Solar chases the magic million

Australian solar installations are running ahead of forecast and the latest figures suggest one million homes could be equipped with solar panels by the end of the financial year. Eighteen months ago the number was just 400,000.

The latest data from the Australian Clean Energy Regulator shows that more than 858,000 homes in Australia are now equipped with solar photovoltaic panels, totalling almost 2 GW of installed capacity in solar PV, according to the Sustainable Energy Association of Australia.
 
Australian homes also now have more than 600,000 solar hot water systems installed.
 
The ACER October 2012 release provides installation numbers up until September 30, 2012.
 
With eight million homes in Australia and existing growth trends, more than 10 per cent of homes now have installed solar panels, and rates of installation are running ahead of those previously forecast by me in July. Projections suggest one million homes will have solar by June 30, 2013.

Figure 1. Houses with solar panels installed.

Forecasting installation rates forward, Australia is likely to have a million homes with solar in around 12 months time, bringing installed capacity of small scale solar to over 2.3 GW.

Figure 2. Installed capacity of small-scale solar.

Average system size continues to grow, with systems recorded for June 2012 averaging 2.84 kW. The recent changes in feed-in tariffs around Australia are likely to see this trend reverse.

Figure 3. Average solar system size.

Changing policy
 
Changes in the solar multiplier led to an accelerated installation up to June 2011, and with further staggered perturbations to the market caused by changes in feed-in tariff policies in different states. However, competitive pricing appears to be taking over from government pricing as the rate of installation approaches levels similar to high installation rates during the period of feed in tariffs and higher federal support.

Figure 4. Installations by state on month-by-month basis.

Figure 5. Installed new capacity by state on month-by-month basis.

Figure 6. Average system size by state on month-by-month basis.

Feed-in tariff policy is expressed in sudden changes in the average size of installed systems. The most dramatic impact of this seen in Western Australia where the termination of a solar feed in tariffs were announced without warning, and the state still lags behind in size of installations, although this may reflect a better production in Western Australia.
 
Queensland is now the state with the largest amount of installed solar in the nation by both number and capacity with over 600 MW on more than 247,000 installations.

Table 1. Preliminary numbers and installed capacity of solar PV, as measured by Small Generation Unit (SGU) certificates to 30 September 2012 by state. (Note figures will continue to rise for 2011/12 due to a 12 month creation period of SGU certificates.)
 
Three postcodes in Queensland – Caloundra (postcode 4551) Hervey Bay (4655) and Bundaberg (4670) – and one in Western Australia – Mandurah (6210) – now all have more than 10 MW of solar installed – more than Australia’s newest and largest solar farm installed in the Geraldton region and opened this week. Even adding 3.6 MW of generation in the Geraldton postcode 6530 to give a total of 13.6 MW in the area, Bundaberg manages to keep the top spot of highest installation of solar by postcode with 14 MW of distributed generation.

Professor Ray Wills is chief adviser to the Sustainable Energy Association through advisory firm Duda&Wills.