Solar gardens

Access solar - sunny roof not required

It's time to Go Solar for:

  • Renters
  • Apartment owners
  • Households with an unsuitable roof for solar panels

With a solar garden, any energy customer can participate in and benefit from solar energy without putting panels on their roof.

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.

Council has since supported the promotion of Australia's first large scale solar garden, the Haystacks solar garden, to Inner West residents. See below for further details.

Following the completion of this project, Council is pleased to see the 2024 co-funding commitment announcement from the Commonwealth and NSW Governments to support a wider rollout of solar gardens in NSW. 

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 1.5MW solar farm in the Riverina region of Southern NSW has been developed by Komo Energy to supply Haystacks Solar Garden Co-operative plot holders with the equivalent solar energy of a 3kW rooftop solar system. 

The Haystacks Solar Garden Co-operative is 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. Additional crowd funding campaigns secured $580,000 in extra funding from 298 investors in mid 2022. These investors will receive a financial return rather than a electricity retail bill credit.

For further information listen to ABC Sydney 702 interview with Craig Reucassel and Haystacks Solar Garden Co-operative Chair- Kristy Walters

Project Knowledge Sharing Report

To coincide with the project completion in March 2024, the Haystacks team published a comprehensive knowledge sharing report. The report covers the background of solar gardens, the Haystacks solar garden model, the legal architecture, financial and technical features and policy recommendations for the future of solar gardens.

View the Haystacks Solar Garden Knowledge Sharing report

Subscribe to the Haystacks newsletter for regular updates.

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 big is the 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 solar garden plots are $4,200 each - which is equivalent to a 3kW rooftop solar system.  

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 remain resident of NSW.

What is an on-bill credit and 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?

The estimated on bill credit from participating retailer Energy Locals is $505 per year for 10 years as an on-bill credit for solar gardeners. This is based on an equivalent feed in tariff of 12c per kWh

Who is the electricity retailer and do I have to change retailers?

The original electricity retailer project partner, announced in October 2020, was Enova Community Energy. Enova ceased operating in mid 2022 and was replaced by Energy Locals as the participating retailer. Energy Locals are Australian 100% based and operated, providing individuals, small businesses, and larger commercial enterprises with clean, reliable, and cost-effective energy.

Project members/solar gardeners will need to switch to Energy Locals if it is different to their current provider. Over time there may be multiple retailers to choose from, but to start off there will be 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. 

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.

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 totalling 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.


View online information session recording

Council hosted an October 2020 webinar for potential Inner West solar gardeners on how to become involved in an exciting community energy project that will deliver Australia's largest solar garden in 2021 

View webinar recording and supporting resources 

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.

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Page last updated: 11 Apr 2024