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17 July 2019
By DEAN LAWSON
Momentum is building around plans involving a proposed six-hectare community-owned solar-energy park on the northern edge of Horsham.
The project that includes placing several thousand solar panels on vacant farmland on the southern side of Rasmussen Road, will be the subject of a public meeting on Friday at Horsham’s White Hart Hotel from 5.30pm.
A group called Energy Democracy wants to establish the solar facility as part of a network of community-owned renewable-energy co-operatives across Australia and New Zealand.
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If the $7-million to $9-million Horsham project goes ahead it will be the first for Victoria and provide the foundation for a broader western Victorian co-operative.
The social enterprise, designed for people either unable or unwilling to access solar energy through traditional household or business rooftop and battery-storage means, needs community buy-in to proceed.
Designs are for a park capable of generating three megawatts of power with battery storage of six megawatts to feed back into the electricity grid and in the process providing financial offset or benefits for members. Project leaders want the facility operational in 12 months.
Energy Democracy is attempting to establish a network of community-owned renewable-energy co-operatives across Australia and New Zealand. It is promoting its projects as a way of opening financial and environmental benefits to more people with access to solar energy.
The process involves the sale of memberships and energy packages based on power generated from panels in the park, with an estimated ‘payback period’ of seven years. It has targeted Horsham based on figures suggesting a significant amount of people in the city are unable to tap into roof-top solar-energy generation.
Energy Democracy managing director Alan Stone said the aim of solar-park co-operatives, apart from being owned by and providing services for its members, was to reduce energy costs.
“If we have a fully subscribed project we might be able to reduce household energy prices by at least 30 to 50 percent,” he said.
“Membership is open to anyone interested in joining the solar revolution.
“A key advantage of being a member of an Energy Democracy co-operative is that people don’t need to worry about whether they have a roof facing the right direction with no trees or other buildings shading it. It is also ideal for renters because it doesn’t rely on a roof to participate and generate electricity for self-use.”
Plans are that a district board would govern the co-operative on behalf of members and be in charge of, in consultation with members, how to distribute financial surpluses.
Energy Democracy, which will manage the solar park on behalf of the co-operative, will provide support.
The Horsham project has an initial sign-up target of about 300 members. Estimates are that a ceiling price for an average household buying in might be $7000.
“We’ve acquired the land for lease, a preliminary project design and are preparing documents for development application. We’ve also lodged a preliminary inquiry with Powercor,” Mr Stone said.
“We will provide more details about potential savings and speculative costs at the public meeting. The important message is that this is driven by and for community members.”
The entire July 17, 2019 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!