GOULBURN is one of the leading cities in Australia when it comes to embracing renewable energy initiatives.
It may be the first city already powered almost exclusively by green energy by virtue of its location near seven large wind farms that are already operating.*
Electricity produced by these massive wind power stations just goes down the lines to the nearest point on the grid, after all.
In addition to housing the nation's largest Tesla electric car recharge station, Goulburn could also soon be home to its first community-owned solar farm.
These are some ideas that Community Energy for Goulburn (CE4G) spokesperson Peter Fraser expressed to a large Canberra delegation from the University of the Third Age (U3A).
The group is completing a course about sustainable energy sources and the talk was held at Kentgrove, an eco-farm near Goulburn, on Wednesday.
Mr Fraser outlined the benefits of community-owned renewable energy projects and the value of community action in moving away from coal reliance towards renewable energy.
"If we act as a community, we can bypass the politicians who are dragging the chain on these important projects, and make them a reality," Mr Fraser said.
"This is the case in Goulburn, anyway, where a community-owned solar farm is about to come into existence: the first of its kind in Australia."
He said the initiative for the community-owned solar farm began when The Goulburn Group, who work with CE4G, were approached a year ago by a local businessman who owned land near the centre of Goulburn.
"The businessman is an 'evolving environmentalist' and he told us he would be interested in a community energy project. At the same time the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) was handing out money for a feasibility study purposes," Mr Fraser said. "The OEH gave us $50,000 for a feasibility study to build a solar farm at the edge on Goulburn."
Mr Fraser said this feasibility study had now been completed and would be launched in two weeks' time in Goulburn by former Liberal Opposition leader, John Hewson.
"We are planning to build a 1.2MW plant," he said.
“We will be able to build this solar farm and give back to investors a 5 to 6 per cent return on their investment
“This is a lot more return than people can get from their super funds or banks at the moment.” He said about 130 people had turned up to the information day on the solar farm, held eight months ago.
“Out in the community, people are fed up with the lack of action from politicians and they want to do something,” he said.
“We know we can go to the market here in Goulburn and raise a lot of the money. We have done the study, it is viable, and we want people to make money out of it.
“We will sell electricity under the CE4G brand, so people can invest in the solar farm and buy energy from us as well.
“We will also build a small viewing platform and establish an education centre about it for visitors to the city.
“At this rate, we will beat Solarshare - the ACT community energy group - to being the first off the rank with a big solar project like this.”
Mr Fraser said Stage Two would be to try to sell electricity from the solar farm to Goulburn Correctional Centre.
“The Goulburn jail will be happy about us supplying them because they have been mandated to use more renewable energy,” he said.
Mr Fraser said for this initiative, batteries would store the energy generated during the day for use by the jail at night.
While in the Goulburn district, the delegation also visited and were briefed on the Tesla electric vehicle recharging station, the Climate Change garden at Kentgrove, and the Acciona wind farm near Gunning.