Australia may have a a crazy or completely corrupt prime minister running the show right now, but the solar energy market in Queensland is unstoppable. Approximately 25% of homes have rooftop solar panels there, and the number is still growing continuously.
Recent data from southeast Queensland show that ~13% of the region’s home electricity demand came from rooftop solar power in October. Approximately 90 gigawatt-hours of electricity were produced from rooftop solar systems, with 70% of that (66 gigawatt-hours) being imported to the grid (the rest was self-consumed). Note that October is Springtime in Australia, so that line in the graph above is going to be rising much higher in the coming months.
The Queensland market saw strong growth thanks to feed-in tariffs and strong solar resources. A recent solar feed-in tariff cut has reduced monthly installations, but they certainly haven’t stopped. 2,630 southeast Queensland homes got rooftop solar in October. As you can see in the chart below, these new homes not benefiting from the FiTs are approaching 30% of the region’s solar power capacity (269 MW of 865 MW).
“Interestingly, according to the Energex data, these homes tend to have larger systems, averaging around 4kW. That will probably give homes an incentive to install battery storage to maximize their ‘self consumption’,” RenewEconomy writes.
As I’ve written previously, going off the grid doesn’t make sense in general. However, in places where electricity rates are high, solar resources are good, and battery prices are low enough, it can actually make sense. Australia is increasingly such a place. Utilities could come around and change their whole business model to better fit the realities of the energy sector today, but they seem slow to do so, thus “pushing” people off grid. We’ll have to see where all of this goes.
While it’s inspiring to see South Australia’s strong rooftop solar growth, it’s also a bit sad to see how far behind the US is. We don’t have any states approaching this level of solar penetration, and my home state of Florida, “The Sunshine State,” is far behind even within the US. With Rick Scott elected for another term, it looks like not much will change in the coming years. However, there is some growing momentum to get better solar policies enacted in Florida, and as solar panel prices fall, supportive policies become less and less important anyway.
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