PV market reaches a high

The year 2017 was outstanding for Australian rooftop PV which recorded the greatest ever annual installed capacity at 1,079 MW. Together with installations sized over 100 kW, the 2017 PV market is believed to have hit an all-time high of around 1.25 GW.

“Australia’s solar boom is good news for families and good news for the solar industry. Record numbers of Australian families and businesses are slashing their power bills with solar and storage,” says John Grimes of the Smart Energy Council.

“Families and businesses are making smart economic and environmental decisions that will benefit them for years to come. They are assessing the facts and figures and all signs point to a continuation of the trend in PV popularity, from residential to commercial and large scale with many significant projects underway or on the drawing board.

“The solar boom means jobs, jobs, jobs – jobs in regional communities and jobs in suburbs across the nation.

“What we are seeing is that PV remains very popular and gets the vote of the broader community. Better too the environment benefits from cleaner air as we collectively reduce our reliance on coal-fired power which is imperative,” John said.

“Now all we need is smart national energy policy.”

Warwick Johnston of SunWiz pondered whether the cracking pace set in 2017 can be maintained in 2018 and says the one segment that will certainly grow is utility-scale solar which saw 80 MW of PV commissioned in 2017.

The SunWiz&RenewEconomy Large Scale Lookout reveals 711 MW of PV is under construction, indicating 2018 will exceed 2017’s rooftop installation tally and become another record year.

Among the 2017 highlights: 50 per cent growth on 2016 in the <100 kW market and 60 per cent growth in the <100 kW commercial market and almost twice as much volume in the 101-1000 kW range.

Commercial installations which records strong growth rates made up more than 30 per cent of the <100 kW capacity in 2017.

Interestingly, ABS data shows 15 million solar panels valued at $1.2 billion were imported into Australia in 2017, with a high proportion destined for solar farms under construction.

The extent of market growth depends on five main factors which SunWiz lists as [the impact of] electricity prices and feed-in tariffs; power price rises; PV system prices; awareness and momentum.

Predictions are that PV paybacks in 2018 will be similar to 2017 (and better than in 2019 and 2020), and although it will be more difficult to motivate customers to buy PV in 2018, bill shock will continue to influence decisions. Falling PV system prices are unlikely to significantly improve sales in 2017, SunWiz suggests.

Taking a closer look at December data, the monthly small-scale certificate creation reached 2.3 million which was just 4 per cent below November levels, but Green Energy Markets notes there were far fewer working days in December.

The weekly average for 2017 stood at 429,000 (up from 420,000 at the end of November) while the three-month weekly average is significantly higher at 522,000 (up from 502,000 end November).

STCs representing 16,272 solar PV systems and 114 MW of capacity were created in December, down on November figures by 10 per cent and 5 per cent respectively.

At end 2017, annual STC creation was 22,478,225, which was 36 per cent greater than 2016 creation of 16.5 million. Also in 2017 STC creation from PV was more than 20.5 million; 40 per cent higher than that of 2016.

The top three PV SGU creators for 2017 remained unchanged from 2017 with Formbay top of the chart, followed by Emerging Energy and Greenbank Environmental. TrueValue slipped off the top 10 and was replaced by RETA (WA).

Top two Formbay and Emerging Energy boosted their respective market shares to 14.9 per cent and 14.6 per cent respectively.

Turning to the solar water heater market, STCs representing 6,177 SWH systems were created in December; 5 per cent above November system numbers. In all STC creation from increased in 2017 to 1.98 million; up 5 per cent on 2016.

Chromagen Australia maintained market dominance in 2017, upping its SWH STC market share from 25.7 per cent in 2016 to 32.1 per cent in 2017.

Large-scale solar: in mid December the Clean Energy Finance Corporation recorded another milestone with major investment for large-scale solar developments. The latest two are helping accelerate the delivery of more than 1 GW in additional solar energy across 20 projects.

The CEFC has committed $207 million in debt finance to accelerate the development of 200 MW of additional solar capacity across two WIRSOL Energy projects – $110 million toward the 110 MW Wemen Solar Farm near Mildura in Victoria and $97 million in senior secured debt towards the 90 MW Clermont Solar Farm 400km west of Rockhampton in Queensland.

That brings the CEFC investment tally to 20 large-scale solar projects since 2013.