Frequently asked questions

What is Renewable Newstead?

Renewable Newstead is a team of volunteers formed in 2009 in response to our community’s call to investigate establishing a locally-based, renewably-generated source of power or energy.

The RN team comprises volunteers working under the governance of Newstead 2021, an incorporated association.

Since 2015 the RN 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).

We aim to have solar power supplied to our local community from our local solar farm from 2022.

What is the project?

Renewable Newstead aims to supply our local community with renewable energy, generated locally and accessible to all, by 2022.

The Victorian Planning Minister granted a planning permit with conditions for a small-scale solar farm near Newstead in July 2021. RN’s original application was for a 10MW farm. It amended this to 5MW. This reduces the farm’s footprint.

Three factors influenced RN’s decision to do this.

  • 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 with renewable energy, 5MW is the optimal size.

The farm is to be built in two stages.

The first stage will be 2.5MW of installed capacity and be able to generate 5266MWh a year. It will have a 2MW battery.

The second stage will be the same. It will proceed if there is successful uptake of energy generated by the first stage.

Where will the solar farm be?

The proposed site is the corner of Captains Gully Rd and Clarke Lane, 3km west of Newstead and one farming block back from the Pyrenees Highway between Newstead and Maryborough.

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 for a range of factors, including proximity to the grid and the land’s flatness. It is also relatively free of native vegetation and has limited nearby dwellings.

The land is zoned for farming use. It is not considered high value agricultural land. Its use for a renewable energy generation facility was deemed to not impact the viability of surrounding land. Sheep will be able to graze beneath the panels.

What will the solar farm look like?

This will be determined once detailed site plans are finalised.  

Stage 1 is expected to cover about eight hectares, with potential for a same-sized second stage including a second battery, following successful uptake of the first.

The solar panels will take up 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.

You can view images here of the Streaky Bay solar farm, which is similar to the solar farm planned for Newstead.

Who will build, own and operate the solar farm?

Flow Power is partnering with Renewable Newstead on this project.

Flow Power is an Australian company and energy industry leader that generates renewable energy, retails electricity and provides energy and expert energy advice to commercial operators, public authorities and industry peers.

Its major investor is the Canadian Pension Fund, OPTrust.

It is applying for a licence to sell electricity to residential customers in Victoria.

RN called for expressions of Interest nationally from companies and organisations to finance, build, own and operate the farm and retail the electricity it generates. It then followed with a formal request for quote from potential partners identified in the EOI process.

RN selected Flow Power to build, own and operate the farm and to sell the electricity it generates. A Joint Development Agreement has since been developed to work with Flow Power to achieve our goal of generating renewable energy locally for our local community to access at competitive rates.

Flow Power’s other solar farms include Streaky Bay (3MW) and Coonalpyn (4.95MW) in South Australia and it part-owns, with the Shoalhaven community, the Shoalhaven Solar Farm in NSW. Read more about Flow Power here.

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

Yes, the farm is grid-connected so energy can come from elsewhere including the on-site batteries that will store energy generated during the day for night-time dispatch.

All energy supplied by Flow Power will be certified renewable. This includes energy from the Newstead Solar Farm and other sources Flow Power taps.

Being grid-connected maximizes our project’s commercial viability and supply security.

The grid is socially important, supplying electricity to all but it is especially important for those who are unable to afford to go off-grid or who are unable to install solar panels on their homes and businesses.

Will the solar farm include on-site batteries?

Yes. Each stage will include a 2MW battery housed in a shipping container.

What CO2-reducing impact will the Newstead solar farm?

The first stage alone would generate about 5000MWh of pollution-free electricity a year. To generate this, Victoria’s brown coal-fired power station, Yallourn, would emit 6650 tonnes of CO2 (at 1.33tonnes CO2/MWh) . The slightly more efficient Loy Yang power station would emit 5750 tonnes of CO2. Using a Victorian Government ‘cars off the road equivalent’ figure for the Numurkah solar farm, the renewable energy generated by the first stage of Newstead’s solar farm will be equal to taking 2925 combustion engine cars off the road annually.

When will solar farm construction start?

It is expected that construction will begin in mid to late 2022, once contracts are signed in the first half of this year.

Who can buy electricity from the Newstead Solar Farm?

Anyone. Our pricing framework will offer competitive pricing and extra incentives for residents, businesses and communities in our area. Stay tuned for more information on this.

Will electricity from the Newstead Solar Farm be cheaper for locals?

That’s our aim. It’s intended that electricity from the farm will be cheaper than the Victorian Default Offer (VDO). Click here for more information about the VDO.

Where will ‘local’ customer incentives apply?

This is to be finalised. At this stage, incentives are likely to be available to residents and businesses in and around Newstead including Clydesdale, Green Gully, Guildford, Maldon, Muckleford, Sandon, Strangways, Strathlea, Welshmans Reef, Werona and Yandoit. Farms and out-of-town, grid-connected electricity users will be eligible.

What will these local incentives be?

These are to be finalised. We are working on a plan to reward selected local community groups and organisations for every local household and business that sings up to buy electricity from our solar farm through our retailer, Flow Power.

What is the best way to support this community-driven project?

Sign up to buy your Newstead solar farm-generated electricity from our retailer Flow Power. Stay tuned for when this becomes possible. Subscribe to the RN newsletter for updates delivered to your inbox.

When can I switch to buying my electricity through Flow Power?

In the first half of this year. We expect that local customers signing up to become customers will get the ‘Newstead’ price and incentives when construction begins if not before. Stay tuned and watch this space.

If I sign up to buy my electricity from the Newstead solar farm, will my electricity come from there?

Not always. No retailer can say all the energy it sells is guaranteed to be completely from renewable sources if it comes to you from the national electricity grid. Why?

Because electricity is electrons generated in different places and fed into the national grid. Some comes from fossil-fuelled (coal and gas-fired) generators and some comes from renewable-source generators such as wind and solar farms or hydro projects. It all goes into the grid. Just as we can’t unscramble the eggs in an omelet, we can’t draft fossil fuel-generated electrons out of the system. Nor can the grid single out a particular source of supply.

Only if Newstead left the grid and ran its own poles and wires direct from the solar farm to your home or business could we say, hand on heart, that the electricity you buy as Newstead solar farm customers comes only from the farm itself.

Renewable Newstead is a volunteer group and doesn’t have the expertise and resources to run its own mini-grid.

How green will Newstead solar farm electricity be?

Our electricity will be as green as you can get. Here’s how.

When the solar farm or batteries charged by the solar farm are not operating or supplying power (for example at night and when batteries are low), electricity will come from the wider market.

Flow Power will allocate each of our customers an amount of solar generation equal to their total energy consumption. It will ensure that it supplies the sum total of all energy used by customers into the grid from renewable sources.

This is how we and everyone buying electricity from our solar farm will be able to declare their electricity is 100% ‘green’.

How will Newstead households and businesses be affected by this project?

They can choose to buy renewable energy from the Newstead solar farm simply by switching to our electricity retailer Flow Power when their pricing offer becomes available in the first half of 2022.

How do I sign up to be a customer of the Renewable Newstead Solar Farm?

Stay tuned and subscribe to our newsletter to find out how.

I’m happy with my current electricity retailer. Why would I bother to switch?

Sign-up is optional.

Prices will be competitive and there will be added incentives for locals.

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

This is your decision.

However our solar farm ensures everyone in our community can access renewable energy and benefit equally, without having to pay to install solar panels at home and regardless of whether their rooftop is suitable for solar or not. We think that’s a great plus for our community.

How can I get involved and help out on this project?

Subscribe to our RN newsletter. Attend our community updates. Volunteer to help out at RN by contacting us here. Tasks that need doing range from data entry to letter-boxing to helping set up and pack up community events.

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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