The Case For Big Home Solar

Average residential solar power system size has increased dramatically in the past few years in Australia – and for good reason.

According to Energy Matters, the size of an average solar panel array installed in Australia in January 2010 was less than 1.5kW. Today, it’s over 4kW.

The increase in system size isn’t just due to the decreasing cost of solar components; i.e. households can get more bang for their solar buck. For many, it’s the now very achievable goal of blowing away their electricity bills altogether.

“Many of our customers who had the available roof space but opted for a smaller system often wish they had acquired a larger array to zero their power bills,” says Energy Matters CEO Jeremy Rich.

Back in 2008 – a lifetime ago in the solar industry – solar rebates and subsidies were far more generous than today; but the cost of acquiring a system remained high. The initial up-front payment created a major barrier and also impacted on the size of the system purchased.

While incentives have scaled back, so has pricing and more payment options are now available. Energy Matters currently offers a quality fully installed package for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a day under its zero deposit Save As You Go solar payment plan. In many cases, the weekly repayment levels are less than what a household would spend on electricity a week.

Energy Matters’ payment plan has allowed households across the nation to achieve the $0 power bill dream without feeling any additional pinch – and once the payment period is over; the electricity these households generate will essentially be free.

Economies of scale

Economies of scale come into play when choosing a solar package and the difference in dollar per watt between large and small systems is significant.

Energy Matters says depending on installation location, a 2kW system costs around $1.99 a watt installed. A 5kW system from Energy Matters, large enough to result in a $0 power bill for an average family; can cost as little as $1.69 a watt installed. This works out to be nearly 15% cheaper on a per watt installed basis.

The future

While not quite yet ready for prime time in terms of cost, affordable home energy storage systems are on the horizon. Households with large systems will be able to store surplus energy for use during adverse conditions and at night rather than returning it to the grid. The rise of the electric vehicle will also see any surplus power being put to good use.

The bigger picture

Aside from the direct benefit to the household of opting for a larger system; doing so also helps further lessen Australia’s dependence on polluting fossil fuels for power generation – assisting the nation do its bit in the battle against climate change.

Another side effect is that small scale solar power systems have been shown to help rein in the cost of electricity infrastructure and the price of wholesale electricity. The dampening effect on the wholesale cost of electricity should be flowing on to end consumers; solar and non-households alike. The fact that households aren’t seeing this relief (and may not anytime soon) is another story.

While big solar tends to be a better deal all round; it’s not an “all or nothing” scenario – even a small system will produce substantial benefit and a return on investment over its lifetime that in many cases could be better than money in the bank.