In March of 2013, Australia reached a major milestone on their journey to become a nation powered by solar. 1 million solar Photovoltaic installations which means if you drive down the streets of Aussie towns and cities, you’ll likely spot solar panels on the roof. Despite reducing tariffs for selling power back to the grid, the increase in traditional power bills has continued to fuel sales of solar. Just five years ago there were only around 20,000 systems installed across the country.
It’s not surprising that the biggest solar state is the very sunny QLD, which accounted for 304,781 systems, followed by NSW at 227,663 and VIC at 177,067. Given these figures are now 8 months old, don’t expect it to be long before we’re celebrating 1.5Million total sales and the half million mark for an individual state.
Australia’s largest solar company is True Value Solar which are approaching a major milestone of their own. Currently at around 970,000 installations, the 1 million mark for a single provider is another major event in Australia’s renewable journey.
While the accompanying image above shows PV panels on residential housing, one of the biggest purchasers of solar is business. While households face power bills in the hundreds of dollars, medium sized businesses can face costs in the hundred of thousands of dollars to powering operations. While the up front cost of installing larger solar systems is higher, the potential savings are also higher and can pay for itself faster in business.
The motivation to consider solar in Australia is a lot less about the ‘green’ benefits of alternative power generation and a lot more about the economics. Regardless of the reason why people continue to buy solar, one of the biggest questions is when should you pull the trigger and jump into solar? There’s never a perfect answer to that question, but there is a new streamlined, darker, more seamless version of panels that have arrived in the last 12 months. This is a bit like asking how thin does an iPad need to be before you’ll buy one. It still works really well, but sometimes aesthetics do matter.
Solar is essentially a piece of technology in which development is rapid and evolving year-to-year. Each generation of solar panels increase in efficiency meaning you either generate more power from the same sized panels, or the panel is capable of extracting power in lower light for more hours of the day.
It is important to keep the panels clean, to retain optimum energy collection and is suggested you have them cleaned at least once a year. This should be factored into the cost calculations for return on investment. Regardless of the number of years it takes to pay back the system, as long as that’s sooner than the life of the panels, you’ll be ahead. As the cost of systems reduce, you’ll likely reach a net zero position sooner than previous generations.
As great as the proliferation of solar has been in Australia, we still don’t have the capacity to store the power for when the sun doesn’t shine. As soon as solar providers include battery storage in garages, households can stop relying on reducing returns from the government for power generated and actually move to be completely off the grid.