The Australian solar industry defied the economic challenges presented by covid-19 to see a record-breaking 5GW of solar power installed in 2020, equivalent to almost 15 million average solar panels, new analysis by solar industry consultancy SunWiz has found.

With every state and territory except Tasmania smashing records for the volume of solar panels and system size installed, Australia now has 20GW of solar capacity nationwide, up from 15GW in 2019.

Australia led the world in uptake of solar on a per-capita basis, following a record year for installations in 2019.

The annual growth rate for rooftop solar has exceeded 33% for the past four years and accelerated to 40% in 2020.

“The covid-19 pandemic had major impacts on Australia’s economy but the benefits of solar were strong enough to help the industry overcome challenges, including supply shortages from China, lockdowns stopping installation in Victoria and economic uncertainty,” said SunWiz managing director Warwick Johnston.

“In fact, the pandemic had an overall positive impact for the industry as people staying home turned to solar to help reduce their electricity bills.”

Annual growth in commercial solar slowed in 2020, partly due to covid-19’s impact on the broader economy and business finances, but corporate power purchase agreements and green hydrogen provided optimism for the future, with mega-projects on the horizon including the 14GW SunCable and the 26GW wind-and-solar Asian Renewable Energy Hub.

Utility-scale battery projects also became commonplace as state governments worked towards meeting their net zero emissions targets by opening up Renewable Energy Zones and announcing purchasing price agreements and subsidies.

Johnson said business conditions for PV installers will continue to improve as system prices continue to fall and political momentum builds on reducing emissions to tackle climate change.

“We need policies that ensure every household can connect solar to the grid and ideally make it simpler and more affordable for renters across the country to install solar panels – similar to what is underway in Victoria,” Johnson said. “This year looks to be another bright year for solar.”