For financial and environmental reasons, more Australians want access to solar energy. While private rooftop solar still dominates, making up around 20% of our renewable energy use, a solar community network has made inroads by providing more Aussies with the choice to make the switch.
What is a solar community network?
A solar community network is a shared network that allows many people to own and benefit from a solar energy installation. People subscribe to a share of a larger solar farm or garden located in their local area and save money without having to pay for the installation and maintenance of solar panels on their roof.
In this way, a solar community network creates more varied and accessible opportunities for people in low-income households, renters and people with homes that aren’t suitable for solar panels to enjoy the benefits of solar energy. There are two major models of a solar community network:
- Co-owners pay to own a set number of panels in the array or, instead, a certain number of kilowatts (e.g. 5kW) out of the solar plant’s total capacity
- Co-owners benefit from the power produced by their share of the system
- Subscribers pay a lower price for the electricity sourced from the solar community network. They don’t own the panels but can subscribe to have access to the solar panel system.
- A third party develops and owns the project
A solar community network is not exactly a new concept. It was first introduced into Australia on a commercial level with the opening of the Uterne Solar Power Station in 2011 and since then many other solar farms throughout the country have been introduced.
What solar community network trends to look for in 2020
With advances in technology, we’re starting to see some innovations and trends in the world of a solar community network. Let’s take a look at some of the trends for 2020.
Shared energy storage
The popularity of solar power has led to an increase in solar batteries. Without a battery, unused energy produced by a private home system is fed into the grid for redistribution. The same applies to a solar community network. Similarly, at times when your home needs more electricity than your solar panels are producing, you can draw power from the grid. Adding a battery to your home solar system — while increasing the upfront costs — allows you to store the excess power you produce for use at a later time. Many large-scale solar farms are beginning to build powerful solar batteries into their plans and we’re likely to see more of this in Australia.
More flexible, innovative solutions
Sharing economy networks have given rise to new forms of business that allow people to share their under-utilised belongings directly with others — such as the property-sharing platform, Airbnb, and car-sharing platform, CarNextDoor. These models can also be applied to energy-sharing. The model allows people to sell any excess solar energy produced by their solar panels to neighbours. For example, this kind of system removes the middle man and allows energy to be produced and distributed locally, which saves everyone money. At Sola.io, we’re your clean energy provider allowing more homeowners to access clean, affordable energy, and the community to invest in green infrastructure. Find out more about how you can join our solar network.
Incentives and rebates
Most government rebates and incentives have been aimed at assisting homeowners to install solar panels on their own property, but we may begin to see some changes that benefit people wanting to set up a community solar project. The Victorian Government now extends a solar incentive to renters, and the Energy Efficient Communities Program supports community organisations with funding towards energy generation and storage. The Australian Government’s Solar programs invested money specifically in local solar projects.
Solar cell technology innovations
Any advances in solar cell technology have also the potential to influence community solar. The recent innovation of perovskite solar cells could make a big difference in how we harness the energy of the sun. These cells have a higher absorption rate, enabling them to be much thinner. Other materials that can be layered in thin films have been developed before, but have never been cheap or efficient enough to make to replace PV solar panels. With their high-efficiency and cheaper production costs, Perovskite technology could change this.
Shared energy initiatives like a solar community network play an important part in the transition to cleaner, renewable energy. Innovations and trends are making it easier for the average Aussie to consider going green. If you’re looking to go solar, connect with our solar consultants to access the most affordable electricity in Australia.
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