9,500 solar panels installed every day in Australia

Angus Kidman 7 March 2018 NEWS

2017 saw 3.5 million panels added to homes and businesses.

Renewable energy is often the subject of political scorn and media cynicism, but new data shows Australians are turning to solar power in increasing numbers.

Figures from the Clean Energy Regulator show that 9.5 million solar panels were installed in Australia, a record number. That equates to 9,500 panels a day.

Collectively, those new solar panels account for 1,057 new megawatts of energy generation, up 41% on the preceding year. While that's still small-scale compared to what a commercial power station can produce, it shows that Australians have an appetite for taking control of their energy bills.

That's not surprising given that household power prices have risen 63% over the last decade. "We are seeing a wide cross-section of Australians – households, community centres, schools, and small businesses – receiving incentives under the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme," Clean Energy Regulator executive general manager Mark Williamson said.

Here's the new generation capability from small-scale solar in each state:

State New capacity YoY rise
QLD 294.9MW 57%
NSW 246.1MW 48%
NT 14.4MW 14%
SA 105.2MW 35%
WA 180.5MW 41%
ACT 11MW 48%
VIC 191.1MW 32%
TAS 13.8MW 16%

Falling costs mean we're installing higher capacity systems, with the average capacity now six kilowatts. That's more than double what it was five years ago.

Analysis by finder.com.au shows that a rooftop solar system can pay for itself, even if you're not being subsidised for feeding back into the main grid. Here's how the costs break down in the four major capital cities which have competitive energy pricing, presuming you install a solar system, battery and 2 inverters over 25 years. Even assuming (as the analysis does) that you draw 25% of your power from conventional sources and that prices rise 5% a year, the savings are impressive:

Sydney Brisbane Melbourne Adelaide
Average annual home energy consumption 7,339 kWh 6,971 kWh N/A 6,456 kWh
Current average bill $2,750 $2,446 $1,980 $3,190
Projected total 25 year cost of electricity $131,266 $116,761 $94,522 $152,255
Power needed 5,156 kW 4,547 kW N/A 4,211 kW
Cost of solar $19,691 $20,504 $21,197 $19,918
Time it takes to pay off investment 7 years 8 years 9 years 6 years
Total savings over 25 years $78,758 $67,067 $49,695 $94,273

We're seeing evidence elsewhere that investment in renewable energy can cut power prices for households even if they don't invest in solar themselves. If you're keen to cut your power bills, comparing your options and seeing what else is out there remains the critical first step.

Angus Kidman's Findings column looks at new developments and research that help you save money, make wise decisions and enjoy your life more. It appears regularly on finder.com.au.

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