FOR local community action group The Goulburn Group (TGG), taking the use of renewable energy into community hands is of utmost importance.
The group has been awarded a grant of $50,000 towards the feasibility of a 1 MW (megawatt) community solar farm to be located in Goulburn.
The power generated from this solar farm would then be sold to local businesses or to a green energy retailer who can then sell it back to the community at an affordable price.
“This way the money earned from producing the energy stays in the community and benefits the Goulburn region, rather than a big power company generating its energy outside the region,” TGG committee member Peter Fraser, said.
Mr Fraser explained there were a number of sites around the city being considered for the solar farm.
“We want to talk to a few people throughout the Goulburn community first before we come to a decision as to where this proposed solar farm would go,” he said.
“We will then be able to make a public announcement about this next week once we have finalised a site.”
The grant was given to the group by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, who gave TGG one year to investigate whether establishing community owned renewable energy in this region would be economically and socially feasible.
The grant follows on from a Community Energy forum that was held in November last year as part of the Goulburn Connects Sustainability Festival, organised by TGG.
“There was close to $2.5 million given out for applications, and roughly $800,000 of that was handed out in grants,” Mr Fraser said.
“We received the maximum amount that is able to be given to each community group, which is $50,000.”
TGG President Urs Walterlin said he was excited about such a project coming to Goulburn.
“This proposed solar farm is really just another example of people wanting to take the future into their own hands,” he said.
“We simply cannot rely on the government any more, because both the state and federal governments are still putting all their resources and money into climate destroying coal mines and coal-seam gas projects.
“This is totally disgraceful, considering that we have an enormous amount of natural resources available that we can use.
“By using and further developing these resources, we can create thousands of new and sustainable jobs. This has nothing to do with politics but simply about being human.”
Mr Fraser said that community interest in renewable forms of energy was increasing.
“People are no longer comfortable sourcing energy from fossil fuels when we have clean alternatives in Australia,” he said.
“With more than half of the wind farms in Denmark now owned by local communities, the idea of community energy is only now beginning to take off in Australia. For example the Hepburn Wind Farm in Victoria was the pioneer of this sort of energy generation in Australia, but now more and more communities are getting on board.”
Mr Fraser thanked the Goulburn Chamber of Commerce, Goulburn Mulwaree Council and the Solar Council as well as a local company who are keen to help.
“The key issue with community energy is to build solid relationships with business, the community and the Council,” Mr Fraser said.
“Its only when everyone is on board that this sort of thing can work.”