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Enova Community Energy delivers Australia’s first solar garden!

Katherine Bugden

Enova Community Energy are incredibly proud to announce that we have launched Australia’s first solar garden!

An initiative and innovation that has been made possible by our amazing customers and Community Partnerships.


Community members and partners helped make this Solar Garden a reality!

The North Coast Community Housing (NCCH) Solar Garden is a true community energy initiative, with funding coming from hundreds of community members through contribution programs, combining with our Community Partnerships to invest in a positive social and environmental project.

While other solar garden models require solar gardeners to invest, the NCCH Solar Garden is fully funded thanks to Enova’s customer's contribution to its Renewable Development Initiative (RDI), NCCH, Splendour in the Grass 'Green Offset’ program, and COREM.

This ‘Solar Garden’ is a 35kW solar array situated on the roof of NCCH’s administrative building in Lismore. As an Enova customer, NCCH purchases the electricity produced by the array for use onsite. Funds generated from the sale of that solar energy are divided between 24 ‘Solar Gardeners’ - 19 NCCH tenants and four community groups: The Caldera Environment Center, Mullumbimby CWA, Marine Rescue Brunswick, and Federal Tennis Club.

The solar gardeners receive a monthly or quarterly credit on their Enova electricity bill. As with home solar arrays, the discount amount depends on the weather and NCCH’s electricity use. To incentivise energy use while the sun is shining, NCCH receives a discount on the electricity they use from the array.

Over its 20-year life span, the project will save approximately $160,000 for the solar gardeners and NCCH.


Innovations like Solar Gardens support Enova’s long-term vision

Enova Community Energy Chair, Alison Crook, said the distribution of new locally generated renewable energy is key to Enova’s vision of building resilient communities and this solar garden is a key milestone for Enova. “Overcoming regulatory and system barriers has been a huge aspect of this project and 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,” said Alison.

North Coast Community Housing CEO John McKenna said social housing tenants have for the most part been unable to access the benefits of solar. “Hosting this solar garden generates real and immediate impacts. Financial relief for tenants and funds that NCCH would otherwise have spent on electricity bills, recirculated back into our work.”

Enova Community Energy CEO, Felicity Stening said, “Creating the first solar garden in this country truly marks a turning point. This is taking local, distributed renewable energy right back to where it belongs: with the people in communities. This project provides the proof-of-concept that will inform our future solar gardens. 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.”


More Solar Gardens to come in 2020!

The NCCH garden is a social model. In addition to this development, Enova is working to deliver its first commercial model solar garden in 2020, which solar gardeners can buy into providing access to the benefits of solar for all.

You can read more about the different models and register your interest in becoming a solar gardener or even a garden host here.



More about the Funding partners:

Enova Community Energy
Enova is Australia’s first community-owned energy retailer, formed as a social enterprise to reduce carbon emissions and facilitate the transition to a renewable energy future, by building sustainable and resilient communities, where renewable energy is accessible by all.

Enova customers have had the option to make a small additional contribution on their electricity bill toward renewable energy initiatives. This program is known as the Renewable Development Initiative. The NCCH solar garden is the first community-owned renewable energy initiative to receive funding from Enova's RDI. It’s effectively Enova’s customers who have directly contributed to making this solar garden happen.

North Coast Community Housing
North Coast Community Housing Company Ltd (NCCH) is a not-for-profit company managing long-term social and affordable housing for people with special needs and residents with low and moderate incomes in the far North Coast region of New South Wales in Australia.

The Company is the largest Community Housing provider in this region. NCCH currently manages more than 900 properties across the far North Coast of NSW and 950 tenancies. NCCH is a financial and project partner contributor to this project.

Splendour in the Grass
Splendour in the Grass runs a Green Offset Program which invites festival patrons to purchase an additional offset as part of their festival ticket. These funds are pooled and provided to a sustainability initiative. The Green Offset supports long-term sustainable solutions that are socially-energising, within the Northern Rivers region of NSW. It has teamed up with Enova Energy and COREM to help fund innovative climate initiatives and has provided significant funding toward the NCCH solar garden.

COREM delivers renewable energy projects, with the rewards of cleaner and cheaper energy flowing directly to the community. COREM (Community-Owned Renewable Energy Mullumbimby) is a volunteer not-for-profit association and has been in operation since 2015. Our goal is to help transition the Byron Shire to 100% renewable energy with community-owned energy models.

COREM works on innovative projects that make switching to renewable energy easier, cheaper and more socially-energising. We remove obstacles that stand in the way, across many aspects of the renewable energy system.



9 responses

  1. I do love what you have done. Like to see more of it. Where is the set up? I'm glad we decided to be a part of it.

  2. So its a batch of panels installed on a business's roof for them to use the power generated and the money from the business's power bills goes to the private citizens who paid for the purchase of the panels - is that it?
    Why is it called a "garden"?

    1. Hi Anthony, thanks for your comment. In this solar garden, which is a social model, the people receiving the financial benefits of the solar panels are social housing tenants and they participate at no cost. The host organisation buys the renewable energy generated and that money is then distributed to the social housing tenants who are solar gardeners (participants). It's a solar garden as opposed to a solar farm because the beneficiaries are signed up to participate so the benefits of the solar panels are distributed locally. A solar farm on the other hand allows solar energy to be sold into the grid. A commercial solar garden will distribute the financial benefits to members of the solar garden who have purchased panels in the garden.

  3. Brilliant idea!

    If you're looking for your next project, Wollongong council might be a good bet - they've signed the global covenant of Mayors and are keen on going net-zero emissions by 2030.

    I'm just a resident but would be keen to see more panels in my area, especially if you put them on commercial/industrial buildings 🙂

    1. Hi Ryan, thanks for your message. We'll pass on your feedback to the solar gardens team. Kind regards!

  4. Heard about this program on the Science Show podcast. Have left my details to discuss further with someone (hopefully soon).

    1. Hi Veronica, thanks for your feedback, We'll ensure one of our team responds to you. 🙂

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