The ACT Energy Minister Simon Corbell often boasts of his desire to turn Canberra into the solar capital of Australia, but it may take some time before he can dislodge the current solar capital of the nation – the working class suburb of Coodanup in the city of Mandurah in Western Australia.
Coodanup is ranked as the No 1 locality in Australia for installation of rooftop solar PV, with 5,210 installations up to July, 2012 – according to data gleaned from the Australian Clean Energy Regulator and put together by the REC Agents Assocation.
Coodanup is another of those unfortunate statistics for those who insist that solar is a niche product reserved for middle class indulgence. It is described in Wikipedia as “working class”, and according to the real estate listings you can buy a house here for $220,000. Hardly any seem to sell for more than $600,000.
Coodanup is seen as typical of the demographic that is embracing solar PV – the ones that really care about the cost of living, or who could see a bargain in the recent feed-in tariffs. Inner city Labor types often don’t have the roof space. The wealthy conservative votes often don’t realise they have an electricity bill.
“With power prices escalating, it is no wonder families with mortgages and regional households are looking at ways to cut energy costs, said John Grimes, the CEO of the Australian Solar Council.
“Regular Australians are concerned about power prices and are prepared to invest in, and get behind proven energy technology,” he said. “Mortgage belt Australian’s have invested an estimated $2-3 billion of their own money in solar so far.”
And in the case of Coodanup and anywhere else, it’s all happened in the last few years – a look at the suburb on Google Earth shows it was last updated in 2008. And apart from a few solar hot water systems, there did not appear to be a single panel of a roof anywhere in the postcode at that time.
The number of installations in Coodanup is more than 10 per cent ahead of its nearest rivals, a collection of three Queensland localities – Abbotsford, Booral and Aroona. Queensland localities make up 10 of the top 20 solar PV suburbs in Australia. WA has five, NSW and South Australia have two each, and Victoria one.
The analysis also found that the suburbs with the greatest number of solar systems tended to be in outer metropolitan areas in Victoria, while in NSW they tended to be in regional areas. In Queensland, they were split between both.
Here are the lists for the top 20 localities in Australia – first by solar PV, then by solar hot water, and finally by a combination of both. The state by state breakdown can be found here, and it shows some interesting statistics of just how much solar has penetrated in some localities – up to 40 per cent. It’s probably time that politicians started to take note. How solar PV is managed could become a key election issue.