Australia hits 3 GW installed capacity milestone

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The rapid uptake of solar Down Under has been illustrated in figures, released today by Australian solar industry consultants SunWiz.

While in 2008 only 10,000 solar arrays had been installed in the country, that number has ballooned to 1.2 million, representing 3 GW of peak capacity.

"Around Australia, solar power is making its impact felt through reduced electricity bills for solar owners and lower wholesale electricity prices for everyone," wrote SunWiz’s Warrick Johnston. Across the country, SunWiz calculated that 14% of "dwellings" now have a solar array.

Of the most populous states, Queensland has taken the lead for solar installations, SunWiz revealed, with almost 1 GW installed, followed by New South Wales with 633, Victoria 532, South Australia 450 and Western Australia with 334.

SunWiz noted that the 1 GW "peoples’ power station" in Queensland was the fourth largest in the state, while the 450 MW of solar in South Australia made it the equivalent of the third largest power station in that state and only slightly behind South Australia’s biggest conventional power plant, which comes in at 520 MW.

While these figures show the significant nature of PV in Australia, the market is cooling from its highs in 2012. SunWiz reports that in mid-2012, Australia had been installing 180 MW per month compared to a current monthly demand ranging between 60 and 70 MW. SunWiz’s Johnston noted that this was not necessarily a bad thing. "The Australian solar power industry is currently enjoying the stability it long wished for."

The last of the state-based FIT programs in Australia have been wound up, with current PV demand being based on "economic demand," with households and businesses turning to rooftop solar to reduce electricity bills.

Average system sizes are also increasing in Australia. SunWiz reports that the average size has increased from 1.5 kW up to 4.3 kW. The commercial rooftop market is also showing growth, with 5% of recently installed systems being larger than 8 kW.

SunWiz previously predicted that total new installed PV capacity in 2013 would reach around 700 MW to 800 MW.