With 31% of Free Standing Houses Going Solar, Australia Leads Globally In Per Capita Solar

Highlights :

  • The Australian success with solar rooftop is definitely an outlier story, owing to many causes.
  • But it offers valuable lessons for managing grids with a high share of renewables.

The rooftop solar success story in Australia has been well documented. A new report now puts the results of those numbers in perspecttive. Driven by a combination of subsidies, lowering costs, and the utility of having an off grid option in far flung  areas, rooftop solar in Australia is almost as common as owning a car in many countries. There is nearly 1kW of solar panels for every one person  with total installed capacity for all solar ending at 20.8GW in 2020. With 13GW (62%) accounted for rooftop solar, the Australia solar story has reversed many long held notions on scaling up solar in a country. An amazing statistic in a country with a population of less than 26 million people. The 31% figure is a huge jump on the still impressive 20% figure for solar rooftop share in houses in 2018.

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By contrast, rooftop solar accounts for barely 15% of India’s overall solar capacity of 47 odd GW today.

The PV in Australia Report for 2020, published on November 8 as part of the International Energy Agency PV Power Systems analysis, details the story, adding that as of now, there remains enough momentum and scope for maintaining the scorching growth rate into the foreseeable future. Many industry experts in the region have predicted solar reach to be as high as 60% before slowing down, from the current average of 31%. The only issues that are seen as capable of slowing it for now are the withdrawal of subsidies, and the current reversal of trend in terms of dropping prices.

The average rooftop install size has been put at 8kW, up from 7.1kW in 2019.

With the addition of 3GW on rooftops and another 1.5GW of ground-mounted solar in 2020, Australia’s solar uptake grew to 810W of solar per person at the end of 2020 according to the report, the leader worldwide ahead of Germany with 650W/person. It’s a lead the country will widen further, going by current trends. 370,000 rooftop systems were installed in 2020, taking total installs to over 2.69 million rooftops.

Among Australian States, Queensland and South Australia average close to 40% of independent homes with rooftop solar.

Interestingly, in a record year for rooftop solar(0-10 kW)  and C&I segment (10-100 kW) , utility scale solar contracted (5 MW plus) , although it still added over 1.44GW solar installations in 2020.

The next stage of growth is likely to be powered by solar+storage options, including completely off grid options, as storage costs take up the load of dropping costs to enable more adoption. With over Aus 7 billion already invested by governments across the country, there is already a new focus on supporting storage plus installations. PV continues to displace diesel in hybrid power systems and industrial and agricultural applications including power systems for telecommunications, signalling, cathodic protection, water pumping and lighting. In Western Australia (WA), microgrids and stand-alone power systems (SPS) are being tested for wider implementation to better serve remote communities by taking advantage of new renewable energy technologies.

Looking ahead, the report also highlights the two massive projects in the pipeline, that will continue to add to solar numbers.

  1. The Australian-ASEAN Power Link in the Northern Territory, which is projected to be the world’s largest solar farm and battery storage facility with 10GW of solar and an under-sea cable delivering power into Southeast Asia.
    2.  The Asian Renewable Energy Hub in Western Australia, which will see 26GW of wind and solar proposed to provide energy to large energy users in the Pilbara region, including new and expanded mines and downstream mineral processing. The bulk oof the energy here will be used for green hydrogen production.

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Prasanna Singh

Prasanna has been a media professional for over 20 years. He is the Group Editor of Saur Energy International

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