Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels on the roofs of homes and businesses use energy from the sun to generate electricity cleanly and quietly. The conversion of sunlight into electricity takes place in 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 during hot sunny periods when the demand for power (driven by air conditioners) is at its peak.
Another bonus of small-scale solar is that it generates electricity at the point of demand (i.e. where people live and work). This means that there is no need to transfer energy over long distances using expensive electrical infrastructure.
Australia is one of the sunniest continents in the world. Given a stable policy environment, there is massive potential for solar to make a significant contribution to electricity generation in Australia over the coming decades.
In 2018, small-scale solar (systems up to 100 kW) was responsible for 19.6 per cent of Australia's clean energy generation and produced 4.2 per cent of the country's total electricity.
of total clean energy generated in 2018
of total electricity generated in 2018
More than 2 million households now enjoy the benefits of rooftop solar across Australia.
The average system size continues to grow, rising to 7.13 kW in 2018. This helped small-scale solar achieve another record year in 2018, with more than 1.5 GW of new solar capacity installed, even though fewer systems were installed overall compared to some previous years.
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Installations between 100 kW and 5 MW continue to grow strongly, with the number of medium-scale solar systems growing by 80 per cent in 2018. There is now 230 MW of capacity in the medium-scale sector, representing an increase of more than 500 per cent over the past five years.
The rapid growth has been due to shopping centres, hospitals, schools and commercial buildings installing solar to take back control of their rising electricity costs and increasing their focus on sustainability.