South Australia is Australia’s renewable energy leader in terms of per-capita power generation. Although wind power, accounting for over 20% of the state’s power generation, has clearly had the biggest impact on the electricity market there, rooftop solar panels are also making their mark.
Solar panels help South Australian homes and businesses save money on their power bills
Residential solar power has grown hugely in the past several years in South Australia. 1 in 5 homes in SA now have solar panels on their roofs, thanks in great part to the the state’s feed-in tariff incentive programs, whose implementations were orderly, clear, and without the political drama that seemed to plague similar schemes in virtually every other state and territory in the country. In South Australia, the feed-in tariff started out appropriately generously, and was scaled back gradually in order to allow ample time for homes and businesses interested in going solar to make a decision and have the system installed. Now, solar system prices have fallen such that return on investment (ROI) is comparable to what it would have been during the peak days of the feed-in tariff incentive rates.
Similar to homes, businesses are also increasingly turning to solar photovoltaic (PV) systems as a way to reduce their power bills. Just as in the residential market, the case for commercial solar power across Australia has become more and more compelling over the past few years thanks to the combination of system price reductions and increasing power bills. Solar is an especially good match for businesses that operate during daylight hours and are therefore able to directly consume a large percentage of the power that their solar systems generate.
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The other benefits of solar panels to South Australia’s grid
In addition to the financial benefits that solar panels afford South Australian homes and businesses and the environmental benefits they offer society more generally, broader benefits to the electricity market and its customers are becoming apparent in the last year or 2. Firstly, solar PV has played a significant role in reducing peak energy demand periods in South Australia, thanks to the fact that the sun is usually shining its brightest at these times. It has also helped to reduce SA power demand more generally, as the power produced is often consumed directly by homes and businesses ‘behind the meter’ rather than exported to the power grid; this means that it is interpreted by network operators and their record keepers as a lack of demand rather than as power generated. The most interesting fact of all, however, is that combined with wind power, solar panels are widely attributed with having helped to decrease power bills in SA. This bucks a nation-wide trend in the opposite direction.
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