Australia's rooftop solar sector has experienced a sort of solar roller coaster that has been in full swing this year, with the ups and downs of pandemic-affected business conditions and the twists and turns of major supply chain constraints.
In spite of all those troubles and hurdles, the latest data available from industry analysts SunWiz indicate that the year 2021 ended up very well, with 300MW of new rooftop systems (0-100kW) added in December, which makes it the second most important month of the year in terms of added solar energy. However, the solar roller-coaster ride took its toll, according to SunWiz CEO Warwick Johnston, who notes that 2021 was "the first year in a long time" in which monthly volume didn't hit record levels.
What a year it's been. Take a moment to acknowledge all you've accomplished, Australian Solar Industry. Thanks to your hard efforts and the public's love of sunshine, we've reached some major milestones, including a world-leading 3 million solar installat…https://t.co/6hIoIVLNRt— Warwick Johnston (@SunWiz_) December 27, 2021
The small-scale PV market ended the year "just" 10% up in 2020, marking the first year since 2016 in which year-on-year growth was this low, thanks largely to plummeting solar installations in the third trimester. Although the market recovered from its fall in the third quarter, it was still a slower end to the year than 2020, with volumes in December 2021 lower compared to December 2020.
Due to a rush of larger commercial installations in the final weeks of the year, the average size of systems skyrocketed in December, SunWiz reports, to set a national record of 9.5kW, a significant jump from the usual average, between 6-8kW. SunWiz reports that although residential installations slowed down in most segments during December (with the exception of 10-15kW), all commercial segments ended the year with at least two months of steady growth. The 75kW-100kW segment was the star of the show.
All major states except Western Australia reported growth in December, but no major state ended the year with record volumes, "as has often been the case in previous years," the report says. New South Wales ended the year keeping its position at the top of the rooftop solar growth rankings, adding a total of 85MW in December, followed by Queensland (70MW) and Victoria (59MW). Western Australia installed a total of 32 MW during that month, and South Australia 27 MW. The Australian Capital Territory, the Northern Territory and Tasmania installed a total of 12 MW altogether.
Looking ahead to 2022, the Australian rooftop solar market starts the year with a total of almost 17 GW of installed capacity across the country. Growth in the new year will largely depend on the impact of Covid on one hand, and potential supply chain issues on the other hand.
It is important to notice that Australia also turned on its biggest battery - powered by Tesla’s utility-scale Megapack batteries - back in December 2021, in hopes of avoiding blackouts and making greater use of renewable energy. Paris-based renewable energy giant Neoen developed the facility with partners Tesla Energy and AusNet, with some construction by Cimic Group’s UGL. It has enough capacity to power one million homes for half an hour, according to the web site for the project. It is one of the world’s largest battery-based energy storage systems, operating in the Australian state of Victoria.
According to a report in the Australian daily newspaper The Age, 80% of the system’s capacity will be reserved for moments when Victoria’s power supply is under high stress. In those situations, the big battery should be able to power more than 650,000 homes for an hour.
All images courtesy of Tesla Inc.
Nico Caballero is the VP of Finance of Cogency Power, specializing in solar energy. He also holds a Diploma in Electric Cars from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, and enjoys doing research about Tesla and EV batteries. He can be reached at @NicoTorqueNews on Twitter. Nico covers Tesla and electric vehicle latest happenings at Torque News.