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

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) will provide a grant of $240,000 to the $555,000 project, designed to assess demand and possible constraints for ‘solar gardens’ development. The University of Technology Sydney will carry out the feasibility study looking at five potential sites in New South Wales.

Having gained some traction in the U.S., 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. The system would work in a virtual sense, with the solar electricity generated by the array credited against the individual’s bill. Leasing contracts could also be applied.

“Solar gardens have been popular in the US, with the fast growing market seeing 200 MW of shared solar gardens already in operation,” said ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht. “Almost a third of Australians are unable to put solar on their roofs because they are renting, live in apartments or live in low income housing. Solar gardens give consumers the benefits of rooftop solar, even if you don’t have a roof available to put it on.”

Technology Sydney’s Institute of Sustainable Futures’ (ISF) Nicky Ison reinforced that while 1.8 million currently have rooftop PV, “unfortunately not every household owns a sunny roof suitable for solar panels,”

The project builds on previous ISF projects which looked Facilitating Local Network Charges and Virtual Net Metering.