Solar power on the rise in south-west Victoria

SOLAR is on the rise, but it still has a long way to go.

Companies providing solar systems in south-west Victoria said they were seeing increasing interest in people looking to produce their own electricity for their homes and businesses.

Ben Small, a sales rep from Middendorp Electric in Warrnambool, said they were seeing a lot of growth in commercial installations from “businesses that uses a lot of power”.

“They do it … because they’re looking after the environment (and because) they’re saving money,” Mr Small said.

He said the low feed-in tariff, which resulted in a mere six cent return for every kilowatt hour of green energy put back into the grid, had discouraged some residences from going solar.

But improvements in battery technology, which allowed people to store the electricity they were creating, would turn the tide.

“We’ve sold a few (battery storage) systems … and there definitely will be a market down the track once the price comes down,” Mr Small said.

Despite the low tariffs, decreasing prices, government rebates, and improving technology were keeping interest in solar systems steady.

“The price for a domestic system has dropped a lot, probably 20 per cent (in the past year),” he said.

“Even though you’re (only getting six cents back) for the feed-in tariff, you’re still saving on the equipment itself. Five years ago a system might have been $15,000 for a 5kw system, and now it’s down around $5000. The cost of batteries and storage is dropping.”

Jarrod Hawker, director of Solar Connected Warrnambool, said he said a recent increase in residential systems.

“After the South Australia blackouts ... people came to realise renewables weren't the cause of the blackout, but they were the solution to it,” he said, adding the closure of Victoria's Hazelwood Power station had helped increase interest in solar.

“However the commercial sector is the fastest growing as more and more businesses become aware of their carbon footprint, the need to reduce their overheads, and the percentage of energy they use at peak rate.”

Mr Hawker said he was also seeing an increase in battery installation, however the future lay in solar capabilities integrated into building materials.

”Many years ago I had a dream that every roof tile produced would be an actual solar panel, and that industry standards would dictate that buildings must be constructed with these roofing tiles,” he said.

Fiona Golding of Live Architecture agreed, saying the future of home solar systems was in improved batteries, and solar panels that were roof tiles or window panes and could be built into the structure of the house.

“Solar needs to progress a lot more,” she said.