A rose by any other name: Haystacks Solar Garden in full bloom


The 1.5 MW Haystacks Solar Garden on the outskirts of Grong Grong, about 20 kilometres east of Narrandera in southwest New South Wales (NSW), has reached operational status with 175 solar ‘gardeners’ from across the National Electricity Market (NEM) purchasing all of the power plant’s 3 kW ‘plots.’

The solar gardeners, located in South Australia, Victoria, NSW, and Queensland, have purchased virtual plots in the solar farm for a one-off payment of $4,200 per 3 kW allotment and will now receive a $300-$400 credit off their annual electricity bill (at approximately 7-10 cents per kWh) for the next decade.

Nigel Hancock, treasurer of community energy group Pingala which is one of the project partners behind the Haystacks Solar Farm, said the development has allowed people unable to invest in their own rooftop PV systems, such as renters and apartment dwellers, to enjoy the benefits of solar.

“Despite the massive uptake of rooftop solar in Australia, there are still countless individuals in our communities who lack access to the benefits of solar energy,” he said. “Haystacks Solar Garden serves as a template of success, paving the way for more solar gardens to follow and ensuring that more people can share in the solar revolution.”

Haystacks Solar Garden Project Manager Kim Mallee said delivering the asset had not been a simple task and had highlighted some of the flaws in Australia’s energy transition.

Mallee acknowledged Australia’s rollout of “rooftop and commercial and mega, industrial scale solar,” but pointed out that many Australians are still unable to invest directly into renewables.

“The energy transition obviously really needs to be fast and fair [but] we need so many different ways of doing things,” she said.

“Haystacks Solar Garden has pioneered a new community-focused way of doing clean energy.”

“It’s taken us four years … but now we’ve got it. We’ve got proof of concept, and every retailer or developer that wants to see how it works in Australia, knows it can be done.”

Solar gardeners will attend an official launch at the Haystacks Solar Garden on 27 April, 2024.The Haystacks project was developed in partnership with community solar developer Komo Energy, Pingala, advocacy organisation Community Power Agency, and funded in part by the NSW government’s Regional Community Energy Fund.

Mallee said the project has teamed with electricity retailer Energy Locals, ensuring that ‘gardeners’ can be located wherever Energy Locals has a retailing licence.

Jean Hay, one of those who have purchased a plot in the Haystacks Solar Garden, said the project is making history for the access it gives people unable to otherwise participate in the decarbonisation of Australia.

“I’m a renter, I live in a unit and my partner and I are both in our 80s. We deeply care about equity in the shift to clean energy and this is a way of making the benefits of renewables accessible to all,” she said.

The Haystacks Solar Garden will be officially launched with a celebration at Grong Grong on 27 April 2024.

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