next 15 years.

      I think this reduction might have started last year. So the first 1/15th reduction might already have taken place.

      • john

        Correct it is now 13

  • Chris Drongers

    Can Renewecomy do an article on the percentage of new homes, commercial and industrial construction covering what fraction of their anticipated energy consumption? We humans are herd animals and seeing others going solar would be a powerful agent to recruit more to the renewables herd and away from the fossil fuel mob.

  • Ken Dyer

    What do you expect when we have that knuckle dragging COALition government in Canberra?
    Why on earth are builders still building houses with black roofs?
    Why hasn’t the Australian building code changed to make solar panels on roofs a compulsory item on new homes, when stoves and hot water services are?
    Can anybody answer these fundamental questions?

    • Ralph Buttigieg

      Yep that terrible COALition government that has a solar boom on it hands.

      As to compulsory solar. Because housing is expensive enough without forcing unneeded expenses. If it does make economic sense to install solar people will as the article clearly shows is happening.

      • Ken Dyer

        Ralph, obviously you have not done your sums otherwise you would not make such an uninformed comment.

        Here is a recipe for you. Take $5000 and invest it on a term deposit for 5 years at the bank of your choice. You will get 2.8% for five years. At the end of 5 years, your profit will be $700.

        Now take your $5000 and invest it in solar panels. based on a $500 quarterly bill in Queensland, an average solar system (About $4000) will pay for itself over 4 years and save you $3595. But don’t take my word for it.
        Go here to origin Energy and work it out for yourself.
        https://www.originenergy.com.au/for-home/solar/systems-batteries/savings-estimator.html?cid=ps:sl:genericqld_g

        • Ralph Buttigieg

          Well yes, and invest it in some cryptos and you might make even more. So what? The fact that solar installations are booming prove that there are many people who certainly see it as a big plus. I looked at it and said no because we don’t use all that much electricity. I’m not going to pay extra for something I don’t need.

          • Hettie

            Crypto are using obscene amounts of electricity to do their computer mining.
            The very opposite of energy efficiency.
            The equivalent CO2 emissions of 100 trans Atlantic flights every day.

          • Ralph Buttigieg

            hats for mostly bitcoin. Others use far less. Some use Proof of Stake rather then Proof of Work which is far more energy efficient. Anyway have a look at coins such as PowerLedger who are making advancements in renewable energy.

          • James Hill

            “Invest’ in Crypto’s? That is the same as saying ‘invest’ on the Melbourne Cup or Pokies.

            The word you were searching for was ‘Speculate’ or ‘Gamble”.

          • Morph3us

            Yes, I see where you are coming from Ralph. At the same time, many of us who are lucky enough to not have to worry about about the financial aspect, are more interested in raising the consciousness of utilising energy which minimises the negative impact on the planet. Both approaches are fine. My solar install makes no financial sense right now but having excess power that I can potentially donate to more needy consumers has its attractions too.

        • Brunel

          There is a rumour that gas fired ducted heating is mandatory in Melbourne! Is that true?

          One council here even mandates skylights! It is so bloody hot today, the last thing we need is a skylight!

          • Greg Hudson

            Definitely not true. I bought a brand new house Nov 2016 and it has no Gas Ducted Heating. The house’s sole source of heating and cooling is a 13kW Aircon unit (heatpump) on the roof. As an example of running costs… Yesterday was a 41 degree (C) day here in Melbourne Victoria, and you can see when I had the Aircon running below: https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/90f3e67ba6f426f81aa4c29a7c9b2c7af2bbe7f74d9b8cc6c4beb632440bc321.jpg
            The power use yesterday came in at 30kWh for the day, and I had it running from 10am-12 noon, 2pm-4pm, and 6pm to 11pm (not exactly running all the time, but a decent whack, costing AU$7.05 at 2017 prices, which went up 20% on 1/1/2018).
            I have since SOLD this house a few weeks ago, so someone else can have the headache of the power bills. (No solar on this house, and I didn’t install it due to unfavorable orientation). My new house is 1/3rd the size, has a North facing roof, with no over shadowing. Solar to be installed RSN (Real Soon Now)… once I get paid for this behemoth.
            The dotted line on the image is my average daily use (15kWh for this week). Normal average is 10kWh/day.

          • Rod

            Actually, for a big house, an average of 10 kWh/day is pretty good.
            I guess it is space limitations or maybe noise levels but siting heatpump ACs on roofs (especially black ones) is crazy IMO.
            A new row house next door has that set up and the AC is constantly on.

          • Morph3us

            I have ducted evap air con and in 40+ degrees my house is nice and cool. (live in Perth) 1. Silver tin roof; 2. heavy duty insulation; 3. double glazing on every door and window. 4. led lighting. If you want to talk compulsory design features, how about them before we go whacking solar on. Solar should not be a license to burn power without thinking. Conservation first.
            I consume 5.5 – 6 units per day. House is a standard 4×2.

          • Rod

            Yes some seem to use more when they install solar. As I get a premium feed in tariff, I conserve/export as much as possible. We average 4kWh/day for most of the year. Double that in Winter to boost the solar HWS.
            If you really want to make a difference to carbon emissions a solar HWS or heatpump HWS should be mandatory on all new builds and when replacing a HWS. My setup, thermosyphon, gravity feed storage should last 25 years and new cost these days around $3000 plus install.

          • Brunel

            Are you in Vic?

          • Greg Hudson

            G’Day. Yes, I am in Melbourne. Forest Hill.

          • Hettie

            Then my experience would suggest that a 5kw system without battery until the prices drop some more would meet your needs amply, even allowing for the fact that Armidale is one of the best places in Australia for solar production, and Melbourne is not. Try to have some of your panels installed facing west, to prolong afternoon output, and if/when you get aircon ensure the outside unit is installed on the south side of the house or in as shady a place as you can find for it. Overhead shelter will provide protection from winter cold too, so you will enhance both heating and cooling performance.
            And congratulations on a sensible home purchase.

          • Greg Hudson

            G’Day Hettie and thanks for the reply. West facing is not viable as my roof is mainly N facing (no W facing area at all). A 5kW array will be too small, because I plan on adding a battery (maybe), and/or a Tesla Model 3 or Y in the garage. Hopefully Tesla will eventually make the car battery available for home storage one day (like Nissan are already doing with the Leaf in the UK). However, that’s years away yet IMO.

          • Greg Hudson
          • Hettie

            I’m a bit puzzled by the idea that 5 kW would be too small if your daily use is a very modest 10 kwh. Even in Melbourne, a 5kW system should produce an annualised average 20 kWh per day. Depending on standing charge, FIT and purchase price per kwh for power, that should more than eliminate your power bill.
            If/when you get a battery, the power currently sold to the grid will go to the battery, and be available to you overnight.
            Pleased to see your new roof is relatively pale in colour. That makes a significant reduction to the heat load in summer, and to winter heat loss.

          • Ken Dyer

            Buy a solar skylight – no hole required!

          • Brunel

            I looked it up now, it seems like a light powered by electricity.

            Not sure if the council would be ok with that.

            Have you got a web page link to a solar skylight that does not use electricity?

          • Ken Dyer

            Here you are

            http://illumeskylights.com.au/illume-skylight-alternative-retail/

            No batteries or power needed. You can buy them at Bunnings

          • John Mitchell

            I doubt that ducted gas is mandatory anywhere. Try RCAC instead, much much cheaper.

          • Brunel

            But I heard that rumour in 1999 and heard it again in 2017 in a different council!

          • Ken Dyer

            Works for me.

      • Pedro

        I agree with Ralph. PV on your roof should be a choice not mandated. In most cases it is a no brainer. Another point to consider is that when a council has mandated PV on the roof for a DA to get through, what inevitably happens is that the builder has the cheapest bottom of the barrel system installed.

    • nakedChimp

      black roofs?
      Hell, if they at least were optimized for solar (90% are hacked up to make the roofers rich), the color of the roof would be the last thing I would be worried about.

    • john

      Ken it is because people have NO idea and the builders have read back NO idea

      • Brunel

        have read back NO?

    • Brunel

      Large scale solar power stations produce electricity more cheaply than rooftop solar panels. Also, I do not want people to cut trees down to install rooftop solar.

      Not to mention,

      • Ken Dyer

        At the moment they do. Not for much longer, though. However, with the unscheduled outages and failures of coal fired power stations that can’t stand the heat, one needs a solar insurance policy.
        https://www.lazard.com/perspective/levelized-cost-of-energy-2017/
        As for black tiles, it is well known how useless they are in the heat as this report details,
        https://www.thefifthestate.com.au/innovation/design/cool-roofs-versus-dark-roofs-special-report

        But humans succumb to vanity and choose them. One supposes that this is a
        similar life view that sees, on average, Australians now owe 200% of
        the value of their house.

      • George AD

        We should simply ban black roof tiles. And put prominent warnings on other dark colours. This change alone would have a significant effect on domestic electricity use, comfort, and our emissions.

        • Brunel

          Ban black roof tiles on Mount Kosciuszko and Tasmania?

          Why not ban black limousines and black t-shirts?

          I hate government bans and prefer taxation instead.

          Our emissions will not reduce, because the Greens want to double the population of Australia.

          • Jonathan Milford

            ‘The Greens want to double the population of Australia’.
            Nonsense: read their Population policy and stop slagging them.

          • Brunel

            How many people would the Greens/LNP/ALP like to have in AUS.

          • Jonathan Milford

            Dunno: do your own research.
            The point is that the Greens (and Science) party are the only ones seriously tackling our emissions. It was the Greens that forced Labor to introduce the carbon tax, remember? And it did start to reduce our emissions until cancelled by the COALition.

          • Brunel

            I know the Greens forced Gillard to set the carbon tax at $23/ton when it was $10/ton in Europe.

            ie, the Greens pushed too hard and AUS no longer has a carbon tax but EU still does at $10/ton or less.

            The price difference never made sense. It was racism against Aussies.

            Also, I never got a carbon compo cheque.

            Do not think I voted for Abbott – I did not. Nor did I ever vote for Howard. But it is disgraceful to say “I do not want to be PM” plus “the poor voters will be compensated” and then stab Rudd in the back and refuse to give poor me a carbon compo cheque!

            Howard was a bastard but he did give out cheques for installing LPG tanks in cars!

          • Chris Drongers

            No bans on black tiles.
            But set performance standards – a black tile with high absorptance that emits the captured energy in a wavelength to which the sky is transparent will cool a space as effectively as a mirror or Surfmist white roof.

            While today the feds announced an investigation into increasing gadget electrical efficiency (which they won’t have to act on until after the next election) why are they picking this easy fruit while deliberately stepping aside from raising vehicle fuel efficiency standards on cars, or raising thermal efficiency standards for housing?

            How about mandating electric vehicle provision in all new commercial centres and housing?

            What is this about Snowy 2? Suddenly it is fashionable but smaller, more quickly installed schemes supported by the private sector and states are not worth commentary? Couldn’t be that Snowy 2 will support big utilities more than smaller distributed behind the meter solutions such as energy and thermal efficiency, solar roofs and building scale batteries and peer-to-peer energy trading?

            Because the current federal government does’t care, would rather have a media release rather than push an agenda, any agenda.

            Climate change? Ever since Tony used the IPCC reports for metaphorical toilet paper the incumbent front bench has been afraid to touch it.

            C’mon Josh, give us a reason why we should even listen to your whining about renewables every time the lights flicker but ignore your ignoring the aging, failure-prone coal power stations?

          • Brunel

            Then every tile will be the same colour.

            Why are men required to wear black coats and neckties in summer while women can wear sleeveless tops in any colour?

            A) that is discrimination and B) that raises the air conditioning demand

            Regulating the electricity consumption of gadgets?

            Gadgets sold in AUS are required to meet the efficiency standard of EU or Japan. We do not need more red tape. Any product that is legal in EU should be allowed to be sold here.

  • DevMac

    My most recent electricity bill was $50. Without PV it would have been around $600.

    Overall break-even time of around 6 years for the investment. Getting closer each time the prices change, because they only go up…

  • phred01

    With the coal industry and coal power generators knocking on the dormitory door The captain tony turncoat and the farmer along with COALition members are not getting any sleep. The recurring nitely nightmare of the duo renewables specter of solar & wind is creating a desperate conundrum which they are unable to escape

  • Arron Mccloy

    Rebecca mccloy

  • john

    Yes it is true
    link to graph show in article
    https://cleantechnica.com/2018/01/17/australia-secures-record-clean-energy-investment-2017/

    However as is noted it would look like this is not going to be the same next year

  • Brunel

    The graph shows that 2012 had more installations than 2017.

    There are still a lot of ignorant grandpas refusing to install rooftop solar.

    • George AD

      Let’s not blame everyone. There are many reasons why people haven’t done it yet, and Australia leads the world in residential uptake.

      • Brunel

        I am not blaming everyone.

        I mean people who have a double story house and a brand new car but no solar panels on the roof.

        If you live in Vic, you may be aware that some people were afraid of smart meters and thought they were a mind control device!

  • Hettie

    At the risk of being boring, let me say to those who doubt the value of installing solar if you “Don’t use that much electricity” er how much is not that much?
    My one person household with fairly frequent house guests uses 8 to 10 kWh per day.
    Over period July to October, that was costing around $120 per month.
    Solar installed October 10, 5 kW system, no battery. The first full month of FIT was credited December 11th.
    From that credit , and the subsequent one, January 11th, I have prepurchased power until the middle of March. Still $55 in credit.
    I have laid out no money for power since late November. Nor will I. That saving more than covers the repayments on the loan needed for the system. I shall continue to prepurchase as the credits come in, until the end of the winter, confident that the summer excess will cover the lower production of the shorter winter days.
    If you have enough roof space, an oversized panel array will pay for itself almost immediately as long as you get a reasonable FIT. I get 12.8 cents.
    Average output has been 31 kwh per day this year. The standing charge takes 11 of that, and I use as much as possible during daylight hours, but have to buy in just under 3 kwh per day.
    If you have a big house, a pool, and a big power bill, a 10 kW or bigger setup makes sense.
    If you are building new, do everything you can to maximise energy efficiency. Or retro fit insulation, external shading, all the good stuff. It makes a huge difference to comfort as well as to cost. And negotiate for the best FIT you can get.

    • Jonathan Milford

      Set up a blockchained virtual microgrid with your neighbouring community and you could get more than 12.8c/kWh. I shall be investigating this possibility with my local Council, as I am also only getting 12.8c. I have a 6kw CSIRO battery system with 22 panels from Evergen and am a prosumer through most of the year. Cheers.

      • Chris Drongers

        What was the retailer/network response when you floated the idea of setting up a virtual local grid? How long did it take them to stop laughing and say ‘no!’?

        • Jonathan Milford

          Cris: we haven’t floated the idea yet – its up for discussion at the next CASES meeting – but your reasoning is probably spot on, which is why we would need the support of government. Fortunately our Councils are divested from fossil fuels and have even passed motions opposing any new coal mines. Our state MPs are also very community minded. We will see!

          • Chris Drongers

            I have considered something similar myself over the years. However, the regulatory system in WA cannot yet accommodate a plethora of generators feeding a range of consumers. I remember a shared heat and power scheme for several office towers in Sydney failed because regulations do not allow power to be sold across title boundaries except through a registered retailer holding the appropriate (expensive as regulations set at utility scale) licence.

            Hopefully the current experience building exercises at unit block (Burswood), multi-block development (White Gum Valley), and suburb level (Alkimos and particularly Fremantle) will lead to a more favorable regulatory regime. Maybe blockchain enabled peer-to-peer electricity trading (Power Ledger) will speed the developments.

      • Hettie

        I have had an email malfunction since Friday, fixed today. Thank you Armidale Optus shop.
        I don’t have even the vaguest understanding of blockchain, but if you would care to give me step by step instructions on how to so what you suggest, I suppose I might consider it.
        However, I am more than happy with the economics of my current arrangements. Powershop have given me good service for two years, and I will stick with them unless a substantially better deal comes along.

  • trackdaze

    interested in gow much behind the meter battery installs occurred? If 2016 was 52Mwhr then 100Mwhr would just be a pass.