Australia could install 179 GW of rooftop solar

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A new study prepared by the nation’s peak solar institutions asks the question:”How much rooftop solar could be installed in Australia?” and finds there is considerable room for growth. A whooping 179 GW to be precise.

The Institute for Sustainable Futures, the School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering (SPREE) at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), and the Australian Photovoltaic Institute, find the combined annual output from rooftop solar could reach 245 TWh, more than the current annual grid consumption which is just under 200 TWh per year.

The report prepared for the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) and the Property Council of Australia shows that around half of the unused potential for rooftop solar is in residential zones. The second largest potential is identified in primary and rural production zones (34 GW), followed by commercial and industrial zones with the accumulative potential for 26 GW of rooftop solar.

“Our study does not suggest Australia could or should source all its power from rooftop solar,” the report states. “But noting these caveats, our study does indicate that even with the strong recent growth, Australia has only just scratched the surface of the potential.”

Presently, Australia boasts over 8 GW of rooftop PV capacity and continues to set uptake records year after year. That being said, rooftop solar experienced its best ever year with 1.55 GW of new capacity added over the course of 2018.

As Australians continue to install solar panels in droves, much higher penetration is expected in the years ahead. According to AEMO’s Integrated System Plan, the National Electricity Market – Australia’s main grid covering the eastern and southeastern states – will host between 21 GW and 56 GW of rooftop PV capacity by 2040. This will result in the annual output of 31-50 TWh, which would make rooftop solar the biggest generation capacity technology on the NEM. 

Technical rooftop PV potential is clearly much bigger but, as the report states, “there are still many barriers to rooftop solar which if they were to be addressed by governments, investors and communities could unlock a large volume of clean energy.”

The report also identifies various potential on a state level. New South Wales could host as much as 49 GW of rooftop solar and an expected output of 65 TWh. Victoria and Queensland follow with 45 GW and 37 GW and expected annual outputs of 56 TWh and 54 TWh respectively.

At this point, Queensland is leading the nation with 2.4 GW of rooftop solar installed, followed by NSW with around 2 GW.