A solar garden is a centrally-located, grid-connected solar PV array with the purpose of providing solar gardeners with a credit on their electricity bill for the solar energy generated by the panels – similar to if the panels were on their own roof.
The idea of solar gardens originated in the small town of Ellensburg, Washington. The local energy utility partnered with community groups to build a 36-kilowatt solar garden—a solar array that is owned by multiple subscribers and connected to the utility grid. The subscribers were able to purchase a portion of the power produced by the array and receive a credit on their electricity bill.
Solar gardens are supported across the USA and are proliferating across 40 states already. Laws have been established across many states including California, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia. These laws help to streamline the process of connecting solar gardens to the grid because they mandate that utilities accommodate them.
Solar Gardens taking root in Australia
• Currently, more than one-third of Australian households are locked out of accessing rooftop solar because they are renting, live in a unit or apartment or do not have a roof suitable for solar panels. Solar gardens are an innovate solution that allows these households to take part in renewables.
• A collective effort by the community energy sector has enabled the first solar gardens to be established in Australia. These efforts have included research, partnerships, and financial support.
• Community energy groups can and will continue to take leadership roles in the design, development and ownership of solar gardens.
Enova Community Energy and Solar Gardens
Enova has been part of the collective effort by the community energy sector to establish solar gardens in Australia. A crucial aspect of developing an understanding of solar gardens in the Australian content was the Social Access Solar Gardens research project.
Led by the Institute for Sustainable Futures and the Community Power Agency and funded by the NSW Government and ARENA, this research was a collective effort to investigate the viability of solar gardens in Australia. The Enova-led behind-the-meter model was a key case study in the research. Enova has helped pave the way for the further development of on-roof solar gardens in Australia.
From this research, Enova was uniquely positioned to explore behind-the-meter "on-roof" systems. Most community energy groups are investigating in front of the meter "off roof" systems.
Solar for All Campaign - ending the solar lock-out!
In October 2019, Enova Community Energy was amongst a group of 20 community organisations which banded together with the Community Power Agency to launch the 'Solar for All' campaign - calling on state governments to end solar lock-out and give all Australians access to safe and affordable energy.
To support the effort to ensure everyone can access solar, please check out the campaign and get involved – the actions you can take are easy and they’re all outlined in the Solar For All campaign website.