Solar energy generates clean, renewable electricity from the sun with multiple environmental benefits. Solar is an alternative to fossil fuels, reducing the carbon footprint on earth and greenhouse gases around the globe. Most of the electricity generated in Australia comes from fossil fuels and coal and gas. Extracting and using fossil fuels is expensive and harmful to the environment. In contrast, solar energy is environmentally friendly and sustainable. If we could capture all the sun’s energy shining on the earth for one hour, we could power the world for an entire year.
Small scale renewable energy scheme The renewable energy target (RET) scheme is a government initiative to ensure that 20% of Australia’s electricity originates from renewable sources by 2020. The RET scheme encourages people to choose the environmentally favourable option of solar by contributing to the total cost of solar installations. Under the initiative, funds are issued in the form of Small Technology Certificates to the property owner, subsequently reducing the investment cost.
Add value to your home Renewable energy such as a solar system is one investment likely to improve the value of your home over many other costly improvements. This is because every house needs electricity, so if the cost of electricity can be reduced by installing a solar system, your home will be more competitive in the property market. The property buyer will see the benefit of not paying for the installation of the solar system and enjoy an efficient source of energy powering their property.
Affordable and reliable China have some of the largest solar module manufacturing operations in the world. Given Australia’s close proximity to China, the cost of shipping solar panels and other solar equipment is reduced. A recent study (reference) found that the total cost per kilo-watt hour of solar has fallen below coal and gas. New research from Massachusetts Institute of technology (MIT) assessed the factors that contributed to cost-per watt changes for solar panels since the 1980s: Module efficiency improvements had the greatest effect on cost-per-watt in solar panels. Traditional solar power has an average efficiency of about 16-17%, while panels labelled as “high efficiency” operate at 69% efficiency. Sun power is one brand pushing the limits of solar panels power reaching >22% efficiency. Higher efficiency results in a greater more reliable power yield. Therefore making solar products cheaper for Australia.
The next two biggest drivers of cost reductions for solar cells since the 1980 have been the price of silicon and non-silicon materials. MIT found that thinner silicon wafers and an overall reduction in silicon use significantly contributed to cost reduction. The research also shows that an increase in manufacturing plant size since 2001 resulted in a more efficient level of production, cutting costs further.