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Social Access Solar Gardens

Solar gardens to bring rooftop solar to all Australians

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 is yet to be introduced in 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. This provides an innovative solution to accessing renewable energy for those who are unable to place solar on their homes.

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

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

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.”

“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,” Mr Frischknecht said.

“We’re excited to be supporting the feasibility into a concept that will allow people from all backgrounds and living circumstances to benefit from renewable energy,” he said.

“While over 1.8 million households now enjoy the benefits of cheap solar power, unfortunately not every household owns a sunny roof suitable for solar panels,” said ISF Research Associate and Director of Community Power Agency Nicky Ison.

NSW Minister for Energy and Utilities Don Harwin said: “We’re excited to be supporting the Social Access Solar Gardens trials because we know that local renewable energy can help consumers save money on their energy bills.

“These trials will help renters, and people in apartments and low-income households who are currently missing out on the benefits of rooftop solar to share in the renewable energy boom currently underway in [NSW].”

The project builds on previous work undertaken by ISF in the ARENA funded project Facilitating Local Network Charges and Virtual Net Metering which explored the theoretical impact of reduced local network charges for partial use of the electricity network, and the conditions required to support local electricity trading.

Primary project funders
NSW Government

Project partners
Bendigo Sustainability Group
Blacktown Council
Brotherhood of St Laurence
Byron Shire Council
Community Owned Renewable Energy Mullumbimbi (COREM)
Community Power Agency
Energy Queensland
Enova Community Energy
Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology Sydney
Norton Rose Fullbright
Queensland Council of Social Services
Repower Shoalhaven
Shoalhaven Council
Swan Hill Shire Council

ARENA media contact:

0410 724 227 |

Download this media release (PDF 136KB)

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Solar power on the go

What began life as a way to provide renewable power to Australian troops on the ground even in remote locations could see solar energy powering disaster relief efforts, construction sites and even music festivals.

Canberra-based ECLIPS manufactures containerised, portable buildings than can be quickly deployed in remote areas to create bases for industries such as mining, military and emergency services.

ECLIPS’ newest project is the Container Roll-Out Solar System (CROSS), a mobile solar PV array which aims to provide temporary solar energy in place of diesel generators.

Designed to fit inside robust and easily transportable standard shipping containers, CROSS units can be delivered to wherever they are needed and rapidly deployed to bring clean energy to remote or isolated communities in a way not previously possible.

The Container Roll-Out Solar System (CROSS) – A mobile solar PV array which aims to provide temporary solar energy in place of diesel generators.



The $700,000 CROSS project aims to fill a gap in the Australian market for renewable energy systems at small commercial scale (100-500 kW) that can be easily moved and temporarily deployed (for days, months or up to a few years).

ARENA has contributed $290,000 towards the design, manufacture and testing of the system.

The CROSS units come ready to use in either 20ft and 40ft containers. Factory assembled and pre-wired to a DC isolator, they can be rolled out and set up in minutes, ready for connection to an inverter.

The arrays have maximum outputs of 2.1kW and 4.3kW respectively, and up to seven can be stacked in a single container, which allows a generation capacity of 30kW for each 40ft container.

CROSS units are designed to fit inside robust and easily transportable standard shipping containers.



The rapidly deployable CROSS solar PV systems can quickly and cost-effectively provide clean, environmentally friendly power to locations that must currently rely on diesel generators.

The system could bring renewable energy to various applications that usually rely on diesel generators such as defence, disaster recovery, humanitarian, construction and temporary network augmentation.

ECLIPS Managing Director, Shaun Moore said that the original objective for CROSS was to improve power self-sufficiency for Defence Users.

“One of our early objectives was to provide rapidly deployable utility scale PV generators to improve the self-sufficiency of Defence’s deployed forward operating bases. Diesel consumption related to the provision of electricity can account for up to 70% of deployed forces fuel usage and is a significant cost driver. More importantly, deploying CROSS to forward operating bases also reduces the frequency of convoys for fuel resupply, which reduces the threat to soldiers in contested environments. These same logistics efficiencies and benefits are transferrable to commercial and utility customers in remote areas of Australia.”

Deploying the CROSS unit at the ECLIPS demonstration day.



ARENA CEO Mr Ivor Frischknecht said the CROSS units provide new opportunities for solar power in Australia.

“CROSS units offer immense benefits in being able to be deployed in off-grid and fringe-of-grid areas, and even have the potential to offset diesel consumption and improve the security of existing networks,” Mr Frischknecht said.

“These renewable options can reduce some of the barriers to entry for potential renewable power users in remote locations, including short project durations and where power systems need to be periodically relocated.”

For more information, visit the ECLIPS website.