It’s too early to say whether or not 2019 was a record year for solar in Australia – with more than 3.2GW recorded to date – but the latest data from industry consultancy SunWiz shows parts of the PV market tore ahead last year. In the STC market (solar systems up to 100kW), 2.13GW of capacity was added in 2019. This is more than twice the volume of 2017 and three times the 2016 result (see charts at the end of this story).

Residential systems are getting bigger, with an average 7.6kW recorded for the year and 8.0kW in December alone, and some top-20 postcodes are growing more than four times faster than the national average, says SunWiz managing director Warwick Johnston. New sub-markets are also emerging, he says.

“Solar for renters and shared solar is starting to work, and we are seeing government programs that target low-income households,” Johnston says. “Usually the market for solar is owner-occupied – detached or semi-detached – but it’s starting to filter into those next markets.”

End-of-year rush

December saw typically elevated levels as buyers sought to take advantage of the reduction in STC values as the calendar ticks over to a new year (the subsidy will expire in 2030). “That particularly applies for commercial and businesses, where acting now and acting next week could mean $10,000 difference [as an example].”

On SunWiz estimates there are 95,000 commercial systems installed around the country and about 2,168,000 residential systems.

In the STC market, small commercial ranges between 10-30kW and medium commercial 30-100kW. LGCs prevail for systems greater than 100kW.

In the LGC market, last year saw record volume in installations between 1-5MW. “That was largely driven by shopping centres and some airports,” he says. “The rollout across shopping centres has been happening for about two years now.”

Johnston suspects the flat result in C&I overall may be a result of owners of property portfolios nearing completion of projects across many address and a lower LGC spot price, which impacts the economics of an investment in solar. Forecasts for a falling wholesale electricity price will also have had an influence, he says.

A quarter of sub-100kW system volume was made up of 6.6kW systems, as customers sought to maximise the capacity that regulations allowed on a single-phase connection, the SunWiz report says. “This was the primary driver in the increase in average system size.”

It’s too early to say yet whether 2019 was a record year for solar overall, but it’s looking good.
The sub-100kW market has grown by more than 33% for three years running.
The average system size reached a new record last year. Many residential customers are installing systems as large as permitted by their network operator, SunWiz says, with an eye to future battery installation or factoring in an EV purchase.
Residential PV system prices continued to fall in 2019 to new record lows, the report says.