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Solar PV penetration approaches 1m mark

15th Oct 2012

Australian solar PV penetration is approaching a landmark figure - with one million households expected to have rooftop panels by the middle of next year.

Professor Ray Wills, chief adviser to the Sustainable Energy Association (an industry lobby group) made this prediction after examining recent stats from the Australian Clean Energy Regulator - otherwise known as ACER.

Data from ACER showed there is now 858,000 homes with solar PV - totalling just under two gigawatts of installed capacity.

There is also now more than 600,000 solar hot water systems installed across the country.

The professor was quoted by the Sydney Morning Herald as claiming that within two years' time, panels will be so cheap that "you might even throw a coat on your dog".

He noted that growth in demand has weathered the reduction of generous feed-in tariff schemes since 2011, despite the resultant dive in orders slashing rebates originally caused.

And now, intense international competition (particularly from Chinese companies) has meant homeowners can expect to make back the money they paid for solar power systems within just four years, Wills added.

The expert said the average 1500-kilowatt unit is now selling for around $1,500 to $2,000 - encouraging people to "coat every surface that has exposure to sunlight".

Speaking on the sidelines of the recent All-Energy conference in Melbourne, he also pointed to a rise in interest for solar PV among the outer suburbs of major cities.

"People who have installed solar panels for any reason do consider their energy use more closely," he stated.

"The latest crop is doing so because it makes economic sense to generate electricity from a solar panel. Many are less worried about saving the planet and more worried about the bottom line."

However, Wills admitted the future isn't entirely a bed of roses for the industry - particularly as large-scale power generators such as EnergyAustralia will be looking to curtail the impact solar has on electricity demand.

Since the end of 2010, consumers have required less and less energy from the national grid - with renewables and the high Australian dollar being marked as significant factors.

According to Professor Wills, defending the old market will have an adverse impact on the progress sustainable technologies shows, although it will only be a minor hiccup.

"Renewables will still arrive," he stated. "It will take longer and in the meantime we'll pay more for electricity than we have to."

Posted by Mike Peacock

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