It may come as a surprise to many, but Australia installed more solar power in the under-10 kW system size than Germany did in 2011. Australia set a similar accomplishment in 2010 too, and looks on track to do so again in 2012. So why aren't we hearing more news about this fast growing segment of the Australian solar market?
Well, as far as headline totals go, Australia falls far short of Germany's 7,481 MW of PV installations in 2011: Australia installed a respectable but long-distant 837 MW in total last year. But the principle reason for this was the near-complete absence of any utility-scale installations in the country due to the lack of support by Australian federal and state governments. As a consequence, 815 MW of Australia's PV installations were less than 100 kW in size; of which there was 58 MW of domestic off-grid installations and 757 MW of grid connected installations. 96 percent of Australian capacity in this range is below 10 kW in size — 804 MW. Germany installed 759 MW in this range. SunWiz previously reported that Australia installed more sub-10 kW systems than Germany in 2010 (but still fell short in terms of MW in this category); it will certainly have beaten Germany on both accounts in 2011.
On the strength of its residential sector, Australia ranked 8th in capacity installed in 2010, and ranked 7th in 2011, highly respectable for a nation of its size. These figures mean Australia could easily be the world's largest market for residential PV. To provide some context, U.S. heavyweight Sungevity (who recently partnered with Australian company Nickel Energy to bring its RoofJuice solar leasing model to Australia) has reported figures of 4000 systems sold and installed 4.7 MW in 2010; by comparison Australia's largest installer installed 12 MW in a single month. The image below shows the distribution of system sizes in Australia, which have grown from 1 kW average to the now rest above 2.5 kW.
Significant Implications for the World
Australia may largely lack the commercial and utility-scale market that has propelled the likes of Germany, Italy, Spain, the Czech Republic to the gigawatt-per-year club. But such nations have faced overnight industry shut-down. As Bloomberg New Energy Finance showed, Australia is one of the first countries to have reached residential 'socket parity'; ahead of much of the world. Australia has also showed that in spite of massive cuts to government support, residential solar can survive without premium feed-in tariffs when solar power is primarily used on-site. With 'socket parity' reached for small businesses, and tantalisingly close for large business, Australia's commercial market is set to grow organically, free from the distortions of solar-specific government incentives.
As government incentives are wound-back around the world, Australia offers a glimpse of the future solar markets that will emerge internationally.
Growth in Australian PV has also caught the eye of the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), which this week released a paper drawing upon a report commissioned from SunWiz forecasting PV uptake. Both forecasts are subsets of the nation-wide Australian PV forecast produced by SunWiz and SolarBusinessServices, excluding PV in Western Australia and utility-scale systems.
Australian solar statistics are drawn from the PV In Australia report released this week by the Australian PV Association, which used data collated by SunWiz in its Australian PV Insights monthly subscription, supplemented by data released by the Clean Energy Regulator.
The information and views expressed in this blog post are solely those of the author and not necessarily those of RenewableEnergyWorld.com or the companies that advertise on this Web site and other publications. This blog was posted directly by the author and was not reviewed for accuracy, spelling or grammar.