Lismore community co-funds Australia’s largest floating solar farm in 100% renewable energy push

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The people of Lismore, New South Wales, have co-funded Australia’s largest floating solar installation in a drive by the council to source all electricity from renewable energy platforms by the year 2023.

The 100 KW plant was opened on 30 January and Lismore Council aims to expand it five-fold in the future to generate 500 KW of energy, coupled with battery storage facilities. Lismore already has a 100 KW plant at its aquatic centre and another 5MW land-based solar plant is planned for the near future.

lismore floating solar farm

But what makes the two projects different is that the council engaged residents to fund it. The models are groundbreaking due to the fact that the council sourced its loans from the local community under the Farming The Sun initiative.  

Individuals in the community lent money to the council to build the projects and were then repaid with interest at a commercial return to the investors.

Floating solar project shows that the time for change has come – Lismore Mayor

Lismore Mayor Isaac Smith said that the project showed that authorities can collaborate with the community to find ways to provide renewable energy solutions.

He also said that he hoped Lismore’s example would help in the battle to make “even the worst of the (climate and solar) skeptics realise that the time has come.”

Ben Franklin, the local National Party MP, and the state’s secretary for renewable energy, said it was an example of the change in the way that power is generated, distributed, and valued.

“It is the first community-owned council investment model of its kind, and it shows the hunger in the community when the shares were snapped up so quickly,” he said.

“It shows the community is passionate about renewable energy, and that is will put money where their mouth is. This is the future, and today in Lismore we are part of it.”

The state has seen a surge of investment as more entities push to make the switch to 100% renewable energy, including the University of New South Wales.

Floating solar farm will likely be expanded to 500 MW and coupled with battery storage

The floating solar farm will provide about 12 percent Lismore sewage plant’s annual electricity needs.

A decision to expand the facility to 500kW, or possibly more, will be made later this year. Once battery storage is added, excess solar generation will be stored for use at night.

The innovative floating design by Ciel et terre Hydrelio was installed by Adelaide-based Suntrix, and provides capacity for the solar farm to expand across overflow ponds. Lismore Council’s aim is to eventually power the treatment plant from 100 percent solar energy.

The floating solar plant also has some unique advantages. It operates at a cooler temperature than other solar farms, so has improved efficiency and reduces evaporation. It also utilises space that would otherwise have no practical use.

Floating solar stats

The floating solar farm technology features 1,200 floats, 280 solar PV modules (each of 355Wp), and 15 onshore and in water anchors and restraining systems.

The largest floating solar systems currently under construction are a 13.7MW system in Japan, to be opened in March, and a 70MW project in China.

  • The East Lismore Sewage Treatment Plant is Council’s highest electricity consuming site (1,577,726 kWh annually), which accounts for 27% of Council’s total electricity consumption.
  • The 100kW floating solar farm will produce around 12% of the site’s needs (178,437 kWh annually) with a saving of $24,000 per annum and a payback of 11.6 years.

Lismore Council’s renewable energy goals

  • Council needs to generate 6,600MWh of renewable energy to reach its goal – equivalent to 825 households.
  • Council started with 1% renewable energy in 2014. Council will be generating 14% by the end of this financial year.
  • Council’s large-scale solar plant will be 5MW.
  • Council’s electricity use has decreased by 20% since 2010.
  • Council’s energy costs in 2013 were $1.6 million – last financial year costs were down to $1.1 million.
  • Council has saved 8,611 tonnes of CO2 in seven years. This is equivalent to taking about 1,800 cars off the road.

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