A new trial has been launched to provide solar power savings to those without rooftop solar.
The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) is providing funding for trials of solar gardens, which could allow up to a third of Australians who are unable to install their own solar panels save money with solar power.
Solar gardens are essentially small-scale solar farms where people can buy or rent solar panels, with the electricity generated credited to their power bills.
“Almost a third of Australians are unable to put solar on their roofs,” ARENA chief executive Ivor Frischknecht said.
“Solar gardens give consumers the benefits of rooftop solar, even if you dont have a roof available to put it on.”
The trials will be carried out in Blacktown, Shoalhaven, and Byron Bay in NSW; in Townsville in Queensland, and Swan Hill in Victoria, with around $550,000 provided in funding from ARENA and other participants.
“It aims to consider both consumer demand and feasibility, and identify barriers to adoption,” ARENA said.
The New South Wales government is also one of the major contributors, providing around $155,000 in funds for the trials.
“We are trialling solar gardens with the aim of helping renters, low-income households and those living in apartments save on their energy bills,” said Dr Liz Develin, the NSW Department of Planning and Environments deputy secretary of energy, water and portfolio strategy.
“Blacktown is a hotspot for rooftop solar and we are really excited to see how this trial goes. The average Western Sydney household with a 4-kilowatt solar system on their roof could already be saving up to $900 a year.”
Blacktown is the fourth largest solar postcode in Sydney, with more than 3000 installations across its postcode area.
In the US, solar gardens are the fastest-growing segment in the solar industry, contributing 200 megawatts of new capacity in 2016.
While the size of the gardens to be built are not yet known, they are generally just under 100 kilowatts. This will allow investors to keep the small-scale renewable energy generation certificates for resale to non-renewable energy generators such as coal- or gas-fired power stations, which need to have a certain proportion of 'renewable energy', providing a further investment discount.
It is also designed for people whose roofs may be unsuitable for solar installations.
The project is being led by the University of Technology Sydneys Institute for Sustainable Futures and the Community Power Agency.
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