2015 Australian Solar Survey

 

Since 2010,more than 200,000* people have used Solar Market to learn about solar, find accredited installers near them and get 3 quotes.

In 2015, we reached out to everyone who had used our service to see whether or not they had installed a solar system, their thoughts on solar, and to ask for their opinions on the future of solar in Australia. 2,897 people completed the entire survey. 69% of those (1,997) had installed solar. 900 hadn’t.

You can check out the highlights of the survey below and you can access the full report here.

 

Survey highlights

Australians are more concerned about their household carbon emissions than you might think.

Surprisingly for us at Solar Market, only 79.2% of respondents listed “saving money on power bill” as the most important factor in deciding to install solar. 11.4% answered “reduce household carbon emissions” with 9.4% listing “reduce reliance on energy retailers”.

What was the number 1 most important factor when deciding to install solar?
 

Median expected financial payback of 5 years

While the financial value of solar is well known, it may surprise those who haven’t installed a system that 51% of those surveyed with solar installed expected (or had already achieved) a payback of less than 5 years. Over 70% of respondents expected a payback within 7 years.

How long do you expect your solar power system to take to pay for itself?

Every new house built in Australia should have a rooftop solar system installed.

By far the most one-sided question in our survey and a largely identical result for both those with solar installed and without. 89.35% believed that every new house built in Australia should have a rooftop solar system. Only 6.39% said no, with 4.26% answering “don’t care”.

Do you believe that every new house built in Australia should have a solar rooftop system?

 

Who says Solar Panels are ugly?

There are certainly some vocal people who believe that solar panels are an eyesore but it seems that they may just be a very loud minority.

Our research actually found that most prefer the look of a house with solar panels attached. 69.82% of those with solar installed said they thought solar panels added to the overall look of their home. 58.95% of those without solar thought the same.

Do you think that solar panels add or detract from the overall look of a home?
 

For all the talk of the Carbon Tax and RET pushing up electricity prices, not many agree.

When asked what they thought the biggest cause of power price rises over the past 5 years has been, only 6.04% answered “cost pressure from the carbon tax” and only 2.44% with “cost pressure from the RET”.

Electricity network expenditure was 22.42% and 49.55% answered “price gouging from retailers/energy producers”.

What do you think the biggest cause of power price rises over the past 5 years has been?
 

Australians are ready to unplug.

There’s a lot of talk about batteries these days, prices are plummeting and electric vehicle giant Tesla launched their home battery product Powerwall this year.

48.39% of households with solar installed have already researched connecting battery storage to their solar system. 78.4% would be interested in battery if it would allow them to unplug from the grid.

Households with solar installed who are interested in Battery Storage or Total Off-grid

In terms of how long it may take for Australians to start unplugging from the grid, it may be sooner than we think. 8.93% of those with solar who are interested in battery storage said they wouldn’t care what the payback period was. 5 years was the most popular answer, with 26.21%. Investment bank UBS has predicted that battery storage for solar will be at a 5-6 year payback by 2020. This would suggest that the tipping point may be closer than we think.

What kind of investment payback period would motivate you to invest in battery storage? (installed solar, interested in battery technology)
 

Retailers may actually be pushing people off-grid.

Feed-in tariffs have come down dramatically since 2010. Retailers have successfully forced them lower and lower. This may actually be the biggest driving force behind the surge in interest in batteries and off-grid solutions.

Solar owners receiving a 5c or lower FIT were by far the most likely to have researched battery storage with 59.55%. At a FIT rate well below the retail electricity rate, the greatest benefit of solar comes from maximising the amount of power produced by your solar system that you use yourself. Battery storage allows surplus power produced by a solar system (that would normally be sold back to the grid at below market rate) to be used when the system is not producing.

Shockingly to us though, 40.94% of those in the 21-30c range (around the retail price of electricity) had also researched battery. 42% of those receiving more than 41c for their exported electricity had done the same. Given that these groups actually benefit from exporting as much electricity as possible back to the grid, we expected to see a lower number. It may be that these groups of people are looking ahead to when their FIT expires and they will be forced onto a lower (or no) rate.

Have you done any research into installing battery storage into your solar system?
 

Australians want more renewables and less coal in the grid. And they’re prepared to pay for it.

81.77% would like their energy retailer to invest in renewables over traditional coal. 3.71% answered coal and 14.52% don’t care.

Perhaps more surprising is that 39.81% of people are prepared to pay a premium on electricity sourced from renewable energy through the grid.

Would you like your energy retailer to invest in renewables over traditional coal?
 

Best candidates for solar are homes with pools, spas and/or air conditioners.

Perhaps not surprising to those who own one, but pools and spas are massive energy guzzlers. A pool pump alone can cost ~$800/year to run. The fact that they operate during the day means that homeowners with one have a skew towards the day-time in their energy use profile. More power used during the day means more energy which can be offset with solar generated power.

32.24% have either a pool, spa or both. 20.11% had a pool compared with only 12% of all Australian homes.

Do you have a pool or a spa on your property?

86% of those who had systems installed also had an air conditioner installed in their home. The government’s Energy Made Easy website estimates that 40% of the average Australian’s household electricity bill comes from cooling in summer and heating in winter.

 

Don’t take the salesperson’s word for it, do your own research

Of the small percentage surveyed who were dissatisfied with their purchase, there was a greater representation of people who did not know the brand of inverter and/or panels they’d installed. This suggests that when buying you should research the product’s manufacturer properly, not just the installer, in order to make the right purchase decision. All brands perform differently and have their own pros and cons.

Those who listed “quoted price” as the most important factor had a installer satisfaction rating of 7 compared with 8 for those who listed quality of components. They were also 20% more likely to have an issue with the system. Surprisingly, those who said they chose their installer on the basis of ‘appearing trustworthy’ were almost twice as likely to have an issue with their system 22% compared with 10.12%.

Those whose installers didn’t visit house beforehand were more likely to have an issue with the system. 16% compared to 12%.

* As of 12/6/2017.

 

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Understanding Batteries

Off-Grid Systems

For some households a battery system can be of great benefit and minimise a home’s reliance on the grid. However, it’s important to understand for a battery to be useful your solar system needs to be generating excess energy for the battery to store, which you can then use at night or when the sun is not out.

When selecting a battery, you’ll want to invest in a system that is most suited to your home and can drive the best return on investment (ROI). Despite a larger upfront cost, a higher quality battery may significantly increase your ROI.

    Battery systems start from $6,000 and costs can vary greatly based on the following factors:

  1. Cycle Life-Time

    The number of times a battery can fully charge and discharge.

  2. Battery Power (kW)

    How fast it can be charged or discharged.

  3. Storage Capacity (kWh)

    The maximum amount of energy a battery system can store.

  4. Battery Management System (BMS)

    An electronic ‘smart’ system that gathers data and manages the battery ensuring it does not overload or operate outside of its safe functioning zone..

  5. Inverter

    Battery systems require their own inverter if your solar system does not have a hybrid inverter.

  6. 'All-In-One Unit’

    A system which includes the battery, BMS and an inverter all in one unit.

  7. Warranty

    Length of time or cycles the battery system is under guarantee.

  8. Blackout Protection/Backup

    It’s important to note this is not a common feature of a battery system and could cost thousands of dollars to include. Blackout protection not only requires additional components but also a specialised installation and rewiring. For grid-connected homes, the cost for blackout protection can outweigh the benefit.

Additionally, if your purpose for adding battery is to go Off-Grid and become completely independent from the grid you will need to ensure your solar system can generate enough energy to power your home and your battery system is large enough to store this energy. For homes in metro areas going Off-grid is not cost effective and is only recommended for those in remote areas with limited access to the grid. Off-grid solar systems with battery start at approximately $30,000.
 

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