OEH Funding a Boost for Community Solar

21st May 2013

NSW Office of Environment and Heritage has confirmed funding of $35,000 for Farming the Sun to scope at least five prospective sites to establish community owned solar farms in the Northern Inland and North Coast regions. Along with funding from Starfish Enterprises and the Earth Welfare Foundation, this will provide a significant boost to this project. The combined funding will cover the groundwork which will lead to the first community owned solar farms in Australia being established in this region.

Several potential sites for community wind farms have already been listed and initial analysis carried out to help determine best sites for further scoping. More details on the sites to be considered for more in-depth analysis will be released in coming months.

Earth Welfare Foundation Provides Funding for Farming the Sun

21st May 2013

Farming the Sun welcomes the announcement of funding from The Earth Welfare Foundation of $9,900 for the establishment works required to research and assess potential sites for seven community solar farms. Farming the Sun has already confirmed matching funding to develop seven community solar farms – from Starfish Enterprises and the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage. The proposed funding will provide for the establishment work needed for each of these solar farm sites to be successfully developed and negotiated up to the point where this matching funding becomes available to complete the projects.

“Businesses and community members taking leadership and responsibility is key to the shift to sustainability,” said Josette Wunder, Trustee of The Earth Welfare Foundation. “Community renewable energy projects like this are exemplars for how we can learn, work and invest together to achieve a more sustainable community and environment.”

Community Solar Launch – Lismore

3rd Jun 2013

Thursday 30th May saw the North Coast public launch of Farming the Sun’s community solar farm project at Lismore in the Northern Rivers region of NSW. Around 70 people flocked to the Italo Club to hear about this initiative and to listen to an enthusiastic group of supporting speakers.

Mayor of Lismore City Council, Jenny Dowell, spoke about her council’s Community Strategic Plan, Imagine Lismore, and how well this community solar project fits with Lismore community’s leadership and innovation in energy sustainability. Lismore City Council has signed the first MoU with Farming the Sun in an agreement to have an analysis done on its Treatment Plant to assess feasibility for a community solar farm at that site.

Adam Blakester and Patrick Halliday, both from the Farming the Sun team, spoke about the community solar farm model, the widespread implied benefits, and the technical requirements and pricing structures involved in proposed solar farms.

The delightful and diminutive Josette Wunder from the Earth Welfare Foundation expressed her joy and excitement at being able to donate to assist with the start-up funding for seven of these community solar farm projects. Paul Cruickshank from NSW Office of Environment and Heritage explained why community energy was valuable for NSW government and officially announced funding to be put towards these solar farms.

General Manager of Lismore City Council, Gary Murphy, reiterated the Mayor’s enthusiasm for hosting a community solar farm and declared how well it fits with his aim to have Lismore City Council self-sufficient in energy within 10 years.

There was a very positive reception to this initiative amongst those attending the launch, with considerable media interest following the event.

A public launch in the Northern Inland region is expected to follow in the next month.



A snapshot of attendees at Lismore community solar launch

Lismore strives for 100% renewables

27th May 2014

Lismore City Council is looking to a range of innovative measures – including community funding for a large scale solar project, a type of consumer retailing model, and an ambitious energy efficiency program as part of its plan to go 100 per cent renewable by 2023.

For the full story, read more  here.

Lismore Community Solarfarm

11th Dec 2014

A lot has happened since our last Farming the Sun news.

Our big news is that just last night, Lismore City Council voted in favour of proceeding with the final stage of work on what could become Australia’s very first council-community solarfarm.

The project ~ currently known as Lismore Community Solar ~ will comprise two 100kW solarfarms, situated at each of Goonellabah Sports & Aquatic Centre and East Lismore Sewage Treatment Plant.

Finance for the projects is to be sourced from local community investors, however their core purpose is to support the leadership, influence and capacity of the community to impact on changes towards a renewable and sustainable system of energy.

Over the last 18 months, Farming the Sun has had to re-focus and adapt as the so-called ‘solar coaster’ of Australian renewable energy policy continues to affect what models of community energy are viable. The current political and policy uncertainty surrounding the Australian Renewable Energy Target has constrained the size of feasible projects to be around 100kW.

This smaller project size has also necessitated a change of legal structure and financial model, to a simpler arrangement ~ using a loan rather than power-purchase arrangement ~ though importantly still funded by community investors.

The priority now for the Lismore projects is to secure additional funding for the cost of the final stages of work ~ and all going well this pre-construction work will be completed by mid 2015.

Last night, Lismore City Council also approved their 100% Renewable Energy Master Plan. All of the Farming the Sun partners and collaborators express their sincere gratitude to Council for their extraordinary leadership and commitment to renewable energy.