Is Australia experiencing another solar boom?
Household and commercial solar popularity appears to be peaking again, following on from Australia's first major solar boom between 2010 and 2013.
Australia's Renewable Energy Target (RET) scheme was launched on April 1, 2001. But far from being an April Fools' Day prank, the initiative had a clear objective to deliver a more environmentally friendly future for the country.
Solar energy is a major contributor to the RET, which aims to ensure that at least 33,000 gigawatt-hours of Australia's electricity comes from sustainable sources by 2020. This goal was helped significantly when rapid growth occurred in the residential solar sector between 2010 and 2013 - commonly referred to as a boom period for the country.
Following stabilisation across the rooftop solar PV market in recent years, some believed solar energy's day in the sun (pun intended) was over. But recent statistics suggest a new boom could be on the horizon, and homeowners aren't the only ones contributing.
Broader-based growth in solar energy
A record 351 megawatts (MW) of solar panels were added to rooftops in the first three months of this year, according to RenewEconomy. As of March 31, 2018, the country had more than 1.84 million PV installations alone, generating over 7.8 gigawatts of capacity, figures from the Australian PV Institute show.
Meanwhile, dozens of large-scale solar projects are also underway across Australia. In October, the Queensland government announced there were 18 major renewable projects being developed in the state, with four more ready to begin. Furthermore, NSW approved 10 solar farms in 2017 - over double the figure from the previous year.
"It may be early in 2018, and yet we've already approved another 170 MW solar project in the Riverina, known as the Finley Solar Project," said Minister for Planning and Housing Anthony Roberts in February.
Why today's solar boom is no flash in the pan
Surges in the solar market have typically been linked to government financial support. State and federal governments have provided a range of rebates, subsidies and feed-in tariff schemes over the years to make renewable energy systems more affordable.
Homeowners would often rush out to take advantage of a subsidy before it ended, resulting in demand spikes. However, the boom in 2018 appears to be occurring more evenly, with commercial, industrial and residential installations all adding to the country's solar capacity.
"The solar industry is running white hot … and this boom is driven by fundamental economics of high electricity prices and highly affordable solar power systems," Warwick Johnston, director of industry analyst SunWiz, told RenewEconomy.
Solar may be becoming a more cost-effective option for many, but finance solutions can still offer a helping hand when you're keen for a more sustainable future.