The Social Access Solar Gardens project will prototype four of the first solar gardens projects in Australia.
(Thank you to the Lismore Workers Club for allowing the use of the above photo.)
In Australia, 1.8 million households now enjoy the benefits of clean, cheap energy produced from solar panels installed on their roofs.
Unfortunately, not every household has a sunny roof suitable for the installation of solar panels. These 'locked out' customers might live in apartments, be renters or have no access to solar resources.
Overwhelmingly, the most vulnerable, low-income electricity users in our society fall into this category.
Social Access Solar Gardens are a type of solar garden that specifically seek to enable locked out and the most vulnerable and low-income energy users to participate in solar.
Social Access Solar Gardens
Solar gardens work by installing a central solar array, generally near a population centre. Energy customers can purchase panels in the central solar array. The electricity generated is then credited on the customer’s electricity bill.
With a solar garden, any electricity customer can participate in and benefit from solar energy. The solar panels may be located off-site, but the household receives a financial outcome on their bill, a bit like having solar on their own roof.
Solar gardens are the fastest growing segment in the US solar industry, contributing 200MW of new photovoltaic capacity in 2016.
However, here in Australia, solar gardens are not yet available. We want to change that.
The aims of the Social Access Solar Garden project are to either:
- Develop between one and four pilot Solar Gardens that are de-risked and ready to implement and are underpinned by business models that are desirable to locked-out energy users, viable and feasible, as shown in the figure below:
- Or to identify the specific barriers that would prevent the Social Access Solar Garden model from working, and identify potential solutions to overcome these barriers. Further, once solutions have been identified and socialised with stakeholders able to remove barriers and implement solutions, to unlock solar gardens.
Areas of work
This project has two major streams of work:
- Development of prototype social access solar gardens business models
This project brings together teams of experts to drive three streams of research, which will support four main prototype teams, in five locations – Swan Hill in Victoria, Blacktown, Shoalhaven and Byron in NSW and regional Queensland.
There are three main areas of research, corresponding to questions of desirability, viability and feasibility:
- Market research. The purpose of the market research is to develop a deeper understanding of what will motivate low income renters and other locked out electricity users to participate in a solar gardens scheme. The market research consists of a range of focus groups, surveys and behavioural experiments.
- Financial assessment. The purpose of the financial research is to make it easier for solar gardens developers to assess the financial viability of their proposed projects. This will involve developing a financial assessment tool and supporting prototype teams to do financial modelling using this tool.
- Legal review. The purpose of this legal review is to give confidence to the prototype teams that the business models they are developing are legally compliant and feasible. This will involve developing a legal considerations report, legal advice and template legal agreements.
The purpose of the prototype teams is to undertake planning for a Social Access Solar Gardens project, examining everything from site feasibility to how to recruit customers, and end up with statement of intent about whether to take it forward. Four teams = four answers (or more). This will include create a business model for social access solar gardens and carrying out ‘real planning for a real pilot’ of new Solar Gardens business models.
Project partners and funders
This project was made possible with the funding support from ARENA and the NSW Government, as well a number of the project partner organisations.
For more information
Please contact Elizabeth Noble at email@example.com.