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Huge opportunities in PV and commercial solar


With the commercial solar market poised on the threshold of dramatic growth and the consolidation of the domestic photovoltaic market in Australia, now is the time for power industry companies to assess the means and systems they have to meet the demand, according to industry expert Andrew Cross.

Mr Cross, National Manager Service for electrical and communications engineering company O’Donnell Griffin, said that “the recent changes in federal policy on climate change and the alignment of the ALP and the Greens have given greater certainty and impetus to the commercial solar industry in Australia. This doesn’t mean they have delivered on this yet but there is definitely a new confidence that has been given to the industry.

“This means we have to as businesses support R&D by creating concrete solutions for reliable and effective installations and operations.”

Mr Cross says this sits with market predictions, backed by long-time advocates such as Dr Muriel Watt, chair of the Australian Photovoltaic (PV) Association, of exponential developments in the international PV market, in both domestic and non-domestic spheres.

Last year, 8GW was installed internationally, up from 5.6GW in the previous year, despite the impact of the GFC and collapsed national markets such as Spain, which had been the largest market in 2008. Installed international capacity, according to a recent paper by Dr Watt, presented at a national power generation conference in September, was 22GW by end 2009.

According to Photon International (2009, 2010), Australia now sits in the Top 10 for annual installations in 2009, said Dr Watt, but significantly lags other markets such as Germany, which is the top installer. There is a predicted increase in Italian and US markets, along with China and India – the European PV Industry Association target is for 12 per cent of electricity to be PV-generated by 2020, with a 10 per cent solar (thermal and PV) target in the US by 2020.

Companies such as O’Donnell Griffin and their competitors are already responding by the recruitment of new personnel and systems, said Mr Cross, with the commercial drive in Australia being driven by federal government initiatives such as Solar Flagships and state and city council initiatives such as Solar Cities, now well underway in Perth, Alice Springs and Adelaide (also Moreland, Blacktown, Central Voctoria, Townsville).

O’Donnell Griffin has recently been involved in three commercial solar contracts for Perth’s Solar City program, including a recent installation at Perth Zoo, for SunPower, and is involved in further discussions nationally with other initiatives.

“The commercial market trends are being buoyed also by the growing acceptance of PV power generation in the domestic market, which is due to a combination of government policy and advocacy, including federal solar credits and state feed-in tariffs, and direct consumer support. Additionally, the global trend towards a more flexible system of distributed, sustainable power sources further supports the growth of solar PV,” he said.

“When the people on the ground want the product, then that’s the key to a growing market. With commercial solar, this has to happen, due to the pressure on a carbon price and the sheer lack of volume of power generation that can be generated by existing systems.”

He said that the vision of PV policy advocates such as Dr Watt – who promotes the use of PV energy as an integral part of the entire building sector – is now not only viable, it is becoming “a commercial reality.” Further government incentives will strengthen this, he said.

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