One of the few industries not affected by covid-19 has been the solar sector, according to the Australian Energy Council (AEC). The AEC recently announced that rooftop solar has become the nation’s second-largest energy generator, with 14.7GW of capacity from almost 2.9 million installations.
The AEC’s quarterly report, released last month, said that coal-fired energy plants still have the largest capacity, rooftop solar is catching up rapidly, with almost 110,000 systems installed in Q2 of 2021 alone.
Record number of solar panels installed in 2021 so far
Sarah McNamara, chief executive of AEC, said that the pandemic hadn’t dented the growth of solar, and that all of Australia’s jurisdictions apart from NT, broke records compared to 2020.
The 2020-21 financial year saw 373,000 systems installed on domestic roofs, up from 323,500 during 2019-20. The installed capacity rose from 2,500MW to more than 3,000MW.
New South Wales out in front
NSW was Australia’s largest solar growth state, with more than 116,000 installations and 965MW added to its rooftop capacity. This number is 31% of the nation’s total installations for the year and 32% of its new capacity. Queensland, Western Australia and Victoria brought in another 1,670MW with 212,000 installations, which was just under 57% of the year’s total.
The pandemic could have given solar a boost
The falling costs of solar tech, together with a move to working from home for many and increased spending on home improvements combined to make the 2020-21 financial year a bumper one for solar.
The AEC also found…
The rate of battery installations in SA fell but rose in NSW and WA. The first and second quarters of 2021 saw battery installations in SA slow down. SA had 22% of the country’s solar-plus-battery installations, which was down from 39% in Qs 1 and 2 last year. This is probably due to the reductions in the state’s Home Battery Scheme grants from $6,000 to $3,000.
NSW is going the other way, however, with a strong uptick in solar-plus-battery installations giving the state a 27% national share. This sudden enthusiasm for SPB (as it’s known to its friends) is probably down to the NSW government offering interest-free loans on these systems.
In WA, SPB installations went up by 77% in Qs 1 and 2, bringing the state’s share up to 12%. Last year its share was just 7%.
Most state capitals have short solar payback periods
Despite a slight increase in the cost of solar PV due to a disruption of polysilicon supply out of China, coupled with a strong demand of solar installations, payback periods continue to be low across most cities. The report says this further highlights the greater encouragement for customers to install solar PV.
There was a slight hike in PV prices in early 2021, due to high demand and also a disruption to the polysilicon supply from China, but despite this, householders in most cities are seeing low payback periods. This payback time offers householders more encouragement to go solar-plus-battery, says the AEC.