The momentum for a big push into community solar projects appears to be gathering pace, with several different organisations planning public launches in the next month, and suggestions that several dozen projects could be built on NSW rooftops in coming years.
This is the work of community energy advocate Embark and Starfish Enterprises, which has identified 7 different projects of at least 80kW that could be commissioned in the next 18 months.
Community ownership of renewable projects has yet to take off in Australia, even if in countries like Germany it accounts for around half of renewables investments.
Farming the Sun Project director Adam Blakester, of Starfish Enterprises, said the business model for the community projects his consortium is proposing is similar to that of the 400kW community solar project announced late last year for the Lend Lease development in Sydney’s Darling Harbour.
Interested businesses and community leaders are invited to attend the launch of an innovative new solar power project by Farming the Sun which aims to create Australia’s first community-owned solar farms.
Funding has been received from the NSW Office of Environment & Heritage, The Earth Welfare Foundation and Starfish Enterprises to establish seven or more community-owned solar farms.
“Community-owned solar farms can provide more affordable electricity for medium-to-large sized local businesses and organisations,” said Project Director, Adam Blakester of Starfish Enterprises, “as well as environmental benefits, financial returns for local investors and significant community education.”
Many community-owned solar farms have been established overseas. Examples include Westmill Cooperative, UK (5MW) [pictured above], Poudre Valley REA Community Solar Farm, USA (115kW) and Ellensburg Community Renewable Park, USA (36kW).
“Prices of high quality solar power systems have reduced by more than half in the last five years,” said Patrick Halliday of Juno Energy, the local solar specialist partner for the project. “Solar energy is now price competitive with purchasing electricity off the grid making an innovative community-owned solar farm financially viable for sites which are able to use all of the power from an 80-100kW or bigger solar farm. This would include medium-large business, councils, aged-care providers and other organisations.”
“Businesses and community members taking leadership and responsibility is key to the shift to sustainability,” added 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.”
The launch is being held at the Italo Club, Barrow Lane, Lismore North on Thursday 30 May, 5:30-6:30pm. A complimentary drink and finger food will be provided. To RSVP contact Adam Blakester on email@example.com or 0419 808 900.
The launch has been timed to coincide with the third North Coast Energy Forum, which is being held on Friday 31 May also at the Italo Club.
Starfish is a founding member of the Coalition for Community Energy. The Coalition aims to develop a vibrant community energy sector across Australia.
The Coalition’s first initiative is an advocacy campaign calling on the Australian Government to establish a $50 million grant program to support the development stage of community renewable energy projects. This will benefit the various community energy initiatives that Starfish is involved with (see below links for more details).
Experts have estimated, based on HepburnWind, that a Fund of $50 million will support over 75 projects and could leverage over half a billion dollars of investment in community renewable energy.
The Energy Management Basics Course will enable business to better manage their energy. The training is practical and interactive. Made available through NISBN, the course is great value for money at just $50 including lunch. It is recommended that 2-3 people from each organisation attend to get the most value for implementation.
Key areas to be covered are:
The course consists of two half day workshops, on the 29 May and 12 June 2013, in Tamworth. Participants need to attend both days.
This could be Australia’s first community solar farm. Australi has two community wind farms ~ HepburnWind and Denmark Community Windfarm ~ and such is the interest across Australia that it will only be a matter of time before we see a mushrooming of community solar farms join them.
The project has been funded by the NSW Government Office of Environment & Heritage to assess the feasibility of establishing a community solar farm. This involves training for CROW in being able to lead the promotion and development of the project as well as assessing interest of prospective Hosts for the solar farm.
Meetings were held with six prospective Hosts and there was unanimous interest in progressing to assess the feasibility of becoming a power purchase and host for a solar farm. These Hosts ranged from a boutique farm-food-tourism operation to several Councils and a hospital.
Starfish has been appointed to facilitate the delivery of sustainability programs, technical assistance and support for business throughout the Northern Inland region of NSW. This work will be led by Adam Blakester and Liz Gardinder.
The Northern Inland Sustainable Business Network (NISBN) currently has 120 Members. Starfish’s role will be to both support existing members and encourage new members. NISBN provides practical training and technical assistance in areas of energy, water and waste efficiency as well as providing valuable information about business sustainability programs, funding and case studies.
Armidale Dumaresq Council provide a solid example of the benefits of NISBN Membership. Their participation in the Sustainability Advantage Program over the last three years provided energy management results from behavioural and technology changes that turned a 45 percent increase in electricity charges into a 20 percent decrease.
The 10th Annual Skoll World Forum, brought together several hundred of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs and served as a useful barometer for how the climate of social enterprise is changing.
So 10 years in, what’s the current thinking? What new big idea now dominates the agenda and concerns of the Forum participants? And where do they think this field is going? Here’s their Top Ten Ideas which will drive the future of social entrepreneurship:
SOLAR panels are old tech, don’t incite protests and don’t photograph well, but they are quietly helping to change old notions about energy generation.
Last month, Australia recorded its millionth rooftop solar photovoltaic (solar PV) installation.
After a cost free-fall, solar PV has become cheap and ubiquitous at a time when every new power bill seems substantially larger than the last.
Adam Blakester, who has been at the forefront of the Farming the Sun initiative to make solar energy accessible in northern NSW, argues that solar PV is changing the entire energy equation, roof by roof.
“We’ve gone from a situation five years ago where we needed new power stations and better supply infrastructure, to where the regulator is now forecasting that there will be no new power generation capacity needed because people are generating their own power,” Mr Blakester said.
During Starfish’s work on the Northern Inland Regional Development Plan it became clear just how little attention is given to inland Australia.
It was during this work that the idea of asking Australians to ‘come on inland’ first emerged. There was a clear opportunity for tourism, relocation for business and lifestyle as well as a range of sustainable development opportunities which were unrealised due to this lack of attention to inland Australia.
This idea has now grown, under the leadership of Regional Development Australia Northern Inland, into a full blown campaign.‘Come on Inland’ promotes the Northern Inland as a desirable region to relocate business and families. It is an umbrella brand for each of the 13 Local Government Areas to work under and attract further development in their area.