Lismore, Lennox Head, and Yackandandah go all in on solar
In January 2018, the Lismore City Council and a local group called Farming the Sun officially launched the Lismore Community Solar initiative – the first Council/community owned solar farm in the country including Australia’s largest floating solar farm.
As part of the Lismore Community Solar initiative, the Council established two 100kW solar farms – a rooftop solar farm at Goonellabah Sports & Aquatic Centre and a floating solar farm on the overflow ponds at the East Lismore Sewage Treatment Plant.
The rooftop solar farm is now providing 15% of the aquatic centre’s power requirements while the floating solar farm’s 280 solar panels generate 12% of the East Lismore Sewage Treatment Plant’s energy requirements.
The innovative floating design provides capacity for the solar farm to expand across the overflow ponds and Council’s aim is to eventually power the sewage treatment plant from 100% solar energy.
Both solar farms were funded by companies made up of 20 local investors, with the funds loaned to Council under a financial model that is the first of its kind in Australia. This has generated interest both nationally and internationally as a model for government and community cooperation, with investors receiving a return better than that of a bank.
Knitting Nannas wore their solar panelled hats to the launch for a bit of sun loving in Lismore. Photo Tree Faerie.
The two solar farms are one of many measures in Council’s Renewable Energy Master Plan to achieve Council’s goal of self-generating all its electricity from renewable sources by 2023.
Over 100 sun lovers stood in the rain yesterday to celebrate Lismore Community Solar and the long awaited launch of Australia’s largest floating solar farm at the East Lismore Sewage Treatment Plant.
The Lismore Community Solar initiative is a partnership between Lismore City Council and community solar energy facilitator Farming the Sun, to break new ground in working with communities to fund renewable energy projects that power Council facilities.
As part of the initiative, Council has built two 100kW solar farms – a rooftop solar farm at Goonellabah Sports & Aquatic Centre which has been operating since March 2017 and now the floating solar farm.
The NSW Parliamentary Secretary for Renewable Energy Ben Franklin MLC joined the Climate Council and Lismore City Council to launch the community-backed renewable energy system including the floating solar array which is a first for NSW.
The rooftop solar farm is now providing 15% of the aquatic centre’s power requirements while the floating solar farm’s 280 solar panels generate 12% of the East Lismore Sewage Treatment Plant’s energy requirements. Together the systems will generate over 316 megawatt hours of power annually.
Both solar farms were funded by companies made up of 20 local investors, with the funds loaned to council under a financial model that is the first of its kind in Australia.
‘It has already generated interest both nationally and internationally as a model for government and community cooperation, with investors receiving a return better than that of a bank,’ said Lismore City Council’s Environmental Strategies Officer Sharyn Hunnisett.
‘The project has not been without its challenges to establish and get operational, but now that we have done the hard work we have a model others can emulate.
‘We hope to see renewable energy projects like this taken up between councils and communities right across Australia, whether that’s using sun, wind or wave technology.’
A community-based effort to shift the regional Victorian town of Yackandandah to 100 per cent renewable energy by 2022 has taken a significant step forward, with the launch of a 90kW solar array on the rooftop of the town’s heath centre.
Community renewables group Totally Renewable Yackandandah and local not-for-profit Yackandandah Health Services switched on the 90kW PV system on Friday, just under six months after setting out to raise $60,000 through a purpose built crowd sourcing vehicle, Perpetual Energy Fund.
The solar system is expected to save the community-owned health centre $1 million over the next 25 years and slash its greenhouse gas emissions.
As well as the 348 solar panels, YHS has replaced 276 existing light fittings with LEDs, with plans to replace another 300.
Modelling is also underway to improve the centre’s air conditioning and hot water systems, as well to reduce waste across the facility.
Totally Renewable Yackandandah (TRY) says the successful delivery of the solar system heralds a new high-water mark for the volunteer-run community group, bringing the coal of 100 per cent renewables for the town a “considerable step closer.”
TRY has raised $5000, which will be loaned for the further energy efficiency improvements and – as with the solar system – repaid with savings in power bills. Once the loans are fully repaid, the are put back into other community energy programs.
“Once a successful business recognises the multiple benefits of clean energy to its bottom line as well as its clients it is an easy decision to make,” said TRY President Matthew Charles-Jones.
“These changes will deliver cost and energy savings from the proven, reliable and scalable technologies of renewable electricity generation.”
The solar panels were installed at YHS by Country Solar, a local firm with extensive experience in the installation of domestic and commercial systems, including Benella Hospital.
TRY’s Grogan, Indigo Shire Mayor James Trenery and Yackandandah Health’s Annette Nuck
The system at Yackandandah Health also has the capacity to function independently from the grid – should it need to – once battery technology progresses enough down the cost curve.
Daily reports on the facility’s energy generation and consmption can be accessed online and are monitored closely by Yackandandah Health and Country Solar.
Country Solar director, Jeremy Mansfield has also offered an incentive of $100 per kw to Yackandandah Health for anyone who installs solar on their premises and mentions Yackandandah Health.