Commercial systems support record rooftop solar installs

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New data from solar and storage market analyst Sunwiz shows Australians installed 921 MW of new solar on rooftops in the December quarter, including 321 MW in a “quiet” last month of 2023 when the residential market slowed and commercial and industrial installations “surged”.

SunWiz said residential volumes were down 2% on November in which a record 329 MW of new rooftop solar was installed across the nation.

Sunwiz Managing Director Warwick Johnston described the 321 MW December 2023 total as a “let-down” yet it is the second-best month on record and is above the volumes seen in the same month in 2020, 2021 and 2022.

The December tally took the annual total to about 3.17 GW of new rooftop solar capacity, a 14% increase on 2022 and behind only the 2021 record for annual installations of just over 3.23 GW.

While residential volumes were down on the previous month, SunWiz said the commercial market, comprising 15-100 kW systems, improved considerably over December 2023 and shows no sign of tapering off.

SunWiz said the residential contraction occurred in most states, with South Australia the only jurisdiction to grow, where it climbed by 2%. In New South Wales and Queensland residential installations were down by 1%, with Victoria and Western Australia down 6% and 4% respectively.

The decline in the residential segments and surge in commercial installations saw average system sizes reach a new high. The average system size for December 2023 grew to 10.47 kW, courtesy of that commercial growth.

The fall in cost of new panels also meant the payback period for new systems dropped below five years for residential users. SunWiz said most rooftop PV systems are paying for themselves in less than five years, while in some states, like Queensland, households are better off financially in as little as three years.

For commercial users, panels will pay off their costs in about 5.3 years as of the end or 2023.

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