First community solar farm for Lismore switches on

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Lismore City Council’s Lismore Community Solar project is now up and running with the first solar farm installed and generating energy on the roof of the Goonellabah Sports & Aquatic Centre.

Lismore Community Solar is a collaboration with Farming the Sun, a not-for-profit renewable energy facilitator, to build two 99kW solar farms in Lismore – a rooftop solar farm at Goonellabah Sports & Aquatic Centre and a solar farm at the East Lismore Sewage Treatment Plant using innovative floating technology.

The community energy project uses a financial model which is the first of its kind in Australia. Two companies each with 20 local investors raised the funds which were loaned to Council to build the solar farms. The investors will see a return on investment slightly better than that of a bank.

“These solar farms are Australia’s first council/community solar farms and we believe the floating solar system will be largest floating solar farm in Australia,” Council’s Environmental Strategies Officer Sharyn Hunnisett said.

“After several years of hard work between Council, Farming the Sun, and locals committed to renewable energy, it is incredibly exciting to see this first solar farm now powering one of our biggest facilities.

"We have had a lot of interest in this project both nationally and internationally. Council was a guest speaker at the national Community Energy Congress in Melbourne not long ago and we delivered a workshop to share our model for this project. We had 110 participants from local government and community groups, which shows the interest in this type of community energy project.”

The solar farms are one of many measures in Council’s Renewable Energy Master Plan to achieve the bold goal of self-generating all Council's electricity from renewable sources by 2023.

Local solar installer Rainbow Power Company was the successful tenderer for the Goonellabah Sports & Aquatic Centre solar farm while the innovative floating solar system will be installed by Suntrix.

Sharyn said that the floating solar farm is expected to be installed by the end of July, and explained that the idea was one of those lighbulb moments.

“It basically came about because of spatial constraints. We simply didn’t have enough roof or land space at the East Lismore Sewage Treatment Plant,” she said. “Then it hit us – we have all this space on the water; why not use that?”

The overflow pond at the East Lismore Sewage Treatment Plant provides a large body of water with low velocity, perfect for a floating solar farm. The cooling properties of water help the solar panels last longer and perform better, while increased shade over the pond reduces evaporation and algal growth.

Both solar farm projects have been assisted by funding from the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage Growing Community Energy grants program.

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