Haystacks Solar Garden | Community Solar Projects

 

Unable to install solar due to little rooftop space, extreme shade or rental restrictions? The recently developed large-scale solar garden in the Riverina Region, Sydney may be the answer for those who cannot install their own solar.

Known for their ambitious renewable energy targets, the Inner West Sydney Council is inviting city residents to invest in Australia’s first large-scale solar garden initiative. With almost one-third of Aussie’s unable to install solar, the 1MW Haystacks solar array project is offering 333 ‘solar plots’ to locals who do not have the space for solar but want to ‘solar garden.’

What’s a Solar Garden?

Similar to the idea of a community garden, the Haystacks solar garden is an offsite solar farm where anyone can purchase a ‘solar plot.’ Each ‘solar plot’ offers a 3kW solar PV system that can be used to generate clean energy and reduce your power bill.

Why Create a Garden?

Renters, tenants and urban apartment residents seem to be locked behind a solar barrier. For anyone who essentially isn’t a boomer, access to solar benefits and savings is basically non-existent. According to Councillor Anna York, 84% of Inner West residents live in either rentals or apartments, therefore making the majority of the region ineligible for solar.

The Haystacks solar array presents an innovative opportunity for solar equality across the Riverina Region. The four hectares of offsite solar means that more residents can easily save on their power bills. As the solar isn’t tied to residential properties the initiative also helps to support small-scale clean energy retailers and rural businesses.Solar Garden

The History of Solar Gardening

Solar Gardening isn’t a completely new concept. By 2018 over 200MW solar gardens had been effectively developed in the US, providing apartment dwellers, low-income housing tenants and renters access to solar.

Solar Gardening in Australia, however, has been slightly slower off the bat. The first funds for a solar garden initiative were received in 2018 from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA). The solar grant of $240,000 was added to the already half a million-dollar project run by the University of Technology Sydney.

But What About the Recent Threats of Solar Surges?

Grid congestion and solar power surges have recently pushed SA and WA to make some fundamental changes to how they approach solar. Large question marks have been drawn over large-scale solar projects as grid instability issues continue to wreak havoc in the renewable energy sector.

Small-scale utility solar, however, is booming better than before. Projects that fall under the 5MW mark, such as the Haystacks Garden, can fly undetected in the current solar congestion debacle- making them still a safe bet as an energy solution.

How do I Become a Member of the Garden?

Have a green thumb? An online information session will run on Wednesday the 9th of September from 5:30-6:30 pm to discuss any questions about the Haystacks Solar Garden. If you are ready to become a member, apply at the Haystacks co-op!

Not in Sydney? Although we can’t connect you to a solar garden, Solar Market can connect you to 3 CEC accredited solar installers within your area to help you get solar installed on your home.

Can’t install solar? You can still save on your energy bills! Check out Solar Markets nifty ‘Compare Energy Providers’ tool and get saving!

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Understanding Batteries

Off-Grid Systems

For some households a battery system can be of great benefit and minimise a home’s reliance on the grid. However, it’s important to understand for a battery to be useful your solar system needs to be generating excess energy for the battery to store, which you can then use at night or when the sun is not out.

When selecting a battery, you’ll want to invest in a system that is most suited to your home and can drive the best return on investment (ROI). Despite a larger upfront cost, a higher quality battery may significantly increase your ROI.

    Battery systems start from $6,000 and costs can vary greatly based on the following factors:

  1. Cycle Life-Time

    The number of times a battery can fully charge and discharge.

  2. Battery Power (kW)

    How fast it can be charged or discharged.

  3. Storage Capacity (kWh)

    The maximum amount of energy a battery system can store.

  4. Battery Management System (BMS)

    An electronic ‘smart’ system that gathers data and manages the battery ensuring it does not overload or operate outside of its safe functioning zone..

  5. Inverter

    Battery systems require their own inverter if your solar system does not have a hybrid inverter.

  6. 'All-In-One Unit’

    A system which includes the battery, BMS and an inverter all in one unit.

  7. Warranty

    Length of time or cycles the battery system is under guarantee.

  8. Blackout Protection/Backup

    It’s important to note this is not a common feature of a battery system and could cost thousands of dollars to include. Blackout protection not only requires additional components but also a specialised installation and rewiring. For grid-connected homes, the cost for blackout protection can outweigh the benefit.

Additionally, if your purpose for adding battery is to go Off-Grid and become completely independent from the grid you will need to ensure your solar system can generate enough energy to power your home and your battery system is large enough to store this energy. For homes in metro areas going Off-grid is not cost effective and is only recommended for those in remote areas with limited access to the grid. Off-grid solar systems with battery start at approximately $30,000.
 

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