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Solar city named as prices continue to drop

2nd Dec 2011

The Victorian town of Shepparton has been named one of the state's solar cities, now housing 0.7 per cent of the state's solar panel systems.

According to figures released by the Australian Government Office of the Renewable Energy Regulator on Wednesday (November 30), a total of 622 rooftop solar panel systems had been installed since 2001.

Up until 2009, only 164 units were in place - however a boost in government initiatives and community interest saw this figure rise by 458 in eight years.

Almost ten per cent of Shepparton homes now feature solar power technology.

According to the Herald Sun, industry figures state there has been an exponential growth in installations in the past 12 to 18 months - particularly in middle and lower-income areas - as homeowners are "lured by the economic benefits rather than green symbolism".

The news came on the same day that speakers at the Solar 2011 Conference in Sydney highlighted the falling prices of solar panel systems.

In his address to the conference, CEO of the Australian Solar Energy Society (AuSES) John Grimes stated that solar power was rapidly approaching grid parity - making residential, commercial and large-scale panel systems a key player in delivering the future energy needs of Australians.

According to Mr Grimes, competition and global price cuts on components make it a great time for Australian households to adopt solar power technology.

"There has never been a better time for Australian's to install solar to protect against rising coal-fired electricity prices which are set to increase 17 per cent around the country," Mr Grimes said in a statement prior to the conference.

Solar power system prices have been cut by over 70 per cent in the past 12 months - which has helped to off-set a reduction in solar rebates, according to the solar energy body.

These reductions have been largely due to the immense growth of solar power around the world, particularly China.

Despite having little in the way of solar capacity as recently as 2009, China is now expected to almost double their initial target of 15 gigawatts by 2015, instead achieving a 26 gigawatt capacity by that time.

The scaling up of production of solar panels, inverters and related equipment in China has rapidly reduced prices and prompted many governments and companies to increase the size and number of solar projects.

According to a new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA), solar projects - including those utilising concentrating solar power - may fulfil as much as 25 per cent of the world's electricity needs by 2050.

Posted by Mike Peacock - Solar corresponent 

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