Lismore community solar project begins search for investors

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Australia’s first council and community-owned solar project could be completed by the end of 2015, with campaign to attract local investors set to launch.

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Australia’s first solar farms to be co-owned by local government and the community could be completed by the end of the year, with the Lismore City Council set to launch a campaign to attract investors to the project in north-eastern NSW.

lismore solar

The campaign will launch on Thursday June 11, just six months after council approved the project, which it will develop alongside community energy specialist, Farming the Sun.

Potential investors in Lismore Community Solar – a flagship project building on Lismore’s plans to become the first regional council to be 100 per cent renewable by 2023 – will be asked to ‘pledge’ in-principle support by registering interest for a share in the project

The plan, which was first put together by Starfish Initiatives, is to build two100kW solar farms in Lismore – one at Goonellabah Sports & Aquatic Centre and the other at East Lismore Sewage Treatment Plant.

Two community-owned companies will be established under the banner of Lismore Community Solar – one for eachsolar farm – and raise money from investors. The money will then be lent to the council to build the solar farm, and council will repay that loan over a seven year term.

According to Starfish’s Adam Blakester, it is tapping in to what he describes as “a groundswell of sustainability and renewable energy work” across the Northern Rivers region, including one of the highest uptakes of residential solar power, the North Coast Energy Forum, Sustain Northern Rivers and Gasfield Free Northern Rivers.

“This is an investment in change,” Blakester told RenewEconomy in an interview late last year – “the greatest gain for investors being their profile and influence on the transition to renewable energy, plus a reasonable return on investment to boot.

Blakester says the launch of the investor campaign next week hopes to attract around 40 investors “who see themselves taking on, or building on, a high profile leadership role in renewable energy and sustainability” – some of which will also be required to take on directorship roles for the two community companies that are set up.

“We’re not asking investors to hand over any money just yet, but rather we need to identify those who are genuinely interested so that we can be confident that there is a solid pool of investors to draw on when the prospectus goes live,” he said

“This local impact investment model is an innovation of the Farming the Sun team and is being applied for the very first time in Lismore,” Adam said.

“This model is simple and low-risk with clear results, which is attractive for local government because it provides surety for the community and for investors. We are launching an innovation in how councils and community do business, with both financial and clean energy returns.”

Once investors have made pledges for Lismore Community Solar, the business model will go before Council for final adoption in late 2015. If adopted, a prospectus will go live for share offers.

The Lismore Community Solar investor pledge campaign launch is on Thursday, 11 June, from 5.15 for a 5.30pm start at the Lismore Workers Club. Interested people should contact Lismore Community Solar Coordinator Susanna Carpi, [email protected]

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5 Comments
  1. Sounds like a great project. I’m involved in a Community Energy group on the Sunshine Coast, and there is such great potential to increase clean energy while giving people a chance to invest in an asset that doesn’t accelerate climate change. Congratulations to the Council for their vision with this project.

  2. James Ray 4 years ago

    I’d like to start a community energy organisation in Sydney.

    • Alex Rogers 4 years ago

      Have a look at Pingala first. They may be of interest to you.

      • James Ray 4 years ago

        They are interesting. Ideally, I’d like to be involved with an organisation that delivers community solar, private solar, energy storage, energy efficiency, energy conservation, decentralised energy trading, finance options, energy monitoring and controls. I don’t know of any organisation that is doing this, although there are a few that are looking to do it, such as AGL New Energy and Enova Energy. However, they don’t seem keen with me helping them. So, I’m looking to start up an organisation that does this. If there are any organisations or people that are interested in doing a similar thing I’d be happy to work with them if they’re interested.

  3. Rob G 4 years ago

    This is where the community wrestles back a say in where our power comes from. Currently, we are being told by pliable politicians in bed with big coal what’s good for us. Let’s hope we see a lot more communities following this lead.

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