Thursday, 18 October 2012

Solar panel take-up warms to a million
10 Oct 2012

More than 10% of Australian homes now have solar panels. Australian roofs now have a solar power generating capacity equivalent to half the Snowy Hydro scheme as consumers react to soaring power prices and sinking prices for photovoltaic (PV) panels.

Some 858,000 homes have solar PV panels with an installed capacity of just under 2 GWs, according to the latest data from the Australian Clean Energy Regulator (ACER). At the current rate of take-up, the millionth home will tap into solar power before the end of June next year, said Professor Ray Wills, chief adviser to the Sustainable Energy Association (SEA), an industry lobby group.

Significantly, the growth in demand for solar has largely weathered the slashing of generous feed-in tariff in 2011 and subsequent dive in orders after the loss of the subsidy--to recover much of its expansion pace. Intense international competition among suppliers, particularly from China, now means households can expect payback periods of as short as four years, with a typical 1500 kW unit selling for $1500 $2000, Professor Wills said. "By 2013 14, solar panels will be so cheap that you'll coat every surface that has exposure to sunlight", he said. "You might even throw a coat on your dog".

Residents in the sprawling outer suburbs of major cities may have a reputation for preferring hulking SUVs and expansive "McMansions", but they are also among the fastest-growing purchasers of solar PVs, said Professor Wills, speaking on the sidelines of the All-Energy conference in Melbourne.