Are Solar Gardens the solution for those locked out of traditional solar PV?
Solar Gardens, also known as “Social Access Solar Gardens” (SASGs) or “solar banks”, are an innovative type of remote solar farm offering the sale of individual plots to remote customers.
Solar Gardens can be built wherever there is space, such as on country farms or large industrial rooftops within a city. It works through a system of purchase and rebate: a customer, located anywhere, purchases a share of an off-site solar farm, and the income generated from the electricity is credited to their energy bills over time.
Solar Gardens allow community members to benefit from a remotely-located community-owned solar array, without needing to install, manage or maintain their own solar system.
About one quarter of all Australian households now have rooftop solar – an amazing figure that is only expected to grow. But there will always be those who are locked out of installing solar PV – such as apartment-dwellers who don’t own their rooftops, renters with split incentives to their landlords, and anyone whose roof just isn’t suitable for a solar array.
With solar gardens, non-PV owners aren’t left behind. They can still take part in the energy transition in a way that’s innovative, equitable, and reduces their power bills.
Solar Garden models are already a reality in over 40 U.S. states, and successful trials there have led to the Haystacks Solar Garden in New South Wales, Australia’s first major Solar Garden project.
Haystacks was funded by the New South Wales Government’s Regional Community Energy Fund with project management assistance from the not-for-profit Community Power Agency.
Built in the Riverina region, the new 1-megawatt solar farm is currently selling 3kW plots of solar panels to customers who apply through the local community energy group, Pingala.
The good news is that customers from Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, ACT and South Eastern Queensland can apply for a share in the Haystacks Solar Garden. That’s the magic of an off-site solar garden – it doesn’t matter where you are, so long as you’re subscribed.
Haystacks is set to be the first of many such projects. Under the Powering Australia plan, the Federal Government has announced $102.2 million to go towards 85 new Solar Gardens around the country. This initial investment is just the start – it’s expected to inspire more and more projects in the coming years, making solar gardens increasingly accessible.
To learn more about how you can purchase your own solar garden plot, visit the Haystacks Solar Garden website.
Images on this post are from haystacks.solargarden.org.au