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November 30, 2021

Solar garden feasibility to be explored in Byron Shire

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Aslan Shand

Byron Shire is one of five areas in Australia that has been selected to take part in a feasibility study to see if it could be a suitable location for a solar garden.

Solar gardens are a centralised solar array that offers consumers the opportunity to purchase or lease solar panels located at a central site with the electricity generated credited to the customer’s energy bill. The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has announced funding for a feasibility study that could allow the third of Australians who rent, live in apartments or live in low-income housing to access the benefits of rooftop solar.

On behalf of the Australian Government, ARENA is providing $240,000 to the University of Technology Sydney’s Institute of Sustainable Futures (ISF) to undertake a feasibility study on ‘solar gardens’, a popular concept in the United States and Europe that is yet to be introduced to Australia.

The $555,000 project brings together energy retailers, councils, community energy agencies, social welfare organisations and the NSW government to examine the viability of a solar garden in five potential locations – Blacktown in western Sydney, Swan Hill in northwest Victoria, Townsville in north Queensland, Shoalhaven and Byron Bay in New South Wales.

The study aims to consider both consumer demand and feasibility, and identify barriers to adoption.

Potential

Byron Shire mayor Simon Richardson said, ‘This project has enormous potential for residents of the Byron Shire, particularly those who can’t afford to install solar panels, or where solar panels aren’t suitable, and it’s very exciting to be selected to be a part of this feasibility study.’

‘Local community energy group COREM is also involved in this study and together we will be investigating potential sites for this solar garden.’

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said initiatives such as this are an important step in giving the consumer more options when it comes to their energy bills.

‘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,’ Mr Frischknecht said.

Enova’s model

Meanwhile energy retailer ENOVA Energy has been working on a groundbreaking solar garden project of its own, whereby solar panel(s) can be purchased to obtain credits on your electricity account. 

Enova’s model – and live project – is also part of the ARENA study along with Byron Shire Council and COREM.

‘Because we have actually advanced plans and are preparing to launch, whereas the other regions are still testing feasibility, we are being regarded as a comparative case study,’ said ENOVA’s chair, Alison Crook.

‘Researchers have been to Byron, and as part of the overall study, carried out focus groups with people to test reactions to the Enova solar garden concept. COREM is also working with us to assist us to find suitable rooftop sites.’

The locally based company says it is set to build a 99kW solar system and ‘sell’ the panels to customers who can’t have solar at home – for whatever reason.

It’s aimed at those who want their own solar panel, or entire solar system but can’t owing to renting, moving, shady sites or other reasons.

Enova also encourage businesses, clubs or community organisations with large energy bills and a reasonable-size rooftop to register with them.

‘Landlord with tenants who would like to add value to your rental proposition, and save your tenants money without adding to your costs can be included.’

For more info visit www.enovaenergy.com.au/solar-garden.


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