The Australian Photovoltaic Association (APVA) announced last week that 2012 had been a great year for the Australian photovoltaic industry, installing over 1 GW of capacity (nearly half the nation’s current solar panel capacity of 2.6 GW) and employing approximately 11,000 people.
Furthermore, the APVA affirmed that the average price of installing a solar photovoltaic system has dropped to prices even lower than those seen in 2011.
Specifically, 1.038 GW of solar PV capacity was installed in 2012, more than any other year previously, including the 2010 and 2011 boom years. Of this 1.038 GW, 98% was from distributed systems across the grid, accounting for 4.5% of Australia’s total energy generation capacity and 70% of the new capacity installed in 2012.
Unsurprisingly rooftop solar was the primary force behind 2012’s solar growth, thanks in large part to the growing popularity of personal home rooftop installations providing some measure of independence from rising electricity prices.
Further good news was found in the number of jobs the solar industry provided a nation seemingly preternaturally struck my frustratingly high unemployment numbers.
The solar industry employed around 11,000 people across the nation. A significant percentage were involved in installation and maintenance — which is not itself a negative, but must be seen in terms of the role’s inherent fluctuation — though over 2000 of the jobs were placed in technology research and development, government positions, finance, and sales.
As photovoltaic technology matures, so too does the manufacturing process and thus the costs conversely drop. This can be a catch-22 for the industry if inexperienced analysts bring their comments to the party: Lower costs are inherently a good thing for a new industry, as it opens up the market penetration beyond simply early-adopters. However, due to the dropping costs the profits decrease, which tends to worry investors.
Installation of a PV system has continuously dropped, though the fall between 2011 and 2012 was not as great as in previous years. The average, unsubsidised cost per watt of installing a system in 2012 was approximately $3, versus $3.90 in 2011.
The APVA data is matched by Solar Choice’s own internal data with regard to 1.5kW and 2kW solar PV systems.
The Australian solar industry will benefit in years to come as technology costs minimise the installation cost, however the entrenchment of the Australian coal industry will force renewable energy markets to face stiff opposition, moreso than in other countries.
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