HUNDREDS of Bathurst residents had solar installed last year while debate continues over two major proposed solar farms on the city's outskirts.
Despite the impacts of COVID-19, the number of household installations across the region has increased, thanks in part to a range of financial incentives available for people looking to take up the solar option.
In the nine months from January to September 2020, Dubbo had the highest rate of solar installations with 533, followed closely by Orange on 531.
Bathurst, meanwhile, had 468.
The NSW Government implemented the Empowering Homes program in 2020, which offers interest-free loans of up to $14,000 for solar battery systems, and up to $9,000 for adding batteries to existing solar PV systems.
The Empowering Homes programs covers local government areas including Bathurst, Blayney and Oberon.
French company Neoen's proposed $200 million, 200MW solar farm off Eleven Mile Drive at Eglinton has drawn opposition from neighbouring landholders, who fear the loss of prime agricultural land and trees, the visual impact and the potential to cause erosion.
Meanwhile, UK-based Elgin Energy has contacted a number of residents at Glanmire to tell them of plans to develop a 60 megawatt solar farm on 160 hectares beside the Great Western Highway on the eastern entrance to Bathurst.
The Glanmire Action Group is opposing the proposed project based on the loss to the Bathurst economy of an annual grain crop of an estimated 560 tonnes a year, spending at local businesses and rural supply stores and the loss of access to quality land for young farmers wanting to "work the land".
Robert Biviano, owner of Central West Solar, said batteries will come down in price just like solar systems have.
"Batteries aren't cost effective for a lot of people just yet, but neither were solar panels originally," he said.
"Solar has become very affordable and there is a lot of financial support available for those looking to install one at home.
"A lot of companies are providing finance for systems that you can pay off over 36 or 48 months and there is also the Government's STC rebates which will continue through until 2030 at a diminishing rate each year."
Mr Biviano said that potential savings for each household would depend on individual circumstances, but there was a major focus on providers.
"What people save really does depend on the size of their solar system, when they use electricity, whether they have battery back-up," he said.
"A major factor is who your electricity provider is because the feed-in tariffs and buy back limits have a big influence on exactly what financial return you receive."
Forecasts from the Australian Energy Market Commission's (AEMC's) latest electricity price projections expect NSW households to pay about $30 less in 2023 than they currently do based on supply costs, however, the closure of the NSW Liddell coal-fired power station could add up to $100 a year to average household electricity bills from 2022, negating any savings.