Australia achieves its next solar milestone: 3 gigawatts of rooftop solar installed

The solar panel odometer has ticked over yet again for Australia, with the country reaching 3 gigawatts (GW) of installed rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity, according to figures from the Clean Energy Regulator. The event is a second major solar-related milestone that the nation has seen in 2013, after the announcement in April that 1 million homes had installed solar PV systems. Over 1GW of the installed rooftop solar can be found in Queensland, where, like the rest of the country, new installations continue to happen even after the withdrawal of state-mandated feed-in tariff incentives, albeit at slower rates.

Analysis by solar consultancy SunWiz determined that with this milestone 1.15 million homes now have solar on their roofs. The state with the greatest number of systems is Queensland, with 360,000, followed by NSW, which was home to 252,000. Victoria, South Australia, and WA followed, with 201,000, 160,000, and 149,000 systems each, respectively.

The Clean Energy Council (CEC) acknowledged the event in a press release, pointing out that the bulk of these systems were installed in working-class neighbourhoods and regional areas. The press release also gave a few examples of what 3GW of solar PV capacity would be capable of powering. The Sydney Opera House, for example, could be powered for 230 years by the energy produced by a solar power plant that size.

To draw what may be a slightly more relevant comparison, a coal-fired power plant with a capacity of 3GW in Australia would be considered large. Although the capacity factor (the amount of power produced relative to the plant’s nominal capacity) of such a coal plant would be higher than that of a solar plant of equivalent capacity, at peak production both would be able to meet the same electricity demand.

Aside from the fact that solar panels require no fuel and produce no pollution while generating electricity, they also differ significantly from conventional, centralised power plants in that they can be distributed widely across the electrical grid and meet electricity demand on-site. CEC Chief Executive David Green noted this: “Household solar power gives consumers more control of their power bills by letting them generate their own electricity from the sun.”

© 2013 Solar Choice Pty Ltd

James Martin II