I remember a time when ‘solar panels’ meant ‘solar hot water’ panels.
There comes a time when you need to refer to solar power to clarify you are not referring to what is the prevailing solar technology in Australia. They point to the metal panels attached to your roof (and then evacuate the glass tubes).
When I started in the industry (2005), for every PV system installed, there were 28 Solar Hot Water Systems added.
In cumulative terms, the crossover point occurred in 2012 when there were just under 1 million of each. Today there are cumulatively 3.5 Million PV systems in Australia. Compared to 1.5 million solar water heaters (1.2M Solar Hot Water Systems + 0.3M ASHPs).
(This is based on REC/STC registration, some SHW/ASHP systems do not obtain certificates)
For solar water heating, the water returns. More precisely the tide has turned due to the rise of Air Source Heat Pumps, a technology classified as renewable by the Clean Energy Regulator and deemed worthy of STCs.
SHPs essentially extract latent heat from the atmosphere at low temperatures and pump it into a water storage tank at high temperatures, in the same way that a reverse cycle air conditioner pumps heat from outside into inside your house.
In 2010 PV overtook SHW in number of annual installations (190,000). The growth of photovoltaics (solar power) has come at the clear cost of solar hot water.
Solar Hot Water sales have declined, leveling off in 2013 at ~50,000/year. But the sale of Solar Hot Water is now further shifted to ASHP, which is a shame for Australian manufacturers of Solar Hot Water systems.
PV may still be the dominant technology – more PV systems have been installed in the last 12 months (323,000) than SHW plus ASHP (115,000). But the growth rate of ASHP installations is greater than that of PV.
In the first 10 months of 2021, the number of PV systems (sub-100kW) grew by 7%; the number of ASHPs grew by 76%. The number of ASHP systems installed in 2022 will grow by a further 46%, in stark contrast to PV installations which are set to contract by 22%.
2022 will be the first year of decline in PV installations since 2016
PV retailers are turning their attention to installing other electrical devices – batteries and EV chargers. While an ASHP may be a pipeline technology, the PV industry should not overlook ASHPs, such as:
- ASHPs are part of the home electrification trend;
- The new 7-star requirements for new-build homes will also drive ASHP uptake;
- ASHP can absorb excess PV generation;
- Eligible Victorians can double-dip and claim a rebate for PV and ASHP;
- Electricity is still required to install the ASHP.
Warwick Johnston is the managing director of SunWiz