Weekly Monday information sessions for potential solar gardeners
Learn how you can become involved in an exciting community energy project that will deliver Australia's largest solar garden in 2021
Date: Mondays September 14, 21, 28 & October 8th, 2020 5:30 -6:30pm
Format: Online zoom presentation, followed by Q&A
Presenters: Kim Mallee & Kristy Walters, Community Power Agency
Webinar Agenda :
- Project overview
- What are the steps to becoming a solar gardener?
- Introduction to the Haystacks Solar Garden Co-operative
- Timeline for Inner West residents to become both Co-operative members and solar gardeners.
Access solar - sunny roof not required
It's time to Go Solar for:
- Apartment owners
- Households with an unsuitable roof for solar panels
Inner West Council supports community energy and is pleased to promote an innovative new solar offering. In 2019 Council funded and worked with the Community Power Agency to research community solar options that are suitable for the Inner West.
With a solar garden, any energy customer can participate in and benefit from solar energy without putting panels on their roof.
What is a solar garden?
Solar gardens work by either installing a solar farm in a sunny location or installing solar panels on the roof of a large energy user. Energy customers or solar gardeners can purchase panels in this solar system upfront and receive a regular credit on their electricity bill.
The solar panels are offsite but the solar gardener can still receive a similar outcome to solar owners.
Haystacks Solar Garden
Australia's first large scale solar garden, a 1MW solar farm in the Riverina region of Southern NSW will be developed by Komo Energy to supply Haystacks Solar Garden Co-operative members with the equivalent solar energy of a 3kW rooftop solar system.
The Haystacks Solar Garden Co-operative will be administered by local Community Energy group Pingala with member recruitment and project management assistance from the Community Power Agency. The project has received grant funding from the NSW Government's Regional Community Energy Fund to develop the innovative community ownership solar garden model.
There are two streams to make the Haystacks Solar Garden a reality – the Solar Co-operative and the Solar Farm. This image maps out the tasks for each phase and the rough timeline.
Haystacks Solar Garden FAQs
Why the name Haystacks?
This region of the Riverina has been known for its quality hay and majestic thatched haystacks for over a century. Hay is the original source of fuel or energy grown and used by farmers and indeed any industry that relied on horses and bullocks for haulage and transport. It is a fitting name for a solar farm that is growing clean 21st century energy.
Plus a haystack is made strong by the sum of its parts in the same way the members will come together to collectively to own a solar garden.
What is a solar garden?
Just like you would purchase a plot in a local community garden, if you can’t grow veggies at your home, you can purchase a plot in a community-owned solar array off site if you can’t have solar panels at home.
How will it work?
By joining interested residents together in a solar cooperative with many others who also want solar but can’t install it on their roof. Once there are enough people in the cooperative, a solar array is built off site in an ideal location for maximum solar generation.
Then each of the cooperative members can purchase a plot and become solar gardeners. An electricity retailer partner takes the electricity generated from the solar garden and provides an on-bill credit on the members’ electricity bills.
This is what makes a Solar Garden so different.
How do I get involved?
First you need to become a member of the Haystacks Solar Garden Co-operative (the Co-op) and spread the word. You can register your interest in becoming a member via the website:
The more members and interest there is, the more likely a good deal can be negotiated with an electricity retailer. Once the retailer agreement is finalised, members will be asked if they would like to buy a plot of the solar garden.
For this project to take off 399 members are needed to join the cooperative. Note: More members are needed than plots available in case not all members are not able to purchase a plot in the solar garden when the time comes in October 2020. If over-subscribed, it is hoped that more solar gardens will be created in the future to participate in.
How big is the proposed solar array?
The proposed solar array in Grong Grong will be 1.5 megawatts which is enough to power about 450 homes. It will cover around 3-4 hectares on the Meier Farms property. 1 megawatt will be for the Haystacks Solar Garden.
What size are the plots in the solar garden?
Each plot in the solar garden will be the same size – at 3kW. That means for the 1 megawatts solar garden we will have about 333 plots of 3kw.
Each plot will typically generate 4,200 kWh of electricity per year.
How much do the plots cost?
The final details of how much each plot will cost are not available yet, as the project developers are still completing development preparations and approvals as well as confirming the components for the solar array.
However we expect it will be within the range of a rooftop solar system, which for a 3kw system is around $4200.
A series of workshops is planned for October 2020, so that Haystacks Solar Garden Co-op members can review these details in the project prospectus.
Why should I become a solar gardener?
Becoming a solar gardener means you are enabling more renewable energy to be built, supporting regional economies as the benefits of this project stay local, rather than going to foreign shareholders and decentralising our electricity system helping to make our grid more resilient.
Your personal benefits include receiving an on-bill credit making your electricity bills cheaper, and also unlike rooftop solar if you move your solar moves with you. The only condition is that you need to stay with a participating electricity retailer when you move and a resident of NSW.
Who will own the solar garden?
It will be a community-owned solar garden – anyone who becomes a member of the Haystacks Solar Garden Cooperative will be an owner of the solar garden. This ensures that the revenue generated from the solar garden stays within the local economy. The Cooperative will pay Meier Farms an annual fee to host the solar garden on their land.
What is an on-bill credit & how does it get paid?
The on-bill credits are the technical term for a dollar amount that will be on your electricity bill. It will discount the total amount you need to pay for electricity, reducing your bill.
What's the expected return/savings?
This will depend a lot on the agreement with the retailer, the energy market and the construction of the solar garden. It will also depend on how long the Solar Gardener stays in the Co-operative, the longer they are involved the better the returns. Exact returns will be disclosed when a solar plot is offered to members in October/November 2020.
Who is the electricity retailer & do I have to change retailers?
Once there are enough members in the Haystacks Solar Garden Cooperative, the project managers Community Power Agency and Pingala Community Energy will be able to negotiate a fair deal with an electricity retailer to provide the on-bill credits to members. They are in conversations with a number of retailers discussing what arrangements will work out for both parties.
When the retailer is confirmed as a partner by October 1, 2020, project members/solar gardeners will need to switch to that retailer if it is different to their current provider. Over time there may be multiple retailers to choose from, but to start off there will an agreement with one.
This will enable you to receive an electricity bill with your credit from your plot in the solar garden itemised next to your electricity usage.
Can organisations or businesses buy a plot?
A non-profit can become a member of the Co-op if they pay an electricity bill in their name and then receive the on bill credits just like an individual member will. However one person will need to be nominated as the representative in the co-op. Memberships of the solar garden are only offered to households and non-profit organisations.
Where is the solar garden?
A Development Application has been submitted for the proposed solar array to be built on a farm in the locality of Grong Grong, east of Narrandera in the Riverina of NSW.
This location was chosen due to the relationship with the farmers, who are keen supporters of community-owned renewables. Importantly, it is close to the electricity distribution lines -meaning the connection to the grid is relatively straight-forward.
Why a Co-operative?
Co-operatives are people centred organisations that are owned, controlled and used by their members. A co-operative’s main purpose is to benefit its members. In this instance the main benefit will be reduced electricity bills to the Haystacks Solar Garden Co-op members.
Co-operatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. A co-operative has been chosen as the business model to own and operate the solar farm so that the community can own the Haystacks Solar Garden through participation, engagement and investment, ensuring that the benefits remain local over the long term.
How do I join?
To become a member visit the Haystacks Solar Garden website and complete the membership application form. You will also be able to download the Haystacks Co-Op rules and Disclosure Statement.
What if I move interstate?
Initially the Haystacks Solar Garden is only available for NSW residents. If you move to another state where the participating retailer does not have a retail licence you will be required to sell or transfer your plot to another person. This can either be a person or family member of your choice or can be made available to a waitlist of solar gardeners.
How will preferences for solar plots be decided if oversubscribed?
Riverina residents will have first preference, then those with out solar in other parts of NSW in chronological order of membership application, then those with solar in chronological order of membership application.
What carbon or greenhouse gas emissions outcome do I get from this project?
Haystacks Solar Garden seeks to mimic a 3kW solar system on your roof fully exporting to the grid. As a collection of 3kW plots totaling 1 MW the solar array will be eligible to sell this exported solar energy as certified renewable energy and generate Large Generation Credits (LGC's). As this is not a time of use project for the Haystack members themselves, there will be no carbon offset potential for the members' own energy use at home but it does contribute to the greater transition to renewable energy and significantly in unlocking this new ownership model.