Australia’s first ever community-funded Council-operated solarfarms are on track to be operational by the end of this year following the successful completion of the investment offers and tenders for construction.
“The response from community investors has been swift and positive. It was clear within the first ten days that the two investment offers would be fully subscribed,” said Adam Blakester, Project Director of Farming the Sun. “In fact, by the time we formally closed the offers we had received enough applications to fund an additional solarfarm in its entirety.”
The Lismore Community Solarfarms comprise of two 100kW solarfarms being developed in partnership with Lismore City Council, each of which is being funded by investors from a community company. They are the first ever Council-operated and community-funded solarfarms 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,” added Blakester. “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.”
Lismore City Council approved the two tenders for construction of the solarfarms on Tuesday 3 August.
The projects are expected to be fully operational by the end of this calendar year.
One of the solarfarms will be the largest floating solar power system in Australia to date. It is to be situated on the tertiary treatment pond at the East Lismore Sewage Treatment Plant.
This pioneering infrastructure is being designed and constructed by Suntrix Commercial. It has been forecast to produce around 178MWh of electricity per year and reduce Council’s annual electricity bill by around $23,000.
The second solarfarm will be on the roof of the Goonellabah Sports and Aquatic Centre and is to be constructed by Rainbow Power Company. This system is forecast to produce around138MWh of electricity per year and realise savings of nearly $18,000 per annum.
The power generated from both projects is expected to be fully utilised 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 Solarfarm 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.
“This community energy model is now being made freely available under a Creative Commons Licence to other Councils and community energy groups to develop their own solar and sustainable energy projects.
“In the short term, there are further community solar project opportunities that the unsuccessful community investors can consider, namely: Pingala Sydney, Sydney Renewable Power Company, Clear Sky Solar Investments, Community-Owned Renewable Energy Mullumbimby (COREM), Citizens Own Renewable Energy Network Australia (CORENA), SolarShare ACT and Clean Energy 4 Goulburn,” concluded Blakester.