Great news.

Construction of the Newstead Solar Farm is under way and will be completed in the first quarter of 2024.

Households in Newstead will be able to sign up to source their electricity from the farm next year.*

What you can see happening now

Solar tracking systems are going in.

Solar panels will be installed next.

What’s yet to happen

Battery to be installed and connected

Power line to be extended from the Pyrenees Highway to the site

Panels to be connected. (Underground wiring will mean sheep can graze beneath the panels.)

Watch out for two key next steps in the first half of next year. They are:

Guide to electricity retailers

A new guide will help you check if your electricity provider or retailer is helping or harming the planet.

RN's partner Flow Power, who will retail electricity from our planned solar farm near Newstead, is not listed. Yet. That's because they haven't started retailing electricity to households in Victoria yet. We're expecting an announcement on that soon.

Meantime, check if your electricity retailer/biller makes it to the Top 10 'green' retailers here.

You can also watch this clip about the guide here

Have you been to Streaky Bay in South Australia recently?

There you’ll see a small-scale solar farm (3.10MW) that's slightly smaller than ours is planned to be (5MW in two stages).

It’s owned by the same company, Flow Power, that will build, own and operate our solar farm. The Streaky Bay solar farm supplies power mostly to South Australia’s Western Eyre Peninsula.

Our solar farm will be developed in two stages, each of 2.5MW and each with a 2MW battery.

Stage 1 is expected to over about eight hectares. The solar panels will cover about 35per cent of this area. Their size and dimensions are yet to be finalised.

The panels will track the sun from east to west each day and will be recyclable. They will be in rows 80-100 metres long with enough space between rows to allow access and to avoid significant inter-row shading.

A same sized second stage is planned and will go ahead is there is successful uptake of the first.stage.

Subscribe to our newsletter here for updates on the final design as soon as it becomes available.

Image: Approximate view of the revised farm layout

Our refined plan will reduce the farm's energy producing capacity to 5MW, down from 9MW.

Formal comments and objections to RN's planning application to the Victorian Planning Minister closed in late September.

Three factors have influenced RN's decision to refine its plan.

  • Response from our community (two objections and one comment)
  • Response from referral authorities including the CFA.
  • Feedback from the energy industry around current connection issues which indicates that for our ambitions (to supply Newstead or at least all of the 3462 postcode with renewable energy) 5MW is the optimal size.

View the submitted amended plan for a 5MW solar farm here from 26 October 2020.

Two vital steps in Newstead’s bid to establish a local solar farm to supply our community with renewably-generated electricity are now in motion.

Community organisation, Renewable Newstead, is awaiting the Victorian Planning Minister’s decision whether or not to grant a permit to build the small scale generator after comments and objections on its planning applications closed late last month.

We are also finalising the tender or bid documents that will form our formal call for quotes from companies to build and operate the farm and sell the electricity. It’s likely these will go out nationally in October.

It’s a key time for the project. If and when the permit is granted and the quotes come in, RN will shortlist companies based on key criteria before introducing the shortlisted bidders to the community. More on that process to come, so watch our website and join our mailing list to make sure you’re part of that. 

Meantime, the Department of Planning is assessing our proposal for a solar farm of up to 10MW about 3km west of Newstead at the corner of Captains Gully Rd and Clarke Lane.  The Victorian Minister for Planning will then decide to grant or refuse a permit. 

Since 2015 our team has been working on realising an innovative model for a community solar farm that generates as much clean electricity as Newstead consumes each year (2 – 3 MW).

The model, advised by Energy for the People with funding grants from the Victorian Government, is unique in that it does not require initial community up-front investment and will allow any Newstead business and household the choice to purchase renewable energy from the Newstead Solar Farm by simply switching to the eventual electricity retailer.

Key points about the Renewable Newstead model include:

  • commercially viable, grid connected, small scale solar farm
  • managed by a retail partner for locals to opt in (or not)
  • constructed and managed by a commercial partner
  • day time (renewable) energy use rewarded with cheaper rates

Contact Renewable Newstead.

Project update - Zoom meeting Thursday, Sept 10. 7:25pm for a 7:30pm start

Renewable Newstead is inviting the local community to an update on our project.

Hear about:

  • Brief project summary
  • What’s happening now
  • Next steps

Got any questions ? Here’s your chance to ask them. Thursday Sept 10. 7.30-8.30pm. email us before 5pm on Thursday Sept 10 to request a Zoom link to join the meeting.

ABC - 24 August 2020

Go to this article...

Midland Express - 25 August 2020

Go to this article...

Bendigo Advertiser - 20 August 2020

Go to this article...

Renewable Newstead (RN), the community group behind the innovative plan for a solar farm of up to 10 megawatts (MW), says the planning permit application is a great step towards its goal of delivering affordable and reliable renewable energy to Newstead and surrounds.

“We have applied for a permit to build a solar farm big enough to generate enough electricity for Newstead (2-3MW) plus some extra to make it viable for a commercial partner to build and operate,” RN’s spokesperson Gen Barlow said.

“Our permit, if granted, would allow a solar array of up to 10MW or up to 27, 400 solar photovoltaic panels, though the size is not finalised. The panels will track the sun.

“We have been working towards this for nine years, ever since our community said it wanted to address our energy needs and emissions, and for our volunteer group and our community, this is a very exciting phase.”

The proposed site is the corner of Captains Gully Rd and Clarke Lane, 3km west of Newstead. The panels would cover about 20hectares of the 73hectare site.

This site was chosen from six sites offered by local landowners in response to our call for expressions of interest in leasing land for the farm. The land is currently grazed and will be leased from its owner for 25 years. Grazing can continue.

The solar array will be connected to the current 22kV powerline that runs along the Pyrenees Highway, 500 metres north of the site.

“While the farm plan itself is fairly standard, albeit modest in size, it’s the model for the farm’s operation and retailing the electricity generated by it, that is especially innovative and one that we think will excite the energy industry,” Gen said.

“We believe our model will deliver renewably-sourced electricity at lower prices to all, including renters and people who can’t afford to install solar panels at home, while also
accounting for grid costs. That’s a pretty good trifecta and one we think solves a lot of issues for delivering renewable energy locally.”

“Power distributor Powercor partnered with us to trial a special tariff for Newstead that will help this project deliver.”

It’s expected construction would begin within 12 months of the planning permit being granted.

The planning permit application is open for review and a decision by the Planning Minister is not expected before September 23, 2020.

Renewable Newstead would also welcome any feedback, comment or queries via email at or via our website at

In another key step, Renewable Newstead will this week call for expressions of interest from companies keen to build and operate the generator and retail the electricity it produces.

This will set the stage for a formal call for tenders for these contracts later this year.

Contacts for media
Genevieve Barlow, Renewable Newstead 0427 762633 (available after 1.30pm Thurs & Fri)
Geoff Park, Renewable Newstead, 0418 138 632
For questions about the planning permit application process, Fi Cotter of Energy Forms, 0408 587 095

To start gathering information, the team leading this project is asking Mount Alexander Shire households to complete a survey and will also set up space online at OurSay where people can submit  ideas for helping reach zero net emissions.

  1. Click here to fill in the household survey 

The survey will help the Z-Net MAS project team understand how we as the community of Mount Alexander Shire currently use energy in our homes, how we travel and use water and waste.  According to the Z-Net MAS team, by completing this survey you will provide valuable bottom-up and localised data to help guide  Mount Alexander Shire’s transition.

Please answer the questions in accordance with your ‘typical’ behaviour, rather than your behaviour during COVID-19 restrictions and only one respondee per household. Please share this with local friends, family and neighbours via email and social media, so that we can get a genuine representative sample.

  1. Provide community project ideas (to be released in June)

A collaborative platform called OurSay is being set up to harvest community climate action ideas and projects. This platform will include existing ideas from the Shire’s Climate Change Forum and will be open for all community members to add new ideas and vote on their priorities.

A community steering group has been established to guide the program in this first phase.

The program is being led by Renew in collaboration with the community. Renew led the Hepburn Z-NET program which was developed as an open-source model and all of the developed resources are being shared for the Mount Alexander Shire program.

Partial funding for this program has been secured from Sustainability Victoria under the Zero Carbon Community Transition Program and Mount Alexander Shire Council.

Renewable Newstead is holding our first online community meeting and you are invited!

The online community meeting will update the people of Newstead and its immediate surrounds about the site we’ve chosen for the town’s proposed small scale solar farm and the next steps we’ll now need to take.

The online community meeting/webinar is on Wednesday July 1 at 7pm and is open to all locals. To attend you’ll need to register. Details about how to register are further below.

During the webinar you’ll find out why the site was chosen, what the farm will look like, how the solar panels will track the sun and where you can read Renewable Newstead’s application for a planning permit for the solar farm.

That application is detailed. It includes the proposed set-back or buffer areas between the farm and roads and assessments of the farm’s impact on agriculture, heritage, flora and fauna, the landscape, aviation and other aspects.

That application is now before the Victorian Planning Minister who is the responsible authority for granting planning permits for renewable energy facilities bigger than 1 megawatt. (This is not a local Mount Alexander Shire Council decision.)

We’ve decided to hold a webinar in place of a community meeting. We would have had to limit the numbers attending a community meeting to 50 people under current COVID-19 restrictions across the state. This way we can cater for more.

The proposed site is a 20hectare block on the corner of Clarke’s Lane and Captain Gully Rd, just 3km west of town.

Owner Alan Petersen currently uses it to graze sheep and offered the land for lease in response to Renewable Newstead’s call out to landowners keen to make space for the farm.

We are so grateful for the offers we had. After many studies which consider access to roads, powerlines, topography and other factors, we have settled on this site.

This is a significant step for our Renewable Newstead volunteer team as we work towards achieving our community’s goal of sourcing renewable energy locally and in a way that everyone, regardless of their roof suitability, income or tenancy status, can access.

We are keen for as many people as possible to join our online community meeting/webinar  where questions will be welcome at the end.

It’s a great way to tune in to Renewable Newstead’s project progress. We know that not everyone has access to a computer and/or the internet at all times. So a few of us will also be at the Newstead Transaction Centre on Thursday July 2, Monday July 6 and again on Thursday July 9 from 9am to 12pm to answer any queries you might have.