Australia’s First Council/Community Solar Farm Seeks Investors

Lismore Community Solar

The nation’s first council/community owned solar farm could be operational by the end of 2015 in Lismore, New South Wales.

Last week, Lismore City Council announced it and Farming The Sun would be officially launching a campaign to attract 40 impact investors this Thursday.

These interested investors would be asked to pledge in-principle support for the purchase of shares in Lismore Community Solar.

Under the revised model, Lismore Community Solar would loan funds to Lismore City Council for the construction and operation of two 100kW solar farms at the Goonellabah Sports and Aquatic Centre and the East Lismore Sewage Treatment Plant.

“This local impact investment model is an innovation of the Farming the Sun team and is being applied for the very first time in Lismore,” said Farming the Sun’s Adam Blakester.

“This model is simple and low-risk with clear results, which is attractive for local government because it provides surety for the community and for investors. We are launching an innovation in how councils and community do business, with both financial and clean energy returns.”

Originally the Lismore Community Solar project had intended to build a 250-450kW solar power system, with Council purchasing the power over a decade. However, uncertainty at the time concerning the RET and other obstacles meant a change of tack was required.

Once the required number of investors have made pledges, the business model will go before Council for final adoption, then a prospectus will be made available for share offers.

Investors can pledge online at Farming the Sun or via phone with Lismore Community Solar Coordinator Susanna Carpi on 0401 956 710. The official launch event will be held on Thursday at 5.15pm at the Lismore Workers Club.

In December last year, Lismore City Council adopted a Renewable Energy Master Plan that sets a goal to self-generate all its required electricity from renewable sources by 2023. The Council was recently recognised for this and other sustainability efforts last month, when it was named a Silver Partner at the Office of the Environment (OEH) Sustainability Advantage Recognition Program ceremony in Sydney.

Farming the Sun is Australia’s largest community solar energy initiative and is coordinated by Starfish Initiatives.

Lismore has also seen strong support and uptake of solar panels among its residents. According to the latest data from Australia’s Clean Energy Regulator, 4,487 small scale solar power systems have been installed in the postcode 2480 region; with a collective output capacity of 12,164 kilowatts.

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