At the beginning of September 2012, the average price per watt of an installed solar system in Australia was around $2.30 after subtracting the Federal Small-scale Technology Certificate (STC) ‘rebate’, according to data from Solar Choice’s installer network database, based on the prices on offer from installers operating in Australia’s major capital cities (excluding Darwin and Hobart).
Price per watt by city and system size
The overall average price per watt was lower with larger systems. Whereas the average price of 1.5kW and 2kW solar PV systems were both about $2.40, 3kW and 4kW systems checked in at less than $2.30, whilst 5kW systems offered the best value for money at $2.18.
Installed system prices by city and system size
Melbourne was consistently the most expensive city in which to buy a system, regardless of size. This could be due to the announcement of a deadline to apply for Victoria’s current Feed-in Tariff rates, which has created a (relatively mild) rush to install and resulted in a seller’s market where installers can be selective about which customers to take on. By contrast, Sydney (where no state-mandated Solar Feed-in Tariff currently exists) was home to some of the lowest system prices in the nation, although occasionally rivaled by Canberra.
System price highs and lows
System prices varied significantly. Low-end prices for systems of all size ranges came in at well under $2/watt. Dearer systems were over $4.
Chinese panels clearly dominated low- and medium-priced systems across all size ranges. European and Korean panels could usually only be found among the pricier systems. By comparison, European- (and occasionally NZ-) made inverters were frequently seen found at low, medium, and high price points for all system sizes. Low-cost 1.5kW systems were more likely to have a Chinese inverter than other system sizes.
There was no 1.5kW system on offer that included Australian-made panels, but for all other system sizes, those that incorporated these home-grown products came with the biggest price tag.
Average STC discounts
STCs are a type of renewable energy ‘currency’ created under the Federal government’s Renewable Energy Target. When commissioned, solar systems in sunnier regions are allocated a greater number of STCs, whilst those in less sun-blessed areas (such as Victoria and Tasmania) receive fewer.
STC value varies according to supply and demand. In most cases, installers themselves assume the liability these price fluctuations and pass the value on to customers in the form of a discount off the up-front cost of a system. Depending on how much of the liability they are prepared to take on (as well as on other aspects of their pricing structure), different installers routinely offer differing nominal amounts per STC.
The average STC price offered by installers across the country at the beginning of this month was around $26. On the high end, 4 installers offered $31 per STC, and 1 offered $32. The least offered was $21 per certificate (1 installer), and the most commonly appearing value was $25. Only 1 installer promised a ‘market rate’ for STCs. (Offered STC value can be cross-checked with the current STC spot price on the Clean Energy Council website.)
(N.B. Not all installers explicitly disclose the STC discount they offer, instead selling ‘packaged’ systems with the amount inclusive in the final total. The average STC discounts below are based on figures from those installers who do include this information.)
About this data
All figures are based on the offerings of active installers on the Solar Choice installer network for each of the 6 major capital cities. The system prices above do not reflect the average prices at which systems are ultimately purchased.
About Solar Choice
Solar Choice works with 100 solar PV installers in providing free and impartial Solar Quote Comparisons for customers throughout Australia. Solar Choice Commercial manages tenders for a wide range of commercial-scale solar PV projects throughout Australia, including solar farms and utility-scale solar PV plants.
More detailed analysis of this month’s figures (and more) is available through SunWiz.
© 2012 Solar Choice Pty Ltd
He is now the communications manager for energy technology startup SwitchDin, but remains an occasional contributor to the Solar Choice blog.
James lives in Newcastle in a house with a weird solar system.
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