Australia usurps the solar throne

Australian households embraced solar PV more than any other nation last year, surprisingly outstripping the demand of Germany, Italy, US, China and Japan.

Australia installed more residential PV systems in 2011 than any other country. While a number of other countries installed more PV in capacity terms – more Australian households than any other country embraced solar PV.

The Clean Energy Regulator released data in July showing that 753,844 PV systems with a capacity of 1,671 MW had been installed and created renewable energy certificates (RECs) in Australia to June 30 2012. The REC Agents Association released a Fact Sheet and media release on the weekend showing that more than 14 per cent of owner occupied separate or semi-detached houses had a solar PV system.

While the aggregate figures are impressive, the figures for 2011 installations paint an even more interesting picture. For 2011, 357,222 PV systems were installed and created RECs (with a total capacity of 861 MW). We expect this number will increase slightly as RECs can be created up to 12 months after date of installation. The overwhelming proportion of these systems will be residential, with commercial installations (greater than 10 kW) amounting to less than 5 per cent.

We estimate that more than 340,000 residential PV systems were installed in 2011, which makes this the largest of any country. This was initially a surprise as many people expected Germany, Italy, US, China or Japan, which installed significant levels of PV in 2011, to be the largest.

All of these countries have significant levels of residential systems – but as it happens less than Australia. Japan had more installed residential PV capacity than Australia at 1,166 MW however as the average system size in Japan is 4 kW, only 292,000 systems were installed, some 48,000 less than in Australia, which had an average system size of 2.4 kW.

For the record, stats for the PV industry for 2011 are as follows:

-- Italy had largest installed capacity at 9,301 MW (Australia was 9th largest)

-- Japan had largest installed residential capacity at 1,166 MW (Australia was 2nd)

-- Australia had the largest number of residential PV systems at 340,000

Ric Brazzale is Managing Director, Green Energy Trading and President, REC Agents Association.