Rooftop solar rollout speeds up, solar farms slowing down

Blue sky and fluffy white clouds reflected in solar panel array (solar rooftop)
Image: iStock

Rooftop solar power systems were installed 11% faster in Australia in 2023 than in 2022, but fell just short of record levels, according to a new report from solar and storage market analyst SunWiz.

Related article: Sunshine State celebrates 1 million rooftop solar installations

According to the 2024 Annual SunWiz Australian PV Report, a whopping 2.5GW of residential solar power was installed last year—equivalent to 6.1 million average sized solar panels—plus 0.9GW of commercial rooftop systems; respectively 4% and 0.2% less than the record year (2021).

This lifted the Australian cumulative total deployment of solar power to 36.7GW. Residential systems comprise 52% of this cumulative tally.

SunWiz managing director Warwick Johnston said this was another demonstration of the global leadership Australia plays in distributed energy generation.

“With more than 3.7 million solar power systems installed, Australia remains the world’s leading country for per-capita uptake of rooftop solar power. There are more than three solar panels installed for every Australian,” he said.

“Despite household and business budgets being hit hard by inflation and interest rate increases, solar power systems fell in price in 2023. Solar power remains the most popular way of reducing electricity bills, and it rapidly pays for itself.

“We’ve also seen many Australians installing larger solar systems and even upgrading existing units, in order to power electric vehicles and home energy storage systems, like batteries.

“Solar power is now a major contributor to the nation’s energy requirements. South Australia is regularly powered by 100% solar energy, with occasions where all that state’s energy needs are met by rooftop solar.”

By contrast, Australia’s overall solar industry, including solar farms, contracted last year for the first time since 2013. The amount of new solar power installed in Australia in 2023 was 4.6GW in total. This was lower than in 2022 (5.6GW) and its lowest level since 2019.

The downturn occurred primarily due to reduced numbers of large-scale solar farms being energized. Ten new solar farms totaling 1.1GW started producing energy in 2023, a 60% reduction on the 2.9GW from the previous year, and the worst year for solar farms since before their rollout began in earnest in 2018.

Related article: Rio Tinto buys entire output of Australia’s largest solar farm

“The report underlines the need to rebuild momentum in the solar farm development pipeline.”

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