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NSW Opens Its First Solar Garden

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Almost 35 per cent of Australians are unable to receive rooftop solar benefits. These are people who might be renters, apartment dwellers, or live on heavily-shaded properties. For the many Australian’s looking to reap the benefits of solar, there is a solution for this, with NSW residents now able to tap into the free energy of the sun.

After many years of development, the Haystacks solar garden was launched at an event at Marrickville library pavilion in Sydney’s inner-west. It enables NSW residents to purchase a plot from the Haystack Solar Garden and receive an estimated $505 credit on their energy bills annually. 

The 1.5 MW solar system is located on a farm paddock in Grong Grong, in the mid-south of NSW. 

The Mission

The mission is to secure 333 solar gardeners for each plot, who will all be members of the Haystacks co-op. Once their $4,200 one-off payment has been collected, the solar farm construction will begin. 

The co-op will build and own the solar project in partnership with other organisations. Every co-op member will get the same return in the form of a dollar amount off their energy bill—from the sale of energy generated on their plot into the grid. 

The members don’t need to pay for the maintenance of the solar array. Instead, a small portion of the money generated from the solar energy sale will go to the upkeep of the solar garden. 

The plots will be on sale until September 30, 2022. If interested, you can participate in the information sessions held throughout September. 

The Haystacks 

The Cooperative Capital Units (CCUs) are used as the legal tool to sell the plots to the co-op members. The solar garden is anticipated to raise $1,398,000 from selling the 333 solar garden plots. That amount will be loaned to the 1.5MW Grong Grong Solar Farm to fund its construction partially. 

The remaining funds for construction will be taken from equity owners of Grong Grong Solar Farm and grant funding from NSW Government Regional Community Energy Fund. 

One solar garden plot is equivalent to a 3kW solar system with an allocated estimated generation of 4,200kWh/year.  Since the solar garden plot will act the same as a rooftop solar panel system, the plot owner is eligible for a Feed-in Tariff (FiT) at 12c/kWh.

Solar Garden: What is it?

A solar garden has the same concept as a community garden. The difference is that a solar garden will not grow to produce; instead, it will generate renewable energy. Those who want to reap the benefits of solar energy, but are unable to install a solar system on their rooftop, can join a Solar Garden and receive the benefits of solar power. 

This is done by joining a solar cooperative with other people who share the same goals. Once enough people are in the co-op, a solar array will be built in an ideal location to generate solar energy. 

This Solar Garden in NSW has partnered with Energy Locals to facilitate the benefits of a solar garden plot. However, they should be a customer of Energy Locals to get the on-bill credits, which are $505 per year. 

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Community Solar Gardens vs. Social Benefit Solar Gardens

Community solar garden models and social benefit solar gardens are two different garden models. The community owns a community solar garden, and it is for the community. Therefore, it is open to local apartment dwellers, renters and small businesses to invest in and have access to energy savings over time. These homeowners don’t need to install solar panels on their roofs. 

In a social benefit model, the gardens are open to charities and low-income households to access solar. Therefore, the gardens are available to these groups at no extra cost. 

The Benefits of Joining a Community Solar Garden

Here are some of the benefits you can get when you join a community solar garden: 

Access to Solar Energy Without Rooftop Installation

You can reap the benefits of solar energy without the need to worry about solar panel installation on your roof with a community solar garden. Therefore, it’s a great choice for renters or apartment dwellers who don’t have access to solar power. 

Enjoy Lower Costs

Buying a plot in a solar garden is more affordable than the upfront costs necessary for rooftop solar PV installation. 

Access Credits Even if You Move Home

You can’t take your rooftop solar panels when you move home. On the other hand, solar gardens’ remote set up mean you can move home and still get access to your solar feed-in tariff.

Maintenance is Taken Care Of

A third-party company manages solar gardens so you don’t need to worry about the maintenance of your solar panels. The company in charge of the garden will take care of it. 

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