Alison Crook AO, Chair, Enova Community Energy Ltd and Robin Hordern, Chair, North Coast Community Housing can see benefits for the community in harnessing the sun's energy.
Alison Crook AO, Chair, Enova Community Energy Ltd and Robin Hordern, Chair, North Coast Community Housing can see benefits for the community in harnessing the sun's energy.

How this garden is bringing cheaper power to the community

WHAT started as a bright idea in 2016 has blossomed into Australia's first solar garden.

Enova Community Energy, first created on the Northern Rivers in 2015, has installed Australia's first solar garden, which will generate power bill credits for community organisations and North Coast Community Housing tenants.

At the project launch on Thursday, Enova chairwoman Alison Crook said all financial benefits generated by the 35-kilowatt solar array situated on the NCCH building rooftop in Lismore are being distributed in the form of energy bill credits to 19 social housing tenants and four community organisations.

A solar garden is a centrally-located solar PV array where tenants receive a credit on their electricity bill from the panels' solar generation, similar to if the panels were on their own roof.

NCCH CEO John McKenna said social housing tenants are often unable to access the benefits of solar.

"Hosting this solar garden generates real and immediate impacts," he said.

"Financial relief for tenants and funds that NCCH would otherwise have spent on electricity bills, recirculated back into our work."

Ms Crook said the process works by the 'solar garden' selling electricity back to the grid, with money earned going directly to the tenants and community organisations as credits, reducing their power bill costs.

"Overcoming regulatory and system barriers has been a huge aspect of this project," she said.

"I'm thrilled to announce that we've done it. Enova Community Energy has paved the way for solar gardens in Australia to take off, for the first time."

According to organisation Community Power Agency, more than one third of Australian households are unable to access the benefits of rooftop solar, either due to being renters or units or unsuitable roofing.

Enova CEO Felicity Stening said solutions such as solar gardens are important to show "solar for all is possible".

"This project provides the proof of concept that will inform our future solar gardens," she said.

"We'll be working in partnership with community housing organisations throughout the country to deliver more solar gardens, strengthen communities and provide solar access to those locked out."

Ms Stening said the financial benefits of the 100-panel solar garden will be distributed throughout the community, and over its 20-year life span the project will save approximately $160,000 for the solar gardeners and NCCH in the form of a monthly or quarterly credit on their Enova electricity bill.



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