Australian solar market likely to grow in 2015

While new PV power plant projects remain stalled as ongoing policy uncertainty halts investment, the Australian PV market “may well exceed that of 2014.” Australian market analysts SunWiz made the prediction today, in its 2014 solar report card.

SunWiz calculates that 825 MW of solar systems smaller than 100kWp were installed in 2014, up from 810 MW in 2013. The number of systems being installed declined by 8%, to 187,000 signaling a declining residential market. However this fall was compensated by an increase in average system size, which reached 4.8 kW by the end of the year. SunWiz concludes that the growth in system size is attributable to both increasing average residential system sizes and to the expanding commercial rooftop market.

“In its entirety, I expect 2015 will have good volume that may well exceed that of 2014,” concluded SunWiz’s Warwick Johnston in his annual report. “The utility-scale sector will set records this year, as Flagships [including the 102 MW Nyngan Solar Plant], Moree [70 MW], Mugga Lane [13 MW] & OneSun [7 MW] are delivered.”

SunWiz’s Johnson also pointed to the 6.7 MW Rio Tinto Weipa solar-plus-storage project, the Majura Park [4 MW] array, and the Coober Pedy [2 MW PV] wind-solar-storage off grid projects are being other notable large scale highlights in 2015.

While the build out of these projects will likely deliver market growth in 2015, the large scale project pipeline beyond this appears grim, with pv magazine tracking at least 13 proposed PV power plant projects that have stalled due to uncertainty regarding Australia’s Renewable Energy Target.

“Unfortunately, most of the 3000 plus Australian solar business will be unable to access such utility-scale opportunities, leaving them competing for a residential market that will naturally decline as low-hanging fruit dries up,” said SunWiz’s Johnson. “This makes the commercial sector all the more critical, and businesses will survive only if they crack this market, which offers potentially greater profit margins and value-focused competition.”

In terms of Australian installation companies, True Value Solar remains the country’s biggest, “though [it] faces increasing pressure,” according to SunWiz. The fastest growing installer in 2014 was Origin, which started the year as the nation’s 10th biggest, that improved to 5th place by year’s end.

Installed system prices continued to fall in Australia, with SunWiz calculating that by the end of 2014 the national average price came in at AUD$1.60/W (US$1.27/W).

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