Community bulk buy solar project Farming the Sun makes it's first business instillation

HAPPY CUSTOMER: New England Travel director Craig Ritchie with Farming the Sun's Liz Gardiner.
HAPPY CUSTOMER: New England Travel director Craig Ritchie with Farming the Sun's Liz Gardiner.

Crowdfunding, community bulk buys, it’s all the rage these days.

And now, Armidale’s business are getting in on the action with Farming the Sun’s bulk buy solar program installing their first panels on a commercial building on Wednesday.

The community solar project has been running for about seven years and is now taking orders for its fourth bulk buy.

“In this region, only about 15 per cent of homes have solar, so there is a lot of scope for more people to do more,” project coordinator Liz Gardiner said.

“And this is the first office [New England Travel] to install through the bulk buy.”

The project claims a saving of between 20 and 33 per cent on normal recommended retail prices.

New England Travel director Craig Ritchie said his office would save about 30 per cent.

“The 30 percent discount was a big factor,” he said.

“But what was surprising was, when I did the numbers on it, I didn't realise how good it would be.

“With the renewable energy certificates and the discount, we’re coming down to it being less than $15,000.

The business is also able to capitalise on the government’s $20,000 small business tax write-off.

“[After we] claim the tax component … we're getting down to about $9,000 in real terms,” he said.

The business also uses almost all its power between 9am and 5pm, saving the need and cost of batteries.

And on the weekends when the business is closed, they make a small profit by feeding power back into the grid.

This [the solar panels] will knock over almost all of our power supply, so we’re going to get out of it [break even] in about 2 years,” Mr Ritchie said.

Residents and businesses interested in taking part in the program can contact Farming the Sun at

The group will then send someone out for a free site inspection and to chat about your energy use before giving you a quote.

I think if businesses and commercial landlord realise [the savings] ... it's a no-brainer.