WAY OF THE FUTURE: Large solar panels are seen in a solar power plant in Hami, north-west China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
WAY OF THE FUTURE: Large solar panels are seen in a solar power plant in Hami, north-west China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. AFP

Sun shines on green venture

LISMORE could be the home of the first community-owned solar farm in Australia after a memorandum of understanding was signed between Lismore City Council and the Farming the Sun project.

To be launched tomorrow at Lismore's Italo Club, Farming the Sun aims to establish community-owned solar farms at businesses and community organisations which consume large amounts of electricity all year round.

A council spokesperson said a feasibility assessment on council's electricity use will be conducted on the planned solar farm site, the East Lismore Treatment Plant, before an agreement was signed.

Funded by mum and dad investors, a solar farm producing 80-100kw, the equivalent of powering 30 homes, would be built.

Farming the Sun project director Adam Blakester said the solar farm would be built from investments of between $2300 and $2800 for a 1kw share. Investors are anticipated to receive an annual return of about 6%, or up to $168, he said.

"Once the capital is realised, council would install an 80 to 100kW system at its East Lismore Treatment Plant and sign an agreement to buy the energy generated for the next 10 to 25 years," a council spokesperson said.

Farming the Sun was developed by Starfish Enterprises and The Earth Welfare Foundation, using funding from the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage. Mr Blake-ster said Farming the Sun had funding to establish five community-owned solar farms across north-eastern NSW.

He said businesses or organisations with solar farms would use electricity generated by the farm that would be sold cheaper than electricity supplied from the grid.

"Lismore's uptake of solar power is one of the highest in the state and Farming the Sun could be the model that enables large businesses and industry to follow suit," Mr Blakester said.

To attend the Farming the Sun launch from 5.30pm phone 0419 808 900 or email adam@starfishenterprises.

How we use solar

  • Lismore - Ranked #1 in the state. 3440 installations and 8098kw installed capacity at April 2013. 32.7% growth.
  • Ballina - Ranked #11 in the state. 2129 installations and 4950kw installed capacity at April 2013. 34.8% growth.
  • Casino - Ranked #79 in the state. 840 installations and 2018.9kw installed capacity at April 2013. 45.5% growth.
  • Kyogle - Ranked #159 in the state. 467 installations and 1088.8kw installed capacity at April 2013. 45.5% growth.

Where it might go, how it might work

COMMUNITY-owned solar farms would be located on site at businesses or community organisations who are large power consumers.

Electricity generated from the solar farm would be sold to the business or community organisation at a cheaper rate than carbon-generated electricity.

The farms would vary in size from 80kw, equivalent to producing electricity to supply 30 average homes.

Community members would be offered a 1kw share in the farm to generate the capital needed to establish the farm.

Investors would receive an annual return on their shares of 6%, or up to $168, (based on a share price of $2800).

Project director Adam Blakester of Starfish Enterprises said the project was targeted at councils, aged-care businesses, hospitals, retail businesses and food production businesses that consume electricity year round.

Once a business had been audited to assess its suitability, a community company would be established to construct the solar farm and administer share income.

Mr Blakester said the combination of a 50% price drop for solar installations over the past five years and the sale of 100% of the electricity to the host of a solar farm would cover returns to investors over a 10-25-year period.



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