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Work begins on Lismore community floating solar farm

Overseeing construction of the Lismore community floating solar farm are (l-r) Lismore City Council Environmental Strategies Officer Sharyn Hunnisett, Geoff Fussell from Suntrix, Ciel & Terre solar company representative Vincent Pinchou and Lismore Mayor Isaac Smith. Image courtesy of Lismore City Council

Construction of Australia’s biggest floating solar farm is now underway in Lismore.

The 280 solar panels and floatation devices are on site at the East Lismore Sewage Treatment Plant and installer Suntrix has commenced assembly of the floating solar farm on the treatment plant overflow ponds.

Lismore Community Solar is a collaboration between Lismore City Council and Farming the Sun – a community solar energy collaboration led by regional sustainability charity, Starfish Initiatives – to build two 99kW solar farms in Lismore: a rooftop solar farm at Goonellabah Sports & Aquatic Centre which has been operating since July 2017 and the floating solar farm at East Lismore.

Once complete, the floating solar farm will be the biggest in Australia and will power 12% of the East Lismore Sewage Treatment Plant’s energy requirements.

Lismore Community Solar also uses a financial model which is the first of its kind in Australia. Two companies each with 20 local investors raised the funds which were loaned to Council to build the solar farms. The investors will see a return on investment slightly better than that of a bank.

“These solar farms are Australia’s first council/community solar farms and we believe the floating solar system will be largest floating solar farm in Australia,” Council’s Environmental Strategies Officer Sharyn Hunnisett said.

“We were obviously very excited when our first community solar farm was installed at GSAC earlier in 2017, but the floating technology makes this one so innovative and it has generated lots of interest from around Australia. We’re absolutely thrilled to see work begin and we have planned an official launch with local investors for January 2018.”

Sharyn explained that the floating solar farm came about because of practical constraints.

“We simply didn’t have enough roof or land space at the East Lismore Sewage Treatment Plant,” she said.

“Then it hit us – we have all this space on the water; why not use that?”

The overflow pond at the East Lismore Sewage Treatment Plant provides a large body of water with low velocity, perfect for a floating solar farm. The cooling properties of water also help the solar panels last longer and perform better, while increased shade over the pond reduces evaporation and algal growth.

The solar farms are one of many measures in Council’s Renewable Energy Master Plan to achieve Council’s goal of self-generating all its electricity from renewable sources by 2023.

Both solar farm projects have been assisted by funding from the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage Growing Community Energy grants program plus donations from private philanthropists.

Source: Lismore City Council

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