Australia’s Rooftop Solar PV Market Set to Boom in 2018

 

  • Rising power costs are causing homeowners and businesses to think seriously about installing PV roofing. The federal STC subsidy provides an incentive and is a driving force in the PV market.
  • People are expressing interest in battery storage alongside a PV roof to store solar energy for future use and want a “complete system”.
  • Demand for retrofit solar systems increases. Households revamping or upgrading existing systems as PV and battery storage becomes more cost competitive.
  • More commercial & industrial demand for systems larger than 100kW, especially for councils and governmental buildings.

Rising Power Costs

With power prices in Australia steadily increasing, many homeowners and businesses are reacting by ‘pulling the trigger’ on installing a rooftop photovoltaic (PV) solar system. In 2017 more than 1.08 GW of rooftop PV was installed setting a record for the year and, according to several leading installers, 2018 is predicted to surpass it.

Renewable energy solutions are seriously being explored due to the “unreliability, unpredictability and lack of security when it comes to access to and the cost of power” says Chris Williams of Natural Solar, a Sydney-based firm.

A driving force behind the highly competitive PV market is the current federal STC subsidy for systems larger than 10 kW and smaller than 100 kW. In places like Queensland, the subsidy means customers pay approximately 30% less than the normal purchase price. A standard 5 kW systems sells for just under $7,000 so any reduction in price for a larger system is a considerable help.

Interest in Battery Storage is on the Rise

Another reason for the strong interest in increased PV system sizes is more affordable battery storage. Chris Williams explains that households want a ‘complete system’ where they can store and use the electrons produced by their rooftop solar panels, rather than feed them back into the grid.

Increasing Demand for Retrofit Solar Systems

Last year also saw a doubling in demand for revamping and upgrading existing solar systems. “Of Natural Solar customers, we are seeing 45% of all systems we are installing retrofitting to existing solar systems,” says Williams. Installers tend to prefer a complete upgrade rather than a retrofit as this involves removing and replacing old components.

Larger System sizes are in demand

Finally, the commercial and industrial sector is the main reason why PV roofing is likely to surpass its 2017 installation record. This sector is increasing its demand for systems larger than 100 kW, especially councils and governmental buildings. Although not covered by the federal STC subsidy, the arrival of battery storage at scale and the capabilities of installers to execute more sizeable projects, makes the move to renewable energy an attractive one for the C&I sector.

 

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Understanding Batteries

Off-Grid Systems

For some households a battery system can be of great benefit and minimise a home’s reliance on the grid. However, it’s important to understand for a battery to be useful your solar system needs to be generating excess energy for the battery to store, which you can then use at night or when the sun is not out.

When selecting a battery, you’ll want to invest in a system that is most suited to your home and can drive the best return on investment (ROI). Despite a larger upfront cost, a higher quality battery may significantly increase your ROI.

    Battery systems start from $6,000 and costs can vary greatly based on the following factors:

  1. Cycle Life-Time

    The number of times a battery can fully charge and discharge.

  2. Battery Power (kW)

    How fast it can be charged or discharged.

  3. Storage Capacity (kWh)

    The maximum amount of energy a battery system can store.

  4. Battery Management System (BMS)

    An electronic ‘smart’ system that gathers data and manages the battery ensuring it does not overload or operate outside of its safe functioning zone..

  5. Inverter

    Battery systems require their own inverter if your solar system does not have a hybrid inverter.

  6. 'All-In-One Unit’

    A system which includes the battery, BMS and an inverter all in one unit.

  7. Warranty

    Length of time or cycles the battery system is under guarantee.

  8. Blackout Protection/Backup

    It’s important to note this is not a common feature of a battery system and could cost thousands of dollars to include. Blackout protection not only requires additional components but also a specialised installation and rewiring. For grid-connected homes, the cost for blackout protection can outweigh the benefit.

Additionally, if your purpose for adding battery is to go Off-Grid and become completely independent from the grid you will need to ensure your solar system can generate enough energy to power your home and your battery system is large enough to store this energy. For homes in metro areas going Off-grid is not cost effective and is only recommended for those in remote areas with limited access to the grid. Off-grid solar systems with battery start at approximately $30,000.