Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels on the roofs of homes and businesses capture the sun's energy to generate electricity cleanly and quietly. Light energy is converted directly into electricity by transferring sunlight photon energy into electrical energy. This conversion takes place within cells of specially fabricated semiconductor crystals.

Solar doesn't generate electricity all the time, but it does generate electricity when it is needed most – during the day and on hot sunny days when electricity demand (driven by air-conditioners) is at its peak.

Importantly, electricity is generated at the point of demand – where people live and work – which means there is no need to transfer the energy long distances across expensive infrastructure.

A year in focus

More than one million Australian homes have had solar power systems installed

More than one million Australian homes have had solar power systems installed

There were 1,094,941 solar PV systems installed across the country as of 1 September 2013, equating to more than one in every 10 houses. Approximately 322,000 of these systems were installed during 2012. Eight per cent of total clean energy generation was contributed by the sector.

Note: the number of Australian homes with solar power systems passed the one million mark in March 2013.

Over four years, the number of accredited solar installers in Australia increased by six times to 4800.

Percentage of solar PV capacity installed by state (cumulative to end 2012)

Australian Capital Territory

1.2%

New South Wales

22%

Northern Territory

0.3%

Queensland

31%

South Australia

15%

Tasmania

1%

Victoria

18%

Western Australia

12%


Data from the Office of the Clean Energy Regulator continues to show that Australians from all walks of life have been embracing this technology, including those in mortgage belt and retirement suburbs. More people on lower incomes who are feeling the pain of rising electricity prices have installed solar than residents of affluent, inner-city suburbs.

The rapid growth of solar was initially sparked by incentives offered by state and federal governments, but as the technology has fallen in price, this support has been scaled back across the country.

Outlook

In its 2012 Australian Energy Technology Assessment, the Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics estimated that solar power would be among the cheapest of all energy sources by the end of the decade.

As one of the sunniest continents in the world, there is massive potential for solar PV to make a significant contribution to electricity generation in Australia. Couple this unrivalled resource with a multitude of open spaces, and there is no reason why Australia cannot have large-scale installations generating many megawatts of electricity for sale into the grid.

Sources:

  • SunWiz Consulting, 2013