A toast to solar's sun-kissed rise

This week Australian solar installations reached a major new milestone. The industry is actively reshaping our future, with more 'Solar Sundays' to come.

It seems wherever you look, you see a solar power system. Well, at least it does to me but then again I work in the solar industry so I take particular notice.

But it’s no surprise that this week Australian solar power installations reached 3GW in total, a milestone as noteworthy as the one millionth solar power system that was installed in April (a number which has since risen to 1.2 million).

Around Australia, solar is making its impact felt through reduced electricity bills for solar owners and lower wholesale electricity prices, for everyone.*
This 3GW of solar power is actively reshaping Australia’s electricity market. Queensland represents one-third of Australia's total solar capacity, its 1000MW of solar making 'the people’s power station' the fourth largest power station in the state.

The 450MW of solar power in South Australia is, equivalently, the third largest power station in the state and is sniffing at the heels of the 520MW of generation at the state’s largest power station.

Nationwide, 14 per cent of dwellings host solar power systems (one in four dwellings in South Australia are smart enough to have bought solar  systems). And all this solar is making its impact felt, as revealed by another pending solar milestone.

Graph for A toast to solar's sun-kissed rise

Analysis performed by SunWiz reveals that at midday on Sunday, September 29, solar power contributed to 9.3 per cent of electricity demand in the National Electricity Market.

Midday production from the ~2.4GW of solar power registered on the NEM at the time of analysis produced 1700MW of simultaneous output of 18,100MW total NEM consumption. Because registration of systems lags behind installations, the actual contribution on September 29 is likely to have been even higher than stated.

At this point, solar power’s contribution to South Australia was even greater – providing 28 per cent of the state's midday power requirement. Over the winter months, solar contributed 1.4 per cent of total power consumption in the NEM, reaching a daily peak of 2.75 per cent of energy NEM-wide production on September’s 'Solar Sunday'.

Graph for A toast to solar's sun-kissed rise

And despite a three-fold contraction from peak installation levels of 180MW per month installed in June 2012, the Australian solar industry is now enjoying the stability it long wished for.

More challenging is the industry’s recently poor profitability that owes itself, largely, to extreme competitiveness brought about by the number of industry players which have stuck around since solar’s heyday (mid -2012). The consumer is getting a bargain, and using the low prices to upsize their system to a now average 4.3kW in capacity while the most popular system size has gone from 1.5kW to 3kW or 5kW, depending on which state you live in.

Another clear trend is that businesses are purchasing solar power – 5 per cent of recently installed systems exceed 8kW in size.**

Graph for A toast to solar's sun-kissed rise

With so many solar power systems installed in Australia, it's little wonder that I see solar panels everywhere. As I was about to take my first skydive last week, the person I had entrusted my life to asked what my line of work was. After disclosing that I work in the solar industry, I commented that the skydive centre should certainly buy a solar power system. Minutes later, hurtling towards earth, I had to chuckle to myself for even when faced with my own mortality somehow my mind registered that there was, indeed, already solar panels on the skydiving roof.

And at this rate, I'm guessing it won't be long before Australia's first solar farms are visible from space.

Warwick Johnston is managing director of Sunwiz Consulting. This article was originally produced by Sunwiz. Republished with permission.

*To celebrate, SunWiz is releasing a complimentary special-edition of its market-leading Insights subscription next week – how to gain access: visit our special sign-up form.

**This information changes regularly, meaning a monthly Insights release helps subscribers to stay abreast of trends as they emerge.

Market Synopsis

PV Market

•    75MW of PV was registered in October, and similar figures in November.

•    SA overtook Queensland to be November's biggest installation location.

•    Average System Sizes are 4.8kW in SA, but far smaller at 3.4kW in WA

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STC Market

•    Seven large STC creators still hold 100% of the STCs they've ever created, but much of it is sitting outside of the Clearing House

•    Most of the trading that is taking place in the market is of much-traded STCs - those that have been traded 7 times or more.

•    Origin now creates less than 10,000 STCs per week, where once it exceeded 250,000

•    The weekly and monthly STC creation tally are displayed on our website - check in regularly.

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Solar Hot Spots

•    Most upturn in the market is focussed on SA, though most installation levels are below earlier peaks.

•    Hilton SA had two successive record quarters; Lonsdale also set records (off the back of some commercial installations it seems)

•    Rosewater and Emu Flat also set records

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