Solar panels installed exceed one million, but industry still in flux

The solar industry has reached a landmark moment with the number of panels installed on Australian homes now estimated to have cracked the one million mark.

While the figure is a cause for celebration among solar retailers, it comes during a volatile period. A glut of panels sourced from China over the past several years has caused a drop in price, assisting the number of panel installations, but it has also caused many local companies to collapse.

Research released this month from solar consultancy SunWiz has revealed more than one million systems have been installed across the country. Rooftop solar panels now number more than 300,000, as of last year.

The total amount of solar panels installed in Australian homes represents more than 1% of electricity consumption.

The data comes as the global solar market changes. SunTech, one of China’s largest producers of solar panels and partly responsible for recent price drops, has defaulted on its loans.

This could lead to an increase in panel prices, experts say. Such an increase could help local businesses survive longer with fatter margins.

John Grimes, the chief executive of the Australian Solar Council, told SmartCompany the one million panel landmark is a good development for the industry. But there is also a long way to go.

“The industry has increased very rapidly, and so, especially during the last year, there has been a significant take-up in technology.”

While there has been a significant take-up among residential users, Grimes says landlords aren’t allowing much installation in commercial and industrial areas, which is limiting expansion.

“This is just one of the issues coming out of the industry,” he says.

Currently, panel prices are still low, and several businesses have either collapsed or have felt the effects of such a decline. Solar Shop, one of the country’s largest businesses, was placed in receivership. Carbon Management Solutions enjoyed a massive string of success for several years, but its revenue has declined.

Part of the problem is that states have erased feed-in tariffs, which allow solar buyers to earn money by pumping electricity back into the network. Such a move is a double-edged sword, as it allows the industry to stand on its own feet, despite initial transitional pain.

There is hope, as panel prices are increasing and margins along with them. Grimes says although plenty of businesses have fallen over, the industry is beginning to see some signs of improvement.

“The price of the technology has dropped dramatically…but overall, things are good.”



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