HEADS UP! Solar power & battery storage bulk-buy for the Northern Rivers!!

Farming the Sun is pleased to announce that it is investigating the feasibility of a community bulk-buy of high quality solar power and battery storage systems for the Northern Rivers region of NSW.

The Northern Rivers bulk-buy will be open to residents, businesses, councils and community organisations throughout the region. This will include those with existing solar power who want to expand the size of their system and possibly add storage, as well as for those who are installing solar power for the first time.

As a benchmark, Farming the Sun’s current bulk-buy in the New England region is realising discounts of up to 33% better than retail (see here for details).

Click here to register your interest and receive updates.


Next Steps

A final decision on whether or not to proceed with the bulk-buy is subject to sufficient community interest. Farming the Sun is currently seeking Expressions of Interest from local solar installers with a view to selecting a specialist solar partner. Negotiations are also taking place with prospective community partners.

This work is being led by Chris Harris, one of Starfish Initiatives newest Associates.

“Assuming there is sufficient interest from locally based solar installers and from residents and businesses in developing a community bulk buy, we anticipate that the program will launch sometime in late March or early April,” said Adam Blakester, Project Director.

“Without pre-empting any final decision on whether to proceed or not, any resident or business that is interested in expressing preliminary interest in the program is invited to express interest here.”

Farming the Sun has coordinated a series of six successful bulk buys programs which until now have been available in the New England region.

Locally, Farming the Sun has led the successful Lismore Community Solarfarms initiative, which is creating Australia’s first community-funded, council-operated solarfarms in collaboration with Lismore City Council. One of the two 100kW solarfarms will be the largest floating array yet installed in Australia.

For further details about Farming the Sun, including the current New England bulk-buys, see the website https://farmingthesun.net/.

Register your interest in the Northern Rivers Solar Bulk-Buy here.


Community Bulk-Buy Vision

This will be Farming the Sun’s seventh bulk-buy making Farming the Sun a leader among a much wider movement of bulk-buys by community energy groups and local councils around Australia.

The purpose of the Northern Rivers bulk-buy is to significantly increase the understanding, affordability and take-up of solar energy by making available a discounted bulk offering of truly high quality solar power and battery storage systems.

The principal target area for the bulk-buy is Lismore, Byron and Ballina local government areas. Proposals to cover more of the region are being considered.

The project goal is to install 1.7 MW of solar power systems based upon 1% of 44,000 residences in the principal target area (Ballina, Lismore, Byron shires), being 440 dwellings with an average 4kW solar power system. Take-up by businesses, councils and community organisations will be in addition to this goal.


The Northern Rivers solar bulk-buy is commencing at a time that coincides with several relevant developments:

  • Significant successes for local, community and commercial renewable energy in the region, as well as energy efficiency gains and the successful community rejection of gas mining in northern NSW
  • Electricity prices have been significantly increased (upwards of 10%) for the first time in several years
  • Conclusion of the NSW Government Solar Bonus Scheme (feed-in-tariff) on 31 December 2016
  • Small scale technology (renewable energy) certificates being phased out from 1 January 2017
  • Preparedness for small-scale battery storage technology
  • Growing community concerns about the environmental impacts of coal and gas mining (being the predominant fuel sources for electricity in NSW) on water, farming, biodiversity, climate and air quality
  • Construction of large-scale wind and solar projects in nearby regions, which are some of the largest capital infrastructure projects in history.

Register your interest in the Northern Rivers Solar Bulk-Buy here.

You are cordially invited to the launch of a NEW solar hot water bulk-buy!

solar_hot_water_bannerFarming the Sun would like to invite you to the launch of a community bulk-buy of high quality, evacuated tube solar hot water systems ~ substantially discounted below retail prices as a benefit of the bulk-buying.

This new bulk-buy is in addition to the successful solar power bulk-buy ~ which is about to begin installations for the first block of residences and businesses. Details of the second block of the solar power bulk-buy will also be presented at the Launch.

The launch is being generously officiated by the Honourable Adam Marshall MP, Member for Northern Tablelands and NSW Parliamentary Secretary for Renewable Energy.

Farming the Sun has negotiated this collaboration with Endless-Solar given their proven track record in working with us on the first solar hot water bulk-buy back in 2009 and 2010. The 137 solar hot water systems installed at that time have proven to be highly reliable and effective over many years now.


Specific details of the solar hot water system, and options, including the significant discount off normal retail prices, will be made available at the launch. They will also be published live on our website at the same time.

RSVP details for the launch are below.

You can also register your interest to participate here.


Bulk-Buy Launch Details

Wednesday 30th November 2016
9:45am for a 10am start to 11am
Uralla Community Centre
9 Hill Street (corner Maitland Street), URALLA

RSVP by 5pm Monday 28 November to Liz Gardiner
Email: liz@starfish-associates.org
Phone: 6778 7249

Solar Hot Water Program Goal

Our goal is to install solar hot water for an additional 1% (270) of residences, across the local government areas of Armidale Dumaresq, Glen Innes Severn, Guyra, Inverell, Uralla and Walcha.

Achieving this would double the 1% of residences who participated in the first bulk-buy program in 2009 and 2010.

Businesses are also able to take advantage of the offer and will be in addition to this goal.

We’d greatly appreciate your assistance to help spread the word about this community program by sharing this email (links above) with your friends, family or work colleagues that you think may be interested.

Launch Invitation ~ NEW Community Solar Power Bulk-Buy!!


Farming the Sun would like to invite you to the launch of a new community bulk-buy of solar power systems, building upon its earlier success in coordinating the installation of $6.7m worth of solar technologies during the 2008-2011 period.

The Farming the Sun Solar Pv Bulk-Buy IV is making available ~ in collaboration with Eco Energy & Solar Solutions ~ a range of high quality, Tier 1 solar power systems which have been substantially discounted as a benefit of the bulk-buying.

This offer is being made available to residents and businesses throughout the Tamworth, Gunnedah, Liverpool Plains and Southern New England High Country regions.

Specific details of the solar power system packages, including the significant discounts off normal retail prices, will be made available at and immediately after the launch.

Read more about the bulk-buy here and register your interest to participate here.

Bulk-Buy Launch Details

Monday 19th September 2016
9:45am for a 10am start to 11am
Binaalbaa (T1.16)
TAFE New England
Janison Street, TAMWORTH
RSVP by 5pm Friday 16 September to Liz Gardiner
Email ~ liz@starfish-associates.org
Phone ~ 6778 7249

We’re building Australia’s first ever community-funded Council solarfarms!

With sincere thanks to the community investors, the private investment offers are now closed and have been fully subscribed. And the tenders for construction of the solarfarms were approved by Lismore City Council on Tuesday 3 August.

This means that we expect that Australia’s first ever community-funded Council-operated solarfarms will be operating by the end of the year!

We were wonderfully surprised by the swift and positive response to the investment offers. Within just ten days of opening it was already clear that the offers would be fully subscribed. In fact, by the time we formally closed the two investment offers we had received enough applications to fund an additional solarfarm in its entirety!

We are pleased to report that both solarfarm projects have a majority of local investors from the Northern Rivers. The balance of investors come from right around the country and include some valuable strategic links with the community energy and sustainable investment sectors.

The Lismore Community Solarfarms will comprise two 100kW solarfarms developed in partnership with Lismore City Council. They are the first ever Council-operated and community-funded solarfarms in Australia and are flagship projects for Council’s 2023 Renewable Energy Master Plan.

One of the solarfarms will be the largest floating solar power system in Australia to date, located on the tertiary treatment pond at the East Lismore Sewage Treatment Plant. This pioneering infrastructure is being designed and constructed by Suntrix Commercial. It has been forecast to produce around 178MWh of electricity per year and reduce Council’s annual electricity bill by around $23,000.

The second solarfarm will be on the roof of the Goonellabah Sports and Aquatic Centre and is to be constructed by Rainbow Power Company. This system is forecast to produce around138MWh of electriity per year and realise savings of nearly $18,000 per annum.

The power generated from both projects is expected to be fully utilised on-site.

We are deeply honoured to be at the forefront of Australia’s community energy movement in working on these projects. This success is tangible proof of just how strong the interest and support for renewable energy is ~ from community investors and philanthropists as well as professional advisors and more.

As you may know, The Council-Community Solarfarm model was created through the Farming the Sun collaboration by Starfish Initiatives, Embark Australia and Norton Rose Fulbright. Funding for the project was provided by the NSW Government’s Growing Community Energy program, The Earth Welfare Foundation and Diversicon Environmental Foundation.

This community energy model is now being made freely available under a Creative Commons Licence to other Councils and community energy groups to develop their own solar and sustainable energy projects.

In the short term, there are further community solar project opportunities any unsuccessful community investors may wish to consider, namely: Pingala Sydney; Sydney Renewable Power Company; Clear Sky Solar Investments; Community-Owned Renewable Energy Mullumbimby (COREM); Citizens Own Renewable Energy Network Australia (CORENA); SolarShare ACT; and Clean Energy 4 Goulburn.

More COMMUNITY SOLAR PROJECTS soon to be open for investment.

The growing interest by the general community considering investing in community energy projects is WONDERFUL.

Please find below links to projects you may wish to find out more about:

Sydney Renewable Power Company

Clear Sky Solar Investments

Community-Owned Renewable Energy Mullumbimby (COREM)
(donation rather than investment)

Citizens Own Renewable Energy Network Australia (CORENA)
(donation rather than investment)

SolarShare ACT

Clean Energy 4 Goulburn

To be kept informed of developments with the Community Energy sector and movement more widely, see:

Investment offer opens soon!

Investment offer opens soon!

We are very excited to announce the launch of the Investment offer for Lismore Community Solarfarm projects will be happening on 28 June, 2016.

There are two solar projects being launched at the same time. Each community company will release a private investment offer to raise funds to lend to Lismore City Council who in turn will build and operate the solarfarms.

These two investments are legally known as ‘private offers’. As such, this means that the invitation to the launch can only be sent to those parties who have signed onto the Investor Pledge  to confirm their interest in finding out more. To be clear, it cannot be communicated to the public-at-large.

If you are interested to join the list please sign the pledge here.

These two investments present a unique opportunity to achieve an environmental, as well as financial, impact and return. They of course fit within the bigger picture of the energy leadership and transformation taking place in the Northern Rivers too. As such, the investors have a genuine opportunity to utilise their involvement for further leadership and action towards creating a truly sustainable energy system.
We would especially like to thank and acknowledge Embark Australia and Norton Rose Fulbright for their invaluable legal guidance and support with putting the two investment offers together.

Another successful project milestone! Plus Local Green Globe winners

Last Tuesday night (13 October), Lismore City Council* approved the borrowing of $360,000 in total from Farming the Sun – Lismore Community Solar!

This represents a very significant milestone for the project. These loans ($180,000 each) are the central legal agreement between Lismore City Council and each of the Community Solar companies. Each loan will fund a 100kW solar farm ~ one at each of Goonellabah Sports & Aquatic Centre and the Wyrallabah Sewage Treatment Plant. Any surplus funds ~ noting that the actual cost for each solar farms will be determined by an open public tender ~ are to be applied projects identified in the Lismore City Council Renewable Energy Master Plan (REMP).

We would like acknowledge the significant ‘behind the scenes’ support and work by Farming the Sun project collaborators ~ particularly Lismore City Council, Embark Australia and Norton Rose Fulbright ~ in putting these mutually beneficial loan agreements together.

Finalising negotiations on the loan terms, particularly the interest rate and repayment schedule, took longer than anticipated to finalise. It had become evident that the interest rate needed to be lowered to be competitive with the soft economic conditions and market.

The Farming the Sun team are now updating and finalising the Offer Document for interested investors. Please sign the ‘pledge’ if you are interested to find out more when the offer becomes available. As at today 106 people have signed to express their interest.


Local Green Globe Winners!
The NSW Government Green Globe Awards are the leading environmental awards in NSW and celebrate environmental excellence, leadership and innovation.

Congratulations go to our project partner, Lismore City Council, for taking out two awards ~ Regional Sustainability and Local Government Sustainability ~ for their community consultative process and responsive sustainability initiatives, including: Lismore Community Solar, materials recovery facility processing and landfill rehabilitation (phytocapping).

Congratulations also to Brookfarm in Byron Bay, being the overall winners of the The Premiers Award for Excellence. Brookfarm produce gourmet macadamia products for local and export markets and were awarded for: their large solar power array (which was installed by solar specialist and Farming the Sun partner Juno Energy); water saving; rainforest regeneration program; waste reduction; and pioneering of biological controls in macadamia farming which have eradicated or dramatically reduced chemical, pesticide and synthetic fertiliser use.

Check out Brookfarm’s solar power array in this fly-over video.

For more details regarding the Green Globe Awards and winners, please visit: our-region-a-winner-at-green-globe-award.
Local Green Globe Winners oct 2015crop

Launch of Farming the Sun at Lismore in the Northern Rivers region of NSW

Thursday 11 June was the Investor Pledge campaign launch of Farming the Sun’s community solar farm project at Lismore in the Northern Rivers region of NSW. The launch was well received at a full house event at the Lismore Workers Club.

We had the pleasure to listening to the Mayor of Lismore City Council, Jenny Dowell, speak 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.   Paul Cruikshank, Acting Regional Manager with the NSW Office for Environment and Heritage, confirmed the agency’s support of this community energy project and the community energy sector more widely.

Adam Blakester from the Farming the Sun team spoke about the revised community solarfarm model, the widespread implied benefits, and the investor snapshot, and invited prospective investors to “pledge”- being an expression of genuine interest in considering the investment. Adam added that the formal details of the investment would be confirmed in the official share offer/prospectus when it is released later in the year.

This project is still subject to successfully completing the final negotiations with Lismore City Council, particularly in respect of the various financial and legal structures for the project

About one third of the attendees added their names to the pledge list which bodes well for the success of the project. 

Click here to read/download the Investor Pledge campaign Launch Flyer

Click here to add your name to the Pledge list.

The Lismore Launch

[RFG_gallery id=’8′]

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