How Much Rooftop Solar Power Can Be Installed In Australia?

Rooftop solar power in Australia

Ever wondered how much rooftop solar panel capacity could in theory be installed in Australia given the rooftop real estate available in this country? Here’s an answer.

A new report authored by the Institute for Sustainable Futures (ISF), the School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering (SPREE) at UNSW and the Australian PV Institute (APVI) puts a number on it:

179 gigawatts

That’s around twenty times more than the total capacity of all small-scale solar power systems currently installed in Australia (~8.6GW – Clean Energy Regulator, April 2019). There are also 100kW+ rooftop commercial solar systems that have popped up around the place and a bunch of non-rooftop solar farms. APVI figures indicate that as at the end of September last year, there was 10.1GW of solar PV capacity installed across Australia (all types).

A Lot Of Solar Panels

How many solar panels is 179 gigawatts? Based on a module capacity of 300 watts, around 596.6 million panels – approximately 24 solar panels for each woman, man and child in Australia (and  ~ 7 kilowatts per capita).

So, where is the potential and what’s the breakdown? More than half is in residential zones:

Zone PV Potential (GW) Annual Energy Output (GWh)
Residential 96.0 1,30,153
Rural / Primary Production 33.9 46,680
Industrial /Utilities 19.0 26,464
Commercial /Business 9.3 12,601
Special Use 6.7 9,357
Mixed Use 4.0 5,584
Community Use 3.9 5,371
Unknown 2.2 3,052
Conservation /National Park 2.1 2,884
Recreational /Open Space 1.7 2,346
Transport /Infrastructure 0.6 774

There’s a number missing in the report’s table at the time of publishing for Annual Energy Output for the Residential zone classification – perhaps it should read 1,300,153 or 1,301,530 – in any event, it’s a lot.

179 gigawatts of rooftop solar could generate (very) roughly around  261,340 gigawatt hours of electricity a year – or 261.34 terawatt-hours (the report pegs it at 245 terawatt-hours). That’s more than current annual consumption in the NEM plus Western Australia’s SWIS1 says the report, which is just under 220 TWh  per year.

Realising The Potential Of Rooftop PV

Just because you might be able to do something, it doesn’t mean you should. The study report isn’t suggesting Australia should (or could) source all its electricity from rooftop solar panels and of course there are caveats and assumptions relating to the figures it notes says APVI. But these initial findings serve to indicate we’ve really only just begun to tap into the potential of rooftop PV in this country.

The full report: How Much Rooftop Solar Can Be Installed In Australia?, which includes methodology, can be downloaded here..

On a related note, APVI released a report last year detailing the potential for rooftop solar in the Central Business Districts (CBDs) of each Australian capital city.

Footnotes

  1. The NEM – National Electricity Market – consists of Queensland, New South Wales, ACT, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia. The SWIS is the South-West Interconnected System, which stretches from Albany in the south of WA, to Kalbarri in the north and Kalgoorlie in the east of the state. It also includes the Perth metropolitan area.
About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

Comments

  1. How much of the excess could actually be used. meaning how would it be delivered backwards through the system to be able to be used.
    Meaning the more people that have it, the further it has to travel backwards to be able to be used somewhere.
    So if everyone in a suburb had solar, all the exports from them would have to travel backwards through and then forwards through transformers to be re-used.
    Given that inverters are only sending out around 230volt power, its going to be hard to get it to travel any distance.

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