Australia’s first community-funded council solar farms are expected to be up and running by the end of the year after two investment rounds raised enough money to fund the two 100kW projects slated for Lismore in New South Wales – and an entire additional solar farm, into the bargain.
Farming the Sun, the community-based company behind the investment rounds, said the tenders for construction of the Lismore Community Solar farms had also been awarded, and approved by Lismore City Council, putting the projects on track for completion by the end of 2016.
Adam Blakester, project director of Farming the Sun, said the community response to the investment offers, which were launched in June, had been “swift and positive.”
“It was clear within the first ten days that the two investment offers would be fully subscribed,” Blakester said.
“In fact, by the time we formally closed the offers we had received enough applications to fund an additional solar farm in its entirety.”
As reported here, the Lismore Community Solar farms comprise two 100kW projects – one at the Goonellabah Sports & Aquatic Centre and another at East Lismore Sewerage Treatment Plant, which stands be Australia’s largest floating solar PV plant.
The projects are also the first ever council-operated and community-funded solar farms in Australia and are flagship projects for Council’s 2023 Renewable Energy Master Plan.
“We are pleased to report that both projects have a majority of local investors from the Northern Rivers,” said Blakester in a statement on Friday.
“The balance of investors have come from right around the country and represent a strategic mix of shareholders and linkages with the community energy and sustainable investment sectors.”
Farming the Sun says the PV array on the sewage treatment pond, which is being designed and constructed by Suntrix Commercial, has been forecast to produce around 178MWh of electricity a year and reduce Council’s annual electricity bill by around $23,000.
The sports centre solar farm, to be constructed by Rainbow Power Company, is forecast to produce around 138MWh of electricity a year and deliver savings of nearly $18,000 per annum.
All of the power generated from both projects is expected to be used on-site.
“We are deeply honoured to be at the forefront of Australia’s community energy movement in working on these projects,” added Blakester. “Their success is tangible proof of just how strong the interest and support for renewable energy is – from community investors and philanthropists as well as professional advisors and more.”
The Council-Community Solar farm model was created through the Farming the Sun collaboration by Starfish Initiatives, Embark Australia and Norton Rose Fulbright. Funding for the project was provided by the NSW Government’s Growing Community Energy program, The Earth Welfare Foundation and Diversicon Environmental Foundation.