ARENA provides funding to seed 'solar gardens' for apartment dwellers, renters

Rodiano Bonacci
Mag 17, 2018

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) will provide a grant of $240,000 to the $555,000 project, created to assess demand and possible constraints for "solar gardens" development.

India's renewable energy ministry has finalised a policy that aims to promote the development of large hybrid power plants, combining wind turbines and solar photovoltaic (PV) panels.

Having gained some traction in the USA, the concept is for large scale arrays to be developed and funded by a group of apartment dwellers, renters, or low income housing tenants, so they can benefit from cheap and clean PV.

As we reported here on One Step, the problem of how to unlock solar for renters and residents of apartment buildings and other shared accommodation remains a major barrier to true solar democracy in Australia, where rooftop PV has otherwise been such a success story. And in North Sydney, nearly three-quarters of residents can't access solar because they are renters or live in apartment buildings.

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.

Solar gardens to bring rooftop solar to all Australians
ARENA backs “solar gardens” trial, in bid to boost access to PV

In the USA, solar gardens are the fastest-growing segment in the solar industry, contributing 200 megawatts of new capacity in 2016.

NSW energy minister Don Harwin said the state was excited to support the Social Access Solar Gardens trials, to help more consumers save money on their energy bills.

The project is being led by the University of Technology Sydney's Institute for Sustainable Futures and the Community Power Agency.

"We're excited to be supporting the feasibility into a concept that will allow people from all backgrounds and living circumstances to benefit from renewable energy", he said.

The ministry said that "Solar and wind power being variable in nature pose certain challenges on grid security and stability and therefore suitable policy interventions are required not only for new wind-solar hybrid plants, but also for encouraging hybridisation of existing plants".

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