Lismore community solar farms need investors

A CALL for investors will be made early next year to help build Australia's first council-built community solar farms in Lismore.

Lismore City Council has approved an application to build two 100kW solar farms - one at the Goonellabah Sports and Aquatic Centre and the other at the East Lismore Sewage Treatment Plant.

Solar energy initiative Farming the Sun has spent the past 18 months pushing for the scheme's approval.

Project director Adam Blakester expected construction to begin on the solar farms in May or June next year - but the community must first raise $500,000.

Companies will be set up to run each farm and local residents and businesses will be asked to buy shares.

A $500,000 outlay might sound like an ambitious target, but Mr Blakester said a smaller-scale project launched in Shoalhaven recently raised its $80,000 price tag within three days.

"That money will be lent to council to build the farms, then council will pay the loan back over seven years so investors get their money back, plus a return on their investment," he said.

The farms' 200,000kW output will be enough to power about 80 residential homes.

Mr Blakester said it was only the first step towards looking at a range of renewable energy projects to be launched in New South Wales.

He hosted a workshop last week and heard from a pig farmer who had crowd-funded a campaign to build a biogas production system using on-farm waste.

"There are a lot of different opportunities," he said.

"It's about using local money for local projects, so it stays in and moves around the region."

Shareholders will elect company directors and have a say on how the business is run.

"We're still at the very early stages of transforming our energy system, so those directors will become quite influential people in the region," Mr Blakester said.

The council's own aim of converting all local government-owned assets to renewable energy by 2023 is also moving ahead, following the release of a master plan last year.

Mr Blakester said the Farming the Sun initiative could help promote the council's efforts.

"It can be a real flagship in terms of gaining publicity for what council is trying to do," he said.

The project hinges on a State Government funding grant for which applications close on Monday.

"If we're successful, things will move very quickly. If not, it could be very slow," Mr Blakester said.




Vancouver, Canada

Launched a campaign to double "green jobs" from 2010 to 2020

Plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 33% from 2007 levels by 2020

Requires all buildings built after 2020 to be carbon neutral

Aims to make more than half of all trips by bicycle, foot or public transport by 2020


Copenhagen, Denmark

Rated the world's greenest city by the European Commission

Plans to be completely carbon neutral by 2025

City infrastructure specifically built to be conducive to cycling

Is setting up a "green laboratory" to focus on eco-technologies



Tackled industrialisation and pollution head-on, creating its "Green Plan" in 1992

Aims to have zero waste in landfills by the mid-21st Century



Has set up an environmental zone in its city-centre, only allowing vehicles to enter if they carry stickers to prove their have low emissions

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