Solar installations have doubled in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley over the past 18 months with more than 2370 homes on board to capture the sun to produce electricity.
Data provided by the Australian Clean Energy Regulator shows a total of 898 registered installations as of last month in Traralgon, 834 in Moe, 496 in Morwell and 142 in Churchill.
These figures show a 300 per cent increase in solar installations in Traralgon and Churchill on December 2010 figures, however due to legislation that allows 12 months for certificates to be registered, the 2011 and 2012 figures are set to rise retrospectively.
The figures bring the combined rated output of the four towns to 6121kW’s. This is equivalent to 0.35 per cent of Hazelwood Power Station’s generation capacity.
The figures were released after a local solar rally in the town of Traralgon last month. 30 environmental enthusiasts marched from Victory Park to Member for Gippsland Darren Chester’s office, calling for the State and Federal Government to fast-track its take up of energy efficient and renewable technologies.
The rally coincided with South Australia’s protest against coal-fired power stations last week. 80 locals marched for two and a half weeks from Port Augusta to Adelaide, calling for thermal power to replace the ageing Playford station.
“The hope is that pressure can be applied to the Federal Government to release funds from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and the Clean Energy Development Fund to support the building of this power station so that this technology can be show-cased to the Australian public,” Latrobe Sustainability Group’s Dan Caffrey said.
Mr Caffrey said producing electricity at a solar thermal plant, once established, would cost about one third the price of production of coal fired power generation.
Solar Installer Andrew McCarthy of Gippsland Solar said 2010 and 2011 “were really huge years” for solar panel installations. This is a result of the introduction of the State Government’s premium feed-in tariff in November 2009.
The feed-in tariff started at 60 cents per kWh, however this was dramatically reduced to 25 cents in late 2011, before dropping to 8 cents per kWh last month. While Mr McCarthy said the current feed-in tariff was “massively disproportionate to the price people pay for electricity” the recent drop in price of installations still made solar panels a very attractive, energy saving option.
“People think that the sky is falling in because the tariff has dropped, but the amount of growth we’ve seen is very exciting,” Mr McCarthy said.