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 2019, small-scale solar (systems up to 100 kW) was responsible for 22.3 per cent of Australia’s clean energy generation and produced 5.3 per cent of the country’s total electricity.
of total clean energy generated in 2019
of total electricity generated in 2019
The growth of solar
More than 2.5 million households now enjoy the benefits of rooftop solar across Australia.
There were 287,504 rooftop solar installations in 2019, which was the most installs since 2012 and the third-highest number ever. However, the continued growth in average system size, which increased to 7.62 kW in 2019, meant that the industry’s 2.2 GW of installed capacity was more than 35 per cent higher than the previous record set in 2018.
Top solar suburbs in each state (at 31 December 2019)
2019 was a record year for the medium-scale solar sector (installations between 100 kW and 5 MW), with more than 162 MW of new capacity added throughout the year.
There is now 403 MW of capacity in the medium-scale sector, representing an increase of more than 700 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.