Solar Choice - Solar PV price check

At the start of the month the average price of an installed solar system prices sat at about $2.40/watt, but in which capital city can you find the cheapest prices? James Martin of Solar Choice provides the first of a regular monthly column tracking solar PV system price developments.

As of August 1, the average price per watt of an installed solar system prices sat at about $2.40/watt (after STC rebate) across Australia's major capital cities (excluding Darwin and Tasmania), based on numbers from the Solar Choice database.

Average system prices generally varied between cities by less than $1000 for each system size, while median system prices for each city were on average about $300 lower than the averages displayed in the table below, indicating that a larger number of installers offer prices below the average than above.

In a comparison of all packages on offer, regardless of city, the lowest price for a 1.5kW system (besides $0 down packages) came in at around $1,500 ($1/watt) for a non tier 1, all Chinese package.

At the upper end of the market were a mix of all-European, all-Chinese (tier 1 and 2), and European-Chinese systems with prices floating in the low to mid $6,000 range. Systems with prices near the average were either all-Chinese or a Chinese panel/European inverter combo, with a few offering tier 1 Chinese panels.

In a similar, non city-specific comparison, prices for 3kW systems and 5kW systems ranged widely from around $4,000 to $12,500 and $8,000 to $20,000, respectively.

At the high end of the spectrum could be found a mix of both all-Chinese and all-European packages, with some of the European packages coming in nearly $1,000 less than the Chinese ones. None of the more competitively-priced systems included European-made panels, although a small number did feature big Chinese names such as Suntech and Trina, as well as European and NZ-made inverters. Mid-market system offerings in the 3-5kW range generally offered good value for money, with most containing European inverters coupled with a broad mix of European, tier 1 and 2 Chinese, and Korean panels.

Although there were no major differences in average price per watt between system sizes, 3kW systems seemed to be offering the best bang for buck at $2.32 vs around $2.45/W for 4kW and 5kW systems.

This could be related to the relatively high competition in the market for systems of this size. Since the latter half of 2011, Solar Choice has noticed a trend among customers towards a preference for 3kW systems, away from the 1.5kW's ($2.36/W) that were the staple system size when Australia's solar industry had just begun to take off and prices were still significantly higher.

STC prices also vary widely by installer, from as low as $21/STC, with only one offering a seafood shop-style 'market rate'. The average price offered for an STC was $27, while the single price offered by the greatest number of installers was $25.

About this data

The figures in the above chart are a simple average of the prices on offer from Solar Choice network installers in each of Australia's major capital cities, and do not reflect the average prices at which systems are actually purchased.

The number of installers whose system prices have been used varies from city-to-city; the Perth average is based on figures from 15 active installers, whereas Brisbane prices are based on figures from nearly 50. All averages have been calculated based on installers' final total price after STCs; the STC price offered varies by installer.

James Martin is analyst/online development manager at Solar Choice, which works with 100 solar PV installers in providing free and impartial Solar Quote Comparisons for customers throughout Australia. Solar Choice Commercial manages tenders for a wide range of commercial-scale solar PV projects throughout Australia, including solar farms and utility-scale solar PV plants.

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