Solar’s record push in Australia

Solar PV installations hit a record high in 2011, a new report shows, and this week’s graphs of the week highlight the remarkable extent of PV growth since 2008.

The rise of solar PV has been rapid in Australia, with installations surging since 2008. The staggering degree of growth, illustrated in the first graph of the week below, has led to solar PV claiming 3 per cent of the electricity generation capacity in Australia and a 1 per cent share of consumption, according to the Australian PV Association’s PV in Australia 2011 report.

Source: PV in Australia 2011 report.

The fast expansion has resulted in the Australian Energy Market Operator suggesting the time has come for solar PV to be included in its annual forecasting reports, a plan outlined in its Rooftop PV Information Paper, released this week.

“Given [rooftop PV’s] current and forecast growth, AEMO will now publish its analysis of existing and forecast levels of rooftop PV (installed capacity, annual energy generation and the impact on maximum demand) in its annual forecasting reports,” AEMO said.

Price point

The second graph of note from the PV in Australia report highlights the dramatic price falls that have crippled many solar manufacturers around the world and helped drive consumer demand higher.

Solar panel prices have dipped more than 50 per cent since the start of last year and that price fall is flowing to the end customer. With typical module prices in Australia now about a quarter of what they were in 2008, it’s no surprise the report found that solar PV had already reached grid parity in some parts of the country.

Source: PV in Australia 2011 report.

Where does the PV sector stand?

Australia’s installed capacity of solar PV stood at 1.4 GW in 2011, up from 571 MW the year prior and 184 MW in 2009. It is now a $1.249 billion industry which, despite the rapid growth in installations last year, was slightly less than its value in 2010 – thanks to the sharp price reductions.

Government subsidies are slowly winding down or being cut, but on the positive side, rising electricity prices combined with lower solar panel costs, will “bring grid parity to most residential PV customers, and many commercial ones,” according to the report. Now the focus will switch to long-term regulatory frameworks, including the need for appropriate tariffs for power fed back to the grid.

Source: PV in Australia 2011 and PV in Australia 2010 reports.