The rapidly increasing popularity of residential solar power in Western Australia has made it the ‘biggest power station’ in the state.
Research published by Curtain University has shown that the amount of rooftop solar capacity now installed in WA by households and businesses is so large that it is the state’s largest de facto power station.
The Australian Clean Energy Regulatory published figures last year which revealed WA has over 192,000 solar power systems installed, and Curtain University data showed that 500 MW of solar PV capacity is connected to WA’s South West Interconnected System (SWIS).
Approximately 1,750 new rooftop solar systems were installed and added to the SWIS every month, and 20 per cent of all WA homes now have solar on their roofs.
Two WA postcodes were featured in the December top ten solar postcodes; Mandurah 6210, which had 9,070 solar installations and over 21, 159 kW, and Wangara 6065, with 6299 solar power systems and over 17,819 of kW capacity.
According to Professor Peter Newman from Curtain University, this figure could jump from 20 to 50 per cent of households by 2020.
WA utilities not up with the solar revolution
Professor Newman also added that WA utility providers are behind the times when it comes to the rise of solar.
“They didn’t predict it, they have all these contracts for coal and gas that go 20 or 30 years and they have even got an old power station out of mothballs, fixed it up, but never turned it on,” said Professor Newman.
Currently, the WA electricity network is around 66 per cent over capacity, in part because of the increase in popularity of solar, and also because of their shortsightedness.
Professor Philip Jennings, a lecturer from Curtain University said that WA has thrown the government’s calculations by effectively building “another very large power station on the rooftops of Perth”.
Professor Jennings stated that old power stations would happily be offloaded by utility providers, and he stressed that presently he wouldn’t expect people any one to take them even if they were given away for free.
WA’s energy profile has drastically changed, to the extent of which the least favoured option is the privatization of energy assets.
“Every time they put up the tariff for coal-fired power in WA, it just encourages people to put solar on their rooftops,” Professor Jennings said.
“The general take-up rates are not in the wealthy suburbs [of Perth]; they are in the mortgage belt. People factor solar into the cost of building a house.”
In addition to this, the introduction of home battery storage systems such as Tesla’s Powerwall make getting solar and even more attractive option for homeowners wishing to cut their electricity costs- which let’s face it, is everyone.
A high quality 5.3 kW solar panel system and battery storage system installed within Perth can reap a yearly benefit of $1,863- $2,279, depending on a couple of factors.