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 2020, small-scale solar (systems up to 100 kW) was responsible for 23.5 per cent of Australia's clean energy generation and produced 6.5 per cent of the country's total electricity.
of total clean energy generated in 2020
of total electricity generated in 2020
Almost 3 million households now enjoy the benefits of rooftop solar across Australia.
There were 378,451 rooftop solar installations in 2020, which was the most installations in the industry's history. This resulted in the industry adding 3 GW of new capacity in 2020, easily beating the previous record of 2.2 GW set in 2019.
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The medium-scale solar sector (systems between 100 kW and 5 MW) added 117 MW of new capacity in 2020, which was the sector's second-best year.
There is now 521 MW of capacity in the medium-scale sector, with the size of the industry more than doubling over the past two 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.