Frequently asked questions

What is Renewable Newstead?

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

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. A $1.1M grant from the Victorian Government in 2018 has helped to bring this project to fruition.

The aim is to have electricity from the local solar farm available to the community by the middle of 2023.

What is the project?

Renewable Newstead aims to supply the local community with 100% green, renewable energy, generated locally and accessible to all, by the middle of 2023.

Where will the solar farm be?

The farm will be built on private land, on the corner of Captains Gully Rd and Clarke Lane, 3km west of Newstead.
The site is on the traditional lands of the Dja Dja Wurrung people. A Cultural Heritage Management Plan has been developed and will guide the care of this country during construction and when it is operating.

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.

The site is on the traditional lands of the Dja Dja Wurrung people. A Cultural Heritage Management Plan has been developed and will guide the care of this country during construction and when it is operating.

What will the solar farm look like?

The 3MW solar farm will have a 5MW (10MWh) Battery Energy Storage System. The project site is 6.2 hectares. The 4,320 photovoltaic panels will track the sun.

A North South aligned single axis tracking system will turn East West to follow the sun and provide maximum energy production. Rows of panels, 6m apart, will be in rows 80-100m long and will be recyclable at the end of life.

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.

Flow Power is licensed to sell electricity to residential customers in Victoria.

RN called for expressions of interest (EOI) 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.

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, Newstead will still have electricity when the sun isn’t shining. 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 use.

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

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

Will the solar farm include on-site batteries?

Yes, the solar farm will have a 5MW (10MWh) Battery Energy Storage System.

When will solar farm construction start?

Construction is scheduled to begin in late 2022!

Who can buy electricity from the Newstead Solar Farm?

In the first instance, the people who can buy electricity from the solar farm will be people in the Newstead area. The pricing framework will offer competitive pricing and extra incentives for residents, businesses and communities in our area.

Buying from the farm will be completely voluntary. Households will be rewarded for using electricity when the sun is shining.

What are the benefits for Newstead locals?

Newstead locals will be able to buy renewable electricity from a local solar farm that is certified Green TM. This means that for every unit of electricity used, the Newstead solar farm will send clean energy into Australia’s grid on behalf of that household.

Flow Power’s offer will reward price efficient energy usage, include smart energy tech for live data access and support Flow Power’s vision to transition Australia’s energy mix to renewable fuel sources.

Where will ‘local’ customer incentives apply?

In the first instance, Renewable Newstead will offer incentives to residents and businesses in and around Newstead including Clydesdale, Green Gully, Guildford, Maldon, Muckleford, Sandon, Strangways, Strathlea, Welshmans Reef, Werona and Yandoit that buy electricity from the Newstead solar farm. Later on, Flow Power are likely to offer an annual program of grants to community groups in the area.

What will these local incentives be?

These are to be finalised. Renewable Newstead is working on a plan to reward local community groups and organisations for every local household and business that signs up to buy electricity from the solar farm.

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

While the farm is being built, the best way to support this community project is to fill out an expression of interest form telling us that you might be interested in buying electricity from the solar farm, once you know more details. Filling out the form doesn’t oblige you to do anything but it lets RN volunteers know the level of interest in the community. Here is form to register your Expression of Interest now!.

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

By mid-2023, we expect that local customers will be able to sign up to buy electricity from the local solar farm. RN will keep the community updated about this but to get the information directly, Register your Expression of Interest now!

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 plus had a big enough battery storage system to cover night time and peak demands, could we say, hand on heart, that the electricity you buy 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?

Households and businesses can choose to buy renewable energy from the Newstead solar farm simply by switching to Flow Power when their offer becomes available.

How do I sign up to be a customer of the Newstead solar farm?

Stay tuned and fill out an expression of interest to find out how. Here is form to register your Expression of Interest now!.

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 the 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 Renewable Newstead on 0403 801 147.