Business case for large-scale Wodonga solar farm to be released

Wodonga residents who rent or can’t afford renewable energy alternatives would benefit from a community-developer solar farm, under a proposal being developed by council and Renewable Albury-Wodonga.

The Moreland Energy Foundation has completed a solar feasibility study with council funding and a state government grant, committed last year.

The project team are now finalising a business case, and Wodonga Council environment and community protection manager Mark Verbaken said it would be presented before the year ends.

“One of the models at this stage is a reasonably large solar farm,” he said.

“It would be (built by) a private developer, and a component of that is the community will have an opportunity either to invest in it or gain some of the benefit.

“We know it’s in the $40 to $50 million dollar range, so if we can secure some other funding to help our component, that will be great, but the reality is the bulk of it is private enterprise.”

RAW founding member Bobbi McKibbin said with so many similar projects beginning, the Wodonga pitch had to have a point of difference.

“Ours really is attaching to those within the community who don’t have the ability to put solar on their own roof,” she said.

“Some might choose to invest in the construction of it – they might choose to purchase a number of panels or a three-kilowatt system to offset their energy use at home – and they would receive a return.

“Other options we’re looking at is somehow being able to create a perpetual fund where we can use some of the profits to reinvest in the community.”

Aside from residents being able to purchase from the retailer running the solar farm, such re-investments could include installing solar on facilities around town, or providing energy-efficiency education.

The feasibility study identified Wodonga experiences high solar irradiance values in summer, creating an annual average production of 4.2kwh/kw/day.

Investigations focused on a two-megawatt site, though the project team hope if it comes to fruition, it would be scaled and possbily surpass that.

Mr Verbaken said identifying locations would be a task once private investors and community are on board, with conversations beginning at this week’s Sustainable Living Festival.

“There’s private groups already looking in different locations,” he said.

“It’s very topical – we should tap into that community now.”