Australian power trade veteran predicts 2020’s pandemic-fuelled solar increase to proceed into 2021

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Enphase Energy APAC General Manager Wilf Johnston

After a year of record sales defying the economic impact of the global pandemic, the Australian solar industry is poised for further growth in 2021, predicts APAC Wilf Johnston, general manager of Enphase Energy.

APAC Wilf Johnston, General Manager of Enphase EnergyMr Johnston said he expects to continue the current residential sales trend over the next year as consumers benefit from lower prices, smarter technology and higher standards to reduce the risk of fire and raise the overall quality limit for the industry.

Enphase Energy is the world’s leading manufacturer of microinverters, intelligent devices that convert direct current (DC) from solar panels into alternating current (AC) that can be safely used in homes and shared with the grid. With Enphase technology, a micro-inverter is used under each solar panel – and not a single inverter for the entire solar system – which offers more safety and reliability, monitoring at panel level and maximum performance for all roof types and under all conditions.

Mr. Johnston, who has headed Enphase in Australia for the past two years, has been in the Australian solar industry for more than 12 years. He initially led the technical and commercial project team at SunPower Corporation, and later became General Manager of Energy and Flex.

Review 2020: Solar sales in Australia reached a record level

Home solar system sales in 2020 were spectacular, defying the economic impact of the pandemic in Australia, Johnston said. “Across the industry, sales of residential solar systems were likely up 25 percent compared to 2019,” he said.

“Enphase in Australia has had its best sales performance ever. As a result, we launched our Enphase Installer Network on a national level and, through our partner Solargain, set up new channels such as IKEA including our microinverters as part of their solar system offering.

“The reason solar energy continues to be very hot in residential areas is that for most people it is just a breeze. The payback times are ridiculously good, from just a year and a half to four or five years. Most people look at these numbers and say, “Wow! Let’s just do it ‘.

“Another major achievement for 2020 is that Enphase has helped fuel the debate about the safety and quality of installations being a large part of the space for solar solutions. We want to make sure everyone understands the importance of getting it right, not exposing homes to the risk of fire or other electrical faults, and what you need to do to protect yourself and your family.

“Now is the time to improve safety standards: The Australian solar market is selling more than in its entire history. If now is not the time to tell people to be a little more demanding, when? “

Research shows that Australia had two solar fires every week in 2015 with only 15 percent of homes installed with PV (photovoltaic) solar panels: the Department of Industry Science for Energy and Resources says that number is now over 21 Percent is. Fire departments such as Fire and Rescue NSW regularly report solar fires.

Outlook for 2021: Australia’s hot solar market will continue to grow – with higher standards

Johnston said he expected solar sales to continue to break records in 2021. “With solar panels in just one in five homes and this quick payback, there’s plenty of room for more growth,” he said.

“We’re now looking at residential properties with more complex roofs for larger systems because the prices are so good. While a fairly small system used to be installed, they are now increasingly saying, “Let’s just cover the roof and get it done”. The pricing allows them to do this.

“As electric vehicles become more prevalent, it also makes sense to oversize your system to generate more energy than your home needs, put it in a battery, and then charge your EV overnight.”

Mr Johnston said he also anticipates tightening safety standards for solar PV in 2021. “Fire remains a pretty big risk,” he said. “When you scan the messages, you get reports every month of systems catching fire, whether it is due to poor installation or just some inherently risky technology. Statistically, if you have high DC voltages all over the roof, something is likely to go wrong at some point.

“That raises questions: How do you mitigate this risk? If this happens, can you reduce the impact? How do you turn the system off so the fire department can work to put out the fire? These issues are not really addressed in the current regulations and are important to investigate.

“I think there will be new standards for the safety of solar systems in the New Year.”

The greatest opportunity for 2021: integration of solar energy into the national grid

Johnston said the greatest opportunity for the Australian electricity industry in 2021 is to figure out how to integrate distributed energy into the Australian energy landscape. “Distributed energy will be a large part of the Australian electricity grid for the next decade,” he said.

“Distributed energy sources like solar PV and batteries already contribute to the grid, but need to play a more structured role in the process. At the moment we are almost crashing the electricity market. The products are out there. People buy it, people install it, but it’s not strategically aligned with the way the market and the network run.

“For Enphase, it’s exciting that the inverter is at the interface between the grid, the market and what people have in their homes. The inverter is the main decision maker in deciding what should be practical, useful and safe: The Australian energy market demands smart inverters to help manage this new world order, and luckily, that’s what we do. “

The full range of Enphase IQ ™ microinverters, including the latest IQ 7A ™ microinverter for higher power modules up to 465W, is available to homeowners nationwide through the Enphase Installer Network.

To schedule an interview with Wilf Johnston, please contact John Harris on +61 8 8431 4000 or email john@impress.com.au.

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About Enphase Energy, Inc.

Enphase Energy, a global energy technology company, offers intelligent, user-friendly solutions that combine solar energy generation, storage and management on one intelligent platform. The company has revolutionized solar with its micro-inverter technology and produces the world’s only truly integrated Solar Plus storage solution. Enphase has shipped more than 30 million microinverters and approximately 1.3 million Enphase-based systems have been deployed in more than 130 countries. More information is available at www.enphase.com. Follow the company on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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