INNOVATION: Lismore City Council's water and wastewater manager Matt Torr, environmental strategies officer Sharyn Hunnisett and council consultant Michael Qualmann at East Lismore Sewage Treatment Plant where a community funded floating solar project will be placed. (Image shows what floating solar project will look like)
INNOVATION: Lismore City Council's water and wastewater manager Matt Torr, environmental strategies officer Sharyn Hunnisett and council consultant Michael Qualmann at East Lismore Sewage Treatment Plant where a community funded floating solar project will be placed. (Image shows what floating solar project will look like) Cathy Adams

Northern Rivers sustainable solar success story

HARNESSING the sunshine has pushed Lismore into the limelight with two innovative 100kW floating solar farms soon to commence production, making the city the first council and community solar farm in Australia.

The pair which comprise a rooftop solar system at the Goonellabah Sports and Aquatic Centre and a floating solar system on a settling pond at the East Lismore Sewage Treatment Plant, are due to commcence production by early March.

According to Lismore City Council's Environmental Strategies Officer, Sharyn Hunnisett, this brings council one step closer to being energy self-sufficient.

She said initially each solar farm will save council by up to one quarter of the site's current electrical costs.

"The key benefit of council partnering a community energy project is it's a demonstration of how we can increase renewable energy use using innovative technology and the money we spend it remains within the Lismore community," she said.

"It's been a long road and I can't wait for the projects to be up and running."

Ms Hunnisett said Lismore City Council has received a great deal of interest from other councils and shires around Australia on the solar farms.

She has been invited to give a presentation and contribute to a council master-class workshop on the projects at the Community Energy Congress 2017 in Melbourne in February.

"There's been national interest in the floating solar farms and we have been invited to share our success story," she said.

"It's a good example of regional cities taking leadership and listening to their community, it's not just about the bottom line, this is about sustainability and the greater benefit to our region," she said.

"There's still a lot more space available on the East Lismore Sewage Treatment Plant pond, this is the first step and we will definitely be expanded."

Ms Hunnisett explained the solar farms were funded by the community Lismore Community Solar Farm East Lismore Community solar farm Goonellebeah, each consisting of 20 local community investors each, who bought shares in the project and the money raised was loaned to council.

"This is an innovative and unique concept utilising the latest technology and will be Australia's first council and community solar farm and we believe the second only floating solar system being commercially used within Australia," she said.

"We are so excited by this concept. It is another step for the Northern Rivers in showing leadership nationally on renewable energy and another step forward in Council fulfilling the community's vision for Lismore to become a model of sustainability."

Shareholders in the project will be paid back in seven years at a 5.5 per cent interest rate and council expects to start making money back in 10 years time.

Meanwhile, sunshine is also all the go at the South Lismore Sewage Treatment Plant where a $25M upgrade to transform the 80-year-old plant into a modern facility with an increased capacity of 45% includes the installation of a 334kW solar farm which will save up to 60% of energy used on site.

Time lapse footage throughout the duration of works will be available for viewing from on Council's website at www.lismore.nsw.gov.au.



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