Council and community farming the sun together

Regional communities are turning to clean energy solutions to combat energy price hikes. Lismore, in northern New South Wales, is no exception, embracing renewable energy and partnered with the Lismore City Council to develop Australia’s largest floating solar farm.

Switched on last February, this innovative solar farm floats on the local sewage treatment works, powering part of the site’s operations.

This project has been funded by the Lismore community and is operated by the council, under a unique community shareholder model where local investors loan funds to council. It’s mutually beneficial – the investors get good returns on their investment and the council gets reliable, clean renewable energy.

It’s the first of its type in Australia and, I believe, could be replicated in many towns across the country as regional communities wake up to solar and seek energy independence.

Local councils are the tier of government closest to the community, and as such have an important role to play. We can bridge the gap between the community’s passion for clean energy and access to utility-scale infrastructure. While solar power generates huge energy savings, councils need to look beyond only financial considerations when assessing their community’s energy needs.

Australia’s carbon emissions continue to rise. And the impact of climate change-driven extreme weather, from floods through to bushfires, grows every year. We need to take action to limit our climate impact at a local level – and renewable energy enables us to do just that.

Councils have the power to change the way the community uses energy, and it’s time for us to use that power to transform Australia’s energy landscape.

Sharyn Hunnisett, environmental strategies and compliance officer, Lismore City Council

This article first appeared in The Courier on 29 March 2018

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