Australia: PV sails past 7 GW – 2017 installation record set to be smashed


“Every market segment is expected to grow in 2018” is the rosy outlook of the latest PV in Australia report published by the Australian PV Institute (APVI). The publication, prepared by the APVI and provided to the International Energy Agency, states 1.3 GW of solar PV was installed in 2017 – a record.

Last year will likely be regarded as a major turning point for solar in Australia, with the residential market rebounding with a 44% expansion, the small commercial and industrial (C&I) sector growing 60% and large C&I 123%.

The APVI finds that while only 114 MW of utility scale solar was commissioned in 2017, the groundwork was laid for the unprecedented expansion currently under way.

The PV in Australia report tallies Australian solar installed capacity at more than 7.2 GW at the end of 2017 – 13% of national generating capacity and supplying 3.9% of total energy demand – far above the global average.

In the residential market, where Australia is a world leader, the APVI estimates 20% of homes have rooftop PV – a number that surges past 60% in some areas. In total, the report finds 1.8 million PV systems had been installed in Australia at the end of last year.

And with the numbers for 2017 making for happy reading for solar supporters – and the more than 8,000 people the APVI believes work in solar in Australia – the indications are 2018 will smash previous installation records. Strong growth across all market segments is evident and the 2017 record of 1.3 GW looks set to more than double, and potentially even triple this year.

The APVI notes 1.4 GW of utility scale projects have already been commissioned this year, with another 1.9 GW under construction.

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In the small-scale rooftop segment, monthly installation rates indicate sub-100 kW installations are tracking towards 1.4 GW for the year. With reports larger C&I projects are also being installed, there is a strong indication the rooftop market alone will surpass the 2017 installation record across all market segments.

Module price reductions – on the back of a severe downturn in the Chinese PV market in the second half of 2018 – are expected to flow into the Australian market in the latter stages of the year, providing a year-end boost. The APVI report indicates that, by contrast, PV system prices have remained largely flat at AUD$2-$2.50/Wp ($1.48-1.86) since 2015.

Given these indications, there could be something like 3.5 GW of PV installed in Australia this year – almost three times last year’s record.

Renate Egan, Chair of the APVI, writes in a press release sent out to publicize the report: “With [more than] 1,900 MW of solar farms currently under construction, and 35 GW at various stages of development, 2018 looks certain to be another record year for Australian PV.”

Warwick Johnston is co-author of the report, which is supported by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

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