Trends from Intersolar; Market Synopsis: market leaps to 85 MW registered; QLD 50% of STC market; RockClimbing in Geneva
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Infrared Drones Spying on Faulty PV Panels
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Intersolar Confirms:
Australia is the best country for solar power

Australia is world renown as being the land of sunshine, kangaroos, and koalas. I like to remind my international solar colleagues that we also have spiders, snakes, sharks, and politicians  (in increasing order of danger). Australia's solar industry has had more than our fair share of premature changes to incentives and policies. So on my first visit to the world's largest solar trade show, it was eye-opening to discover that (contrary to my expectation) the Australian solar power sector has a lot going for it.
I spent one and a half days engaging with industry analysts from around the globe. First at SolarPlaza'sDemand Conference, then at the IEA-PVPS meeting of national solar organisations, where I was representing the APVA. The other two-and-a-half days was spent wandering through a solar exhibition space bigger than the entire Melbourne Convention Centre. Here's a reminder of why Australia is the best country for solar power, followed by a summary of technology trends at Intersolar.

Unlike many countries whose incentives targeted solar farms, our incentives targeted voters. This created a formidable voting block that has prevented retrospective changes to feed-in tariffs, as the NSW and Queensland governments have discovered. Many European countries have suffered far worse fates. Indeed, unlike the Czech republic, we have a right to self-consume the power we generate (something the Queensland Competition Authority tried to scrap but backed down in the face of overwhelming opposition). Still, everyone is horrified that our net metering occurs on a half-hourly basis; in most countries 'net metering' occurs on an annual basis. And while we receive little value for the excess power, thanks to the greed of network operators (mostly owned by state governments), a solar power system can offset some of the highest priced electricity in the world with some of the world's best solar resource. This means that despite the lack of PV-specific subsidies, Australian solar power has great economics, economics that are thankfully no longer dependent upon PV-focussed incentives.
Still, our political influence pales in comparison to that of the German solar power industry. I was shocked to find they only self-consume 20% of the power generated from a 5kW system (in Australia the figure is about 50%). This leads to high dependency upon the government-set value given for exported power. But rather than settle for a smaller system that would increase self-consumption levels, the German solar industry organisation is able to powerfully tell the German government that if it wants to achieve its energy transition (away from polluting sources), they must provide sufficient incentive for solar. Meanwhile, the German government has created an incentive that will keep everybody happy, including the networks. There is an upfront subsidy for grid-interactive battery systems that act to increase self consumption - the same solution that could provide a superior-value alternative to network augmentation in Australia. Like Queensland, Germany is also considering how to ensure that solar owners pay a fair share of network costs, though hasn't yet identified a sensible answer.

Latest trend: battery storage and battery-backup grid-interactive inverters. The German government has created a subsidy for battery-backup grid-interactive systems, which means there's a plethora of batteries and inverters at intersolar this year, all drawing a crowd. I was happy to see Selectronic's Australian-made technology creating some interest, and to see the Kaco-branded Selectronic-Kaco joint developed product attracting attention on Kaco's stand. Despite there being only sufficient funding for 5000-7000 systems in Germany, Australia is likely to be a beneficiary of the technology development that occurs in this space. 
Hot Topic: Anti-dumping tariffs - its likely that the price of solar panels in Europe will rise due to the introduction of punitive tariffs on Chinese panels. Most of the people I spoke with weren't happy with this situation. Of course, there is likely to be flow-on effects of price and providers into Australia.
Biggest Difference to Australia (apart from beer on tap at many stands): The data logging provider SolarLog was always busy. Logging system performance is essential in Europe, where investors want to track their return.
Coolest technology: Solar drones - infrared cameras mounted on high-power drones for finding hot spots in faulty solar panels, an essential technology to quickly cover the thousands of panels in a solar farm. (This narrowly beat an electric wheelbarrow wheeled about by a Bavarian woman in high heels; panel-cleaning robots came a distant third).
Watch this space: Refusol's PV hot water heating system - its retrofit-able, and direct DC so eliminates roof plumbing, but unfortunately it won't soak up your excess AC production. Also, there's some whitegood manufacturers bringing out smarthome/solar friendly equipment that will be able to increase self-consumption of generated solar power, thereby improving economics. 

Read more: Trends from Intersolar & July Synopsis

Top Hot Spots are in NSW; SunWiz reveals all at Solar2013; QCA's $200 snatch; Market Synopsis: Another 74 MW registered; Sunny's first solar Eclipse; Sandboarding Kangaroo Island
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Australian PV lacklustre but stable 
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QCA Disguises $200 Fixed Charges on Solar?

Last year the Queensland Energy Minister promised that there would be “no fixed charge of any sort on people using solar''. This year the Queensland Competition Authority (QCA) proposed exactly that – an increase in fixed charges of $210 per year on electricity customers who have installed PV.  This increase in fixed charges is dressed up as an attempt to make tariffs more “cost reflective”, despite the massive cross subsidy between Queensland’s urban and rural electricity consumers, and without addressing the fundamentally unsustainable network pricing model. The QCA makes no suggestion that anyone else should be charged in a more cost reflective way… just PV customers. Is it ironic that a competition agency recommends discriminating against the people who are competing with government-supplied electricity, or outright hypocrisy?

The QCA’s proposal seems to be another veiled attempt to reduce solar uptake in the state. Two prior proposals were shot down – the energy industry opposed QCA’s gross feed-in tariff suggestion, and the Queensland Government overturned QCA’s proposal for solar-specific fixed charge. Instead, in its final report the QCA recommends forcing solar customers onto Tariff 12, which has fixed charges that are $210/year greater than the prevailing Tariff 11. Note that the tariff change would be imposed on all PV customers, regardless of the FIT payments they receive (whether 44c/kWh or 8c/kWh). The goalposts would be shifted for existing solar owners, but the effect on the PV industry market will be disastrously concentrated upon new customers.

In residential tariffs across the nation, the fixed costs of maintaining the network are mostly recovered by averaging costs across total consumption. The QCA argues that because solar customers have lower consumption they should pay higher fixed costs to contribute their fair share of network costs. Nevermind that energy efficiency produces the same outcomes, nor that air conditioning is the real culprit that distorts the market. Scapegoating solar will not address the problems, and may be illegal; the QCA’s proposal flies in the face of clause 6.18.4 of the National Electricity Rules which outlaws treating customers with microgeneration less favourably than others, - a fact acknowledged by the QCA. The QCA’s proposal will not make charging cost reflective, nor will it reduce the cost of the feed-in tariff; all it does is increase the annual cost of electricity supply for solar customers. This is an underhanded way of applying a fixed charge on people using solar.

In-depth analysis of the QCA’s proposal has been performed using SunWiz’s PVsell solar financial calculator which is used by over 150 PV retailers. Using an average customer’s load profile and a 3kW solar power system, we find:
  • A non-solar customer with an average load profile would be worse off by $217 per year if they were forced from Tariff 11 to Tariff 12.
  • If a solar customer were forced onto Tariff 12 they would be 30% worse off, with little they could do about it.
  • The bill reduction from a 3kW solar power system is almost equivalent whether on Tariff 11 or Tariff 12, but the customer starts off $210 behind due to the increased fixed charges
  • Accounting for this increased fixed fee, the annual saving on the overall electricity bill for a customer with a 3kW system is reduced from about $853 to $599 – a reduction of 30% - which pushes paybacks out to 11 years.
  • The customer would have to shift 4kWh of weekday consumption from a peak period to an off-peak period to offset the higher fixed charges.
  • Installing solar systems on west- or northwest-facing roofs in an attempt to push solar generation into the peak period produces minimal benefit
  • A larger system would be required to offset the $210/year ‘fixed cost for solar’, which may exacerbate network impacts.
  Annual elec bill, no solar Annual elec bill with solar Saving from solar
Tariff 11 $1,721 $868 $853
Tariff 12 $1,938 $1,122 $816
(Extra cost on Tariff 12) $217 $254  
Net Solar Benefit when forced from Tariff 11 -> Tariff 12
 
 
$599
 
This analysis highlights the QCA’s conclusion, “To the extent that a customer has an inflexible consumption profile, mandating that they be billed on a TOU basis could produce undesirable and inequitable outcomes”. Put simply, shifting an average customer to TOU in Queensland results in an increased bill.

So we have a policy proposal which fails to achieve what the QCA wants it to achieve, which harms the PV industry, which is inequitable and discriminatory in many ways and which would break a very clear promise from the Energy Minister.  Surely the QCA can do better?
Sources:
1.       Typical electricity customer.  Assumed load of 17.45 kWh per day, taken fromwww.energymadeeasy.gov.au for a Gold Coast postcode (4215).  A reduction of 6kW per day has been removed to remove the effect of hot water heating.  The load profile used was the Energex Net System Load Profile.
2.       Mark McArdle, quoted in the Courier Mail, 5th December 2012http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/queensland-households-with-solar-panels-likely-to-be-hit-with-tariff-to-pay-for-poles-and-wires/story-e6freoof-1226530032061
3.       http://www.solarchoice.net.au/blog/solar-choice-solar-pv-price-index-april-2013/

Market Synopsis

PV Market

  • Another 74MW of PV was registered across Australia in April, a similar figure to the previous four months
  • Even though 5kW systems are more popular than ever before, first signs have emerged that average system sizes have peaked.
  • We add another 22 projects exceeding 40kW to our list of large scale projects.
  • Analysis of PVoutput.org shows that over-sizing inverters is less common, and that 250W panels are used most often in 2013 installations.
Want more information? Subscribe to Insights, and attend our Solar2013 presentation.

STC Market

  • Most liabile entities are well behind meeting their July 28 liability.
  • One bank holds more STCs in the Clearing House than any other party.
  • Traders are actively pariticipating in the market; secondary trading regularly outstrips direct purchases from STC creators
  • The weekly and monthly STC creation tally are displayed on our website - check in regularly.
Want more information? Subscribe to ClearView, and attend our Solar2013 presentation.  

Solar Hot Spots

Now there's no solar multiplier, where should you target your sales? This information could help:
  • Its all happening in NSW - most of the Q1 postcodes demonstrating growth; some with record-breaking installation volumes
  • South Australia shouldn't be overlooked; Port Augusta being the cream of the crop with healthy stability.
  • Record months also occurred in Garfield QLD and Lake Leake TAS.
Want more information?  Subscribe to Solar Hot Spots, and attend our Solar2013 presentation.

PVsell News 

We are about to significantly increase our PVsell subscription price. Get in soon to take advantage of current pricing.

We've made the following additions to PVsell over the last month:
  • Size your system easily: Quickly identify the day of peak generation, peak demand, peak export and peak import.
  • Uploading metered consumption data is now easier.
  • Development for many more features is also underway. 
Want to be more strategic? Subscribe to PVsell

SunWiz Activities

SunWiz will be revealing more this week at Solar2013 in Melbourne. We're speaking at Midday on Friday 24 May: http://solarexhibition.com.au/wp-content/uploads/Solar2013-Industry_Policy_Sessions.pdf
In the last month, SunWiz has:
  • Performed financial evaluation for a number of commercial projects on behalf of clients
  • Continued analysis of the National Solar Schools Program
  • Attended a workshop on Australia's solar mapping
  • Updated the Solar Electorate data
  • Travelled around the nation providing training on PVsell
  • Gone Sandboarding, Rockhopping, and Seal seeing on Kangaroo Island.
  • Watched the annual solar eclipse with my dog Sunny

To learn more about what we can do for your solar business, visit www.sunwiz.com.au


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My dog Sunny enjoying his first solar eclipse.
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To Change the election, Hasluck requires 1 in 33 solar owners to vote against Liberal Party Policy, Canning requires one in 9, Swan one in 4, Cowan one in three.
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Eight WA Solar Seats Could Change the Election
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Politicians, Please: Engage with the Solar Industry 

Dear Australian State Governments,
 
This is a call to engage with solar industry. Previously you’ve treated solar power like a vote-buying activity that can be turned on and off as it pleases you. You’ve designed unsustainable incentives and abrupt policy levers that have exacerbated both boom and bust. In doing so, you’ve attracted the favour of one million solar households, but now you risk the ire of 2.6 million angry voters.
 
The Western Australian Liberal Party proposes to halve the payments made to solar owners that invested over $500m of their own money on the back of a government promise. Have you forgotten the humiliating backdown forced upon Barry O’Farrell when he attempted to retrospectively reduce NSW solar owners entitlements? Had O’Farrell engaged with the solar industry, he would have found the $600m savings he wanted. Unlike O’Farrell, Premier Barnett can’t even point the finger at the opposition party – it was his own Liberal Party who promised solar owners a guaranteed amount, and now 70,000 solar households are being cheated (and 70,000 more threatened) all in order to save $51m.
 
The Australian people have come to expect that morality, ethics, and fairness are politically malleable terms. But voters detest political corruption and double standards. Premier Barnett complained of sovereign risk when it suited him, and now creates just that risk for any investor in Western Australia… even the very people he was elected to represent. Cynically, this could be seen as an attempt to undermine future solar deployment, so as to shore up the dividend WA earns from its electricity corporations, a hidden taxation that would be very politically sensitive were an issue made of it.
 
Do you know how many votes it takes to change an election outcome? Have you considered how politically engaged people are when a government has enticed them to invest thousands of dollars into a government-backed scheme only to halve their return on investment? 
 
One in five households own a PV system in the federal seat of Hasluck, which was held by Ken Wyatt of the Liberal Party by a margin of 0.6%. 500 votes could decide whether Liberal candidate Ken Wyatt is thrown out. I presume 8704 solar voters won’t be excited by the WA Liberal Party halving their promised solar income, (plus another 8000 solar voters now scared their entitlements may be slashed at a whim). Eight federal seats (six of them currently held by the Liberal Party) could be decided by solar voters irate at the Liberal Party, plus another five seats (three of them held by the Liberal Party) threatened by the Liberal Party’s treatment of solar power.
 Electorate  Candidate  Party   % of homes
with PV
 Electoral
Margin
 Swing Required (votes)   PV voters affected   PV voters threatened 
Hasluck Ken Wyatt LIB 19% 0.6% 498 8,704 16,703
Canning Don Randall LIB 21% 2.2% 1,838 8,847 17,329
Brand Gary Gray ALP 21% 3.3% 2,742 8,511 17,215
Swan Steve Irons LIB 10% 2.5% 2,113 4,468 8,164
Cowan Luke Simpkins LIB 20% 6.3% 5,307 8,529 16,963
Fremantle Melissa Parke ALP 15% 5.7% 4,962 7,229 12,833
Pearce Judi Moylan LIB 19% 8.9% 7,390 8,145 15,623
Forrest Nola Marino LIB 16% 8.7% 7,380 7,362 13,529
O'Connor Tony Crook NWA 7% 3.6% 3,069 2,850 6,289
Stirling Michael Keenan LIB 10% 5.6% 4,710 4,301 8,197
Perth Stephen Smith ALP 10% 5.9% 4,974 4,406 8,160
Tangney Dennis Jensen LIB 19% 12.3% 10,706 9,454 16,211
Moore Mal Washer LIB 17% 11.2% 9,616 7,736 14,987

Please now engage with the solar industry, and not just for your own sake. 
 
In Germany, the government worked hand-in-hand with the solar industry to design incentives that would avoid painful boom-and-bust. This level of engagement means the German solar industry is prepared to discuss and develop measures to support the ongoing operation of a healthy electricity market and stable electricity network.
 
By contrast, Australian governments at the state and federal level have ignored the pleas of the solar industry by creating unsustainable incentives and abrupt policy levers that have exacerbated both boom and bust. In doing so, they’ve attracted the favour of one million solar households, but their votes are threatened by your retrospective actions. Had you listened to us then, the incentives you delivered would have cost far less, and you wouldn’t have this issue on the front page.
 
Now is your opportunity to engage with the solar industry, to form an alliance with the future of our country. Within 20 years, solar power will be Australia’s cheapest form of electricity – and as such it will underwrite the international competitiveness of Australia’s economy. Thankfully we have the best solar resource in the world. But solar power already provides cheaper electricity than residential and commercial electricity supplies, and thus provides people’s first real opportunity to successfully compete against the present electricity industry. In order to smoothly manage the inevitable transition posed by this disruptive technology, you will need the solar industry on side.
 
We represent the 2.4 Million people who have bought solar power, and the other 18 million people who will purchase solar in the next decade. Their interests are our interests. We’ve stood by them before, and now once more we stand. We will not accept retrospective changes to feed-in tariffs, which are unfair to existing solar owners, and which undermine future solar investment. We will not accept discriminatory tariffs, nor solar scapegoating.
 
The solar industry recognizes that solar power is an inevitable part of Australia’s future. But we foresee the upheavals that will occur if the transition is not well managed. The time is right for state and federal governments to recognize the part solar power will play in Australia’s future. Now is the time to engage with the solar industry. So that together we can smoothly transition away from a dated electricity model  towards a future where there is solar on every rooftop.
 
Yours in integrity,

Warwick Johnston
Managing Director
SunWiz
 
Warwick Johnston is the Chair of the PV Directorate of the Clean Energy Council (CEC), and sits on the CEC’s PV Leadership committee and Policy & Advisory Committee. Warwick also contributes to the Australian Solar Council and Australian PV Institute. 
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What do Bundaberg, Warwick Farm, & Happy Valley have in common? 75MW registered in March, rocking out at Bluesfest
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One Million Solars! - Celebration or Wake?

Finally, cause to celebrate. And now that everyone isn't manically installing, there's also some time to celebrate. The magic million certainly provided headlines, the problem is that the PV industry is in a state of noticeable contraction, and that the next million systems will come at a much slower rate. Paradoxically it was the reduction and removal of policy incentives that were the greatest drivers of buying behaviour, and now that there's some policy stability (which is actually a policy vacuum), people aren't rushing to make purchases. When they do, they are buying larger systems because the distorting effect of the solar multiplier has been removed (and because panel prices have fallen so far) - indeed record-high average system sizes occurred in every state in the four months. But customer numbers, overall sales volumes, and total revenue are down for almost all solar companies. There are plenty of applicants for feed-in tariffs in Queensland that are still sitting on their hands. This just means its hard to make a buck in PV at the moment, and plenty of Australian PV retailers are winding up. The celebration of one million solar systems may be followed by a hangover that has all the atmosphere of a funeral wake.

The latest Solar Hot Spots data (graphed above; note that recent month's data is very incomplete) shows the December mini-boom brought more Victorians out of the woodwork, somewhat unexpectedly given incentive reductions had occurred three and six months previously. There was even a small upwards blip in Queensland (where 44c Feed-in Tariff installations now represent less than 25% of new installations). And while the data since December is far from complete, we can clearly see an underlying market that is stable and has volume comparable to previous periods that fell between surges driven by incentive reductions. But while a stable underlying market will support many companies, most industry profits came from the peaks, meaning there will be some pain in the year ahead. 

A minor cause for celebration is that some industry stalwarts have ridden out the wave, outlasted the competition, and are now climbing through the ranks. Congratulations in particular to Springers Solar and the Environment Shop.

Market Synopsis

PV Market

  • March saw 75MW of PV registered across Australia, a similar figure to the previous four months
  • Though Queensland is rapidly shrinking, three quarters of Queensland installations are now post-Solar Bonus Scheme.
  • 3kW systems have made a resurgence, and are the most popular sized systems in WA and NSW.
  • Our Insights Premium service allows interactive identification of companies experiencing growth, and those whose activity is declining. 
Want more information? Subscribe to Insights

STC Market

  • The STC target was higher than the market anticipated, which led to a quick uplift in STC price. 
  • We are mid way through the Q1 surrender period, and only half the required volume has been surrendered.
  • Last week was the biggest week ever for STC trading (when account-shifting trades are excluded). Many Liable Entities are scrambling to source their required volume
  • The weekly and monthly STC creation tally are displayed on our website - check in regularly.
Want more information? Subscribe to ClearView.  

Solar Hot Spots

Now there's no solar multiplier, where should you target your sales? This information could help:
  • The Top 10 Postcodes for installation volume in 2012 were from Queensland. Within the top 30 postcodes for installation volume in 2012, only 5 were outside of Queensland
  • Bundaberg topped the list with at least 9.35MW installed in 2012. Warwick Farm was NSW's top spot (2.1MW), Happy Valley was SA's (2.9MW), Hoppers Crossing topped Victoria (4.3MW), and Mandarah was #1 in WA (4.2MW)
  • Parkes (NSW) has to be one of the most interesting hot spots - unresponsive to the 3->2 multiplier reduction but setting records in Q1 2013.
Want more information?  Subscribe to Solar Hot Spots.

PVsell News 

George Kastner of Infinity Solar said of PVsell "How much do I have to pay you to take it off the market?"

We've made the following additions to PVsell over the last month:
  • Implementation of load profile libraries, providing users with sample residential and commercial load profiles that can easily be adjusted and incorporated.
  • Ability to export graphs information to excel.
  • Added another IT developer to our production team, and continued training PVsell support personnel.
  • Development for many more features is also underway. 
Want to be more strategic? Subscribe to PVsell

SunWiz Activities

In the last month, SunWiz has:
  • Performed financial evaluation for a number of commercial projects on behalf of clients
  • Begun analysis of the National Solar Schools Program
  • Released a PV Forecast for the next five years, together with Solar Business Services.
  • Released RETelligence, an LGC market transparency interactive intelligence subscription service.
  • Travelled to Sydney, Brisbane, and Melbourne to provide demonstration and training for PVsell
  • Met with the chairs/CEOs of the CEFC and ARENA
  • Told the world the news of the One Millionth Solar system being installed in Australia
  • Rocked out at Bluesfest

To learn more about what we can do for your solar business, visit www.sunwiz.com.au


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Australia returns to an underlying market of at least 370MW; Exceptional Growth in Some Locations 
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Australia's Solar Hot Spots Revealed
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December's Mini-Boom... What now for Australian PV

The Clean Energy Regulator latest data release on Australia's solar suburbs has begun to reveal the extent of the mini-boom that followed the last-minute multiplier reduction last December, which resulted in a 25% increase in solar installations. However, the distribution was not even, with some states making greater use of the last minute sales incentive. Installation volumes rose by 50% in the space of a month in Victoria, which was impressive off the back of its September surge, in which installations doubled in response to the feed-in tariff closure, before falling by two-thirds overnight. Installation volumes in South Australia also jumped 50% for the December mini-boom, and NSW's steady increase accelerated. Western Australians did not rush to the same extent, and Queensland's slow come-down from its Solar Bonus Scheme frenzy caught a slight second wind. 

The 2013 data provided is too incomplete to draw conclusions from, but is already revealing an underlying market of similar size to previous quiet times. Though data is incomplete for the last 12 months, it is especially incomplete for the last 60-90 days, which means 2013 figures are highly understated and show a greater drop-off than has actually occurred. But from these early figures, we can already see that installation volumes in January 2013 were:
  • At least equivalent to the July 2011-January 2012 period in NSW, which followed the end of its Feed-in Tariff installations
  • At least equivalent to the October 2011-January 2012 period in VIC, which followed the first wind-back of its Feed-in Tariff reductions
  • At least equivalent to the October 2011-January 2012 period in WA, which followed the end of its Feed-in Tariff installations
  • Considerably less than the January 2012-April 2012 period in SA, which followed the first wind-back of its Feed-in Tariff reductions
  • Almost equivalent to the July 2011-January 2012 period in QLD, which followed the multiplier reduction from 5 to 3
What this shows is that there is clearly a stable 'underlying' market in Australian PV. The challenge is that January's figures were 31MW or greater - implying that the underlying market is 370-400 MW. This could be seen a cause for celebration, as this was the size of the 'free solar' market in 2009 that was driven by incentives... but its not a volume that will sustain the number of jobs and solar companies that can presently deliver 172MW in a single month, or 1000 MW in 12 months. The challenge for the industry will be to create a sense of urgency for potential solar customers, a sense of urgency that was previously provided by governments when they were about to slash incentives.


The opportunity exists for solar companies to utilise market intelligence that was previously only wished for. The Clean Energy Regulator's data release allows anyone to perform postcode-level analysis on where the best opportunities lie in any region. Through transforming this data set into an interactive visual explorer, SunWiz provides its Solar Hot Spots subscribers with the ability to quickly identify regional growth opportunities. Interestingly, there were some key locations that saw exceptional growth in Q4 2012, and they weren't in areas you would expect. Record figures occurred in one Northern Queensland Location, but two of the most interesting opportunities were in Tasmania, with Launceston recording a record month of 326kW. You can interactively explore a map of total installations by suburb on our Hot Spots webpage. Meanwhile, those interested in which markets and which states to best target over the coming five year period should read this article and about the Australian PV Forecast 2012-2017.

Pssst ...and by the way, we're agonisingly close to celebrating our 1 Millionth PV system in Australia.


To learn more about what we can do for your solar business, visit www.sunwiz.com.au


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