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article imageAustralia's rooftop solar boom records best January ever

By Karen Graham     Feb 12, 2018 in Technology
Rooftop solar installations in Australia are booming, with more than 110MW of registrations completed in January – a 69 percent increase on the previous January. Solar farm approvals and rooftop installations are expected to "turbo-boost" production.
According to the latest data from industry analysts SunWiz, Australia's Leading Solar Consultancy, a total of 111MW of PV was registered again in the first month of 2018, although part of this would include some carry-over from the end of 2017. Website Renew Economy called it “the best start to a year, nationally – ever”.
The boom in new panel installation is due mainly to lower installation costs plus an increase in the number of commercial installations, with about 30 new industrial solar farms scheduled to come online. As an example, New South Wales approved 10 solar farm projects in 2017, twice as much as the year before - plus, they have already approved one for this year.
Queensland has 18 large-scale solar farm projects under construction, the most in the country. According to John Grimes, the chief executive of the Smart Energy Council. “These solar farms can be built within a matter of weeks,” he said. “They’re really quick and simple.”
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Renew Economy
Industry Analysts are predicting the new, large-scale projects could add between 2.5GW and 3.5GW to the national grid and rooftop installations could add another 1.3GW. The would almost double the country's solar energy capacity, which currently stands at 7.0GW in just one single year.
“The train tracks are about to converge,” Grimes said. “Rooftop installations and utilities are both booming and could turbo-boost the solar numbers overall.”
Many people don't realize this, but in Queensland, residential solar panels are already the state's largest source of energy. Under 30 percent of residential homes in the state have solar installed – the most in the country, reports The Guardian.
But once all the solar farms are completed, they will provide 17 percent of the state's energy. “We’ve turned the sunshine state into the solar state,” Queensland’s former energy minister Mark Bailey said in October.
Broken Hill solar plant  New South Wales  2016.
Broken Hill solar plant, New South Wales, 2016.
Jeremy Buckingham
The New South Wales planning minister, Anthony Roberts, said the state's 10 new solar farms would generate 1.2GW of energy and reduce carbon emissions by more than 2.5 million tons. That is the same as taking 800,000 vehicles off the road.
Grimes said the solar boom is going to get bigger. "Solar is the cheapest way to generate electricity in the world – full stop,” he said. “It’s not unusual for grid pricing to be north of 20 cents per kilowatt-hour in a majority of jurisdictions. A solar array, at an average size for an average home, if you amortize the cost over 20 years, the effective rate is 5 cents per kilowatt-hour. That’s called an economic no-brainer.”
Grimes said the spike in rooftop installations in January could have been caused by rising energy costs and the high heat. “I think people are acutely aware of energy prices. People are running air conditioning and thinking, ‘hooley dooley I’m going to get a bill’.”
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