AUSTRALIA’S first completed community-owned solar farm is now a reality at Tathra, helping to power the town’s sewage treatment plant.
The 30kW solar farm is an initiative of community climate action group Clean Energy for Eternity and consists of 120 panels of 250W capacity arranged to form the word “IMAGINE”.
It is clearly visible from the air on the approach path to Merimbula airport.
The installation is expected to generate an average of 34MWh annually over its 25-year lifetime.
It will supply around 50 per cent of the power needs of the sewage treatment plant, which currently costs about $30,000 a year to run.
It will be officially opened on Tuesday, March 24, at 10am, and the community is invited to attend to this historic event.
“In 2006 over 3000 Bega Valley residents formed an IMAGINE human sign on Tathra Beach,” CEFE president Matthew Nott said.
“Shortly after, CEFE was formed and adopted its 50/50 by 2020 target as an aspiration for local communities like Tathra.
“That is, 50 per cent reduction in energy consumption and 50 per cent renewable by 2020.
“A local solar farm was seen as key strategy for reaching that goal, along with solar bulk buy programs and putting solar PV on community buildings.
“We are proud of what we have achieved in our local area over the last eight years.
“Over 30 surf clubs, RFS sheds and community buildings are now equipped with solar PV,” he said.
“And now, finally, we have our IMAGINE solar farm.”
Planning for the solar farm began in 2013 and was given a huge boost when Bega Valley Shire Council made a site available and matched the funds that CEFE had already raised to kick start the project.
“Council has supported clean energy for a number of years and we are excited that the Tathra Community Solar Farm has come to fruition through the hard work of the local community and council,” Mayor Michael Britten said.
“It demonstrates the effectiveness of council and the community working together and shows how we can create ripples at a national level.”
BVSC’s Daniel Murphy and CEFE’s Prue Kelly were appointed project managers and a small team of volunteers got to work.
In just 12 months over $55,000 was raised, enough to construct the farm well ahead of the original three-year expectation.
“Some of the funding has come from a percentage of net proceeds of Tathra Mountain Bike Club’s annual Tathra Enduro Mountain Bike Race,” Ms Kelly said.
“But the bulk has come from individuals, families and businesses in Tathra, the Bega Valley and beyond who have donated $250 for ‘their’ panel.
“The concept attracted attention and the response has been overwhelming.
“I believe IMAGINE illustrates what a small grassroots organisation in a vibrant community can do, and will send out a very clear message to politicians - people want action on climate change and the future is renewable energy,” she said.
Mr Murphy said the community-driven project puts Tathra and the Bega Valley Shire on the clean energy map of Australia.
“This shows the future we can all share when the people collaborate on projects that give back to the broader community and the environment,” he said.