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 2017, small-scale solar (systems up to 100 kW) was responsible for 20.3 per cent of Australia's clean energy generation and produced 3.4 per cent of the country's total electricity.
of total clean energy generated in 2017
of total electricity generated in 2017
More than 2 million households now enjoy the benefits of rooftop solar across Australia.
The average system size continues to grow, rising to 6.27 kW in 2017. This helped Australia achieve a record year in 2017 with more than 1.1 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 increase significantly, with 131 medium-scale solar projects commissioned in 2017 adding 53 MW of new capacity. There is now 167 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 driven by a significant rise in electricity prices, which has forced an increasing number of businesses to look to solar power to offset their rising costs.