2016 was a watershed year for Commercial and Industrial (C&I) solar. C&I made waves on all fronts; record numbers of systems were installed, numerous Tier 1 organisations invested heavily in solar and the big banks stood up and took notice of this burgeoning sector.
According to Sunwiz Consulting, the C&I solar sector finished 2016 with the greatest market penetration in recent history with 32% of all installations under the Small-Scale Renewable Energy Scheme being installed in the space. This is almost a 20% increase from 2015. Based on their analysis, Todae Solar ended the year as the largest commercial installer (for a second year in a row), installing over 6MW’s in the C&I space (SRES) alone.
Another impressive statistic for the year was the record number of 100kW systems installed nationally. In December alone fifty-six 100kW systems were installed – the previous record was around 34 in a calendar month.
2016 turned out to be such a strong year in the C&I space due to a number of factors; significant reductions in solar module component costs, strong Large-scale Generation Certificate (LGC) market prices, increasing energy prices nationally and improved installation techniques and economies of scale amongst installers resulting in increasingly affordable C&I solar systems. On top of these external factors there was an increased general comfort and awareness by business owners that solar makes commercial sense as a tool to reduce overheads.
This led to a number of Tier 1 organisations to dip their feet into the water with commercial solar with pilot programs and a sprinkling of large-scale systems. Aegis Aged Care completed the installation of a 3.24MW rollout, Adelaide Airport added a 1.17MW system to expand their capacity and St Vincent’s Health moved forward with a 2.7MW rollout. In addition, Mirvac, AstraZeneca, Kmart, Woolworths, Pernod Ricard, AusPost and many more Tier 1’s proceeded with solar.
It wasn’t just corporates who drove forward with solar. Prominent universities also proceeded en masse with solar. CSU announced it will be installing a 1.77MW system at their main campus in Wagga Wagga, USQ will be installing 1.9MW across their campuses and UTS will be installing a 105kW pilot system in Ultimo.
Another shift in the market, saw the emergence of more financiers that are geared specifically towards commercial solar. This includes the Big 4 who have finally started to take notice and are actively looking to fund C&I projects.
All these factors combined led to an impressive 2016 in the C&I solar space. The atmosphere in the industry is upbeat as 2017 kicks into gear and an even bigger year is expected. It seems the sleeping giant of C&I solar has finally woken up.