A project manager for a proposed community-owned solar farm in Goulburn could be appointed within weeks.
Community Energy for Goulburn (CE4G) president Ed Suttle said there were three firm candidates for the position of part-time project manager/administrator, advertised in May.
"We had a high quality response from Goulburn and surrounding region, after putting the ad out to a database of 800 and on Facebook. It's really encouraging," he said.
The appointment is another major step in the project, planned for a 2.4 hectare site in Bridge Street, off Sydney Road at north Goulburn. A committee, driven by their belief in renewable energy, has been working on the concept for more than five years.
In March, the state government granted $2.1 million towards the 1.8 megawatt farm. Mr Suttle said this would allow battery storage, which was essential to viability.
The money will also fund the project manager's role.
Mr Suttle said the position entailed compiling plans, reporting to government agencies and coordinating community fundraising of $2.1m to match the grant.
"It's a crucial role which will be over and above what volunteers do," he said.
CE4G comprises numerous volunteers, including a five-member committee. Since kicking off the idea, and securing council development approval, they've compiled a database of 780 people interested in the project.
Planning for an online community investment push is underway. Mr Suttle said former Liberal leader and renewable energy advocate, John Hewson, would introduce the concept as part of a series of webinars. Mr Hewson, who lives in the Southern Highlands, will also chair the project's co-operative.
Investors will be able to purchase multiple $400 shares, $400 being the cost of each of the farm's 5000 panels. The price also covers all infrastructure required for grid connection.
"We're really keen for it to be open to almost everyone and $400 is not such a big amount to discourage people who want to be part of a community energy project," Mr Suttle said.
Shareholders will join the co-operative under a "democratic" system where each one has a vote, regardless of share number. The projected dividend is five to eight per cent annually, which backers say is "better than any bank" offers.
A portion of the profits will be used to help the disadvantaged in Goulburn and region. Details are yet to be finalised.
"That was always part of our charter," Mr Suttle said.
"The whole thing is about community and we really expect to raise to raise the $2.1m from within the Goulburn Mulwaree area."
But there are a few hurdles to clear first. The group is finalising lease of a small section of the land, currently leased by ARTC. Arrangements for the remainder, owned by the Divall family, are in place.
Once done, CE4G will finalise an agreement with Essential Energy to connect the solar farm to the grid. This will incur a $31,000 fee.
Mr Suttle said electricity could be sold through a combination of methods, including directly to local residents via a retailer, a power purchase agreement to a major user over the long-term, or on the market.
"Because we have the battery storage, it's likely that we'll sell a portion on the market," he said.
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The group hopes to be selling power by late 2021.
Mr Suttle said he and wife, Jane, a beekeeper, believed strongly in renewable energy and sustainability. They moved to the Goulburn district permanently seven years ago, building a home on their 93-hectare cattle farm.
Asked whether Goulburn Mulwaree should become one of the State's currently mooted renewable energy hubs, he said the Hume electorate was almost a "powerhouse of solar and wind energy."
"When I look out from my veranda I can see four wind farms. It should be a renewable energy hub," he said.
"But the state government has given $2.1m towards this project, which will enable battery storage. (Nevertheless) this region should be a renewable energy hub."
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