What? Oz thrashed by Poms on solar PV installation?

union jack

The Poms have come from behind to give us a thrashing.

We Aussies hate to be trumped by another nation in any field of endeavour. Whether on the sporting field, in battle or in the latest scientific innovation, we like to think we always “punch above our weight”.

Imagine our horror then, when we learned of being completely spanked by the land of grey skies and shitty weather in an area we should call our very own:  solar PV installations.

The sad (for us) score card runs as follows:

United Kingdom

  • Target set of 20 GW of solar installs by 2020.
  • 325 solar farms completed with MW capability, 124 with planning approval.
  • Expected average installation rate for 2014: 2,500MW – 3,000MW.


  • Dodgy review set up to rip the Renewable Energy Target (RET) to shreds.
  • One MegaWatt class solar farm in operation,in WA, just a handful in the works.
  • Average 800MW per year install rate.

According to a recent article by the highly-recommended Giles Parkinson, the secret of the UK’s stunning success lay in their emphasis on encouraging the construction of large scale solar PV farms. This contrasts with the consumer-driven, rooftop solar energy sector here in Australia.

“The driving force behind the UK solar boom, according to US-based industry analysts NPD Solarbuzz, is the rapid growth of megawatt-scale, ground mounted solar PV farms, and the release of a government-mandated target of 20GW for solar installs by 2020,” said Mr Parkinson adding that the Land of Hope and Glory is set to lead Europe in solar PV in the near future.

Dare we call the Cameron government “forward thinking”? Have they hit on a solar PV installation formula so well suited to their drizzly and foggy clime that they will retain and keep the Ashes of solar PV well into the next generation? Surely not readers.

The setting of a target by 2020 on renewables sounds vaguely familiar doesn’t it readers? I seem to recall that crazy Greenie John Howard setting a similar style of target to provide certainty in the renewables market place?

Indeed it is the expected shredding of this RET that is causing a spectacular stalling of billions of dollars of solar PV investment in Australia according to John Grimes of the Australian Solar Council.

At this point it looks like we are doomed to pander to the fossil fuel lobbyists and sink further into a planet-warming, environment-destroying, expensive energy future.

And perhaps lose the renewable energy Ashes for all time.


  1. Stephen Treloar says

    So with three times the population they are installing 3 times as much capacity. Let me do the maths….

    I concede all other points however.

  2. roncher bridges says

    We were in UK about 4 years ago. We like to stay farmhouse B&B when touring.
    At one Cornish B&B we learned that the farmer had been offered “Set-a-side of his land for a 3 year period.

    In essence he is paid to not produce an agricultural crop. He simply cannot switch from potatoes to turnips… no agriculture He told us that he had already been approached and contracted to have large scale PV’s installed on his farm instead, as another income stream. BUT they can/will be removed at the end of 3 years if his set-a-side is not extended.

    This is one example of how the POMs make their small island work for them.

  3. Perhaps “well suited to their drizzly and foggy climate “;
    but don’t forget they also have the huge panel-effiency advantage of miserably COLD weather! 😉

  4. Rich Bowden says

    Thanks folks. But how can we, a solar superpower, do better? Any thoughts (as the Budget is being announced).

  5. This doesn’t surprise me as a Facebook friend living in Kent told me he has a solar system on his roof and because he paid for it to be installed, the government pays him every year. On top of that he is also paid for credits for the energy he produces. He also has an I-boost which means he can use energy from his panels to heat his boiler and help power his gas heating. He also had his house insulated for free from the government.

    This amazed me in a cold and grey climate such as it is over there. What does that say about Australia?

    • Rich Bowden says

      Fascinating stuff Cheryl. Your last two sentences say it all, particularly in the wake of the savage (though expected) Budget cuts last week. How long before we see the light (ahem!).

      • I saw the light many years ago Rich and I hate it that others haven’t. As soon as I started buying my house about four years ago I got solar panels installed. It was the best thing I did as now I am unemployed I don’t have to worry about the extra expense of a power bill and I know I am not contributing to damaging the planet.

        • Shep Shepard says

          So Cheryl…what’s the real cost to the environment to produce those solar panels in polluting factories in China then shipping them here? How much Co2 gets shot into the atmosphere to produce one solar panel from digging up the elements out if the earth to final installation, then disposal? Or, do we ignore that polluting cost?

          • Finn Peacock says

            Shep, I’ll answer that question for Cheryl. It takes about 1 year for a solar panel to pay back the energy used to manufacture and transport it:


          • Shep shepard says

            Ok Finn, so what’s the end game? There’s no free ride with any energy source. I read your article and the background source material. There’s issues with limited supply of raw materials like cadmium telluride and copper indium gallium di-selenide and the articles mention nothing of the impact of extracting these minerals out of the ground. Just head on over to Telluride, Colorado and see the impact of mineral extraction. It’s a messy process and, if you will allow, the “bi-catch” left on the surface tailings enter surface waters and often create toxic cesspools that have made ghost towns in the American West and industrialized East. Have you ever been to Kalgoorlie? Another thing that enters my little brain is, say, 100 years in the future earth is gathering this sunlight on the planet to take care of say even 25% of its power needs. Can you tell me there’s no adverse impact of the sheer square hectares of panels on weather patterns, and earth temperatures? The world is hungry for power, and that hunger will only grow exponentially in the next 100 years. Going solar, in my book, is hopeless, as is the use of oil and coal. For me, solutions are not in alternative energy, but in consumption. There’s lots of solutions here- if Earth had 1/5 the population in 100 years than now, due to a pandemic, major asteroid collision or nuclear war the whole equation changes. I admire your passion, but I hold no hope for mankind in this regard. I feel the Earth needs a little cleaning out- and it’ll happen before alternative energy becomes the answer.

          • Ron Bridges says

            Finn, Thanks for that reply on behalf of Cheryl. I am a solar convert with 5 years of stripes and 44cen Qld return on kw exports. I often gloat to my friends that are solar knockers “I’m surprised you didn’t go solar when I did” If have often met the retort re locked in production/environmental costs.

            Thanks again

          • Shep Shepard says

            Ron, I think you misread my point. First- my homes here and in the USA have had solar water heating installed since 1972! I was a solar contractor in California from 1978 to 1984. I get it. I had installed my first PV 4KW system on my home here in NSW five years ago. I like the idea of renewable, alternative energy. But I think it’s PURE FOLLY to cast these alternate forms of energy as some Earth saving solution. My point is we don’t honestly know, do we(?), of the ability of the planet’s energy needs to be met with alternate energy OR their actual impact on the planet if applied in mass. Wind generation is a case and point- endangered species of birds, pastured cows going off, etc, etc. My point is this- seriously reducing consumption will ultimately be the solution- not alternate energy. I won’t be here to see that, I’m 64, but my grand kids will. One last point, one persons solution is another’s problem- that may not seem evident to you, but perhaps one day it will be.

          • Shep Shepard says

            Cheryl, several years ago a MIT post graduate mechanical engineer , for his doctoral thesis, looked at the TRUE lifetime cost comparison between a Toyota Prius and a Hummer. Turns out from digging up materials, manufacturing costs, lifetime cost of running the vehicle to eventual cost of recycling the cars at the end of their effective life- INCLUDING Co2 loading- the HUMMER was more environmentally friendly, by accepted “green” standards than the Prius- it flies in the face of logic and runs counter to “the polluting paradigm.” I don’t own a Hummer and never would, but I can say the same about a battery laden, toxic Prius. I walk when I can, I sit when I can, and I lay down when I can. I do my part by consuming less.

          • I don’t know Shep but thanks for answering for me Finn. At least I know that I won’t be continually polluting after manufacturing them, unlike polluting fossil fuels Shep!
            I have heard the same argument about riding a bicycle because of the pollution created from the aluminium when they are being made. Get real! The main thing is they DON’T keep polluting AFTER they are made, like other forms of transport, isn’t it??

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