By Tim Roberts and Alec Roberts, Chair of CLEANaS
A great way of reducing your power bill is by having solar PV on your roof. With generous government subsidies, you can pay up front to install the solar panels or effectively lease them with zero dollars up-front finance available. Either way, using electricity generated by the panels reduces what you use from the electricity grid and therefore your electricity bill. In addition, when you do not use it this excess generation is exported to the electricity grid and you get a credit on your bill called a feed-in-tariff that further reduces your electricity bill. The cost of electricity from the grid is greater than the cost from solar. So, depending on when you use electricity, expect the savings to be 3-4 times the cost of the panels over their 25-year lifetime for a household. If you have a business running normal office hours, the savings are even greater at potentially 5-6 times the initial cost of the panels.
However, not all Australians can put solar on their roofs. They may rent, live in apartments, or houses with rooftops that are shaded. The people that are locked out of the benefits of rooftop solar often include those on low-incomes where a significant proportion of their daily costs are from the power they consume.
Solar gardens may provide a way for these Australians to access the benefits of solar to reduce their energy costs. Solar gardens are the fastest growing sector of the solar industry in the US. Solar gardens work by installing a large solar array (usually 99kW) close to electricity users (such as on a warehouse roof). These users can buy or lease solar panels in the array and the electricity generated by the panels is credited to their energy bill reducing their energy costs.
Projects are currently underway to trial solar gardens across NSW, supported by funds from ARENA and the NSW government, to develop prototype solar gardens business models and identify barriers and potential solutions to implementing solar gardens in Australia. Thus providing a way for those locked out of the benefits of rooftop solar to reduce their energy costs through solar power.