Reports have been coming in of an extraordinary amount of energy being generated by rooftop solar in Australia. In South Australia, rooftop solar panels are generating as much as 25% of the state’s electricity.
Australia is known as a top solar country, but this kind of number highlights just how big solar has gotten there. South Australia has one of the highest rates of rooftop solar penetration anywhere, at over 20%.
Why should we care? Because Australia, as a solar pioneer, could be a harbinger of things to come in the U.S. In our own sunny island state, Hawaii, a similar scenario is starting to play out. With 10% of utility customers on Oahu having gone solar, grid penetration is a hot topic on the hot island.
While 10% may not seem like a big number, it didn’t take South Australia long to get to over 20% of homes using solar power. There, supplying a quarter of the state’s electricity demand has become business as usual for solar, rather than anything out of the ordinary. While both Australia and Hawaii are facing challenges to this rapid solar growth, solar overall seems to be on a trajectory that can’t be stopped.
Where solar is concerned, things happen fast. More signs keep pointing to its continued quick growth.
In a new report, global energy consulting firm Pöyry finds that by the 2020s, solar and wind power may reach wholesale grid parity in Europe, bringing an end to subsidies there.
Meanwhile, global investment bank HSBC is projecting big drops in the price of home solar plus storage. HSBC even predicts that this combination will become competitive with grid electricity in Germany in just a few years.
Naturally, this is likely to go beyond Europe. As the International Energy Agency (IEA) pointed out recently, solar is on track to become cost-competitive everywhere. This is from an agency known for being conservative when it comes to renewables. The IEA went on to predict that solar will become the world’s major energy source by 2050.
What does all this add up to? The upshot is that we can look forward to a day not long from now when 10% solar grid penetration, or even 20%, will seem low. If Tesla is right about the rate at which battery storage costs will fall, the cost of a home solar array plus battery storage could soon go down to $17,000, compared to the average $26,000 a U.S. home spends on grid electricity over 20 years.
We look forward to the day when we look back on these cases of high grid penetration and shaking our heads at how low they were. That day could come sooner than we might think.