Home solar for everyone, including renters and apartment holders

May 3, 2024 BY

Kristy Walters, Haystacks Solar Garden Co op Chair and Jonathan Prendergast from Komo Energy at the launch last week Photo Credit: Patrick Ronald

There has been a significant uptake of rooftop solar in our communities as we approach 4 million homes with PV installations throughout Australia.

From the initial days of rooftop solar that saw early adopters received 60 cents per kilowatt hour feed-in tariff under the PFit Scheme that ends November this year, to the more modern systems that receive 5 to 15 cents or are battery supported, many people have missed out on the benefits of roof top solar, mainly renters and multi-level apartments owners.

This is about to change as a new initiative by Company Power was launched over the weekend in the small Riverina town of Grong Grong, the first of many Solar Garden projects to roll out around Australia.

The launch of Haystacks Solar Garden allows anyone connected to the electricity grid to access the benefits of solar directly on their electricity bill.

This initiative is especially significant for the 30% of Australians who have been unable to access solar energy due to renting, living in apartments, or facing other barriers to installing rooftop solar panels.Haystacks Project Manager and Community Power Agency Director Kim Mallee said that this is a really big day for the Australian energy sector.

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

“It is a proof of concept for industry, demonstrating that there are many different ways to do solar and share the benefits with everyday people.

“Community energy projects like ours are a critical part of ensuring that the energy transition is both fast and fair.”Haystacks Solar Garden is hosted by the purpose built 1.5MW Grong Grong Solar Farm that completed construction in March and has begun exporting electricity to the grid.

The project works by joining Solar Gardeners 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 in an ideal location for maximum solar generation.

Then each of the cooperative members can purchase a plot and become solar gardeners and electricity retailer takes the electricity generated from the solar garden and provides an on-bill credit on the members’ electricity bills.

According to the Haystacks fact sheet, each of the 333 solar garden plots are 3kW in size with each plot typically generate 4,200 kWh of electricity per year at a once off purchase of $4,200 per 3Kw plot.

In this solar garden model, payment for plots is upfront to contribute to construction costs with the company is also looking at a subscription-based model in the future.

Estimated on-bill credits are $505/year for the 10 year project period on the Haystacks Solar Garden which has been sold out.

Haystacks Solar Garden Co-op Chairperson Kristy Walters said that their incredible project team went above and beyond to pioneer this solar garden model in Australia.

“Haystacks Solar Garden proves that solar can be made accessible for everyone – regardless of where you live or your tenure status, nobody needs to be locked out of benefiting from solar.”

The launch of Haystacks Solar Garden comes just after the recent Commonwealth Government announcement of $30 million towards solar banks and onsite rooftop solar installation – aimed at enhancing solar accessibility for low-income renters and apartment dwellers.

Community Power says that 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.

They emphasise that 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.