Enova joins Australia’s biggest “solar garden” as community retailer

The Haystacks Solar Garden community solar project has received a boost, securing a partnership with electricity retailer Enova Energy to help deliver the benefits of a co-operatively owned solar farm for households.

The Haystacks project has been established as a joint initiative between Pingala, Community Power Agency and Komo Energy, and is being supported by the NSW government under the Regional Community Energy Program.

The project will see a 1MW solar farm built in Grong Grong in the Riverina of NSW, and Enova Energy has now joined the project as a partner, and will facilitate the payment of ‘solar credits’ to participants in the form of a credit on their electricity bills.

“To create the change we want to see in the energy industry in Australia and to bring control of energy back into the hands of communities, we must collaborate and synthesise the solutions,” Enova Energy CEO Felicity Stening said. “Haystacks is a perfect example of the right organisations, people and resources coming together to build a new solution whose time has come in this country.”

“For Enova this project demonstrates our commitment to community energy and to solar for all. It also shows the crucial role of an electricity retailer in enabling distributed energy initiatives to come to life.”

Stening added that the community energy project would open up the ability for more households, previously locked out of the market for rooftop solar, to benefit from cheaper power.

“For everyone who wants solar on their roof but can’t because they’re a renter, live in an apartment or don’t have an appropriate sunny roof – this project provides a solution,” Stening said.

The Haystacks Solar Garden project is offering the opportunity for participants to effectively secure a 3kW ‘plot’ in the larger project, with the cost of plots expected to range between $4,000 – $4,200.

Participants will be required to become customers of Enova Energy, which will allow the participants to receive ‘solar credits’ against their electricity costs, drawn from revenues generated by the community solar farm.

The ownership model has been based on a range of research into how ‘solar gardens’ can be established, that allow more people to join together and benefit from solar power, when renting, or living in buildings that cannot have rooftop solar installed directly.

“After years of research and development in the solar garden space, we’re over the moon to now be accepting membership applications for Australia’s first large-scale solar garden!” Haystacks project manager, Kim Mallee, from the Community Power Agency said.

“For this first of its kind project we have 333 solar garden plots available for residents of NSW. We’ve already had over 100 membership applications so we are well on the way to making this project a reality.”

Estimates suggest that as much as 40 per cent of Australian households are locked out of investing in solar power directly, but the community renewables group Pingala says that projects like Solar Gardens can help to breakdown some of the barriers to solar ownership.

“Rising energy costs, the need to decarbonise our economy and a desire to allow more people to participate in the renewables revolution are the driving factors for creating the Haystacks Solar Garden,” Pingala’s April Crawford-Smith said.

“We are creating a unique ownership model with the inception of this community-owned cooperative. Hundreds of NSW residents can purchase a plot and become solar gardeners, receiving a reduction on their electricity bill and ensuring the economic benefits of this solar project stay with its members.”

The Haystacks Solar Garden project is currently seeking to negotiate a power purchase agreement with an off-taker for the electricity produced by the project.

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