A "solar gardens" trial project - based on the concept of sharing the benefits of rooftop solar with those who can't install it, for either logistical or financial reasons - has won backing from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.
Having gained some traction in the US, the concept is for large scale arrays to be developed and funded by a group of apartment dwellers, renters, or low income housing tenants, so they can benefit from cheap and clean PV.
Solar gardens are centralised solar arrays, established so that community members can buy or lease PV panels, and then credit the electricity they generate to their home power bill.
"We are trialling solar gardens with the aim of helping renters, low-income households and those living in apartments save on their energy bills", said Dr Liz Develin, the NSW Department of Planning and Environment's deputy secretary of energy, water and portfolio strategy.
The trials will be carried out in Blacktown, Shoalhaven, and Byron Bay in NSW; in Townsville in Queensland, and Swan Hill in Victoria, with around $550,000 provided in funding from ARENA and other participants.
"It aims to consider both consumer demand and feasibility, and identify barriers to adoption", ARENA said.
The work will be guided by ISF research associate and director of Community Power Agency Nicky Ison, who has been a tireless advocate for solar equality in Australia, and who wrote about the importance of community energy on this website here.
ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht noted that showcasing how renewables can stabilise grids can help set the stage for more renewables to enter the country's energy mix.
In the U.S., solar gardens are the fastest-growing segment in the solar industry, contributing 200 megawatts of new capacity in 2016. "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.
It is also designed for people whose roofs may be unsuitable for solar installations.
The project builds on previous ISF projects which looked Facilitating Local Network Charges and Virtual Net Metering.