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Solar gardens could unlock cheap local energy

Solar gardens could unlock cheap local energy

Swan Hill Rural City will be one of five Australian locations investigated for a community solar garden.

The Social Access Solar Gardens project aims to help customers in rentals, apartments and low-income housing to reap the benefits of solar.

As part of the $555,000 feasibility study launched last week, teams will bring together local councils, community energy groups, social welfare organisations and energy retailers to look at how to set up solar gardens that will include low-income households.

A solar garden is a centralised solar power station that offers households the opportunity to purchase panels with the electricity generated credited on their electricity bill. It provides an innovative solution to accessing renewable energy for the 30 per cent of Australian consumers who are unable to install solar on their homes.

The project is being led by the UTS Institute for Sustainable Futures (ISF) and Community Power Agency, with participation from 17 partner organisations, including Swan Hill Rural City Council.

ISF Research Associate and Community Power Agency Director Nicky Ison said the project would assess whether solar gardens could make solar energy available to everyone in the community.

“While over 1.8 million Australian households now reap the benefits of cheap solar power, unfortunately not every household owns their own sunny roof,” Ms Ison said.

Swan Hill Rural City Council will work with ISF to complete the feasibility study, which will assess demand, financials and legality of a potential solar garden for the Swan Hill area.

Mayor Les McPhee said the Swan Hill area offered an ideal location for solar power generation, and that all kinds of solar power options should be included as Council looked to make our region a national leader in solar energy generation.

“I look forward to seeing the outcome of this research, and hope that we can ultimately deliver a solar garden in our region, giving everyone the opportunity to join and support the ever-growing shift to solar power.”

On behalf of the Australian Government, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) is contributing $240,000 to the Social Access Solar Gardens study. The NSW Government is also contributing $155,000.