We took a look at the historical data we had of solar system prices being offered by quality solar installers in Brisbane from back in 2008 to this month (April 2013). It is very interesting to look at how the pricing has trended down, more so for the ‘low end’ of the market, to the tune of 65 percent on average to around 30 percent for the ‘high end’ quality solar systems using Japanese solar panels and German made solar inverters.
Solar Panel and Solar Module Pricing From 2008 to 2013
The U.S. dollar per watt of wholesale solar panels being offered to Brisbane solar installers in July 2008 ranged from $3.90 per watt to just under $2.50 per watt – depending on the manufacturer, country of origin, exchange rate and obviously quality of the solar panels. The ‘high end’ Chinese solar panel manufacturers were still in their infancy but as volumes and capacity of the Chinese panel manufacturers gradually increased and global demand for p.v. increased around late 2008, the prices started their drop. Now in 2013 we are seeing wholesale solar panel pricing offered from Chinese manufacturers dropping to sub U.S.$0.50 levels. OK, maybe the quality and longevity may be questionable, but this represents an 80 percent drop in solar panel pricing in just 5 years in Brisbane.
What Are The Implications To Solar Consumers?
The rapid drop in solar panel pricing has meant that, coupled with the Federal Governments ‘solar credits scheme’ and the Queensland Governments feed in tariff’s,meant that smaller solar systems reached a point where price driven Brisbane solar companies could essentially cover their total cost of, say, a 1.5Kwatt solar system with the Federal Government rebate, which was passed onto them by their customers (ie their quoted price included the assigning of their S.T.C. ‘rights’ to the solar installation company). So, this bought about the possibility of Brisbane solar installers offering the smaller systems for as little as $880 in Brisbane at the height of the ‘boom’ in the Queensland solar industry. Many of these systems are operating well today and for solar consumers that qualified for the previously available 44 cent feed tariff and they have quite possibly recouped (and more) their initial investment.
Unknowns – Quality and Longevity Of Low Cost Solar Panels Installed In Brisbane?
What is unknown, with some of these very low cost solar panels particularly the ‘generic brand’ panels, is what their life expectancy and long term failure rate will be. Some of the low cost Chinese solar panel manufacturers used low grade material in the panel construction and several Brisbane installers have had to replace some solar modules that have displayed ‘yellowing’ of the panels, resulting in up to 40 percent decreases of their rated solar electric output. In worse case scenario’s the customers were unaware of the decrease in output and the systems remained on their roof’s generating very little solar power – virtually a wasted investment for some.
High End Solar Panel Systems
The emergence (and subsequent dominance) of the Chinese solar p.v. manufacturing industry had spin off’s and benefits for the ‘higher end’ of the solar market. As the Chinese p.v. manufacturers started taking market share of installed solar panels in Brisbane in 2009, this put pressure on the established Japanese and German manufacturers of solar panels to lower their prices, in order to try and hold onto their market share. The likes of Bosch, Kyocera, Sanyo and the likes had (and continue) to have a reputation for reliability and performance. The Japanese solar panel manufacturers already had a strong presence in Queensland in the telecommunications industry, for example and were widely used in remote power applications where grid power was unavailable and reliability was of the essence. As these quality solar panel manufacturers started seeing the emergence of quite high quality ‘top – tier’ Chinese panels (like Suntech, for example), they quite rightly promoted their track record of reliability and performance in operation in Queensland to try and counter these new players. Brisbane solar companies marketing the high end panels, more and more had to rely on ‘selling the benefits’ of the quality and ‘track record’ of their panel offering, as the market became saturated with a myriad of solar offeres – the majority being of Chinese origin.
Conclusion – Where To from Here?
We see the solar market in Brisbane as reaching, finally, a stage of ‘maturity’, post ‘incentive boom’ days. As up to 40 percent of solar companies cease to operate in Brisbane in 2013, the market will hopefully be better represented by solar installers who see the ‘green energy’ sector as a long term viable business and, as a result, will tend to offer the mid to higher tier of solar panels to prospective solar customers. With widely publicised solar company bankruptcies and some very poor performing systems being offered and installed in the recent past, consumers are now, in 2013 more aware of the need to do their research before committing to solar installation and trying to ensure quality is factored into their buying decision.