Frequently asked questions

What is Renewable Newstead?

Renewable Newstead is a project to supply Newstead with 100 per cent renewable energy, i.e. energy that’s generated from non-fossil fuels.

Since 2015 the RN team have 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).

You can view the report and business model here.

This project is being developed and managed by volunteers of Newstead 2021 Inc.

Why is a 10MW farm proposed when Newstead needs just 2-3MW to supply its needs?

A 2-3MW solar farm would be commercially unviable and therefore an unattractive proposition for a company to build and operate. The extra generation capacity offers scope for profit and means we can attract companies with expertise in building and operating solar farms to take on this risk rather than burdening our community with this risk.

How will the energy be generated?

Energy from Newstead’s solar farm will be fed into the grid from a solar array of up to 10MW. This is up to 27, 400 solar photovoltaic panels, tracking the sun, connected to the current 22kV powerline that runs along the Pyrenees Highway, 500 metres north of the site.

Where will the solar farm be?

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.

Why was this site selected?

RN issued a call for expressions of interest in April 2019 from local landholders keen to lease land for the solar farm.

This site was selected from a shortlist because it’s close to the 22KV powerline, the land is relatively flat and there were no prohibitive planning overlays.

The land can continue to be grazed when the solar farm is constructed and operating.

The land owner has committed to hosting the solar farm via a letter of intent.

Were the neighbours consulted?

Neighbours within 2km of the proposed site were consulted personally.

What happens when the sun doesn’t shine? Will Newstead still have electricity?

The model is grid-connected, maximizing commercial viability and back up security and makes more energy available at no extra cost. The grid is socially important supplying services to all but is especially important for the socially vulnerable who may not be able to afford to opt out.

Do locals need to invest in the solar farm?

The model for the Newstead Community Solar Farm does not require community investment.

It allows for a commercial entity to build and operate the solar farm.

The model will deliver community benefit, not through capital returns to those who can afford to invest, but through lower power prices for all.

Where does the project stand now?

Renewable Newstead’s application for a planning permit to build a small-scale solar farm to supply our community with renewable energy is on public display until 23 September 2020. You can view the planning application here. A hard copy is on display at the Newstead Rural Transaction Centre. Check hours of operation during Covid-19 restrictions.

You are able to comment, offer feedback and object formally via the Planning Department website.  New state laws, introduced in September last year, named the Planning Minister as the responsible authority for all renewable energy facilities and associated utility infrastructure above 1MW (generation capacity).  The Victorian Government did this to “reduce burden on councils and provide for consistent decision-making”.

What happens if not enough locals sign up to buy the electricity from the solar farm?

Under a trial distribution tariff (for using the poles & wires in the electricity grid) offered by Powercor, the solar farm’s electricity retailer needs to sign up at least half the residential premises in the 3462 postcode to be customers and buy electricity from the Newstead solar farm in the first 12 months of operation. If more than half do so, then the tariff will continue. If this doesn’t happen and, say, we get 25 per cent, then it will be up to the retailer to decide what to do. It could sell more power from our farm into other areas. We at RN think the electricity prices will be competitive enough to attract enough customers to easily meet Powercor’s requirements.

What about storing power in batteries. Will Newstead do that?

At this point, battery storage is not expected on the site.

What is the electricity grid?

The electricity grid is a term typically used to describe the three main players involved in the supply of electricity; generators (wind, sun, gas, coal), distributors or transmitters (poles and wires), and retailers (buy wholesale electricity and then sell it to us).

How do I sign up to the Renewable Newstead Solar Farm?

When operational, the solar farm will have a retailer that customers will sign up to.

How will Newstead households be affected by this project?

Newstead business and households will have the choice to purchase renewable energy from the Newstead Solar Farm by simply switching to the eventual power retailer partner.

What are the next steps?

Planning Application: Decision will not be made before 23 September 2020.

Project Partners: September 2020 RN will call for expressions of interest from companies keen to build and operate the generator and retail the electricity it produces.

Construction: Within 12 months of approved planning application – taking up to 9 months.

Operation and Retail: By project partners after construction is complete.

How can I get involved?

Monthly meetings are open to the community. Contact RN here.

But I’m happy with my current supply. Why would I bother to switch?

Sign-up is optional.

Under a trial distribution tariff (for using the poles & wires in the electricity grid) offered by Powercor, the solar farm’s electricity retailer needs to sign up at least half the residential premises in the 3462 postcode to be customers and buy electricity from the Newstead solar farm in the first 12 months of operation. If more than half do so, then the tariff will continue. If this doesn’t happen and, say, we get 25 per cent, then it will be up to the retailer to decide what to do. It could sell more power from our farm into other areas. We at RN think the electricity prices will be competitive enough to attract enough customers to easily meet Powercor’s requirements.

How will Newstead businesses be affected?

Newstead business and households will have the choice to purchase renewable energy from the Newstead Solar Farm by simply switching to the eventual power retailer partner.

I’m planning to install solar on my roof soon. Should I wait to see RN’s proposal before I take action?

The model ensures everyone can participate and benefit equally, regardless of whether their rooftop is suitable for solar or not.

Got further questions?

Click here to email your question/s to Renewable Newstead or call Gen Barlow at Renewable Newstead on 0427 762633.

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