In brief: Lismore City Council has approved tenders for what are believed to be the first council-owned and community-funded solar farms in Australia.
The private investment offer was fully subscribed with 10 days of opening, and by the time of formal close, enough applications had been received to fund an additional solar farm, according to Farming The Sun partner Starfish Initiatives.
Investors included Northern Rivers locals and organisations from the sustainable investment sector.
The council is developing two 100-kilowatt solar farms. One is a floating solar power system to be located on the tertiary treatment pond at the East Lismore Sewage Treatment Plant. It is being designed and constructed by Suntrix Commercial and is expected to produce around 178MWh of electricity a year to be used on-site, cutting around $23,000 off the annual council power bill.
The second is being designed and constructed by Nimbin’s Rainbow Power Company and will be located on the roof of the Goonellabah Sports and Aquatic Centre. It is expected to produce around 138MWh of electricity a year, generating savings of almost $18,000 a year.
The Farming The Sun collaboration, which also involved Embark Australia and Norton Rose Fulbright, was granted funding to develop the council-community model by the NSW Government’s Growing Community Energy program, the Earth Welfare Foundation and Diversicon Environmental Foundation.
The community energy model will now being made freely available under a Creative Commons licence to other councils and community energy groups.
There are a number of other community-owned power initiatives proposed still looking to attract investors, including Pingala Sydney, Sydney Renewable Power Company, Clear Sky Solar Investments, SolarShare ACT and Clean Energy 4 Goulburn.