A CALL for investors will be made early next year to help build Australia's first council-built community solar farms in Lismore.
The council has approved an application to build 100kW solar farms at Goonellabah Sports and Aquatic Centre and East Lismore Sewage Treatment Plant.
Solar energy initiative Farming the Sun has spent the past 18 months pushing for the scheme's approval.
Project director Adam Blakester expected work to begin on the solar farms in May or June but the community must first raise $500,000.
Companies will be set up to run each farm and local residents and businesses will be asked to buy shares.
A $500,000 outlay might sound like an ambitious target, but Mr Blakester said a smaller-scale project in launched in Shoalhaven recently raised its $80,000 price tag within three days.
"That money will be lent to council to build the farms, then council will pay the loan back over seven years so investors get their money back, plus a return on their investment," he said.
The 200kW output will be enough to power about 80 homes.
Mr Blakester said it was only the first step towards looking at a range of renewable energy projects to launch in New South Wales.
He hosted a workshop last week and heard from a pig farmer who had crowd funded a campaign to build a biogas production system using on-farm waste.
"There are a lot of different opportunities," he said.
"It's about using local money for local projects, so it stays in and moves around the region."
Shareholders will elect company directors and have a say in how the business is run.
"We're still at the very early stages of transforming our energy system, so those directors will become quite influential people in the region," Mr Blakester said.
The council's aim of converting all its assets to renewable energy by 2023 is also moving ahead.
Mr Blakester said Farming the Sun could help promote the council's efforts.
"It can be a real flagship in terms of gaining publicity for what council is trying to do," he said.
The project hinges on a State Government funding grant for which applications close on Monday.
"If we're successful, things will move very quickly. If not, it could be very slow," Mr Blakester said.