Another form of solar farm is newly emerging in Australia, known as a solar garden. Generally smaller than a full size solar farm, these gardens are designed to allow homeowners without solar access to tap into solar savings by buying a single solar plot.
These solar gardens are community run, meaning people who buy in get a chance to vote on issues impacting their solar plots. There are a range of pros and cons for solar gardens, so we’re going to cover the most common reasons people are wary of purchasing into a solar garden.
1. You won’t receive STC’s to offset the cost
The Australian Government offers an incentive program known as Small Scale Technology Certificates (STC’s), or for larger installations, Large-scale generation certificates (LGC’s). This involves trading credits on the solar market, with a final discount applied to the cost of the system before installation.
The good news? Being part of a solar garden means that even though you won’t receive this financial benefit directly, you will receive some of the discount when it’s passed on to you by the solar garden directors.
2. Solar in front of the meter not behind
Having your own solar means you can meet your own energy needs ‘behind the meter’ before any excess is sent back into the grid. A solar plot won’t offer this benefit; instead, your solar plot feeds directly into the grid to be used by thousands of other homes, instead of being used directly in yours. This means you won’t receive the free power that solar homeowners would, instead receiving a set discount based on the solar plot production.
The good news? Although you won’t be able to use the energy you create directly, being part of a large community group means you’ll receive a discount negotiated by the number of panels and stakeholders involved.
3. There’s less kilowatts than rooftop solar
The average solar garden plot is only three kilowatts, and each owner is limited to just one plot. In comparison, many homes can fit up to 10 kilowatts of solar on their rooftops. If you have a large family or high energy needs, you may not see a big impact on your power bill.
The good news? Some is definitely better than none, and a solar plot will still offset your power bill enough to impact your bottom line.
4. You can only purchase one plot per power bill
Solar gardens are run by the community, and need to meet certain criteria to sell their power back to their designated energy retailer. No matter what size your home and no matter your usage level, you’ll still be limited to a single plot in a solar garden. This means you’ll receive the same level of savings no matter how high your power bill.
The good news? Again, even a small plot is going to save more than not having solar at all, meaning you can put the extra savings towards things that you love.
5. You can’t choose your energy retailer
To get the best possible savings for their members, solar gardens sign a contract with a single solar retailer to sell the garden’s electricity output. This means that you’ll need to purchase all your home electricity through the same energy retailer to receive your savings back.
The good news? You’ll be able to check who the energy retailer is before joining the solar garden, and you’ll know you’re getting the best possible deal for the energy you generate with your solar plot.
6. You won’t be able to closely monitor production and consumption
Solar homeowners with smart monitoring are able to see their production in real time, including the energy usage of different appliances, their solar consumption and how the weather impacts on production. Solar gardens don’t usually offer more than a high level view of production and a discount on your monthly bill.
The good news? Although you won’t have the same level of monitoring, you’ll also be avoiding many of the issues that come with home owned solar. You won’t need to worry about maintenance, repairs or cleaning, all of which will be taken care of by the solar garden directors.
If you’re limited in your roof space or living in a rental property, a plot in a solar garden is a great option to save on your electricity bill. Although having your own rooftop solar will save you more, every dollar counts, and a solar garden plot is a great entry point to the solar market.
Peter is a Licensed Electrician and the Director of Proven Energy, a Clean Energy Council Approved Solar Retailer. After working in the industry, Peter’s interest in renewable energy lead him to found the company in 2012, offering honest and reliable solar system supply and installation for residential, commercial, off-grid and agricultural properties. Peter is a CEC Accredited Installer. Electrical Contractors Lic No. 74650