The Weekly Advertiser

Australian solar first at Natimuk

Screen Shot 2018-03-01 at 12.14.31 pm

By DEAN LAWSON
A group working on plans to establish Natimuk as the home of Australia’s first community-driven and developed solar farm will outline project details at a meeting on March 8.
Natimuk Community Energy, NCE, members, awaiting consultant reports on completed final feasibility and business cases for a $2.5-million solar farm in or near Natimuk, will provide a project update at their annual meeting.
The meeting will be in Country Fire Authority Natimuk branch meeting room from 6pm.
The project is based on plans to have renewable energy providing 100 percent of Natimuk’s electricity needs by 2030, and might provide an energy-capture blueprint for other regional centres across Australia.
The concept has been gradually gaining momentum and generated discussion at state and local government levels and in the state’s sustainable-power and regional development fraternity.
A 2011 Census showed Natimuk having a population of about 659 and 168 families with an average of 2.4 people in every house.
NCE president Peter Slarke said the job of establishing the solar farm, with a potential to generate 1.6 megawatts of power, was set to start.
“A really important aspect of our plans to finance this project is to reserve at least 51 percent of project ownership to community investors,” he said.
“This means community will maintain majority control of the facility and profits and jobs created by the solar farm stay in the local area.
“In the next year NCE will issue a business prospectus and people will have the opportunity to invest in Australia’s first community-owned solar farm.”
Mr Slarke said NCE was simply a group of ‘motivated locals’ keen to bring more renewable energy to Natimuk.
“The idea to look at how electricity is used in town and to identify ways to save or generate it more sustainably came about in 2007,” he said.
“Auditing community buildings and two bulk-buying rounds of solar panels has led to 30 percent of Natimuk homes generating solar power and 15 percent using solar energy to heat water.
“Fast forward to 2018 and Natimuk Community Energy has set its sights a lot higher.
“Not only are we trying to help Natimuk become 100 percent renewable by 2030, we are also trying to become the first Australian community energy group to research, design and build its own community-owned solar farm.”
Government support
Mr Slarke said an allocation of government grant money in July, 2016 enabled NCE to work with sustainable-power-industry experts to consider what renewable-energy projects would work best in Natimuk.
“In conjunction with these consultants and engaging with local people in community forums, it was decided the best option would be to build a solar farm in or near town that would generate enough power each year to cover what the town uses,” he said.
“Last year we also worked with Powershop to put a $10,000 10-kilowatt solar system at Natimuk Showground to help the footy and netball clubs and other groups use more sustainable energy and reduce their power bills.
“When the showground bill for the system is paid, the $10,000 will be used again on the next community building. It’s a gift that will keep giving.”
Mr Slarke said the Thursday meeting was an opportunity for people to hear more about what NCE had and its plans for the future.
“Everybody is welcome, whether you just want to listen or want to get involved in this exciting change,” he said.
Mr Slarke said anyone keen to find out more could call him on 0459 793 034.
Former Australian of the Year and renewable-energy advocate Tim Flannery will visit Natimuk on March 30 to speak on ‘Rising to the climate challenge through empowering communities’.

The entire February 28, 2018 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!

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Posted on Feb 28 2018

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