Solar Gardens – ‘ground solar’ – ARENA funding.

Those unable to get traditional solar systems installed on their roof may wish to take a look at the upcoming solar gardens scheme we will see in Australia. The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) are funding a trial of the ‘ground solar’ in (mostly) regional areas of NSW, Queensland and Victoria.

Solar Gardens – Alternatives to Roof Solar

Solar Gardens in Australia
Solar Gardens in Australia (source: ARENA)

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, those without a rooftop who still want to invest in solar power will be in luck if they’re based in Blacktown, Shoalhaven, Byron Bay, Townsville, or Swan Hill – ARENA and ‘other participants’ are providing around $550,000 in funding to assist the trial.

Dr Liz Develin, the NSW Department of Planning and Environment’s deputy secretary of energy, water and portfolio strategy (wonder if she has to buy extra long business cards?) discussed how the department are hoping to achieve with the rollout:

“We are trialling solar gardens with the aim of helping renters, low-income households and those living in apartments save on their energy bills,” she said.

“Blacktown is a hotspot for rooftop solar and we are really excited to see how this trial goes. The average Western Sydney household with a 4-kilowatt solar system on their roof could already be saving up to $900 a year.”

Specifics on the scheme are still a little thin on the ground (sorry…) but the solar gardens are ‘generally’ under 100kW so as to keep the STCs (small-scale renewable energy generation certificates). The University of Technology Sydney’s Institute for Sustainable Futures and the Community Power Agency will lead this project.

Solar gardens are growing faster than any other segment of solar power in the US (200MW of new capacity was rolled out in 2016) – so perhaps this is the start of a revolution where the word ‘solar’ doesn’t necessarily conjure up the image of panels on a roof. I have no doubt we’ll see blockchain technology integrated or, for the bigger gardens such as those at mid-large size apartment blocks, some microgrids available to help balance demand.

Are you interested in applying to join the solar garden trial? Watch this space. More info to come as we have it!

Solar Energy Australia Statistics – 2017

Solar Energy Australia Statistics – The Clean Energy Regulator released their report on solar power uptake in Australia in 2017. A record 3.5m solar panels were installed on rooftops last year, with their combined output of 1057MW around the same as a mid-sized coal-fired power station. 

Solar Energy Australia Statistics

Small-Scale Renewable Energy in Australia 2016 – 2017(source: cleanenergyregulator.gov.au)

The 1057MW was installed by Australian homes and businesses in 2017, mostly from rooftop solar. That’s the equivalent of 9,500 solar panels being installed in Australia every day of 2017! Commercial solar had a huge influx of big solar systems installed which helped with the numbers. Here are some of the many businesses that installed solar power in 2017: 

Clean Energy Regulator Executive General Manager Mark Williamson was pleased to see the solar uptake in all industries:

“We are seeing a wide cross-section of Australians – households, community centres, schools, and small businesses – receiving incentives under the small-scale renewable energy scheme,” Williamson said.

“Our data shows consumers are embracing renewable energy to take control of their electricity bills” Williams said on the CER website

According to Wikipedia, as of December 2017, Australia had over 7,024 MW of installed photovoltaic (PV) solar power. The CER report shows that in 2017 there was a 41% increase in installed renewable energy capacity compared to 2016. Queensland had the most solar panels installed (295MW), and the ACT showed the greatest annual increase – showing a massive 57% change from its 2016 figures. The CER report also showed that the average solar system size in Australia has increased by 200% – from 3kW to 6kw – as prices continue to decrease and technology increases rapidly. 

The small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme which created financial incentives for homes and small businesses to install small scale renewable energy systems has obviously had the desired effect. It’ll be interesting to see how 2018 fares as it’s already off to a roaring start. 

 

Solar Energy Australia Statistics