Over one million Australians now using household solar7th Dec 2011
More than one million Australians now live in homes powered by solar panels, according to new research - meaning that the nation is on track to achieve its renewable energy target by 2020.
The Clean Energy Report - released at climate talks in South Africa on Monday (December 5) - found that the number of solar panels installed in Australian homes had grown 3,500 per cent in the past three years to a total of more than half a million.
As of August 2011, approximately 1,031 megawatts of solar power was installed in Australia - representing more than 500,000 household units.
More than 230,000 of these systems were installed between January and August this year.
Industry peak body the Clean Energy Council (CEC) produced the report, stating that "solar power has come of age and is now a real part of Australia's energy sector".
"The good news is we are now well on the way to achieving the 20 per cent renewable energy target," CEC director Kane Thornton said.
"Overall, renewable energy produced enough power for more than four million homes and came at a very low cost to consumers."
Renewable energy provided almost 10 per cent of Australia's electricity in the last 12 months,
Mr Thornton said while large scale clean energy developers had faced a challenging couple of years, the industry was optimistic about the year ahead.
"Now that we have a carbon price in place, we expect to see many clean energy companies investing in major projects in 2012 and beyond," he said.
"This was the reform we needed to help unlock some major deals during the first half of next year."
The news for Australian solar comes on the back of international predictions that solar power could provide energy for one-third of overall global electricity needs by 2060.
A new study by the International Energy Agency - entitled "Solar Energy Perspectives" - found that in 90 minutes, enough sunlight strikes the earth to provide the entire planet's energy needs for one year.
According to report author Cedric Philibert, solar energy has immense potential.
"While solar energy resources are abundant, their use currently represents only a tiny fraction of the world's energy mix," he claims.
"But this is changing rapidly and is being driven by action to improve energy diversification and security, mitigate climate change and provide energy access."
Posted by Mike Peacock - Solar correspondent