Australian rooftop solar boom rolls on – 351MW in first quarter

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Rooftop solar installation boom continues in March, and total for first quarter is more than one third more than the previous record as households and business respond to soaring grid prices.

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One Step Off The Grid

Australia’s boom in rooftop solar shows no sign of slowing down, in fact it is accelerating, with 127MW installed in March and a record 351MW in the first quarter of 2018.

According to industry statistician SunWiz, this total for the first three months of the year is 56 per cent of last year, 33 per cent ahead of the previous record first quarter (in 2013), and more than double the “miserable” performance of 2016.

Households and small businesses are clearly responding to the absurdly high grid-prices charged by the big utilities, and the equally crazy push by hard right Coalition MPs to build new coal fired power stations, which most consumers recognise would guarantee even higher grid prices.

“The solar industry is running white hot, and unlike previous booms that were driven by a pending reduction in subsidies, this boom is driven by fundamental economics of high electricity prices and highly affordable solar power system,” SunWiz director Warwick Johnston says.

“This boom looks like it will last for a few years at least.”

New South Wales again pipped Queensland, with just under 32MW installed in the latest month, taking its total to more than 1.5GW. Queensland still leads the cumulative total with 2.05GW.

But other states also head record months, with Victoria and South Australia particularly strong. South Australia is now at 859MW of rooftop solar, enough to account for nearly 10 per cent of its total demand. These are the states that have been hit hardest by recent spikes in wholesale prices.

SunWiz says Victoria now leads the market for systems of 30kW to 100kW – which is the small to medium size business market, although South Australia is also seeing strong growth in this segment.

The biggest move however is in the 10-20kW market, which suggests some households are “maxing out” their rooftops, but also point to installations in farms and smaller businesses.

The news came as a new online platform, known as SunSPoT, was launched that can be used to calculate the solar power potential of any rooftop – home, business, factory or school.

The platform, developed by the Australian PV Institute, along with UNSW, councils, aims to work with councils and their communities to provide independent and open source data and tools for distributed energy decision-making.

Early-adopter councils, who are already project partners, including KuRingGai, Willoughby, Randwick, Northern Beachesand Lane Cove, with more cities and towns to be added as the program expands.

unSPoTwas developed at UNSW by Dr Anna Bruce and Dr Jessie Copper, from the School of Photovoltaics and Renewable Energy Engineering. The interactive platform uses GIS data to estimate the technical potential of rooftop solar, accounting for the tilt of roof surfaces and shading at the site.

The project has key technology partners in Australian companies Solar Analytics and Enosi who contribute energy monitoring, data and an energy exchange platform.

“Australia leads the world in rooftop solar, but there is still lots of potential for adding more solar, and it’s now the cheapest form of electricity generation,” said Renate Egan, APVI Chair and Associate Professor at UNSW.

“SunSPoT aims to give energy consumers the information they need to make a decision how much solar they should install, and how much they will save when they do.”

This article was originally published on RenewEconomy’s sister site, One Step Off The Grid, which focuses on customer experience with distributed generation. To sign up to One Step’s free weekly newsletter, please click here.

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19 Comments
  1. Peter F 8 months ago

    Bugger.
    At that rate by 2021 new rooftop solar will displace all the output from Liddell and then those ungrateful peasants will be pinching our peak demand by installing grid controlled appliances and batteries. Perhaps we can get Malcolm and Tony to make peace and give us a seven year PPA for beautiful clean coal for seven years at 20% above market rates.
    Yours faithully
    Alinta

    • Joe 8 months ago

      I was watching my TV yesterday and the topman at Atlinta was sharing some of his wisdom. He seems really strong for the Liddell takeover by Alinta ,really talking it up. But that must have been before AGL’s topman Andy Vessy said that the LIddell site is gonna be staying with AGL for them to implement their announced plans once ‘Liddell’ stops power production..

  2. George Darroch 8 months ago

    It’s a boom. But when I consider how many rooftops I see in Queensland (the largest adopter) which *don’t* have solar it’s clear that there’s room for at least a decade of growth.

    And that’s before you consider the replacements that will have to happen as equipment reaches its end of useful life and is superseded by more efficient systems. It’s also before the widespread adoption of electric vehicles, which will be revolutionary.

    • Rod 8 months ago

      Queensland is ahead of the curve in getting social housing and renters included.
      Here in SA we already have a 5kW export limit which may well speed up our battery take up.

      • mick 8 months ago

        yep thats why i went off grid

        • Rod 8 months ago

          Well done. I’d join you but I’m getting the premium FiT. This cool fine weather sure is good for making electrons. I’m 50% ahead of the same quarter last Year.
          Pity about the lack of rain though. That desal plant may come in useful one day soon.
          Who did your system?

          • mick 8 months ago

            fly by night went broke within 6 month after that i grabbed 2nd hand unwanted ie demo/default did the monkey work myself got a sparky to join the dots 5kW the roof nn east the rest in the paddock roughly n/w agms in series to 48v inverter to 240, onan back up

      • gasdive 7 months ago

        I’m not in SA, but as wiring rules are national, I expect its the same… You’re not limited to 5 kW of PV. There’s no limit. Anyone who tells you there is, is pissing in your pocket for their own reasons. 5 kW on single phase, 30 kW on 3 phase before an assessment of local capacity has to be done. 100 kW limit for a low voltage connection, but you can upgrade to an HV connection if you want. At some number of MW (I forget how many, but somewhere around 30 MW) you stop dealing with retailers and the local network provider, and start selling wholesale, connected via the long distance transmission grid at 330 KV.

        There’s no limit, just more and more hoops to jump through.

  3. GlennM 8 months ago

    Wow that is tracking to over 1.5 GW for the Calendar year !

    This is literally stealing the Power Companies lunch. Now with batteries their diner will be at risk..

    Look out for the extreme backlash…Oh that right it has already happened…

  4. BushAxe 8 months ago

    Boom or trend? Business is clearly jumping on board as prices fall making it a no brainer decision. I just installed a 6kw system for the same price I paid for a 4kw two years ago. SA’s minimum demand will be really interesting next year!

    • Joe 8 months ago

      I say Trend. ‘Jobs and Growth’ as the Two Tonguer Turnbull keeps telling us.

    • Rod 8 months ago

      Trend. It is so cheap now that split arrays to get morning and evening generation should be the norm.
      I heard waiting times in SA of 3 Months so this has a long way to go.

  5. Cameron Pidgeon 8 months ago

    Does any one here know if there is an increase in south facing and/or shaded roof installations?

    This might be an area of new growth as the technology is fast approaching the point where such ‘sub optimal’ placement of panels will be economically viable. REC has panels optimised for partial shading, Solar Edge and others have inverters with optimisers and that monitor each panel, and batteries will make covering every inch of your roof worthwhile as they maximise the benefit from any solar power you can collect.

    I think the boom will bolstered and sustained by the increasing size of installations and the upgrades to existing installations that this new capability is making possible.

    • RobertO 8 months ago

      Hi Cameron Pidgeon, I been looking at a system that face 2 degrees north of west, the bell curve starts about 60 seconds after the sun is first visable (is only just visable the very tip of it). In mid summer it was starting about exatly the same position just visable. Heavy cloud does slow it down starting, but it does not need direct sun light. In theory facing south will chop off the bottom of the bell curve, so your not losing that much actual power. This system for about the first hour slowly picks up watts (2 Kw system), 15 minutes after sunrise it about 40 watts – 80 watts, 30 minutes its about 80 watts – 150 watts, at 1 hr its about 100 watts to 250 watt. The max i have ever seen is 1485 watts and I suspect that just cleaning the system would lift that to 1800 watts, The afternoon heat may also slow it down. Sunset is the opposite but it is later and shorter in drop off time.

  6. George Darroch 8 months ago

    What’s the total installed capacity for small scale solar now?

  7. Barri Mundee 8 months ago

    NT seems to be the only territory/state with the lowest percentage of solar though it has the most sunshine in the country. Apparently the high number of renters and public housing is a big factor. This is causing hardship in dealing with high bills, no doubt for long AC use.

    “Forty per cent of occupancy in Darwin are renters, and people renting with a shorter time to their occupation are far less likely to put in something that really takes eight to 10 years to pay off”.

    The NT government is considering the issue.

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-08-22/why-hasnt-darwin-embraced-solar-power-to-help-reduce-power-bills/8824690

    • George Darroch 8 months ago

      Just require landlords to put solar on their roofs. That would sort it out quickly.

      • Barri Mundee 8 months ago

        That would be great, though I would prioritise public housing first as these people are by definition the lowest income groups.

  8. RobertO 7 months ago

    Hi All, 351 Mw for first quarter is 1.4 Gw for the year and I suspect we will go about 1.8 Gw for this year and over 2 Gw next year.

Comments are closed.