By SOOFIA TARIQ
A new community project could see Inner West Residents who were previously unable to have solar panels, reap renewable rewards.
The Haystacks Solar Garden will be Australia’s first large scale solar garden. It is a project between the Community Power Agency and community energy provider Pingala, who previously organised the solar panel project at Young Henrys Brewery in Newtown.
Kristy Walters, community engagement manager at the Community Power Agency, said of the project, “it’s a fairly large scale and we’re really excited because it’s an innovative way, a new way, of doing community energy in Australia and people who were previously locked out of the solar revolution because they didn’t own their own home, or because they were renters, or lived in an apartment or have a shady roof, now they can be a part of it and join in the transition to clean energy.”
The Inner West Council has supported the project and ‘is encouraging Inner West residents who are unable to install solar panels invest in the garden.
The garden will be located in the NSW Riverina region and will sell energy produced to the grid, the sale and credits of which will be divided among investors, following a cooperative ownership model.
Ms. Walters says, “it kind of works like a community garden.”
“You want to grow veggies in your own place but maybe there’s limited time and you don’t have a backyard, then you buy a plot in a community garden in your suburb. So the same way if you want the benefit of solar, but you can’t put solar on your rooftop, you can buy a solar plot in the solar garden and then you get the benefits there was it onto your electricity bill”.
The project has been awarded a grant from the NSW Regional Community Energy Fund early this year.
Renewable energy is quickly becoming cheaper, with solar power being the most common and easiest source of renewable electricity.
“The folks that become members of the solar garden Co-op will get savings on their electricity bill every year for the last of the project, which is around 10 years,” said Kristy Walters.
Newtown state MP Jenny Leong has also voiced her support for the project stating “Solar power is now the cheapest source of electricity in human history. It can bring down power prices, provide reliable energy at peak times, and most importantly is one of the key solutions to climate change.”
“Projects like community solar gardens mean that even renters can cut their energy bills by making the switch to solar – meaning that air conditioners can be powered with 100% renewable energy during the hot summer months”, said the Greens MP.
The project is expecting to begin construction early next year and be producing electricity by August 2021.