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Rooftop solar’s stunning surge to new records, as Australia installs reach 2.5 million

Australia’s rooftop solar market has defied the disruption caused by Covid-19, setting new installation records in the month of July, and pushing Australia past 2.5 million total rooftop solar installs.

According to an analysis prepared by Sunwiz, growth in rooftop solar systems has continued at record-smashing pace, with 275MW of small-scale rooftop solar capacity (under 100kW) installed in the month of July alone, and new state records set in NSW, Queensland, Victoria and South Australia.

“We are now 40 per cent ahead of the same time last year – the percentage growth has actually increased since June,” Sunwiz director Warwick Johnston said.

The result highlights the unstoppable pace with which the rooftop solar market is now growing, with the number of installs and capacity additions both outpacing the installation numbers seen in early years when more generous financial incentives and feed-in-tariffs were on offer.

The amount of rooftop solar added in 2020 so far has already surpassed the total capacity added in the entirety of 2018, and could approach 3GW if the installation rate continues for the rest of the year. This result is partly due to a continued surge in average system sizes, with the market for systems above 10 kilowatts continuing to grow rapidly.

This implies that the commercial and industrial market is increasingly representing a larger share of the rooftop solar market, with installations across shopping centres, warehouses and schools representing an attractive business investment.

The average size of rooftop solar installations has continued to grow, now reaching more than 8 kW, with Sunwiz observing strong growth in rooftop solar installations between 6.3 and 8kW in size, as well as installations between 10kW to 20kW in size.

Queensland continues to lead Australia in terms of the number of rooftop solar installations and megawatts installed, and has now reached a total of 717,000 rooftop installs and 3,346 MW of capacity.

New South Wales and Victoria follow, with 590,000 and 483,000 rooftop solar installations respectively, but NSW again posted the highest monthly total, adding 81MW, compared to 69MW for Queensland and 60MW for Victoria. South Australia added a record 28MW.

The pace of installations highlights the urgency with which the Australian Energy Market Operator wants to introduce new inverter standards and to introduce new protocols that will give it increased visibility over behind the meter installations, and the ability to manage, and on rare occasions, switch off rooftop solar exports to manage grid security.

There is also a major push to rewrite energy market rules that will seek to encourage networks to invest more to ensure that they have the ability to accommodate the increasing amount of rooftop solar and to introduce new tariffs to allow all homes to export, but possibly to add fees to those who want to export a lot.

As of June 2020, Australia has surpassed 2.5 million rooftop solar installations, with a combined capacity of 11,837 megawatts, the equivalent of around six Liddell power stations.

The milestone comes around 18 months since Australia surpassed the two million rooftop solar installation milestone. As was noted by RenewEconomy at the time, it took Australia around five years and seven months to go from one million to two million rooftop solar installs.

The current pace could see Australia surge from two million to three million rooftop solar installs in less than three years.

The amount of electricity developed by rooftop solar systems has presented a challenge for market operators, including AEMO, with rooftop solar capacity now exceeding the largest coal generators in most states, but without the ability to manage output through a centralised system.

Source: RenewEconomy