Solar panel take up heads towards the millionth home
Solar panel take-up heads towardsthe millionth homeAustralian roofs now have a solar powergenerating capacity equivalent to halfthe Snowy Hydro scheme as consumersreact to soaring power prices andsinking prices for photovoltaic (PV)panels.
First solar farm opens in WASome 858,000 homes have solar PV panelswith an installed capacity of just under 2gigawatts, according to the latest data fromthe Australian Clean Energy Regulator (ACER).At the current rate of take-up, the millionthhome will tap into solar power before the endof June next year, said Professor Ray Wills,chief adviser to the Sustainable EnergyAssociation (SEA), an industry lobby group.
Significantly, the growth in demand for solar haslargely weathered the slashing of generous feed-in tariff in 2011 — and subsequent dive in ordersafter the loss of the subsidy — to recover muchof its expansion pace.Intense international competition amongsuppliers, particularly from China, now meanshouseholds can expect payback periods of asshort as four years, with a typical 1500-kilowattunit selling for $1500-$2000, Professor Wills said.
Advertisement“By 2013-14, solar panels will be so cheap thatyou’ll coat every surface that has exposure tosunlight,” he said. “You might even throw a coat onyour dog.”Residents in the sprawling outer suburbs of majorcities may have a reputation for preferring hulkingSUVs and expansive “McMansions”, but they arealso among the fastest-growing purchasers of solarPVs, said Professor Wills, speaking on the sidelinesof the All-Energy conference in Melbourne.
Planting a set of panels on the roof is leading to ashift in consumer habits, resulting in averagepower use falling about 20 per cent compared tohouseholds without solar PV.“People who have installed solar panels for anyreason do consider their energy use moreclosely,” he said. “The latest crop is doing sobecause it makes economic sense to generateelectricity from a solar panel. Many are lessworried about saving the planet and moreworried about the bottom line.”
The spread of solar panels to more than 10 per centof Australian households presents a challenge forlarge-scale power generators such as EnergyAustralia (formerly known as TRUenergy).To the surprise of many forecasters, power demandhas dropped since the end of 2010. A high dollar hasforced some manufacturers to scale back productionor shift operations abroad but the uptake of solar PVand the spread of other renewable energy sourcessuch as wind have added to the reduction inelectricity demand from the national grid to about2004 levels.
The energy white paper outlining the federalgovernment’s long-term plans for the sector islikely to be released at the end of the month,while other policies are under review, includingthe target of 20 per cent sourcing from renewableenergy by 2020.Professor Wills, who also works as an industryconsultant for the advisory firm Duda & Wills, saidpressure from incumbent power suppliers to limitthe spread of solar and other renewable energysuppliers will only delay the industry’s inevitabletransformation.
“If we make the wrong decisions bydefending the old market, renewableswill still arrive,” he said. “It will takelonger and in the meantime we’ll paymore for electricity than we have to.”SOURCE: smh.com.au: Peter Hannam
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