About Farming the Sun
Farming the Sun is Australia’s most diverse community solar energy initiative to date (see Project History below). It is a large-scale collaboration coordinated by Starfish Initiatives and in 2011 was awarded a NSW Government Green Globe Award for its contribution to sustainability ~ installing more than $6.7m worth of solar power, solar hot water, and solar thermal heating and cooling systems; training more than three dozen tradespeople; and contributing to a massive level of community awareness and education in sustainable energy.
In 2012 Farming the Sun shifted its focus to developing community solarfarms. This was made possible through a strategic alliance with Embark Australia, drawing upon their considerable expertise in community solar models.
This work is being successfully concluded with the creation of Australia’s first ever council operated and community funded solarfarms ~ Lismore Community Solarfarms in partnership with Lismore City Council.
While Farming the Sun originally began in and focussed on the New England High Country, it has now expanded to focus in the NSW North Coast and Riverina regions as well.
Farming the Sun’s focus today has returned to community bulk-buying of solar energy technologies ~ see Bulk-Buys for details.
Are you interested in community solar?
Farming the Sun has developed two distinct models of community solar to date:
- The bulk-buy model has been used for solar power, solar hot water and solar thermal heating/cooling technologies. We are constantly researching other possible solar energy technologies which could benefit from a bulk-buy approach, such as battery storage, lighting upgrades and insulation.
- The community investment model, as used with Lismore, is well suited to small-scale projects of up to $200,000-$500,000 in value.
- As a charitable enterprise, all of the templates, agreements and tools we have developed over the years are freely available under Creative Commons license.
Please contact us if you are interested to find out more about utilising these models or joining the Farming the Sun collaboration.
The decision tree depicted below places our two community solar models within the broader map of other models which have been created and used in Australia to date.
The spark of inspiration for Farming the Sun was Jamie Reardon of AusEnergy. Jamie pitched an idea to Adam Blakester of Starfish about coordinating a group-buy of ‘a dozen or two residential solar power systems’.
The idea arose at the same time that Starfish was mid-way through a large and participatory strategic planning process called the New England Sustainability Strategy, which identified the need for a ‘new energy future’.
Following discussions with a wide range of New England organisations, residents, businesses and stakeholders it became clear that their interest was far and above a mere two dozen solar power systems.
Instead, Farming the Sun launched in 2008 with the goal of reaching 1% of the residents of the Southern New England High Country ~ comprising the Uralla, Walcha, Guyra and Armidale Dumaresq local government areas.
Over the next two years there were 479 systems installed (552kW of solar power, 137 solar hot water systems, 12 solar heating/cooling units) with a retail value of more than $6.7m. The project also included 140 Home Sustainability Assessments and organised training and accreditation for more than three-dozen tradespeople (electricians, plumbers and installers).
This project took one further step for sustainability, which was to sponsor an inspiring ‘treefrog’ regeneration project to also offset the carbon footprint of the project ~ covering transportation, installation, internet usage and the net embedded energy of the solar panels and balance of systems.