Communities can make pay while the sun shines

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GENERATE FUNDS: Geelong Sustainability Group president Dan Cowdell and Mik Aidt say there is much support for renewable energy in Geelong.

COUTRNEY CRANE for the Geelong Advertiser

SOLAR energy would power economic gains for the community under a project being touted by Geelong Sustainability Group.

The green group hopes to create Geelong’s first Community Owned Renewable Energy (CORE) project similar to others successfully rolled out in small communities across the country.

The group’s president Dan Cowdell said the idea was the result of a community survey, in which people had overwhelmingly voiced their support for the cause.

He said the initiative would generate funds for investors and community projects while producing a cheap energy source for purchasers.

“There are plenty of communities that have already gone down this road so the good news is we don’t need to reinvent the wheel. There are a number of proven community energy models that we will be analysing and looking to replicate here in Geelong,” he said.

“One model is to find a business in Geelong that uses a lot of power during the day, and put solar panels on the roof by asking people to invest in the project.

“The community entity of investors would enter into a power purchase agreement with the business whereby they purchase power at a cheap rate, and funds are generated providing a return for investors and also a financial return to a community fund.”

A CORE project rolled out in Shoalhaven, NSW, in 2013 raised $120,000 from investors around Australia in 10 days. After using the roof of the local bowls club as its first project, the group is preparing to install solar panels on local churches and the local high school, helping save hundreds of thousands in power costs.

Long term, Mr Cowdell said wind power could also become a possible money-driving initiative for CORE investors.

The group held its first CORE community meeting last month and Mr Cowdell said there was a “powerful” shared feeling that “people want to take control of their own energy production”.

He said the next step would be to gauge community interest and ideas.

To find out more about CORE and upcoming meetings, go to:www.geelongsustainability.org.au/core