Commercial solar up, residential PV steady in Queensland

The latest solar stats from Energex - southeast Queensland's network business - shows an upswing in commercial installations, but there may be bumps ahead for residential.

Energex – the southeast Queensland power network operator with the highest installed solar capacity in Australia – reports that the number of connection agreements (a leading indicator for installations) for sub-5 kilowatt solar systems is at its lowest level for 3½ years.

However, they continue to experience a rate of system installations running at similar levels to prior months at around 2500 customers per month (shown in green line in chart below).

Graph for Commercial solar up, residential PV steady in Queensland

Source: Mike Swanston of Energex

While still well off from the record installations that occurred when the closure of the premium 44 cent feed-in tariff (installations shown by blue line above) was announced (mid 2012), it suggests the sector has reached a solid steady state of sales in spite of householders receiving relatively little for any power they export to the grid. A quarter of the installed base of systems now receive a payment for exports well below the retail price of electricity.

In addition, Energex reports that the average size of household systems remains at a quite high 4.12 kW. Systems of such a size are likely to export a substantial proportion of their overall generation.  

Energex have also noticed an upswing in large (5 kilowatt-plus) solar PV systems, with 107 large systems worth 1.47 megawatts of capacity connected to medium and large-sized business and commercial customers in August compared to 11.5 MW for predominantly residential sub-5kW systems.

They partly credit this upswing to an easier grid connection process where customers agree to constrain their system from exporting any power to the grid. This streamlined grid connection process for zero power export systems has raised concern amongst some sections of the solar industry as an unfair restriction. However, Mike Swanston, group manager within Energex’s customer and corporate relations area, suggests this has simply provided a faster option for customers to install solar systems with less hassle. If they wish, installers can still elect to connect solar systems capable for exporting power, but as has always been the case according to Swanston, such connections will require a study to evaluate its impact on network power quality and safety.  

Overall, there are now 267,656 rooftop solar PV systems connected to the Energex network with 871 MW rated inverter capacity.

Graph for Commercial solar up, residential PV steady in Queensland

Source: Mike Swanston of Energex

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