THE umbrellas were out – but not to keep the sun at bay, as rain fell on the large crowd gathered at the Tathra Sewage Treatment Works.
However, there was no dampening down of Matthew Nott’s enthusiasm at the official opening of the Tathra Community Solar Farm on Tuesday.
Clean Energy for Eternity founder and president Dr Nott welcomed everyone to the opening of “Australia’s first completed community solar farm”.
“We are calling it Australia’s first solar sculpture as well,” he said.
Each of the panels was “purchased” by a community member or group, with a list of the supporters included on a large sign that will be permanently erected on site.
The panels are arranged to form the word IMAGINE when seen from the air - which is clearly visible from a Rex Airlines approach path into Merimbula Airport.
“I’m also looking forward to the next pass of the Google Earth satellite because I’m sure we will get some great images then,” Dr Nott added.
He thanked the Bega Valley Shire Council for “embracing the idea without hesitation” and being supportive of CEFE’s projects in the shire.
Dr Nott recalled the logistics of 2006’s human sign on Tathra Beach where around 3000 people formed the word IMAGINE – without knowing what word they were creating.
“Now today is about turning that vision into reality,” Dr Nott said.
“Imagine turning our region into a national leader on climate change.
“Imagine being an inspiration for other regions.
“Imagine if we could attract investment opportunities in renewables to our part of the world.
“Imagine creating jobs for our children in the renewable sector – and in fact that is already happening.”
Dr Nott highlighted that, already, all community buildings in Tathra are powered by renewable energy.
However, there are plans to cast that solar net wider.
He said the “ballpark figure” of $10,000 a year in savings for the BVSC - due to the solar farm powering around one-third of the treatment plant’s needs - would be donated back into a pool of funds to purchase more panels.
He said CEFE now had its eye on local sporting clubs and retirement villages as potential future recipients of renewable energy installations.
To continue the community-council partnership, there was also the suggestion the shire’s other treatment works could host solar farms.
BVSC general manager Leanne Barnes even suggested Bermagui’s could be INSPIRE, while Merimbula’s IGNITE.
Mayor Michael Britten said council was behind the idea of carrying on the idea through to other projects.
“I’m amazed and thrilled that this is the first community-council partnership of this type in Australia,” Cr Britten said.