Solar hottest in these Australian suburbs – but apartment dwellers still missing the party

With rooftop solar still booming all around the country, it’s that time of year to look at which parts of Australia are embracing PV self-generation the most enthusiastically.
The Clean Energy Council has done its annual tally, as part of its latest Clean Energy Australia report, and come up with a list of the top ten solar postcodes around the country, according to the total number of rooftop installations.
Not surprisingly, Queensland stars on this metric, occupying six spots in the top 10 including the number one solar postcode for the country, which is the coastal town of Bundaberg – about half-way between the Sunshine Coast and Rockhampton.
According to the CEA 2019 report – and as you can see in the chart below – Bundaberg currently boasts 12,620 installations, amounting to 47,510kW of rooftop solar capacity.

It is followed by the Western Australian suburb of Mandurah, on that state’s southern coast, with 12,276 installations and a total of 37,315kW capacity.
Queensland makes up the next three rankings, with Hervey Bay (1,387 installations, 39,674kW), Caloundra (9956 installations, 32,177kW) and Toowoomba (9386 installations, 36,147kW).
Sixth is Wangara and Wanneroo in W.A. with 9350 installations (37,247kW), followed by Nerang and Carrara in Queensland in 7th place with 8208 installations (31,667kW), and Mackay in Queensland in 8th spot with 8091 installations (38,194kW).
Victoria finally rates a mention in spot 9, with the south-eastern suburb of Cranbourne with 7936 installations (28,453kW). And Western Australia’s Armadale rounds off the list with 7923 installations (29,943kW).
The top solar suburb in New South Wales, which does not crack the top 10, is Lismore, with
6320 installations (22,867kW). The ACT’s top postcode is Macgregor, with 2712 installations (9408kW).

In South Australia, the most rooftop solar is installed in Morphett Vale, with 5326 systems (17,057kW); in Tasmania, the hotspot is Launceston 2829 installations (11,386kW); and in the Northern Territory, Alice Springs tops the rankings with 1974 installations (10,617kW).
All this is good news – and a heads up to those politicians chasing the all-important Queensland vote, that it takes all sorts to embrace clean energy technology.
But a second report from the Centre for Energy and Environmental Markets and the School of Photovoltaics and Renewable Energy Engineering at the University of New South Wales has noted that not all households are able to get in on the rooftop solar party.
That report – a summary of the key findings from a three-year project funded by Energy Consumers Australia – finds that the 10 per cent of Australians who live in some 1.4 million apartments are still missing out on cheap, clean energy.
The report estimates that the rooftops of these apartment buildings – which house two-thirds of residents in some local government areas – hold the potential for an estimated 2.9-4.0GW of added solar PV capacity.
On average, the report says, one- to two-storey buildings have capacity for 3.7kW per apartment, while three-storey apartments have 2.0kW/apartment, and higher buildings average 16kW/apartment. Over 60 per cent of apartments are in 1, 2 or 3 storey buildings.
The challenge remains, of course, how to make installing solar on apartment buildings easy and worthwhile for both apartment owners and renters and bodies corporate.
As the report notes, “split incentives, high turnover of residents and owners, poor communication and other organisational issues can present barriers to co-ordinated action.”
On top of that, apartments are excluded from many solar incentive schemes and strata bodies may have difficulty in accessing finance for investment in solar.
But there are some solutions being developed – although as the report notes, there is no “one size fits all” fix for extending rooftop solar to apartments.

As we have reported on One Step before, this is a major nut to crack for both governments and the industry, with more than half of residents of major cities like Sydney found to be “locked out” of solar – many of the sort of low-income consumers who could use the benefits of cheap PV more than most.
One example of innovation in the shared solar space has come from Melbourne-based start-up Allume Energy, whose latest project aims to install shared solar and battery storage systems in three multi-tenanted buildings.
That project, which is being done in partnership with the relatively new energy market player Ovida, distribution company Jemena, RMIT and the Moreland Energy Foundation, last year won won nearly $1 million in grant funding from the Victorian government.
The project will install solar PV and battery systems in three as-yet unnamed multi-tenanted commercial and residential buildings, to help cut energy costs for around 650 customers – all up it is expected to generate 5000kWh of renewable energy and support 11,000kWh of energy storage.
Another solution to the problem of solar for apartment dwellers is the development of “solar gardens,” which a major report in December last year found could knock hundreds of dollars off the annual cost of electricity for consumers previously locked out of rooftop PV.
The study, backed by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, worked with five teams of organisations including community groups, councils, retailers, welfare organisations and legal teams.
The resulting report, a 52-page document put together by teams from both the Institute of Sustainable Futures (UTS) and the not-for-profit Community Power Agency, found that supportive government policy was key.
“If similar support was provided to Solar Gardens customers (as to rooftop solar customers) they would see average bill savings of between $290 and $370 every year,” said CPA’s Nicky Ison in comments at the time.
Ison also noted that support for solar gardens could also help to unlock a new PV sector in Australia.
“We have lots of rooftop solar, lots of large solar farms, but we’ve only got a handful of projects in that 1-5MW range. It’s a massive gap in our renewables industry.
“There are lots of paces where you can connect a 1-5MW solar system on the grid,” she said.

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