Lockyer up with the best in Australia on level of solar PV power installations

A new report by Sunwiz has revealed that the Federal electorate of Wright (containing all or most of the Lockyer Valley Region) has the highest number of domestic solar power installations (solar PV plus solar hot water) of any Federal electorate in the country.  SunWiz has performed an analysis of Clean Energy Regulator data as of 1 October 2012 to identify the top solar electorates.

The electorate of Wright has a total of 26,417 installations, made up of 16,420 solar PV and 9,998 solar hot water systems.

Of course, raw figures on the number of installations in an electorate are not particularly meaningful, given that there is some variation in household numbers per electorate (though electorates generally have populations of around 150,000).  The percentage of households with solar installations (known as “penetration”) is a much more useful number, both for comparison and for revealing the level of uptake of renewable energy at the household level.

Wright figured 6th in level of penetration of solar PV (out of 150 electorates) with a penetration level of 20% – one in five dwellings (the national maximum was 23%) and 15th in solar hot water with 12% – one in eight (national maximum 21%).

The electorate of Wright encompass an area stretching from the western Gold Coast through the rural areas left out of the more urban electorates between Logan City and the NSW border, before curving northwest to include the Lockyer Valley Region west of Ipswich. As well as the western edge of the city of Gold Coast, Wright includes the towns of Beaudesert, Jimboomba, Boonah, Gatton, Laidley, Hatton and Helidon (ABC 2010 election web site).

Given its location, Wright may not be what you would think of as a particularly Green electorate, and it isn’t, though there was a significant swing to the Greens in the 2010 election.  Conservative parties (LNP, ALP and Family First) – yes, I’ve identified the ALP as a conservative party – got over 80% of the vote.  The voting pattern in that election was:

How does the Lockyer Valley Region fit into this solar power picture?

Census records for the Lockyer Valley Region do not include solar PV installation data.  However it doesn’t seem unreasonable to take the 4343 postcode area as a proxy for the Region.  As can be seen from the map below, it clearly takes up a significant proportion of the Region.

The Sunwiz analysis is based on postcode data (their methodology is explained at the foot of the web page reporting their findings), but understandably in a national report they do not provide the separate postcode data.

The Clean Energy Regulator’s web site includes detailed data on “small generation units” (= solar panel installations) for each postcode area.  In the 4343 area 677 units had been installed as of October 2012, with a total generating capacity of 2,012 kW.  The total is likely to be higher than this because the data is based on registration for Renewable Energy Certificates, which can be done up to 12 months after installation.

There were 3,610 occupied private dwellings in the 4343 postcode area at the time of the 2011 Census.  This suggests a “penetration” of solar PV power of 18.7%.  However, solar power is seldom installed on apartments, flats, and similar, and is much more likely to be found on private houses, of which the Census recorded 3,190, leading to a penetration level of 21.2%.  It seems fair enough to say that the solar PV penetration level in the 4343 postcode area is between 18.7% and 21.2%, and that the level for the Lockyer Valley Region is probably in this range.  (There were 11,900 private dwellings, and 11,200 occupied private houses recorded in the Region in the Census, so the 4343 figures represent 30.3% and 28.9% respectively of these totals. Seems like a pretty good sample).

What this means is that the penetration level for solar PV power installation in the Lockyer Valley Region (around 18.7-21.2%) is clearly of the same order as that for the larger Wright electorate (20%) and close to the highest penetration rate in the country (23%).

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