The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has today 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 that has still not been introduced to Australia. A solar garden is a centralised solar array that offers consumers the opportunity to purchase or lease solar panels with the electricity generated credited to the customer’s energy bill. It is an innovative solution to accessing renewable energy for those who are unable to place solar on their homes.

The project will cost $555,000 with energy retailers, councils, community energy agencies and social welfare organisation and the NSW Government have been brought together to examine the viability of a solar garden in five potential locations. These locations include, Townsville in North Queensland, Blacktown in western Sydney, Swan Hill in northwest Victoria, Shoalhaven and Byron Bay in New South Wales.

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. “Solar gardens have been popular in the US, with the fast growing market seeing 200 MW of shared solar gardens already in operation,” said Ivor. “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.”

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

Readers also enjoyed our story on Fish Lane Festival.